I’ve been back in Guatemala for about three weeks now, and I can truly say this time it felt like coming home. That’s a tad scary to admit, as it makes me wonder how long this will be home for me… but nonetheless home it is.
This post is a little unusual, as it isn’t necessarily about the kids… but about the most painful part of this year. It wasn’t the gut-wrenching stories the kids tell me of their shattered pasts. It wasn’t the stomach parasites (gut-wrenching in a more literal sense). It wasn’t the unavoidable inconveniences of living in a third world country. Those things were painful, but they didn’t bring me to my knees like the loneliness and isolation did.
For the entirety of this year, I begged the Lord for a roommate. I left a rich community behind in the U.S. that took me years to cultivate. Now being in another country with significant language and culture barriers, the extrovert in me has been suffocating in the quiet of my home.
I typically spend 8-12 hours a day, 6 days a week, at Casa de mi Padre. The time in-between I most often spend in my home. I filled the space with electronic voices to break the heavy silence. I listened to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks, and made multiple phone calls each week. It satisfied temporarily, but on the really tough days I felt the pang of loneliness most. I often tried calling several dear friends late in the evening after an emotionally draining day. After three or four calls with no answer, I succumbed to defeat and cried alone.
The most prominent of these bitter memories was after I returned from Antigua. There the Lord blessed me with several wonderful life-giving friendships, that grew in depth and richness over a very short period. I found Shoreline City on my first Sunday, a small church filled with some of the most genuine and joyful people I’ve ever met. I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of this crew, and so I started serving where there was a need…. the welcome team. (That’s right y’all, as a new member, I served as an usher.) And since I didn’t know anyone, I awkwardly welcomed new attendees, members who have been there for years, and a couple of elders too. I worshiped corporately in English, something that has now become a rare luxury for me. Even in the awkward moments, I felt like I was part of a church body again… and it felt GOOD.
So after 8 weeks of tasting rich community again, I returned to the small city of Santa Cruz. I walked through my front door, to find dead bugs and dust littering every surface. I left the place spotless months before, and my poorly sealed home was just another reminder I was alone again.
The next day I discovered that the man who was supposed to care for my dog was not. She was skinnier than when I rescued her from the street. I looked at her boney frame in disbelief, and angry Spanish words came flying out of my mouth at alarming speeds. (It was at that moment that I knew I learned A LOT at Spanish school!) I picked her up and carried her the entire ¼ mile home.
On the last day I snapped after two unwelcome surprises. I was working on my finances and discovered that my account was lower than expected after paying off Spanish school and purchasing a plane ticket. Worry settled in and I anxiously crunched the numbers over and over again, hoping I’d made a miscalculation. In the midst of this, I received a call from our Assistant Director stating that I’d have to go to a court case alone to advocate for Brenda (I mentioned this in my blog post “A Hope Worth Fighting For” from March 2019). Fresh out of Spanish school, this was less than ideal. I was already angry with God for giving me a community just to rip it away, and after these events consecutively beating me down I snapped.
Conflicting emotions bubbled to the surface. Anger. Fear. Anxiety. Sadness. I just wanted to talk to somebody. I wanted to be validated and comforted. I wanted some serious emotional processing in my heart language (English) face-to-face, but there I was… in my home… alone.
As painful as the loneliness has been, it’s forced me to recognize how I’ve worshiped the idol of relationships. In the U.S., I had a handful of Jesus-lovin’ people at my disposal to work out my worries, and then come to Jesus when I’d figured it out. I had idolized this gift of community God had given me, and used it as a tool to be independent of Him. I’d taken my ugly mess of anguish and confusion to the altar of community, and once I’d made my decisions and changes, I’d present it to God. This idol could not serve me here, and I was outraged.
I wish I could tell you that I came humbly to my Savior with a broken and contrite heart, but that would not be truthful. I approached Him like an entitled child in a tantrum, resentful and angry. Shouting in the emptiness for only one to hear, “I didn’t sign up for this! Why would you give me what I need and then take it away?! That’s cruel. I can’t do this alone. I never wanted to do THIS alone. Why have you neglected me? I JUST WANT A BATTLE BUDDY. I want someone to talk to. I WANT A FREAKING HUG!”
Angry tears spilled down my cheeks, and my hands clenched into shaking fists. The Lord spoke to me then, and said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” I scoffed. That was not the solution I was looking for. I wasn’t about to surrender my anger for six words (as if I’ve ever won a battle of will with God… what a foolish human I am). I dug my heels in for several days. I pasted on a smile for the kids at Casa, pushing the war raging within to the side until I returned home.
Each time I raised my fists to take a swing, the Lord’s response was the same. “My grace is sufficient for you.” And my response echoed the bitterness within. In the final battle, I was angrily blaming him for the tormented way I felt. And he responded yet again, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
I was so sick of hearing that phrase, and so I sarcastically retorted with, “Well that’s GREAT. But I don’t feel it, so it doesn’t help me!”
And clear as day He spoke to my heart, “Alex. You’re feelings will change. But my grace… my love… it will not. So LISTEN when I say that my grace IS sufficient for you.”
And it seemed then, that time stopped. I finally understood that His grace does not fluctuate with my mood. It remains steadfast, in spite of my ever-changing feelings. I finally trusted Him to provide for my emotional needs better than my fellow humans can. He is all that I need.
Peace washed over me followed by conviction. I set aside my pride, and humbled myself before Him. I repented for my unjust anger, the foolish words I spoke, and for worshiping at the altar of man.
And so I lost the war. But you know it’s funny how every time I lose these “fights” with God, I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful that He always wins. And I’m thankful that he is a GRACIOUS and MERCIFUL winner!
And out of the abundance of His love and mercy, He found little ways to gently steer me to surrender. While at Casa watching the children play, my mind would wander, and hopelessness and sadness inevitably crept in. It was in those moments a child would hurl themselves at me arms open wide proclaiming “I LOOOVE YOUUU!” It was in those moments on a walk in the countryside one of the girls would slip their hand into mine. I may not have had girlfriends to pour my heart out to, but I was loved dearly. The recurrent lies the hopelessness whispered to me of worthlessness or unwantedness were repeatedly squashed by the expressions of love from these little ones.
And then this month, the Lord blessed me with the community I have craved. Sabrina Broste joined the ministry full-time, and lives with me. She has quickly become one of my dearest friends and confidantes! She is kind and thoughtful, unafraid to challenge me in love. She laughs at my Shaggy and Nacho Libre impressions, and washes my dishes from time to time (which is a big plus)! If I have a hard day at Casa, I have a pal to process it with over a late-night snack. I no longer fill the silence at home with voices from a podcast, but actual conversation IN PERSON!
I hadn’t initially planned on sharing this piece of my story with you all so publicly. It makes me cringe to see my true sin nature exposed. It shows that I’m not worthy of standing on a pedestal, as it only takes a brief breeze to knock me down. My idolatry and pride play significant roles in this story. But my hope is that more than anything you see the star, or rather… the Son. My hope is that you see that Jesus redeems and restores.
When we surrender our hearts with all the ugly and sin exposed, He can use it. He doesn’t want what we’ve polished at the altar of our idols independent of Him. He knows that our idols will never be enough. Our idols will never cleanse us or make us whole. Only He can do that, but He can’t redeem what we don’t release. Complete surrender is the necessary sacrifice required to be made whole. It is costly, but it oh so worth it!
COURT UPDATE: Lucrecia and Elda’s hearing on May 29th was moved to August 5th. I can’t help but smile thinking of how anxious I get as their hearing date gets closer, and then the Lord changes it at the last minute. I’m reminded that He is in control and Sovereign and loves these girls. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the judge won’t give them into the wrong hands. Our court system is broken, run by men and women who prefer to keep God on the outside. Regardless, I know that God is good, control, and King over their hearts. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
FUNDS UPDATE: I have $1,600 left towards my goal of $5,000 for a car! I am so thankful for all of you who have given towards this need, and for those of you who will too! I would like to go car shopping by the end of the month with Shane. It would be nice to have a $500-$1,000 additional cushion for those surprise expenses (as you never really know exactly what you are purchasing in this country). After all, it’s not uncommon for something undisclosed to break on the way out of the car lot… I’d feel more comfortable and secure buying a car knowing I had the immeadiate funds to remedy an issue, but it’s not vital.
Additionally I’m still short on monthly income. This whole support raising business has been a little hectic, but it’s been really encouraging to see you all rally to support what the Lord is doing here. Please consider joining my ministry team in financial support to be a part of this journey with me!
If you’re not in a financially stable position, that’s ok! I’ve been there! There are two things you can do that would very helpful!
- First and foremost, pray! Pray for me, the children, and the ministry. The wars we wage here are most often of Pray that the Lord would touch the hearts of people with the ability to financially support my ministry here.a spiritual nature, against the forces we cannot see with our own eyes.
- Share this post or another post of mine that has touched your heart on your Facebook and/or Instagram! You can help me spread the word about the needs we have here through your social media accounts.