Part 5: No Need For Words

This is the fifth 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 four parts, click here.

I’m a talker–I always have been and I think that I always will be. I love the fine details in things, getting to know other people and hearing the voices of others. Naturally, I’ve always valued spoke words, feeling that without them we could never know such wonderful, intimate things of life. I was proved wrong when I went to Mexico this summer…

She came up beside me while I was framing and looked down at me, her big brown eyes fixed on my hands as I hammered unskillfully at the nail in the wooden frame that was to be one of the walls of her new home. I noticed her gaze and I stopped hammering. From reading her name tag, I found that her name was “Besenta” but I was too shy to try to pronounce it so I just smiled and held out the hammer, offering her a turn at framing. It might seem like I was just trying to hand off my job to someone else and maybe I was, but the YWAM staff had said to let the family help out as much as possible. Soon I was wondering if I should have said something, though she probably wouldn’t have understood it, to let my motion be known. But I didn’t have to for she knew what I meant–there was no need for words.

Besenta took the hammer from me and bent over in a working position. She was short when standing, even shorter than my 5’2 frame and now she was even smaller. Her face was usually solemn and right now was no exception, though I could see a look of something different–of hope, pride, and of friendship shining through and I was glad that I had given her the hammer. I turned my eyes to the board that she was hitting and noticed how skillful she was for a beginner, if indeed she was a beginner like I fathomed at the time. In any event, she was a million times better than I was! Again, there was no need for words.

I pushed my paint brush harder into the bucket, in the hopes of spreading more of the meagre paint onto the house.  I sighed as the measly paint barely showed on the wall that Besenta and I had framed earlier,  feeling sure that this was the last of it though we still had a quarter of a wall left to cover. As I was thinking these thoughts, I noticed a person standing beside me–it was Besenta, a paint brush in hand and the same solemn but kind expression lighting her brown face. I smiled at her and said “Gracias”, accepting her help fondly. She, on the other hand, remained silent, simply dipping her brush into the last bit of paint for there was no need for words.

We painted for what seemed like a decade as we both had difficulty scraping up the last of the paint and making it spread on the wood while stretching our short arms upwards. During this time, I tried to strike up a conversation with Besenta, feeling unnatural without some chatter coming from my lips. Finally, after much contemplation on what she would find interesting that I could also say in Spanish, I uttered shyly, in my Canadian interpretation of the language–“Tres hermanos?” (I was trying to ask if she had 3 children.) She shook her head “Cuatro.” “Oh.” I replied awkwardly, smiling and blushing violently.  I think that I was about to say cool when I realized that wasn’t really fitting even if she did understand English! To cover my embarressment, I began painting again, wishing desperately that I hadn’t ruined things. I saw Besenta’s brown hand reach up with her wet, blue paint brush and cover another blank spot. I looked back down at the near empty paint can and then my mind drifted to the house with the make-shift, tarp roof that stood behind us, the house that Besenta and her family of eight had been using for the last year. Suddenly, I felt the perseverance, and encouragement of the moment and with that I realized that there was no need for words.

“Ouch!” I cried. After I had been informed that there was indeed more paint, I had taken off down the little hill to where one of the YWAM staff stirred a bucket of the coveted blue paint. However, my enthusiasm was altered when I stumbled and fell, cutting myself on a sharp rock. The blood was oozing out of my knee and slowly I got up and started to stagger towards the First Aid Kit which I knew to be nearby.  Feeling a nudge at my shoulder, I halted. I looked up to see Besenta–a look of genuine concern and love showing on her face. I smiled, despite my pain and she opened the first aid kit and found a bandage for me. Tenderly, she wiped my knee off and bandaged the cut, just like a beloved friend, just as my mother who was two countries away from me at the moment, would have done. I smiled my thanks, and she returned my grin with a comforting look–there was no need for words.

So often we think that language must be spoken to be understood, to be relevant, and to matter but Besenta taught me otherwise during those two days of building. Yes indeed, there are times to be silent, times when not saying anything can be relevent and will matter. In fact, there are even times, like the one that I just described when there is no need for words–our actions say it all.

Besenta (far right) with two of her children and me.

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Part 2: Filled

This is the second 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 Part 1, click here.

It was 6:45 AM and I sat in a corner of the YWAM dining hall, with a cup of tea steeping on the table before me. I had just awoken after the worst night of my life. After my youth leader talked to me, she finally convinced me to go downstairs. Pretty soon after that we had chapel, which was good…until we started to sing, that is. At YWAM they played loud, crazy music that I wasn’t used to and even worse than that — they danced, something I was not very comfortable with. Soon, I couldn’t take it any more and I just started to cry. I tried to stop myself but the tears kept flowing…so I went up to my room and got ready for bed. I couldn’t sleep though for I was too hot inside of my sleeping bag and the evil thoughts kept churning in my head. Things only got worse when my roommates got back and were chatting happily. It seemed like forever until they stopped and turned out the lights. But even then I couldn’t sleep and when I did, I still woke up empty, for the sleep could not fill me.

I sipped my now ready tea. “Yuck!” I thought, making a disgusted face. “It must be that powdered cream.” I continued to sip my tea, trying to get used to the taste. But no matter what I did, the tea did not cleanse my emptiness, the flavoured water with the powdered cream could not fill me.

“Can I sit here?” I looked up to see Matt, my youth pastor, looking down at me, a cup of coffee with the same disgusting powdered cream in his hand.

“Sure.” I replied, trying to smile. Instead, I felt the tears coming so I looked out the window where a dog wandered aimlessly and a boy helped his father put up a fence.

“The worship is sure different here than it is at church.” Matt finally said after a long silence.

I nodded. Again, the tears clouded my eyes for his words, no matter how loving or kindly intended, could not fill me either.

Breakfast, of which I scraped half of into the garbage, was served shortly thereafter. But neither it nor the steady companionship of friends filled my empty heart. My feelings were the same as they had been the previous day and I was more confused than ever.

“Elizabeth, we need to get you a devotions book. We have chapel at eight.” Matt said to me, as I returned to our table from the garbage can.

“Ok.” I replied. I gulped. His words reminded me that I had skipped out on my own devotions in Acts this morning.

Once I had the book, I settled comfortably (or rather, uncomfortably but as nicely as you can when you are on a creaky top bunk) with it, a pen and my bible. The devotional instructed me to read first Joshua so I flipped to it in the little travel bible that my mom had given me the night before I left. Before starting I said one thing to God: “Please Lord, I’m here for a reason. Show me that as I read. Fill me again.”

If I hadn’t already believed in God I would have started at that moment. No sooner had I said this prayer and turned to Joshua, I was starting to feel better. Though nothing “earth shattering” is said for the first eight verses, just reading God’s word made me relax and feel comforted. And then I read it! The verse that changed me! The passage that showed me what I was to do! The verse that filled me!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged: for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. 

Joshua 1:9

Suddenly, I knew that God was indeed with me and that He really did have a purpose for me in Mexico. My homesickness, my pain, my tears, my emptiness all disappeared. With that verse God threw them into the darkness, not to be seen again for that trip and replaced them with His heavenly touch, He filled my heart up again. And although I was only at the beginning of my journey in Mexico, and despite the fact that many hard things were up ahead, I was filled in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and in that I had confidence, reassurance, and hope. I would not be discouraged or terrified: I would be strong and courageous for I was filled.