Kristina Cooper shares her experience of working in an orphanage in Panama and the Bible’s command to offer reconciliation.
Sometimes, unfortunately, even baptised Christians don’t live the fullness of the reality of what it means to be a child of God, a follower of Jesus. For many years, I was a good church-going Catholic girl. I thought this was what it was all about; but God seemed very far away and I had no relationship with Jesus.
Then, when I was in my twenties, I had the opportunity of working as a volunteer among the poor in Central America. I left my life behind and went in the same way as James and John, who were in a boat mending their nets when “Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:21-22).
Like the disciples, who doubtless did not know what life would be like, so I did not know what to expect. Life was very hard there and, after a short time I came to the end of my human resources. I thought I could fix people and solve their problems; but I realised after a while that I could not. However, in discovering my own inability I discovered that God could do what I could not – not just spiritually but practically. I discovered the Bible was not just something to pray with or to study; it was the way to get to know Jesus by listening to him, learning more about him and to enter into a relationship with him. This was a life-changing discovery and it has influenced the rest of my life. Because of this experience, although I might live in 21st century Britain I feel a contemporary of those first disciples who sat at Jesus’ feet and heard him teach.
Part of my time in Panama I worked in an orphanage. I was fortunate to be surrounded by believers and to see the way the Bible really did guide people’s actions and ways of doing things. I remember on one occasion there had been a huge row between the cook and the young tutor who helped the girls with their studies. The atmosphere in the home was terrible and there seemed a good chance that the tutor might leave. The cook was a good woman, but she was jealous of the better-educated tutor, which showed in her often unreasonable treatment of her – and, now, things had come to a crisis point. The tutor had apologised; but the cook was refusing to accept the apology.
Believing that Jesus would show us the way, the director of the home, turned to Scripture for inspiration. She remembered Jesus’ instructions on how to bring correction and forgiveness about if you have an argument with your brother or sister you should first go on your own to try to get the other to listen to you. So this is what we did.
The director called the cook to the office where we were all present. The tutor then went over the story again and finished by reiterating her apologies for the way she had reacted. It was the last thing the cook was expecting as she thought we were banding together against her. Her own wrong doing now became too much for her and the cook in her turn apologised for her behaviour. We were all amazed. The cook had never been known to apologise to anyone. Thus God showed us the power of his word in action. I had many such experiences in Panama and these taught me as it says in “2 Timothy 3.16-17 “. . . Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness . . . .