I don’t have a traditional “love story” like so many do… In 2002, I went on a missions trip to Mississauga, Canada (in the Toronto area) with our missions team from church. Shortly before leaving for Canada, I’d read this quote, “You can never, ever love too much.” I thought it was a great quote, but I didn’t realize just how true it was. Throughout our week in Canada, we put on a “park program” (as we called it) each afternoon, telling Bible stories, doing little skits, making balloon animals, and just having fun with the kids there.

Before our program started one day, this little boy named Shafka (it was a really culturally diverse neighborhood…) who was about 4, maybe 5, asked me if I’d play on the playground with him. I so considered answering him, “not right now.” I mean, it was like 104 degrees out there, and SO humid! Who in their right mind would want to run around on the playground, playing with this little boy in this kind of weather?… Right? No. I discovered the error in the mindset and attitude I had at that moment. I had read that quote… “You can never, ever love too much.” And even that week, I’d been reading in the Bible all about love. How we are supposed to love God and others… And then at that moment, with my answer of “maybe later, when it’s cooler” on the tip of my tongue, everything I’d been reading came to my mind. I didn’t think through it a lot, or stand and ponder the hypocrisy of the attitude I had had, but I instead made a choice. I made this very deliberate choice to love. Because, you can never, ever love too much. So I played with Shafka. In the humid heat of that afternoon in late June/early July of 2002. We ran up and down the playground, and I pushed him on the swings… He told me he wanted to swing to the moon. I don’t remember a whole lot about that day, but I do remember the joy and love of that afternoon.

I remember a little girl from our park program too… She was 3 1/2, and her name was Monika (sp?)… Her grandpa brought her to our program, and I remember that she knew only a few English words. She sat right beside me during the story and leaned over to me at different times during the afternoon, whispering in her language.

I remember another little girl… this one was a little older, maybe 5 or 6 years old. Her name was Ria. We had these gel pens that were for face/hand “painting” and when I asked Ria what she wanted on her hand, she told me “a Barbie doll.” So… I drew her a Barbie doll. It didn’t particularly look like one to me, but she was happy. On the way back to the college where we were staying, I told my team about it, and they were all like “wow, I would have just said, ‘uh… can you pick something else?'”…

These stories stick in my memory, and when I think of that trip, they are what I remember most. I tell these stories now, not to praise myself for choosing to love and just go for it, regardless of how hot and humid it was out there, but I tell them because I love to remember, and because I want to encourage others to love. Love no matter what it means. Whatever form that love takes on. Maybe it is drawing a Barbie doll for a little girl, or pushing a young boy on the swing so he can reach for the moon. Maybe it is being a friend to someone who doesn’t have one, maybe it is holding the door open for someone. Whatever it is… just love. The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself. My youth pastor said once that your neighbor is anyone who is in need. That, really, is everybody. They might be in need of something as simple as a smile. Just love them. Whatever it takes and whatever it means. That is what I learned in Canada. To just let go and love. Through loving these kids, I learned what it really means to fall in love with Jesus, and I have thought so many times of how I left a part of my heart up in Mississauga. I had to learn to give my heart away. Because… you really can never, ever love too much.