I have been going back and forth over my thoughts about the complexity of mission in this place, short term mission, and mission in general. I feel like God has brought to mind every experience I have had thus far that has led me to this point and one in particular has given me the most comfort these last couple of weeks. Through the recounting and remembering I feel God has given me wisdom to see that mission happens because God was already at work when you got there. There are not several mission fields, Costa Rica being seperate. There are just moments to see the mission, the work in people God has done, and to find your place there.
With that, I want to share with you the remembering God has been doing with me. This was written recently about a time in Mexico with Amor Ministries; an experience I had through First Presbyterian Church in Fresno.
There are certain things that I remember most about that week.
I remember the face of the woman whose house we were building.
I remember how round it was and how it reminded me a little like the face of the snow man in that Christmas clay-mation movie.
I remember that it glowed; and not in the cheesy way that that sounds like, but in the way that made me know that she was one of those special people who have actually seen a miracle, and it had left her permanently changed.
I remember nothing else about her, not what she was wearing or even how many children she had, but I remember her face and how it looked, and on certain days like today it is all that I can see.
Her eyes were dark brown. There was nothing that made them beautiful, but I remember them as beautiful. They were intense, and they locked on in a way that let you know she was hearing every word that you were saying; despite the fact that she could not understand English, and English was all that you were speaking. It went beyond that to her. She was listening to your soul. Somehow she was understanding all that lied in between language and culture, poverty and riches. She understood everything that was happening.
I remember going back the following year and driving by the house that we had built and seeing it standing. It was probably the proudest I will ever feel in my life. I knew that it was good, that I was a part of something that was a good thing, and that people had been left living differently, better, because of me and my week last year. It hits me even now, though, that that look I remember, the one that is etched on this woman’s face and burned to become a part of me, had the expression before she had the house. It was not a look of gratitude. We had not even finished the foundation when I met her. It was a look that was not hinged on what this house could be or do for her. Her face held the look of something different than gratitude or happiness because of this possession. If we had never built that house for her, would her face have been the same? I think it would have.
So what did I give her that week? Nothing that she didn’t already have. If she really had seen a miracle it happened before I got there. It had already formed and shaped her and what I witnessed were the permanent effects of life changed. Joy created. Hope birthed. All that took place outside of the house we built. I believe that the house was testament to her life and God’s faithfulness. That the house came from days spent in humble obedience, joyful days spent in knowing that everything she needed she already had, and that He had proven faithful over and above a simple roof to cover head. She would be fine without it.
Because of that her face was weathered with a peace that only welcomed the house, knowing that this was no surprise or day of good fortune it was provision from her God that showed up all the time in very unexpected ways. To wear that kind of face takes an understanding that only God has given you.