As I stared out the window of the bus, I couldn’t look away.
I had come thousands of miles to Costa Rica with staff members from church to see local needs up close and find ways that our church could potentially partner with churches and organizations to serve not only physical but spiritual needs.
I had met church leaders, been to gatherings of believers and seen ministries firsthand that were amazing in their heart and impact.
But when I found myself in the shack town of Carpio, cut off from the rest of San Jose, I couldn’t tear my eyes from what I saw.
There, at the edge of the city dump, were four children. Four children, digging through bags and boxes of trash sniffing for food and looking for items to salvage. A girl with her toes broken through her thin shoes. A boy in tattered and dirty clothing.
My heart broke.
In that instant where we saw the children, our entire bus was silent. How do you process children trying to find their next meal in heaps of trash? How do you look at the young, innocent faces in the midst of refuse and compare them to your own children back in a comfortable home with more than enough food on the table?
In the few moments we lingered there, the silence was heavy, weighed down by my feelings of shame and ingratitude. And then our bus turned down a lane into an area that transformed trash literally into treasure – a haven for education, health and recreation for children, the exact children who were just digging through trash for food.
In that instant, we saw the amazing thing God has been doing in Carpio. With the heart focus of men and women who didn’t turn away from his calling, they are teaching young men and women educational basics. They are caring for and feeding children. They are training men and women in real vocations to help them escape poverty. They are bringing recreation options to children on land that has hundreds of feet of buried trash beneath it.
God took what many considered trash and through the transformational love of His children is creating a beautiful treasure.
We were reminded by Pastor Keith in church about his experience and how we are called to serve as His witnesses in Acts 1:8:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We have many ways to be witness and serve right here in our own “Jerusalems” and “Judeas” – our cities and regions. We even have those “Samarias” where we need to go – the place of the outcast and the forgotten. These needs are great and many feel the burden to not look away from the needs in these places.
But we can’t look away from the rest of Jesus’ command – to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Corporately, we aren’t given the option to “opt out” of being a witness even to the far reaches of our planet.
Will we all be called to serve internationally? No. We know that God gives us each skills and gifts that we can use to further His kingdom. He may be placing our Beautiful Savior food pantry on your heart as a place to give back and serve. Maybe you feel a passion for working with immigrants and want to connect with the Peace International Center. Maybe you are going into Samaria by serving in prison ministries to reach the untouchables in our society.
Today, I ask you to pray for all those ministries above, that God might use men and women like you and I to make an impact for His kingdom. I also ask you to pray for God’s word to reach the end of the earth, and for our specific church family’s focus on global mission:
Father, you have given us so much. Our blessings are great. Help us to see the need around us – the physical needs to care for your children, and the spiritual hunger and thirst for your Word. Give us clarity as a church family about how we can best meet needs locally and internationally, and pray for passion for your mission and unity as your children so we can be a light shining on the hill – shining out your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Not turning away,