By Arthur and Joyce Stoneking
Today we spent the day at the dump here in Mexico, and I don’t think I will ever be the same.
My heart broke as I watched the little children come away from their “work” in the garbage, where they searched for food to eat and for plastic and other things to sell. Just as sad was watching the faces of the older folks. They have given up all hope of a better life and are now in survival mode, doing whatever it takes to keep them alive for one more day.
At the same time, I was blessed as I talked to “Lydia” who had lived in the camp by the dump most of her life and had raised two daughters, a son and now granddaughters in that place. The difference is that Lydia has found Jesus. Now she is living in a tiny rented room near the church and has a job cleaning houses. She lives with her young son, who has Down's syndrome, and her 15-year-old granddaughter, who has never been to school. Yet these three are so happy to be in a new home away from the dump and a part of the church family. Each month this little family joins a group from the church that goes to minister at the dump.
My eyes filled with tears as I watched this little lady’s face light up when she saw her daughter come down the hill from the dump to greet her. Lydia is doing her part in reaching her family and the other people at the dump. Her sister and her family still live there. Her daughters and grandchildren still live there. Her dream is to be part of the ministry that brings hope and the love of Jesus to these people who are her family and friends.
I’ve been here before. I’ve seen situations worse than this. I have watched other people with no hope, filled with anger and hatred. However, today something clicked inside of me. Something was different. It wasn’t just that these people had nothing and had no hope. Or that we were trying to touch them with the love of Christ and ease their suffering in some way with food, water and clothing. It was something different. It was more than compassion; it was an awakening inside of me.
The thought came to me, how can I have two pairs of tennis shoes when there are people who have none? What am I personally sacrificing of my own comforts to relieve the pain and suffering of others? Do I just give out of my excess or am I truly sharing the blessings that God has heaped upon me with those who have nothing?
I believe God is calling us to do more than we thought we were even capable of doing or that is even logical to give.
Remember the Scripture: “‘For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’”
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison and did not help you?’”
“He will reply. ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me’” (Matthew 25:42-45).
Have we thoughtlessly passed by someone who was suffering, in need, simply trying to figure out why that person was in that condition? Sometimes, we look for ways to rationalize not helping. Maybe we try to justify holding on to our blessings for our future, for our children, so we will be good stewards of our resources for our retirement years.
Have we ever seen a Scripture that tells us to lay up goodies for the future? I think not. God tells us to reach out and touch. We are to give what we have and He will never forsake us and never allow us or our children to go begging for bread. (See Psalm 37:25.) Isn’t that enough for us?
Can we curl up on the couch in a warm blanket after a hot meal and never think about those who are shivering in the night without food or water? God forgive me. Teach me how to love the way that You love. Lord, deliver me from selfishness. Fill me with Your love to the degree that I will give all that You have given me to relieve suffering wherever I see it. Help me, Jesus, to be more like You.
Arthur and Joyce Stoneking
missionaries to Mexico.
Copyright ©2012 The General Council of the Assemblies of God.