We followed the footpath from the soccer field. It is the dry season in Guatemala. We navigated the trail with ease. We passed through the narrow gate and on a bit further. Soon three structures came into view. A large family shared the two living spaces. Corn was stored under the roof in something like an open attic.
The ceiling of the single room structure revealed a recent festive occasion. One of the young girls in the family had just been married. Soon a young boy entered the room. He moved with a rigid deliberateness. He held out his arms to hug the stranger. As his stiffened arms reached around a man he never met, a smile pierced his face.
We were invited to sit and listen to the story. The young boy sat between Dolores and Bill. Two years ago the young boy would have been hidden. For ten years his family believed he was cursed. The combination of epilepsy and a high fever left the young boy damaged. Other village children would make fun of him, even threw rocks at him. To keep him from harm his family hid him.
Two years ago young women visited the village where this family lives. The relationships developed with the leaders of the village created the occasion for them to meet this young boy. A doctor worked with the young women to introduce educational health programs. It did not take long for the doctor to diagnose the tragic combination that left this young boy hidden away by his family.
Through treatment and medication the young boy’s epilepsy is under control. The damage he suffered from the high fever remains. However, he no longer is deprived of going out as now people understand he is not cursed. They remarked how he never smiled. Now his smile comes with ease.
The village where the young boy lives is northwest of San Cristobal Veripaz, Guatamala. A four-wheel drive vehicle is required to reach the village. ASOSAP has been working to secure a partnership with the village to help bring drinking water to the village. Construction crews will help install these water systems in the village over the next five years. Small groups will bring their families and share the stories of Jesus as they play soccer on the rocky field. Groups will teach better hygiene to reduce the number of parasites that dominate the intestinal systems that keep this people group small and unhealthy.
We Christians often refer to Jesus’ words about entering the Narrow Gate as a marker that identifies that we are in rather than out. We are on the road that leads to life rather than the road that leads to destruction. Maybe we could envision those moments where we walk through the Narrow Gate as illustrated by those young ladies who passed through that narrow gate on their way to meet that young family and that young boy. Damaged as they were, they were actually discovered as those young ladies passed through the narrow gate.
Passing through the Narrow Gate is not evidenced by mental assent to the assertion that there is such a gate. Passing through the Narrow Gate is best illustrated when we walk through those narrow gates bringing Jesus’ love and goodness to bear on those damaged by the experiences of life. We all have narrow gates through which we must pass. When we avoid those gates, someone suffers the indignities of believing they must hide away hopeless and helpless.
Maybe we need to overhaul the way we talk about the Narrow Gate by walking through the narrow gates and into the lives damaged and suffering.