Ashton Ray3 Comments

Unflinching Love // Guatemala

Ashton Ray3 Comments
Unflinching Love // Guatemala

 

i never thought that i would come back to Guatemala. i would dream of the opportunity, spend hours imagining what it would be like to reunite with the people, to walk the streets and speak the language. i wanted to see the vibrant colors and eat the food (well, some of it) and enjoy the country for all its beauty. i prayed for a year that i would be able to see a little boy named Kevin again; i longed to get to play with him and see how he's grown. Jesus used the country and the people of Guatemala to teach me so much about Himself and about myself and about life in general. i often think Guatemala is where i really learned to love people and i know that it is where i learned to love myself. 

A little over a month ago, Jesus answered my prayer. Three friends agreed to join me in my return to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala. We bought plane tickets and Jesus worked out all the details and last week, i got to say hello to Guatemala again.

Right now, i am laying in my bed in the room i am staying in while we are here. My stomach hurts, because it hates Guatemala but my heart is full because i love Guatemala. We have been here seven days and we leave in five and i still don't think it's hit me that we are here. The city smells the same and it's still just as hot and the people are just as wonderful, but it is surreal. There's a large part of me that feels like i've just come home for a visit, which i think has been one of the sweetest parts of being here. 

The God that made you and me and everyone else is a God of redemption and hope and love. i'm re-reading a book by that guy, Bob Goff. The title is "Love Does" and the anthem of its pages is the encouragement to live a life where love is active and life is engaging. i like the way Bob writes because his words are written as though his book is a letter to a friend. i have never seen Bob in real life and he has no idea that i exist, but after less than 100 pages, i feel like i am his friend, too. They are stories that he would share over a cup of coffee. In one chapter, my friend Bob said, "That's what love does-- it pursues blindly, unflinchingly, and without end."

This trip has been a picture of experiencing a love that does. The three friends that are with me, Kaitlin, Nic, and Hunter actively loved me by signing up for this adventure with me. i don't think i could ever express to them how much it means that they helped bring this dream to life. Before we left, we were prayed over by so many people and i am confident that we have been prayed over since we've been here. We are working with my friend Kathy who has lived in Puerto Barrios for about a year and a half. Kathy isn't much older than me, but she has changed the world for hundreds of people through the way she loves (myself included). She and her best friend Annie have loved us so well while we've been here. Friends that agree to let you crash with them in another country are the kinds of friends you keep. 

Sometimes i think that the word love is starting to be received like old chewing gum. Frankly, we use it too much, but you already know that. We say "love" a lot, but how often do we actually do it? This week i've seen love done well. i've experienced some of the most authentic and gracious love in the world because it has been love given unflinchingly. i've been welcomed into a home made of scraps of garbage because the family saw us standing in the harsh sun. i've been hugged by an orphan named Kevin who i never thought that i would see again (more on that later). i've held multiple conversations with gracious Guatemalans who are willing to accept my broken Spanish. i met an old man who loves God so much that He cries when he hears His name. i have watched my friends, new and old, paint classrooms at a special needs school for hours in the unforgiving Guatemalan heat. i've been fed and hugged and welcomed by people who have never seen me before. i've watched Kathy as she meets needs and provides for people that can't provide for themselves. i've watched as Love has poured Himself out onto these people and onto me. Love is active because our God is not dormant. Love does because Jesus did. 

When i began reading this book again, i didn't really know what to expect. i am not one who often reads books more than once, but i am thankful that i picked Love Does back up. i never want love to be boring. i never want it to be something that i only give to the people close to me. i want to carry the name of my Father with me everywhere i go and share it with the world. i am proud that love drove me to buy a plane ticket to Guatemala and that it carried me into the house at the garbage dump. i want to love people without hesitation because i would never want to be hesitantly loved. How sweet is it to be pursued blindly, unflinchingly, and without end? i would imagine that some of you just said, "i don't know what that's like." but friend, you can. Your Maker has been loving you that way since He first thought of you during Creation. His love is one that is always doing. It is one that is engaging and one that is worth embracing. It's a love that will plan a trip to Guatemala and drive you to buy a plane ticket. 

It's a Tuesday night and tomorrow is my last full day in Puerto Barrios. i am not sure when i will share these words with the world (consequence of being in another country) but i know that it will happen. When i get back to the States, i am still going to be in a weird transitional period preceding a new season. i am not sure what this season will look like, but i know that it will be abundant because that it what we have been promised. i know that two of my friends are getting married and i am getting to live with some of the most wonderful people that i know. i know that i will learn what it means to live in a love that does and that i will do everything i can to share that with the world.