Sunday, October 28, 2007

LEAST Submission

This past weekend at Wheaton Academy we held our second annual LEAST event which features our students responding to issues of justice, equality, AIDS, and poverty thru all kinds of various arts mediums and forms...below is the text of my submission this year as I closed this event...it includes a story that has gripped me as I think about how I view, think about, and respond to the needs of the LEAST in every possible arena of life...

As we close LEAST tonight, it is our prayer that you have been moved, been led to a deeper and greater understanding of the incredible work of the God of the Universe in making us, every single one of us, in His image…we are all indeed His workmanship, His best, His beloved, the very ones who He thought so much of that He would offer His Son as a sacrifice, to literally die in our place…

This incredibly powerful truth, this reality that God thinks this much of His created, has come alive for me personally in the most unlikely of places with the most unlikely people from my previous view of life and the world…so tonight I want to tell you a story, a life story of a young lady from Livingstone, Zambia named Josephine…and this story took me way outside my box and brought me more fully into the place where God’s love resides, where there is unity thru God’s Spirit and we no longer have to hide who we are or what we’ve done or where we’ve been because of whose we are in Jesus Christ…

1. I wonder if have you ever met a prostitute before…Not like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman…maybe more like those who were the bottom of society in Jesus’ day and who were the object of His interest and affection…I met Josephine this past June and heard her story…
2. Josephine’s early life looked like this…
*double orphan at 13 as both parents died from AIDS
*gets married at 14
*gets sick and her husband leaves her and her 3 kids all alone
*what does she do? No jobs, no education…
3. Her life on the streets, trying to make ends meet and somehow provide food and shelter for herself and her children…doing literally the only thing she knew that could bring her resources…selling her body as the one thing that would produce some material worth to make some provision for her kids she desperately loves…and then her husband returns and takes her kids away after years as a prostitute trying to keep them alive…
4. One night, she meets a man named Pastor William and makes her way to a church…she hears that there is a God who loves her, and she struggles with how God can love her when she’s done what she’s done and is doing what she’s doing…
5. But as she enters into the life of the church and into a relationship with a man named Jesus, another man begins to become interested in her---falls in love with her---but she can’t trust him, can’t believe in him---all the other men have treated her in a different way…and her disbelief causes her to run from him…for 2 years…
6. But still, the church doesn’t shun her and she puts her faith and trust in this Jesus who spoke to and had women just like her as some of his closest friends, and showed Himself to a former prostitute first after being resurrected…
7. As she tries to truly believe this radical truth that she was made in God’s image, that Jesus would go to the cross just for her sake, she embraces slowly His dream of a different and new life for her…
8. Something called the Sanduka Project helps her to build a new life, a life where she uses her skills, gifts, and creativity---and she begins to sew, making beautiful, unique African clothes and selling them in the market in Livingstone where she used to sell something else…
9. And she begins to peel away the layers of pain and distrust and gives herself and her heart to a man---which she never thought she’d ever be able to do…
10. And on a beautiful African day she gets married, in a church, with a white dress, and as she walks down the aisle someone who loves her, values her, and believes in her, the one who knows that God has made her to be with him is waiting for her…and everything is so different…
11. This past June I walked into Josephine’s small home/sewing studio…her husband was off teaching at the local school…and with the smell of enshema coming from the kitchen we met her as she showed us her beautiful work…and I had this simple thought…Josephine married someone just like me…and my heart leapt at the thought…
12. And then I heard the cry, the cry of a 4 week old little girl, whose life meant everything in this house and her mom’s new life…the life of a little girl born without HIV, with 2 parents, with hope, and a radically different future…

And as I held that baby I thought of Jesus telling his disciples to let them bring the little ones to Him---this little life is an incredible expression of the story of God’s Kingdom…and that Kingdom belongs to her, to all those like her who are the least…why do we do the Zambia Project?? Why do we put on something called Least?? Because Josephine and 25 other girls in Livingstone along with thousands of children in a village rampaged by AIDS and poverty are begging God to help them get out of a life that they never wanted and to find a love that they have never felt…and this God they are praying to has told us that to be just, to be like Him, we have to do something…they are waiting, God is waiting, for us to embrace Micah 6:8 and watch Him change lives and futures and eternities with great joy because it is His desire for all of those He created to know Him and love Him and experience the fullness of Life His Son left Heaven to bring to earth…may we be image bearers of God as we act justly as we look at the distribution of resources in our world, love to bring mercy to the broken and oppressed, and walk humbly with God as we realize that we share God’s image as the objects of His great love with everyone else He has created…AMEN