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Lent entry for Day 2

Based on reflections from my recent trip to Africa with ALARM ministries

He was passionate about his ministry.

God put orphans on his heart. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m blown away by the sheer number of orphans in nations in central Africa. Frankly, I can’t imagine any follower of Christ not having orphans on their heart if they live there…and I’m fairly confident that when our brothers and sisters there read verses in the Bible that mention serving widows and orphans, well, the lenses and ears they see and hear those verses with bring an empathy and sympathy Americans can’t truly attain.

But back to the gentleman and his passion.

It’s universal to get excited when talking about the things you love. The good-natured back & forth found in sports debate. Some people enjoy discussing politics. Telling a friend about the new restaurant you discovered. We can’t wait to share the joys our children experienced with other parents. The music we feel like our friends need to get into. That new author you found. Doesn’t matter. If you love it, you tell others, and like everybody serving in a ministry they love, this guy was excited to tell the visiting pastors about his ministry.

The kid he mentored was doing better in school…
…was healthier than he’d been in a while.
…was showing signs of self-reliance.
…had started giving back to the school.
…was starting to give evidence of making his faith his own.

And the gentleman was truly excited about it. Rightfully so. It was a conversation we could be having with anyone in any ministry anywhere in the world that was seeing the fruit of discipleship. It brought knowing smiles to those of us who had been in similar mentoring situations. No matter how many stories you have like that they never get old or stale. Hearing them or telling them. I was happy for him and for the kid. Smiles all around from our team. One of us asked how we could help him grow and expand his ministry.

Then he grew quieter.
The smile disappeared.
We couldn’t understand the verbal language but we didn’t need a translator for the body language.

The translator filled us in amid his pauses.

In effect, he said we couldn’t be of more help. He certainly reiterated all the things our ministries were doing like providing tuition, books, uniforms, meal money, hygiene products, school supplies, even building additions and all the minutiae. Make no mistake, he was thankful and grateful and was keenly aware of everything the ministry is involved in.

Then he recounted the failure of his efforts to motivate more people in area churches to take the time to come out to the orphanage and choose a child to mentor. He’d been to many churches. He’d highlighted the reality that many of the physical needs of the kids were taken care of at least at some minimal level and that he wasn’t asking for cash. He’d been given ample opportunity to share his joys and successes in his mentoring relationship. His body language told us that he was discouraged with the response…or lack thereof. It’s an age-old universal reality: Harvest = plentiful. Workers = few. It brought deep empathy with those of us in similar ministry situations. We felt for him.

He continued by asking for prayer. Workers and harvest and all that.

He looked at us and spoke.

The translator said, “You’re doing what you can and we appreciate it more than we can say. The books and fees and meals are all helpful and they do provide for the kids to be healthy and get a good education…”

The man spoke again.

The translator continued, “…but that’s not what they need most. What they need most only our Christians can provide.”

The man spoke again. Very short sentence.

The translator finished, “They need love.”

And there it was.

The entirety of the Gospel message in a 3-word sentence. The reverent silence that followed reminded us all of this powerful truth given by a man of wisdom in a humid schoolroom in a remote African village.

And I was reminded that the only real question we need to be ask is “Who is God asking me to show love to today and how can I best do that?” Just ask God to answer it for you every day and be sensitive to how He leads in the moments we have. Sometimes we can overcomplicate it with methodology and navel-gazing, but really folks…

…it ain’t rocket science.