Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Searching for Hope

We were in Arizona this past week working on the Apache reservation with an incredible crew of 13 dedicated people. We spent one afternoon on the Blue Bus picking kids up in the Dark Shadows community of the reservation. The name alone reveals some of the characteristics of this particular location--it's a place that feels heavy spiritually. The surrounding scenery is breath-taking, but the living environments are much rougher. It feels as if there is an oppressive spiritual blanket that dims the light in the neighborhood and presses down on your shoulders. The playground we park at has broken pieces of equipment and is littered with trash and empty liquor bottles. The drug dealers walk around the playground while we are there (only during daylight hours--I wouldn't go there after dark) as if to remind us that the park belongs to them and that we are there by their grace alone.

As we were packing up to leave at the end of our playtime I saw a women helping a young 4-5 year old boy take off his roller blades. Her face was mostly hidden by her hoodie and hair while she worked to help her son change into his shoes. I assumed that she had walked down to take him home (as often happens) until members of our team made it clear that she was obviously high and incapable of taking care of him. While we were momentarily unsure if we needed to intervene, the boy ran after his mother as she walked away to give her a hug before coming back to our bus so we could take him home.

My wife was able to see this woman's face and recognized that things were in worse shape than we realized. This mother was very strung out and on a pathway that will most likely lead to her death. At the same time there was a depth of sorrow in her eyes that revealed her love for her son and her understanding that he is lost to her forever. In the act of changing his shoes she was able to step away from the fog of the drugs running through her body and simply act as his mother. It was a desperate act of clinging to something normal when her entire world is entangled in the addictive power that will take her life. She was searching for a moment of normalcy in an abnormal existence and managed to gain it even if only for a few moments. It was a heart wrenching glimpse into a life that is desperate to be saved and yet unwilling (or unable) to cry out for help. This momentary motherly duty was a hint of the life that she and her son could have had. The pain in her face revealed that she knew this while her son only knew that his mom was walking away again, but he was thrilled to have her even for this brief time. 

It was a peek into the sad existence of someone who has lost all hope and is clinging to the last vestiges of who she might have been. It was a heart-breaking insight into a culture where the loss of hope is more frequent than it should be. 


  1. I cannot begin to tell you how much this has broken my heart. We get so wrapped up in our own little lives, we forget that our world is so full of hurt and evil and destructive addictions and brokenness. My heart is aching for this mother and for her son. And for the many like them. I am sitting here with tears streaming crying out to God for them but also for me, that I would have a heart that is broken and remains broken for the ones He died for that are lost and hurting. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. This was one of the met poignantly painful moments in my decade of mission work there. I won't ever forget it.