As One by One celebrates 10 years of ministry, we’re reflecting on some of the larger lessons that God has taught us through serving.
I can clearly remember sitting in the front yard of my soon-to-be good friend’s house. It was hot—it was always hot—and the dirt yard that surrounded their humble home contained a large mango tree, providing both food and much-needed shade. This was my second visit to their home. My first visit was for a child’s birthday party, where I was invited to stay even after all the neighborhood kids and friends had left and only the family remained. I was invited to eat cake made just for the family and drink Rojita, a red soda and special treat in any Nicaraguan home. On this second visit I was invited to drink a cup of coffee and eat mango from the tree. I was received with love and excitement as I tried to communicate with my friend and her 3 beautiful children in a language I had yet to grasp in a meaningful way. I was sent home with mangos and an invitation to return whenever I wanted.
Over the next couple of years this scene repeated itself several times. I was always offered coffee and often the kids were sent down the street to a neighbor’s house that also served as a convenience store to purchase additional food and drink to offer me. I ate many lunches in this home where I know that feeding another person took extra effort, but it was never complained about. For a very special season, I became a part of the family.
As I reflect on this time—how I was received in their home, their situation in life and the economy, and how I, in turn, received them in my home—I have come to the uncomfortable realization that they received me much better than I received them. They likely made huge sacrifices to have me in their home and always offer the best that they could. I, on the other hand, looked at my bills and responsibilities, my wants and needs, and I gave priority to those things over my relationship with this precious family.
A North American may think, “you did the responsible thing,” but was it the right thing?
After marrying my husband (who is Nicaraguan), he’d often call me out on being stingy. At one point I found out that the going rate for someone to wash your windshield at a stop light was one córdoba. I’m extremely embarrassed to say that at the time, a córdoba was worth about four US cents, but since I had heard that this was the going rate, I very strictly kept to it so I didn’t get ripped off. (This was what sparked the conversation about stinginess with my husband. Needless to say, I started paying more for windshield washes.)
When writing this blog post, I set out to write how I’ve learned that people with less money than me are often more generous than I am. But even as I type this, I realize that it goes beyond generosity with money. It’s more accurately about generosity with ourselves and our relationships. Nicaragua is a country that places a higher priority on people and relationships than I’m used to. It is easy to lose sight of people when we focus on what is “fair” or “responsible.”
Jesus focused on people; He focused on relationships. In John 15:12-15 Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.”
As I look back on this lesson I thought I learned, I realize that I still have a lot to learn from my Nicaraguan friends, family, and husband. I need to ask myself daily, moment by moment, if I’m showing those around me that they are a priority in my life, that my love for them—that Jesus’ love for them—is greater than the things I think are more important in the moment.