Lemonade International Blog

Seeing Beauty – Guest Post by CJ Stephens


This week, a group from Ekklesia in Raleigh, NC is in La Limonada to listen and learn from the community and the team members who serve there. The following post is from CJ Stephens, one of the co-pastors at Ekklesia, who is there with the group.

One of the most powerful things I’ve experienced on this trip is simply observing Tita. She has a remarkable ability to be fully present with people. When she speaks to people, she speaks to them. Nothing is scripted. Nothing is rehearsed. Nothing is vague. She speaks to people with an honesty and specificity. She speaks to them in their situation, in their pain, and in their beauty. Often I feel like we tend to speak to people in vague generalities. We fall back on common phrases and pat answers, but Tita speaks to a person as though the rest of the world is irrelevant during the conversation. She’s tough and recklessly loving at the same time. If there was ever someone who was both “wise as a serpent” and ”gentle as a dove” it is her.

As I’ve observed her though, I’ve realized something. Tita is able to love this way, be present this way, and speak this way, not because she tried harder, is more committed, or is more disciplined. I’m sure she is each of those things in abundance, but that is not what makes her capable of what she does. What does is this: Tita simply sees something different.

We’ve been to the city dump where thousands of people scavenge for recyclables in the hopes of making three dollars a day. We’ve sat in the home of a woman who cares for 11 children, four of which are hers and the seven of which have been abandoned by their mother. We’ve prayed with a family who had a loved one shot and killed on Tuesday. And in each case, Tita simply sees something different than others see. In people that the world chooses to avert their eyes from, Tita sees captivating beauty. And it is not simply that she chooses to see it or wants to see it or makes herself see it. She actually sees it as though her eyes are constructed with different materials that pick up a spectrum of light the rest of us can’t see.

There was a moment yesterday as we walked through the cramped alleyways of the slum when Tita knelt down, embraced, and spoke some private word into the ear of a man who had lost an eye and was crouched in a corner holding a bottle of a common street drug. He was a person that even the people of La Limonada ignore. And yet in him Tita saw radiance.

This may not be a revolutionary idea, but it is creating a shift in me! Often we approach faith, bringing the kingdom, serving the poor, etc. as though we have to put our heads down and push through… as though we just have to want it more. But after watching Tita, I am utterly convinced that what we should be doing, what I should be doing, is praying for God to give me eyes like Tita’s. To actually see something different than the world sees!

That is my growing prayer as a result of this trip. Oh, and I’ve decided to learn to Spanish!

-CJ Stephens – Co-Pastor, Ekklesia

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