The Girl in the Red Shoes
It seems I dreamed of today all night long, for my anticipation from the night before wakes me very early, so that I see the morning sunrise. I peek from my tent and praise God for his artwork of billowy, sparkling clouds. “Today,” I tell myself “I see the youth at the orphanage.” I look at my watch as if counting down the minutes. The time changes from 6:29 to 6:30 and at that moment the camp is attacked by enthusiastic, human alarm clocks, pounding on tents and shouting morning greetings. Someone starts music and the song “Hungry like the Wolf” terminates any hope of continued slumber. Little by little the camp awakes and scraggly, confused college kids head for the spit holes at the corners of camp to brush teeth. I observe all this from my lawn chair and am grateful for having woken early to take care of any awkward business. I again glance at the clock and note that chapel begins in an hour. I seek breakfast.
Under the food pavilion I head to the wash tables. Three tubs contain steaming water. I discover this new perk to waking early—clean, hot, wash water. One tub contains a soapy substance, another just warm water for rinsing, and the third contains a blue sanitizer of sorts. It looks toxic, but I use it anyways hoping the only thing it kills is bacteria. I turn to the food table and inspect breakfast. I walk past boxes of cereal: frosted fruit loops, sugar coated captain crunch, sweet glazed pebbles, sweetened raisin bran, honey coated cheerios, and worst of all (or best) Aunt Jemima syrup to make sure your cereal is sweet enough. “Oh mother,” I thought, “I miss your spice cake, warm gingerbread, and perfectly soft hard-boiled eggs with Tabasco.” I can even visualize the white lips of my little sister when she dips her egg into a bowl of Tabasco soup and gobbles them up like a Tabasco carnivore. Walking to a table covered in bananas, I select seven and find satisfaction stuffing myself with fruit after which I feel quite satisfied.
By the time our entire team has gathered in our circular shaped group of chairs, chapel begins. We do our best with our morning voices, but sleepiness has not yet worn off and our singing proves it. Soon Pastor Josh relieves us, and he takes the stage once more to encourage us from 1 Peter 2:9. “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A PEOPLE FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Today Pastor Josh speaks directly to those who feel inadequate, out of place, and afraid to serve. “Maybe there are some of you here today who don’t know why you are here. Maybe you believe you are completely inadequate and have nothing to offer to these people.” He continued, “the fact is YOU are at this moment, by coming to Mexico offering something and that something is YOURSELF. YOU are God’s elite and YOU can be used by God because you are a witness of the hope that He has revealed to you. It has nothing to do with worldly gift, but loving each and every person.” A witness is someone who shares what he or she has seen and heard. It is not the job of the witness to convince the Judge but only to testify. Just like the night before I am liberated from any expectations.
Chapel Service in which I testify of the hope that is in me
After chapel our team is told we will not be going to the orphanage today. We just have to wait and see if we can attend a local church service instead. I flop back on the stage out of the sun and sigh. I use that time to write and reflect. I feel impatient to begin service and have to reflect on why God’s timing is better than my own. Soon thereafter our leaders pack us up and tell us we are going to church. Everyone feels relieved to do something and we follow the pastor’s vehicle to his church. Pulling into the drive and falling out of the vans I hear praise. Silly me. Of course the church service is in Spanish. I had a location crisis realizing I am in Mexico. Twelve gringos line up in the back of the church. I know I am the palest, strangest looking creature they have probably ever seen and to top it all off I flash my red zapatos. The children giggle at us, and I smile back humming to the Spanish words. A woman kindly ushers us frontward to seats “en el frente.” I laugh to myself that I have to think about the two kinds of “frentes” in my head. “El frente” meaning the front “la frente” meaning forehead.
I take the time to reflect on where I am, who I worship besides, and the love I see. A little baby boy with a shirt that says, “I am important stuff” roams up and down the aisle shepherded by the entire congregation. Men and women alike lift their arms high to heaven in complete adoration of Him. Never in all my life have I observed such total openness in a church service where the people shout praise to God as moved by the spirit and where there is no shame in shouting ¡Amén! I feel at ease my own arms stretched to heaven. I have not cried in church since the first time attending my home church CRC, but for the first time since, I allow tears to heal my hardened heart. I struggle how in America people often believe expressing emotion is wrong and that it looks weak. Here there is no performance or effort to put on a face that hides how one truly feels. And perhaps most beautiful of all is the fact that each and every member of the congregation walks up to each and every member of our team, looks us in the eye, shakes our hand, and blesses us, “¡Dios le bendiga!” y “Dios le bendiga,” I respond.
“God bless you in every possible way” I whisper inside myself. “God bless you for blessing me with your blessing.”
And as God proves in His own perfect timing He prepares me in every waking moment to better equip me to meet the youth at the orphanage more full of joy, my head swimming with Spanish praise songs, and happily stuffed with Mexican tacos…