Tortillas are a way of life here in Guatemala. There are probably twice as many Tortilla shops than drugstores in the city. You could toil in the kitchen all day preparing a wondrous feast, but no one will start salivating until the tortillas are on the table. Cold tortillas won’t do. So sometimes, the tortillas get placed directly over an open fire to be reheated. If you have a stove, you put them directly on the burner. Whenever I see Yesenia doing this in our kitchen, I wonder, “Is something wrong with the toaster-oven?”
“Fuego!” I yelled as I leapt over the sofa and raced toward the kitchen. Okay! Okay! So maybe I walked rather quickly around the sofa to get to the kitchen. (I keep forgetting how many of you know me!) A split second earlier, Yesenia and I were watching television. A glow in the kitchen caught my attention and I glanced over to see bright orange flames lapping up the side of my refrigerator, microwave, and windows. Adrenaline pumping, I cautiously entered the room. More flames were bouncing off the toaster, and rising from the stovetop. Was it a gas leak? Was it a pan of oil?
It was a tortilla, forgotten on an open burner. Yesenia looked on sheepishly as I blew out the offending party. Instantly, all the other flames in the room disappeared. They were but an illusion; the inferno was only a reflection of that one burning tortilla. As I waited for Yesenia to acknowledge how I had heroically saved the house, I was startled by more flames. The hearty little tortilla had re-ignited. This time, Yesenia took it in her hand and dropped it in the sink, where it was extinguished rather emphatically. Then I got the look. “It was only a tortilla.” And she left to watch the rest of the television program.
I glanced around the kitchen for a while. On the counter next to the stove was a towel. Beyond that, the paper towel dispenser. Above that were cabinets with an open shelf of photos and a book. There was another towel hanging from the oven handle and two cloth mats were on the floor. I thought to myself, “if that little tortilla burned just a bit longer, it could have ignited something else. Then that could have ignited something else, and that could have ignited something else, and so on. With just a little more time or effort, this could have been a raging inferno.
Faith can be like that. We evangelize. We give sermons. We teach classes. We talk to people about our God and mission trips and ministries and the Bible. Their eyes open a little wider. They seem excited and thrilled about what we are telling them. We get excited because we believe they have caught our fire. But then our flame gets turned down or life pushes it in another direction for a while. We quickly realize they weren’t on fire at all. They were merely reflecting the light of our fire. Surely they were warming up, but they did not ignite. And they got away before we could burn for them some more.
A recent group of missionaries reflected on how they felt different when they were on a church mission, as opposed to when they were “back in reality”. They prayed that they would be able to display their faith and love of God in Texas as easily as they could among the needy people of Guatemala. I pray for the same thing, because we have to show that faith and love every day, to everybody, in every way. We have to burn consistently over time to truly spread the fire of Christianity.