In the spring of 2004, my family had the privilege of doing a five-week missionary trip to Malawi (Africa). It is consistently listed among the poorest countries of the world. Its current gross national income is about $1000 per year and it is estimated that 10% of the adult population has been infected by HIV. My husband and I went to offer academic and spiritual support to ministers seeking ordination in the Free Methodist and to provide medical care to orphans and adults in the nearby villages. We went prepared to share our gifts and were surprised to receive more than we were given.
Most of the pastors had traveled days to reach the school where they would spend 5-6 weeks learning how to serve their local churches. No pastor arrived with more than a single backpack. Paper, pens, and Bibles were premium items that most did not own. The pastors functioned as our guides and interpreters whenever we traveled. Yet, we were greeted with a smile, a warm handshake, and genuine hospitality at every home or village we visited. People who lived on less than $2/day generously gave what they had and insisted upon feeding us or providing a cold Coca Cola. Remarkably, each night of worship was filled with genuine praise!
We met men and women that were brilliant, industrious, and likable that had little to show for it beyond the genuine joy of their hearts. Many suffered circumstances with their families and communities that I could not endure yet they offered no complaints. They offered me a clearer glimpse into my undeniable fortune and privilege. My “hardships” were of no real comparison to theirs, so I began to really count my blessings and humbly seek to share what I had been given.
The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating. Teachers, parents, and school districts around the country are struggling to make decisions about the immediate future of education when there are no perfect solutions. Many small (and large) businesses are closed or filing for bankruptcy. The number of people that are homeless, unemployed, and uninsured is increasing dramatically. The suffering is tremendous. Fear is almost palpable.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been bombarded with information outlining those things that we are not allowed to do. We have spent too much time debating face masks, worship conditions, and individual rights. Intellectually, we say that the church is comprised of the people belonging to God, but I wonder if we really believe it. If so, it is time for us to rise up and demonstrate the power, presence, and goodness of Christ within us by offering help to those around us. Remember, Christ’s words in Matthew 25:35-36, 40:
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.'
"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.'
These are the words that Christ used to separate those who belong to Him from those that do not. The challenge that lies before us is to find or create ways to improve the condition(s) of those around us. Here are a few suggestions that may inspire or encourage you: donate to the local food bank, give blood, volunteer with meals on wheels, donate to homeless shelters, mentor a student, adopt a classroom, bless a teacher, offer childcare, share your home, give from your garden, and be kind!! If the poorest people in the world can offer genuine hospitality and give sacrificially to others, then so can we! Let us not miss this opportunity to share the love and hope that we have in Jesus.