It’s 37 degrees Fahrenheit outside here in Rochester, New York and I am cold. A killing frost is threatening to strike any morning. Winter is coming and I don’t like it one bit. The only thing between a hundred inches of snow falling from a prolonged ice-cold winter and me is a pair of long underwear, a double layer of socks, and a closet full of flannel shirts.
The cold makes me think of Guatemala.
Yes, it gets cold in Guatemala, even during the summer, high up in the mountains. 5,000 feet of elevation with no furnace and intermittent hot water is a recipe for bone-chilling cold! I learned from my first trip. The second trip I packed sweat pants and a hoodie for the cold nights.
While we stayed in local hotels, the cold always made me think of the countless Mayan families covering the countryside, spending the cold night in houses made of cornstalks, sticks, plastic, and tin. Lord, have mercy.
This past summer we were blessed with a hotel that featured a central campfire pit. It was great to relax after a hard day’s work around the campfire, talking about the profound and the sublime, the deep and the shallow, making attempts at humor and suffering groans worthy of the pun. Our team of dissimilar Christians from across the North East and Mid West became friends and bonded in a wonderful way.
An older gentleman who worked for the hotel would stay late each evening to kindly build us a fire. One evening he brought his guitar and sang for us Guatemalan songs from his youth.
I’ll never forget the one riff he played that was common to every song. More importantly, I’ll never forget what a blessing he was to all of us gathered round. Indeed, on that cold evening, he brought the warmth.
It is my experience that the people we serve in Guatemala always brings the warmth. A widow raising three young boys invites a neighbor, friend, single mother with eleven children to move in with her. You know, some tasks are done better together than by yourself. That’s some warm love, right there. Brings tears to my eyes.
Family members that cry, hug, and kiss your hand because you just fit their elderly loved one to their first wheel chair never fails to warm my heart. Staffers who volunteer to work both week-end days to serve as translators do so because … well, that’s just how much they love their neighbors, especially those who are most vulnerable – single women and children.
Despite the cold evening temperatures of mountainous Guatemala, what has always warmed my heart is the genuine hospitality and love that I’ve received in return. While it may be our natural tendency to be wary of strangers and to take time to warm up and trust them, I’ve come to know that the warmth I’ve experienced on short-term mission trips is nothing other than a gift of God’s grace and love.
After all, some one, some how, some where has to warm them up!
I’d suggest that what warms people to one another is the heat of God’s grace and love. Divine love burns red hot, like a Louisiana chili pepper, liberating us for a life of discipleship and service, loving God and loving neighbors. Forgiveness and salvation are the twin pinnacles of God’s searing love for us.
God’s love, and his burning desire to share his love, knows no bounds. It doesn’t recognize political borders. It makes no distinction between languages. It doesn’t discriminate due to status, wealth, influence, skin color, or where one goes to worship.
God’s blistering love is bound to warm up everyone serving on a short term mission trip. Yes, everyone gets warmed, even those gathered around a camp fire on those cold mountainous evenings.