Lessons from Mama Tara
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9Mama Tara is a beautiful, 83-year old Miskito woman with a rich history of caring for children in the entire La Moskitia region of Honduras. In her 40s she was the Governor of the entire Gracias a Dios department. During this time of the Nicaraguan contra scandal in eastern Honduras & Nicaragua, Mama Tara protected young girls from being abused by soldiers. Later in her life, she made a commitment to the Lord to care for children... those who did not have parents and those whose parents were unable or unwilling to care for them.
Currently, Mama Tara has her own orphanage building. Many visitors to the building talk about how 'sad' it is that children live like this. In reality, that building and the beds, food, fellowship that occurs around that building is a life-changing blessing. Is it perfect? No. Looking through US eyes, could it be better? Yes. But from the perspective of a Miskito child who has absolutely nothing, Mama Tara's orphanage is a castle.
I've gotten into this routine... when I go to Mama Tara's to visit the children, I always sit and chat with Mama Tara first. I guess it started out of respect for her. She is unable to walk and sits in her chair most of the day. Since it is her home, I feel a sense of responsibility to 'check in' with her first when I arrive. She always asks someone to go get the 'nice plastic chairs' from her room that are reserved for visitors. When she does that, I know I need to sit down and turn my mouth off and my ears on.
From these times with Mama Tara, I've come to the conclusion that her story needs to be told on a large scale. I don't yet know how to help tell it, but I know that it needs to be told.
Yesterday, she shared a story with me that, in reality, could be a sermon anywhere in the world. When Mama Tara was younger and raising 10 kids of her own, she had a neighbor named Fransisco Orlando (named changed of my Spanish skills :). The neighbor wrongly accused one of Mama Tara's boys of entering on his property and destroying a few things. Fransisco came to Mama Tara and was unbelievably angry. He told her he was going to kill Mama Tara herself to make up for his property loss.
Mama Tara took him to the authorities who ordered Fransisco to essentially treat Mama Tara like royalty... he had to do anything she asked of him. Mama Tara decided to just let the matter end rather than asking much from him. Fransisco began to help Mama Tara out anyway... he relocated her family in anticipation of a hurricane, he provided food from time to time and his attitude completely changed toward her.
Years later, Mama Tara moved to Puerto Lempira. Her kids were grown and she had an orphanage of her own. She heard through the grapevine that Fransisco was in jail in Puerto Lempira for killing a man. It was rumored that he would never get out. Mama Tara began asking around to people from her old hometown... did he do it? Why? Everyone she spoke to said Fransisco acted in self-defense.
One day, the authorities contacted Mama Tara to ask her opinion of Fransisco because his sentence was to be determined. Mama Tara could have told them what a horrible man Fransisco was and that once upon a time he had threatened to kill her. Instead, she decided to repay Fransisco with a blessing... she told the authorities that, in her opinion, he was a man who was changed and that they should listen to his testimony and the testimony of others from his town.
The authorities took Mama Tara's word and the testimony of others and released Fransisco. What spoke the most to me in this story is her heart of forgiveness. I've seen it in action time and again in Mama Tara... she lives the Words of her Bible. She walks the talk.
And I listened to a powerful sermon yesterday... her example speaks Truth to into my heart and encourages me to look differently at people.