“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:14
Let’s take a moment to realize that there are very few people in the world who could tell you where Uruguay is on a map, and even fewer who could name its capital.. But here I am. Living, breathing, loving Montevideo. It’s not a big city, and it’s definitely not a hot spot for tourists. I would go as far as to say that it’s not even a pretty city by definition; the streets are dirty and filled with garbage, it seems like everyone smokes, and it’s impossible to walk down the street and have a conversation at the same time because the traffic is constantly screeching. The air always smells of asado and bus exhaust, and occasionally of dog poop.. Seriously. There’s a lot of dog poop everywhere you go. But every once in a while if I let myself, I get lucky and I see the beauty. I walk by a corner market and the smell of strawberries overwhelms me. I catch the sunset over the Rambla and can’t look away. I realize I live 7 blocks from the sea. I see my friends on campus and end up spending hours with them, passing mate around the circle and chatting. I reflect on the week and realize the majority was spent talking and laughing with incredibly beautiful people I didn’t even know existed three months ago. Somedays I still can’t believe I get to live here.
As I sit on my balcony overlooking calle San Jose, as busses race by the plaza and people rush in every direction, what do I feel for this city? Has my so-called “heart for missions” turned into a genuine love and care for the people of Montevideo? Instead of just seeing clothes hanging from everyones balconies, I should see this as proof of a simpler life. I should see the families living in each of those apartments. Instead of seeing the same annoying street vendors taking up half the sidewalk as I walk on 18 de Julio, I should notice that it’s always the same people there, setting up and taking down their shops, day in and day out. I should notice the interactions among them as they sit and talk and laugh together, and wait for customers behind their stands of miscellaneous things. Instead of simply hearing the garrapiñada man as he shouts in the plaza, I should see the sign on his cart “celeste desde siempre”. I should recognize his patriotism and his love for his country, Uruguay. I should remember that he is probably someone’s dad, uncle, son, and that he is loved. Instead of seeing students and thinking I have the answer for them, I should see them as God sees them and love them with a genuine love, without my own agenda.
Now of course I am not going to love everyone or everything in Montevideo. I don’t love everyone or everything in Burnsville, or in Minneapolis. This really hit me while reading Hebrews the other day… “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10). It goes on to talk of other greats in the faith, who were seeking something more, something we can’t see here on Earth. Abraham obeyed, moved, looked to the promised land. He died before seeing all the things that God had promised Him, but that was okay. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16). Am I believing this here in Montevideo? Am I seeking to love everything about this city? Or maybe am I wishing I was back in Minneapolis where I came from, where it’s familiar and easier, where my friends live? The truth is if I am looking at Montevideo with an eternal perspective, I should be able to love everything about it because I know I have been blessed with this opportunity and at the same time, I am not home yet. Is my focus to be fully content here or is it to live here and love like Jesus would love? Do I have my eyes fixed on Jesus and on the eternal city? As Christians, we know that this earth just a temporary home, no matter what city we find ourselves living in. God promises us that we have an eternal dwelling place, an eternal home with Him in heaven. Until that day comes I will keep doing what I can to bring the Kingdom. To be the light. To follow God where ever He may lead. As for now, I will be here. Living, breathing, loving Montevideo.