Yesterday, I met Doña Teresa, a Guatemalan Habitat for Humanity owner who lives with her teenage daughters and 5 year old Marcos whom she adopted when he was abandoned by his mother at 8 months old. Teresa is proudly settled in her new home, basking in the peacefulness that now surrounds her and the extra room her children have to play and grow. She is a weaver at a local cooperative. She is a force of gentleness and compassion.
My colleague Steven worked on Teresa’s house this last June and has been telling stories and showing pictures of her ever since so I couldn’t wait to meet her and get a big hug from Marcos. I felt the anticipation of meeting someone famous. Wanting them to like me. Hoping we could have conversation.
I was meeting someone famous, to me at least. Teresa has become a hero in my church community in Bend, Oregon. Her name along with others – Josue, Edwin, Naomi, Manolo, Dora, Jilo, Ebert, and others – are names that are becoming more and more familiar to us. They are real people that we have met and worked with here who are living resilient and determined lives. Their stories inspire us to keep investing here. Their friendship humbles any sense of paternalism that we have. Their hospitality exposes the self-centered worlds we live in. They are our teachers and heroes.As a pastor, I could hope for no greater gift to our congregation. These friendships break the stranglehold of consumerism and comfort that our culture has on us. They make us remember that our lives our not our own. Jim Elliot’s quote comes alive: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Because of our time in Guatemala and the stories we bring home to Oregon, our lives are more greatly defined by what we give than what we possess.
Whether you get on a plane or not, we all need to find heroes like Teresa. We need to know the healing of a hug from a kid like Marcos. Find a place to give what you cannot keep. And you will gain something you can never lose.