How in the world can I find words to describe what happened this past week with the Michigan premiere of Reparando? I am on the plane heading home to Guatemala with my mind spinning from all the events of this past week and I am struggling to find the words to make sense of the awe and wonder I feel when considering the significance of this week. The problem is that words cannot even begin to make any sense of it. I need an image or a symbol that can represent what I think this all meant. It was C.S. who wrote that “Symbols are the natural speech of the soul, a language older and more universal than words.” With this in mind I have been trying to think of a symbol that might work to capture what this week has meant. An image, perhaps, that could function as “natural speech” capturing the “soul” of this week and the Reparando project as a whole.
One of the most endearing images of the symbolic universe of Guatemalan culture is that of the “Huipil.” Worn by the indigenous Mayan women, the huipil clearly and instantly marks ones identify. You can sit in Central Park in Antigua watching the women wearing their huipiles and instantly be able to identify that each woman is of Mayan descent. And even more amazing, the casual observer can immediately discern from exactly which part of the country she comes from by the unique design and color of the huipil that she is wearing (Patzún, HueHue, Santiago Atitlan, Xela, etc.). Thus, the huipil speaks to an “authentic identity” (ie–Athentikos) and the power of the significance and the responsibility that comes from “stating” your identity of who you are and where you come from in such a bold, obvious way. We see this portrayed so beautifully in Tita and Shorty’s lives. Their lives, like an ornate “huipil,” display to all around them to whom they belong and from where they come.
Reparando, as a film, is a magnificent tapestry of grace bursting with color and unique design. I sat in grade schools, high schools, colleges and sold out movie theaters this week watching an amazing tapestry of grace unfold both on screen and off. The weaving of God’s grace through the film as a project became resplendent in a myriad of “t-shirt miracle moments,” Central American refugee’s who popped up in our audiences in the most surprising of places, in the hands and hearts of volunteers who showed up at the venues selfishly giving of their time and gifts, in the actions of hundreds of people who received bulk e-mails about a film they had never seen but were willing to re-send to friends and family with personal notes, in the people who gave their time or money (sometimes both) to fill theaters, lecture halls and sanctuaries, in the tears of an elementary school Spanish teacher who was moved to begin micro-finance projects with the kids from her school to support Guatemala and a high school Spanish teacher who weaved her story based curriculum around the Reparando doll narrative and wrote to us that the day after the film was the best day she had ever had in her entire career of teaching Spanish. Grace was also woven in the fabric of a high school student who is now mobilizing her friends to use their collective “discretionary money” for missions advancement instead of shopping malls, several other teens who are now considering a career in full-time ministry or have had a previous call in that direction confirmed, a 17 year old high school student originally from Honduras who now (after watching Tita’s story in Reparando) is considering returning to Central America to work with children and teens in the town where she grew up (She has not been there since leaving at the age of 10 in the company of a coyote with whom she eventually swam across the Rio Grande hanging on to an inner-tube for dear life). The tapestry takes on even more color and design after a conversation with a principal of an elementary school who this year wants to watch the film at Christmas time and give as gifts to each of his 8 grandchildren a baby doll that was repaired by the loving care of Maria the doll lady in the Guatemala City Dump.
The most amazing thing about this beautiful tapestry of grace that is the “on screen Huipil” known as Reparando is that all of the people referenced above and each of us at one level or another who have contributed to the vision for and making of Reparando are threads in the final design — A design yet to be completed. Each of us is a thread of just the right color, woven into just the right spot by the Master Weaver. Together, we make up the beautiful tapestry of scandalous grace that God has woven together for his glory — a film that has become so much more than just a film.
I praise God for the privilege of being a thread tied together with each of you in such an ornate and beautiful tapestry of grace. The famous missiologist Leslie Newbigin once wrote that, “people can’t tell a story well unless they see the meaning of it….unless they have seen the point.” Scott, you saw the point of this story very early on (a finished huipil) and you so graciously and gracefully invited us all as individual threads to find our place and our color in the tapestry of this magnificent story of God’s grace. The plane is about to land so let me end with this quote from John Steinbeck in the “Grapes of Wrath” that I am adjusting to fit our context here. It summarizes what I saw in the faces staring back at me each time I had the privilege of taking the microphone at the conclusion of each screening event:
“And the people listened and watched, and their faces were quiet with listening. The story teller (film maker), gathering attention into their tales, spoke in great rhythyms, spoke in great words and used great images because the tales were great, and the listeners/observers became great through them.”
That is what Reparando, as a Huipil of grace, did this week. And, lest we forget, this is but the first week. A great huipil is being crafted and there are many, many more threads in the hands of the Master waiting to find their place in the growing story of this tapestry of God’s grace.
A fellow thread,
PS — W.H. Auden wrote, “I know nothing except what everyone knows, if there when grace dances, I should dance.” I saw grace dancing this week with her hand invitingly extended to us all. Let’s put our hands in hers and let our feet and hearts step to the beat of the ongoing story the Lord is writing.
Joel Van Dyke, D.Min.
Estrategia de Transformacion
Ciudad de Guatemala