Her voice often follows me around; her small shy voice that whispered, “They call me Gringita.” Foreign girl. This is how the term is typically used, for I myself have been addressed as “gringita,” my feet walking through dusty mounds of orange dirt; my hands carrying the lightweight body of a child with lit up eyes and missing teeth. “Gringita, hermana, ven a jugar conmigo.” I was a foreigner. White. Green eyed. Blonde. I stood out from the rest.
What saddened me was that she was not. Gringita, to her, was a nickname others used to tease her. To make her feel like she did not belong. Born in that land of orange dust and green mountain ranges, she was different from the rest–lighter than the rest. And so, she was treated as an outsider.
I’m not sure why her voice and face stay with me. It has been four years since I left her. We drove away on the back of a pick up truck, leaving her waving goodbye from a gate at the front of the Hope Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I remember thinking that I would not be back for quite some time. Though the Lord had given me peace, I also remember thinking that her story needed to be told.
I think she stays with me because I know what it feels like to feel different; to feel insufficient. If we all dug deep within ourselves, I believe that we can all think of a time when we have felt like the Gringita. The foreign girl. The one who did not belong or who wasn’t good enough or who didn’t quite think or look like the rest.
I think I remember her story because it is the story of everyone I meet. My middle schoolers at church. The little girl who tries to be included, but gets rejected because her clothes aren’t quite right or she says something the others don’t think is funny. The little boy at work who looks at me and says, “I’m stupid. I can’t do this math problem. I know I’m an idiot.” The woman who compares herself to the other women–the ones with lives that look so different from her own.
Aren’t we all foreigners though? Similar to the way that the Israelites were brought into a foreign land, we become citizens of the Kingdom of heaven only through Christ. Before Christ, we were foreigners searching for redemption and acceptance.
When I read Isaiah 61, I am taken back to an afternoon of brainstorming and vision casting as a Resident Chaplain at Lee University (Shoutout–our choir just performed at the 2013 Presidential Innaugeration. Yes, I’m a proud alumna). “It says exactly what we want to live out and what we desire for our girls. We desire to bind up the brokenhearted.” A murmur of agreement.
The spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from the darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called Oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
None of us are meant to feel like foreigners in our social circles, our work, or our relationships with God. We are called to be Oaks of righteousness. We are to be glad. Most importantly, we are to bind up those that are not.
I believe God allows her small quiet voice to come to me each morning in order that I might remember to live out Isaiah 61. Though this passage was written in reference to the Israelites captivity, we still have captives in today’s world. Some times they look like a woman being sex trafficked and other times they look like the kid sitting in the corner alone.
Let us bind up the broken hearted. Let us make motions to preach [the] good news.
Let the little girl instead say, “They call me a righteous Oak.”