Reading a book about love is not the same as falling in love.
Hearing someone talk about bungee jumping is not the same as taking the leap yourself.
Watching a cooking show is not the same as sinking your teeth into something delicious, feeling its texture, savoring its many-layered flavors.
Experience bursts us open at our core and touches us in a way that cognition simply can’t.
The two nameless disciples on the road to Emmaus had heard all the stories about Jesus’ resurrection sightings and explained them all to the incognito Jesus who joined them on the road. Jesus, no doubt chuckling inwardly at the irony, then did a little theological explaining himself. Even the words from the risen One himself did not crack through their dusty awareness. It was not until they invited him in to have dinner and broke bread together that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus.
I had been hearing about the women of Guatemala for nearly a year, had seen pictures and videos, read reports, and even seen the soft smiles gracing the faces of those who recounted their own experiences. But being there, smelling the sweet cabbages torn open eagerly by newly purchased cows, hearing the hens cluck their chicks into safety beneath the scraggle of a bush as we walked by, fingering the leaves of seedlings, laughing at the pigs standing on their hind legs to call out over their stalls for a sample from that bowl of dried corn, sitting on stools at a long table covered in brilliant woven fabric in a one-room home as the women set down thick ceramic bowls steaming with broth, potatoes, and a quartered chicken, one donated by each woman in the group, and passing cloth-covered baskets of hand-patted corn cakes—it was in the breaking of the bread that our eyes were opened and we saw Jesus in their faces.
The women and men thanked us again and again for our support even as their dreams for the next steps burst past the prepared presentation and spilled into each gathered circle. But they are the ones we thanked—for blessing us, for inspiring us, and for teaching us about what it means to have courage, to step beyond the small, proscribed role of being nobody into the energized identity of entrepreneur, farmer, encourager, and catalyst for health and abundance in family and community.
Sometimes the bread we broke was in the form of laughter: an iPhone dropped in a latrine and rescued by ingenuity and pluck or a baby blowing raspberries from her mother’s back.
Sometimes the bread we broke was in the form of interpretation—catching familiar sounds from mysterious syllables and seeing light dawn as it was shaped into our own languages.
Sometimes the bread we broke was in the buoyant greetings or proud displays of hard-won successes, or simply eye contact warmed by a smile.
Each time, the face of Jesus became luminous and clear, if only for a moment.
It was a privilege to be a part of this visit and to experience firsthand what I had only heard about.
This is a mission partnership—shared bread, shared joy, and shared faith.