I write today in honor of my deceased friend and known criminal, Louise Flippen. Louise died on the 15th of this month in McAllen Texas. I first met her in 1998. I took my first international mission team into Mexico that year. There were 23 of us who went to work with an organization called CUPS (communidades unitas por salud)—communities united for health.
CUPS devoted itself, primarily, to the building of clinics and schools and digging wells for water. Our team worked in the tiny fishing village called “Mano de Leon”. It was about 100 miles inside the border and passed the second checkpoint—the place where the Mexican government tries hardest to combat the drug trade. Getting through that checkpoint is scary.
Mano de Leon had no electricity and no running water—they collected rain water and used generators for what little electricity they needed in the community. The homes were bricko block construction. The people had very little.
This was just one of the missions Louise and CUPS developed. She was a large woman who chain smoked Marlboros. As we worked hard under the scorching, Mexican sun mixing concrete and building walls, Louise would sit on a nearby chair watching the proceedings and barking out encouragement. She was not physically able to do any labor. But she was an angel, nonetheless. The people there revered her as a saint. She had done more for them than anyone—including the Mexican government.
This was a labor of love for her.
I mentioned she was a criminal. Let me explain. There was no end to the need of the people there. They had no medical doctors for many miles—only a handful of women who tried to learn as much first aid as they could (one year we took a case of books called “Donde Es No Doctor”--Where There Is No Doctor—so they could have some guidebooks for basic treatment of injuries.) Anyway, there being no medical equipment stores for hundreds of miles, Louise began smuggling stuff across the border. Crutches, wheelchairs, all manner of medical supplies. She got caught at the border any number of times with this “contraband”, but she always managed to talk her way out of trouble. She was a known criminal—and deeply loved.
I think of her this week because of the impact the news of her death had on me. But also because this week we celebrate another “smuggler” and His criminal son. God smuggled this baby right under Herod’s nose. And that child would grow up to be the source of light and love for the world—only to be crucified as a common criminal.
Makes me want to look more closely at those we label “criminal” to see if something else might be going on. Today I celebrate my criminal friend, Marian Louise Flippen. Rest in peace, Louise. You did an awful lot of good down here.
Now, More Than Ever:
PEACE ON EARTH
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.