Tertullian in Latin America

Dixon Family at SM de JAnother lifetime ago, my wife and I led several missions trips to Guatemala.

Oh what a joy those trips were! Sure, we helped others. We planted some corn, we vaccinated some chickens. We taught classes. And we ran the health clinic.

But, most of all, those trips changed us and our students.

Considering a short-term missions trip? GO. But, first and foremost, go because you want Jesus to change YOU.

One of the ways that God used those trips in my life is to help me care about the world. About injustice. About the poor. About marginalized people that I’ll never meet but am nonetheless called to love. And while it’s true that over the years God has enlarged my concern to include many other countries around the world, it started in Guatemala.

To put it simply, my heart beats for Guatemala.

Because of this, when it’s in the news, Guatemala catches my eye. And the other day, I read this piece about the tragic trend of not counting indigenous girls in Guatemala.

Imagine not having a birth certificate. Or a Social Security Card. Or a passport.

As the article says, “what if you didn’t know when your birthday was? What if your government didn’t know you existed? What if you weren’t counted at all? Counting means a lot of things but mostly ‘I count’ means ‘I matter.'”

The tragic thing is that this is ubiquitous around the world. It’s not unique to Guatemala. Whether it’s women living life without identification or sex-selective abortion and infanticide as exemplified by China’s one-child policy, in many places of the world…

…to be born a girl is to be born in jeopardy.

In their book Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn write:

“The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls were killed in this routine ‘gendericide’ in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.”

This summer, my family and I will be back on the front lines, leading a team to Costa Rica. We’re looking forward to partnering with local ministries to serve the poor in and around San Jose. More than that, we’re looking forward to Jesus shaping us as we do that.

Costa Rica gets a lot of press for being Western friendly. I think what that means that is that you find your favorite restaurants, not have to speak Spanish and, heck, they’ve got a “blue zone” in Costa Rica.

Sadly, even a brief search shows that Costa Rica is not immune to the oppression of women. This article talks about how in many ways it’s better to be a woman in Costa Rica than it is in Guatemala, or even in the United States (lower wage gap, more representation in politics, etc.). And yet there’s also this:

“The National Institute for Women is particularly active on issues relating to violence against women, providing services to victims as well as advocating for better legal and practical protection. Sex work is legal, but pimping is against the law. Sexual violence remains a problem, with some evidence that rates have increased in recent years. Trafficking in women and even children is a growing concern.”

Time to ask the Lord to open my heart to a new country.

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