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Love in Action

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Mountain View
“A mountain view can literally take your breath away. Getting a clearer view of God can do the same. Here at the Warming House, you’ll find truth that will help you know and understand who God is and how He feels about you. What you find here may cause you to live your life a little differently.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel back to our beloved Africa. Actually it isn’t “our” Africa. We weren’t born on that continent, and we don’t live there now. However, the times when we’ve had the good fortune to go there, we have felt very much like we’re “home”. While we were there in 2009, we went to see a man named Joseph Cummiskey. We had met him on a previous trip and had heard that he had started an organization called Uganda Hands for Hope in the Namuwongo Slums. The Namuwongo Slums rest on the edge of wetlands in the capital city of Kampala. Their primary area of focus is to provide assistance and opportunities to the children and families of the slums so that they will eventually be able to lift themselves out of poverty.

Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

Link to Uganda Hands for Hope:

http://www.onlinehope.org/

When we met up with Joseph, we toured his facility then were taken on a little excursion into the slums where 7,000 people are packed between the bottom of a hill and a swamp. Many are displaced refugees who have fled ethnic and political violence in places like northern Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most of the residents are single parents.

As we walked through the slums, hungry goats wandered freely as they searched for rare spots of grass. A puppy looked up at me with a defeated gaze as it trudged aimlessly across my path, its ribs clearly evident beneath its fur. Residents of the slums approached a makeshift market stand leaning precariously at the edge of the dirt path. I can remember having to step carefully across the ground cluttered with piles of garbage, open sewage, and pockets of standing water. We were told the homes made of mud, cow dung and straw were constantly at risk of collapsing under heavy rains and flooding. As I took in daily life in this community, the monster of inequity, unfairness and need roared in my face

Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

People have commented to me in the past that they refuse to go on mission trips because they fear moments like these. They don’t want their hearts to be ripped out. I agree. It’s much easier not to know. But is it right to live unaware? Is ignorance what God intends for us?

Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

In a mundane, comfortable life it is easy to slip into apathy. How many times do the experiences in our everyday lives break through the barrier of indifference? How many times do those experiences deeply move us? Was this experience in the slums what it means for God to break my heart for what breaks His? To share in His pain? To grieve over the suffering of His creation? There was truly something holy and intimate about that moment as He allowed me to feel His heart.

As I struggled to absorb all that I was seeing, I thought of the car that waited for me across the street. It was my means of escape from this nightmare. Beyond that car, was a plane ticket that would take me away from this continent. Beyond this continent lay a home country where there is abundance and infrastructure and social services for the poor. In that country is a comfortable home with a kitchen, a bathroom, and a soft, cushy bed with warm coverings and soft pillows where I can lay down at the end of the day. But the residents of the Namuwongo slums are stuck in a lifestyle they cannot escape.

Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

The Namuwongo slums are a dry and barren land in need of hope – the kind of hope that is not dependent on circumstances. The kind of hope that’s available to everyone – rich and poor. The kind of hope that is eternal and unfailing. It is the hope found in Jesus Christ and the future He provides that is free from all this worldly struggle. I felt an urgency within me to share that hope with these people.

“In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you . . .” 1 Peter 1:3-4

“And God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev. 21:4

Photo used with permission from Uganda Hands for Hope

As I considered the desperate need for Jesus, other needs screamed louder . . . the need for adequate shelter, food, sanitation, health care, education, and more. If I truly loved these people enough to share the good news about Christ, how could I overlook their daily pain and suffering? If I professed to love God, how could I bypass the needs of those He loves and created in His image?

Then I wondered . . . how would these people receive our claims about a God who provides when they struggle daily just to survive? If they cannot see God’s goodness in their surroundings, would they be able to receive the verbal news Christians profess of His goodness? Would they embrace the truth about God or would they reject that good news based on their suffering? Would all of my words about God’s mercy be lost in their quest for food and survival? Hunger makes it difficult to focus, to play, and to work. Survival instincts kick in. Every thought, every act, and every breath is centered on finding food. How would these people receive the news about the “bread of life” (John 6:35) when they are so desperate to find bread?

When Jesus began His ministry, he taught in the synagogues and preached the good news of the kingdom of God. As He taught and preached, He was confronted with the immediate physical needs of the people. Because of His compassionate sensitivity to human need, He often “healed every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23).  Whether it was healing a leper, helping the lame walk, or feeding 5,000 hungry people, He did not teach to the exclusion of immediate physical and emotional needs (Luke 7:22). He sincerely cared about (and addressed) the needs of the whole person. The news about Him spread and many people from the surrounding areas came to Him (Matthew 4:24-25).

We can talk all day about kindness and compassion, but to many they will only be empty words. Life has taught them differently. Some in our world today have been so severely damaged that they believe kindness and compassion don’t exist anymore. They don’t trust anyone and believe there’s only one person you can rely on – yourself. To them, the world is cold and uncaring. Some see Christians as a bunch of people who want to tell them what to do and how to live. The church has alienated them and doesn’t seem to know they exist. Church buildings are just pretty little playgrounds for perfect little people who don’t have a clue what real life is like. So words are empty. You can speak of the love of Christ all you want – but it means nothing. What they need is to be shown. Only then will the words become real.

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

How might the world respond to the good news of Jesus Christ if we were to share the compassion of Christ through our actions and not just our words?

Lisa~


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