I was privileged and chosen by God to be a part of a 6 person team to go on a mission trip to various towns deep in the jungle: Delta, Colorado, Puerto Carlos, Puerto Luz and San Juan. These and many other towns are smack in the middle of the gold mines. It was an honor and a joy to bring God’s mercy and love to high school students, some of whom had never experienced a retreat. Don’t get me wrong, this adventure had some risk factors to it but when you’re in love with Jesus, it moves you to do some crazy things. One of them is crossing the river in a pickup truck and not a boat! Our driver, Fr. Pablo would pray a Hail Mary and then “go for it”. I must admit it was exciting at the same time.
In one town, San Juan, youth kneeled around the altar, some crying, placing their personal notes (that expressed things they were sorry for and things they desired to change), at the feet of Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament. Also, a young man asked if he could ask in public forgiveness of his younger brother whom he had offended in public. They cried in each other’s arms and so did many who witnessed this loving moment.
In another town, Puerto Luz, we experienced the opposite. The hearts of the youth here were hardened, their eyes communicated hatred and violence but most of all they were filled with pain. Why this difference? I believe part of the answer is what St. Timothy says: “Money is the root of all evil” (the capital sin of Avarice/Greed). The children with hatred and violence are suffering the consequences of their parents who work in the gold mines.
As we drove through these areas I can only say that the land looked like a “cancer” had devoured it. This is due to the miners throwing burnt petroleum (they use this to extract the gold from the land) and mercury into the land and the river; killing it and rendering it infertile. Spiritually it seemed as the flagellated and mangled body of our Lord. These towns have been stripped of all beauty and there is an obvious disorder. It is well known that the majority of those who work in the mines have two things on their mind….money and all kinds of sins of the flesh. The fruit of their work is reflected in their children and in their own faces that are so disfigured; not because they were physically scarred but their features looked almost “beastly”.
Having said all that, I also met a woman gold miner that experienced a life changing event 25 years ago. (She survived being lost for 5 days in the jungle. This is a miracle in itself). But, for the sake of this article, my point is that she began to work for God and put her life in order. She had peace, generosity and love in her heart and her face resembled that. It was not disfigured as the others were. She has donated much to the Church and is helping Fr. Pablo build a chapel in San Juan. This woman gave me much hope!
This experience left me pondering and praying much for these people and the world. What I saw here happens worldwide…”love of money is the root of all evil”. From this experience I can only guess that one group uses their resources and energy for themselves and the other, for others. One lives in peace, joy, generosity and love and the other in violence, misery, hatred, destruction etc.
Some of the things I was left pondering were: why would the Lord put gold in the land, knowing that it would be the cause of many to fall? Yet work is something necessary for our own dignity and honorable? Why do some work for God and others for themselves? Why do some go to Hell and others to Heaven?
I found my answer in a quote from Jean Pierre de Caussade, in his book, Self-Abandonment to Devine Providence. In closing I will quote it. But, I also found the answer to these questions from my own personal experience and the experience of those who accept God’s will in all circumstances… the good, the bad and the ugly and even the evil. When we truly learn to trust Him and stop doubting and accusing Him of being “bad” and “evil” and the cause of our misery, we are able to start living Heaven on earth.
Here’s the quote: “How I wish that I could make them understand that just as the good and the bad thief had the same things to do and to suffer; so also two persons, one of whom is worldly and the other leading an interior and wholly spiritual life have, neither of them, anything different to do or to suffer; but that one is sanctified and attains eternal happiness by submission to Your holy will in those very things by which the other is damned because he does them to please himself, or endures them with reluctance and rebellion. This proves that it is only the heart that is different.” Dear children of God, how is your heart?