Well, we’re several weeks into sheltering in place, aren’t we? We’re beginning to recognize a new normal with phone call check-ins and Zoom. Bill and I find ourselves looking forward to deliveries, and we have decided to put the grocery deliverer on our Christmas card list. Sometimes I sit and think how wonderful a Whataburger would be? Or maybe Blizzard? Or what about a plate of spicy Mexican food?
I fear I am spoiled beyond measure when it comes to food. I do love to cook, and it’s like therapy for me, creating in the kitchen. Think of how blessed we all are. Our grocery stores are filled with all kinds of choices, and we get to choose. And now they even bring them to us at our front door! What gifts we have in God’s provisions for us.
God gave us another wonderful gift when He gave us memory. Sheltering in place has no doubt given us time to pause and reflect a bit these days, and even remember more beautiful times and people in our lives. Bill and I line our walls with photos and paintings that motivate us to remember.
One such memory passes through my mind frequently as I pass by the portrait Bill painted of Sister Gabriela. My detailed memory is of a June morning in 2004 in the Highlands of Guatemala. Bill and I were leading a mission team of sixteen youth and adults as we spent a week working in an orphanage. Five precious Capuchin nuns, who had taken a vow of poverty, were taking care of all the needs of twenty-seven girls ages six to eighteen, and we went to help.
Most American mission teams prefer to stay in the area of Guatemala City or Antigua, but our team was asked to serve in the Highlands near the town of Xela. This is about 140 miles from the City out in the mountains, but because of terrain, summertime weather, and poor roads, the trip can take five hours. The orphanage was in the small, rural, and poverty-stricken village of Salcajá. The nuns had secured a small home where all thirty two of them lived. I have many memories of these experiences but none like the morning I spent in the kitchen with Sister Gabriela, affectionately known as Sister Gabby.
I had checked on all the activities and team members, and everything was running like a well-oiled machine, so I went to the kitchen to find Sister Gabby. Her pure voice singing her praises in beautiful Spanish greeted me before I opened the door to this kitchen, which was about the size of my walk-in clothes closet at home. A stove with two burners, maybe three feet of work surface above the one cabinet, and no sink or running water. They gather their water for the day and put it in a ten to twelve gallon reservoir outside they call a pila. Then the water for washing vegetables or dishes is brought into the kitchen in a small plastic pan as needed.
Sister Gabby had two large pots of boiling water on the stove, and she was chopping cabbage with a large knife like it was the funnest thing she had ever done. (I know that “funnest” isn’t a word, but it should be.) That rusty knife was so old and primitive that I couldn’t tell the sharp side from the dull side. But she was singing, and I could hear the happiness of her heart. When I entered the kitchen, she pointed to the floor just inside the door. There was a large bag, the kind of netted bag our grocery-store onions come in. In the bag were four cabbages larger than bowling balls, a few onions, and maybe a dozen carrots the size of my forearm. In such an excited voice, she said, “Mira lo que Dios proporcionó.” Look what God has provided. “Tendremos sopa para el almuerzo.” Now, we will have soup for lunch.
As I helped her scrape carrots with another dull knife, I learned that the sisters had asked God in their early morning prayers for His provisions for the day. Their cupboard was bare, and there would be no lunch or supper without His provisions. About nine o’clock that morning, a local farmer showed up with a bag of cabbage and carrots. And she was joyfully, thankfully, and energetically making soup and singing because God had provided.
What faith! What dependence! What gratitude! A poor farmer, who no doubt was just as dependent on God for good weather and good crops, provided for the needs of the sisters and the orphans. And here was this beautiful young woman, humbly and joyfully serving these disenfranchised children, totally dependent upon God for His provisions.
Paul wrote words of wisdom to Timothy, words of instruction in caring for the church and in becoming God’s kind of spiritual leader. He wrote in I Timothy 6: 17-19 some verses that seem most appropriate with this story and with our present situation. I’m giving you two translations to ponder.
The New International Version
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
7-19 Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.
Oh, may we be so humble and trusting that we see all the provisions God makes for us, even for our enjoyment as the Scripture says. And may we be grateful and generous so that we can take hold of the kind of life God wants us to have.
P.S. And speaking of the gift of memory – I had an hour of laughter and tears going through the old photos to find this one of Sister Gabby. What a way to spend an afternoon😊