El tiempo vuela. Time flies. Yesterday was my last day of Spanish classes, and tomorrow I will be leaving the beautiful city of Antigua, Guatemala to officially start the Finca del Niño mission in Trujillo, Honduras. I have a few reflections over the past couple of weeks that I feel nudged to share with whoever finds themselves on this page.
First of all, I would like to give a huge shout-out to my Spanish teacher Victoria. She has gracefully put up with me for the past 120 hours of class. I am grateful for the grammar and vocabulary assistance, but far beyond that, I feel incredibly privileged to have gotten to know her. Together we have laughed and cried, shared food, discussed faith, and reflected on the challenging realities of life. She is a woman who shares Truth, when I myself tend to run in the other direction in these situations. It is safe to say she has taught me much more than just Spanish. Gracias Victoria por ser una persona de confianza, sabiduría, y amor. Voy a extrañarte muchísimo. I would also like to give a shout-out to my dear friend Jaideep from India, who dealt with my goofiness for four weeks while living with the same host family and attending the same school. Thank you for sharing your culture and family roots, walking me home after dark, gifting me with delicious ice cream, and for just being a solid friend in Antigua.
Buckle in, folks! My first reflection is this. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hike the active Acatenango volcano with two fellow missionaries Anna and Ally on my birthday. It was a two-day trip consisting of massive incline, an unbelievable amount of sweat, nearly 14,000 feet of elevation gain, and many wonderful memories. Our hiking group consisted of people from all around the world – Israel, France, England, and Guatemala. The trek was challenging. The kind of challenging that makes your calves and hamstrings cry and also makes you question life decisions (example: hiking a difficult volcano in the first place). However, we had a solid group of people who spread continuous encouragement through the distributing snacks and water, sharing our respective cultures, and offering words of reassurance. After more than five hours of strenuous hiking, we reached our campsite. The view from the site overlooked the neighboring Fuego volcano. (Yes, the one that had just erupted in June!) Shortly after we settled into this space, our incredibly knowledgeable guides made a bonfire for us with coffee (thank you, Jesus), spaghetti, and time to be a community of travelers encircling our source of warmth and light as the sun disappeared for the evening. I had the privilege of listening to our new friends sing “happy birthday” in Hebrew, French, Spanish, and English. What a unifying experience! Oh, and how the stars crowded the sky. There was no light pollution, which was much different than my nights in St. Paul over the past four years. It was a humbling reminder of how small and insignificant my life really is amidst the billions of people on this earth. After dinner, we snuggled into our tents and thankfully, sleep met me with ease despite the crackling booms and lava spewing from our neighboring Fuego Volcano. The following morning began at 4am. We had plans to hike to the peak of Acatenango to watch the sun rise above the clouds. We dressed ourselves in rain jackets, headlamps, and the little confidence we had from the previous day to complete our final ascent. As we hiked higher and higher, the vegetation around us changed along with the tierra – from dirt to volcanic sand. We encountered new plants and exotic flowers of every color. It is truly astonishing how life can emerge from such destruction. Volcanic eruptions are not inherently good, as we have heard about the past few months in Guatemala and how the country is still dealing with the effects of this tragedy. Through my scattered 4am brain, I began to think of the beauty that arises from the ashes – how these trees and flowers are fed by the volcanic ash to grow into something more beautiful than before and how it would not be possible without the lava. Isn’t that similar to what occurs in our own lives? It is in those moments of ugliness and destruction where life is growing out of the ashes, and God is cultivating something greater and more beautiful than before. Our vulnerability in challenging situations allows for God’s love to meet us. We simply need to recognize our weakness and depend on God, so His mercy and grace can fill our empty, aching hearts with perseverance, joy, and hope. We completed our ascent just in time to experience the overwhelming vastness and peace on top of the volcano. Above the city and the clouds, the sun peeked out to greet us with the most astounding good morning I have ever experienced.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth” (Psalm 19:1-6)
This experience was one for the books. Thank you to everyone who contributed to making my birthday so special. I treasure each card, email, phone call, text message, balloon (a schemed tradition between my mom and Ally, Anna, and Liv), music video (thank you, Sarah!), and gift (your timing was perfect, Alex). I cannot imagine a better way to ring in my 23rd year on this planet than with a reminder of God’s goodness, gentleness, creativity, and love on top of a volcano.
Yesterday evening, I attended the juego de fútbol (soccer game) of my host mom’s nephew. When we arrived at the field, there were only two other fans in the stand – a wife of one of the players and their one-year-old son. What an absolute delight this little one was. He even had his own soccer ball to mimic his dad playing on the field. However, as time passed, he became restless. While the little boy’s dad was playing in the game, he would call out “papa, papa!” and run onto the field after him. His mom would bring him back to the stands to watch the game again. However, this did not stop him. He would do it again and again, chasing after his papa. Eventually, his calling out turned into a cry for his beloved papa. This time to my utmost surprise, the father scooped the little boy up in his arms and continued to run up and down the field playing in the game. His son’s cry transformed into a huge smile as he bounced around, safe in his papa’s arms. What a beautiful depiction of God’s love for us. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:8). God desires a childlike faith from each of us, and I believe relentless calling out to Him is one of those ways we can strive to do that while pursuing Him. I rarely cry out to God in desperation and dependence on Him. How foolish of me! I am weak and cannot do anything without God. But this little human in front of me recklessly ran onto the field crying out “papa, papa!” and sure enough, his papa met him and carried him with a smile on his face and love in his heart. What an example of what it means to live with childlike faith and dependence on God, as well as the indescribable, unconditional love of Papa for His children, who carries us with joy.
As I head off to Finca del Niño, I am constantly reflecting on this question, “Lord, what do you need me to leave behind, so that I am able to follow You better?” I have already created a long list of flaw and insecurities that I must remove from my heart in order to serve God more wholly. And I know that list will change from day to day. However, one area that has stuck with me is in the way I speak. The word oración in Spanish has two meanings – sentence and prayer. It is a reminder to us that the words of our mouths should be prayers. We are glorifying God, not only in our actions but in the way that we speak and the words we choose. Through this example, I am reminded that I must leave behind any words that may be hurtful, untruthful, and do not have the intention of glorifying God. I challenge you to ask yourself this question each morning and acknowledge the ever-growing faith inside of you when you give your life to Jesus. There is beauty growing out of the ashes. We simply just need to call out to our Papa and allow Him to do the rest.
I would love to hear from anyone who is willing to write to me! If you have some words that you would like to share, here is my address for the next 15 months in Honduras.