“I heard you’re coming to my birthday party tonight.” Eleven-year old Hannah smiled up at me as she gave me a hug during lunchtime. “Can I come, too?” asked a little girl standing nearby.
“No, It’s just a family party.” Hannah replied, kindly.
It’s easy to see that this special word means something different to the people here than it does back in the states. Watching our brothers and sisters care for and live in community with one another here reminds me of the early church. The beautiful thing is, we don’t just have to watch. We’re experiencing it.
David and I will only be here for four months. I was warned in orientation that it would be normal for us to be kept at arm’s length for the duration of our stay. After seeing loved ones come and go for several years, it’s easy to become very good at being polite while still keeping distance.
By the grace of God, this has been the opposite of our experience; the community here has welcomed us with open arms. Lately, I’ve been struggling with liking being a Christian. My heart is broken over the division and hurt that I’ve witnessed in the name of Jesus.
In Belem I find healing. Here I see hope. In this little community, I see people loving in the name of Jesus, I see people living in a community, not devoid of conflict, but in a community in which Jesus is bigger than conflict. Here I see people who actually live as if they believe the mission of God is more important than their personal preference. Our brothers and sisters here have surrendered their rights, and because they have, they’re free. They’re free to love with abandon. The welcome desserts staying cool in our fridge, the borrowed dishes, the list of meal ideas sitting on the counter, the way the teachers serve their students and one another, the hours people have spent talking with and helping us: these are evidences of a love that does not tire, of a hope that does not fade. The amount of energy that our brothers and sisters here are exerting to welcome us, to get to know us, and to help us become involved here astounds me, but I don’t think it should. It is in this freedom that Christ calls us to live. It is in this abandonment that we are able to surrender to and be agents of his love and healing to a broken world.
In this moment, as I sit in our borrowed house, the warm Brazilian air gently blowing through the windows, fireworks exploding outside, I am humbled and very thankful. The Lord has certainly brought us here to Belem.