When we arrived in El Zapatillo we were directed to our sleeping quarters. The men were on the ground floor of the new preschool, the ladies in a small building. The ladies were fortunate to have a couple bunks. The guys brought blow-up mattresses and sleeping pads for the concrete floor. The buildings in El Zapatillo have window openings (no glass), some with bars if they need to be secured. We found the people there to be very respectful of our space.
In the USA, we have windows and our are homes are tightly enclosed. There is a different degree of privacy. I heard a story once of a person coming to the USA from another country to live. They were surprised by the fact that though we had nice homes in neighborhoods, everyone kept to themselves. They said that living in a neighborhood in the USA was like living in a graveyard. There was no life there.
In contrast, El Zapatillo was full of life. The people were engaged with one another the whole time we were there. There was a harmony about the place that speaks volumes about sharing life together. It wasn’t just the people. We saw the farm animals and the creatures of the forest all engaged in a daily routine, but the appeal of this place as a home, though hard to get to and live in, is very strong.
In the jungle there is also danger. One night we heard a gun-shot and wondered what had happened. Being a southern boy from Tennessee, I’d just assumed it was a hunter, but having lived in the city too, there’s always a nagging concern for someone’s safety.
Why do we go to a people we don’t know, in a place we’ve never been, exposing ourselves to the possibility of rejection, hardship, or persecution?
The answer is that God has called us to go because he loves these people. It is through his spirit that we learn to love others and it is that spirit that gives us a passion for these people despite all the difficulties.
When we follow him, God goes with and ahead of us. Not all missionaries come home, but it’s a risk we are willing to take when we go. It’s no different than bungee jumping or sky diving. If something goes wrong, we deal with it. We know that Jesus will raise us up again. Our life is not limited by our time here, but our time here and what we do can make an eternal difference for someone else.