This is Elange. He doesn't have a lot of teeth, but has the biggest smile and is one of the most adorable old men I've ever met. He lives in a little room at the orphanage I'm staying at. He was a bum on the street that Yvrose (who runs this orphanage) took in 25 years ago. Every morning he sweeps and picks up leaves, flower petals, and trash around the orphanage.
I got thinking about it later that night. How he was so incredibly grateful and excited for a pair of sandals that cost me $2. You would've thought I gave him a new car. And I thought, man, have I ever been that grateful for anything in my life? And I had to really start checking my heart. I think that's one reason God loves the poor so much. They have to rely on Him for everything, and realize that truly, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights..." (James 1:17). They realize that even $2 sandals are a gift from God. Where I come from, we tend to rely on ourselves instead of God and think that things come from our own hard work instead of His gracious hand. We miss out on the simple dependence of a child to his Father and the deep gratitude and praise that flows from recognizing His gifts. I want to hang out with Elange more. It seems he has a lot to teach me.
I go for a lot of walks around the town and the outskirts and in the surrounding hills. I pray a lot as I walk, I listen, I ask God for His heart for these people and to see them as He does, I observe them, I process what I see. God really uses these times to speak to me. And sometimes He gives me glimpses into His heart for them. It's hard to capture into words, because it's a heart thing. I see it sometimes as I watch the women walk down from the hills with baskets on their heads day after day with a few things to sell so they can try to feed their families that day. I saw it one day as I came across a young mom in the countryside hanging her handwashed clothes on the line, singing. Her contentedness with her lot in life and joy in it really struck me. I see it in the older poor women at church who sing and pray to God like no one I've ever really seen, with an almost beautiful desperation to it. I see it in the gentle old men mending fishing nets by the sea. I see it in the worn lines in faces beaten in by years of hard living and in the smiles in spite of that.
But at this point, it seems to be just glimpses. Because I find, on the other hand, there are also things starting to get under my skin. Kissy sounds from guys constantly as I walk by. People sitting on their porch hollering at you to come over, or give me money. That kind of stuff. It just gets old after awhile, and I realized the other day it's jading me a little bit. And with all the deeply ingrained problems (like the "give me" mentality, apathy, dishonesty, etc.), I feel like I'm seeing them like the world sees them, with all their issues. In a way I subconsciously lump them together into this category in my head and disassociate myself from them. Like I see myself as better than them sometimes or something. I don't consciously choose to think this way- I desire the exact opposite- but I can feel it ingrained in there, like this filter I see through. What an affront to God, who simply has chosen to have grace on my life in different ways than He has theirs. I see the plank in my own eye, so I'm confessing it to you here, as I have to God. Please pray with me that He'll remove the filters I see through. These are now my people, as I really believe God is calling me here for life, and I am desperate to see them, and myself for that matter, as He sees. To understand them. To really truly LOVE them like Jesus does and be moved by genuine compassion for them. It's easier for me with the kids. But with the adults, I need supernatural help.
Pondering this more the other day after I was rude with a girl on the street who was pestering me, the Holy Spirit convicted me immediately and started speaking to me from 1 Corinthians 13. I am here to love these people, and I just behaved rudely, which love does not do. Love is patient (NKJV says suffers long). I need to stop expecting them to act like Americans towards me as I walk down the street. I need to suffer long with them and their ways. I need to stop focusing on the flaws, because that's what makes you impatient. Look for the beauty and just be patient. He then reminded me how love keeps no record of wrongs. Every day needs to be a new fresh slate with them. I'm not to hold onto annoyances from yesterday or last week and tally them up. Just let them go. Love believes all things- it looks beyond what I see and looks for what God sees, a person's true identity in Christ. I recently heard a life-changing teaching series on love (check out the totally incredible Love Works Ministry) and the speaker talked about not identifying people with their sin, because when the sin is washed away, who is left? That's who we want to see. Love hopes all things- sees glimpses of the God given purpose and destiny of people. Pray with me that I will hear God whispering His heart about these things for the people of Jeremie.
My pastor taught once on John 17, when Jesus was praying in verse 23 "I in them, and You in Me..." The pastor said it's as the Father looking through the Son, through me, at the world. That that's how we would see people. Profound. I want to see like that. It's been a few of those days when I realize how far off I am. But praise God He is at work in me, and He answers the prayers that are according to His heart. So I have great faith and hope that He will grow my love and strip me more and more of my sinful heart and filters as I keep seeking Him and try to love these people, one day and one person at a time.
1 Cor. 13:4-8~ Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, (NIV adds: it keeps no record of wrongs,) thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.