In Mazatlán, Mexico, where I live, weeds are a powerful force. After the rainy season ends, plants survive on almost no water for six to eight months. Heartier plants dig deep into the soil with powerful, long roots. I decided to tackle some of the weeds in front of the church building where I work. The particular plant I fought had a dozen long tentacles reaching a few feet across the path. Each tentacle carried hundreds of tiny barbed seeds which lodged into flesh and clothing whenever they could. The seeds left behind painful welts when I pulled them out of my skin.
I put on leather gloves and began again. I wonder if this plant mutated into steel. It wouldn’t give an inch. I set my feet against a wall and pulled myself off the ground, but the plant held. I tried counting. “One, two, Yank! One, two, Yank!”
Aching from the strain, I found a dull machete and tried unsuccessfully to hack through the thick stem. I must have looked ridiculous out there in the sun, an obvious machete novice. “Let me help you,” a voice called. I turned to see a middle-aged man lounging on a bicycle in the shade. He had more holes in his mouth than he had teeth. His fingers were gnarled and appeared to be missing some pieces. His tattoos looked like he’d inked them on himself with the wrong hand.
“That’s okay.” I told him. I don’t mind help, but I expected him to ask me for money.
“At least let me show you how.” I acquiesced and released my tool into his gnarled fingers. In all of about two minutes he chopped through the hardened stem and the next six feet of brush to finish the edge of the walkway where I’d been working.
He didn’t ask me for money as he returned the machete. “I did my good deed for the day,” he told me with a gummy grin. I laughed and thanked him. “Really,” he said as if I’d disagreed. “I believe the Bible. I do good.”
With that he rode away.
I wish that I could have had a longer conversation with him. Why do you feel the need to explain to me that you do good things? What dark secrets are you carrying that you want to atone for? Do you know how much Jesus loves you now, as you are? I pray that God blesses this kind stranger and draws him close.
Ellen In Her Own Words: My husband Kyle grew up planning to be a doctor. He met Jesus late in high school. Our first year in college, we went to a church planting conference. He very clearly heard the Holy Spirit tell him that he would be a church planter in Latin America. He argued for a while, and eventually gave in. In the 12 years that have followed, he hasn't looked back. When we told me his new plan, I was thrilled. I never saw myself as a doctor's wife. We got married, finished out degrees, and spent 9 months in training at our local church. In the summer of 2007, we loaded up my grandpa's pickup and moved to Mazatlan, Mexico.
Seven years later, we have three small children and a bustling church in the middle of a low-income neighborhood. We consistently meet women who think they need to be perfect before they can connect with God. Poverty puts people in difficult situations, and many have made choices they aren't proud of as a result. Our church motto is "Imperfect people full of Jesus' love." Over and over again we find ourselves explaining God's wonderful, amazing grace. My favorite part of ministry is watching people hear from the Holy Spirit.
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