I didn’t ask to fall in love.
Didn’t ask for my heart to swell with unspeakable joy and look into the harsh, cruel face of poverty through rose-colored glasses, or open wide my arms to hold the limping hope staggering about the city. But as the life of Nicaragua bloomed before me for a week in September, I found myself slipping.
Love thrust itself into my soul, swept through my veins and swung wide the doors to my tenderest chambers. It wooed me in the brilliance of the country’s beauty, the rich heritage and culture brightly colored in the faces of its people.
For three years, I’ve sponsored a little boy, Freddy, and encouraged and loved him through letter writing. When the opportunity to visit him presented itself, I knew it was something I was meant to do. So at the end of September, I journeyed to Nicaragua.
I ventured through mud-slapped streets, stooping homes and the heavy air of a place oppressed but not conquered. Each day my heart made room for faces – the leather-etched grandfather, the tired, desiring mother, and the smooth and soft smiles of child after child, laughter raining from their souls and fearless in their trust.
Nicaragua. I whisper the word off my tongue and push it into the air. I watch it sway and dance across the wind, following my steps, nudging me across hills and valleys, through forests thick with branches and burdens, until it splits into thousands of pieces and takes residence in each man, woman, boy and girl. It alights on deep pools of endless brown eyes, warming hues made liquid in the flames of joy.
I thought I was visiting to share God’s love with the people, but they were the ones to show me what real faith is.
It is the transparent prayer of thanks and praise, urgent requests to know God more, and a deep, anchored belief that He will hear and help their families. They flood the streets with endless chatter and shy smiles, welcoming me into their world. They give with the very last crumbs of their heart, delight etched in their spirits, and it is I who am blessed by their generosity.
Children run, play and shout, words in Spanish but the meaning universal in all languages. These little ones just yearn to be seen and heard, for someone to bend down to their level and share the struggle in their eyes. To take their hand and preciously walk alongside their small steps.
At dusk, they return to one-room homes slapped together by wood and wire, kneel on the dirt floor, and turn to the Source of their every need. They don’t have much materially, but they are overflowing in riches unimaginable to the comfortable eye.
Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. The people collect these savory nuggets and gather them in the baskets of their spirit, as fruit assembled in the marketplace. As sun streaks over the horizon, hearts cry a hymn of praise to ignite the humming world around them.
And one little boy, sweet, smiling Freddy, 8 years old and my heart’s desire. When he looked at me, his sparkling ink-filled eyes wrote his story into my soul. His small, wrinkled hand, searching for mine in crowded spaces. His brown, safe arms wrapped around me, keeping me warm and pulsing with blood beneath my veins.
With him, I was home. I was overflowing and trembling at the weight my heart could hold. This was my life’s purpose, to watch over him and guide him, to love and feel his hope beat with mine.
My heart has been unstitched, torn open and turned inside out. I am wrecked. Forever and fervently. The scent of this country assails me, sweet with smoked husks and hospitality. In the throes of trial and suffering, a light flickers, refusing to be snuffed out. In the midst of destitution, there is dignity.
We can help banish the lies of this beautiful land! Help throw back the curtains of caution and usher in an unabashed devotion to live through word and deed! To live a life of love, relentless and pure.
I didn’t fully realize the depth of impact sponsors have, but we are changing the world, one child at a time. Every little bit can magnify into a big difference. There is always hope. There is always that one child, waiting for you to light up his or her dark world.
Love has found my tightest spaces and sprung them free. The people of this place are etched in my heart, and poverty is just a coward shadowed in fear.
May love drive away the darkness and paint a bright future into the souls of these children. May our hearts be torn apart and filled by the peace overflowing in the laughter of these lives. And may love find you when you least expect it, serenading you in the call of Compassion.