Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Too Small to Ignore – Chapter 4

Today’s thoughts come from Cheri….


If I had to sum up this chapter in two well known phrases I would use,

  • keep your eye on the prize and
  • actions speak louder than words.

For me this chapter focused on how our ministry for God doesn't have to be either spiritual vs physical, but that we can integrate them together to carry out the work of God. Sometimes we need to start with more physical actions filled with God's love to get to the place where we can share the spiritual and Good News of Jesus Christ. Sometimes God calls us to do things that can be frightening. If we lose our focus on Him we may ignore his call because we will be afraid. Some of the sections of this chapter that stood out for me:

"Bringing children to stable adulthood is not a simple task……Formulas don’t cover it“ (page 67).

If you have ever been a child yourself or have raised children think back to how true this is. A simple formula is not going to work for everyone. God created us uniquely. In every nation people are multifaceted. We can’t focus on one area and ignore the rest. We can't focus on just the spiritual and ignore physical and emotional. This is even true when we interact with co-workers and friends. Compassion's approach to their child development models have emphasized this to me, and I have met successful individuals released from poverty because all aspects were developed.

Riding a “ribbon of dust through the tunnel of green…I would lift my bare little legs high and shudder involuntarily at the sound of angry thrashing in the grass behind us” (page 68).

"The actual sight of two pith-helmeted whites riding a wire contraption into the clearing would still trigger fear and panic among the people…The presence of a child, even though white, helped put fears to rest." (page 69).

I thought about how afraid I would have been knowing that the narrow green path held snakes and other dangers. But the narrow ribbon of dust through the tunnel of green held at the end of it the glorious work of our King and Savior. Focusing on God, rather than the fears around us, will carry us on the journey at hand. This past Sunday the gospel reading was the one about Jesus walking on the water. He called to his disciples in the boat that it was Him and not to be afraid. Peter started on the journey focusing on Jesus and sank only after he started to look around and let the fear overtake him.

"There was no laughter in Kashongo that day. People's hearts were frightened and heavy with grief at the sickness and even deaths of the village children. The comforting words... fell on deaf ears" (page 70).

"...our eyes met in one blurry moment of sorrow" (page 71).

"The whole concept of redemption was at risk" (page 71).

Wess goes on to explain that in the Senari language there existed no word for all encompassing unconditional love - the love our God has for us. How could they translate the true meaning of God's love for people by the fact that He sent His only Son to die for us all? How can we minister to people when there is a language barrier and so much sorrow in their hearts when the first meeting takes place? These aren't just people in Africa for me, but they exist in my daily life. Sometimes it is actions, not words, that begin the relationship and grow the relationship before we can meet the spiritual needs.

"Deeds had spoken louder than words ever could. Physical needs opened the door to spiritual ones. Suffering had been the precursor of blessing" (page 73).

The well that provided water for this community was the source creating the sickness in this community and was one of their greatest needs in the moment. Wess and his father took action to fix the well to stop the sickness among the children. This broke down the wall, and it then didn't matter that there was a gap in the language of unconditional love. These actions spoke louder than words. Relationship, meeting a person where they are at with Christ in the center. Reaching out to strangers in need with unconditional love opened the door to introduce God's love for all people. I know for me it is in my most difficult times that I have been most blessed by God.

"People sent me to Africa to do spiritual things, like preach the gospel and translate Scripture. I don't think they would understand my spending three weeks deep in the mud digging a well in Kashongo. " (page 75).

This was Wess' father’s response to why he didn't report in detail of how those in Kashongo had come to receive the message of Christ. A challenge at times is that people believe that to do God's work it must always be spiritual and not done through physical actions. I think of when Jesus taught, how he often used parables and in these parables people did physical things which translated into spiritual ideas. Jesus knew we needed those examples and stories using the physical to help us understand the spiritual.

"Even today the work of relief and development is still suspect in a number of mission organizations…Meanwhile other groups seem to have swung the opposite direction. They are quite willing to feed the hungry and bind up the wounded but they get skittish about using the ‘J word’: Jesus." (page 76)

"Ministry to children" (or anyone) "doesn't have to be either or." (page76)

Can I be strong enough to crowd out the fear and focus on Jesus? Do I need to do a better job integrating spiritual and physical?

James 2:14 says “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions?”

Can that kind of faith save anyone?

What are your thoughts on Chapter 4?

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