Litany of Love
How does one distill all that love is into one blogpost, especially love as it is experienced at Amigos de Jesús? After many ruminations about well-known Bible verses and poring over quotes from noted theologians and writers, I was struck by something infinitely more familiar and equally inspiring, the words and actions of the children, jovenes (young people), and community of Amigos de Jesús. Love—the love that is experienced through the kids and jovenes here—encompasses all the other values of Amigos de Jesús: joy, humility, prayer, gratitude, and faith. This love is unconditional, inspiring, and transformative.
The children find joy in the daily flow of life here. From Fermin and Arturo hurtling down the hill on top of their new dump trucks, to Adan and Olson reliving the highlights of a pick-up soccer game, to Flor’s’s dark eyes brightening at a compliment on her reading skills, to the delight of hand-held fireworks at Christmas, joy lives at Amigos de Jesús. It lives in the rebirth of children and of young men and women who have experienced much trauma and brokenness but who emerge whole and laughing—and teach us how to do the same.
We all learn humility in different ways at Amigos. Many of us come from the United States with hearts open to serve, yet without a firm grasp of the reality and cultural identity of Hondurans. Slowly, we gain understanding from witnessing the kids and young people develop their own sense of self awareness as well as a sense of their place in the community. Once after an art competition, Jason was sharing his disappointment at not winning a prize. I attempted to comfort him, but he matter-of-factly stated, “It’s all right, Miss. I need to learn how to lose.”
In addition to learning how to lose gracefully (usually at soccer or some other physical activity), I have learned to pray differently and more intentionally at Amigos. Every morning, the children practice contemplative prayer in their classrooms. Even the more rambunctious kids like petite Josefina have learned to sit quietly, relax, and open their minds and hearts to the presence of Jesus, if only for a short time. From their example and my own practice of contemplative prayer, I have come to the realization that what God wants is not unquestioning obedience and constant self-abnegation, but an actual loving relationship with each one of us, a relationship that comes into being in part by seeking Him in silent prayer. Everything else—living simply and mindfully, making moral choices, caring for those in need—stems from this.
Our tradition at Amigos de Jesús of practicing communal prayer through prayer circle is perhaps one of the most visible and profound expressions of gratitude. The prayer “Gracias, Senor,” (Thank you, Lord) uttered before every meal, meeting, or event encapsulates this sense of being grateful for everything and everyone that we encounter at Amigos. When Weston thanks God for food, we do not doubt his sincerity or that he knows what it means to be truly hungry. When Rita offers thanks and praise for “este lindo hogar” (this beautiful home), we know she is in earnest.
I am grateful for the gift of faith that Amigos de Jesús bestows upon its community. One of our young men, Diego, uses one simple word to describe the constant love and care provided by his padrinos and madrinas: ALWAYS. They help him with his homework, laugh with him while playing card games, listen to him when he is angry, sit with him when he is sad. Despite what he may have suffered in the past, Diego knows, he believes, he has faith that his caregivers will meet his needs, just as we strive to remain faithful to God in our times of struggle because we know that His love is unconditional.
At Amigos de Jesús, the children and jovenes’ love is unconditional, as unconditional as it is possible for human beings to love. It mirrors Christ’s unconditional love for us. It is a love that radiates out from the children, to our staff, to the neighborhoods surrounding Amigos, to our many visitors, to the broader, global Amigos de Jesús community. When we acknowledge and accept that love, we cannot help but choose the good. We cannot help but choose to love and to be transformed by love.
Love is brave.
Love is learning to be calm.
Love is tireless.
Love is reassuring.
Love is helpful.
Love is answering endless questions.
Love is welcoming the stranger—new children, gringo volunteers and visitors.
Love is forgiveness.
Love is transformation.
Love is hope and healing.
Love is inclusion.
Love is perseverance.
Love is trusting again.
Love is protecting your little brothers and sisters.
Love is loyalty.
Love is hard work.
Love is sweat and toil in the blistering hot sun.
Love is bearing frustration.
Love is joy.
Love is a wicked teenage sense of humor.
Love is gratitude.
Love is communal prayer.
Love is losing sleep over the welfare of 300 children and staff.
Love is a humble demeanor.
Love is faith in action.
Love is choosing the good, attracting the good, exuding the good.
Love is unconditional.
Love is all-encompassing.
Love is God.
Love is Amigos de Jesús.