I recently visited one of my favorite places on Earth: Casa Shalom Orphanage in Guatemala.”Casa Shalom” means “House of Peace” and it truly is a place of peace and love for the nearly 100 precious kids who call it home.
My friend, Josh, runs the orphanage with his wife, Jessica. He was showing us around and telling us the story about how each child came to be there. He said, “There goes Eduardo. His parents were killed by drug dealers. That’s Rosa. She and her brothers were living on the streets before they were brought here. They were eating out of trash cans and severely malnourished.”
Each child had a story and most of those stories were heartbreaking. Despite the brokenness of their home situations, these children now seemed so happy and healthy. Josh knew each one by name, and he beamed like a proud Papa as he hugged the kids and bragged about how they were great at soccer or art or singing.
A teenage girl walked up and gave Josh a hug, and as she skipped away, Josh had tears in his eyes. He began to tell me her story.
“Her name is Margarita,” he said. “She grew up in a home with horrific abuse. Her father was a drunk and he abused her in the worst kinds of ways. She was eventually taken out of that home and placed in a home with her aunt and uncle, but her uncle abused her in the same terrible ways that her father had done. She stayed in several more homes, but in each situation, the very people who should have been protecting her abused her. When she finally came here, she was brokenhearted and alone. She didn’t trust anyone. She barely spoke. We weren’t sure if we’d ever get through to her. We kept praying for her and doing our best to show her God’s love in meaningful ways, but after several months of trying, nothing seemed to be working.”
Josh paused to wipe some tears from his eyes as he continued the story.
“One night, Jessica and I were sitting on the hillside watching the sunset like we do most nights. We were watching the boys play soccer and watching the girls jump rope. We were taking in all the beautiful sights and sounds of Casa Shalom when something completely unexpected happened. Margarita came and sat down right next to me. She had aways kept her distance; especially from men, but she scooted right next to me, and what she did next completely took my breath away. She rested her head on my shoulder. I held my breath waiting for her to speak. She finally looked up at me and spoke some words that I’ll never forget.”
At this point, I’m leaned in so far that my head is practically on his shoulder waiting to hear what she told him. He gathered his composure to finish the story, and with a smile on his face, he relived that beautiful moment.
“She looked up at me and said, ‘When I first came here, I never believed I would ever be safe and I never believed anyone would ever really love me, but now, I know I’m safe here. And, I believe that you really love me.”
That became a life-changing moment for Josh, and a beautiful picture of what love really means. The way God loves us and the way Josh and Jessica showed love to Margarita (and every child at Casa Shalom) shows us how love is supposed to look.
Our culture has tried to redefine “love” to be nothing more than a feeling, but love is so much more than that. In every healthy relationship, if someone really loves you, they’ll do the following (and you should these for them as well).
This is the “litmus test” of love. If someone truly loves you…
1. They will give to you even when you are in no position to repay.
When you do good for those who can do good for you, that’s not love; that’s networking! Love requires giving to someone with no thought of how it might be repaid. Love can never be repaid. Love can only be freely given and freely received.
2. They will work to heal your old wounds and protect you from new wounds.
If you love someone, you must be the one who wipes away their tears, not the one who causes them! Love promotes healing for the past, peace for the present and protection for the future.
3. They will accept you at your worst while helping you become your best.
If someone really loves you, they won’t try to change you, but they also won’t let you settle for anything less that all God created you to be. Real love means being completely committed to someone even when they are being completely unlovable. If someone really loves you, they’ll believe in you even in those moments when you struggle to believe in yourself.
4. They will NEVER give up on you!
Love is rooted in commitment, not convenience. Love is a choice, not a feeling. If someone really loves you, their commitment to you will endure through any circumstances life throws your way.
God displays His love for us by doing each of these four actions, and He calls us to do the same for each other. If you’re not sure how begin. Here’s love in a nutshell (straight from the source):
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Let your life be led by love and you’ll always be headed in the right direction!
For more information about the world-changing work happening at Casa Shalom Orphanage, please “like” their facebook page here or you can also Visit their website here. (The picture below is me with some of the kids on my last visit to the orphanage).