Tuesday, December 28, 2010


As I said before, the main reason I went to Guatemala was to continue my search for the answers to the questions "What is a missional community and how do you create one?" I had heard quite a bit about the work that Jorge and Annie were doing in Guatemala City and that it took place in the context of authentic missional community and I wanted to see it for myself.

So, what is a missional community? On the simplest level, we start with a group of people who are deeply committed to each other, to God, and to the world. Then we see that group of people learn to share life together (no lone ranger Christians, after all) and learn to reach purposefully into God's world to bring the light of God into dark places. All those biblical ideals like unity and sacrificial giving and unconditional love and so on are given a place to come to life.

It's easier to look at the world and say what missional community is not. It's harder to find places where it is actually lived out and describe what it is. That's what I wanted to do in Guatemala. I'll write more later this week about the story of Ciudad de Refugio and Jorge and Annie Cerritos.

On the most fundamental level, missional community--and in fact, satisfying life itself--seems to be about hospitality. I don't mean Southern Living, Martha Stewart hospitality, although there's nothing wrong with that if you can pull it off. I can't.

Hospitality is the act of welcoming, the lifestyle of creating space, the commitment to draw others in rather than shut them out. At it's core, missional living is no more complicated than this. Here are some stories of hospitality:

This is Won, aka Juan, who has come all the way from the Pacific Northwest to love Guatemalan children. He lives in the large house next to the Cerritos' home and cares for the children who live there and who pass through. While we were visiting, a mother abandoned her four children at the church. It was this young American man who stopped everything he was doing to care for those frightened children until things could be resolved.

This woman lives across from the church and is likely in her eighties. She took in four abandoned children and is raising them in the loving community of Ciudad del Refguio. She feeds and clothes them on her limited resources and loves them well. The children are bright and talented and go to school. More about them later. Without the love of this woman, though, they would live on the streets like so many children do.

Part of what hospitality means in the Cerritos household is the constant making of meals, cleaning up after meals, planning for meals, shopping for meals, and thankfully, eating meals! There are about 15 people who eat at the Cerritos table regularly (three meals a day, 7 days a week) as well as visitors like us and others who show up from time to time. As you can imagine, the work is constant and unromantic and hard. Abuelita (Grandmother) on the left and Sandra are making pupusas here on a griddle on a portable propane stove.

This is Norma, with one of the many children she loves and cares for on her shoulders. Norma is the oldest daughter of Jorge and Annie, educated in the United States and now sharing a room with Abuelita in her parents' home. She works all day in a children's home in another part of the city and then returns home to take her part in the ministry of Ciudad del Refugio.
While we were there, Norma ran a large VBS at the church, cared for the children who were always at the center of life at the Cerritos' home, translated for us, encouraged her parents and still went to work every day. One of our team told me about a conversation she had with Norma in which she asked Norma, "Don't you ever get tired of not having your own space? Don't you get tired of not having your own time, time for yourself?" Norma responded with genuine confusion: "Who owns time? Who owns space? I don't own time. I don't own space. Time and space belong to God." I don't believe that this conversation was just a breakdown in translation. I believe that Norma understands on a level I never will what it means to live a life of hospitality. Her relaxed openness to whatever life brings, her posture of welcoming and accepting is what hospitality is all about. I become more and more convinced that hospitality is what the gospel is all about.

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