Do you ever get knocked down by Joy? That unexpected, unplanned “something” when you are offered a grace you didn’t deserve, or a hospitality you didn’t expect or simply a conversation that you never dreamed would happen. But it DOES happen! And you DO receive grace when you least expect it and there ARE people in the world that offer you hospitality just because it is who they are to do it. I am on the receiving end of such Joy too often. It seems every week. I even hesitate to write about it because if I write of one, shouldn’t I write of the 100 others? But that’s impossible so I am just going to write about a few experiences…in a foreign land.
I never knew what it was really like to be a “minority” in a place where I am the only one that looks like me, and I am the only one that doesn’t speak the language. I STILL don’t know what that is really like, but I am getting some glimpses. And while I have a heart for other cultures and truly enjoy the learning … when you are in another country you really appreciate the moments when you happen into someone from your “home”. Sometimes “home” is the town you grew up in, other times it is the place you live now…but when you are out of the country it is just someone from your own country! Or…in the most surprising way… it is when you are with someone that has been with someone you love. Do you know that feeling?
When I was in Guatemala this December I had the gift of meeting two families in Guatemala, whose families I know here in Tennessee. Some of them have not seen their family member for years….4 years…12 years…6 months. Parents separated from children, brothers and sisters waiting for the next time they can see one another face to face. Family. These meetings required two of us to “want” to make the connection. Me…from the USA; “them” from Guatemala. And you know what….we WANTED to make that connection! Perfect strangers. No project is involved. No specific “task” to do. Except, of course, the task of Love, hospitality and grace. Maybe these are experiences in grace.
The first encounter happened here in the USA. It began with a man working on the steeple of our church this summer. From there it was one connection after another until late November when I stood face to face with the parents of a man who lives in the USA but hasn’t seen his Guatemalan family for 14 years. We had no language.
We only shared desire, a recent picture and a JOY to be connected.
The second encounter happened here in the USA. It began over a Wednesday night supper at church. In conversations at the table I heard about a local lady who was available for some helping work. I called her. We met. Three months later, I am sharing hot chocolate with her sons in Guatemala…sons she has not seen in 4 years. Again, we had no language, we only shared desire, a common bond through the mom and a JOY to be connected.
The third encounter was not so new, except that it is all from this year in Guatemala. This year of 2013. Beatriz was once a child sponsored by mission team members. Today she is a young adult. We have shared moments of family experiences this year…the time of her mother’s death, the unexpected death of her cousin, and most recently, this December – the arrival of her first child! Death, grief, life…Family. Again, no language, only shared desire and a JOY to be connected.
The fourth encounter happened when my cousin and I showed up at Lucia’s home in Guatemala. There had been an open invitation but it didn’t include the details of bringing a cousin…or 3 nights and language encounters and a host of other events. But we were welcomed by the entire family. The nativity was set in place prior to our arrival. Fresh baked goodies were on the counter waiting; breakfast beautifully prepared each day. It was a table of grace set before us, every day. No reservation. No payment. Only a deeply shared desire and JOY to be connected…
I believe we are in a season of great opportunity to build bridges across the greatest divides. I believe we are in a time when the Spirit of God is moving about the earth and looking for ways to connect us…to really connect us to SEE one another as real. Not as numbers or projects or resources. But to say, “you are human; I am too. And you are worthy of a moment of my life to look you in the eyes and say to you: ‘I am your friend’.” Jesus said, “love one another as I have loved you.” The way Jesus loves me most often is not measured by a project, task or production. It is rather, by grace. Lord, forgive us when we reduce your creations to projects rather than beautiful expressions of you.
What unexpected JOY is being placed in your path today? Just notice it. Notice the person. That’s the first step. The rest will come in time. God is that good!