Amigos de Jesús Volunteer — 2016-2019
It’s a tough word.
No one wants to say they have it, no one wants to say they don’t have it, and if we’re honest, we all need a lot more of it. At 25 years old, I admit my life experience is pretty limited; even so, I find it difficult to imagine a better place to learn about humility than at Amigos de Jesús.
As volunteers and members of the Amigos de Jesús family, we say things like, “that was a really humbling moment for me,” or “I just got slapped in the face by humility,” on a pretty regular basis.
One of the beautiful and often incredibly challenging things about living at Amigos de Jesús is that humility seeks you out. More often than not, we learn humility through unexpected circumstances and encounters rather than as a result of our own will.
We learn it when we step back to watch in awe at the work that the ‘padrinos’ and ‘madrinas’ do each day to care for our children.
When we see the children wake up everyday and allow themselves to laugh and play, to be held and loved, and in ourselves when we come face to face with our own limitations and brokenness, things we cannot hide from at Amigos de Jesús.
Here are several examples of what I mean:
Getting really sick and having other community members volunteer to help cover your workload (without any complaints!), buy you your favorite snacks and leave them outside your door accompanied by a ‘get better soon’ poem they’d written, make you homemade soup, and check in on you basically ever hour
‘Padrinos’ and ‘madrinas’ who skip their ‘descanso’ (time off) and/or walk 3+ hours along the side of the road in the hot sun to find a running bus just to be able to get back to work in the midst of an intense season of political unrest
Having your Spanish corrected, nearly daily, by children as young as 7 years old
A child, whose mind, body, and spirit have not been respected and cared for previously, curl up on your lap to be comforted while sick on a bus
Volunteers, whose lives would likely never have intersected in the States, become not just friends but real supporters of one another, learning to love and be vulnerable, to share in hardships, and to rejoice in the smallest of things together
Sitting in a room full of people who know the children and organization best, and hearing them talk not about how much good they’ve done, but rather how much more they want to give, all the things they want to improve on, and what they want to do better for the children and for Amigos de Jesús moving forward
A smiling child running wildly up to you while shouting, “Miss!” before flinging him/herself in your arms for a hug
We aren’t lacking in examples of humility here at Amigos de Jesús and those listed above are a short few. One of the greatest ways Amigos de Jesús humbles us is in the simple fact that there’s always someone around who has been here longer, who knows the kids better, who understands the organization more, who sees the bigger picture more completely.
But beyond all of us, there is one person that will always know and see more – God, the Master Creator, who has been at Amigos before all of us, who will continue on after all of us leave, and whose plans and love are greater than anything we could ever fathom.
In my experience, the greatest lesson in humility that Amigos de Jesús has to teach us is that of properly ordering and understanding our relationship with God. We as humans have the unfortunate tendency to remove God from our work and lives, thereby making gods of ourselves and of our self-sufficiency. We think we are independent and can do so much on our own. The truth is that we really can’t; we need others and we really need God.
I remember so many times in my first year as a volunteer getting frustrated with myself for my inability to communicate as effectively as I wanted to, for totally misreading a social interaction with a Honduran, for feeling unqualified and unprepared in the jobs I was doing, for not knowing how to connect with a child in the way s/he most needed, etc.
Nothing on my resume did, or could have, fully prepared me for life at Amigos de Jesús and that remains as true today as it did when I first stepped foot into the gates.
Yet my most joyful and fulfilling seasons at Amigos de Jesús have been those times when I haven’t tried to do everything on my own, when I haven’t attempted to make myself more than I am or ever will be, when I’ve reached out to others for help and advice, and when I’ve trusted that God is holding me in the space I need to be and working with me right there.
Our need for God is so great and accepting our smallness is difficult. But it’s so important. St. Paul says,
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
You see, humility isn’t weak. It’s powerful. When we allow ourselves to sit humbly before God, not despairing in our weakness, our struggles, or our embarrassing moments, but rather offering those things up to Him, He works through them and allows us to shine brighter than we ever could on our own.
I don’t think God has called any of us to Amigos de Jesús because we’re the most qualified for the work we do or even because we’re going to change someone’s life in a monumental way, despite how wonderful both those ideas are.
The truth is, we can never fully be what or who the kids most need. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you get to know them, when your heart overflows with love for them, and when you feel there’s nothing you wouldn’t do to try and fill that hole that will forever exist in their lives.
And that is such a helpless feeling. But thankfully, neither Amigos de Jesús as an organization nor God himself is asking us to do that.
In our smallness, in our struggles, in our attempts to love the kids as best we can, in our awkward moments, in our desire to do God’s will, He shines through. He can do so much more than we can, if we allow Him to.
When we learn to sit humbly before God, we see that, despite our shortcomings, He has always been waiting to work through us in greater ways than we could have imagined.