Esperanza whom we didn't choose. Esperanza, whose name means hope, whom God chose for us!
Yes, we are headed to Guatemala!
God changed all our summer plans and sent us back to the Philippines instead, where our hearts woke up and broke afresh for those things that break God's.
Guatemala... the first destination we are headed to, as a family, where we know no one and where we do not speak the language.
Ah, yes... that oh-so-familiar outside-our-comfort-zone place where God somehow seems to always call for our obedience, our yes!
That yes that always leads to this wildest joy.
As Jennie Allen so eloquently wrote in this must-read guest post on Ann Voskamp's blog today, "... something is happening — not a feeling or love of adventure or desire for glory but something within us that is from God, a call to more: to die — to live. My heart is bleeding and I can’t make it stop. So we are praying and willing and dreaming of living for heaven instead of the American dream, and it is changing everything. And I am strangely okay with that."
Yes, I am indeed strangely okay... strangely okay.
Our family vacations have turned into a pilgrimage of sorts over the years. I wouldn't have chosen to use that word myself — pilgrimage — nor did I know how to adequately describe our transformation, until I read this blog post on Compassion International's blog recently.
It was only after reading that blog post did I realize that God has been transforming the way we spend our vacation time in order to disciple us and grow us into the people He created us to be.
When your desire is to see, to know, to touch, to understand — with an openness of mind and heart — that is a pilgrimage. And like all pilgrimages, you cannot remain the same at the end of such a journey. Pilgrimages lead you to reflect on your own identity and purpose.
A pilgrimage leads to changed and restored relationships. It’s a result of not visiting the poor, but visiting with the poor.
Visiting with the poor becomes another expression of the love of God and of community. And this idea is deeply ingrained in God’s desire and gift for wholeness.
It’s a mutual embrace of life as it can be.
Today, I was at my hairdresser's place for a haircut. As we chatted about life, she shared some of her family's current struggles. She, being originally from the Philippines, knows poverty first hand. She said something to me that I think is oh-so-profound.
She said, "When one has never seen how poor people's daily lives look like, one can quickly become self-absorbed."
Yes, this is so. profoundly. true.
And something clicked in my mind.
It is why this pilgrimage of sorts has become an important part of our family's summer. It is to keep us in touch with the poor, so that we can mutually embrace each other's life.
Mind you, we don't head to an international destination every summer. Some summers we've spent right here at home or near home, yet they have been pilgrimages just the same — sandwich runs for the homeless, painting homes in government housing communities, delivering snacks to inner-city summer camps, spending a few vacation days in an inner-city neighbourhood.
These summer pilgrimages have shown us esperanza, hope. It has shown us "... a mutual embrace of life as it can be."
It is a truly beautiful, sacred thing.
We are beyond excited to hop on that plane. I have a feeling that Guatemala will take a hold of our hearts in a very special way.
We will meet our Esperanza and we will witness esperanza... hope.
In addition, we will also be visiting El Oasis Girls' Home, a Kids Alive International ministry.
The Oasis in Guatemala is an amazing ministry that comes alongside girls who have been abandoned or abused. Most were forced into child labour, experienced physical and sexual abuse, and, unfortunately, all too often all three.
At The Oasis, they come to live in a safe environment of family units with Guatemalan house-parents and begin the process of restoring hope. The girls attend school (many for the first time) and have access to therapy to heal emotional scars. Central to their restoration of hope is the knowledge that they are loved, protected, and they are introduced to Jesus who can provide the true healing that they need.Since my girl started Freedom Creations a couple years ago with the hope of making an impact in the fight against modern-day slavery and oppression, and have since donated over $2,000 to International Justice Mission Canada, we have always had the desire to personally visit such a ministry.
And God has, literally at the very last minute, arranged for us to do just that! Check out this video to learn more about the ministry of El Oasis Girls' Home:
I am excited, actually beyond excited. Yet, to be honest... I am, at the same time, scared of the many unknowns and of how our hearts will be broken afresh.
But I am keeping my eyes on Jesus because He is our blessed esperanza and because broken is the most blessed you can be... and I am looking forward to that wild joy that will follow this yes!
Where will this summer be taking you, friend...?
Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!