“I was in trouble. I couldn’t speak Spanish”


Borrowing a concept from the new Pixar Studios movie, “Inside Out”, I have a “core memory” of helpfulness in my mind. It comes from a time
when I was about 24 years old. I was living in one of suburbs, near Chicago and I felt prompted of the Lord to go to an orphanage in Mexico by myself. This was the first time I had ever gone that far from home by myself. I was nervous, excited, fearful, and expectant, all at once.

At first, I flew in to San Diego and stayed with some family members of someone I knew at my church. They then drove me to the border and dropped me off there.

When I got through the front door, I’ll never forget looking around and being in awe and shock. Within minutes I realized that I had just entered a new world. I looked around at all the signs and screens around me and it was all in Spanish, (duh, I was in Mexico, right!). But, I couldn’t speak Spanish!

I consider myself fairly intelligent, confident, and resourceful, yet at the time, feelings of helpless came flooding over my mind. Initially, my helplessness led me to paralysis. I was in trouble and had no clue what I had gotten myself into. Now, I was really scared.. I probably stood in one spot looking at the signage for a good solid 1-2 minutes, just frozen.

But, slowly the Lord was able to “talk me down” from the heights of my despair. My trip was initiated by a willingness to take a step of faith and trust Him for doing something big. Well, I was in the midst of it now and not knowing what to do. Prompted again by His Spirit, I responded
to my fears with little movements of action, one step and decision at a time.

So, after taking a deep breath, I looked for someone who looked like they were a person of authority and soon found one. I showed him a piece of
paper with the instructions written on them for getting me to the orphanage. He read them and pointed me to an exit where once I went through the doors, I would see a set of buses. I was to look for the one with a #10 on it (I’m pretty sure it was #10).

Cautiously, I followed his instructions, walked through the terminal, went through the exit, and there found a set of buses. I found one that had the #10 displayed on it and then, even more slowly, entered the bus, showing the driver my instructions.

I remember another person noticing the nervous American that I was, and coming along side me and giving me, in their broken English, further instructions on when I was to get off the bus to get to my destination.

Looking back at that “core memory”, my mind races through the helpless feelings I had. I can remember so vividly my lack of confidence. And also, I remember the kindness of a few different people who helped give me directions in a time I needed help. I appreciated so much their compassion.

For readers of this blog, you will know that I am trying to memorize chapters 4-10 in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. It has been an amazing experience. Spending as much time as I have in it has, at times, been like trying to drink from a fire hose. The depth of wisdom in this section of the Bible is so vast.

Anyway, in one verse I’ve been meditating on, it says this about God, “…and (He) loves the foreigner residing among you giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt (Deut. 10:18b-19- NASB).

I love that! I think it jumped out to me because of the memory I just shared with you. It makes me think about the Golden Rule, you know, “treat people the same way, you would want them to treat you”.

God is saying to the Israelites, (my paraphrase)—“remember when you were in the land of Egypt, you were foreigners, you know what it felt like to be among a people that were different than you. They didn’t treat you well. I want you to do things differently. I want you to be known as a nice people, a compassionate people, a holy people. If there are foreigners living with you, treat them as people, (not as animals), and treat them with respect.”

As America becomes more and more a “global melting pot” of different ethic groups and cultures, let me encourage you to be sensitive to opportunities where you can come along side someone out of compassion and offer a helping hand. Maybe you could help someone of a different ethnic group by teaching an ESL (English as a second language class). Maybe you could work in a Care Center in your community that helps offer people needed products at very reasonable prices. Maybe you can just stop to help someone who seems “lost” (like I was). Respect “foreigners” as people and realize that all of us, at times, just need someone to give us a helping hand. As we do so, we represent well the heart of our Compassionate and Loving God.

Another practical take away that I get from this topic of treating others well is in regards to being a mentor. I’m reminded about a few golf books I’ve read.

In these golf books it mentioned a fairly common practice on the tour where some veteran golf player will embrace a rookie on the golf circuit and take them under their wing. They show them the ropes. They tell them the expectations that are on them now golf pros: what to do, and what not to do.

That thought really challenged me. Have I taken the time to help new people at my work know about the realities of their new job. I’m talking about not from an official HR perspective, but real world stuff. How to deal with the pressures of the job? What to do when things get tough?

Do I have that same mentality with teenagers and friends (and family) that are in their early 20’s? Do I express a compassion and empathy towards them to say, “I know what it was like to be your age and have all these thoughts going on in my head. Well, because I’ve been in your shoes, and I know what it feels like to feel a little overwhelmed, let me mention to you a few things you might want to consider.” How helpful would that be to that new person?

What about in your church? Every church is different. Their facilities are different. Their cultures are different. Their programs are different. Again, when we walk into new places like this, we can have an overwhelming feeling of being lost. We don’t know what to do and where to go. That is why churches that are managed well, get it. They know the unpleasant feelings a visitor has coming to a new church and they look for every
practical way they can to make their visit with them an enjoyable one. They have a smiling person in the parking lot directing them on where they should park (or for smaller churches, they have signage that gives the visitor these directions). They have a greeter at the door, or just inside the building welcoming them and giving them directions on where they should go, how the church is laid out, times of classes and services they should be aware of. In other words,v visitors are made to feel welcome.

Look around you. My guess is that there is someone fairly new around you right now: at your work, or in your family, at your church, in your neighborhood that you can come along side. Someone that you can relate with and have a “been there, done that” kind of mentoring experience with.

Friend, you can have a huge impact on someone’s life when you notice their need for some friendly guidance and friendship. Really, most times, it takes just a bit of effort and time.

Take a chance and be a blessing to someone today!


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