The mission trip began but it was not at all what was planned or promised. The heat and humidity of a Costa Rican summer stretched around the small group of Colorado folk, dampening clothes. Their spirits were hardy, but still, the proposed church building was not going according to plan.
The materials were slow in coming. A key worker, distrustful of a group of Christians, sat sullenly in his truck. Schedules were thrown out the window. The group regrouped, digging a large hole that was needed. Others prayed in English for the Costa Ricans who asked for prayer. A faithful band of women from the church prepared meals for the Americans.
It was on the edge of this scene that the American man took a small break from digging, from waiting. He walked down toward the river, scanning the trees for spider monkeys, enamored of the vegetation in this new place. His gaze found the flowing water, holding in its grasp the playing two-year-old Max.
Max was a handful. Energetic, excited, a boy among boys. And there he was, splashing happily on a sandbar in the shallow water near the bank. The American man noticed a pre-teen babysitter watching Max.
The man continued scanning the trees, until moments later, he was once more compelled to look at the river. The girl babysitter had wandered upriver, forgetting her charge as she scanned the water for smaller creatures. The man’s eyes searched again and then he saw Max, who had scooted, then tumbled into the deeper, swift-flowing waters. The little boy’s panicked face was going under. Then surfacing. And then going under again.
The man, whom I love, later tells me his body was in motion, feet and legs and arms moving before he could think. He aims for the bend in the river, for he knows there is a high bank where he decides he will lay his body down and grab the little boy as he floats by under the current. The man tells me that he knew deep down if Max went under again, it would be for the last time.
The man is a runner back in the States. His legs are sure and a gift that will be put to sweeter use than the local 5Ks the man loves to run on Saturdays. He dives for the bank, arms and chest splashing down, captures the wet little boy and drags him free of the river.
The rest of the week, the man and the boy have a special bond. When the group of Americans is ready to leave the heat, the insects and the poverty, they pack their bags. A mother whispers a few things to the man. He gets on an airplane but not before a few tears. And a few thanks.
Never would the man seek attention for what occurred, but I write of it today because I have been thinking: what use are we to God? I know it is in the daily saying “yes” but I don’t always do it. I know it is in the daily surrendering, but I don’t always want to. I know that sometimes, it’s in the going.
I pray: God, use me. Show me the plan you have for me. I am good for it, I promise! May I have heart and hands and when He calls, may I just pick up my feet and go.