Monday, February 1, 2016

Stay - Ecuador, Day 2

"I'll bet you'll want to bring ten of them home with you."

I've heard this several times since announcing my trip to Ecuador. In every case, I laughed along. I understood the sentiment and honestly, now that I'm here? Well, yes, of course part of me wishes we could be Goshen neighbors rather than the trans-continental kind.

Today I met my family's newest sponsored Compassion child, Josue, age five. I sat knee-to-knee with his mother, Veronica, in their one-room living area/bedroom, and she spoke with quiet confidence about her growing family, her three-week old daughter asleep in her arms. Her eyes wore the love of a proud mama. Their home pulsed with tenderness for each other. "Joanna has great conviction. She knows who she is and stands for what she believes." "Josue is," she laughed. "But also very affectionate and caring." I nodded along, sharing bits and pieces about my youngest back home. Oh, the fun they would have together.

Then I asked my favorite question. "What are your wishes for your family?"

She had two. First, that they would grow in their trust in the Lord. Second, that they would desire to serve their community.

But she wasn't done. She talked about the wishes she once had for herself, to go to university, to be an accountant. She sat on the edge of her bed, cooing at the infant in her arms. "Now I only hope we could have our own home one day. I pray God would heal my husband's knee."

Nodding toward her children both wearing school uniforms - expensive attire required by the public schools and provided by Compassion - I knew the dreams she once had for herself had been transferred without hesitation to them. It is through Compassion's Child Survival Program (for new moms and their babies) that she came to know Jesus ten years ago. Now, with her two oldest children sponsored, she has no reason to place limits on where God might take them. She has no cause to hedge her bets or keep her expectations in check.

This is a mother who understands the vastness of the kingdom of God. 

Perspiration beaded her nose while we chatted through an interpreter. I felt that familiar urge bubble up inside me, How can I keep her near? What can I do to make sure I don't lose her? It's hard to explain why this might happen, but I had to remind myself there would be no joint grocery-store runs in our future. Her family would not eat soup at my table. Our kids would not play chase at the park.

Still, as precious as Josue and Joanna are, as slow as I was to pull back from our goodbye hugs, I do not want to bring them home with me. They are loved deeply and cared for well. That some of their physical need can be met through a small portion of what I spend each month on trivial things is an honor I do not take lightly. That I get to pray for them by name and remind them of their worth from afar while supporting their rich life together is an honor. That they do not have to fear the fracture of their family is orphan prevention at its best.

When I say I carry all of you with me, I'm not trying to be cute. Your kind company fuels me for this task that feels much too big. In gratitude, I offer back to you the gift of linking arms with a family across the world, for the betterment of each of you. You have the chance to draw a wider circle by sponsoring a child. Your thirty-eight dollars each month, and even more importantly, your prayers and notes, impact all of them. And if you already do this, I'm asking you to do it again.

Father Gregory Boyle asks, "How much bigger is the God we have than the God we think we have?"

Tonight, the mountains of Ecuador spread out around us. Humble homes filled with vibrant, hopeful people twinkle just past the window glass. And I wonder, how much bigger is the kingdom of Heaven pulsing and alive right now than the kingdom of Heaven we scarcely imagine beyond our own front door?

The kingdom of heaven is you, me, Veronica, and Josue, all trying our best.
It looks like passing the baton of need and sacrifice, taking a lap, and trading off.
It settles around us thick, like grace.

"I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me." Psalm 30:1

Follow along as Ruth shares about the smallest, biggest step.
Follow along as Ashley shares about the youngest Compassion children.

* Images via @mikevarel

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