I believe in love that transcends my church, my border and my understanding.
Growing up and living most of my young adult life in southern U.S., I was always taught about Christ’s love. But it wasn’t until I left the Bible Belt that I saw love that made me see it in another light and believe in it.
Last year I moved back to Valparaiso, Chile after a friend I made the previous year studying abroad invited me to live with he and his family.
Being in a poorer, developing country, my new home appeared a dim and depressing place at first glance. A deteriorating tin roof on the outside. A dilapidated wooden floor on the inside. Mismatched floor coverings that litter the floor. It’s impossible not to notice the green and gray water stains trimming the contours of the walls and the peeling wallpaper.
But it’s not until closer inspection of the family that I began to learn of warmth, purity of a love I did not understand before.
The mother of the house makes sure I am more than comfortable and always fed. The daughters are constantly wearing smiles despite their living conditions. We rarely see the father who spends most of his time working in order to provide for his family.
My friend allows me to share his tiny room with him and even empties out enough of his drawers so I can fit all my cherished American stuff. They don’t even seem to notice that six people share one tiny bathroom.
Despite the conditions they live in, the family gladly invited me to live with them. Without success, I nearly begged to pay for rent or at least part of the bills that I’m sure they are fighting to pay off each month. The best I can do is go grocery shopping with the mother and fight to swipe my credit card at the checkout lane before she slaps down Pesos.
When I start to think that I could surely bankrupt the family by living here, I discover something astonishing. Each weekend the family goes to a dilapidated children’s hospital to bring home and care for and love on Maria, a cute two-year-old plagued by a severe mental handicap.
The family in a poor developing country, who seems to barley be able to afford their own livelihood go out of their way to support and love another. I don’t believe this family would ever be called religious in the United States. They don’t even attend church on Sunday or pray before dinner.
Yet, in this poor, Chilean family taught me a love that that I didn’t see where I grew up. Or chose not to see. I believe this family is following Christ without calling themselves Christian. Giving so much of what they have to love others–even a well-off American like me. I now believe in this love.