Picking up where I left off Friday. Only up to 2,202 words. I’m going to leave with another cliffhanger at the end, primarily because that helped me today when I was looking for a place to start.
When I really started to find my place was when I went to Nicaragua. No one on the mission team cared who I had been or what “status” I had held. There were only two of us from my church, so as far as the rest of the team was concerned I was just a layperson. And really that’s all I was, but mentally that truth had not caught up with me yet. Here, we were all in the same boat.
It was so humbling to see the group of a dozen or so volunteers leave their families and their jobs for a week to help clean up and rebuild the communities devastated by the hurricane. Our team of a dozen people was made up of 10 men, me and one other woman. We needed the men to do the tough chores — heavy lifting, digging, cutting trees. They needed us women to … well, we weren’t quite sure at first. In fact some men in the group didn’t like that we were there. But I think we all came to realize before the week was up that we each had our purpose on this team and we all needed each other.
We worked our tails off that week. From sun up til dark we were clearing debris and helping people repair or rebuild their shack-like homes. At the end of every day we were exhausted. It was so rewarding to see a difference when a certain demolished area was all cleaned up and homes were put back together. But even more rewarding was being able to love on the people. Some of the people we were helping just needed someone to be there, to understand their hurt and their worry and their anxiety and tell them it’s going to be OK, and to just love them as only Jesus can. With one family, we helped them search for their belongings in the rubble and mud. Their clothes were just caked in thick, brown mud. Me and the other woman offered to take the muddy clothing to the river and wash them. The woman in that family said no, we didn’t need to do that, that was too much for her to let us do. We placed an arm around her shoulders and told her nothing was too much, that we came to help and if washing her clothing was going to help, that is what we wanted to do. We explained, through a translator, that it would give us great joy to do this for her and she would be taking away our joy to stop us. She smiled and hugged our necks and said OK. While we cleaned her families’ clothing she helped the rest of the teams search for anything salvageable in the mess left behind by the hurricane.
Several other families took comfort in sharing their stories with us, of how things used to be and where they were when the hurricane came. These stories included daring tales of survival and sadness as these individuals watched their homes and their villages be torn apart by the winds and the water. As a community these people were hurting over loss of life and fear of the future. How awesome it was for us to come bringing hope! I realized during that journey that no matter who we are — the pastor, the music minister, a nursery worker or the person who makes sure there is toilet paper in the church restrooms — we are not that different. We are all called to serve, in our own areas and our own places, but without any higher standard than another. From that moment on my service took a more humble approach. I no longer served out of obligation, or because someone could be watching, or out of “routine.” I served now out of love and compassion and genuine desire to love people and show people how much God’s people care for them. I no longer viewed myself as someone held to a higher standard because if who my earthly father was but held to a higher standard because of my who my Heavenly Father is.
My world as I knew it was about to change again as two very important people were about to come into my life.