On our last full day together as a team in Guatemala, we sat around a long dining room table nestled in a cozy casita in the middle of the rain forest, and we took turns sharing our appreciation for each team member. Each person had a turn at being in the “hot seat” and was only allowed to say “thank you” as each team member shared what they appreciated about that person during our week of serving and traveling together in Guatemala. At times you could feel the awkwardness for an individual whose preference was to keep the attention off of them, but we patiently persisted in sharing our words of love with one another. “One thing I appreciate about you is….” -or- “I really enjoyed when you….” -or- “Thank you for being….”

One of our team members was 10-year old Henry, a wonderful mix of all-boy and old-soul. Henry sat smiling and nodding and eagerly soaking up all our praises of his truly special self. His dad waited to go last. I will carry what happened next with me for the rest of my life. After all the other team members shared, Henry’s dad leaned across the table and looked his son in the eyes. He said, “Henry, as your dad, you know that I am hard on you. I really ride you and stay on top of you. But, Henry, I want you to know that I could not be more proud of you. God has given us an amazing gift in having you as our son, and I could not be more proud to be your dad.” On hearing these words, Henry’s little head fell into his hands and he started crying. I cried too, along with most of the rest of our team. Under the hot, humid canopy of the Guatemalan jungle that night, one dad took the time to share the words every child (and adult) needs to hear.

Henry’s dad gave us an unforgettable picture of pure, direct, affirming, and honest love. Our whole group was moved because we recognized how rare, yet how essential, such exchanges are.

May we all take the words of the apostle Paul and the example of Henry’s dad and put our words into action to encourage those we love today. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thess. 5:11