Sometimes I forget that if I want God to use me, even in the tiniest way, I have to be available.
Sometimes that’s a big task, and sometimes it’s as simple as putting down my phone and being a part of the world around me.
I was reminded of this in a sweet little children’s library in Peru.
The house we are staying in is located in the jungle and there is no wi-fi access (Which is totally not a bad thing, in fact I’m actually very glad there isn’t.) One of the perks of going into town is that often times we would have wi-fi access. On this day, we were using the library’s wifi.
Earlier that morning we had visited Curi, a cacao (chocolate) farmer and we explored his fascinating plantation. We spent the morning learning about all the work that Curi does and the incredible business he has developed. We had taken tons of pictures and we had such a great time (Even though he took us on a steep walk through the jungle in flip flops, “looking for tigers”.) Being at the library where we could access the internet was the perfect opportunity for us to share these pictures with the Facebook and Instagram world.
As I was mindlessly refreshing my Facebook news feed over and over again only to discover that hardly anything had changed, I felt a sudden conviction.
Let me just tell you that usually when I am in an environment where there are kids around, I am right there with them. God has really given me a heart for kids, and I find so much joy in the presence of children, laughing and playing. But there I was, at this gorgeous children’s library, surrounded by precious kids who were running around and laughing and playing. Yet I was more interested in how many people would like my photos on Instagram. I was ignoring the beautiful little people around me.
Though the conviction was strong and demanding, it was also mildly confusing. I couldn’t have just walked up to a kid and started talking to them like I normally would – I don’t speak much Spanish at all. How could I possibly interact with people I couldn’t start a conversation with? I so desperately wanted to talk to these kids, and it felt like Jesus wanted me to as well, but since I know very minimal Spanish, I decided to selfishly ignore this conviction and continue mindlessly scrolling through the internet.
Until I actually couldn’t stand looking at my phone any longer. I had seen all that the Internet had to offer that day.
So I put my phone down, and started looking around the room. I had no clue what to do with my helpless self, and I felt a little bit like I was simply there just taking up space.
I walked to a shelf and picked up a children’s book called “1000 Spanish Words”. I took it back to the table we were sitting at and began looking through it. Each page had a different room or scene and different items labelled in Spanish. For example, there was “La cocina”, which means “The kitchen”, and one of the labelled items was “La manzana”, which means “The apple.” I looked through these pages just to see how many of the words I actually knew. (There were not many, by the way.)
And then, something amazing happened.
Before I knew it, we were surrounded by several children and I found myself pointing to items on the pages and saying things like “Te gusta (Do you like) la manzana?” and as they answered “si” or “no” with cute little giggles on their expressive faces they were so entertained. This went on for quite some time and we were having so much fun together.
Suddenly, this language barrier didn’t feel so massive. I spoke to them using the little Spanish I know, and when I was totally lost (which was quite often), I asked my wonderful friend Tat to translate. (Seriously I’m not sure what I would do without her and I’m so thankful that she doesn’t mind hearing “How do you say _____ in Spanish?” 17 times a day. THANKS TAT!)
We spent the afternoon laughing and reading stories to children in English. They smiled the whole time, and the look on their captivated faces hid the fact that we spoke different languages. And the completion of a story was always followed by a big hug, and a huge “GRACIAS!!”
One of the girls asked me to read her a story and I decided I would read it in Spanish this time, though there was no doubt in my mind that I would brutalize the pronunciation. And as I read I found myself saying “Si?” after reading a word I wasn’t sure I knew how to say, and the tiny child would nod her head or correct me. She didn’t mind that I couldn’t speak to her confidently in her language. And I didn’t mind asking a 7 year old girl if I was pronouncing a word correctly. We enjoyed each others’ company even though our words were few. Deep conversations are not the only way to connect.
I cannot sufficiently sum up why this day was so special to me. There’s a good chance I’m the only one who thinks this story is even significant in any way. But that is 100% alright with me because Jesus was there urging me on, and unlike so many other times; I listened. And he did something great in my heart.
I left the library that day with a joyful heart and an important lesson learned; sometimes we have to simply be available for God to use us, even the tiniest way.
I am really, really glad I put down my phone that day.