This Lenten reflection was written by Austin Langley (Guatemala 2011-2012, Tucson 2012-2013). Austin is currently working on a Master’s in Parks, Rec, and Tourism Management at Clemson University in South Carolina where she also serves as a Presbyterian Student Association (PSA) intern.
In this season of Spring break missions, having participated in a trip last week with the students of Clemson PSA, memories of my YAV years in both Guatemala and Tucson have abounded. Last week, in rural eastern North Carolina, we met the most amazing eighty-year old woman—Ms. Alice. Living in a double wide in the swamp, she proudly told me that she had bought her home brand new in 1977. Looking back, Ms. Alice reminded me of moments with my youngest host brother in Guatemala. They both seem to carry around a sense of joy and wonderment— allowing themselves to be pleasantly surprised, and fully engaged in everything around them.
Last week, we spent more time on Ms. Alice’s couch listening to stories and dancing to 710AM (the local gospel station on the radio) than we did working on repairs. At the beginning of the week, the students struggled to be patient with bad weather and slow work, but the end of the week saw only pure joy in their faces when they told stories about Ms. Alice.
Gabriel, my seven-year-old host brother, was one of the first in Guatemala to help me slow down—to sit on the couch and enjoy the company. Through the many joyful moments we spent together finding ways beyond my broken Spanish to communicate, I was consistently reminded that service is often remembering that Jesus both came to us and called us out simultaneously in John 20 saying “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Gabriel and Ms. Alice, through relationship, reminded me of the transformative power of not only loving, giving and doing, but also allowing myself to be loved, receiving and being.