Sticky Fingers

We liked Mayra from the start. She was a troubled teen from a Honduran family who had immigrated to the United States. When her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Mayra’s behavior became a great burden to the family, and they sent her to live with her grandmother in Honduras, where she had been born. Although she definitely had her difficulties, she was friendly and a joy to be around. She began to come to church, some youth activities, and even over to visit us at the house now and then.

She showed up at our gate one evening in tears. She had gotten into a fight with her uncle’s family and had left in anger. We gave her supper, counseled her for over an hour, and insisted that she call her grandmother. We offered to let her stay overnight with us (with her grandmother’s permission) so that everyone could cool off before we took her back in the morning. We let her sleep in Claire’s room, and moved Claire into our room for the night.

Everything seemed to be fine the next week, but, sure enough, she appeared at the gate again on Saturday evening. It was not a good time; we had a group from the United States in for the week and were responsible for fixing meals and transporting them from place to place. But this was important; once again, we sat down with Mayra, listened to her side, and counseled her to apologize for her part in the family dissent. Again, we allowed her to stay the night, and I lent her clothes for Sunday morning service. After church, she went to visit some friends, and we returned home. She said she would return for her backpack later that afternoon.

After I put Claire down for her nap, I began to pick up the typical weekend clutter that had accumulated in the house. As I put towels away into the hall closet, I noticed the flatiron my parents had sent for my birthday was missing. Where in the world did I leave it? After searching for a few minutes, I began to get a sick feeling in my stomach. More things, as well as a small amount of cash I had in a drawer, were missing as well. Someone had taken them.

I went to Claire’s room, sat on the bed, and stared at Mayra’s book bag in the corner. She wouldn’t! We took her in, fed her, lent her clothes. She could have asked us for anything, and we would have given it to her! There’s got to be another explanation.

I went to Robbie’s office and filled him in. “What should I do? I don’t want to go through her things! That seems like a breach of trust…”

“Well, I can’t think of another place those things might be. Just go open the front pocket and see if you see anything suspicious.”

Sure enough, I opened the front pocket and thank-you notes from my drawer, pens and pencils, and pictures of Claire fell onto the bed. The other pockets contained larger items: an old baby bottle, small pictures frames, ponytail holders. The flatiron wasn’t there. In fact, everything in the backpack had very little value. If you were going to break our trust, why didn’t you at least take something worth stealing? This doesn’t make sense. There was nothing there (including the flatiron) that I wouldn’t have given her if she’d asked.

I was angry and hurt. We were trying to help Mayra! Why in the world would she steal from us?

We talked to her when she returned home and she apologized. She admitted to the items we found, but never did confess to taking the flatiron. It was long gone. We hugged and “made up” but it wasn’t over for me. Robbie was able to joke about it that same day when we showed up late at Matt and Dallita's because of dealing with the situation: "We had a family emergency! All our thank-you notes were stolen!" But I wasn't laughing along with him inside; I still felt hurt by Mayra’s actions. It took me weeks to truly forgive her.

How do we love, forgive, and minister to those who hurt and disappoint us? I’ve poured myself into someone and invested in her life, only to see her drop out of church, offend me, or lie to my face. How can I not take it personally? How is the failure of someone I have mentored not a slap in the face? How can I go to my next discipleship without thinking, “Maybe she too will let me down”?

It’s been one of the hardest battles of the ministry for me—loving people. I’ve got to love them as Christ did, with all their scars, their secrets, their skeletons in the closet. Why? Because I’ve got mine. So the minute I start to feel insulted, to feel personally offended by a wrong, I’ve become too proud. I’m mistakenly thinking, “I’d never do anything like that! I deserve better than this.”

No matter how many hours I invest in a person, she doesn’t “owe me.” She is not obligated to take my advice. She must make her own decisions. And when she doesn’t do what I want her to, that doesn’t sever our relationship. I’ve got to keep loving her. Because that’s what Christ did for me.

Love God. Love people. Unconditionally. It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever do, but I can’t have an effective ministry without unconditional, long-suffering, limitless love.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Five Year Anniversary Video

Team Honduras 2009 Year-in-Review Video

Team Honduras on Facebook

Team Honduras on Facebook