An Exchange of Love

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walking to pick beans with Pilar’s family

Our family is starting to make friends with a Nicaraguan family in a nearby small town called Ulima. They are a kind couple with five beautiful kids. The three oldest girls are all in the 8th grade at their high school in our town of Florencia, because when they first came here from Nicaragua, they had been unable to attend school, and therefore didn’t know how to read and write. The two youngest are at the local grade school in their town. Their house is mostly a dirt floor outside. They all sleep in a tiny one-room house that is stuffed with two sets of bunkbeds, a matrimonial size bed and a sink with a short counter. Their mother wanted to offer me some food or coffee, but she had none to offer, and this was a source of stress for her. The other times we’d gone to visit them they were able to give us some vegetables from their garden, sugar cane to chew on, a coffee cup, a pitcher and any other kind of gift she could find in her house. Her generosity, which is such a part of her culture, is incredible to me. We are always unexpected when we show up, which makes her hospitality and generosity shine through all the more. She immediately gets up and offers me the best (and only real) chair there, which is a simple typical Costa Rican rebar style rocking chair with a blanketed pad. Her and her daughters love to visit with little Kateri and laugh at my bad Spanish. While we were there, the first thing we noticed, because it was dark out, was that they had no electricity. No lights to sit outside by (the only place to hang out) except the lights of their phone. When we drove up they were sitting outside in the dark. We hadn’t realized in our daytime visits before that this meant there was no light, no fridge and no stove. The men talked about if it were possible to get the electrical company to provide their house with electricity, while I chased the kids around as I tried to talk with my new friend. We ended the visit in beautiful prayer and song.

The next day I was taking my prayer time in the back of our house when Elizabeth came running to me saying there were a bunch of high school girls here to see me. I was confused, as most of the kids that we know in our neighborhood are grade-school aged, but I assumed maybe they were trying to sell something for their school. I was also feeling drained of energy and compassion that day, so I prayed for Jesus to sustain me, and to do the serving for me. Sometimes you just don’t know what to expect when people come calling. When I came up front, I realized they were the daughters of my friend whom we visited the night before. Their school had unexpectedly ended early that day and they didn’t have a ride back to their house in Ulima (about a half-hour drive) until 4:15. It was only around 1:00 and I had just put Kateri to bed for a nap, so I offered them a ride. On the way back I was talking with their 18-year-old daughter about school and she mentioned that if they didn’t have certain school supplies by Monday, they would be docked points off their grade. In addition, without the appropriate supplies, their only chance to study is while they are at school (as they can’t take, for example, the school’s scientific calculators home with them). What’s worse is that even if they had the appropriate school supplies, how could they study once it gets dark out? So not only do they get docked points for not having things like the proper shoes or calculators or colored pencils, in addition they can’t possibly study the amount they need to properly learn the material and get good grades. How this highlighted for me the flawless opportunity I had growing up where I grew up, and the ease of life that I take for granted because I never knew any different.

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Shelling beans with Pilar’s family, which was a gift for us during a visit

When we got to her house, I asked her to make a list of the supplies they needed. Her mother graciously placed an entire bag of vegetables from her yard in my car while I was watching her daughter write down the measly list that would cost them greatly. Colored pencils, 2 scientific calculators, 2 pairs of black school shoes and three recorders.

I felt unbelievably honored and humbled to be able to be used by God to purchase these supplies for this family. I took Elizabeth and walked to the stores in our small town, gathering the items. When we got home it was such a joy to carefully place the gifts in a bag with some pretty little holy necklaces and rosaries. I didn’t get to give them the bag directly because some friends of ours were driving out that way to visit their parents with our van, so I had them deliver the bag of supplies, but this was such a great reminder that the gifts were actually from God, and I was just the medium. I heard they were so joyful and excited to receive them.

If school hadn’t unexpectedly ended early that day, with nowhere else for these girls to go, I never would’ve known what they needed, and wouldn’t have been able to provide the supplies for them. And God’s timing is so perfect in his care for them, as they needed the supplies by that very next Monday.

These two days, and this family, was such a gift of joy for me. The witness of their generosity, love and hospitality did so much more in my life than anything I could have ever given to them, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. What a beautiful exchange of love. Praise God.

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Kateri, Benny and their pet piglet

 

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