the universal language of the world.

the night before i left for costa rica, a family friend called me to pray for me. he asked if i knew what the universal language of costa rica was.
i said i thought it was spanish…he said, “God’s love.”
i thought, aw, that’s really cheesy and sweet.
not that i doubted it was true. i just didn’t realize what that truth meant.

then i met two precious children who showed me exactly what it meant.

this is kenneth. (there used to be a picture of him and me, but a lot of them got lost in the ocean, so this is the only one i have of him. :p)
we couldn’t understand a word each other said(he didn’t even get it when i told him my name was linda; i knew how to say “my name is linda”, but that confused everyone down there because they’d think i was saying “pretty”).
but i understood that he needed love, and he understood that i had plenty of that.
while the rest of my team painted benches and chopped down weeds, me and kenneth just played. he reminded me a lot of myself as a kid: if someone would push me on the swings and give me piggyback rides and hugs, they would become my hero. and so we did just that, all morning.
when we were both exhausted from running around and laughing so much, i sat down on a bench and patted the spot next to me. but instead he climbed up in my lap. i gave him a big hug, and he looked up at me, smiled, yawned, and said, “mi amiga.”
then he fell asleep on me. he’d squeeze me anytime i tried to get up, like he didn’t want me to let go of him yet. so i just stayed there awhile. i ate my entire lunch with him still asleep and clinging to me(he woke up long enough for me to share half a mango with him).

part of me felt bad that i hadn’t done any “work” like the rest of our team had. but most of me knew that the work God had for me that day was to love on this sweet boy who needed a hug.

this is maria angel.
i literally could have fit her in my suitcase, and i wanted to so badly.
we couldn’t understand each other either. she found that really funny; at one point when she’d repeated the same sentence three times and i still didn’t know what she said, she sighed, rolled her eyes, and said, “gringa.”
we played until it was time for kids club to actually start…and then kenneth discovered her.
neither was happy that i had two favorites.
kenneth was yelling “mi amiga!” and maria angel would yell, “no, MI amiga!” they carried on like that for a good while, until some other kid came up, pulled them away from me and said something to them. somehow after that, they seemed okay with me being both their friend.

i was sad to leave them both. partly because i knew they didn’t get loved very often, partly because i loved being the one to show them that, but mostly because i didn’t know how to explain to them that it was the last time i’d see them.

i didn’t feel like i’d done anything significant.
but i think that’s the beauty of God’s love. it can shine through anything. as long as it’s the driving force behind whatever it is you’re doing, people are going to see it.
and eventually, they’re going to be transformed by it.

before this trip, i was so nervous because i didn’t think i had anything to offer. some of my teammates could play instruments. some were good speakers. some knew a little bit of spanish. some were good at building things.
but God doesn’t need you to have everything. he just needs everything you have.
all i had was love. and that was enough.
God gives everyone different gifts. but he wants us to use those gifts to love.
it’s the same dish, just served on a different plate.

you don’t have to wait until you have a seminary education.
you don’t have to learn a language.
you don’t even have to “grow up” first.
all you need is love.


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