Last week, very unexpectedly, I felt a sudden burden on my heart to help someone in need. Without even realizing what I was saying, I found myself praying and asking God to show me people who have real needs that I could help to meet.
I remember thinking at the time that this is one of those prayers that you pray a little cautiously, never knowing just how much God is going to ask of you in response. But the burden was so heavy on my heart that I knew it would be wrong to suppress it. From that moment on there was a level of expectation as I waited to see what type of need God would bring to our doorstep.
That evening we received word that two Christian communities in Nigeria had been attacked. The raiders came with containers of Kerosene and literally burned up everything. They had gone with the intent of killing everyone who lived in these communities, but by the grace of God the people were warned in the nick of time and everyone made it out safe before the raiders arrived.
There were nearly 100 people in these communities who fled in the middle of the night. There wasn’t time to gather anything to take with them so they literally fled with nothing but the clothes on their backs and just barely made it away safely. Even as they fled they looked back and could see the flames rising in the village. Their homes, their animals, all their possessions . . . everything was destroyed in the fire.
We learned about this from a friend of ours here, whose sister was among those who fled. This friend took up a collection here in our community in an attempt to gather supplies that could be sent to help these people in their time of need.
When I heard this report I knew that this was the need that God had placed as a burden on my heart. These were the people in need that I had prayed for just a few hours before.
In the days that followed, as I sifted through our belongings and began packing boxes to send to the refugees, I found myself meditating on the following verses:
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
“Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. . . . Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)
“If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” (Matthew 10:42)
“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)
I thought of these verses and I thought also about how it would be if our community were to face such a trial, or our family were to lose everything. We have enjoyed years of peace and freedom of religion. But there is no guarantee that this peace will continue for us.
Christians in our bordering country of Nigeria are experiencing such intense persecutions now. Christian communities are being targeted their possessions looted or burned. There are very few survivors being left as entire villages are literally being massacred.
Those who are going around attacking the villages have been “good enough” to send an advance warning to each of the locations they plan to raid. They send a message ahead of them as a warning, but there is no way for anyone to know how much time they have between the time the message arrives and the raid begins; it could be a matter of days, a matter of just a few hours, or even just a matter of a few minutes.
“Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.” (Matthew 24: 17-18)
There isn’t time. If you want to be counted as one of the survivors you will leave everything behind and just run! And even then you can only pray that in running you will not run into the snipers hiding out in the bush.
For those of you who may be concerned for our safety, let me just say that this is not what is happening in our area, or even in the country where we are serving.
But at the same time I have to ask, why is there more concern for us who are living in safety than there is for those who are living out this nightmare?
These are our neighbors! The family members of some of our friends and colleagues. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ!
I would much rather be challenged by someone who would ask what we are doing to help then to be warned and asked what we are doing to stay safe. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35)
These days we hear a lot of reports and a lot of criticism about the U.S. government and most especially about our new president – President Trump. Many question how he could have possibly come into power. Some would even go so far as to claim that our president wasn’t even elected by the American people but was likely put in power by some Russian intervention. (Of course, those same people had some crazy ideas about how Barack Obama got into power and which “evil force” was secretly behind his campaign, as well.)
I think we, the American people, tend to thrive on drama and feed off of conspiracy theories. I think we do this as a means of diversion, as a way in which we can lay blame elsewhere and not be forced to take a look in the mirror and face the fact that WE are responsible for putting these people in power, and also, indirectly responsible for their actions in representing the American people.
I’ll admit that I would have never voted for Trump to be president, but now that he is in power I make it a goal to be supportive and to give him “the benefit of the doubt”. And I make it a goal to PRAY for him. Because the real answer to the question of how Trump became president really lies in the fact that God ordained it.
In Romans 13, Paul gives the command: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
I think about the fact that at the time Paul would have been writing this, Nero would have been the Emperor to whom Paul owed his allegiance. I can’t imagine the injustices Paul would have seen under such an Emperor, certainly a lot more than we see under our current government.
Like many other Americans it does grieve me that our boarders are being closed to people in need, but at the same time I can’t say that I am surprised or even upset by this decision of the government.
In fact, something that grieves me even more than this is the fact that many of the Christians in America seem to be expecting the government to do their work for them!
The way I see it, the government is a reflection of the people that it governs and quite frankly the majority of people in American are not Christians. I think it’s time to wake up and realize that America is not a Christian nation anymore. We need to stop expecting Christian morals to come out of a secular government. We need to stop waiting for our government to address the issues that we as the body of Christ are responsible for addressing.
Quite frankly, the responsibility of any government is to look to the interests of its own people, to protect its own boarders, to defend the rights of its own citizens.
It is the responsibility of the CHURCH to be looking out for the interests of others. It is the body of Christ that is responsible for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming strangers, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” – that is not a government policy, it’s a Christian calling!
Instead of spending our energy picketing fences, writing petitions, and trying to convince a secular government to make Christian rulings, how about we take that energy and put it to use meeting the real needs that are all around us?!
If the government isn’t meeting certain needs then let’s see individual Christians and the body of Christ rising up to meet them!
If the government won’t let refugees come into the country then let’s see Christian missionaries going out to help them where they are!
Let’s stop criticizing President Trump for not representing Christ to the world and let’s start letting our own lights shine a little brighter.
There’s a whole world in need, and it starts with showing love to our own neighbors. It can be really easy to send a check to a distant land, but there’s so much more we can do beyond that. I bet there is someone a lot closer to you than that, a need that is right at your doorstep, a friend, a stranger, a “neighbor” by Jesus’ description.
It all starts with a willing heart and a powerful prayer . . . a prayer that God would open your eyes and show you specific needs around you – specific needs that you can meet.
** Please note that most of the images above have been copied from news headlines. It is not my intent to violate copyright laws by posting these images, I am merely attempting to portray an accurate picture of the crisis taking place across our boarder.