This is a call to incarnational ministry, right? It’s a really high-flown term for the simple question that materializes on the Trek: Could I serve here, or in a community like this one, for my whole life?
In Spanish, the word “convivir” means literally “to live with,” but to me, it always sounds more like two paths overlapping for a time, responsibilities coinciding. Even if one of the responsibilities was cleaning the entire community center after 27 kids left on Friday.
Gabi, her three kids (Nora, Aaron, and Arath) and us put ourselves to cleaning the whole community center. Dusting upstairs and downstairs, sweeping and mopping everywhere, washing windows. The seven of us bustled about, wringing, soaping, and more often than not splashing each other with a laugh and innocent-seeming look.
Typical one: Aaron sprayed me with the hose on my pants; Arath threw a bucket of water at me, adding to the spot.
“Oh no!” I cried, “Now it looks like I went to the bathroom in my pants.” Later, Aaron went up to his mom and tapped her.
“Elizabeth went to the bathroom in her pants,” he said with a suppressed smile.
“I couldn’t wait,” I said, feigning shame. Certainly this is “conviviendo,” sharing laughs. Certainly these moments lie at the heart of incarnational ministry (among other things, of course). It was more than that though. When we had done all of the work, my teammates started playing outside with Aaron, Nora, Arath, while I ducked into the kitchen to check on Gabi and the food. Everything smelled wonderful, and we marveled for a little over all the work we had done in a day. The only thing we had left, she said, was mopping, washing the bathroom, and painting it later. After a couple of minutes, she turned to me and said, “Would you clean the bathroom? Better today so we finish everything.”
Irony of ironies, my face lit up. Here at Armonia, Gabi and Socorra have much higher cleanliness standards than we. Similar to the rice, we’ve never been asked to clean an entire room unsupervised. In that moment, Gabi trusted us, even with a bathroom. The request was a sign of trust, and I took it as an honor. Four weeks after working and cleaning, we have finally earned enough trust to care for part of their community center.
It was in that moment that work took on more meaning. In our Bible study at mid-project retreat, we talked about how people have become alienated from work, it no longer brings joy. Here, it did.
On Friday, work built relationships. It morphed into sharing, a celebration of Armonia and the time we’ve spent here together. We have a week left here, showing how fast a month can go. And while I can’t see the future, I’m pretty sure I’ll never be as happy to clean a bathroom again in my life.
Elizabethis an InterVarsity student who went on a Global Trek to Mexico City this summer. Check out more updates from Trek participants here.