Maybe it's just the reminder that were not so different in what we need, it's what we have that divides us. When we make ourselves vulnerable enough to give to someone who has less than us, we are forced to acknowledge that we have more. It's only natural at that point that we begin to self-examine and we feel both the weight of what we have, and the vacuum of what we lack.
There is a sacred exchange that occurs when we give with intention and naked sincerity. It's more than writing a check or tossing candy to children as if they were chickens scurrying for feed.
It's what happens in that moment when you kneel in the dirt to look a nearly blind women in the eye, knowing that your connection with her is more important than the stain that you'll get on the knees.
You feel it course through you when you take that small hand that is gnarled from decades of forming tortillas and frying them over a smokey wood and cinder block fire. The rough and split texture of her skin rests against your sanitized hands. There is somehow a deep knowledge and wisdom that bears evidence through the pain of her broken grip.
The world somehow comes into focus through the smoke-hazed air that is illuminated by sunlight breaking through the dry-stalk walls. A single lightbulb hangs at the end of a bare-tipped wire. Worn and old photographs hang with evidence of smoke and water damage. The dirt floor is swept smooth and yet dust clings to your leather shoes.
A small fire burns in preparation for lunch tortillas and the smoke makes your eyes water and throat burn as you notice the blackened walls and ceilings. You her them breath the black air and you cough as you imagine the condition of their lungs.
They exist on so little. In such a small place.
And then you're destroyed as you realize her generosity, offering you a chair while she sits on a block, or asking if you'd like a tortilla. You can't help but notice her feet, bare in the dust... and yet, you are amazed by the skill evident in the woven textiles wrapped around her waist and the intricate patterns of her shirt. She is beautiful.
You see her somehow different as the sunlight sparkles off of her dark hair, braided with a ribbon. She has lived in this place, filling it with warmth, making it a home. She has labored with gathering, cutting, and carrying wood every day for longer than you can imagine. Each morning she carries water from a source down the road. Every act intentional. Every thing you take for granted, come with a high cost for her. And... here you are, being made welcome in her house.
The sounds of cooking fill your ears from neighbors whose small adobe and stalk house rests on the land only a few feet from where you stand. Hens cluck, roosters grow, and skinny dogs stand in the doorway. You are overwhelmed by your senses and emotions. Communication is nearly impossible since the older generation here speaks one of many Mayan languages. You look to Antony and Pastor Salomon, and you are desperately aware and thankful that they can translate.
Introductions are made as you tell of where your from and try to articulate somehow who you are and why you're here. You listen with silent horror as you learn about the condition of lady that you've come to meet. Suddenly things are very real and raw. You're not "ministering" to the "poor" as a "missionary." Suddenly you are a human who is engaging another human with sight, touch, and sound as she tells you that her hip is broken, her children have abandoned her, and she explains that her entire body hurts when she tries to breath.
You think of all that you have and your life feels measured by this moment. You see her pain and you are somehow powerless and accountable. Your voice just sounds ridiculous when you ask her, "May we pray with you?"
She says, "Yes, please," with tears in her eyes that spill down her cheek. Your body betrays you as feel your own eyes moisten and your breath gets constricted. You start to pray.
You start to pray and you just feel like a fake, a loser, a hypocrite, and really all you want to do is leave this place. But you can't, because everyone is watching and so you just keep struggling to find the right words.
And that's when it happens.
In your desperation, you reach out to God. You are shocked to find how present He is there. He fills you with His spirit as He tells you that He loves her. He sees her. He comforts her. Her faith is mighty. You know this as you hear her weeping and crying out to God. And... God tells you that He also loves you. He sees you. He loves you, and now you tremble as you realize that He is also here to comfort you.
We really are not so different in what we need.
You realize that something has changed. Something indescribable has been torn away. It's no longer them and you in this place, but you realize that she is your sister. She is your mother. She is just as desperate as you are to find something real, true, and meaningful in this broken life.
You are emotionally stripped as you let barriers fall and you embrace her, no longer aware the care of getting your clothes dust covered. Somehow... she has given you a fresh breath, a renewed vision, and something that you can only describe as a cleaner soul.
You remember the 30 eggs and the box of oil, rice, beans, oatmeal, salt, sugar, noodles, powdered nutrients and fortifications, paper supplies, and soaps. You see the intense gratitude in her eyes as you carry it to her and you are crushed with intense emotion as you count the days until what you give her will run out. It is impossible to keep your composure. You recognize the stark dichotomy of your life and hers again.
You cry out to God to have mercy on her in her poverty, and also for Him to have mercy in your own. Silently you wonder if the condition of her soul might be better of than your own.
You gather for a photo, final hugs, and then you walk out of that place, clearing your lungs, knocking the dust off your pants, and you walk in silence up the dirt and rock road with your friends.
Your silent because you're trying to pull yourself together... you've got five more families to meet. The day is difficult. However, even giving life to this thought makes you feel unworthy. You've never had to live like that.
But you also know that this day is worth more value that you can conceive. God is speaking to you. He is breaking you. He is allowing you to see people like He sees them. He is also showing you that He sees you the same way.
This is a day of miracles. You'll hold it in your heart forever. After you go, your memory will remain. They'll remember your faces, your touch, your tears. They'll remember that their bellies were filled for many nights because of you. They'll give thanks to God that you came. They'll never forget that He sent you from across the ocean just to acknowledge that they are there.
We all are one family. We all need to be restored to Him. Our poverties are different, but our salvation is the same.
Thank you to Ansonia Church of God for coming to press into the lives of the beautiful people of Guatemala. All of us who were there on this day: Alisa, Caylee, Antony, Sophie, Donavan, and Pastor Salomon knows the individual stories represented in each photograph.
We remember the smiles, the laughter, and the tears. Each powerful encounter was life changing for us all. I am awestruck at the depth of this experience and the sacred exchange that we were allowed to have as we glimpsed into the lives of these strong, wise, and beautiful men and women, our brothers and sisters in the Kingdom. It was such an honor to welcomed into their homes and personal space.
I know I'll spend many days and hours contemplating these encounters. Be blessed.