September 17, 2010

Who Are the Least of These?

We’ve all seen the swollen bellies and wet eyes of starving children around the world. Maybe they are in Somalia, Guatemala, or West Virginia, but what they have in common is an impoverished state of living; shelters, not homes, no electricity, unclean water, hard labor and little or no pay. We see them on the internet and TV screens, and tears roll down our cheeks and our hearts break as we see the pain of their mommas. We may be sponsoring a child through a number of organizations that help to feed, clothe, and nurture these weary ones, but we want to do more. We want to climb through the screen and hold them and give them all of our money, time, energy, and wisdom. But we can’t unless we are called to. Are we all called to go there? We are all called to go, but where has God called you to go? Does he call you to feel guilty because of the suffering you can’t relieve? No. He calls you to go, but where? We aren’t all called to go to the same place. We are called to go to the ends of the earth. Where are the ends of the earth?

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
I sponsor a young Pakistani girl through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. Her name is Abida. Her picture is on my fridge. The money is deducted every month. I pray for her. I’ve sent pictures and letters. God has called me to support her financially . . . to send others. They will go to Abida with their feet. I will go to those God has called me to go to with my feet. I would love to go on a mission trip to an impoverished area someday, but where has he called me to go today? He has called me to minister to the many I come in contact with every day through my job and my day to day circumstances.

Through my own personal story and the stories of many who come to me through my work, I have come to realize that behind the pleasant face that smiles at me across my desk, or nods and greets me as I walk down the sidewalk, there lies an impoverished soul broken by their circumstances, their life.

Did you know that the lady sitting next to you at the nail salon, the one wearing the Armani suit, is broken? Why is she broken? Because her husband had an affair with her sister and her sister committed suicide over the guilt. That lady sitting next to you doesn’t know Jesus and her heart breaks and her soul is impoverished. She doesn’t live in a tin house, but rich without Jesus is worse than an empty bowl with him.

Did you know that the teenager at the cash register isn’t just a perky college student? Did you know her smile covers a rape? She doesn’t know Jesus. She feels unclean and her soul is impoverished. She has clean water, but being quenched by anything other than Jesus is no quenching at all.

Did you know that the young lady, who sold you that pair of shoes, goes home each night to be abused by the very parents that birthed her and serve dinner on her plate? She doesn’t know Jesus. Her nerves are shot, she’s always afraid, and her soul is impoverished. She isn’t hungry, but she’s starving. Better an empty plate with Jesus than a full belly without him.

Did you know that the young Muslim student sitting at the table next to you at McDonalds has only been in the United States a few days, and this is his last meal unless someone intervenes? He doesn’t have enough money to make it here. Tears roll out of his eyes as he tells you how much he misses his mother. He doesn’t know Jesus. He is lonely and afraid, and his soul is impoverished. He is in the United States, but he is poor. Better to be clear across the globe with Jesus, than in the United States without him.

The stories above are about real people that I've met along life's path. There may be nameless faces that we see every day, but they are only nameless until we take some time to find out their story. Sometimes a touch on an arm or a smile can cause the tears to flow, and the burden to unleash, and your Jesus hands and feet to get busy. Don’t feel guilty about what you can’t do or aren’t called to do, feel guilty about what you can do but aren’t. Feel guilty about what you are called to do and haven’t done.

Matthew 25:34-40
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
I believe that Jesus was referring to those who are physically hungry, physically thirsty, and physically imprisoned, but I also believe that the worst kind of hunger is the unsatisfied hunger for Jesus. The worst kind of thirst is the unsatisfied thirst for Jesus. The worst kind of imprisonment is the bondage of sin and death. My home and your home are a part of the ends of the earth. Who is smiling around you; and what is the silent, untold story behind that smile? You will be called to support some financially. You will be called to support some in prayer. You will be called to be Jesus’ hands and feet to others. Go where he has called you to go, even if it’s right next door. 

7 comments:

  1. Oh, Stephani, this is a beautiful post! You are right, the least of these are not just those in a far-off land. They are often right next to us. May God give us ears to hear their silent pleas.

    "Don’t feel guilty about what you can’t do or aren’t called to do, feel guilty about what you can do but aren’t. Feel guilty about what you are called to do and haven’t done." - these words are so true!

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am so blessed by the wisdom of your words.

    Blessings,
    Shelli

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  2. I need to think of a new way to compliment your entries, but suffice it to say, this was exceptional!

    I try very hard to be sensitive to those around me each and every day and the Lord has given me so many memorable opportunities to reach out and touch others lives right here. But I'm sure I have also missed a lot along the way. Thanks for the powerful reminder.

    What a blessing you are to me in your writings each week. Hugs!

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  3. Thank you, Lord, for your wisdom shared through Stephani. You've messed me up beautifully this summer with the message of mercy, and you've got my eyes wide open to see those who are right in front of me, to notice the people I come in contact with on a daily basis. You've convicted me to be a better sponsor to little Irakoze in Rwanda, and you continue to remind me to be mindful of the people you've put in my line of sight. Thank you for friends like Stephani who are touched by your mercy and want to touch others the same. Thank you for weaving such a beautiful tapestry of your mercy, goodness, friendships, counsel and wisdom through this world wide web. May this corner of the internet where Stephani's life is Defined be blessed in the name of Jesus.

    Blessings and Love to you, Stephani,
    Tami

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  4. I'm humbled by your comments ladies and I appreciate them so much! I want to give God the glory today because he gives me the words and tells me to write. Remember, His words are first for me, because I fall short so often. Then, He says, "Go and tell the others." ~ Glad you guys are my friends!

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  5. Great post and thoughts Stephani....as a high school teacher I am often drawn to students, wondering what is behind that face, or the way they dress, their attitude and words. Your post is such a reminder to me to dig deeper, and encourage them. I can't always tell them about Jesus during the school day, but I can care for them, love them and hopefully have an opportunity to shine and share Jesus into their lives! Thanks for posting this!

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  6. Thank you for these reminders. I have been praying for you, Stephani.
    Your words are always beautiful and bring truth when it is needed.
    have a lovely weekend
    ~a

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  7. Wow, this has been such an encouraging post! Working as a missionary in the farthest parts of the earth isn't more important than serving the Lord in our very own homes. Whatever our calling is, wherever God wants us to be, we can be His instruments for good, ministering to those around us. Thanks so much for this great post!

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