It was my fourth day in Puebla, Mexico, and the bus I was on shook with the impact of the pot-hole ridden ground so violently I was convinced we would never make it back to our missions center without popping a few tires along the way. The dust that had collected on the street swirled up and into the aisles, settling on the unusually quiet group of teenagers surrounding me. Without even looking, I knew our faces told the story of our day with clarity; tired eyes, muddy faces and a distinct smell that can only come from hours of intense labor.
I felt my friend’s shoulder bump up against mine, and when I turned my face away from the window to meet hers, I saw a light in her eyes and the beginning of a sentence on her chapped lips.
“Jesus kills, doesn’t he?”
Before I could respond with anything more than a short, nervous chuckle, she had turned away from me and continued to brace herself against the seat in front of her. Utterly perplexed, I turned to the window to contemplate her words. “Jesus kills.” My whole life, I had heard just the opposite, “Jesus saves.” My eyes traveled along the horizon, and I was taken off guard yet again when instead of turning right down the road that led to our “home” for the week, we turned left onto another path.
Shortly after, the bus took another turn and pulled into an overgrown parking area. I could see the hints of a playground, and a collection of eclectic buildings that created a small compound of misfit, colorful houses. With questions bubbling up in my mind, I turned to my friend as our leader’s voice echoed from the first row of seats.
“Alright guys,” he started. “Kyle and I decided to surprise you all with a trip to an orphanage we’ve served at in the past. Make sure to branch out a little and meet some new faces.”
I didn’t hear much of anything else, my attention fixed on the rusted remains of the empty playground. We shuffled off the bus, and almost immediately after crossing the building’s threshold I felt a hand sneak into mine, and was met with the largest, most lopsided grin I had ever seen.
The beautiful little boy tugged me away from the group and led me down a dimly lit hallway into what looked like a closet. I was met with three more sets of pure eyes and genuine smiles. We sat down, and they immediately continued to work on their previous project: hammering nails into a splintered piece of wood.
After a few minutes, a little girl with messy pig-tails came and sat in my lap, dragging along a tattered blanket. She latched onto my waist, and I couldn’t help but envelop her even tighter. She hugged me with an urgency that made me reconsider the true meaning of contentedness, and by the time I looked back up to the group of boys still bent over their piece of wood, I noticed a lack of hammering and an increase in concentration. I slid across the floor and peered over their heads; while one boy held the piece of wood, another was wrapping twine around the nails, and after a few moments, a word emerged from the nails: familia — “Family.”
My eyes traveled around the semicircle of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the first time, God showed me the true understanding of his call to love one another like the Father loves us.
As Christians, we’re numb to the cross. We’re numb to his perfect sacrifice. We’re numb to the thought of someone dying for our sins, because we’re too scared of admitting we have our own cross to bear. We’re too busy running away from hell, instead of running into our Father’s open arms.
Jesus kills. He takes our heart of stone and turns it into a heart of flesh, used for a plan greater than anything we could ever comprehend. In him, we die to our desires and lusts, and awake again to a call to love one another like family, and to an outstretched hand willing to bear our cross every day, no matter the weight or size or content.
Jesus kills. He uses the brokenness of this secular world to break our hearts for what breaks his. He uses our dust to create life; he uses our failures to speak volumes of love that are transcendent throughout generations and languages and barriers of all kind.
Jesus kills, and the fact that a perfect Savior is willing to uphold me, envelop me, push me to love others and carry the weight of my sins every day is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
Peyton Wilson is a junior at Har-Ber High School in Springdale. She attends St. Raphael Church in Springdale.
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