Liz Adams / Lima, Peru
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the suffings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."
How wonderful that God is so relational! That Jesus walked this earth and felt the same emotions as we do as human beings. And who better to understand the sufferings that we have, than He who was rejected, threatened with death, spit upon, mocked, whipped, and ultimately exectued? When we look for a shoulder to cry on, who do we turn to? When we look for someone to share our hurts with, who do we go to? We go to someone that will listen. Maybe give advice…maybe just sit silently and listen with an understanding ear. And it's usually those who have suffered themselves who are most capable of understanding. You always recognize the man who has suffered, persevered, and found himself because you know that you can go to him and he will have plenty of time for you. As the passage at the top indicates, it is through our own sorrows that we gain understanding and patience to help others through the suffering they go through. God gives us comfort, and we in turn comfort others who are hurting.
"We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow. If we try and evade sorrow, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life; it is no use saying sorrow ought not to be." Suffering may or may not make a man better. Suffering either lets us find ourselves in the arms of our Savior, or it destroys us slowly but surely. It's not necessarily something to avoid, for suffering often takes away the shallowness that would otherwise consume us. In fact, Jesus himself came to the earth knowing that He would suffer. Rather than avoid the suffering, He says, "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!" (John 12:27)
I write these things because I have seen much suffering in the short time I've been in Peru. The other blog posts have been on a more humourous note, but this time I write to tell you (and to later remind myself) that not everything about this trip has been a fun, enjoyable adventure. In traveling to various countries, I have seen quite a bit of suffering. And I've personally known many of the people who I've seen suffer. But, the difference is that most of them are rather abstract about their sufferings. They aren't wanton to talk about the hard times they have been through. However, working on a legal basis has been an entirely different experience. For one, the people we work with either want to, or find it necessary to, confide in us the details of their experiences. As lawyers, we cannot prosecute a case without knowing as many of the facts as possible. Many of these facts are not things that we want to know, and are not things that the people want to share. But, they must be drug out little by little. In the cases of genocide and child sex abuse, this has been particularly difficult. In many respects, I see these same people suffer in their day to day lives. They struggle just to get by. Sometimes they have enough food, sometimes they don't. Hot baths aren't even an option, let alone a reality. But they fight, and most of the time they do get by. Until tragedy strikes. There's no savings account for such things. There's no welfare program set up, or District Attorney's office to take up their case. The police are corrupt, and so are most of the judges. They don't really have a place to turn for help. I thinking especially of the mothers whose little daughters have suffered sexual abuse. I have heard them admit that they feel as though they have failed. Not because they couldn't provide food for their children, but because they couldn't protect their daughter from becoming another's prey. With tears streaming down their faces they recount all that they have worked for, and all that they have tried to do over the years to provide the best life possible for their family. Their sentiments are the same as any loving parent. But there came a moment when they were caught unaware, and they were taken advantage of. And now they feel alone, and without anyone to turn to. Even their neighbors have turned their backs. It's a horrible thing to find yourself in need, only to realize that unless your neighbor has the same need or disadvantage, they have no interest in helping you. So, they turned to Paz y Esperanza in hopes of finding justice….and a shoulder to cry on.
It has been humbling to hear these mothers try to explain the gratitude that they feel for those of us helping with their case. In our last meeting, after preparing them to testify before the judge at the next hearing, one of the women had tears in her eyes. Her voice broke as she said that she doesn't just think of us as her lawyers, but as her friends. I can only hope to be so worthy of her gratitude. I think of the things that I have suffered in my lifetime, and realize that they don't compare at all to what she has suffered. It's not really fair, but life rarely is. I hope to try and comfort these women and their daughters with what little I understand of needing to be comforted. Everytime I look into their eyes, my heart breaks for them. And it breaks even more at the hope I see shining behind the looks of despair. I can't explain why it makes me sad to see that hope. I think it's because they have more hope than I do that everything will turn out ok. The judicial process is so long and corrupt here. I fear that they may never see justice served. But at the same time I admire their hope. If I were in their situation, I don't think I would be brave enough to hope for anything good to happen. But, I believe that God's mercy in their lives is great enough to give them that hope. Maybe I've never experienced that kind of mercy because I've never been through that kind of suffering. Or maybe I experience God's great mercy in another way…that I've never had to live through the nightmare they are living right now.
Through these experiences I'm learning more about what life is like for a great number of people in this world. It's not pretty, but it's their reality. It makes me so thankful for what I have, but it also makes me want to bring comfort to as many people as possible. Maybe I haven't suffered enough to really understand what others are going through. But, I have been comforted by God through other people and the time they have taken to love me through hard times. Based on how much that has meant to me, I can only imagine the comfort that one seeks when going through tragedies such as these. I hope this serves as a reminder to me that God uses our sufferings for good. When called upon to comfort others, I hope I will remember the comfort that I have received, and make ample time to comfort others.