So, last week I was in Cielo, Bayona, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. A lot of words to define a very small place. Since 2004 a group of women from the Winston-Salem area have traveled to Cielo every January to minister to Dominican women in this impoverished community. As part of this year’s weekly devotions for us Americans, I volunteered to speak to our women on El Roi, “The God who Sees”.
So I started thinking about how the women’s ministry of Mission Emanuel got started, about how the women were overlooked in all of the ongoing ministries up to that time. Then I started thinking about women in our own country who are overlooked, misunderstood, ignored. And, as it usually happens, I started writing.
This is what hit the paper.
She is an invisible woman.
She’s the waitress at the coffee shop where I have breakfast with my daughter on Saturday morning.
She’s the housekeeper who cleans my house while I’m at the club, or brings me clean towels and makes my bed when I travel.
She’s the business woman I see every weekday morning, juggling her cell phone and mascara, waiting for a green light.
She’s the homeless woman who sleeps under the bridge near my house.
She’s the woman I see in church every Sunday. She knows my name, and I know hers. We exchange pleasantries.
“How are you this morning?”
“How was your week?”
“I can’t believe how your kids have grown!”
She’s the woman I never invite to lunch, or to my house for dinner, or to “girl’s night out”.
She’s never a part of the gab sessions in the break room.
I assume she wants to be left alone.
She may even be one of my teammates on a mission trip.
I don’t see her. Do you see her?
El Roi sees her.
El Roi sees the waitress, working three jobs to earn enough money to keep a one bedroom apartment for her daughter and herself. You see, her husband left her for his personal assistant. If she doesn’t keep my coffee cup full and steaming, I complain to her manager, and I don’t leave her a tip.
El Roi sees the housekeeper, the woman who moved to America to escape an oppressive regime. You see, they murdered her husband. They won’t allow her to be seen in public without a burqua and a male relative to escort her. They ban her from attending school. I take her service for granted. No one has ever made her bed for her, or given her a towel.
El Roi sees the business woman, the pain behind her smile that she shares with no one, except her husband. You see, they can’t have children. They’ve tried everything. El Roi sees her as she watches me play with my daughter. I think her lifestyle is privileged and powerful, not seeing that she would trade it all for what I have, a child.
El Roi sees the homeless woman sleeping under the bridge. You see, she used to have a family like mine. El Roi knows she lost it all, chasing the high that only comes from crystal meth. When I see her on the sidewalk, I don’t make eye contact. Sometimes I cross to the other side of the street.
El Roi sees my sister in Christ. You see, she’s taking care of her parents, her husband, and her children, pushing herself to the breaking point. He knows that she’s afraid to ask me for help because she doesn’t want to appear weak in her faith. And I am afraid she’ll find out how weak my own faith really is.
El Roi sees the lonely woman, the excluded woman, the abandoned woman. You see, her smile hides her pain. El Roi sees a lifetime, her lifetime, of loneliness, of not being on the “A-list”, not being “one of the girls.”
Am I willing to look at her the way El Roi looks at her? Because when He looks at her, He sees. He knows. He understands. He loves. You see, she’s not invisible in His eyes.
Neither am I.
Neither are you.
Open your eyes and see.
Sometimes I am amazed at how words come to me. Other times I am frustrated by their absence.
These words came easily, perhaps because I’ve known, or been, most of those women at one time or another in my life. What surprised me was when one of the women in our group, a woman who has lived in the DR for many years, who speaks the language and has a powerful witness, asked if she could translate my words and share them with the women in Cielo. Sure, I said, wondering if these words would ring true for the Dominicans the way the did with Americans.
So she translated and shared.
And the Dominicans related just fine.
You see, rich or poor or somewhere in between, American or Dominican, young or not-so-young, each of us shares the same dreams, hopes, fears. I’ve walked in Dominican shoes, and some of the Dominicans have walked in American shoes, and they all fit.
We’ve all been invisible at one time or another, and we come into the light, shielding our eyes until we can adjust to each other’s brightness.
It’s then that we realize that God sees us, we see each other, and we’re all beautiful in the light of day.