Thursday, January 19, 2017

Life Around the Table

One of the things that the race is pushing me out of is the desire to control my plans. Time and time again God has shown me that His plans are far greater than mine. And here, week 1, in San Andres, Colombia, is no different.
My team and I have been incredibly blessed by our ministry location this month. We’ve been sent to a small island in the Caribbean called San Andres. When I say small, I mean it. It’s about 8 miles long and 2 miles wide. We could literally walk the entire island in a day if we wanted to. The sea around us is unlike any I have seen. They call it “el mar de 7 colores” – the sea of 7 colors – which is so fitting. The culture is a perfect mix of latin and islander – vibrant, casual, warm, and slow-paced. With my Latina and Hawaiiana background, many things feel familiar to me and I have oddly felt very at home since our arrival. We live on the second floor of a church called Centro Familiar de Alabanza (Family Center of Praise). It’s a modest home in the center of San Andres with a touristy area on one side and an impoverished area on the other. (For my Hawaii friends – imagine Waikiki on one side and Waianae on the other.) Our hosts – Pastor Arnold, his wife, and two sons – live on the floor beneath us.
Coming into our first month, I had high expectations. I yearned to serve well, often, and immediately. When we received the details of our first mission, they were very vague. The ministry that we are serving here is asking for help growing their Church but not necessarily in specific ways. We’ve been asked to teach English classes and interact with the youth. We attend 4 church services per week and have Bible studies with some of the Church leaders. Much of our time is left open to make it our own and while this seems like “free” time, it’s been anything but that. Our days have been long but they have been full. So full of the Lord and in ways I never expect. It’s taken patience and trust for me to let go of always having a plan. We often don’t know what our day will look like until the day of and sometimes we receive our plans right before they happen. But even in what feels like chaos – I keep finding a sense of peace, knowing they’re His plans, not mine anyway.
During training for the race, they really emphasized the idea that ministry isn’t always assigned and doesn’t always take place at our worksite. I’m learning to live this way instinctively, knowing that the whole world is my mission. It’s been a week here and I can already see that most of our stories will have taken place in an unplanned location - the table in our bedroom. This table is where we have our Bible studies, Spanish & English classes, team time, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s where we talk and write and play games. This table has already seen us cry from sadness and joy, it’s seen us laugh so hard we can’t speak, it’s seen us pray boldly and break down so many barriers of trust, language, and more. It’s where I learned to share my testimony in Spanish. It’s where card games are taught using hand motions and google translate. It’s where our new teen-aged friends come to hang out with us and where we told a single mother that she is part of our family now. It’s where a 12 year old boy sits after school each day unexpectant of anything from us. He knows no English (yet!) but finds joy in our presence  - and we find so much joy in his.
We do life at this table. I’m learning to let go of my expectations because His plans are greater.
We live on a beautiful tropical island yet my favorite place in this paradise is this table in our room.

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