The Girls and the Activist
He knocked lightly on the doorframe announcing himself as he entered his daughter’s room. She stayed where she was, looking at her reflection in the mirror, pulling briskly at her long hair with a wide-toothed comb. Rigid posture on the vanity chair, no smile.
“Why are you so upset?” he asked gently. It took a few attempts but eventually she turned around to face her father, unshed tears in her eyes.
“My friend, the one who claims to be a spiritualist, oh, she is so selfish! She loves me because, according to her, I am a good listener. I, on the other hand, cannot tell her anything. First, because she is not interested, and second, because the minute I say anything about my faith, she calls me names. This time, she went too far. She said every pastor is a chauvinist, homophobic son of a—you know what!”
Tears were streaming down her cheeks now. The girl looked intently into her father’s eyes trying to make sure he understood the weight of those words. “Dad, she knows you are a pastor!” So that’s it. My sweet Victoria can handle just about anything except insults directed at her Mom, Dad or little brothers.
“At least she got one thing right; you are a good listener! But I think you already know that, don’t you? How about I tell you a story?” He could always trust in the power of a tale to recalibrate Victoria’s state of mind, even now at age 15. Victoria shrugged. He took that as a yes.
“Whenever we go to visit your grandparents, we pass by Vale do Incó, a poor neighborhood in the low lands of Recife. That is where I had my first job after I became an engineer, way before I entered the ministry. You always think of Recife as the most beautiful city, full of sandy beaches and shopping streets, right? Not Vale do Incó. Our team was working on transforming this stinky, muddy and dark slum into a decent place to live. We needed to design and implement all the basic services a neighborhood should have: sewage, running water, pavement on those super narrow alleys, street lights and electricity for the homes. It was a big job! We had to walk around, meet the people, understand how things worked or didn’t work for them. Mariana was a 15-year old girl who lived there. As a Christian, she was eager to share her faith – just like you are. That’s why she tried to evangelize a young man, fresh out of college, whose all-time hero was Che Guevara.”
Victoria interrupted her father, “Wait, is that the Cuban dude who was into guerrilla warfare?”
“Exactly, he was killed in an ambush in Bolivia in 1967. He believed the only way to end injustice was if the poor organized themselves to overthrow the oppressive and greedy elites that normally control everything, from natural resources to the financial systems in the world.”
She nodded as if recognizing something she had learned in school. “That made the young man in your story a Marxist.”
“Yes,” her father agreed, “but not a diehard atheist. He simply believed that the only way to overthrow a corrupt and unjust government was through a well-orchestrated revolt led by the poor, and if necessary, using force.”
She had relaxed already and he resumed his narrative. “He was from the middle class and six years older than her. Every time she said something in the way of sharing her faith, he would laugh at her. Not aggressively, but I think it was obvious to her that he was not taking her seriously. He had a few names of his own to call her: alienated, naïve, gullible, easily manipulated by leaders whose only interest was personal gain. The girl took it all in stride. One day, she gave him a gift. A Bible. It had a zipper to keep its contents safe. He had never seen such a thing! He hid a smile, took the book and thanked her, all the while wondering what to do with it. His friends quickly decided on a perfect use for the book. ‘These sheets are perfect for rolling joints,’ he heard his best friend comment.”
Victoria was shocked, “No way!”
“Oh yes. Remember when your mother and I ministered to people in jail? Once, we asked a young man to open the Bible in such and such passage only to hear him say, ‘Better choose another one, preacher. That one I already smoked.’” This time, he was rewarded with a full smile that reached all the way to her eyes. Good, she is coming around beautifully!
“Well, in the end, the young man started reading the book. And, he fell in love with Jesus! He figured Jesus was way more radical than Che Guevara. Here was someone who proposed a revolution that started from within. Jesus promised to take away the wickedness out of the ruler! Given a chance, everyone could become an unfair and wicked ruler, and, at the same time, everyone was a slave—a slave to sin. Six months after the girl gave the Bible to the young man, he turned his life over to Jesus Christ. He chose to embrace the belief that in Jesus he found truth and that Jesus’s truth would set him free.”
When he finished speaking, Victoria gave him a look loaded with suspicion. Slowly things started shifting in her mind. With a start, she jumped from her vanity chair and yelled, “Dad! You were that young man! What a snob!”
With a sheepish grin, the father asked, “How did I give it away?”
“Che Guevara. Your old pictures. That hair, that scrawny beard, oh yeah, totally Che Guevara! I do get your point though, I’ll try to chill. Who knows, God may be calling my selfish friend to become the next Mother Teresa!”