I've got a weak spot for dark eyes, dark hair, and dark skin. And heaven knows I love kids. So, if you happen to possess these qualities you're totally on my hit list of Love You and Want You. Some of the darling kids in Bolivia never knew what hit them when they were swarmed with tickles and lollipops and piggy back rides.But, it wasn't just darling kids that received our attention and love. University students, village farmers, passionate pastors, prison inmates, and city folks were all curious to see and talk with el groupo de los Estados Unidos!
Sometimes quiet at first. Sometimes eager to press in close and talk. But every time hospitable, warm, and gracious. Dirt floors were swept clean to greet us. Rustic wooden chairs were offered when we arrived. Fresh, just-off-the-tree oranges were handed out. A handshake, a kiss, and a genuine "Hola, buenos dias!" every time.
It's always a privilege to participate in corporate worship. It's especially powerful and joyous to do so with people that live in ways entirely different from what we're accustomed to but who still know and love the one true God. It's a taste of heaven, really, because the colors and the sounds represent a beautiful variety that only God could create and bring together.
Village life is hard. But maybe some of the people living this way don't know that it's hard because they've never known anything different. Many of the people we met had never traveled beyond the small town a few miles from their village. Electricity and running water aren't necessary. Home life happens apart from Target, CVS, and Home Depot. Family members and friends pitch in to make things work: farming, building, and educating. There is a true sense of community because without it it's every one for himself.
Despite the wide spectrum of differences between their way of life and ours, there was an abundance of similarities, too. Most of the time, food was different, but on more than one occasion we realized that french fries and grilled steak was a common place kind of meal.
And I was bent over laughing when several of the college students asked me to be their friend on Facebook. Wait, what? The only place you've ever known is your home in your city and yet you're globally connected to people via Facebook? And even if their phones and cameras are a few years behind ours, I was still impressed to see many with Blackberry's and digital cameras. People live without an organized highway system, good medical care, or honest law enforcement, but yet most of them think it's important to own a cell phone and communicate on Facebook. Not right, not wrong, just different.
Bolivian or American, Spanish or English, boy or girl. None of it matters because deep down we are all the same! We all like to play games, take silly pictures, eat yummy food, and play practical jokes. And that's why it's surprisingly easy to develop a special friendship with people who live a world apart from you and that you can't necessarily even talk to.
If you want to grab the attention of little girls and need a simple way to earn their favor so you can talk with them: nail polish! I casually sat down one afternoon with three small bottles of polish and within minutes I had the full focus of several little girls. Even in my broken Spanish I was able to affirm their beauty as girls created by God. And seriously, is there anything cuter than glittery fingers on dirty and muddy hands and toes? It's oxymoronish.
If you live under a grass thatched roof, attend church with no walls and plenty of spiders, eat the same thing from a community bowl for breakfast everyday, or attend college with hopes of making a better life for yourself and your country, it's doesn't matter. Those things are simple differences between you and I, but they are not separators between us.
They don't separate us because there is one God with one love for one purpose: to make His glory known by bringing each of us to Himself. Which brings me back to my earlier comment about enjoying the privilege to glimpse heaven through corporate worship and fellowship and service with people who care about kingdom building. That makes us brothers and sisters. And a family that seeks God together does powerful things together.
My heart is full and my spirit is encouraged to have spent a week serving with Master Servers.