Archive for March 5th, 2008
Several years ago I was part of a team composed of college students and pastors who visited another country to share Christ in camps and school assemblies. I will leave the country unnamed lest someone from that country would read this page and be offended.There are many things I could write about that experience but the one that stands out most involved a train ride. Thirteen of us waited at a train station for a trip to a church camp. The smell of strange food cooking on open pits, diesel fumes, body odor and garbage filled the air. There were poor people all around – some clothed with garments that were thread-bare.
The team of Americans (of which I was a part) with nice luggage, clothes, colognes, and obviously well-fed were quite a spectacle. There were beggars – children crying out, “no mama, no papa, no food.” They stared and pressed in closer as the time for the train arrived. I felt closed in and was relieved when our train finally came.
We boarded with the rush of humanity. The train was crowded, smelly and dirty. It was a four-hour train ride. This was the 2nd week of a 4 week trip. All I could think was, “I want to be home. I don’t want to be here any longer.” I wondered how I would survive the rest of the trip. I didn’t like this place or the people.
When we arrived at the church camp, I sat on the bed assigned to me and watched as a lizard ran up the wall and across the ceiling. I was really ready to go home. I sat and prayed – for grace, for a way out, for God to help in some way. I opened my Bible and it fell open to Luke 10 – an expert of the law was asking Jesus about eternal life and Jesus told him to love his neighbor. The lawyer asked Jesus who was his neighbor and Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.
As I read, “who is my neighbor?” it was as if God played a video of all the people I had so wanted to escape from at the train station. Those were my neighbors. My heart ached. I had despised those God loved. God gave me a ministry there and before the camp was over I found myself embracing people – loving people, I never thought I could like.
I had looked at those people at the train station and saw them as wrecked lives – perhaps beyond repair. However, it was my own heart that was wrecked and I was of no use to the Lord until I saw the wreckage in my own life and allowed God to mend the broken places in me.
It was in the solitude of a lizard-inhabited bed room that God was able to make me fit to serve. I need regular times of solitude for the Lord to repair additional wreckage.