The Least of These

Featured

She was 28 years old. Stabbed multiple times all over. Died alone.

Never once has the pain of ministry hit home as much as it did yesterday.

This weekend we lost a dear sister. Her life was snuffed out by a nameless man in the confines of a room that she worked and slept. Reading her name on the screen of my phone in a news article and knowing who she was took the wind out of me. This woman that was just a fact in a news story was a sister and dear friend.

Precious Woman
She was well known where she worked. All the women we spoke to described her as friendly, outgoing, caring and a smart woman. She helped women plan their finances so they could build homes and even purchased her own car. She was industrious and saw a life outside of the streets. This work was just a necessary means to an end.

She had just asked for us to come visit two weeks ago. Pursued was making plans to get her son gifts for Christmas. Her voice echoes in my mind, “You can come man, just keep on your mask and stand off and pray.” She relayed how the women we serve were asking how we hadn’t been out to pray for them. I remember thinking on it and telling my team but making no real plans to go out. I didn’t want to force anyone to endanger themselves and I knew I couldn’t go out on my own. So I didn’t.

Last night all of that didn’t matter. With a pounding headache and tiny cohort we went. With these few members hugs, and tears flowed freely as we joined in the mourning not as elite bystanders but as fellow human beings united by a common experience. All the fears and logistics that kept us away, melting in the face of real terror, grief, guilt and loss.

Isn’t that what Christ did? He came down in the sickness of our sin and the pain of our sufferings, and joined into our reality and touched us. He mourned with Mary and Martha, he held contagious lepers, ate with tax collectors and looked into the eyes of prostitutes. He turns to us as believers saying, “do the same.” Because whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for Him.

REAL LIFE REAL PAIN

As we sat, stooped and stood the ever present reality of their pain yet again became evident. I was sitting on the curb as a her close friend cried and shared her pain. Her face showing signs of being far away while replaying the events of the night. Up walked a gentleman, standing right at my side. She looked up excused herself and went to work. I thought about her having to let a man lay on her, touch on her, be intimate with her, use her body for his pleasure with no regard for how she was grieving.

This is their life.

I remembered texting to ask one of our ladies if she was working that night. Her matter of fact statement bolted me to the floor. She told me she was terrified but that she must work, she had to feed her kids. Do you hear that? Do you see what is reality for our sisters?

Have you ever driven down a street and tried to quickly turn your eyes away? Have you laughed and planned a strip club night for your bachelor party? Have you clicked on that porn site to experience self pleasure from a video? Have you seen them as other?

Have you considered that as they stand there on the road, or slide across the stage or perform in a video they had to find a babysitter for their child that night, drug themselves, and compartmentalize their pain so their clients could have a good time? I just want you to consider.

The Work of the Cross

I considered. I not only considered I took again another look at the work of the cross. I wanted so badly for our sisters to see that. I wanted all of the sisters to get it. I wanted to be like “LOOK its this. this is what you need. Jesus is what you need. Please get it.

As this sister walked away I turned and inhaled the potent weed, engulfed in the sad music that blared from the speakers across the street at a vendors stall, and in the dim light of the candles that lined the sidewalk I saw her. I walked over thinking she was a lady I knew. She wasn’t.

Her drugs of choice in hand to numb out the pain I watched her inhale and steady herself as I walked towards her, putting on her mask of “I’m fine”. But there is nothing like a person making themselves present. What started as small talk quickly devolved into tears and pain, questions and heartache. The truth of the gospel message and the charge to go out playing out in real life.

We surrounded her and prayed. We listened and we encouraged. We shared God’s love and made plans to get further help. It was hard to leave that night. We saw the time; the many more girls we hadn’t spoken to, but we had to go. Police had just driven by and we needed to be responsible.

I came home and read the Luke version of the prostitute Mary washing Christ’s feet with perfume and tears. This time I thought about Mary and how Christ’s love and His compassion must have impacted her. Men had used, abused and broken her, but Christ’s love did such a work in her life that she could make herself so vulnerable before a Man. Are we making it clear to the lowly and exploited that there is a God you can be broken with?

The least of these.
I don’t have a nice closing to this. I am just processing “out loud” so to speak. This is the reality of the pain of the down trodden, the broken and we simply need to keep doing God’s work and showing His love to the least of these.

Really! What’s Next

written by Stacy-Ann Smith
Republished from Press Service International

Ever feel like God has a flair for the dramatic? Ever feel as if His methods of responding to prayers and teaching of lessons have more twists and turns than a Alfred Hitchcock movie? You trust Him of course but sometimes you wonder why His idea of on time is usually the last possible moment.

“But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” Matthew 17:27

That was Jesus’ plan to handle an issue with the disciples need to pay taxes, in order to not cause offense. I read that and felt that Jesus was being dramatic. Why couldn’t He just give Peter a coin; just pull one out of His cloak and hand it to him? Both would have been miraculous so why not? Jesus was full of gut wrenching, teeth biting, heart palpating methods.

We often feel that way with our own lives. We know God can do great miracles and that there are much shorter ways to the end goal, so what’s up with the long way? I feel like I would have looked at Jesus as he grabbed my sinking self while walking on the lake (like Peter I would have been frightened by the waves) and say “No disrespect Jesus but isn’t there a less theatrical way to do this?”

How many times have I wanted understanding, provision or protection and I go to Him about it and I get my own version of the fishing expedition. I think of my third year in college when I had my school fees to pay. I knew this year was tight for my parents and the scholarship hadn’t come through, so I prayed.

I prayed the first week when early registration started and I signed up for classes. I prayed during regular registration as I sat in my lecture hall like a stowaway on a ship, hoping that God had something in store. I prayed as I filed hall residents’ eviction notice for students who had not yet paid their fees and noticed my name in the stack.

It felt like that edge of the seat suspense part of a movie. You know the hero is supposed to come soon, but the villain is distracting him, or he is taking forever to find the girl and you are willing him to hurry and catch the damsel before she faces an imminent and terrible death (forgive my archaic hero-save-the-girl reference, I have probably been single too long).

You know it’s just a movie but you are ecstatic when the hero comes bounding over the obstacles, defeating the villain, saving the girl and restoring peace to the city, and all the wait and suspense becomes worth it. The victory is that much sweeter and the outcome even more epic.

Unequivocal dramatic form

Like my true hero, in unequivocal dramatic form my fees were paid. But on the very LAST possible day. The day they flush your classes from the system, call you out in class to go to the front office, and get ready to send you home. Yes on that day is when He sent an anonymous payment of my fees.

He always comes through. He does provide, bless, heal, restore. And as much as I wish He would do so early, and spare me the biting of my fingers, I recognise that that way provides less chance for my faith to grow, which is the point of this whole thing. It is also reassuring to know that I am not the only one living through this movie theater experience.

Even James, the brother of Jesus and en elder in the church had to send out a comforting message to other Christians like me. He says in Chapter 1: 2 (Living Bible):

Is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So, let it grow and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.

I like a full length movie with twists and turns and edge of the seat suspense. Who wants to go to a movie where the answer is obvious and it ends in no time? Well, welcome to the movie of our lives being played out on earth’s big screen.

In the same way I know in the back of my mind that the star will not die, and good will win out, I carry around in the back of my mind that God is at work behind the scenes, regardless of how desperate my situation looks, or how the world looks or how the future looks.

The Award-winning Director is at work – theatrics and all.

Photo by Annie Gavin on Unsplash

Mic Check 1, 2 (guest blogger-Tameika)

When I was in college I smoked a lot of weed. I felt like it made me GREAT. It flicked off the switch for the stairway to my soul, and I liked it. The minute I woke up I would get high. I went to work high. I couldn’t do anything until I was high. I would be upset, then I smoke a spliff (blunt) and would be at peace with the world.
But something happened and I couldn’t enjoy the high anymore. Though I still preferred the escape it provided, there was something trying to communicate with my conscience and initially I did not like it.
At first I thought I was just ‘trippin,’ or paranoid, but all of a sudden every time I was high  my conscience felt like it was amplified. I was more aware of what I was doing and who I was with. I started reflecting on my life in and why I was even where I was. At this point I was still in  darkness so I didn’t even know how to navigate myself to the switch I turned off in the first place.
Then one night when I was at a popular nightclub in Jamaica called Fiction something strange happened. I got all my friends together to attend this party. I used to LOVE to party and I knew a lot of people so I was always mixing friends and drinks at the same time.  I was in for a good time every weekend.
Before I got to Fiction of course, I had to get high. On my way there though, something didn’t feel right. When I walked inside my entire mouth went dry. My sight was blurry, my hearing was elevated it and it was hot. I felt like I was in hell. The music became very distasteful and looking around watching people grind on each other suddenly disgusted me. I had to leave.
At this point my friends were enraged. I had dragged them out of their house, stepped in the club for 20 minutes and now I wanted to leave. Clearly I lost a screw and needed to go find it. I pulled my best friend at the time outside and explained to her what was going on and begged her to shove her hands in my mouth to feel how dry it was. She thought I was crazy. At this point, even I thought I was clearly insane, but I had to leave immediately!
According to Dr. Peter Kreeft  “the very will of God  [is] speaking, however obscurely and whisperingly, however poorly heard, admitted, and heeded, in the depths of our souls..”
That night, the God of the universe was doing just that, speaking to my soul. He was opening my eyes to the truth of my sinful state.
When God created the first human He said “this is good.” However, since the entrance of sin, God has not been able to look down on His creation and say those same words again. None of us were good because of sin. It was because of this that God the Father sent His son Jesus Christ to give His life for the redemption of man providing us with the Holy Spirit so that in Him we can do the good works He has prepared for us.
Doing good comes only from God. Without Him I was clearly doing a terrible job at being good in the eyes of my Creator. But God wasn’t allowing me to stay there. He began to speak up in the loud din of noise that was my sinful, wayward life. My conscience became a podium and microphone and there was a guest speaker the Holy Spirit.
I couldn’t believe it. Holy cow, the God of the universe was talking to me! Live and Direct. Me! Why!? Because He loves me. Even while I was still sinning, smack dead in the middle of it feeling like I’m in hell, Christ loved me enough to begin to intervene and speak!
Eventually, I listened. I no longer tried to drown Him out attempting to keep my soul blocked off from the light of His wisdom. The loving call of the Holy Spirit drew me in and when I began to listen the reality of of my need for him hit hard. It sank so deep I felt a light came on.
I surrendered my life to Christ and the Holy Spirit went from being a guest speaker to the keynote. The Holy Spirit was now the resident on the inside of me, and when that happened, it brought light to my soul, and now I live a life constantly open to the admonition and direction of this Heavenly mouthpiece.
– by Tameika Smith

Wooden Plank

I scrolled through the names of my Whatsapp account and came across the contact of a person that caused me to initially want to cringe. Immediately before the thought could form its dastardly self into the recesses of my mind, it was almost bulldozed back to whence it came with the simple nudging of the Holy Spirit (you know He has the best counter arguments). “Take the plank out of your eye before you mess with the dust is someone else’s.” Now that may not be the way the Holy Spirit speaks to you, and it may sound like a crude version of the fluent admonition from Scripture in Matthew 7:3. However, the moment impacted me so tremendously that I opened up this, my first blog post and decided to write.

This information isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t the most profound.But I kept on thinking,how many of us, take the time to pull back from postulating a theory about someone and what they should or should not be like, all the while totally disregarding all the personality defects, wrongdoings, and altogether messed up ways that we engage in daily? I also kept thinking about how quick we are to be disgusted by another’s acts forgetting our need for yet another chance. It seems we are so quick to offer an explanation for why we do the wrong we do and yet jump heavily on others, pounding their efforts for an appeal for mercy and dashing any attempts on our part to walk in grace. What kind of world would we live in if we tried to take a moment to offer grace, to forgive when wronged, to take a massive swallow of our inflated egos and pride and say I’m sorry?

I think of persons who I have de-friended, blocked, hung up on, and altogether disregarded all in an effort to salvage my heart and build myself up, all the while forgetting the cross in the process. I forgot my appeals to God for grace and the mercy He showed me time and time again. I turned completely away from the mercy of the cross when my Savior hung there and instead focused on others wrongdoing, seeing it as was way too much for me to forgive. I forgot my Lord and Savior who hung bleeding on the cross for my bastardy behavior. If there ever was one to point a finger, then my perfect Savior could. He who knew no sin… Yes, He who never betrayed, never acted selfishly, never disregarded our feelings, NEVER DID A THING WRONG didn’t think anything of it to sacrifice. What love!  So tell me why? Why can’t I spend less time highlighting the minute (or sometimes major.. let’s be real) dust shavings in other people’s lives knowing full well that I have my own.

I am not saying this from an accomplished “dealing with my own wooden plank” standpoint. I say these things as charge to myself. I don’t even know if anyone will hear, read or agree with what I have to say. But what if people did? What if we did more self-reflection and sizing up? What if we realized that just as how you thought you had a reason for the inconsiderate, self-advancing, selfish thing you did, then that maybe, just maybe even though we won’t excuse behaviors, we may be able to forgive and give them another chance.

Let the Holy Spirit search your heart like the psalmist David said and have Him remove that plank.. Maybe then we will see better.