This is the sixth part of a series about my travels in Mexico last summer, a trip that God used to teach me many lessons in love, humility, beauty, and wealth. If you missed the first five parts, click here.
One of the biggest worries of a missionary or anyone who is going to a country where another language is spoken, is how communication is going to happen. When I went to Mexico, I was no exception–although I had been learning the language for the past year I still only knew a very beginner level and did not feel that I would be able to have all of the conversations that I needed to have.
I laugh when I think of this now because, oh how wrong I was! What on earth was I thinking that I wouldn’t be able to communicate properly? No, I didn’t become fluent as soon as I crossed the border nor did the Mexican people magically speak English. The solution is simply this–love is not a foreign language like we so often make it out to be.
I was picking up garbage at our first outreach when a girl in a grey t-shirt with a picture of the American flag on it and a knit bag around her shoulder came up to me and started speaking in fluent Spanish. My brain panicked as I didn’t know what she was saying, what she wanted or what to say back. I tried to use what I knew of Spanish and listened to her and I finally figured out that she wanted to help! Great! But what do I say now? I thought, panicking at one of my first all-Spanish interactions. I stuttered and mumbled for a bit, explaining that I only spoke a bit of Spanish before she finally said simply “Si?” and I replied with the same response, almost laughing at how silly I had been to forget the word for yes! She smiled happily and together we walked around the neighbourhood, up and around the little hill, picking up candy wrappers and pop cans and putting them in the big bag that I carried. By and by some other girls came. I would say words like “Bien” and “Gracias” and we all smiled a lot. Later my friend and I went and joined the soccer game, I told her that I liked her bag and asked her if she had made it (I actually don’t remember how I did this one!) Then we handed out the hair things and stickers that I had brought, and she watched us do the dances that we’d practiced. Finally, it was time for us to go–she asked me if she could have the remaining stickers and this time I remembered my “Si.” I also gave her a comb that I had to which she replied with a big grin and a “Gracias.” We said adios with a big hug and a smile.
My first Mexican amigas and me.
I was handing out stickers and trying to be friendly and meet new people at that same outreach when I spotted a shy little girl by the bouncy castle. I offered her a heart sticker and she shyly nodded her head. Placing a big, pink heart on her hand I smiled and said “Amor” (love.) I watched her face light into a smile.
This little girl was just adorable!
We played hide and go seek and duck duck goose. I ran around with them on my back for hours, skipping and jumping with their little bodies on top of mine with other children by my side, clamouring for my attention, begging to be next. We ate lunch together, side by side. I helped a little girl with her banana. I took pictures with them. We laughed, we smiled, we talked. Then we played some more, I ran with them on my backs again. And even though I was more tired than I had ever been in my life, I still hated to go. I would have run with them for hours if I only could have stayed. And we hugged big hugs as we said “Adios.”
One of my best memories ever…
We painted together, Coolio and me. We talked about the things that we liked such as sports, school, and church with the knowledge I had for the conjugating the verb gustar and the little vocabulary I knew. He was patient with me when I stumbled and when I was slow. We smiled and we laughed. Before he left, he asked my Mexican friend how to say something in English. He turned to me and said “I love you Elizabeth!”
Wonderful Coolio, with some friends, outside of his church.
I stood in the chairs of church, listening to the songs sung in the beautiful Spanish language that I knew little of, taking in the atmosphere before me: two or three Mexican families, in addition to my team, smiling, singing and totally on fire for God. The pastor, a woman about five feet tall, read verses and said prayers in Spanish, loving God with her whole heart as she did so. We performed a drama for them and they all clapped when it ended and the girl went back to God. They sympathized and clapped again over my friend’s testimony and replied with Amens to my youth pastor’s translated sermon. They sang again and I watched and listened, feeling the love of the room even though I did not know the language. A little boy looked up at me from his place in front, and I smiled. He reached his hands up and we clapped our hands together. I looked up to see the pastor and I was worried that she would not like what I was doing but instead, she smiled broadly in approval. They invited us to the beach and we spent the afternoon there with them, eating lunch and taking in the beauty of Mexico together. When it was time to go they wanted a picture with us. The pastor hugged me good-bye, we all smiled, we all laughed.
When I look at these memories, I often wonder how they happened. When I think on them, it seems like I said so much to these people when really, the most that I ever said was hello, how are you and what do you like to do. But I guess that’s because there is more to loving others than that. Smiling, laughing and touching are things that anyone, of any culture, language, or country has the ability to do. Love is universal. It is not limited because of where you were born or what language you speak. Love is boundless, it is not restricting. Most importantly love is beautiful because of the God who created us for that very purpose–yet, so often we forget how to love, and how to say those words. The language of love has sadly been lost in our society by the foreign words of hate and evil that have no place in our lives.
If I learned just one thing in Mexico though it is this: we were born to love and because of that, we can love no matter what. My friends who helped with the garbage taught me that. The children at the VBS who clamoured to ride on my back and hugged me good bye taught me that. And precious Coolio, who told me that he loved me taught me that. No, love is not a foreign language.
- Part 5: No Need For Words (elizabethsjourneyhome.wordpress.com)