Today is International Women’s Day. I’m not going to celebrate it in the “Day Without a Woman” sort of way. Rather, I think I’m going to celebrate by reflecting on the women who have impacted me. Maybe I’ll even share portraits of some of them here in the coming weeks.
In that spirit, meet Amalya. I only spent a week with her but she left a huge imprint on my life. Her example is especially meaningful to me because of some of the things I’m processing in my own life right now about my vision and calling. I think you’ll see why in a moment…
Her sweet mountain home was small by most standards – especially for a family of six. Chickens pecked around her front yard as she washed the morning’s dishes in the tub outside. The hose stretched just far enough to get the job done. She’d already been up for hours. Afterall, someone needed to begin preparations for the day and start the fire that would warm the tub of water for our “showers.” Her shawl stretched around her shoulders, chasing away the morning chill as she moved from task to task, always a contented look on her face. I watched as she smiled and gave a handful of coins to the older neighbor lady on the road who was bringing her more fresh, corn tortillas. There in the early morning light, I watched and the thought occurred to me that Amalya was probably one of the most beautiful souls I had ever met.
She’s also the primary living example who has convinced me that hospitality is not really about stuff. Amalya and Lencho didn’t have tons of stuff. They lived simply, hanging clothes on the line to dry and working their small plot of land to provide for their basic food needs. Running water was sparse. Hot water, non-existent… unless you boiled it on the fire in the small shower shed which was next to the outhouse. I know they had furniture but I don’t really remember it. I do remember sitting around the kitchen table, talking, laughing, and praying with dear friends. I remember standing in her kitchen when she treated us to Horchata de Arroz on our first night there. I even remember eating fresh mango and squeezing lime on everything as I feasted in her kitchen. But I honestly have absolutely no recollection of what the table itself looked like. And, I’m pretty sure that no one dish matched another dish.
You see, Amalya and Lencho knew something that we have forgotten. They kept it simple, making their lives about loving God and seeking to love people the way He does.
I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced hospitality quite like I did that week in the mountains of Mexico. I don’t speak much Spanish and Amalya speaks even less English; but I felt like my heart was knit with hers by the week’s end. Why? Because Amalya opened her life to us – she invited us in. Not just into her home but into her life. And as she did so, she offered us kindness, encouragement, and warmth.
She invited us into her village and let us glimpse her heart – her love for her people, her brokenness over loved ones who keep God at arm’s length, her tenderness toward her family, her passion for translating the Bible into the spoken dialect of the people – many of whom do not know Spanish.
What’s more, her invitation came at a cost. As the week wore on, we discovered all the accommodations she had made to make room for us – like cramming her family of six into two beds in one tiny room (storage area) so that we would have places to sleep. We disrupted her life in every way. And yet, she invited us in.
Amalya’s quiet, faithful example taught me much that week. She taught me about simplicity and having a servant’s heart. She taught me what hospitality is really all about – an invitation. She taught me about creating the time and the space to say “come on in and commune with us. Just as you are. We want you here. Even if it costs me something. Mostly, because you matter to God; but I want you to matter to me, too. Because you have a story and I want you to share it with me. Come on in out of the storm, hang up your travel-worn cloak, and just rest for a sec… while I get you a cup of tea and a cozy blanket.”
As I think about all the women over the years, like Amalya, who have invited me in – to their homes and their lives – I am grateful. I know am richer for their beautiful offerings.