We have just returned from Honduras a day ago. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for following up with questions about the experience… among them, the most popular- “Did you have fun?” “Fun” cannot appropriately describe all that happened. Maybe, “powerful.” Perhaps, “breath-taking.” But not fun.
Ministry during this trip (when it was most personal, profound and precise) was not “pretty” in the traditional way. In my mind, “pretty ministry” involves a cup of coffee, a soft warm couch and someone with whom to share encouraging words, little confessions and prayers. Pretty ministry might even be the occasional facebook-friendly picture with an unknown other from another culture, approved “pretty” with 100 “likes” from various friends. When ministry is pretty, I haven’t the slightest problem with others seeing or knowing what has happened or what went on in some shot of a mixture between a missions and national-geographic-like photo. Pretty ministry (for me) is not always “easy” but it’s no problem marketing its appearance to others.
However, many moments in the ministry of this trip would make one hesitate and put away their camera. In these moments, the sun had long since set and any glitter of a picture-friendly moment faded. This is when the darkness settles. This is when the security guards/van drivers look about us and themselves with the upmost caution and focus, with heads on swivels, looking in every potential direction of danger. This is when the sound of children playing morphs into sounds of youth, high from the penetrating odors of glue. This is when the cockroaches paint the walkways, the smell of urine fills the air and prostitutes, male and female walk the streets our vans are approaching. Christians? Here? Makes perfect sense if you think about it.
On this unforgettable night, we have already experienced a day of Matthew 25 that only the senses of those who have seen, touched and heard can describe. I won’t even attempt to tell you about what happened before this moment. But I can tell you this- I have had a phobia of cockroaches since childhood, but my emotional threshold was pushed so far that day that the cockroaches running about my feet when I stepped out of the van seemed like ants, pebbles or some unthreatening other. With sandwiches, chips and juice boxes in our hands, we approached men and women (genders often impossible to discern) scantily dressed, awaiting their next customers.
I stood there, still in this surreal moment. Perhaps I would have pinched myself if my hands weren’t already full. “Jazmin, acércate al grupo.” Jazmin, come closer to the group, was the command from one of the drivers, instantly aware of my momentary isolation near the van. As I approached a few of our team members (who were already standing around two people, having received the meal from them), a face looked around the crowd, and we instantly made eye contact. The person smiled. I was smiling. I’m not sure which one of us initiated. Instantly, I went over and sat next to this prostitute in a dress of fishnets as if she… or he was an old elementary school friend. And upon sitting down and completing this circle of team members, translators and others, “it happened to me.” As my brother Ricky Harris would say, then it happened to me.
He…she placed her face against mine and “kissed” in the air.
It is a cultural greeting in Honduras for one woman to greet another by a cheek-to- cheek contact and a kiss in the air. Easy enough to do with familiar faces in the past week. Easy enough to do with Honduran teachers, mothers, children and so on. However, in this moment “something” in me awakened, caught my attention and asked me, “Jazzy, is this ok?”
Taking inventory of my posture, I am suddenly aware that I am sitting very close to this person (shoulder-to-shoulder), trading names, speaking in Spanish with this person named “Violet” (Yet engaging in inner dialogue).
“And your name?”
“Jazmin.” (Oh my God)
“Nice to meet you Jazmin…are you Honduran?”
“No, I’m African-American.” (…did we just kiss in the air… cheek-to-cheek?)
“Oh, wow. American with dark skin. And your friends…they are American too, yes?”
“Yes, they are.” (We just kissed in the air, cheek-to-cheek, didn’t we?)
After a few moments of conversation, Ricky began to pray with the translator. Violet grabbed my hand, as everyone did the same. In this honest and true moment of “unpretty ministry”, I thought to myself: “If heaven had a facebook, this just might be its profile picture.”Each person, just as spiritually needy as the other, yet in a unified position of petition to the richest being in existence: God the Father Himself.
The rest of the night, as we walked in and out of jails, weaving through vacant lots and streets, I couldn’t shake one thing- the greeting I had with Violet. Why? Perhaps it’s because we made physical contact and the very nature of Violet’s occupation is physical. Perhaps it is the stigma of uncleanliness. Perhaps it is just sin nature… specifically mine more than Violet’s. But maybe, just maybe this picture of cheek-to-cheek contact, the honest greeting, fellowship and prayer between a silly American girl who loves Jesus and a willing Honduran other whom Jesus loves is the untraditional beauty that paints the mysteries of heaven. In colors of all nations. In hues of the purity of love. Perhaps this might be one of the rare beauties of heaven’s tapestry.
… I’ll end on that note, friend. I love you. Thanks for reading.
(P.S.) “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40
Jazmin Miller is 27 years old and has been a theatre actress for the past five years. She will begin the graduate program at University of Memphis for theatre directing in the Fall. She recently traveled with POI to Honduras with the Fellowship Memphis Student Team.