It started with the vegetables.
I was taken to the market a week before with the others to help shop for dinner; to know who our regular vendors are and to learn how to get there. On the way there, they tried teaching me how to barter. I nodded my head as if I understood but remained overwhelmed by how entirely different this new world was from my own. The market in Antigua is a spider web of sorts—filled with twisting hallways and hanging meats and the heavy smoke of fresh tortillas.
On that February day in the market, I stood behind a few teammates as they made their way through and tried to remember how we got to there. But everywhere I turned were more baskets of food, more bouquets of flowers, more and more and more of the same kinds of things. I took quick mental notes—the colors of the walls (blue), vendors nearby (party decorations, exotic flowers, iced fish), the width of the hallways (increasingly more narrow).
My teammates introduced us to one another as they pulled out the shopping list. The vendor smiled as she shook my hand and told me her name. To her left was her husband. She wore colorful clothes with intricate Mayan patterns and a brightness that rested lightly on her face.
The girls began to list their order—cucumbers, carrots, red peppers, spinach, and cilantro—and the man helpfully began to arrange all the food. The woman kindly approached me.
You’re new? she asked. When did you arrive? Are you enjoying Antigua?
I smiled meekly as I introduced myself in a trembling Spanish that hesitantly crept off my tongue. She nodded and smiled, coaxing the words out. To the left, the girls debated about how much to multiply tonight’s dinner recipe. The woman asked me what we do in Antigua, why we live here.
“We’re evangelical missionaries,” I said timidly. Such words felt strange coming out of my mouth. But she smiled. “¿De veras?” she exclaimed. “¡Qué alegre!” She caught a tomato from falling off a crate as she told me that she is a believer, too.
I am certain my face lit up. “Really?” She nodded and before I could say another word, out spilled the story of her faith. I wondered at the thought of it: two women from different ends of a hemisphere meeting one another and constructing quiet ebenezers in the middle of the afternoon in a concrete building on market day. Building memorials of his faithfulness. Breathing memoirs of his love.
And so our very first conversation, wedged in between broccoli and eggplants, was about the unlikely miracles that have collided with her life—the fingerprints of the Father finding her again and again and again, the continual faithfulness of his promises quite literally through generations.
When we parted ways, all our bags of food in tow, I barely had words. And every time since then for the last 4 months, when there has been time and we’ve had the chance to talk, I am humbled and amazed and stunned and blessed. I came here because of the Father’s invitation, and all I have wanted is to show other people the depth of his love. And initially I wondered how I might even begin to teach anyone about the Father’s heart, but the truth is that all this time right here in the middle of the market, in the hallways, in the streets… wherever we are when we are together, she teaches me instead.
I am left speechless by the intricate beauty of such a well-worn faith. And I am reminded that every last piece of this greater story, of this whole life, is the Lord’s. He is the one bringing hearts back to himself. There’s nothing for any of us to conjure up.
All he is asking of me and you and any of us, really, is one thing: to come along with him on the journey ahead.