So last Thursday I went to Retiro (the train station) with the girls for the evening. We left bearing hot chocolate and sandwhiches to help the youth there fight off the cold and their hunger on that cold, blustery night. As I left I (selfishly) felt a little sluggish. I didn´t really want to go; it would be so much easier to stay in my warm bed reading a good book. On the subway ride there I started prayingl, God I´ve heard someone say before that if we meet You we can´t help but be changed, and the Bible says that You are with the poor. God, I will be looking for you among and in them–please allow me to see You and to be changed.
It turns out that God was much easier to find that night than I would have expected. When I got to Retiro two of the guys that I have gotten to know fairly well ran over to greet me; I was excited that they were as excited to see me as I was them. At the begining of our servant team I always heard the Word Made Flesh staff refer to the youth at Retiro (who I will here on out refer to as the Ramigos–a cross between the words Retiro and amigos) as their ¨friends,¨ and I was definitely skeptical. Surely they weren´t really friend-friends. Maybe they called them that more for show. However, as time has passed I realize that friends are exactly what the Ramigos are to me. They are my friends–I get excited when I see them, and I care about how their lives are going (and vice-versa). It´s really a refreshing and life-giving experience!
So anyway, I was greeted by my friends, and then we all settled in on the subway floor and Tina broke out her guitar. At first everyone was just messing around with it, but then Jen dispersed words she had printed out and we all started singing worship songs in Spanish. This blog will never do the moment justice, but stay with me and I´ll try to give you a glimpse.
The atmosphere was electric. All of the joking around, the coming and going, the hustle and bustle of the Ramigos stopped and everyone was enveloped in the music, either singing or simply listening. We came to my favorite song and belted it out across the entire subway station. The song is called La niña de tus ojos and goes like this:
Me viste a mi cuando nadie me vi
Me amaste a mi cuando nadie me amo
Y me diste nombre–yo soy la niña, la niña de tus ojos
Porque me amaste a mi
Te amo mas que mi vida.
In English, the lyrics translate to something like this: You saw me when no one saw me, you loved me when no one love me, and you gave me a name–I am the little girl, the little girl of your eyes (the apple of your eye), because you loved me. I love you more than life.
While we were singing this I looked around me at the Ramigos and saw so much hope and redemption because they were singing these lyrics. They are the forgotten, the unloved, the people no one sees. But there we were, in the middle of the station singing as loudly as we could–people were stopping to watch! It´s like the lyrics were becoming true by the very act of singing them.
And as I was looking around our group, my eyes stopped on Rosa–a beautiful, lively 3-year-old that we have gotten to know very well. She was sitting only inches away from the guitar, absolutely entranced, the stillest I have ever seen her and her eyes as wide as ever. I saw her singing along, as well. Her mom told us earlier that that song is her favorite, and that she will go around the house belting it out. What a wonderful message of beauty and hope for Rosa to hear and cling to. The Ramigos aren´t built up very much. they deal with scowls and glares of passerbyers in the subway all day, and rude remarks. Many are told from a very young age that they are ugly and wil never amount to anything. Hopefully they heard a different message Thursday night.
I think it was then that the drummer walked by. He was an older man with one eye swollen shut, 3 fingers bandaged in gauze, and a drum strapped to his back. We begged him to play with us and he set up camp and played 3 songs with us. After three songs he had to leave, but not before he sang us an incredible, heart-felt acapello solo. The whole time Isabelle, Rosa´s little 1-year-old sister sat on my lap dancing. It felt so normal, worshipping God in that subway station. So normal yet so revolutionary.
Thursday night was really neat because I prayed that I would find God and be changed by it, and God answered that prayer. I found him in the wide eyes of Rosa, the bandaged fingers of the drummer, the warm welcome from my friends when I arrived, the electric atmosphere of marginalized people audibly singing their worth into being. It just proves that if you are desperately looking for God, maybe you don´t have to go any further than the floor of the subway station.