The longer that we are down here, the more we realize just how important relationships are. Matthew 22: 35-40 is a very common scripture we hear preached. Within this scripture, we see a very simple truth expressed by Jesus.
35 One of the Pharisees, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So what is the most important thing we can do? Jesus says, “love God” with your everything. He even adds to that saying that the second-most important thing we can do as believers is to “love your neighbors as yourself.”
In simple and practical terms, Jesus is telling us to focus on relationship. First with God, then with people. A healthy relationship looks like love. It looks kind, patient, selfless, trusting, hoping, and never failing. As we start to develope these kind of relationships, God starts to move!
In our group ministry outings , Amanda and I have met an incredible family of 5 living in some extremely impoverished conditions. Jose, Joanna, and their 3 boys Bryan, Joshua, and Steven. Immediately, Amanda and I felt drawn to them. Mom and dad are in their early to mid twenties and the boys are 3-6 years old. The boys love playing with sidewalk chalk, coloring pictures and playing soccer. Steven especially loves blowing bubbles! Although this family is super sweet and incredibly humble, they were rather distant with us.
We have only seen Jose (dad) a total of 3 times due to his work schedule trying to support his family. Both he and Joanna (mom) are very shy people. Joanna would bring her boys up to play with us gringos, but would immediately walk to the sidelines to observe. Amanda would continue to talk to Joanna each time we were down, which gained her trust and confidence. At first, I think Joanna was a little weirded out by Amanda and I (common reaction to us, haha)!
After a short time, Joanna began realizing that we genuinely loved her kids. As a result, she began opening up. She asked us why we come down and play in her neighborhood. After explaining briefly showing God in practical ways, she proceeded to tell us that she isn’t a believer. She told us that her siblings go to church but that its “just not for her.”
We didn’t go into “hyper-getting-her-saved-mode,” we just loved on her and her family. After4 months of visiting her neighborhood and talking with her, we offered her some help with one of the construction teams scheduled to serve for a week. The team that came down fixed up some of their living conditions, provided them with a washing machine, and a bunk bed for the boys. They were so blown back by this. We let them know that this was a gift from God, not us.
They didn’t really understand it, but they were grateful.
Joanna with her new washer
New bunk bed for the three boys
A week later, a new group came down to Costa Rica to host a “God-first” marriage conference to the general public at the local church. We went into all of our neighborhoods handing out invitations. To our surprise, Joanna showed up to church for the conference and attended both days! You could tell that God was working in her! The following Sunday, she showed up for church service and brought her 3 boys. Since then, she has been attending normal church services on Sunday!
Just recently, Amanda has offered her time to watch Steven for a couple of hours (while the other brothers are in school) so that Joanna can work a small, part-time job cleaning apartments. The fact that Amanda watches Steven for free was something that Joanna could barely grasp. She has been so blown back by everything, she can’t help but to wonder that maybe God really does love her!
Joanna’s husband has walked over to the church a couple of times, but has yet to come in. We still love on him and don’t look down on him for his lack of enthusiasm for church (I used to be an atheist, so I can relate). We decided to hook him up with a tattoo for free as a practical way of reaching out to him. We had NEVER seen Jose smile until this moment! He said he always wanted one (specifically, a snake or dragon), but couldn’t afford it. So we invited him to the shop and let him pick out his design. To my surprise, he chose a cross! I don’t fully understand what was going through his head when he strayed from the typical snake or dragon piece and chose the cross. But I’m thinking that he is beginning to see God at work in the most unexpected ways in his life! And the constant smile he now wears on his face is proof that maybe God is doing more in that guys’ heart than we know!
It is amazing to me to see how God uses the most practical things like relationship to draw people closer to Him! God rocks!
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Thank you! We love you guys!!