Having some homebody tendencies, and a bit of a preference to know what to expect rather than to face unknown situations, last week's missions trip to Nicaragua was preceded by thoughts of, "now why am I doing this?" As I've often found to be the case, once I was on my way I felt wrapped up in God's reassurance that I was exactly where He wanted me to be, doing what He wanted me to do.
My knowledge of the Spanish language is limited to a handful of phrases used in greeting. When we were instructed that, though we were doing service projects like painting the little school in the village of Berlin, our primary job was to build relationships with those we encountered, I wondered how that was possible without having a firm grasp on their language. Throughout the week, God showed me that building relationships and showing His love is possible even without the bridge of a common language. Like the little boy who gave Jesus his two fish and five loaves which Jesus broke and multiplied to feed five thousand people, I gave God my little and He used it. With the at risk girls that live at Villa Esperanza, my little was my phone and my camera. They loved having their photos taken with me and with one another and enjoyed seeing photos of my family that were on my phone. During free time, a jumprope, a soccer ball, and craft supplies brought by our team were the loaves and fishes that used to help us to bond with the girls through playing together.
In the little village of Berlin, we did hard physical work on the school. But during recess we laid down our paintbrushes and played with the children. A few dollars worth of sidewalk chalk and my grade school level doodling skills were a great communication booster. I'd draw a simple object, point at it, and say the English word for it. The children would then teach me the word in Spanish. Yet again, the jump rope and soccer ball were also a big help in building bridges through playing together.
When the people of the village began to gather and help us paint their school, our team leader decided that the next day we would provide lunch for everyone, and also share a simple devotional with them. He tagged me to give the devotional with the help of a translator. The challenge was that I had no time to prepare, and preparation is the best friend of someone who feels uncomfortable in facing unknown situations. Graciously, God dropped three well known verses into my heart and He took them and blessed them, guiding me on how to share the whole glorious gospel from those three verses, with about ten minutes of time in which to share them.
What I learned, what I want to share with you to encourage you, is that loving people is not optional. Yet, maybe you're like me and have too often used excuses that create walls between yourself and others instead of bridges. "I don't know the language, I don't understand the culture, I don't know how to share the gospel, I'm so much older/younger than them." There are probably multiple excuses to ignore the inner nudging to share God's love for every encounter we have. I was comforted and encouraged, that when I push past the fear and intimidation and just use the little I have and reach out with it, God blesses and multiplies it. It's a beautiful thing to be a part of, to be the weak, flawed, but willing vessel through which God's love flows to others.