By Matt Snyder
This past weekend Kim, Matt, Angie, Gretchen, and myself were blessed with the opportunity to live with the people of Canchamana for a few days. Initially I was rather hesitant and didn’t want to do it because I knew that I would be uncomfortable. We truly had no idea what we were supposed to expect because we had heard a whole slew of things about who these people are. All we knew was that Canchamana was a farming community that didn’t have any real assistance after the earthquake, so when we pulled up on Thursday morning our nonverbal expectations were shattered.
We were overwhelmed with love – a love I’m learning more about.
Prior to the earthquake back in August, the people of Canchamana lived right off the coast of the Pacific ocean – literally. Surrounded by fields and natural springs for their animals, plus an amazing view for the sunset over the ocean – these people had it made. Heck, I would have even enjoyed farming with them. But after the nightmare in August, life hasn’t been the same.
The land they were once on is closed off to them so now they’re living on rented property next to a giant heap of trash. Living so close to this illegal dumping zone causes the 5-6 families in Canchamana to have a lot of health problems. There’s nowhere for their cattle to graze up there, there’s no water for said cattle to drink, and it takes several hours out of the day to take the animals out to graze – time they didn’t need before. Water is few and far between for the people; it comes when it comes. With no transportation, they now sell their milk for half-price. Their only source of income is really no income at all. And no one wants to claim them. Tambo de Mora says that the people of Canchamana are no longer their responsibility and the town of Sunape echoes the same sentiment.
These people have no identity with this world.
And so we walked into this not knowing what we could really do for them. We felt the Lord calling us to merely “be with them. You can’t fix anything for these people, just be with them and show them My love.” But what good would that do? How can we show them who Jesus is for them, how real the Kingdom really is to them if we can’t meet any of their tangible needs? The only thing I could really do was scoff at God.
When I walked into Canchamana, I walked in with my chest puffed out in a lot of ways. I thought that we would be able to play the role of a superhero, coming in and breathing new life into this place, life that resonates with prosperity, that might give these people some hope that they could live a decent life. I had no idea that they already had living down to a better art than I did. And they shoved this living’ in my face in the most unexpected way.
It came through hospitality.
And I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to explain everything because I’m finding myself at a loss for words in what happened this weekend. When we arrived, I think it was safe to say that all of us didn’t think we would be working with a group of believers, for people who were parched for God’s Word. They have had missionaries come in before, but they have never stayed. Typically they’ll drop in for a few hours, hand out some clothes and Bibles, never to be seen again.
Yet we stayed (superheroes: check).
Their welcome was overwhelming. As soon as we began pitching our tents, they started building us a shade shelter.
Then not knowing what all we brought, they started asking us how we were going to eat, something that we decided to trust God on in faith. They made us meals every day, for every meal, and brought them out to us. And the biggest grace was in the fact that they willingly invited us into their lives for three days.
The people of Canchamana were ecstatic that we wanted to stay with them – the first group to do so and because of that, they knew that we really wanted to understand them and their way of life.
And so we had a great three days living with them and learning more about the “Canchamanaians” while building relationships in the evening. It wasn’t until the last night that we shared with them through worship what was on our hearts and especially how they had rocked our lives for those three days. Again, I didn’t think we all fully realized that we were working with a group of believers. One of the ladies had told us prior that she reads her Bible when she takes the cattle out grazing, but she’s not sure how she’s supposed to read it, they’re not sure how they’re really supposed to pray, etc. They questioned us as to why we didn’t worship with them the first night we got there.
Then I questioned our intentions in even coming. What did we expect from ourselves for these people? My thoughts of being that overly zealous superhero for three days were dashed.
I’ve been learning that the Kingdom of God isn’t about something we make of ourselves on the outside. The Kingdom is within our hearts and I’ve come to realize that it’s poured out through displays of love. And maybe when it comes to loving people we’re not even supposed to do anything tangible for them outside of just being’ with them. Obviously God was right: we weren’t going to be a crew to come in and suck these people into our idea of what is real, what living is really like.
Instead they pulled me into the Kingdom.
Love, in a lot of ways, is the greatest expression of the Kingdom here and now’. The people in Canchamana may not have money, may not have land, may not have awesome homes, but they have one of the greatest things in the world: love. And I’m so thankful that they were able to strip me of some of my nonsensical ideas of Kingdom living and place in me this seed of Kingdom love that I didn’t realize I was so hungry to understand.
May the Lord bless these people that know how to live.
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Matt graduated from Friends University in May. (Yes, it’s called Friends University, but they do not have a Central Perk…) He loves Jesus very much and is passionate about the Kingdom he seemed to talk about all the time. He likes cheesecake, chick-flicks, traveling, coffee, music, trying to write music, reading, and the outdoors. He is currently traveling the world for a year on the World Race.