I came back from another mission trip and it once again has changed me, but this time it seems a little different. I saw something while I was on this trip to Guatemala with Faith In Action that completely humbled me. It really ruined me.
It wasn’t until I read the final day in our devotion and then read a chapter in the book “Jesus Is ____” by Judah Smith that I was able to figure out what it was that ruined me. It was grace. It was the grace of God flowing through me that was embraced and shown back by the forgotten Mayan peoples of the remote river village, Castulo.
In Judah Smith’s book he talks about how he is a hugger. (I can relate to that because I am a hugger as well.) he goes on to talk about how some people are not huggers and you can tell. Here is how he writes it…
You try to give them a warm bear hug, and they turn sideways and bounce you off their hip. Or they hug on the same side you do and you almost kiss. Or they get all tense and rigid, and you feel like you are hugging a mannequin with a robotic arm. Those are awkward hugs.
I have experienced this more than a time or two.
Later in that chapter he talks about the story of the prodigal son that Jesus tells in the Luke 15:11-32. In this story we see grace lived out in an amazing way. The father who was rejected by the son in turn celebrates when the son comes back home. The problem with this story is that it messes with the Pharisees (a group of religious people, who are VERY strict rules oriented leaders, which is completely unlike any of us religious people today) doctrine, because if someone does something wrong like this son did then there is only chastisement for them. Certainly not celebration like Jesus was insinuating.
Pharisees can’t hug grace back. Instead me/we/they get all awkward.
The first day we went to Castulo we were shoveling piles of dirt from one place to another for a church building that was going to be constructed. Some of the other people (mainly the girls) were making rebar sections that would be the upright supports for the building. All the while they were singing. Everyone was in a great mood no matter how hot, sweaty and dirty we got. A few men from the village were there helping out as well.
Three days later when we returned we were going to help build a shed to store the concrete bags & tools that would also be a place for some workers to sleep. As we pulled up in the truck we saw the women and children of the village hauling sand up the hill in buckets and bowls. They wanted to help in anyway that they could.
It wasn’t until later that evening that Michael & Rocky, who run Faith In Action, told us the magnitude of that gesture. You see that had never happened before where the women & children asked if they could help.
I really believe that they saw grace through us that first day and that they wanted to hug grace back. It was so moving and powerful. It ruined me.
I asked our whole team to write out a prayer on a piece of paper for that church in the village of Castulo. I gave them all to Michael and he said that at their first service they will read them to the people there and then seal them up in the wall of the building. I hope and pray that grace will continue to be shown there and that they will see more and more people hugging grace back. I believe that church in Castulo, that I call “la Iglesia Rio” (The River Church in Spanish), will be a beacon of grace throughout the other villages in the area.
That is why I am ruined.