More Than Just Food
All of our time here is not spent in work. We spend a lot of time talking, laughing and getting to know each other and the many talents that we each possess. While playing games, we have discovered who among us can give the most creative clues and I’m sure none of us will ever think of the Grand Tetons the same way again. A trip to town for some of us meant ice cream and strolling through souvenir shops, while one of us found his way to a store — well, actually, four stores — to buy supplies to share his talents at making fruit cobblers with us. At the end of many long days, some of us were treated to a yoga class while on others nights there was a dance lesson. All of this helped to bond us together as a team, one made of 15 missionaries who love and care for each other — as Jesus required.
The value of fixing a home so that the mold is gone or the water doesn’t enter has a long-lasting value that you can see. And in teaching young children, even if they only internalize a small portion of our lesson, we know we are planting seeds of faith in them that, through their family, the local church, and other mission groups, will continue to grow. But there was one more piece to our work this week — distributing food bags to local families. These bags consisted of such basics as flour, sugar, eggs and milk — things we all take for granted in our homes. On mission trips in the past, we have done this as well, but I often wonder if it’s enough — are we really making a difference? A bag of food is good for today — but what about tomorrow and the next day? This question was answered last night.
Pura Vida does so much more than just repair homes — it repairs lives. Food bags are just one small part of this mission. Their sponsorship program gives children, and by extension, their families, a chance to succeed in life. Through this program, children receive all the supplies they need in order to remain in school past the sixth grade. The families are provided with financial guidance and are also expected to participate in a bi-weekly discipleship program. The families whose homes we worked on this week are part of this discipleship program as are the families with whom we shared food.
The original plan had us going out to the homes to distribute these bags of food, but for a variety of reasons this plan became untenable. To ensure that this much-needed food got to the families that needed it, it was decided that the families would come to us last evening after dinner. Getting to us was not easy, but this was important to them. They didn’t live right in this neighborhood, so most of them came by bus — some needed to take more than one — with their children in tow. We each had a short time to speak with one of the families while presenting them this gift of food, after which we joined hands surrounding them in a circle of Christ’s love. We prayed for them and lifted them up into God’s care, promising to keep them in our prayers even when we leave here.
We shared a worship service and, afterwards, heard from them as they shared their gratitude for our presence, and the support that we give through Pura Vida to enhance their lives. They thanked us for putting our personal priorities aside, making whatever sacrifice it took for us to be here. One woman, moved to tears, told us how people like us and the support we give has changed her family’s life and given them a real chance at success. She also shared afterwards with some of us the plans her children have for the future, a future they would not have had without Pura Vida. It wasn’t the food in the bag so much as the food for the soul that we are sharing — the carrying on of Christ’s work in the world — that makes the difference. The food will eventually be gone, but they will know that they have sisters and brothers in Christ who will carry them in our hearts. That has to make a difference.
There was a moment today when God really made his presence known. The Bible study team was already into our lesson when a group of boys arrived on their bicycles. Older than most of the other kids, they swaggered in with a bit of an attitude wanting to join us. There was some rumbling that these kids were the “bad kids” and perhaps too old for our lesson. But it didn’t feel right to exclude them. So we welcomed them in, prepared to ask them to leave if they became disruptive.
When they arrived we were in the middle of making a piece of the Armour of God, the shield. This elementary craft included simply coloring the shield and cutting it out, and they sat right down and joined in. Once they had shields in hand, they jumped back on their bikes and departed, but a short while later they were back — fully engaged — with the oldest among them setting the example for how to behave, and leading the others. One of the boys was less than polite when trying to get my attention at one point, so I gently rebuked him, showed him my name-tag, and told him he could call me by name next time. During the last few minutes with this group he again needed assistance, came up to me and called me by name — and remembered with no prompting to thank me when we were done. Without a doubt, he was right where God wanted him to be.