Not too long ago, I wrote a couple posts about "becoming a kid," inspired by Jesus' statement that in order to enter into the kingdom of God, we must become like little children. Obviously, not in the litteral sense. It's about humility, dependency, healthy fear of God, wonder, love, the absence of self-suffiency.
So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the fact that God continued to communicate this message to me when I was in Honduras. I met Fernando and Eddie during our first day in Honduras. They are brothers who live next door to Esperanza and Carmello, whom I wrote about in my previous post. Their father died when they were very young, too young to even remember him. When I visited their home, their mother, Maria, pointed out his picture, which hung right next to the front door.
From the moment I met these to young boys, who are 8 and 10 years old, I knew that we were going to be friends that week. Fernando especially took to me. He learned my name immediately and each day, he would periodically call it out, just hoping that I would turn and smile at him. "Jon-a-tin." He'd smile and say it again twenty minutes later. Fernando has never had an earthly father, so my heart especially goes out to him, as does the Lord's: "...his name is the LORD—and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling..."
Each day, Fernando and Eddie would show up to help us in our work. They wanted to help us dig holes for the new fence. They wanted to help paint. They wanted to help carry rocks. They just wanted to be included. I quickly learned some key words and phrases. "Me turno," I'd say and then I'd start digging. "Se turno," and then I'd let Fernando have a go for a little while. They were also fascinated with our gloves. I'd let Fernando wear them occassionally throughout the day, but I'd have to say, "Guantes, por favor," and then he'd return them without question. But far and away, Fernando wanted to wear my sunglasses more than anything else.
One day, after I had finished cutting some of the pieces for the fence, I walked inside to find shade and some water. I was covered in saw dust, which clung to my hairy arms an filled my ears. Fernando followed me in and unsollicited, he began brushing it off of me and even stuck his little fingers in my ears to clear out the dust.
Periodically, each day, Fernando would walk up beside me and just grab my hand, hold on and follow me. If I left my camera sitting out, he'd put it back inside of my backpack for me.
One particular day, Fernando, Eddie, Kyle and I sat down in the middle of the dirt road. We had finished up most of the work for the day, but the physical labor was secondary in importance. We sat there and the two brothers began teaching Kyle and I some Spanish. We'd point to things and mutter, "como se dice?" They would patienty and repititously say the proper word in spanish, sounding it out phonetically. I was so impressed by their teaching skills. I discoverd that if you give your undivided attention to these kids, they have all the patience in the world. But then again, they don't have video games, internet, email, mp3 players and TVs to distract them and make them bored with us.
By the end of the week, I had grown quite attached to Fernando and Eddie, but especially to Fernando. Through the course of the week, he had shown me what it means to love someone and to come to the Lord like a little child. On Saturday night, after the church service (after becoming a Christian the previous day, their mother brought them to church!), I walked outside of the crowded church building. I was looking for the two boys. I didn't get to say a final goodbye. I didn't spot them, but found another friend instead and was busy talking with him through a translator when I spotted Fernando out of the corner of my eye, running toward me. He came up and threw his arms around my knees and embraced me. "Adios, Jon-a-tin. Adios." Not quite ready to say goodbye to this little guy yet, I asked the translator to convey a few thoughts to him for me. He eventually left with his mom, but not too soon thereafter, he came running back again, "Un mas photo!" He wanted one more picture with me. I slung him up so that our heads were at the same level and we took our last photo together. I made my way inside to find the group and there came Fernando and Eddie again! But this was the grand finale. We took our last pictures and said our last "adios."
I learned a lot from Fernando that week. How to love. How to serve. How to listen. How to be patient. How to be a friend. How to be a child before our mighty King.
Thanks, Fernando. I miss you, buddy. Hopefully, I'll see you next year!