Have you ever travelled and had that moment when you are lining up to check in your luggage and you think you may be over that kg limit you paid for? Or you decided to get that cheap ticket with only carry-on bags and you have a momentary panic that you are way over the weight limit?
I have that feeling just about every time I fly and often my mind flashes to a lady who appeared on one of those airport shows who had too much luggage and proceeded to wear just about her whole bag full of clothes. I always wonder will this be the day I have to unpack my bag and wear it all.
On a recent trip to Fiji with some members from our church, I brought home so much more luggage than I took. It was way more than simply a carry-on bag. If I had been travelling Tiger Airways boy would I have had some serious overweight luggage charges. That is, if the airline attendant could weigh everything I had learnt, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I would be out of pocket thousands of dollars simply because of all those wonderful riches that I was bringing home with me. Thankfully no one at check-in noticed just how much I was bringing back.
As we ascended out of Nadi airport I glanced out the window and saw tiny green islands with perfect borders of sand nestled amongst beautiful bluey-green water begin to disappear and become just like tiny specks. From high up in the air it is impossible to work out what lies below and just how all those little villages operate in a world so far away and foreign from our own. From my experience one thing is clear. Fiji is absolute paradise and I couldn't leave without extra luggage.
One of the biggest things I brought home with me but have not yet shared since returning was to be open to and even seek out opportunities to minister to others where I need say nothing at all. I think of the song lyrics, "you say it best when you say nothing at all". What this song is referring to is in a different context to what I am writing about but I experienced just how powerful this is 3 different times in Fiji. Just how God kept my mouth closed and instead, in that moment let the tears fall.
The first instance was when we prayed for a very sick 15 year old girl, while her mother sat by and wept. She had kept a 24 hour vigil for a month by her daughter's bed-side. Exhaustionand distress so evident in her eyes. Her husband was back at home running the family pickling business, trying to keep the family income going. What could I say to her in that moment? My words would seem empty. After we prayed with the daughter I went and put my hand on her and cried with her. Two mums together with completely different language and life experiences. One mum suffering, the other feeling helpless, bonded through tears. And God moved. No words were needed.
The second time I experienced this was when we had a group worship time and a family came who were seeking prayer, particularly for their 18 month old son who had gone blind and could not walk. I looked at this mum so vibrant and loving, utterly desperate to see a miracle. Daily life was a struggle for this young family. The father was a diver and brought in a tiny income to sustainthem. The shame of having a disabled son was becoming too much to bear. As I considered what life was like for them, I could do nothing but cry. I couldn't even pray for them. Just cry.
Thankfully other team members prayed so boldly and we look forward to hearing of God's mighty miracles in their lives. But for me no words came, just tears. And God said, "your heart is all I require". One mum desperate and the other mum feeling helpless. And God moved. No words were needed.
The third time I recall experiencing this was at female detention centre. I sat with two inmates who shared their stories with me. They had first met almost a year prior when they were being held in the police station and had celebrated Christmas together in that tiny cell. They told me it was one of the best Christmases they'd had in a long time because life outside had been so hard. They had become like sisters and had held each other up through the long lonely days behind bars. One of the women was just young. She was only 20 years old and told me she wouldbe released soon and was going to aim to become a teacher.
The other was a mum of two. She had been betrayed by her husband, sending her behind bars, and her 12 year old son had committed suicide and had taken the 3 year old sister with him. She had nothing left. She said on visiting days no-one came to see her. After her sentence she would leave and there would be nothing outside. She clung to my hand and we cried. She finished speaking and we just shed tears together. What words could I say? One mum with a shattered life and the other yet again feeling helpless. And God moved. No words were needed.
This one thing I learnt was that I can keep my mouth closed and let my heart speak. God can use you whether you say a thousand words in front of many, or if you say nothing and hold the hand of just one. If you ever travel anywhere, visit an overseas country or even just another part of Australia try and bring back some extra luggage. Learn some new things you apply to your life back at home. Be challenged about changing some habits in your life or encourage others with a new way of doing something. It's ok. No one at the airport will notice, but the effect can be life changing.
Laura Veloso is wife to John and the mother of 3 young boys. She is trained in child welfare and primary school teaching and has experience in overseas missions and youth leadership.
Laura Veloso's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/laura-veloso.html