“I want you to discover something this week. Why does God have you on this mission trip?” That was the question Sam (a Hope 2 Liberia Leader) wanted us to answer during our time in Liberia. I could have given a dozen reasons right then and there. Near the top of the list was my brother invited me. I treasure the relationship we have and the opportunities to minister with him. There was also the opportunity to preach and teach the Word of God and influence hundreds of people. The distribution of water filtration systems and projects that took place will change the lives of thousands upon thousands of people for generations. Those items alone were enough for me to say yes.
When Sam asked the question I had already been there a week. I had seen things that would make anyone with any sense of compassion both weep and rejoice. I had spent time with some of the most amazing leaders I had ever met. Their stories of the hurt, turmoil, and redemption from the past and the hope and vision for the future are the things which make for epic books and movies. Just what I saw in a week’s time would take a lifetime to process. How do I explain children smiling because for the first in their lives they no longer needed to hike a quarter of a mile down and then back up a steep hill to get a bucket of contaminated water? What about the mother who hugged me and said “thank you” with tears in her eyes? The truth is all that took place could have taken place with or without me. Why does God have me on this trip? Could I really answer that question in only a week? Furthermore could I possibly narrow it down or summarize it? No, but God can and did in unexpected ways.
During the Sunday morning message a fellow pastor (Tom) told about a time when he climbed a mountain and was asked why he did it. Tom said the answer was obvious. It was the same reason everyone climbs a mountain. It was for the view. Really? I thought. That was not the answer I was going to give. If I were to climb the mountain I would have done it simply because it was there. I would do it on a cloudy day. I would have seen the mountain as a challenge to conquer and the view as a bonus. Maybe I should let Tom know it isn’t really about the view. None of this was critical to the point of the sermon but an illustration I continued to ponder nevertheless.
A couple nights later Sam gave each of us an envelope with letters from friends and family back home. Each letter brought great joy, laughter, and encouragement. Then I opened a letter from my ten-year-old daughter Melinda and the emotions and tears flowed as I read the words midway through her letter, “I like that you are helping people in Liberia. When I grow up I’m going to help people in other countries just like you. I love you very much daddy!” As I welcomed her words deep into my heart, pictures of events in my life flashed through my mind. I saw images from the destruction of the 2004 Asian Tsunami that opened my eyes to the needs of the poor and the orphans throughout the world. That was followed by a picture of me visiting with Russian orphans and my mother-in-law, Janice, speaking these words, “You and Barb should adopt one of these children.” Her words confirmed what my wife and I had been praying about and told no one. Shortly after that we began the long process of bringing Melinda home. This same daughter was reminding me that this is all bigger than me. God is working and unfolding this great story of hope, redemption, and restoration. He has invited us to see His mighty hand at work as we join Him where He is working. He was at work in Asia, Africa, Central America, Russia, and America long before I even knew of such places. We serve a big God.
Tom’s words repeated themselves in my head. “It is about the view.” It was in that moment I felt God saying to me, “I want you to see the big picture. I want you to see my hand and my heart.” I am reminded of Jesus’ words to Martha "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" (John 11:40) “Don, do you see the view? I want you to see what breaks My heart. I want you to see what gives Me pleasure. Do you see me in the brokenness of the least of these? I am mourning with those who mourn. I am celebrating with those who have fresh clean drinking water. I am the Living Water that quenches thirst. I am the Hope of the nations. I am the One that causes the people to hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, so that never again will they learn war.” (Is 2:4)
What a privilege to see God. "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' (Matthew 25:34-40)
It is the view. Thank you God for letting me to see your hand and your heart.