Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Picture's Worth (Part Two)

One of my favorite things in the world to do is capture a very special moment in time through a photograph. It brings me such a sense of purpose and accomplishment, knowing that the memory of that event is forever frozen in a visible form. The picture below is an example of one of these moments. The woman's name within it is Maria, she and her family live in a small community here named Wan Pablo. I've known Maria, her husband, and her children since my previous trip to Alajuelita in 2010. They are regulars at Celebracion Igelsia and have developed a relationship with 6:8. Just last month, Cross Creek constructed a home for the family, and I got the chance to go on the day that they received the keys. Even better, I got to watch as Baby Joshua took his first steps in his new home, snapping the photo just in time.

Aside from being something that makes me genuinely happy to look at, it represents an important lesson for me. The week after it was taken, Dan and I took the Celebration Team to visit the same community. When we arrived, we found Maria ( who has a history of addiction/alcoholism) completely inebriated. From what I understood, jealousy had broken out within the community over the house and fights took place as a result. This paired with other traumatic events involving her family led Maria to a place of fear and distress; which eventually brought her back to the substances she depended on for comfort. The team prayed over her, did our best to offer comfort, and moved on to the community center to interact with the kids. On the way, Joshua's sister Celeste gave him to me to carry. He was crying and I noticed that not only was his diaper full but that it smelled awful too.  It had to have been that way for at least two hours, mostly because Maria wasn't in the right state of mind to change him. Though I'm not a mother yet, nothing in me could allow a baby to sit in his own dirty diaper. So I proceeded to gather a couple girls from the group, go to a local store to buy a new one, and we changed him right there. While it was an incredible moment because God used us to demonstrate his love, it was also discouraging for me personally.

To be honest, it was difficult for me not to feel angry with Maria after that afternoon. I had witnessed instances of God moving in her life, I knew that she was aware of the truth and what was right. Yet there was no difference in her behavior, instead she turned back to old vices and behaviors. What's worse, she neglected her own child to do so. For the next few days, she and Joshua were on my mind a lot. I prayed for Christ to renew not only her heart but mine as well.

One thing I have been struggling with significantly during my time in Costa is remembering that it God's place to change each individual I meet. Not mine. This fact isn't so easy for me to accept. I'm a nurturer and a fixer, to a fault at times. When I see someone who is hurting, I ache for them to be comforted. When I see something that is broken, I long to mend it. It's just a part of my nature.

I've realized how great the need to abandon this tendency is for me; as a missionary, Christ follower, and human being. Even when Jesus walked the Earth, he didn't take it specifically into his own hands to change people. Instead he loved them and felt compassion for them, while telling the message of the Gospel to all who would listen. He never took on the responsibility of their reaction to that truth but simply presented it and allowed it to speak for itself. He trusted in the one who sent him, knowing that though he planted seeds it was the Father who brought the harvest.  The Son of God found his strength and constancy in the realization that ultimately Abba was the one working through him and transforming hearts.  I am beginning to do the same.

That Sunday Maria not only came to Celebracion Iglesia but also went up to the alter for prayer. The same week, she brought all three of her kids to the feeding center and youth service. This past Saturday, she attended a conference intended specifically for women, and I got to help prayer over little Joshua. These three separate occurrences prove that in some small way she desires to move forward again instead of back. So it's true that this photo is representative of a hard lesson about faith I've been learning. But it is also a source of hope. I truly believe that Maria wants to get clean. I know she is capable of being a good mother to her children and longs to do so. More so, I trust that God is working within her and bringing things to fruition in his time, not my own. Every time I look at it, I remember this and surrender her to him once again.

Baby Joshua taking his first steps in his new home.

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