When I served as a pastoral intern at a Lutheran congregation and school in Argentina. My supervisor there spoke as much English as I did Spanish (not much). It’s hard being called to a vocation that involves authentic relationships when you lack the tools to communicate. I found an activity I could lead without being able to speak the language. To connect with the students, I led a mural-painting project.
Then tragedy hit. Three of our students lost their lives. Grieving, I returned to the mural and painted. For three hours, I sat on the empty patio and incorporated memorial ballet slippers laced into the hand of God. One of the grieving parents told a teacher he felt his daughter was present in those ballet slippers—her beautiful life represented in this simple piece of art.
As cliché as it may sound, actions do speak louder than words. Daily engaging with students through art carried more weight than small talk ever could. Relationships can—and do—transcend words.
The message is an excerpt from “Beyond words” by Nicolette Penaranda in the April 2020 issue of Gather magazine.
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