Reencontrar, to find again; to rediscover.
The Colombian partners we met spoke frankly about the Sisyphean nature of the work at hand.
Even the metaphors they used expressed a characteristic realism. At the meeting on the town green in El Garzal, Pastor Salvador thanked us for our accompaniment by telling us,
God will repay you, even with just a grain of sand.”
Less than a week later we were in Bogotá, meeting with a legislator engaged in peace issues.
He described what would be required for Colombian civil society to heal itself and function together again, after any outcome of the peace talks in Havana (or future attempts at mass demobilization):
We will all have to place our own grain of sand into the process—we will all have to bring our own quota.”
St. Augustine wrote,
The churches of the North aren’t being asked to bring much courage to the civilian war for peace in Colombia.
Our individual partners on the ground—to varying degrees, but all of them to be sure—are the ones who have been called to make the quiet decision to risk their lives for what they believe in. They’re the ones supplying the courage.
The word “anger” is built on the lexical root ang. In its original Old Norse, when used to construct a verb it becomes “to vex.” But the root transformed to noun means, “grief.”
Our own quota to bring—our grain of sand; our potential, uncomfortable seed-of-a-pearl—may be the righteous indignation, the grief that challenges and moves.
The Colombians understood not much more of my (childish attempts at) Spanish than I did their Spanish. It wasn’t a language I had ever studied. I tried to teach myself as much as I could in the month before, but I hadn’t spoken or heard enough to even accent words properly. Enthusiasm and four weeks of flash card drills only go so far.
On-the-spot foreign word retrieval is a shrouded mystery in the novice; random swap-outs were routine in sentences of more than a few words.
In Barrancabermeja, we each exchanged what we all assumed was our final goodbye to Pastor Salvador before leaving to fly back to Bogotá. (It wasn’t. We would ultimately reencounter him and exchange two additional farewells in the days before we left Colombia.)
I was anxious to get it right. There was an idling bus at the curb, a scheduled flight, a full crowd of Colombians and North Americans in the living room at the CPT residence, and, when I finally reached his side, no bilingual translator on hand to jump in if things got rough.
Usted es muy brava,”
I had said to his wife Nidia back in El Garzal a day before, half-ashamed at how impotent and inadequate that felt at my turn to embrace her goodbye. You are very brave.
Vamos a recordar siempre usted y su familia, I determined to assemble for Pastor Salvador a day later in Barrencabermeja, concentrating hard in the living room. We will always remember you and your family.
What came out instead was,
Vamos a reencontrar siempre usted y su familia.”
I dearly wish I had understood any of Salvador’s response.
What I had actually said when I swapped out recordar with reencontrar—if it was intelligible at all to native ears—was,
We will always find you and your family again.”
It was a far more serious, and painful, promise.
We are called to recall what we already know; to seek to witness and reencounter—with fresh eyes—over and again; and to so be stirred to action.