Stories from the Journey: Where SHALOM is Put to the Test
“Shalom is always tested on the margins of a society.”
From the center of Mexico City you can take the metro to the east on Line A. Get off at the last stop. Then take a bus to Los Reyes and get off at the last stop. Then take a micro bus up until the hills, and get off at the last stop. As you travel the roads will go from paved to dirt to gravel to impassable. Your surroundings will fade from shiny, tall buildings to a rolling landscape of grey unfinished structures.
And then, if you’re lucky and have the location right and if Google Maps didn’t send you down an impassable route, you’ll arrive at the Urban Mosaic Community Center in San Isidro. It’s a lovely place… and simultaneously it’s a place that is most definitely on the margins of the city; a place where SHALOM is being tested and simultaneously created and birthed. And, if you ask me, it’s a place as sacred and as holy as any cathedral I’ve ever entered.
Seeking SHALOM with family might mean teaching kids about their emotions.
But what does SHALOM with GOD look like?
I arrive at the San Isidro Community Center- a place where SHALOM is being tested. As I park, my first thought is: “Do I have a flat tire?” So many bumpy, unpaved roads…I unload my gear and head inside to find a group of youth meeting for their Casa de Paz (Shalom Group).
This Casa de Paz has been meeting since July of 2020 but with so many COVID cases, today (March 10, 2021) is the first day they’ve met in person in several months. The youth are excited to see each other. Everyone seems happy and eager to catch up. The meeting starts. A Bible verse is read, a value is discussed, there’s a time of prayer and then some games and activities.
"The impact on my life is enormous."
Since I grew up in the church and attended youth group as a teen, the scene is fairly familiar. But unlike in my youth group where we were all irresponsible high schoolers, several of these youth are already parents. Two young women in their early 20s have kids over the age of 5. Several other youth never finished 8th grade and have already been working for over 10 years. Some youth are still in high school, one is getting ready to take university entrance exams.
“I can tell you that the impact on my life is enormous.” comments Joyce. “I have more self-confidence. That’s what people see on the outside. But internally, my faith has grown enormously. Beyond that though, the greatest impact is vulnerability. For years it was really hard for me to be vulnerable. But I’ve seen a big change… in Casa de Paz I’ve practiced being vulnerable. And this has helped me grow so much.”
SHALOM FILLLS THE AIR
While some of the youth come from pueblos (small rural towns) outside the city and others come from urban areas, these youth have a lot in common: their lives are hard…at home they are dealing with things like domestic violence, alcoholism, mental illness and parents who are unemployed. But hardship is not the only thing they share. They also share dreams… they dream of studying, of serving their community, of traveling and of living in a peaceful, safe place. They dream of SHALOM but while they share dreams of SHALOM for tomorrow, they laugh, learn, reflect and together- through the laughter, tears, comaraderie and prayers… SHALOM fills the air.
"I feel like I am a part of something, like I belong."
“Being a part of this Casa de Paz has helped me a lot,” Norberto tells me. “Before this group I didn’t know many people who had big dreams and ideas… here we share a desire to learn more. I feel like I am a part of something, like I belong. Casa de Paz has helped me see diverse points of view and learn new things. This Casa de Paz isn’t just a part of working with Urban Mosaic, it’s creating better relationships with God, friends and also my community.”
If Randy Woodley is right and SHALOM is “always tested on the margins of society,” then in this one tiny corner, on this one tiny edge of Mexico City, one small Casa de Paz group is passing the test.