Our guest blogger Emily Potts has joined us in Antigua, Guatemala for the last 2 years. Her heart for cultivating community wherever she goes shines brightly and we are blessed to serve alongside her! Here is one of her stories from Guatemala this year!
For two weeks my team volunteered at Nino’s Del Mundo which is a free kindergarten program for the little Ninos in San Juan Del Obispo, Guatemala and an after school program for elementary students through middle school.
During the week the Ninos would come up to me stick out their hand and say, “¿tocar mi mano?” Which means touch my hand or high five essentially. And I would reach out my hand and they would quickly snatch their hand back and say no! And I would pretend to cry and be upset and they would die with laughter. Some Ninos would say Si! And then I would have a big smile on my face and act so thankful and surprised, but often they would say no because pretending to be sad was way more funny to them.
Through my experience of giving rice and beans to the mothers whose children attended the program my team partnered with, I learned more about what real, authentic, selfless community looks like.
Obviously from American standards these people were in poverty. Some without beds, living in small corners with four or three metal walls, and dirt floors. I have seen poverty before so the shock of these living conditions did not surprise me as much as it had before.
However, I am forever grateful that not only theses women allowed me into their home but taught me a valuable lesson about what community actually is.
After dropping off a pound of rice and a pound of beans to one family, we would travel to the next and almost every time we would go to the next home the children from the family before would be in the next house we were going to.
These families are surviving on close to nothing and yet they open their homes to all of the children in the neighborhood, even if it costs them a little bit more food.
These women taught me that community is not just about what I can give to you and what you can give to me but that the greatest gift anyone can give or receive to unify a body of people is a relationship.
As I think about missions and what it means to go into another country I’ve come to realize that service goes along way, but authentic relationships are eternal.
When missions is only about giving resources or teaching people how to get resources, or being of any use to a community, I believe that we receive our reward on earth by the compliments we get about how we are “such great people” who are giving to those “in need.”
But I don’t want that.
I want to receive an award that surpasses earth and goes into eternity.
I want the relationships I make with the people I go to to be real eternal and I want my mission to be sharing the hope and love that has saved me from the hell that I have had to deal with on earth.
As I spend thousands of dollars on plane tickets, hostels, food, and supplies I want to be reminded that authentic relationship with people says way more about who our Jesus is then any program or house I build.
Believe me, I love building houses, giving away food and showing compassion in practical ways that help those who are in desperate need, but if I don’t show God’s love, Jesus’ hope and allow the Holy Spirit to be present in my everyday life then I have done a disservice.
Food•housing•clothing•supplies are all things that will fade away one day, but community is a eternal idea, relationships with people that are founded in Christ are eternal.
And I hope I never loose sight of that.
So as I’m on the plane heading to Dallas from Guatemala and then to Seattle I am reminded of the little Nino’s who on my birthday I had to say goodbye to. They stuck out their hand and said “¿tocar mi mano?” I reach my hand out and they said “Si!” then opened up their arms and gave me a big hug and said goodbye.
Community and missions looks like being present and authentic with people.
Community looks like giving and receiving your friendship with arms open.
Missions looks like understanding that plane tickets, and food will fade away one day but showing Jesus’ hope and love is eternal.
Missions and community is a lifestyle where everyday is a opportunity to open up your hand to God and His people and say yes.