When You Are In The Sewer

Today I am posting a longer “blog” than usual.  Though I wrote this several months ago, it seems a timely reminder for me and for all of us to remember the poor.  As I am going on my fourth day without electricity, I am reminded of the millions upon millions of children (and their parents) who daily go to bed hungry, cold and without running water. I have been given so much, and I need to remind my heart to be generous and gracious – and to more closely strive to follow in Jesus’ steps.  May your heart and imagination be stirred as to ways you can make a difference.

Over about a ten year period during my employment with the wonderful benevolent organization HOPE worldwide I did quite a bit of traveling. Our children were still in school at the time and our families lived far away so I needed to be convinced that the value of this travel outweighed the difficulty of being away.  While I was able to see amazing parts of God’s handiwork across the globe our travel was not to the typical vacation sites.  Instead, I had the privilege of visiting many of the most severe slums of the world.

When I encountered the children in these places, sometimes I didn’t think my tears would stop flowing.  I spoke to children roaming the streets and lepers whose limbs had been eaten away.  I saw children being organized by their pimps for sex trade and children with AIDS dying all alone. I saw young boys in the subway halls with bags of paint pressed to their noses.  I talked and played with hundreds of children who had no parents.  I enjoyed the company of some young ones who lived on top of garbage heaps and others who were hungry.

Memories are vivid of one particular day when I climbed down into the sewers of Romania.  I encountered not only children, but teenagers who had children of their own.  I took a snapshot of one little “family”.  There only request was that I could come back with the printed picture, as they had never had a photo.  Like a broken record I heard the  the words, “Can you help me?”  I felt so helpless, in comparison to the magnitude of the needs.

Even now, as I think about these individual souls, I feel a sense of being overwhelmed with the task of responding to their pleas for help.  As we walked the sewer passages we had flashlights and candles to light the way and to see people’s faces when we came in contact with them.  When I was in the sewer numerous lessons begin to be thrust into my cup of learning.  I pray I never forget them.

I can’t do everything, but I can do what I can.  I am reminded of the woman Jesus commended in Mark 14:3-9

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

    [4] Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? [5] It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

    [6] “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. [7] The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. [8] She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. [9] I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

 Even in this account, Jesus knows the plight of the poor will always be with us.  I know I need the poor in my life.  They awaken my compassion, but also test and “grow”  my heart.  They help me know whether my Christianity is theoretical or practical.  In this passage Jesus is at the home of a leper.  We then see a woman come to anoint Jesus,  which he describes as an act preparing him for burial.  That appreciation and pure, devoted love for Jesus is held up for me and for all of us.  I need to consistently help the poor, but keep as first importance my devotion to the Lord.

From the sewer,  the discourse recorded from Job describing his efforts to understand and defend his plight is a challenge and upward call to me.

Job 29:11-17

    Whoever heard me spoke well of me,

        and those who saw me commended me,

    [12] because I rescued the poor who cried for help,

        and the fatherless who had none to assist him.

    [13] The man who was dying blessed me;

        I made the widow’s heart sing.

    [14] I put on righteousness as my clothing;

        justice was my robe and my turban.

    [15] I was eyes to the blind

        and feet to the lame.

    [16] I was a father to the needy;

        I took up the case of the stranger.

    [17] I broke the fangs of the wicked

        and snatched the victims from their teeth.

 I know I have a long way to go to have this kind of heart and reputation.  The sewer reminds me of the need, but I live a long way from this sewer.  However wherever I go I can speak up, and I can have an open hand.

Proverbs 31:8

    “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,

        for the rights of all who are destitute.

Deut. 15:11

    There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.

 As you drink from your cup of learning, remember the poor and remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:16

 

 

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