As we boarded our seven-hour flight from Dallas to Lima, Peru, we shuffled down the airplane’s long aisle with our backpacks on and our hearts eager to finally make it to Peru after so much time of preparation. All four of us had seats in areas away from each other, so I waited in my window seat and prayed for the person who would be sitting next to me.
All day my mind was wandering to memories of my year in Mexico and the amazing people I came to know and love while living there. I was definitely excited to move to Peru and begin mission there, but I still had my beloved Mexico in the foreground of my mind. The faces and names of those I love so much ran through my mind as I sat in my seat looking out the window at the men putting all of our luggage under the airplane. I was filled with thanksgiving for such a wonderful year full of so many blessings, but I also missed my friends (really family) still living in Mexico. I began to pray for the Mexican people and for more detachment, but I also wondered at my year ahead.
A friend of mine recently shared in a talk that he wasn’t sure how, after loving so many people so deeply, he could have enough room in his heart to love the many new people who were entering into his life. He spoke about how God stretches our hearts to make room for more love. My prayer began to echo his. I knew clearly that the Mexican people have such a tremendously gigantic place in my heart and always will. I also knew the Peruvian people would soon become beloved to me and those I aim to love and serve with all of my heart. My question for God was: “Lord, how can I serve the people of Peru with all of my heart if Mexico has such a huge part of it?” I knew the Lord would provide, but I still wondered and waited for His word.
I thought for a little bit I might have a row all to myself, but after a while a very beautiful and very short older woman came and sat next to me. We said hello and then I asked her what her name was. She said, “No English,” so I began to speak to her in Spanish. She was very excited that I spoke Spanish and began to tell me about herself. Her name was hard for me to understand but was something close to Jimena. She lives in a very small town outside of Lima but she had been visiting her daughter and grandchildren who live in Dallas. We got to know each other a little bit and we spoke about her work and family and about my life as a missionary.
After a little while we both slept. She must have slept less than I did, since every time the flight attendants brought us food, she would wake me up and make me eat. I was exhausted and was okay with passing on the meals, but she kept whispering loudly to me, “Eat! Eat!” She would then smile at me with the biggest smile I have seen when I took a bite of my food. Then she would pat my head, nod and smile at me until I finished all of my food.
In between sleeping and reading, she put some earbuds in and began to watch the in-flight entertainment. The new Ellen Degeneres game show came on, and she couldn’t help herself from laughing out loud every time someone fell down or ran into something. She loved the show so much that she would tap me on the shoulder every time something funny happened and tell me about it with tears in her eyes from laughing so much.
Toward the end of the flight, I helped her fill out her customs form since she had trouble reading and understanding what she needed to write. We had a lot of fun on the flight and became instant friends. She was extremely adorable and filled to the brim with joy!
We began our descent into Lima, and when the clouds finally cleared, we could see the ocean and the beautiful mountains. As we looked out the window, Jimena’s eyes filled with wonder and she leaned over to me and said with a gentle and warm smile, “The sea! Welcome to your new home.” We shared a smile and in that moment I realized I was already filled with love for Jimena and the country of Peru. My heart welled up with love. I wasn’t sure why I was feeling this so intensely and randomly on an airplane, but I knew the feeling was love. This woman was the first Peruvian I have loved, and this moment was the first moment I felt at home in Peru, my new home.
Looking out the airplane window at the beautiful scenery of Peru, I realized that God had answered my prayer. Although I thought it would be somehow hard to find room in my heart to fall in love with the Peruvian people as I had fallen in love with the Mexican people, I had already fallen in love with one Peruvian and the whole country before the plane even landed. I had a lot more love left to give than I thought I did. And there is still plenty more!
God is always making room in our hearts for more love. When we empty our hearts of all things that are not of God, we have more room for Him who is love. When we fall in love with God, He calls us to become more like Him and to love like He does. He who loves every individual with an infinite and overflowing love wants us to imitate Him and love others as He loves us. He wants us to first fall in love with Him and then obtain from Him more and more love to pour out on those around us. He calls us to love others, and to love them deeply.
After arriving in Peru not even a week ago, three different people from our town have told me they love me after only having met me for a couple of minutes. Both of these moments were a reminder of how easy it is to look at someone and say, “I love you. I am here for you. You matter to me.” Needless to say, I already love living in Peru. I hope to continue to pour out all my love on the Peruvian people during the rest of my time here in response to their immediate love for me!
Our hearts are bigger than we think they are, and they are always stretching to be more filled with love from our Loving Father. Who do you need to love more today?
Jesus, thank you for my new home in the jungle. Thank you for the love you offer us every day. Thank you for those you call us to love. Continue to empty us of ourselves and stretch our hearts so we can love those around us and to try to love them as deeply as you love us.