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Compassion for Souls, and Honoring One’s Charge

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-April 27th, 2010

Last August I experienced my second mission trip to Guatemala. It had been explained to the team that each year’s trip is always different than the last; the team dynamic is always suited to exactly what the Holy Spirit desires, and the type of outreach done seems always to vary depending on the needs of the people we go to serve. The morning we went to the inner city near this location called the Terminal, I was mentally and spiritually out of sorts. The night before had left me weary and agitated with a stomach ache that kept me up all night, and nightmares that threatened to reoccur the next moment I closed my eyes. Waking up early to do ministry in the city was the farthest thing on my mind.

But that morning as I was quietly grumbling to myself it seemed as though the Holy Spirit was having a conversation with me. I listed my complaints as I got out of the van and onto the curb of a dirty street – remarking at how filthy the curb was that was littered with plastic bags, rotting coconut rinds and other vegetable foods. There was a smell I couldn’t place as the thought crossed my mind at how filthy a place these city streets were. Going back to the mission house and taking a nap seemed like a better alternative.

Tears threatened to stream from my eyes, and my voice would have been choked had I opened my mouth to speak when we arrived at our destination. Walking the dirty streets was nothing compared to what I was about to see. Down an alleyway was a makeshift garbage dump. Smoldering used tires were piled walls high, filth and garbage made up what was once the road, familiar coconut rinds were infested with flies, and there was a smell that permeated your nostrils and left a taste in your mouth. In the midst of this small glimpse of hell, apathy, and disregard were those that time, society, love and justice seemed to forget: A baby sitting in a basket in the middle of refuse, a mother making stew for her children with rotting vegetables which surely were laden with bacteria from sitting on the dump floor, fragile corrugated steel shelters covered in plastic, and children running barefoot after each other amidst broken glass while men carted whatever they could to be recycled for some source of income.

My heart ached and I stopped dead still. I could not breathe, and if words could escape me they would have been unintelligible between sobs. For someone who had seen the beauty of what God can do – this was some hard stuff. How selfish had I been when people needed help! Christ needed to touch these people. It was impossible not to want to pick these people up and cart them away to loving arms and safety. The short time the team spent there was also hard to digest, but yet our job was clear. After a game with the children, a few songs, and a lunch that we shared among them – it was time for the team to leave.

Back at the mission house, one of the team members was having a particularly tough time. After being pressed by the Spirit to speak with her, the night was coming to an end as I found myself sitting beside her on the sofa. A scattered tear here and there made their way down her cheek as she explained that it seemed that we accomplished nothing when meeting with the people in the dump. How were we displaying Christ’s love for them? What did we accomplish when these children were still living in the dump and eating garbage? Why wasn’t it enough – why couldn’t we help them?

As I mentioned, our job as appointed by God was clear. There is no small job for the Kingdom. The job that was given to us was to instill hope and love into a dark world, to offer a glimpse of hope and of the love of Christ through people to children who may otherwise never have known that such beauty existed. Our gift was Hope – the planting of a seed and a desire to know and have something different - the desire for a positive and beautiful future.

Some time ago I sat and thought about someone I met years ago; I visited his church and came to realize that he pastors some rather eccentric people. His heart is for God and anyone who knows him can see the excitement he has for God’s kingdom. But truthfully as I sat and reflected it came across my mind that sometimes it would seem these people were more eager about the works instead of the God behind the works and I couldn’t help but feel somehow sorry for him. Why was his ministry like this? But who was I to judge? Then God had another conversation with me that I will share with you now.

“Now before the Passover Feast began, Jesus knew and was fully aware, that the time had come for Him to leave this world and return to the Father. And as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He loved them to the last and to the highest degree.” – John 13:1 AMP

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16 KJV

When Christ walked the earth, He went about healing the sick, making the blind to see, and raising the dead back to life. Christ had the power to heal all the world of all it’s infirmities. There were some places Christ walked into that as He left, no miracles were performed. The last part of John 13:1 says, “And as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He loved them to the last and to the highest degree.” Christ only performed the will of the Father. Whatever God told Him to speak, He spoke, wherever God told Him to go, He went.

As Christians we sometimes tend to think that it is OUR duty to save the world – that somehow WE CAN and WE NEED to save the world. But we cannot do this. Christ had compassion for the entire world, and calls for us to love to love our neighbor (all) as ourselves. Christ died for all to be able to have the OPPORTUNITY to salvation.

But yet just like Christ, we also have charges given to us from the Father. Because we have not the capability to save humanity in its entirety, it is all the more important that we pay attention to what…or who, rather, God has given to us as a charge. Those who God gave to Christ to reveal miracles, or to heal – Christ took care of faithfully. “He loved them to the last and to the highest degree.” The disciples whom He loved, taught and guided went on to help establish the church and further the gospel to the glory of God’s kingdom.

If the team had gotten wrapped up in the idea that “we just didn’t do enough” to help the families living in the dump in the inner city – that we couldn’t save the world – or like me, gotten wrapped up in our own concerns, our focus would have been more on what we could not do rather than on instill love and hope into the people God would have us encounter. The team would have been useless.

After reading that scripture, I thought about the man who pastors the rather eccentric people I mentioned. God showed me that this man was faithful, and glorifying to God. Those people in his ministry are his charges. And just like Christ, it is this pastor’s job to love them to the last and highest degree. He must take care of those given into his flock.

Compassion, not sympathy, is required from all of Christ’s children for the rest of the world. Those with whom God puts us in contact should be receiving Christ through us in whatever way He chooses to best reflect Himself. When we are faithful to that call, God is glorified and the gospel message is carried on.

So in closing, it is on my heart that I should leave you with this: It seems an easy and noble cause to desire to save the world. As a Christian, we should have that compassion. But are you so focused on the good you can do, should do, or need to do in the world – or on saving the world – that it distracts you from the charges God has put in your path? Are you loving, teaching, and guiding those who have been placed in your care to the last and highest degree?

If we are not faithful with the handful of people, or the little, that God has given us, how then, could we aspire to reach the world? How could He trust us to be responsible with more?

And so with that note I shall say goodnight.


  1. mtpspur's Avatar
    Well thought out and beautifully told. There are reasons I think so highly of you.
  2. Virgil's Avatar
    This was nicely written Grace. It reminded me of that closing of Schindler's List that is ingrained in me.

    "Just one more person. I could have saved one more person."

    It is a painful reminder of how little I do to help the world. Oh I donate money here and there, but that is not the same thing as true hands on sacrifice where one touches the humanity of the suffering. Bless you.
    Updated 04-28-2010 at 09:11 PM by Virgil
  3. qimissung's Avatar
    It is hard to see people living in such dire circumstances, like animals, stripped of dignity and hope, and first humbly realize that what you can do will not be enough, and then decide to forge ahead with that.

    As St. Francis of Assisi said: "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
  4. grace86's Avatar
    Thank you guys for your encouragement. I posted this on my other blog and got a message from a girl I don't speak to about how what I wrote answered one of her difficult questions - pretty much, "if I can't save the world, what do I do?"

    Gimissung, I love the quotation from Assisi, and that's pretty much where I'm headed with what I wrote - Virgil don't be disappointed or discouraged - just like Schindler and this quote...we are NOT going to be able to save the world, but we can reach out and love those around us in the way that they need to be loved...whether that be a friendly conversation, a meal, volunteering to help etc. etc. I know you know this!

    I looked at the clip from the movie, and what I took out of it as well as your point Virgil was, "Whoever saves a life saves the world entire."

    My brother once told me, before my first mission trip, "If you tie just one little boy's shoe, you've saved the world for him." The smallest actions count. I tied one child's shoe before remembering what he said, and it made me cry. The second boy's shoe I tied, came in a time in my trip where I was feeling particularly useless. Gotta remember to stay humble.

    Thank you for believing in me Rich. I always know you're out there reading!
  5. L.M. The Third's Avatar
    What good thoughts! Thanks for sharing!
  6. Virgil's Avatar
    In thinking about this again Grace, may I say that I think the title is incorrect. It's not the soul you are worried about in alleviating suffering and have compassion for, it is the body. Sometimes we forget how physical and earthly our Christianity is and is intended to be. That is the significance of God becoming man, a physical bodily man, who preached about the service for others. So it's not the soul we need to have compassion for. God will take care of the soul. It's for the body.
  7. grace86's Avatar
    I think you are right Virgil! Thank you!