It Matters to That One

                Sam Walter, the son of one of my good friends, is taking part in the World Race through Adventures in Missions . This is an eleven-month mission trip through eleven different countries to “serve the least of these,” and from what I’ve read of Sam’s blog , it sounds as if it is challenging, wonderful, and heartbreaking, all at the same time.

One of Sam’s recent blog posts related his experience in Romania distributing a hot meal to locals who were in need.  Although he had served in this capacity elsewhere before, it was nothing like he expected.  The people waiting to eat helped unload the van and set up tables and chairs.  After the room was organized, they sat patiently until everyone was served and a prayer was said.   Sam then shares what broke his heart:

 After two courses of food, that was it as far as what was being served.  Then the old canning jars appeared.  A couple of people had them.  They put what was left of their lunch in those canning jars.  Really nothing more than a few bites of sausage and spoonfuls of beans…  My heart broke because taking that small amount food in a canning jar is an indicator that they likely have nothing else to eat wherever they are living… And the sad thing is I have always known that people have to scrape by everyday all around the world to make it by another day. Seeing it and just knowing about it are entirely different, though.  That’s incredibly clear to me now.

Sam’s experience made him feel great empathy for these people and left him overwhelmed with the magnitude of the need around him.  Anyone who has ever served in any kind of ministry understands how easy it is to feel as if the effort will never be enough to fix the problem or alleviate the need.  When we feel like that, it is easier to ignore unfortunate circumstances in our own communities than to try and fail to fix what’s wrong.

Although Jesus did say, “The poor you will always have with you…” (Matthew 26:11 NIV), he wasn’t saying that we should do nothing to help.  He was simply acknowledging that in a fallen world such as ours, there would always be someone who needed a hand.  Jesus also had a record of helping those people who came across his path.  Interestingly enough, he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12-13 NIV).

So what I see in this passage is that we are to continue to help those who come across our paths, understanding that while our efforts may be small, too small to fix the problem, they are a way for us to participate in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s provision for their creation and an expression of their divine love.

Here’s what I wrote on Sam’s blog, to encourage him not to see his efforts as being too small in the face of such a looming problem:

I’ve been reading your blog with great interest and prayer, and tonight, there are tears, too. I am fairly certain that there are people here in the U.S. who are in similar predicaments. When faced with great trouble and sadness, it’s easy to think that the small acts of service or kindness we perform don’t make a difference (or enough of a difference). I am reminded of the story about the man who went out on a beach early one morning and found a little boy throwing the beached starfish back into the ocean. There were hundreds of them, and the man couldn’t believe the little boy was trying to save them. “Do you really think that trying to throw them back in is going to make a difference?” the man asked the boy. As he threw another one back in, the boy said, “It made a difference to that one.” Keep up the good work, Sam.

As you act in kindness and compassion toward everyone you meet, helping those that you can, remember…it made a difference to that one.

~by Nan Kuhlman

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