August 18, 2010

Truths from Guatemala: Part 2

3. True community rejoices with one another.
If you drive a couple hours away from Antigua you'll find the most real sense of the word 'community' you have ever seen. Our team stood on the new foundation for a home being built for a widow left with her orpahned grandchildren to care for. Wood and sheet metal began to be unloaded from the truck,and the eager footsteps of children drew close to see what we were doing. An oler woman hurried up to us and pulled me into a fast and strong embrace- the kind that holds you tight with love and reminds your heart of the srength there is to love. She hugged each one of us. Cried to each one of us in deepest gratitude. Pointed up to the skies, thanking God, claiming faith, and thanks for newfound hope in a new home.
When the house was finished, we asked the family to gather so we could welcome them home and bless them. I looked around at the family that stood inside the house with us- their gratitude rendering them speechless. But the woman who had hugged each one of us and wept in dear thanks for the home wasn't there, it was another woman who was the widowed grandmother of the orphans.

The lady we had all met earlier was her neighbour.

I am taken aback by that. To me that neighbour is the perfect illustration of what it really means, and furthermore what it really looks like, to rejoice in the joys of others. How often do we look down the street and look upon the neighbour that got the new porch, the retirment with secure pension, and the nicer car with envy?
I am guilty of the attitude of a skeptic. I was skeptical of how the neighbours of this village widow would feel as they watched their neighbour receive a new home while they still live in walls made of dried out cornhusks and mud? It's like comparing the poor, to the very poor, to the extremely poor- how can you cast such a comparison on abject poverty?

This was probably one of the stories that touched me the most- I thank the neighbour who so genuinely rejoiced with the happiness of her neighbours- and not because her act would be written about, let alone even seen by anyone else. But because she knew what it meant to love as a neighbour should, and to live in community as we are created for.

August 16, 2010

Truths from Guatemala: Part 1

Friends, the best part about a story is that it gets to be shared. More than that, often I believe our stories need to be shared. For if we feel them in our heart but do not let our hearts share the burden of the stories that challenge us, then only one heart is broken. If there is a story of hope that stays only written in our journals then we keep the hope and light of the world within us, and leave the crowd's pereceptions of poverty as far away and dark. And when the story comes from far away and is indeed dark, then there is all the more reason to share. For if we share of the darkness, then awareness, perspective, and passion can meet and then into the darkness hope can be born. And so tonight, after a week serving those greatly devestated by the latest hurricane in Guatemala, I must write. For if only one other person reads these entries of stories, it will be one more person to know along with me and what I know in my heart. And so now the first lesson learned from the life stores I became apart of a couple weeks ago...
1. True love helps.
While in Guatemala we worked with a team of locals from the mission to build three homes for families who had been robbed of every earthly posession by the hurricane. A widowed grandmother lived with her 5 orphaned grandchildren in a shelter made of cornhusks. In their drinking water outside swam about a dozen little shiny orange fish the children laughed innocently over trying to catch in a pail. At another home parents had survived the hurricane and their family of about 6 lived sheltered under a roof thatched again of dried cornhusks. But the reason I titled this story as "True love helps" is not to be misunderstood as what we as a team did in building for them, but what the families of these homes did for us. If a man lived at the home he let not one opportunity to help us carry sheet metal for roofing, or hammer in nails pass him by. In the picture I have he is smiling, and the picture is candid. Real, full, smiles can't be practiced, his simply couldn't help but come out from within him when he was helping.

2. True Generostiy has no limits
As we finished the last touches of paint to the home, the eldest child came to me, patted me on the shoulder, and offered me a basket of chips and freshly bottled water to choose from. As I thanked her and reached for a bag, she says "not one, but two. You must take two." This girl and her family had nothing. Nothing that would furnish their home, not the money to send their children to school, no money for their toys or shoes...but as I took the chips I realized that real generosity doesn't hold anything back from its giving.

And then I ask myself how generous am I? What are my limits to giving? How much in the way of personal security and comfort do I need before I feel free enough to just give? What stops me from giving more? If I had more, and the key here is only after I had more, then could I give to others? The pastor of the church we attended in Guatemala said Sunday morning " Being rich is having enough for yourself and then some." We all have enough for ourselves. And now we all need to realize the "and then some part" Take less for ourselves, and give more without counting.

An e-mail I received tonight signed off with "I hope your heart continues to be softened. We all need softer hearts." I have come back to that e-mail over and over tonight- I leave you with these first stories, and will share more this week. May more hearts be softened.