¿Quieres pintar tus uñas? (Would you like your nails painted?)
Hope 4 El Salvador is a children's evangelistic ministry run out of San Salvador, El Salvador by a family from the United States who is now living in ESA. The main action step this ministry takes is partnering with more than 200 gospel-preaching churches and communities all over El Salvador, and hosting block parties to draw the people and communities in to hear the Gospel. I am spending a month this summer living with the family who runs this ministry and interning for Hope 4 El Salvador.
Block parties are very high energy events. There are many things that go into pulling one of these off. There is face-painting, nail-painting, balloon-animal-making, inflatable jumpies, loud music, cotton-candy-making, and many more activities for people to participate in that are packed into these two hour parties--and in the midst of all of those things, the Gospel is shared with every child and parent who shows up.
Last year, while I was here doing block parties with this ministry I worked mainly making the balloon animals. The balloon-making table is crazy. It is one of the first tables that is absolutely swarmed with kids. There is no such thing as personal space and there are kids pressing in from all sides yelling “Espada,” “Flor,” and “Corazon,” which, if you do not speak Spanish, are words that one would not know until being put in this situation. This year, however, when the team that is here this week showed up, most of the people on that team wanted to be the balloon-makers, so I went to try and find a new place at the block parties to serve. Somehow, by some crazy chance, I ended up on the nail-painting team. Now, if you know me, you know that nail-painting is a particular weakness of mine. I cannot adequately paint my own nails or even when I do I cannot keep the paint on them without chipping for more than a day, much less make someone else’s nails look good. None of that mattered. Nail-painting was where there was a need, and really, at the end of the day, nail-painting is not all that different from balloon-making. There are still kids pressing in from all sides yelling, they are just yelling the colors, “Rosado, “Rojo,” “Verde,” and “Azul,” (and many more).
As soon as I walked over to the nail-painting table and got to work, the Lord starting revealing some things to me. In the Bible, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. He knew that although he was their leader, it was important to humble himself that much to serve them. When the Lord brought this story to my mind, I realized that we do not wash kids’ feet at these block parties, but the closest thing we do is paint their nails. We know from the Bible story that the disciples feet were probably disgusting from walking around in their sandals, traveling, walking through mud and manure, etc… and knowing this, Jesus got down and got dirty with them. See, when we paint kids’ nails, we see a plethora of things: cracked nails, oozing sores, infections…etc. Does that stop us from picking up those little hands with a smile and painting those nails anyway? Absolutely not. The look of joy on these kids’ faces when they see bright pink, or green, or red, or really any color of the rainbow (the favorite so far is anything with sparkles in it) is priceless, as I can only imagine the disciples’ faces looked when they looked down and their feet were no longer caked with filth.
Another thing that I realized while painting nails, something that actually really blew my mind, was that these little hands that were in front of me have been in a lot of places, situations, and circumstances and no doubt will be in many more in the future, but for this split second in time, this INSTANT, that little hand is reaching to me for something only I can give. As I started thinking about this though, the Lord instantly said, “Painted nails are not the only thing you have to give when they reach out for you.” And then it hit me--prayer. In all the places, situations, and circumstances that these children have been in and will be in, the chance that they are being interceded for in prayer is extremely small. In the short moment that they reach out to get their nails painted, the Lord wants more for them than a fresh coat of nail polish, He wants someone to come to Him on their behalf.
After this revelation, I began to pray for each child whose nails I painted. (I try to pray for each one by name, but hearing all those Spanish names can get confusing. I realized it was more important to pray for them without knowing their name if I could not understand it the first two times I asked, than to waste my precious moment with each kid trying to comprehend their name rather than praying for them.) It began to be reaffirmed in my heart the promises from God over these kids’ lives. He has plans to prosper and never to harm them and to work all things together for their good. Through this process, He has given me a little more of His love to love them with, because in that moment, I am the one interceding for them. I am the one entering the throne room on their behalf. I may be the only one who ever does this for them. And that, is the most humbling thing I can imagine.
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.