BY PASTOR KAYLYN LANIER
Have you noticed how much we can discover by simply looking into someone’s eyes? What do they silently whisper? Does joy dance there? Or do they guard scars? Every face tells a story, and it’s in the eyes.
I recently traveled with a ministry team to Guatemala. I have been blessed to travel throughout Latin America since I was nine years old. I have engaged cultures incomparably different from mine. I’ve witnessed tremendous need. Each experience has stretched me further beyond my circumference of comfort. But this fresh experience created a new space of “completely unfamiliar” in my soul.
We walked cobblestone paths into remote Mayan villages. These indigenous people live invisible to the outside world. Most of them had never left that mountain. Multiple generations inhabit tiny spaces together. They gaze into the distance toward regions inhabited by those sharing more similarities than differences. Yet, they will likely never step beyond their familiar trek.
Each morning our teams stepped into these forgotten places to offer lasting hope. We installed filters that remove deadly parasites from their drinking water. (Water-borne infections are the leading cause of death in that region.) We also installed vented stoves to replace open fires for cooking and heating inside their tiny hut-like homes. (Lung diseases caused by smoke inhalation are the second leading cause of death.)
As we assembled filters and stoves, we built something even more beautiful . . . relationships. We prayed with each one who allowed us the privilege. We left exhilaratedto watch God heal bodies before our very eyes. Truly, we witnessed miracles on that mountain!
We spent our afternoons ministering to boatloads of beautiful children. Our team held some preconceived ideas of what fun with these young ones would look like. Kids know how to laugh and play, right? Not these children.
Many of these young ones had been working in the fields all day instead of attending school. Some didn’t know their age. They likely didn’t know their birthdays either. Small boys carried machetes for their laboring. Young girls lugged siblings around their bodies in multicolored slings. Children bore the burden of caring for children. Their faces carried sweat from their striving. Their eyes carried fatigue from their living.
It was as if these little ones didn’t know how to be children. They struggled to smile. They stared intently at the fun activities, longing to participate but feeling the heaviness of parental responsibility.
Eventually, we convinced the boys to lay aside the machetes. We persuaded the girls to give us their siblings while they played. For brief moments, we watched God kindle fresh hope into their weighty souls. These exhausted little ones became children for a day. They ran. They played. They laughed and felt the delight of pure love that makes room to breathe again.
The day we left this mountainous village for the last time, our team couldn’t hold back the tears. We had looked deeply into the eyes of a people hidden from current culture. We read in those eyes an ancient mystery desperately longing to be known. Because we allowed their lives to mark ours, we see differently. Looking into their eyes changed our eyes, too.
Friend, you may never travel to a remote village in another nation. But each of us carries the same longing to be known. You and I encounter people every day who are desperate to know that someone sees them…that He sees them! Let this become your prayer as it has become mine: “Lord, let me slow down enough to be present right where I am and look into a person’s eyes. I want to know them, and I desperately want them to know You!”