Every time I go on a mission trip, it seems like God gives me a deeper understanding of His awesome character, usually through a unique set of circumstances or relationship. This summer’s mission trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia is no exception as I watched Sammi Jo Sharp pursue a relationship with Julio, an autistic boy at the orphanage. Sammi Jo answered the call from our Spiritual Leader, Caleb White, to pay attention to the people on the fringes, the ones on the outskirts that are mildly interested, but not fully engaged. Julio certainly falls into that category.
For most of the week, Julio circled the work projects and games we played with the other boys, but when we called his name or reached a hand out to him, he typically smiled, clapped his hands together and walked away. About mid-week, when we were playing on the sport court under the lights, Sammi Jo pursued Julio into the darkness of the adjacent field. After what she described as 1,000 pushups and sit ups (Julio’s favorite activities) on a dusty, dirty field, she brought Julio back into the light.
At the Friday night pizza party, we discovered that Julio liked to dance. While most of us ignored Julio’s awkward worm/pushup/sit up dance, Sammi Jo jumped right in there, grabbed his hands and danced with him unashamedly throughout the night. By the end of the week she had won his trust and they walked arm and arm to the park on our final day.
This relationship is a great reminder of how God pursues us. When we flee from God into the darkness, He follows us, gets down in the dirt with us and brings us back into the light. “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm18:28 God is never tired or embarrassed by our awkwardness, but takes our hands, leads us and guides us. “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16 The Lord rescues us and even delights in us. “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17 And God delivers us in our sorrow. “You tuned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” Psalm 30:11-12