Praying for Pedro

Earlier this week I prayed for Pedro Gomez.

Pedro is a reporter for ESPN, my favorite channel on TV.

On Tuesday Pedro was assigned to cover the press conference in Miami where Ozzie Guillen – first year manager of the Miami Marlins – would sit before the assembled microphones and apologize to the world for his comments praising Fidel Castro.

It seems that Ozzie, during an interview with Time magazine, is reported to have said, “I love Fidel Castro! And you know why? It’s because people have been trying to kill him for 60 years and that old (expletive) is still around!”

For those of you who do not know Ozzie very well, a little background might be in order. Ozzie is from Venezuela originally. He had a good career in major league baseball as a shortstop prior to becoming a manager. For the last 12 years he has managed the Chicago White Sox, including their victory in the World Series in 2005. Just last year the Miami Marlins hired him to be their new manager.

Ozzie has always been known as a guy who talks first and thinks later. He is a bit of a media darling for reporters on the prowl for a wacky quote or something juicy or half-baked to use to spice up an otherwise routine story. On this score Ozzie rarely disappoints. And it doesn’t matter if the subject is baseball or world affairs or the price of gold… Ozzie has an opinion and it is almost always outlandish.

I have not read the Time story, so I cannot tell you how the conversation turned to Fidel Castro. The Miami Marlins have just opened a brand-new baseball stadium in Miami and it happens to be located right in the middle of the “Little Havana” neighborhood of that city. Maybe that was the connection.

But back to Pedro Gomez. As Pedro was standing in front of the camera, killing time before the press conference, the person at the ESPN desk asked him an innocent-sounding question. “Pedro,” the other anchor said, “Didn’t your parents come to the U.S. from Cuba?”

And in that moment, you could see the beginnings of a fierce internal war being waged in Pedro’s heart and mind. You could almost see that he wanted to scream into the microphone, “YES! YES they did! My parents fled for their lives from the brutality of the Castro regime while many of their neighbors were being pulled from their homes and imprisoned without charge. They watched as hundreds of acres of productive farmland were seized by Castro and turned into sugar cane plantations that he and his brothers farmed for their own personal profit while the landowners starved. My parents have lived in this country for over 40 years, but still love Cuba and consider it their true home. Their hearts break at the thought of never being able to return there as long as Castro or his family are in power. Yes, my parents are from Cuba. And for them to hear this clown talking about Castro as if he is someone’s quirky but lovable uncle is enough to make me vomit right here on the spot!”

But he didn’t say any of that because Pedro is a professional. He is a member of the Third Estate and as such is pledged to objectivity and the placid demeanor of an uninterested chronicler of events. But since the question asked WAS in fact personal, some measure of personal response would be appropriate. But how much is enough in front of a national TV audience?

And that internal turmoil is why I prayed for Pedro Gomez. It didn’t seem right that he had been put in a position of having to swallow – in my opinion – the justifiable anger he must have been feeling at that moment. That someone could brush so callously over that tortured history seemed to demand a prophetic RESPONSE!

Yes… our God is a God of love. But our God is also a God of justice. God’s anger over injustice burns brightly as we have seen in many, many stories from scripture. We humans also experience anger, but often misuse that anger with disastrous results. The sight of Pedro Gomez’ internal turmoil made me stop and realize that God still calls his church to be the spotlight that shines brightly on stories of injustice, or abuse, or innocent suffering wherever we encounter them. We do not have the requirement of a journalist’s objectivity when we encounter evil. In fact, quite the opposite; Christ commissions us to speak up and act on behalf of the victimized of the world, whether right in our back yard, in Cuba, or across the world.

As you go through the week next week, be asking yourself: where is God calling me to speak on behalf of the voiceless? And then ask him for the opportunity and the courage to do exactly that.

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