Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Snap, Crackle, Pop Bubble Wrap

It was 3:45 am on the morning of February 19, 2004. That was the as time I arrived at the airport to make the flight to Atlanta, and from there onto El Salvador. It was my first missions trip as well as my first trip out of the United States.

Leaving the freedom of America to arrive in a country where guards stand ready with rifles was disturbing to say the least. I handed my passport over to the customs official and was struck with the gravity of giving away the little book that held my American identity. Then I glanced down at his desk and saw a tract. The official looked up and our eyes locked. 

Speaking English with a heavy Spanish accent he asked, "Are you a Christian?"

Without hesitation I answered with a smile, "Yes, I am."

To my delight he said, "Me too!" 

In that moment God erased any fear and uncertainty that marked my heart. I knew I was in the right place at the right time with my Righteous Companion.

Boarding a bus I left the city streets lined with open markets and traveled through green and luscious country. Flowers and plants sown together quilted the land while giant parasol palm trees shaded the countryside. Inactive volcanoes were mountains that had blown their tops, and tapestry rock walls hung like draperies. The beauty that surrounded me made it hard to believe the country housed such poverty.

Shanties made from tree posts and ribbed steel marred the landscape. Some hung precariously on the crags as if bemoaning their tenants to onto life by their fingertips. The inhabitants were people too poor to buy even a candle to light their house at night. 

Amidst this poverty I was grateful for the missionary directing my team. He was a big Norwegian with a bigger heart and a delightful character. He loved the people he served and considered the country of El Salvador a book of tales to tell. With five languages under his belt and a wealth of knowledge he told grand stories. But the story he told about the children was the most heartbreaking.  

Seeing them in his words changed my life forever. I wept when I heard about the dirty, lice infested, and hungry little waifs without homes. More than 400,000 children were orphaned or unwanted. They lived in herds like animals and fended for themselves. They survived on what they could find and dug in garbage heaps to fill their hungry bellies. Right then with God's help I was determined to make a pocket sized difference in the few short days ahead.

My team's job was to build small houses made of block in a dirt poor, mountain community. There the children would shyly peek over the small wall that housed us and our supplies. Sad and curious dark eyes questioned our intentions yet yearned for a smile or a piece of candy. Over that wall is where I first saw Lupe.

A mess of strings and curls framed her beautiful brown eyes. Her blue t-shirt was grimy and worn, her tawny skin smudged with dirt. Unlike the other little ones she was wary of my alien presence in her world and would not peer into my surroundings. Instead she sat on the ground playing with a discarded syringe and watched from a distance.

The next morning armed with licorice and a warm, wide smile I coaxed her playmates inside the area. Lupe watched and after a few cautious minutes she approached the wall. Folding her small arms, she rested her head upon them and peered over the blocks. Her round eyes betrayed her aloofness. The curiosity and desire for candy and attention was clearly visible. Later that day with a little help from her friends Lupe wandered into my space and heart. But it wasn't the Twizzlers and hugs that made Lupe smile, it was Bubble Wrap. 

Over the next days with the children playing in our living space the team and I needed to childproof. One of the first precautions we took was to wrap the re-bar. While wrapping the rods with air filled plastic I couldn't resist popping a few bubbles and glanced over to see a troop of young eyes watching with wonder. The widest of them were Lupe's. Bubble Wrap had cracked the code to her world and earned her trust. She sat on the dirt floor happily popping bubbles and before long we were repeating together 'snap, crackle, pop bubble wrap!"

The last day in the small village was bittersweet. I was exhausted and ready to return to my own family, but I knew I would miss Lupe as well. I helped to load the supplies and finally it was time to leave. The little clan of miniature Salvadorans came running to say their goodbyes. At the head of the pack was Lupe. She ran straight to me and wrapped her sweet honey arms around my neck. Happy, sad tears filled my eyes. I enfolded her in my love and from behind my back I pulled a small roll of Bubble Wrap, a gift just for her.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And when he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. (Matthew 19:14 NIV)  

My missions trip wrote a new chapter in my life. I have gone on from there. I've realized that more than my life or my work, God wrapped His love for Lupe in Bubble Wrap. He used the snap, crackle, pop to make a pocket sized difference in one small life. Not so different from another time in a poor, rural stable when He wrapped His love for you and I in swaddling clothes. 

1 comment:

  1. You are an amazing woman my friend. What a beautiful post. love wrapped in bubble wrap, beautiful.Leaving some ♥ on your blog and also wanted to tell you that we are voting for the new book club book today!
    Big Hugs!
    P.S. I am honored to see Katherines Corner on your blog roll, but that is the old address, giggle xo


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