Two Saturdays before Easter this year, my husband and I went to an outreach event at the home of a woman I know from my Bible Study. Her name is Beth. She is a widow. She doesn’t let that hinder her from doing huge things. The truth is, her season of life has opened up large opportunities to reach beyond her reach from her own home. Her neighbors are always coming to her with needs. Some need toilet paper. Others need coats. There are some who need food. More than a few need a friend to talk with. All need Jesus.
Recently, I heard Bob Goff comment that instead of labeling things as “ministry”, we should just give them the title of “Jesus.”
Beth is being Jesus to these people. And she’s rallying others to be Jesus with her.
So there we were, in her front yard, back yard, and even the inside of her home. The resources she did have, she was making available to her neighbors. What she didn’t have, she extended to her church friends an opportunity to serve tangibly. A free yard-sale with breakfast was going on in the front and an Easter egg hunt to be followed by the Easter Story was happening for the kids in the backyard. And I was to share the Story.
But the thing is, there were only like 3 kids other than my fellow volunteers friends’ children. And those kids left quicker than any Easter Bunny could hop without giving me the chance to share the gospel story of Jesus. I was a bit bummed.
Until, my husband came running over to me with a man that I was certain was of African descent. “This is Cyrus, babe! He’s from Africa! From the Central African Republic… and he’s head of the teams that dispatch from World Help to Africa!”
My jaw dropped as I scrutinized over his familiar face. “I’ve just read an article from World Help that had YOUR picture in it!” I exclaimed. Just about a week or two before, I had written a small piece to raise awareness for how we can help restore hope in Rwanda, even 20 years after the genocide that occurred there. The article I had read with Cyrus’s picture helped enlighten me as I researched.
Our purpose for being there was starting to go far beyond me sharing the Easter Story. God wanted us to meet Cyrus.
Cyrus shared snapshots of his life’s story as he stood there under the shade of the trees chatting with us.
He was born in the Central African Republic. His wife, Julie, was born there also. Much of their lives have been marked by trauma from the lands that birthed them. Julie was abandoned by her father. Well…dropped off into the care of missionaries working at a home with abandoned children. One of the single, American missionaries, May, tracked Julie’s father down and asked if she could raise Julie as her own. Though their flesh colors were polar opposite, their hearts shared the colorless bond of mother and daughter from then on.
Years later, when that woman was beginning to die, the doctors asked her who her power of attorney was and she said, “My daughter, Julie, of course.”
Julie spoke to Cyrus, “If it were not for her, I would be dead.”
“Finish strong as you care for your mother in her final days, Julie,” Cyrus lovingly responded.
The three of us stood there with tears in our eyes as he recounted those pages of their story. Our eyes glistened profusely as he shared further.
They had been serving with the little church in Ohio that sent Julie’s mom as a missionary to Africa.
After all the injustices Cyrus had seen his people go through, he had wanted to become the Supreme Court Justice of his country. And he knew he could. He got his law degree in the states, but God was directing his path in a way that was sure to humble his heart.
He and Julie moved their family of five to Virginia for him to go to seminary. Shortly after they moved here, their ten-year old daughter drowned.
Cyrus didn’t know much about my own story, but what he said next struck a chord with me.
“Because of her death and our loss, children in Africa now have much gain.” They used his daughter’s death as a platform to reach beyond their reach. It was a way for his daughter’s breathless body to reach beyond the grave and leave a lasting impact for Christ upon this world, in a place torn apart by the awful deeds of neighbors. In her memory, they helped start a hope house, which rescues children who have been orphaned, in partnership with World Help.
I had shared with him that I was a writer and partnered with World Help Bloggers. My husband had told him about his thesis, which he is wrapping up this month as he finishes his Masters of Fine Arts in Graphic Design.
My goal is to reach beyond my reach through writing to proclaim the message of hope through Jesus Christ.
David is working to design an app that will partner with national pastors (starting in Africa, with hopes to expand around the world) who have been connected with missions organizations that pass a rigorous screening to connect individuals who are able to help with immediate tangible needs. He yearns to use this as a way to meet physical needs of people who are can’t make it on their own, so that they can live long enough to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He challenged us both to continue to stay faithful in our platforms.
We chatted about how it can seem so overwhelming when you hear of all the needs around the world. We talked about how skittish stateside people are to help because they’re afraid those people will become dependent upon them. But that’s just it. They ARE dependent upon them. They ARE dependent upon us.
In lands where the governments are so corrupt that you cannot drive or walk from point A to point B without having to pay somebody off, in places where famine, drought, and poverty are the chains that bind their nations’ weary souls, in countries where women see no other option than to sell their bodies to put morsels of food into their children’s mouths, in regions where neighbors massacre entire generations just because of their family roots…
The people ARE dependent upon us.
I’ve said it before. When I visited Kenya, my friend Steve taught me that in America, people have options. If they can’t afford it, we can somehow get their hands on a credit card. In Africa, people don’t have those options.
These people are on our watch.
Those death bells that ring now for our fellow mankind who are being slaughtered in places like Syria, Sudan, Somalia, and Egypt… those bells toll for us.
We don’t have the full title of power to rescue each one of them. But we belong to the one who does. With the voices that God has given us, we have the power to proclaim to the world, “Not on my watch will those people remain voiceless.”
We each have the power to do something.
Cyrus reminded me of the story of Joseph when he was in prison with the cupbearer and baker.
When the cupbearer was released from jail, Joseph begged him to remember him. But, TWO YEARS went by and he never crossed the cupbearer’s mind. Until… he heard that Pharaoh was having trouble sleeping because of some bad dreams. He scratched his head and had an aha moment.“Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.” (Gen 41:9-13 NIV)
We’ve all got something that allows us to say, “No, not on my watch.” Change may not happen over night, but our words and actions can live far beyond our earthly existence. Like Joseph, you never know how what you do today will one day be remembered, discovered, or rediscovered.
I have no idea how many days remain in the calendar of my life. But, I write. Frantically, I write, in case the next breath I take is my last. Because I don’t want to finish my life and find that it has been wasted. I don’t want to get to the end of the days and know that I could have done something to help my fellow man live long enough to find the key to everlasting life and that I didn’t.
The phrase from the movie, Gladiator, is true, “What we do today, echoes in eternity.”
Cyrus shed light on something from Africa that had puzzled us. Scores of people we met lived in mud huts with no electricity, yet they had cell phones AND Facebook. We were in the middle of nowhere, Africa, when a guy on a bicycle drove up to us and asked us to put money on his phone account. We apologized that we couldn’t and joked amongst ourselves that we could barely even afford to pay our own cell phone bills. But we learned that these primitive people living in the bush of lands we only knew of previously from movies like The Lion King, were in many ways far more advanced than we were.
In earlier days, people would communicate between tribes by drums. They had certain rhythms that were clear messages to their neighbors. That’s why they have FaceBook and phones. Connectivity. It’s utterly important to them.
Connectivity. Relationships. Their souls long to be connected and to be remembered.
My words may be forgotten today. But maybe, just maybe, one day someone will stumble across them and the strings of their heart will be pulled to jump out of their inaction and to begin to beat the drums that they have access to so as to let their neighbors know they are coming. To let them know that they are coming to share the community of Christ with them. To let them know that they are not forgotten and they won’t be on their watch. To let them know how to have the relationship they have always yearned for, but never been able to catch for lack of drum beats from others communicating how to find it.
People like Cyrus ruin my life and as he says, leave me “gloriously wrecked.”
How about you? Are you ready to be gloriously wrecked?
What Drum are You Supposed to Beat?
What’s your platform? What drum are you ready to beat to turn your losses into someone else’s gain?
Beth’s got one. May had one. Cyrus and Julie have one. Their daughter who died left a legacy that still beats on past the grave. My husband has one. I’ve got one.
You’ve got one.
Pick up that drumstick. Start beating.