One of the best teaching moments for me while I was in Nicaragua happened on New Year’s Eve. As everyone gathered together to prepare for an epic celebration, I wandered into the large kitchen and found Elisabeth (the director’s wife at Arms of Love) preparing mountains of papas fritas (french fries). I asked if I could help and soon found myself standing next to two huge pots of bubbling oil, stirring the frying potato strips. We fried potatoes for probably an hour. It was hot, sticky work, and my hair smelled strongly of oil when we were done. But in that common, everyday task of cooking I had one of the most beautiful conversations of the whole trip.
Elisabeth is one of the most beautiful women I have ever met. She carries herself with grace and strength as she guides and loves the children and youth living at Arms of Love. As we stirred the sizzling cauldrons, she told me story after story of the precious lives entrusted to her care. She spoke with deep feeling and immense hope about each of them.
As we ladled the papas fritas out of the oil, and dusted them in salt, several of the older kids stopped by the kitchen to ask Elisabeth’s advice. “Tia (Aunt),” they would ask, “should I wear the striped shirt or the solid blue one? The black shoes or the flowered ones?” Though she was clearly right in the middle of preparing a feast of epic proportions (see the photo at the bottom to find out how many people were at the party!), I never once saw her show an ounce of irritation or frustration. Instead, she would stop each time and turn to give each person her full attention. With tenderness and joy she answered each of their questions, receiving in return smiles of complete love and appreciation.
My heart was touched deeply. Though we share the same name, I have so much to learn from this wise, gracious, and gentle Elisabeth. She showed me where to seek the pulse of God, even in clothing questions that come right in the middle of preparing dinner. What a blessing it was to learn from her!
Here is the New Year’s Eve crowd we celebrated with! (Photo Credit: Casey Batezel)