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Love is a Verb

By Rachel*, Thailand REACH team

When I was first asked to write something about my experience in Thailand my mind went about one-hundred different directions. There are so many things that I could talk about, but for this piece I would like to share with you the most important thing that I learned on outreach.

Upon arrival in Bangkok, my team and I spent the first three weeks in intense language classes, and boy, that was a challenging time. After finishing school we began to teach English to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders at a wat (Buddhist temple) school. That is when I began to think deeply about the question of “what is love?”

The dictionary defines love as a “strong affection.” It also categorizes it as a noun. What I have found through my experiences is that love is not a noun. Love is a verb.

I feel love for my family and friends, but how would I feel and show love to a bunch of rowdy kids who would test my patience every single day? Jesus says to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) This command is only behind “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind.” That seems pretty important to me.

"What happens when your neighbor is someone completely different from what you’ve been used to your whole life… they worship different gods than you, and values are different than yours?"
What happens when your neighbor is someone completely different from what you’ve been used to your whole life? What if you are suddenly inserted into a culture where English is rarely spoken, they worship different gods than you, and values are different than yours? All of my life I had the generic Christian life. I had gone to a good school, gone to church every Sunday, done the things that society expects from Christians. Sadly, I could barely name anyone that I knew who wasn’t saved.

God’s law doesn’t change just because the surroundings around you do. He is constant. I was confused by the world that I had entered, but he didn’t expect any less of me. The people surrounding me may have changed but they are still his children, created in his image, and loved by him.

Our team was given some attention-starved children to teach. Some days, teaching was wonderful, the kids where great, and it was fun. Other days I felt like ripping out my hair. The kids wouldn’t listen and were unfocused. I had to remind myself why I was there. God loves those kids as his own. More than anything he wants to see them in heaven someday. He sent us there to help accomplish his work.

Love wasn’t shown through words while we were teaching. Love was shown through hugs. Every day my team gave and received countless hugs. I am now thoroughly convinced that hugs are a universal language. Other times, we would spend extra time with a student trying to have a conversation. Taking pictures was another one of my students’ favorite things. Give them a camera and they would go nuts. All of these acts where small but hopefully they made an impact on our students’ lives.

One of the best memories that I have from our time teaching is a day spent with one of our first grade classes. We had finished with the lesson for the day, so were just spending time with the kids before we moved on to our next class. I picked up one of the girls because she wanted to be held, and just for fun I spun around with her in my arms. Before I knew it, there was a line full of little girls in front of me. They had seen what happened and they all wanted to be picked up and spun around. I went through that line multiple times that day. It seems like such a simple act, but love can be shown through something as simple as giving your undivided attention to a student for a few seconds of fun.

One of the most important things that I learned through my outreach experience is that love has no language. You don’t need words to express it. It’s a lifestyle. Love is how you treat those around you even when they are different from you. Love is a verb.

My name is Rachel, I am from Hartville, Ohio and I attend Hartville Mennonite Church. Currently I am working at a bakery. Next year I will be on staff with SEND Ministries and I will be filling the Food Services Assistant position. Some of my favorite things about Thailand were the food and all of the great friends that I made there.

*Last name omitted for security reasons.