I cried with my host mom a few nights ago.
Let me backtrack a bit.
It’s common for Peruvian families to live together, even in their old age. My host parents, Mamá Carmen and Papá Roger, live in the apartment building above the restaurant Carmen owns.
Their son, Roger, and his family live in the apartment above us, and their daughter, Ruby, and her family live in the apartment beneath us.
Ruby has two sons: Albert, 15, and Josue, 13. Both are super sweet boys who spend a lot of time with Sophia and I in the evenings. They try to speak to us in English and help us practice our Spanish.
The entire family eats together on Sundays, which makes for a crowded but exciting dinner table. I’ve been in Perú for more than a week, yet I haven’t met Albert and Josue’s dad.
Last night at dinner, Mamá Carmen started talking to me about her nietos, her grandchildren.
“They’re such sweet boys, and so intelligent,” she said. “If only they would stop playing so many video games and stop watching the television.”
I agreed, but assuaged her concerns. Sure, Albert wants to go to medical school and Josue wants to go to law school, but they’re sweet boys and they’re smart. They’ll figure it out soon enough, that they have to work hard to succeed in their desired career paths.
Then she started telling me about their dad, and how he left when Ruby was pregnant with Josue and Albert was only 1. She told me about how he left to be with another woman, and how he doesn’t help them financially, and how the entire family has to work hard and pitch in to help raise the boys.
She started crying—for her nietos, for her daughter, for her family.
I hugged her, and I told her she’s una abuela tan fantistica, a fantastic grandmother. I told her how sweet her boys are, and how they’ve been nothing but nice to me since I arrived in their home.
“Gracias a Dios por eso,” I told her. “Thanks be to God for that.”
And the tears started falling harder.
It’s so easy for us to get caught up in our American bubble, to think familial issues only happen in the States. It’s easy for us to think the only problems people in countries like Perú face are financial or medical.
In that moment, talking to Mamá Carmen, I realized that the human experience doesn’t necessitate a specific nationality, or class, or culture, or language. Sadness and heartbreak are cross-cultural.
And fortunately, we serve a God who is cross-cultural.
Though these ideas may seem obvious to some, experiencing it made them even more palpable.
On Sunday night, I went to church with a few of my friends and experienced one of the most memorable spiritual moments of my life.
The band was in the front, on stage, singing worship music in Spanish. There were dancers, leading choreographed dances in front of the stage, and people had their hands raised, praising God.
I sang along, orienting myself to a different type of worship than I’m used to when a song started playing that I know quite well: “How Great is our God.”
Cuan Grande es Dios
Cuan Grande es Dios
Y todos lo verán
Cuan Grande es Dios
Great is a word we use every day, but rarely do we take the time to consider its meaning. The definition for great is “of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average.”
While singing along in Spanish, I realized how truly great our God is.
I’ve spent at least half of my life learning Spanish. It’s taken me a week to get used to Peruvian culture, and I’m still not quite acclimated. I hope to learn more languages in my life, but I know that would require hours of practice every day for years at a time.
But God already speaks every language. God was acclimated to every culture before it even existed.
He breaks down language barriers. He is a God of all cultures. He reaches nations in all parts of the world.
La tristez, sadness, loss, is experienced everywhere. But so is God.
Despite the tears Mamá Carmen shed, she thanked God that her nietos are sane, and sweet, and smart. They may not have a worldly father who is present, but they have a Heavenly Father who is always with them.
I’m reminded of this every morning when I see the boys reading the Bible with Papá Roger. The whole in their hearts left by the father that ran out before either of them were toddlers is filled by the greatness of our God.
He is greater than loss. He is greater than sadness. He is greater than heartbreak.
How great is our God? Greater than we can possibly comprehend.