4:18-19 says “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.”(NLT) Jude 1:22-23 says “And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment.” And 1 John 3:17 says “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” Throughout the Bible, God does expect us to bring the Word to the poor and serve the less fortunate. I think I know why.
The Lord said “…when someone has been given much, much will be required in return.”(Luke 12:48 NLT) For some odd reason God blessed me with the tools, resources, and loving support to become a physician. I often wonder why life unfolds as it does. Why was I born where I was born? Why did I grow up in a secure and loving environment? How did I end up so “blessed?” Etc… I am beginning to realize that nothing makes sense and nothing is an accident. With clear intention, God seems to be leading my daughter Katie in a direction to serve the less fortunate in this world, which led her to Nairobi, Kenya and led me way out of my comfort zone. I allowed her to travel to Nairobi on a short term mission trip with TPCC and it changed her life to the core. She encouraged me to come with her and see because she couldn’t describe the experience with mere words. She was right. And were it not for her, I would have never travelled to Nairobi for what has been perhaps the greatest and most humbling experience of my life. To her, I owe so much. Last year, I travelled to Nairobi with Katie and TPCC to see what was motivating her. I saw. I was compelled to return.
I thought my second visit to Nairobi would make it an easier experience, but I was wrong. Mere words cannot describe the suffering human beings endure in Bondeni, and for that matter, all over this world. I am not talking about poverty, I am talking about suffering. Illnesses in horrifyingly unsanitary conditions often lead to so many unnecessary deaths in both the young and the old. You feel absolutely helpless as you watch people with relatively simple illnesses that are treatable in the United States, otherwise die in Bondeni because of an unsanitary environment and a lack of medical resources. The first few days of the trip are so overwhelming you find yourself searching everything you have ever known about God begging to understand why this kind of environment even exists. Once you have accepted that it does exist and it makes no sense, the next thing that happens is you grapple with the magnitude of the problem because it seems totally impossible to change. I would rather be given a bucket and told to empty Lake Michigan than be told to eradicate the slums. It seems almost impossible to fight the problems the slums pose for many of those trapped in it.
Then, the day arrives to enter the slums and see patients. The Lord said, “And the King will say ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me’.”(Matthew 25:40 NLT) You start in the clinic. Each and every person on the team is vital—from triage to the prayer room. You start serving the community. One by one patients roll through, and as you look into each person’s eyes you quickly realize they are God’s children and God is looking back at you. You can see HIM in each face because there is nothing else–they have nothing (and I mean nothing) to give back but love and an enormous heart full of gratitude. And to touch each person and to love each person is like you are touching the face of God. And to let them know that God loves them, and you love them, and you care about them, allows them to leave with hope for a better tomorrow. After all, with God, there is a better tomorrow. And the trip begins to make sense because you can see a difference made in a life, one person at a time. And that is how you change the world—one person at a time. And that person was me.
All along I thought I was serving the “least of these my brothers and sisters” and I was “showing mercy on those whose faith was wavering and snatching others from the flames of judgment.” I was so wrong. It is they, the people of Bondeni–many who live in unimaginable circumstances yet Love the Lord wholeheartedly–who have shown mercy on my wavering faith and snatched me from the flames of judgment. To them, I owe the most.