“Hey Daniel, Blanca and her friends want to know if we’ll go with them to play ski ball and some other games at an arcade after the outreach activity tonight. I’d love to go. What do you think?”
Daniel just stared at me. He didn’t respond.
“Chrissy! You’re speaking Spanish to your boyfriend!” laughed Blanca.
“Oh. sorry.” I switched to English.
My Spanish wasn’t perfect, but I’d taken four years of AP Spanish in high school, tested out of Spanish in college, and spent a few years working in different ministries where I constantly used my two languages. I was corrected by friends from Central America all the time, so obviously I had a lot to learn, but I felt comfortable speaking and listening. If you speak another language, then you’ll understand it’s a lifelong process. You never stop learning.
My summer mission work in Central America had been cancelled. While I was disappointed, I was also happy to be on this trip to Mexico with Daniel. I ended up as an unofficial extra interpreter for the group. Even though I made a few mistakes, it was a great learning experience and a natural fit.
The long term workers in the city we served in were busy, so having me float around to assist different groups alleviated some leg work for them. I think that was what pleased me most about the trip. Having grown up in a ministry family, I understood the blessing, busyness and stress of hosting a group. It made me happy to know I had given practical help to long term workers who were serving others. I still love doing this when God brings someone into my life to encourage and pray for.
This trip was a game changer in two major areas of my life.
The first was knowing in which area of the world God wanted me to serve. Because of my consistent work in learning Spanish I was attracted to Spain, Central and South America. Until I met Daniel, I had planned on spending a significant portion of my life in a Spanish speaking country. Good plan, but not what God had for me.
For months I had been spending time with couples from East and South Asia. I loved the culture, food and stories about the people groups in their countries. But in my mind these were just friendships, not the beginning of a change God was working into my life.
My friends often said, “Chrissy, South America is great. Spain is great. Of course you would do well choosing to serve in those places, but why won’t you consider the rest of the world? The more we know you, the more we think our countries would be a great fit for you.”
Usually I said something like, “I just don’t want to. I already know Spanish pretty well and it’s where I have experience. I just don’t know if it would make sense to pursue something else.”
That statement made sense. Most people try to work in the field they’ve prepared for. And there were so many needs in the countries I was considering. But more than anything I wanted to pursue knowing God. I knew I was called to the vocation of international work, but in my heart had not settled on a specific place. I just assumed it would be a Spanish speaking country and had never questioned that desire. When I was being honest with God and myself, I couldn’t silence my growing curiosity for Asia.
On the trip to Mexico I enjoyed serving, but also saw I was more interested in my own plan than knowing God. Spain, Central and South America were worthy fields of service, but I was choosing them because on some level these places felt familiar. By the end of the trip I knew I had to pray about Asia. God was interfering with my plans of how I would serve Him.
The second way this trip changed me, and the one that challenged me most, was realizing I loved Daniel. What I mean by “love”– the same desires he had shared with me a few months earlier. On our third date he said, “I love you,” but I didn’t say it back.
The conversation (and my feelings at the time) went like this:
“I love you”
What? Now I felt the silence. Wasn’t expecting that. I actually froze for a few seconds. It wasn’t fear or shyness, but I had no idea how to respond. I wanted to continue spending time with Daniel, but I wasn’t ready to say those words.
I cared for him so I shared my feelings honestly.
“To me ‘I love you’ means you are dating me with the hope of becoming engaged and married one day. That you want to have children with me and serve God together”
“That’s exactly what I mean”
Stunned silence on my part.
“Thank you. I appreciate you telling me. I care for you and I want to keep spending time with you, but I’m not ready to say that yet. When I say that to someone I want to be just as certain as you are. When the time comes for me to say those words I already want that man to know exactly how I feel because of my actions toward him and our experiences together. I want him to know it already by the time I say it”
“I know. You show things before you say them”
A pause, then with eyes determined, gentle, smiling, “I can wait”
Daniel had waited. Patiently. With no pressure.
And now I found myself in a situation where I knew I wanted the same things he did. To continue following God, I would need to give Him parts of my heart I had safely locked away. I would need to fully share life with Daniel. I liked this, but I was scared.
Daniel and I passed our free time in Mexico touring ancient pyramids with a friend called Hector. It was a blast. He had a great sense of humor. Hector had been learning about Jesus for a while. Long term workers spent years investing in him.
One afternoon Hector came to Daniel in tears, saying he had been afraid to follow Jesus because of family pressure, but now he wanted to.
“I believe. How can I tell Jesus that? Will you help me?”
When Daniel found me and told me he needed help interpreting I told him to find someone else who had known Hector longer.
“Everyone is really busy right now. And besides- I want you.”
I prayed quickly and prepared my mind for deep conversation. After interpreting for Daniel and Hector a few minutes, it was obvious he understood everything well. A woman called Lupe walked past. She had known Hector for years and was a believer. I asked her to take over in case there were any cultural cues I had missed in the conversation. I moved aside to listen and pray.
Lupe spoke with Hector. He was ready. As he confessed his sin to God and professed his faith in Jesus, I was thankful. Thankful for Hector being reconciled to God. Thankful Daniel pushed me to do what he knew I was capable of- even when I was unsure. Thankful God used this situation to give me the courage to say what I had known for a long time.
Lupe and Hector finished talking and the four of us shared hugs and more conversation. Sweet moments. Hector wanted to go outside to share his news with the long term workers and our team.
As everyone became lost in celebration and listening to Hector’s story, I gently pulled Daniel aside.
“Daniel, I love you”
His eyes came alive. He was elated, but didn’t seem surprised.
©2017 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved
I want to take a break from this story line, but might pick it up again later. There are some new things I want to share in the Marriage Category. Thanks for reading!