Monday, August 4, 2008

Apply it to the Heart

The last day that I spent in Ethiopia was a free day for me. The training session that I was teaching ended on Wednesday, and the earliest flight out that I could get was Friday morning, so Thursday was a free day. That morning, I had read in Proverbs 24:32:

“I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”

That verse really struck my heart funny for some reason, and asked God to give me eyes to see and observe the world around me, wisdom to apply it to my heart and learn a lesson from what I see.

Ain’t God grand in His faithfulness?

I had the unique privilege of spending the day with some old friends of ours who had relocated to Addis Ababa back in March of this year. They work with an organization called Youth for Christ, and they have a vision to reach the lost and vulnerable children of the world with the overwhelming love of Christ, starting with a small group of orphans in Addis. We spent the morning sitting at a small café in Addis, sipping on macchiatos and tea as they shared with me their vision, the calling which they received from Christ, and how God is so faithful to bring it to pass. As they spoke about their love for these children, who seem so disposable and forgotten by their own people, I heard Jesus in their language, and His unshakeable love for children.

He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:36-37

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but his disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
Mark 10:13-16

Jesus took the children in his arms. The Everlasting King of Kings took into His arms what society considered disposable, throwaway, not worthy of being in His presence (who among us is?). Jesus took them in His arms.

What is it to receive the kingdom of God like a little child? What does that mean or look like? As I sat with my friends and listened to stories of ways that Jesus is transforming the lives of the orphans that they are working with, I began to understand what it means. When these children received Christ into their hearts, they welcomed Him with every ounce of hope that He had to bring, every bit of optimism that they have never known before. Many, if not all, of the children come from very rough backgrounds, and have known the world to be a very cruel place. They receive Christ from the inside out, and from the mouths of babes come profound words of faith and intercession. These children are learning at their tender ages to seek after and believe God for absolutely everything.

They told me the story of one of the young boys who had lived on the streets for quite some time. He has come to know Christ in such deep and profound ways; ways that most professing “Christians” have never experienced Him. At one point quite recently, this boy received a gift of 3000 Ethiopian birr (equivalent of about $300 USD). He had never had this much money in all of his life and so was quite broken over the gift itself. He went and exchanged the 3-1000 birr bill into 3000-1 birr bills (did you follow that?) and went before the Lord to inquire what to do with the money. He prayed over every single bill and did nothing with them without the leading and direction of God.

Ok, seriously, that was lesson enough for me in stewardship and trusting God for provisions and His faithfulness and a few others. But the day went on.

As we walked through Addis Ababa, they were very intentional to stop and talk with as many of the street children and homeless folks as they possibly could. To most anyone else, these people were invisible, bothersome, a nuisance, but I watched my friends stop and talk, smile, shake their hands, ask their names. Yes, they were asked for money repeatedly, but they simply gave them answers and continued talking with them.

We had lunch at a little restaurant in central Addis and continued our conversations, and as the meal ended, I watched my friends wrap up every bit of food that was left on the table to carry with them. Even the bread rolls were wrapped into little napkins and put into bags or purses to carry with them. When I asked about all the food being wrapped up, the simple response was, “Just in case someone is hungry.”

They weren’t referring to themselves. As we continued our journey across town, they proceeded to give away all that they were carrying with them to the hungry mouths that were asking. They even stopped at a little shop to buy some water and crackers for a hungry mama and baby after they had run out of everything else.

Over the time that they have been there, they have gotten know many of the kids who are living on the streets and are continuing to minister to them. No, they can’t save all of them and some might even argue that they are promoting the homelessness/begging, but what I saw that day was incredibly beautiful, and I know in the midst of it all, I saw God moving, warming hearts and planting seeds. What I saw were some people who are so completely sold out to serving Christ, that absolutely everything that they do, live and breath is very intentional in seeing their vision come to pass.

What I observed that day I have applied to my heart and learned a very powerful lesson. What about you? How are you being intentional in the vision you have? Do you know your calling? What is your vision for God’s Kingdom? How are you achieving it? Let us be a people who are able to learn, who are able to apply lessons to our hearts and action to our lives so that our theology is not mere academics, but life.

Grace and peace to you all. Love you!


  1. May God protect you and give you wisdom and joy as you serve him. Thanks for your open heart, it really gives me pause to reflect on things in my own "mission field". I hope you have a good week.

  2. Angela,
    Thanks so much for your encouragement and prayers!


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