For the past eight years I’ve been traveling to the remote Sierra Norte de Puebla region of Mexico to work with coffee farming families who have been suffering economic hardship since the government stopped subsidizing coffee farming. The volunteer work that I do there is to help with economic, social and spiritual development in ways that, hopefully, lead back to self-sufficiency in coffee reliant communities. As I journeyed back there last December, I was reminded how hardship often comes in waves, and so often the waves are things beyond our control: Mudslides that wash away whole communities, abnormal cold-snaps that wipe out crops, and blights that severely reduce crop quality. It’s all our farming friends can do to get back up from one difficulty before they are hit by another wave. And too often the ripples are much more than economic: Malnutrition, illness, abuse of many kinds, and - worst of all - hopelessness.
Whenever I am among these good people and feel the unfortunate rhythm of life they are immersed in, It reminds me that hardship has no favorites and that it could pounce on any of us at any time. In this season, God has given me the joy of lending the people in the Sierra Norte some encouragement and resources that can give them a hand up. Tomorrow, something could happen in my life, and it might be them that throw me a life line. The bottom line is that the most valuable thing in life are the deep relationships that we enjoy that allow us to share good times and bad, and give us the chance to help and be helped. In December, as I made my way back home from a tough, beautiful week in Mexico, my gratefulness for caring relationships that reach across cultures and miles was once again renewed.