[excerpt from a piece written for the ACC Missions Handbook 2016-2017]
Carmen means ‘song’ in Latin. Carmen is dark-lit and wide-stretched. Her widely tapered eyes are luxuriant—her smile crinkles her whole face into something radiant, something nobler than happiness. Joy, maybe, at its most primal.
It leaks from her drawling hands, hands caressing the heads of the wonder-eyed chicos, who giggle then and run outside the church room, up and down the alley twice, and come back panting like furry little perros; from her hands on the chicos’ shoulders then, calming them to listen to Pastor Fernando instruct.
This joy, it seeps from her careful feet on the crooked streets—dusty to the thick and hue of sand—as we walk up to the first tin-sheet door in El Tejar; and as we trudge back up to the church after the thirtieth.
It radiates from her fingers in my shoulder blades when we say goodbye at the dark of the day; from her belly when she laughs so easily; from her steady stance when Marco flings the ball across the court. From her lips on guava ice cream; from her lips tumbling praise and petition to our Father; from her lips as she stands, poised in a doorway, delivering my words to a mother and child with this burbling ease.
This radiance, it hides in the serious droop of her cheeks when she teaches me her country—its catastrophe, its beauty, its intrigue. Bolivia is so poor in capital and so rich in roots. Its government is corrupt to its core, many protests for help for the disabled people, and they have only been attacked by the police, for example—she says.
But on our first night, we watched dancers and musicians sweep through the streets like so many colors. But on our last morning, breakfast was shocked with the noisemakers of protesters downtown. But then there were the people outside the city, quietly washing their laundry behind their dusty doors.
“The people here,” Carmen said, firmly, as we walked in the Sucre dark, “what they really, need, I know is Jesus.”
Isabella – 9/17/16