Monday, June 30, 2008

Loving Each Other: a farewell, a hello, and making peace

On a personal note, today was that day I gave Sulmi back to her family for the summer. It was hard to do. She came to live with me last September because her family lives too far away to transport her to school everyday. She's too young to put on public transportation by herself and there is no school bus to her village. So she stayed with me and went home on weekends. This "hosting" situation is common here in Orange Walk when families in the villages can't afford to transport their children to a school outside of the village school.

When church and lunch were over she said, "When are you taking me home?"

I said, "Right now". It was 2:00 PM.

Sulmi said, "Can we go at 8:00 PM?"

"No, we need to go now because at 8:00 it will be dark. Mom and Dad are waiting for you."

"I want to go at 8:00, " she repeated. I hugged her and she jumped in the car. Surprisingly the actual farewell was easier. When we got to her house she exited the van and walked right into the house, smiled at her parents and gave her orange drink to her little sister. I waved goodbye with the "I love you" sign and she just smiled and waved back watching the van drive away on the bumpy, dirt road. It will be a lonely summer for her in a household where no one signs. It's the same for many of the deaf children here. But Sulmi is a survivor and tough. She'll figure it out.

She's grown so much in 9 months. When the social worker and I visited the family last August, she barely signed. We tried to talk to her and she just looked at us with big eyes or looked down at the ground. Now she is a regular giggle-box. She shares information and argues her point of view. She explains events and makes jokes. She keeps us in stitches with her constant chatter.

As I drove the van with all of the other deaf children in it, I was thinking through all of these things and grateful for the chance to be her part-time mom for a short time. I think she will come back to live with me again in September. We'll see what happens.

God coincidences: Sometimes God creates amazing coincidences that work out for his purposes. Shortly after dropping off Sulmi we passed a bus stop and several of the boys in the van were signing to me, "Hey, there's a deaf person at the bus stop."

"Really?" I couldn't imagine who would be at a bus stop in the Yo Creek area.

I did a Belize thing... put the car in reverse and hauled it back to the bus stop. We stopped right there and the person the boys were referring to came out and talked to us. I'd never met her before . She's about 30, cute and smart with a big smile and dimples. I told her I was driving a van that brings deaf people to my house for church every Sunday and asked her if she would want to join us. She signed, "Yes, I see your van go by and I wanted to join you."

She directed us to her house where she lives with her mom. It was nice to talk to her mother who it seems, also knew a little about us. I'm looking forward to getting to know Dora.
I thought I knew all of the deaf people in this part of Belize. Glad that God helped us to include one that we were missing.

Finally I want to share a thought that I have been chewing on this weekend:
I preached from John 15, "I am the vine and you are the branches". Like branches we can do nothing unless we are connected to the true vine. Apart from the vine we die, can't bear fruit, and are tossed into the fire. (Eww scary but, I get that part.)
The hard part is the next paragraph: Jesus says:
"You are my friends if you do what I command."
That's a conditional statement. We want to think of Jesus' love being unconditional. It's grace, unearned, undeserved, given for us while we were yet sinners. Free.

Yet, Jesus says it several times, several ways: "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love."
(John 15:10).

If we want to remain connected to the vine, we need to do what Jesus commands. So what does Jesus command? Love each other.
He says it twice (Jn 15:12, Jn 15:17).

Sarah, from the painful argument these past months, turned away, looked down and signed "Hard. Hard!"

Yep. It is. That's why we need to be branches that cling to the vine. Then the love that flows through our veins is not just our own but comes from the source of Love. We can't do it apart from him. Will it then be easy to love our enemies, people who hurt us, people we just plain don't like? Nope. Still "Hard-Hard", but the peace that passes all understanding is worth it.

Peace, friends. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

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