Italic - Racquel
Once upon a time…
There was a girl named Raquel who went with a team of amazing people to Peru and spent a week at an abandoned boys’ home. While there, another team came. And in this second team was a girl…who shared Raquel’s name. Except she spelled it Racquel. And she was blonde. And had a southern accent.
There was a girl named Racquel who went to Peru on her first mission trip to spend some time sharing God's love at an abandoned boys' home. When her and her team got there, another team had already been there for some time and had a few days left of their trip. One of the first things someone on the team told her after she introduced herself was, "We have a Racquel on our team, too." Except she spelt it Raquel. Racquel had never met anyone who shared her name so she had mixed feelings about her.
Well Raquel #1 took an immediate dislike to Racquel #2 and made it rather obvious by avoiding her as much as possible while finishing out her time in Peru.
After meeting Raquel, Racquel didn't really care to be around her. She wasn't welcoming in the ways Racquel was used to in the south and she felt tension between them almost immediately.
‘Why didn’t Raquel like Racquel?’ you may wonder.
'Why didn't Racquel care to try and be friends with Raquel?' you may ask.
Well, I’m still not really sure of that myself. It may have been because I felt somehow threatened by another girl being present who shared my name (though I made sure to let everyone know that she spelled it differently). It may have been because our teams slightly collided and didn’t mesh very well. It may have been a number of reasons excuses but let’s move on…
Because, I've never been one to initiate friendships. Usually, if I feel that someone doesn't like me, I don't pay much attention to them. I knew why I was there - and it wasn't to meet or befriend Raquel. So I ignored the things that she did that bothered me throughout the days we were there together and when she left, I was happy. And I never thought I would have to see her again.
When I returned from Peru, all I wanted to do was go back. And when I was notified that there was a possibility of returning as soon as December, I was ecstatic. UNTIL…I found out that Racquel was going too. The enthusiasm died down a little after that.
When I got home from Peru the only thing on my mind was going back there. So I found some girls who also wanted to return and we began getting a team together to go back just a few months later. I couldn't explain the happiness and excitement I was feeling - until I found out Raquel was interested in joining our team.
‘I really don’t want to go if she’s going too,’ I told a teammate. And that teammate responded with the wisest thing ever. She said, ‘Maybe you need to go when she goes because God wants to teach you about grace and humbleness.’
"I don't want to say that I don't want her to go, because if God wants her to go then that's between them. But I want you to know that we didn't get along this summer," I told my team leader.
Of course my sinful self hated the thought of that, but I wasn’t going to let a blondie from North Carolina stop me from seeing the boys again.
I wasn't happy about it but I knew right then that I had to give it to God - if He made it possible for both of us to go, then I would just have to suck it up. I wasn't going to try to stop another girl from going just because I didn't really like her. And I definitely wasn't changing my mind.
So plans were drawn, doors were opened, and I found myself in Peru again.
So the dates were set, God provided the funding and there I was - in Peru again.
At my adopted Peruvian family's home. With Racquel.
Surrounded by my Kusi family. And Raquel.
And I started praying.
‘God, You know how much she irritates me. I don’t know why, but she just does. Help me understand my bitterness towards her, and also…please…’ Wait. Was I about to say ‘humble me and teach me to love her’?? Uh, how about no?
Before arriving, I had planned to distance myself from her. But after I was there, I felt as if God was doing something to me. Anytime I felt negatively about Raquel, I heard God saying "You're no better than her." So I asked him to show me a different side of her than I saw the first time.
(And trust me, readers, writing all this out makes me disgusted with myself and the attitude I had. And my face is rather comical right now too.)
And really, I felt conflicted through it all. I didn't have any desire to be her friend, but after every opportunity I passed up talking to her, I felt uneasy.
Well, God really worked in my heart those first couple of days. I told myself to at least be civil with Racquel. I didn’t need to be friendly. But little by little, He made certain circumstances happen that I was sort of forced to talk to her and be with her – even hold her hand while our team prayed together.
Throughout the beginning of the week, God opened my heart. I heard Raquel pray. I heard her cry. And I began to feel for her. I realized that she loved God just as much as I do.
And my wall started cracking.
And my feelings of dislike began to lighten.
‘Raquel,’ I felt God telling me one night. ‘You are harboring bitter feelings towards Racquel for no reason you can think of. And I say that even feeling hate in your heart against someone is murdering them in your mind. You need to ask her for forgiveness.’
And little by little, being around her got easier and easier. I didn't mind her as much and surprisingly I got to the point where I actually liked hanging out. God really showed me how to love her as I saw her loving on the abandoned boys. I had a huge and unexpected change of heart and began to share Christ's love with her as well.
So one evening, after team meeting, I asked Racquel if I could talk to her before we all went to bed. She said sure. We met outside of Kusi, and sat on the entrance steps leading to the home. With the Huascaran mountains behind us, a sky full of South American stars above us, I told Racquel this story. From start to finish. And ended with ‘So I need to ask you to forgive me. For not liking you without reason and for harboring such bad feelings against you. It was wrong of me. And I’m sorry.’
During our first week, I had a hard time gaining the strength to share my testimony with my team. Looking back, I believe God was just preparing mine and Raquel's hearts for the right night to speak up. So I finally opened up and shared my past, present and future with my teammates. And after, Raquel asked if she could speak to me. Anxious to hear what she was going to say, I agreed. We chose to sit on the steps at the entrance of Kusi - with a beautiful snow-topped mountain behind us and a sky full of stars over our heads. And Raquel really came out and said what she needed to say. She shared that the past summer, she hadn't liked me at all and that she was upset when she found out I was coming back to Peru. But then she said God had been convicting her for those feelings and wanted her to ask for my forgiveness. She said that she had been watching me and saw how I loved the boys and how I seemed so different to her. And that when I was giving my testimony, God spoke to her and she knew she needed to talk to me. Then, she asked for my forgiveness.
What happened next surprised me. Not only did she say she forgave me, but that she hadn’t liked me from the start either! We laughed, and I think cried a little. And talked for about two hours. Out there under the stars. Two girls who God allowed to meet in a small village in a country far from where they lived. And He taught us so much – as individuals and as (now) friends.
While she was telling me everything, I was smiling because I knew exactly what she was saying. I had felt the same way as her and God had also been working in me. I told her how I had felt about her and how those feelings had changed since being back. We began talking about how amazing God is and how it was so obvious to us that he sent us both back to the place we met at the same time so that he could mend our hearts and create a beautiful friendship between two of his children. And we sat there and talked about our struggles and futures and the beauty that was surrounding us. It was such a testament of Gods love and grace.
The night our team left, as that horrid bus was driving us away from the boys, Racquel and I sat and hugged each other and cried together for a good hour or so. Not only were our hearts bound together by the love we shared for the boys, but also for how God had worked in both of us (me, especially) and showed us just what His grace can do.
The rest of the week we spent a lot of time getting to know one another. I realized that we actually have a lot in common other than the pronunciation of our names. And the night we left Kusi, we both waited until the last seconds to get on the bus. We walked to the back with tears running down our faces. And I sat down in front of her, pressed my face against the window and cried. And the crying turned into sobbing. And in the moment when I felt all alone and like I was leaving everything I loved behind me, Raquel came to my seat and wrapped her arms around me. She cried with me. God shared his love with me through her.
I guess I wanted to share this with you all for two reasons.
1) To prove to you all what an imperfect person I am haha
2) To remind you NOT to let feelings harbor against someone. If you have a problem with them, talk it out. If you need to ask someone to forgive you, ask God to humble you to do so. It’s hard. It’s really really tough to admit you’re in the wrong. But the end result is peace and fulfillment. And God will honor your efforts to ‘love with brotherly love. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.’
It's amazing what can happen when you obey God and do what he calls you to do. By doing just that, Raquel and I have one less enemy and one more friend, who I can also call my sister. Sometimes, asking for forgiveness and the act of forgiving are difficult, but humbling yourself unleashes you from the rope that's holding you back from experiencing joy. "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." -Proverbs 17:17