Last time we opened our eyes to injustice around us. We learned that as Christians, we are called to “do” something. Some Christians have been social reformers in church history, like William Wilberforce (abolition of African slavery). Modern versions of Wilberforce include Danielle Strickland (Stop the Traffic/Salvation Army) and Cassandra of Justice Rising . Some Christians have a heart to free sex slaves in Cambodia/Thailand (Patricia King of Extreme Prophetic) and others minister to child soldiers. John Cassells of Arkenstone (SIM) ministers to Canadian street youth. Lyle Phillips of Mercy 29 (and Iris Nashville/Iris India) works to free child slaves in India. There is a very real call on the church to act as Matthew West sings in his song, “Do Something.” Some of the injustices of child poverty and slavery call to us like they have to Matthew. Matthew sings, “I shook my fist at heaven, and shouted, God, why don’t you do something? He (God) said, “I did, I created you.”
Have you ever thought you were put on this earth to do something specific? I’ve always wanted to do something ‘big’ for God. Some people look at my life and think, “wow, she’s gone on nine mission trips. She travels all over the world.” They think I’ve already achieved something big. Yet I feel I’ve only scratched the surface; and I sense God is still training me for what’s to come. I believe a time is coming soon that we will need all of us on board ministering to those inside and outside the church. Some of us are already doing this. There are so many needs, and so many people who don’t know the real Jesus Christ. They don’t know his love. They need to see Jesus’ love manifest in US. Do you want to be part of a global outreach? Ask God to help you get ready. Ask him to teach you how to love.
I believe many people are waking up to the truth. This truth is about relationship. This truth is that we are created to love, be loved and to pass that love on to others. One of the ways to show this practical love of God is through service. Missionary Heidi Baker often says “love looks like something.” The love you receive is meant to be shared. What does the person in front of you need? Is it food? Is it safe shelter? Is it warm clothes and encouragement? Is it to take them into your family and to be their big brother or sister? Sharing compassion is a deeply rooted action of our faith. In fact, faith is an action word; faith and love are entwined! James says that faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-17) but the Apostle Paul reminds us that even well-meant deeds mean very little if they aren’t done in love (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
God works on filling us with his love and compassion. We need to be rooted and established in that love. Listen to what Paul shares: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-20). That love establishes and deepens the essential identity of who you are as a son or a daughter of God. When you are rooted in that identity and know who you are, then you can begin to reach out to others with the overflow of God’s love in you. Spend time in God’s presence, and fill up like a sponge before you serve (see my earlier teaching on soaking prayer). This is like stopping for the One (Jesus) before stopping for the one (the divine appointments and people God brings to you).
There are many different ways that you can choose to serve. Some of these may be direct outreach on the streets (such as Jericho Road’s Wednesday night coffee house in Ottawa, Ontario), others may reach out to the working poor who need help stretching the food on the table. A good example of this is the Loaves and Fishes ministry of Iris Virginia, as shown in The Dwelling Place in Williamsburg, Virginia. They aren’t inside a building like a food bank. They are right in the community in a restaurant parking lot! Their Richmond location also jumps into ministry with the homeless in the ‘river city.’
You may want to show love to the inmates in Prison Alpha. This course is run in prisons all over the world, including in Ottawa. You could involve yourself in reception ministry at a local church, where people can drop in for prayer, counseling and benevolence ministry. I help in this way, and people seem to need it. It may be in being a real and living presence in the community and getting to know your neighbours. One of my churches (St Paul’s Kanata) has been doing that through free community barbeques and loving presence. My other church (Kingdom Culture) does that through Back to School, Thanksgiving and Christmas outreaches. They also held a community barbeque in a nearby park. Pastor Joe Mebrahtu says that “while the turkey dinner we give them doesn’t solve all their problems, it gives them hope.” And that seed of hope is planted through our love and compassion.
When you are given the heart to serve, you are ready for the divine opportunities that God will give you. Sometimes this may happen in the context of a planned ministry you are already doing. The difference is that you have allowed God to work within your ministry. Many opportunities have happened when my husband and I helped lead a community Alpha Course. I was the head cook yet I also insisted on showing practical love to course attenders and leaders who had food allergies and alternative dietary lifestyles. So I learned to cook for specific needs and considered it a joy, not a chore. I was rewarded for this when “Jim” told me that he felt honoured and special because I considered his low sodium diet worthwhile in my cooking ministry. Later, Jim asked to be led to faith in Jesus Christ. (He since has died, and I’m so pleased that I know where he is). There were many others who were grateful for my ministry and they felt that they mattered. They DO matter. They knew that they were loved.
Sometimes ‘outreach’ may be an everyday lifestyle. I know of a few ladies who actively go into malls and busy places intentionally looking for a divine appointment. So what is a divine appointment? Perhaps it could be understood as a date with Jesus. Remember the “least of these?” Jesus said in Matthew 25 that when we minister to those in need – we are ministering to him. This is exactly what Mother Theresa did with the dying in India. It’s what my husband and I do in the prison. It’s what the different outreaches do when they go out to the homeless, or take in the refugees.
So these “divine appointments” involve people that are usually seeking God in some way. They may been hurting and have asked God, “where are you?” And along comes someone who will encourage them in exactly the way they need it! I recently heard pastor/prophet Shawn Bolz share ministry that he’s done in coffee shops and on the street. He’s spoken to broken street kids and prostitutes on the streets, and shared how God has a special and specific purpose for them. He was used to prophesy encouragement and destiny into the lives of hurting people when he least expected it. He didn’t start out with that intention, but the opportunity just opened up. What mattered is that God brought him to that situation and he ‘stopped for the one.’ Heidi Baker also does this in her Iris ministry in Mozambique. She (and those with her) have rescued children off the streets, in garbage dumps, under trees and bridges. She finds them. Jackie Pullinger has done the same with addicts in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong. Our young friend Fred Omondi does it in a Nairobi slum, running a small orphanage. They stop for the one. They take them in and love them back to life.
Stopping for the one isn’t just a compassion phenomenon done by missionaries like the Bakers, Jackie Pullinger, or even Mother Theresa. It’s also biblical. Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan? The man was walking down the dangerous road to Jericho. Luke tells us he was robbed, beaten and left for dead by bandits. Two commissioned ministers ignored him. (Luke 10: 25-37). In the New Living Translation, Jesus said the Samaritan had compassion on the man. Both the priest and Levite were too busy. They didn’t bother to respond to God’s call to help him. They didn’t even hear the call of the Holy Spirit – they were too busy being religious. Heidi Baker says “he was a blind priest. His eyes were open but he could not see the face of revival. He could not see what was before him, because he was too busy deciding how to ‘grow his church.’ Sometimes we cannot see and don’t want to see because we are blinded. We need eye salve to put on our eyes [Rev 3:18]. We cry out for revival, and yet God says, ‘I want to open your eyes so that you can see what is before you. Revival has a face and a name. It lies bleeding on the roadside.’ The next guy walks down the road and is … on his way to rehearse with his worship band. He is gifted to lead others in worship to God, but he is a blind Levite. Boy, he can sing, but he can’t see! He refuses to see the guy lying beaten and naked on the road because he does not want to deal with it. It’s too simple, too direct. Surely you don’t have to stop for everyone? Anyway, it was ‘not his calling.’ He was too busy doing other things.” [Heidi and Rolland Baker, The Hungry always get Fed. (New Wine Press, 2007 p 73)] Do we really do that? YES, sometimes we do! But the Samaritan heard God and recognized the need. He was the good neighbour. And we are to stop, especially when God’s compassion rises up in us. Remember, because we are the body of Christ, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. This means, that we must reflect the love of Christ like a mirror, and let the streams of living water (the love of Holy Spirit) flow through us.
When I worked with SOMA Canada (a charismatic Anglican mission agency called Sharing of Ministries Abroad), they often cautioned that we would meet people who had never encountered Jesus, let alone read a Bible. Sometimes we are “often the only Bible that people see.” What does SOMA mean by this? Well, the apostle Paul called us ‘living letters’ in 2 Corinthians 3:3. He said you must “show you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God; not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
This means that whatever we do, we must do it with a heart full of the love of God. That love has been written on our hearts, and has been infused with Jesus’ ‘DNA.’ His compassion flowing through our hearts is what touches others’ hearts. It is real. Love looks like something. It is real love that motivates acts of compassion. It is real love that lasts – both in bringing the practical things that are needed (food, shelter, social justice, mercy, freedom from slavery, freedom from addiction, encouragement, education etc) as well as the timeless message of the gospel. Each of us has a gift to contribute. Each of us can be given divine appointments to stop for the one. What matters is a soft heart towards God, and a ‘yes’ to the call before us. Do we want to do something big for God? I know I do. One person at a time.
Next time we will explore growing more through service – and letting it change our heart as we depend more on God.
Meanwhile, here is a special radio interview I did with an Iris missionary I know from Ottawa named Natasha Bourque Richmond. She and her husband Evan, are teachers, and work with children on the Zimpeto base near Maputo, Mozambique. Click here- Over My Head, July 13, 2014 CKCU 93.1 FM (Just skip ahead to 33:38 for the interview or you can hear the whole show).
Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann
Laurie-Ann is based in Ottawa, Canada and is involved in St Paul’s Anglican Kanata, and Kingdom Culture Ministries in Gloucester.