By Mary Benz
Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a mission trip to Mexico City. Both of my parents and my two older siblings had gone and I expected it to be a life changing experience. But I couldn’t anticipate the way that my heart would be broken out of love for each person I encountered and how these encounters would change my outlook on my life.
We spent three days in the garbage dump, where thousands of people live and work every day, and from the first moment when I gave Giovanni a “caballito” (a piggy back ride), I experienced total freedom to love and be loved. These people have none of the things we often value as most important—money, homes, possessions, important careers, or status. Yet I have never experienced such rich and radical love as they welcomed each of us into their lives with loving, open arms. I never once worried about what I looked like or if I was saying the right thing, which I often worry about at home. These people just loved me, and despite their horrific conditions, they exuded pure joy and thoughtfulness. The way that these people love broke my heart, because although they have nothing, they love with a generosity and lavishness, while I who have much more, often love less.
On the last day in the dump, when we were saying goodbye, my friend Adriana looked and me and told me that I would always have a home in Mexico and that she was like my mother and her family—Valente, Daphne, and Ximena were all a part of my family there. I cried like a baby when she told me that she can’t wait until the day we are together in Heaven. This radical ability to welcome me into their lives was clearly Christ loving me through them.
I have become much more grateful for all that the Lord has given to me in this life. I now look at all the blessings that I have, and while it can be easy to sometimes feel guilty, I just think of the gratefulness of the people in the dump for the little that they have, and I am encouraged to thank God for all that I’ve been given.
Many people came to the medical clinic with serious physical ailments, and oftentimes we couldn’t do much to help them. But I learned that Christ wants to heal and he does heal if we have the faith and the courage to ask. Maria Guadalupe, an elderly woman, was suffering serious pain in her foot from falling in the garbage, and we prayed with her for healing. I saw her twenty minutes later and she showed me that her foot was totally better! But the most beautiful thing was that she didn’t stop praising God! She was so thankful for this miracle. These people have such great faith that God will heal them and I know that he wants to do the same in our lives each day!
As we prepared to return home, our team discussed the very real possibility that the Mexico trip had been an intensive preparation for our real “mission” which was at home—in learning how to love the “poor” in our midst daily. I’m learning that it’s about loving people when they’re annoying; it’s treating every person that I encounter with respect and kindness; it’s being generous with all that I have. This is what makes my daily life the real mission field. Returning to my “normal” life was hard, but I’m also excited about the challenge ahead of me. When I am struggling to love, I can think of the face of Christ in people in the dump like Adriana, Valente, Blanca, Brenda, Carlita, and many more, and I know that Christ wants me to love every person I encounter in the same way that these people loved me—with a generous, open heart, rich in love.