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While in Mexico last Friday taking pictures for our CDA program, I took an opportunity to pay a visit to a family for whom we built a home in the summer of 2004. I stop in and say hi to this particular family whenever I am in the area. Usually, our visits follow a pattern. I walk into their home and am greeted by hugs and handshakes by whatever members of the family are around that day. Then we make sure everyone is well and catch up on life since the last visit. They ask about my family and I ask about theirs. There is much laughing and carrying on. Then, without skipping a beat, the matriarch of the family, Ines, makes me sit down and begins preparing a meal. Now I know what you are thinking. "Oh so that is his real motivation for stopping by there so frequently - free food." My only answer is; GUILTY (or at least partially so). After all, when I say she prepares a meal, I mean she serves up a spread of amazing food. In seventeen months of visits, Ines has yet to cook something that tastes less than incredible.
However, my most recent visit had a different feel to it. The pleasantries were mostly the same. But our conversation was different. As we began to share our lives with one another, Ines told me about the struggles she and her family had been through in the past few months. She spoke with sadness and cried openly in front of me. I didn't know how to react. There was much I wanted to say, but I found my Spanish failing in the moment. So I listened. I listened when she told me how her husband had left the family out of frustration with his own health and lack of ability to provide for everyone. I listened as she told me about her son's problems with the police and the burden that situation had become to his young family. I listened as she told me how she feels imprisoned in her own home because leaving, even for a few hours in the day, would mean her house getting broken into and robbed. I just listened.
Apparently, that was enough. She cried for a moment more. I took her hand and expressed my sympathy. After wiping her eyes and forehead with a small hand towel, she rose and asked if I was hungry. Of course, I said no. Of course, I also know to her that means yes. Let's be realistic; it would be ridiculous to her for me to show up without an appetite. And yes, Ines served up another remarkable plate of food for me. As she did so, she started telling me about the good things in her life. Her youngest daughter is doing very well and has a good job to help fill the void left by her husband. Her oldest daughter just had her second child, a baby boy which she is so proud of. This led to the biggest surprise of the day. I asked what the baby's name was:
"You don't know?" She asked with a surprised look in her eye. "His name is Jonathan."
"Just a second, that's my name!"
"Yes. Erica and her husband named the baby after you." (I swear I am not making this up.)
At this point I started jumping up and down with my arms in the air like the next contestant on the Price is Right - looking pretty much like an idiot - screaming "Mi Tocayo!" (loosely translated to 'my namesake'). Yes, there is a Mexican baby named after me!
I share this with you because it is a reminder to me of the importance of investing in peoples' lives. By this I mean caring about them. What started out as Amor Ministries responding to the need this family had for a home has turned into me feeling like a part of that family. Maybe this is how God would want it. Taking a chance to love others in a close, real, tangible way has a tendency to bring us into communion with those we serve. In each instance we are given a chance to affirm their place beside us in the family of God. And that is the greatest of honors (next to having a baby named after me).
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What a great experience--and how cool to have a baby named after you!! Thanks for sharing Jon.
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