Two weeks ago, my friend Jerry (aka “Mr. President”) asked me to tell him why we’re here (Ecuador) and why we stay. I figured if he wanted to know, then maybe other people want to know too…so here you are.
Last week when we talked, you asked me a fairly short, simple question.
Why do I do what I do?
I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and I’ve come up with a fairly short, two-part simple answer that will take a lot of words to define.
Because people matter…and I have to.
We’ve been on the mission field for almost 10 years. I wish (sometimes) that I could say that I’m “super missionary”…completely fulfilled living and working overseas, basking in the Glory of the Lord…never bothered by the little things, but rather looking on them as temporary trials on the way to my eternal home…all while evangelizing the people we work with and seeing them come to the Lord by the bucketful…
I’m a grouch. An introverted grouch, to be more precise. I have anxiety issues courtesy of my genetics on my grandmother’s side. The “little things” are enough to send me right straight out of my mind, and trust me—it’s a short trip. I am not in any way, shape or form an evangelist. I can’t even make small talk with people without breaking out in a cold sweat.
But it’s not about me. Wait. Yes it is. It’s all about me. And all about you, and all about every one of the people that we live and serve with, because Jesus came for every one of them. Because people matter.
The simple reality is that I could pack up and move back to the US tomorrow if I really wanted to. Although it might take some time, I could go back to living the way I used to live, and eventually put away the years on the mission field in a box, to be pulled out and passed around when I want to show off a little bit.
I could. But I seriously doubt that I would ever sleep again.
I believe in Jesus, and I am certain of my salvation in Him. I don’t have to DO anything for that. I don’t, however, believe that I’ve got a free pass to spend the rest of my life doing nothing for the people around me.
I’ve looked into eyes that are old and tired and look as though they’ve seen every misery that this planet has to throw at them…eyes that belonged to a four-year-old child. I’ve seen people toss aside every last shred of their humanity and claw their way through a crowd to get to a one-pound bag of rice, because it’s the only thing standing between their children and starvation. Desperation has a face, and I’ve met it head on.
People matter. Every one of the people that I encounter matters to Jesus. He loves every single one of them as if they were His only child. Their circumstances shock me. They don’t shock Him—He knew that they would live in that shack, and work in the garbage dump, and have too many babies that they couldn’t take care of…and He loves them passionately.
He commands us to care for the widows and the orphans. The ones who are least able to care for themselves. I can be pretty judgmental—I’m the one watching the lady with too many children standing in the middle of the street selling candy to support them and thinking, “Why does she continue to have children that she cannot support?” I constantly have to jerk myself up short and remember that it’s none of my business why. Jesus didn’t say “Here. Why don’t you have a seat, and I’ll explain her situation to you, and then you’ll understand and you can go and help her and feel good about yourself.” What He SAID was “Give her something to eat. Hold her baby for a minute. Listen to her. And for heaven’s sake, stop thinking that you’re better than she is!”
People ask me why. Why do I stay here? It’s a tough question. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too much. Heard too much. Held too many babies—looked into their eyes and seen their future—too many babies of their own and a box of Chiclets in the middle of the street seven days a week. I’ve seen too many desperate parents, too many hungry children, too many angry teenagers, too many absent fathers, and too many overwhelmed mothers. I can’t do everything. I can’t change the world. I can’t change Ecuador. But if I can make someone’s life just a little easier, even for just a few minutes…if I can make that little four year old with the ancient eyes forget and just laugh for a little while…if just one person can go to bed tonight knowing that their children had enough food for today at least…If just ONE PERSON comes to Jesus because for the first time in forever he feels like someone loves him…then it’s all worth it. It doesn’t happen every day. But it happens. And as long as there’s a chance, I have to stay here.
Because people matter.