The Sunday Sermon: Vida Joven (Dorcas House)

Jesus said “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Today we are celebrating the lives of the children in our foster home in Tjuana, MX. Formerly called “Dorcas House”, we are now making the transition to the name Vida Joven de Mexico, in order to respect our friends on both sides of the border. We are delighted to have Sylvia Laborin, our director, Victor, associate director, and house psychologist, and Yolanda, one of our house moms with us today. You will hear from Sylvia in a few minutes.

As we review the message of Matthew’s gospel today, we see that the poor and needy; the weary and heavy-ladened, may come to Jesus Christ and live in hope. (Matthew 11:28-30). No one is too young; no one is too old: no one is too great a sinner. Jesus is full of mercy, and all who come shall find peace. But HOW should we come and find the peace which he has promised to all, and take up the yoke which all have found to be light?

One day, I found at least a partial answer. When I was at graduate school, I happened to walk by Stanford’s Memorial Church. There was a sign advertising a hymn sing, so I decided to drop in. At 7:30 in the morning there were only a few people present. As I wended my way to the hymn sing, I realized that in conjunction with the hymns, there was also a little service going on. The theme of the day, posted in a sign, stated that “misery is optional”. Of course I wondered what that was all about, so I joined the service, and heard the passage that we just heard from Matthew. After this, several people got up and addressed the “misery is optional” theme.

One person talked about a very difficult recovery from alcoholism, and how that passage had compelled him to hand his recovery over to the Lord. It continued to be a struggle for him, not an easy answer by any means, but little by little he felt that he was able to deal with his addiction, and begin to feel freer to live the life he loved.

Others talked about challenging life events, such as as divorce or death of a spouse, losing a job. They all agreed that their burdens, while still very much with them, were eased by turning them over to God, knowing that God’s love surrounds them always. As Pope Francis recently tweeted: “When everything falls apart, only one thing sustains our hope: God loves us, he loves everyone!”

And speaking of God’s love surrounding us, I would like to introduce you to Rosario.

This is a story told by our Vida Joven program director, Beth Beall, at another event. I felt that it is too good not to share, with her permission.

Rosario is a little 7 year old girl who lives in Tijuana, at Vida Joven de Mexico. Vida Joven literally translates to Young Life, and the home represents a haven for children whose parents are incarcerated or otherwise unable to care for their kids. Rosario has a lot of problems, primarily physical, but also emotional, which renders her very shy. As a result, although surrounded by children, Rosario has few real friends.

One day, something arrived for her in the mail. For the longest time she looked at the envelope, pressed it to her chest, not able to believe that someone had actually sent her something. Finally, after some gentle prodding, Rosario opened the envelope. Inside was a card, from which a photo fell out. The photo was that of Rosario and her new friend, a priest from St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, who is now her
sponsor and pen pal. As Rosario’s reading skills aren’t yet very well developed, a staff member read the contents of the card to her.

After that, Rosario stood, carefully put the card and photo back in the envelope, headed for the nearest house mother and said “I have a card!” She proudly showed off the card and photo. Then, just as before, Rosario carefully put the card and picture back in the envelope. She then went outside and repeated the joyful “I have a card” to each of the children and adults present, while tucking the card and photo back in the envelope ever so carefully after each showing. It was a miracle to behold
the joy exhibited from one who had so little to one who suddenly and unexpectedly received the biggest gift possible, a gift of love and acceptance.

This was a joy heretofore never seen in this tremendously shy, socially disadvantaged child. It was as though a light had come into her life. This child had nothing; her parents are incarcerated and she was found wandering the streets at night, all alone at age 2. Now she had acknowledgement that her life mattered, that she was someone, not just a nobody in the midst of 35 other children.

Her burden had been eased, her life has been changed by that one loving act, and the acceptance of her peers and adults that mattered to her. Yes, God’s love surrounded Rosario and all of us that witnessed the event. For the moment anyway, Rosario’s burdens were, if not eliminated, certainly lightened.

It has been through the help and love of Vida Joven de Mexico that Rosario has recovered sufficiently to be able to understand the importance of that card in her young life. And at Vida Joven, we try to follow as best we can, the precepts embodied in the Matthew reading, that is, “Misery is optional”. We need your help in order to carry on the work of our home. These are not just kids from some place in Mexico, not just children whose pictures we may see from time to time on Facebook. These kids are our kids, and our responsibility. As Pope Francis said recently, “We CAN make a difference!” So please help make a difference to Rosario, Karely, Daniel, Isabel and ALL the children at Vida Joven whenever you can.

The Rev Canon Joan Butler Ford

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