We’re sitting here at Charles deGaulle airport waiting for our flight to England and then home. As I think about our time in France one of the things that stands out for me is a man we met named Joshua. Joshua is a refugee from Nigeria. On may 7th, he said goodbye to his family as he and his dad prepared to preach at separate towns in the north, during this, they were attacked. Joshua has no idea how he made it out alive, but by God’s grace, he did. He fled to France, because a Christian man saw him reading his bible and offered to buy him a plane ticket to Paris. Once there, he had no where to go, and lived on the streets for three weeks, then another man saw him and told him to go to Chalons, to the red cross. Through this, he got connected to the Marshall’s and started attending their church. Joshua still has no idea if his family is alive or not, he suspects that they are dead, but when Mr. Marshall called to ask him if he would help at the baseball camp. He answered the phone with “I can’t talk, I’m with Jesus.” to see someone who has suffered so much, and still has faith like a rock, was amazing.
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?”
We finally got to see the movie, “The Help”. OK as far as cinematography and all the stuff that critics and real movie aficionados notice – but for me, a movie is always really about the story.
Set in the early 1960’s, it tells the story of black women who were maids to white women at a time our country still hadn’t figured out that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. The courage and tenacity of these particular black women – so full of strength and conviction, courage and will – is something good stories are made of. It’s not unique to black maids in the 60’s, but has been echoed and repeated throughout the world and throughout millennia.
What strikes me in these kinds of stories are the peripheral villains. Not the overt bullies, whose irrational but all-consuming hatred drive them to persecute and seek to destroy what is right and good and pure. But the secondary ones – the ones who look away, or cave to peer pressure, or just remain silent in the face of what they know to be wrong. These are the characters that make me squirm. I know that these are what good stories are made of, but I fear it is what I am made of as well.
I wonder what kind of woman I would have been in the early 1960’s in the deep South – would I have been a racist? If I had been a German woman in the 30’s, would I have harbored Jews? Would I have been willing to host a house church in Communist China? Or share the gospel in Taliban-run Afghanistan?
It’s so easy to let time and distance make me think better of myself than I ought. But if I’m honest, I must also ask – what horrors are there today that I look away from rather than fight against with courage no matter the cost? What battle grounds are God’s people neglecting for the sake of our comfort, safety, and beds?
Yesterday was Sanctity of Life Sunday and I was shocked again at the atrocities that are done to millions of people each year world-wide in the name of choice, economics, preference. But I was also shocked when I realized that I really haven’t even thought about it much since the last time someone else brought it up! It’s right outside my door and I pretend to not know about it.
Proverbs 24:11-12 says: Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back. If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?
Those are sobering words to me. Of course I know it’s going on – I just don’t spend the kind of time or attention or money or effort on it that I should.
How about Africa’s street children where poverty and attachment disorder is a way of life? Muslim countries where women are abused and treated as less than animals? Places where Christians face execution for their faith?
These things make me cringe because I know that I am not exhausted in the efforts to do all that I can do to make a difference. I do some things – when I think about – but I know I don’t think about it enough. And I’m sure that I couldn’t stand before the Lord and say, “I did everything I could think to do.”
I wish I could rationalize my complacence somehow, but I can’t. James 4: 17 doesn’t let us off the hook:
“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
Something of importance to note is that the previous verses talk about what we plan to do without thinking – really thinking – about what we’re saying, as well as the brevity of our lives.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
These passages are so familiar to us that it’s easy not to put these thoughts together. Not only are we not to presume upon God the continuing of our days, but we need to do the things that we know are right to do while we have time and breath to do them.
It’s more comforting to think of myself in terms of comparison to those around me. I’m not that bad… right? But the Bible doesn’t do that. God judges me through the blood of Jesus – I’m his and nothing can ruin that. But he asks me to be faithful – I WANT to be faithful. But I am so easily distracted by searching out my own ease and comfort rather than His glory.
Lord, search my heart and see if there be any wicked way in me. Cleanse me and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Open my eyes, Lord, to your holiness, and help me to see that which you have ordained for me. Let me not shrink back in fear from doing your will. God, give me courage to stand with the righteous. Give me wisdom, Lord to know where that is. Increase my faith, oh Lord I pray, so that I can come to you and hear you, and you alone say, “well done my good and faithful servant.”