I still remember where she was standing and how she liked her coffee, her name was Leila.
Our team, along with another organization, had just started visiting the red light district and zones. We would bring coffee to hangout with people living and working in the streets of the capital city.
Over the weeks and months of visiting Leila, we settled into a rhythm of sorts in our conversation topics. Our team van would pull up, she would recognize it and walk over with her coffee order ready. I would climb out and we would chat about the weather, music, Costa Rican food, etc.
One December night I found myself alone in our ministry drop in center. I was homesick, exhausted, and wondering if the decision to live and work in Costa Rica was the right decision. It had been a rough year. The combination of challenges in ministry, living far from home, and missing familiarity were taking a toll on my heart. I figured throwing myself into decorating the Christmas tree would help because I LOVE Christmas!
I had just started decorating when I heard a light knock on the outside gate of the center. To my surprise, Leila stood there with a shy smile as I opened the door. She had never visited before. As soon as she entered, she grabbed me in the biggest hug. It was as if her pain and loneliness was reaching out to mine in comfort. We stood there in a fierce embrace, no words, no explanation needed. Somehow that hug transcended both language and culture.
Leila changed my whole world that night as she shared with me. Leila gave me a picture of a world I didn’t know or fully understand. Her story is not mine to share but what I can tell you is that her life was beautifully hard.
Weeks turned into months and months turned into years of our tradition of the van pulling up, me climbing out, and Leila running to hug me. We taught each other worship songs, prayed, and sometimes just sat quietly sipping our coffee together.
Several years ago, Leila passed away. Though she is no longer on this earth, the lessons she taught me will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Leia was my greatest challenge and my greatest teacher. Her situation was beyond hard and dangerous- there wasn’t much I could do to help her at the time. But Jesus continually moved so powerfully on my heart to keep showing up with coffee. And year after year I went to her corner.
The love we had for Leila was evident to her whole family at the funeral and it spilled out to them. God’s love is like that, it has the ability to be a set of dominoes impacting person, after person, after person. Coffee with one person, gave the opportunity to love a whole family and point to Jesus.
Love, the greatest of all virtues and the reason Jesus came to earth.
This Advent, who has Jesus placed in your path to love? Loving people is a great expression of our love for Jesus.
“Truly He taught us to love one another. His law is love and His gospel is peace.” O Holy Night
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Cor 13:13
Jesus thank you for the love you give without hesitation and thank you for all of the ways you sing over us. Help us to love better, to love well.