When I was five years old a missionary came home from China – or maybe Japan – and taught our kindergarten Sunday School class at church. She told us often about her life as a missionary. I don’t remember a whole lot of the details of what she told us, but I remember that her face was radiant when she talked about it. Her face was always radiant, really, but it almost glowed like that “Touched By An Angel” special effect when she talked about her “people”.
“My people” she would say. I loved her, so I loved them.
I can’t remember her name – but she was the one who first told me about Jesus – and I believed every word she said. She loved us and we all knew it. If Jesus loved like she loved, who wouldn’t want to be his? Nobody made me feel as warm and cherished as that dear lady did, and those brief months of wonderful have made all the difference in my life.
I have always known that I wanted to love people that way. And yet I have also known that it isn’t always so easy.
I have also always known that I wanted to serve as a missionary some day – but that hasn’t been all that easy either.
Missionaries come in all flavors of course, but I wanted to be willing to “leave houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields” for Jesus’ sake. That hasn’t happened yet. It might not happen.
But if it does, I know what I’d do if I had the chance.
Do you know what the biggest problem of AIDS is today? It’s not the disease itself – horrible and devastating as that is. It’s the destruction it leaves behind. There are an estimated 12 million orphans in Africa alone who are orphaned because of AIDS (this estimate is probably low). The disease does not only steal their parents, it steals their life in a family unit, their security of someone protecting and caring for them, their standing in the community, their education – everything. With a whole generation being wiped out because of the disease, and aging grandparents dying off as well, there is a continent full of children who are growing up never knowing what the loving care of an intact family unit is like. Just think for a moment what it would be like to never know what it is like to be in a family.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the resulting consequences can be for a child who is never loved long enough or well enough to make emotional bonds with other human beings. Apart from all the vulnerability that child experiences, real damage happens in their hearts and minds. It isn’t pretty – in fact it’s one of the scariest pictures that can be painted for society. There are groups who would seek to control them. And any cursory knowledge of gang mentality should alarm us to the growing menace of what millions of disconnected, poor, uneducated and hungry men and women could do. It’s something only God can change – but he uses people like you and people like me.
Who will speak up for these young and tortured souls? Who will feed them? Protect them? Educate them? Who will love them so that they, too, can love the next generation?
Who will love these children the way my missionary Sunday School teacher loved me? Who will shine the glory of God into their young lives? Who will motivate them to say, “When I grow up, I want to shine like that, too!”?
Why AIDS orphans? Why not!
I know I can’t change the whole world – but I could still make a world of difference to one or two or a hundred. So could you.
Start small but pray big.
Here are a couple of places to begin: Because our hearts are where our treasures are – perhaps you could start by investing some treasure in sponsoring a child through Compassion International – they are doing a tremendous job of lifting children out of poverty in Jesus’ name! Medicine, education, community support – all in the context of Christian love.
Start writing to missionaries your church supports – ask them how you can pray for them. You never know, just becoming informed might lead to working more closely with them to show Christ’s love to those they’re ministering to.
Start ministering to someone in your neighborhood – look for ways to become part of someone else’s life. Maybe God won’t call you to serve children affected by AIDS – maybe he’ll call you to serve the elderly who have no visitors in that nursing home down the road… or the moms in your church who are struggling to hold it all together… or the toddlers in the nursery who want to hear that story “just one more time”.
Ask the Elders or leaders of your church to help you discern what you might best be fitted for. You are definitely fitted for some important service in Christ’s kingdom – don’t waste your life never really pursuing what God knit you together to do. When you find it, you will do the most good and you will be the most happy!
Maybe God will call you to do some small but necessary task at the Crisis Pregnancy center near you – or maybe he’ll ask you to leave everything that’s familiar and comfortable and follow him to some far off place where everything is a challenge and nothing is easy. Let’s not ask the questions “why here?” or “why that” as much as we ask ourselves – truly and honestly ask ourselves, “why not?”