Two weeks ago I was in an airport in Peru.. taking pictures of all the stuffed Llamas and enjoying free chocolate with my friend Doris. In the fourteen days since then… I have seen REAL llamas, had my first mega-church experience, learned to make jam, but most importantly: I’ve been getting to know a small church here in Bogota.
There are 7 billion people in the world, and about 8 million people in Bogota, but for these two weeks God wanted me and my counseling school team to be with this church, to teach this church, to counsel this church. To be honest, I didn’t really want to be here. It’s Christmas time, for goodness’ sake. I wanted to be home, I wanted to be with my family, I wanted to eat Christmas cookies and watch Miracle on 34th Street and shovel snow with my best friend. Somehow God picked up on my attitude, and He said something to me that was hard to hear. “You think your family is more important than the people in this church, but they’re not. You are ALL my children. I love this church just as much as I love the people you miss in Minnesota, and right now: I want you to be here, with these children of mine.”
Ouch. He was right though, I realized. We draw lines on the earth where God has not placed divisions, separating ourselves and our cultures from each other where there do not need to be separations. When really, we’re all part of the same family.
I’ve been confronted in the past about why I need to go far away from my home to work with children when there are people in need in my own country, in my own city. I understand those questions, and in the past I’ve responded that it has been God who has asked me to go to the needy in other places. It’s the truth, but I’m realizing that there’s more to it than that. Sometimes it’s like we think we’re only responsible for the people who are near us. Our own families, the homeless in our own city, the orphans in our own state. But I don’t think God pays too much attention to those lines we’ve drawn between our countries. I think He loves us all the same. I think He has taken me to Mexico and Chile and now Colombia because these people are His children also, and He wants to teach me something through them, and to teach them something through me.
Once I accepted that this church, these people, were just as valuable as the people in Bemidji… God started to do some beautiful things through me. Counseling is not what I ever would have imagined for myself, but I love it, me encanta. To listen to someone as they pour out their heart, sharing their deepest hurts, their secrets, their sins.. can be very sad, and very heavy. But after sitting and listening and listening and listening… we do something much more powerful than any wound received or sin committed: we pray. The listening continues as I listen to them pray, pouring out their heart to God, and then, finally… comes the moment for my voice to be heard. Except it’s not me, because as I start to pray it’s God who brings the words into my mind, God who pours out my prayers like healing waters on the person I’m with. And restoration comes, wounds are healed, identities are affirmed. Really what we’re doing as a team is like being a bridge between God and the church, teaching them to have intimacy with God for themselves, and allowing God to speak to His church through us. It is truly something very beautiful to be a part of.
Also… even though I missed my family very much over Christmas and it did not go by without some homesick tears, God was very faithful to me. My Canadian friend Kaitlin and I spent last weekend with a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful family from the church. Our “Christmas family” welcomed us with more joy and love than either of us had even hoped to imagine, and though it was a very different Christmas, it was very lovely.
May you all be so blessed as a new year begins. God is truly with us.