I first posted this on Semkee/Seeds on August 31, 2011. Still one of my favorites. I was thinking about that ride on the bus and Isaiah 58 just this week. It’s a memory that will stay with me forever.
Sometimes I look back on my years in Ukraine and think, “Dang, this is so hard. This is so HARD. Why do I DO this?” Life is so complicated here and it’s routine to occasionally find yourself totally overwhelmed and feeling bereft. Last month I had a morning of feeling this way and I found myself starting to read Isaiah 58 and remembered thirteen years ago when this chapter had first gotten my attention.
I was on a bus with my missions team and we were somewhere between one of what seemed like one of thousands (I’m exaggerating, that’s just what it felt like) of orphanages that we visited to give away Samaritan Purse shoeboxes which were packed full of gifts. At that time, teams were not as common as they are now and we found ourselves repeatedly meeting people and children who had never met Americans. We were oddities and entertainment. We smiled and hugged the kids and expressed probably more emotion in ten minutes than they would see in ten days time.
I had many reactions to seeing hundreds of children starving for attention and love. One of the more usual feelings for many people who visit institutional orphanages is, “This is SO wrong. Something has to be DONE about this. These children need to be FREE from this situation.”
At some point on this blur of a trip, one lady got up and just started reading Isaiah 58. Now you have to understand that we had over thirty type A personalities on this trip. Amazingly enough we bonded and were so geared up that on the drive home from LAX we were all, “LET’S GO BACK RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE AND DO IT AGAIN!” No one fell behind in this group.
So at one point of the trip, one of the ladies on our team got up and just started reading Isaiah 58 like it’s the most normal thing to do while we are all driving down a potholed road in Ukraine. We got all worked up about setting the captives free and lifting that yoke of oppression and feeding the hungry and giving out clothes to those who need them. We were practically bouncing off the roof of the bus with excitement! We had a moment of emotional connection with God’s heart. We were seeing the needs of the people that God wanted us to help and we connected the concept together.
Last month, thirteen years later I read that chapter again and I realize that the emotion, passion and desire are only the starting point when God calls us to go out and help others. The desire is good but it’s only the beginning. The desire comes before the hard work. The preparing, the plans, the carrying it out is the next stage and it’s not as easy. It is much harder. The sweat, tears, the strain on your finances and perseverance get played out and put to the test. The rubber meets the road so to speak. This is were some people unfortunately get disillusioned and quit.
I realized that desire and then the reality of carrying out ministry to people are two different things. We cannot always continue onwards to a goal solely sailing on our desires or passions. Like an athlete who has to discipline himself to train even on the days he doesn’t feel like it, we have to understand that in helping people, we have to keep going even when the going gets tough. And even though that will be the hardest part, the results are well worth it.
Is it worth it to tell an orphan that Jesus loves them and see their whole life change with just these words? Is it worth it to give a child a shoebox of toys when they have nothing? Is it worth it to give cold children warm clothes? Is it worth it to help a street child get off the streets and begin to live a totally normal life? Is it worth it to give medicine to a sick child? Is it worth it to help tutor a child so they can learn another language? Is it worth it to spend time with a handicapped child who can’t go to school and be around children his own age? Is it worth it to visit sick children in the hospital and pray for them? Is it worth it to help a child be placed in a family? Is it worth it to help a young mom understand how to show love to her child?
These are some of the things I’ve been able to be a part of after the passion of this chapter of Isaiah 58 captured my heart. I have had many people, some even Christians, ask me this question. Why do you do this? Why is this important?
Because it’s worth it. Even through the hard days, it’s worth it.
I still sometimes feel like I’m on that bus with my friends driving down the potholed roads of Ukraine. That trip was the beginning of a longer journey for me and my heart is thankful for everyone who is still “with me” on that “bus,” my friends, family, sponsors, churches, organizations I’ve worked with, and my Ukrainian ministry partners.
Living out Isaiah 58 is not easy but it is SO worth it!
“And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.”…..Isaiah 58:11