While in Puerto Rico with the Abante International team, I seek to calendar specific events where the team can volunteer their time and serve others. Many of those events are faith-based, working with churches or religious organizations. However, I also like to include some non-faith organizations, because I feel strongly about our team understanding that although, we are not of this world, we are indeed in this world, and it is our God-given mandate to take good care of his creation.
I feel proud of the work all of our colleagues have done, not only this year, but also in previous years. Each team has planted good seeds, some of which have already given great results, and others we continue to hope and believe for a future harvest. The teams have also engaged the island’s culture, while learning to live with each other in community, which is not an easy thing to do, we all know this to be true.
The picture to the left is from last year’s team, and even though I dislike frogs, I see the look of satisfaction from my colleague Kristen, after Colin and her caught a big toad. I know neither of them likes frogs, but it didn’t matter. We were there to do a job, and we did it to the best of our ability, and you know what? We ended up loving this volunteer event a whole lot more than we thought we would.
The “Catching Frogs” night was one of those events we participated in last year, collaborating with the Puerto Rican Conservation team from Para La Naturaleza, a local organization that emphasizes in eco systems, and preservation, among other things. The idea was to catch big toads that were introduced to the island, but now have overpopulated, because these frogs are now eating the small Sapo Concho (a native of the island), which is now in the endangered list.
I love to see our young people learning to love God, but also to love each other, and to take care of his creation. The challenge I see sometimes in many who focus just in religion, is that they isolate themselves from those who do not believe as they do, causing them to become somewhat judgmental, and sadly, even un-loving. There is so much we can learn from each other…Understanding and love goes beyond tolerance. I don’t just tolerate the cultures I am working with around the world, I am learning to know who they are through their food, climate, costumes, beliefs, language, and style of life, among other things. It is not impossible to love people. It is not impossible to love and care for God’s creation, whether we are dealing with humans, animals, or plants, etc.
Bottom line is, serving others is biblical; it is humane, and make no mistake, it is sacred! If I truly love God, I will protect his creation because He made all this for my delight. I will serve, plant, grow, clean up, preserve and do it all to the best of my abilities because it all gives back a beautiful return. Finally, because it means something significantly personal to me, I will serve others regardless of their titles, gender, color, or religious affiliations, because as I serve, I learn to love, and as I love, I get to understand God’s purpose for my life a little more.