Meme was a woman who lived with Todd and I throughout our years in Mexico. She was like a Mexican grandmother to our children. Born an orphan, and eventually a widow, we first met her while she was a caregiver in a children’s home. When we returned to serve in the home office, she’d spend half the year here with us, and the other half in Mexico. She taught me the best lessons on poverty, service, forgiveness and resilience.
In May 2019, she developed a cough from Valley Fever. In July, she came to the US for treatment, and fought for her life. The week of October 5th, she was hospitalized for the third time, and we acknowledged she was losing the fight. The day she died, when asked, she couldn’t come up with my name or hers. Saddened we were at the end, I curled up on the bottom of her hospital bed, and sang aloud her favorite praise song, “Sumergeme.” When I got to the chorus, she chimed in, and tearfully I looked to Todd,
“Where does worship go inside of you, that when you don’t even know your own name, you don’t forget His?”
This year, at Back2Back, we will study the Hebrew word, Ahavah. It means “to love.” What fascinates me about ahavah, is the root word ahav, which means “to give.” Embedded in this idea of loving, is giving. The way we show our love, is by giving ourselves to the object of our affection.
The Bible is full of examples of this. We see a heavenly Father who loved so much, He gave us His only Son. We hear Paul teaching the early church how to practically show love to each other, and put God on display. We read Old Testament accounts of sacrificial parents and generous leaders. This is clearly a God idea- to love is to give.
He tells us we are to love our family, friends and the foreigner. We are to love the lost, the least of these, our enemies and our neighbors.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.] This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.Matthew 22:37-39
What we have to give, we first get from Him. It might seem like someone has a bigger capacity to give or love, but they’ve simply learned how to tap into the Father’s unlimited supply. If someone listens well, they have been heard by God. If they encourage, or are generous, they received what they needed from Him. What I saw in Meme over the years, came from her connection with the Spirit, who has an unending measure of all we need.
We will explore this year how we can give time, advocacy, forgiveness, grace, encouragement, tangible needs, compassion, empathy, prayer and the list goes on. We have been given a lot and it’s His idea we turn around and love others from our full heart. We’ll discuss in small groups, debriefing circles, and staff meetings when that’s easy and hard, what we have to give, and who we can show love towards.
It’s our prayer the result will be a community that looks more like a kingdom of heaven on earth- that when someone interacts with any of us, they will feel more loved, more seen, more known. We hope to be more mindful of opportunities for sacrifice, and the chance to put action to our feelings. We are praying for a revolution, because loving well creates change- both in the giver and the recipient. I am different because I loved Meme well and she loved me.
I was sharing about ahavah recently in a group setting, and a man offered up he had attended a Jewish wedding that year, and the rabbi taught when you say ahavah, you hold out the last syllable, “ah” for as long as you can. It symbolizes we are to love and give, until we are literally out of breath.
Some of us will be out of breath on a mission trip this year, others will love until out of breath in their own home or community, but wherever we are, may we love, and give- remembering His name (or who He is?), until our very last breath.