Focus on the one
I recently had a conversation with a fellow missionary-in-training that I thought I would share with you all as well. She's new to South Africa, and from the sounds of it, new to missions life in general. But her heart is full of love and I was so encouraged to get to know her more.
Through the course of the conversation, I felt a sense of "holding back" from her, as if something was bugging her but she wasn't sure if I was someone she could share with. I actually enjoy watching people in this position, because I've been in the same spot more times than I care to admit. And, I LOVE watching them finally decide to take the risk with me. It's a source of honor for me that people finally decide to share their hearts with me and I don't take it lightly.
After about an hour, she began to wiggle in her seat and tried to come up with more and more "polite" conversations. But when her phone rang, I told her to take the call and I stepped into my back garden to pray and ask God what I could do to help... why I was having this conversation... what He wanted both of us to hear.
While I waited for her phone call to end, I saw my neighbors' children playing in their yard. The mom came over to say hi and chat, as we do. She began to tell me some of their family's recent struggles, asking me to pray for them, which I of course agreed to. I soon realized that I was becoming overwhelmed by their list of problems and I was burdened by how many people in this little town have similar struggles. Loss of jobs, unpaid bills, lack of training opportunities, etc, etc, etc. As my head began to swim with the burdens of this third-world life, I felt Holy Spirit very clearly redirect my focus from the mom and her concerns, to the little boy "playing" nearby. He wasn't so much playing, as he was listening to every word. It honestly felt as if there was a spotlight shining on this sweet little boy's face as I heard Spirit's familiar voice whisper, "Focus on the one in front of you."
In that very moment, the burdens of this country fell off my shoulders, where they had no place of being to begin with, and my heart knew I could help one, this one, the one in front of me. I asked his mom if I could give him a gift. He lit up immediately! I ran into my house and pulled out a box full of legos that I had purchased to use for an unsuccessful school project at King's College, along with a stuffed animal for his little sister. When I handed the box over the fence, his eyes widened and he grabbed hold of the box with lightning speed, as if he thought I was going to take it back from him if he was too slow. LOL!
"Dankie, Tannie!" he shouted as he bounded up the steps to disappear into his house, followed by "Mum! They're real! They have maps!"
His mom looked at me stunned as I giggled at his strange response. "You have no idea how happy you've just made my son." His mom told me. "His birthday was last weekend and all he wanted was legos. Legos are expensive, though. So we got him some of the small packs of the other kinds of building blocks. But they don't come with instructions, or maps as he calls them. You have to look at the box and figure out how they go together. For a five-year-old, that was just too much. He has been begging for 'real legos' all week and it's just not something we could get for him....."
She teared up a little as she thanked me and I took the opportunity to return to my new friend, still on the phone in my flat. I was happy to bless this family in a way I didn't know they needed. But it didn't feel like a big deal to me. It's just part of how I've lived my life for so long now, holding on to things and waiting for God to tell me who needs them. I had good practice at this during my foster mom days as I was blessed with more resources than I could ever use and given so many opportunities to help so many others because of it.
"Thank You, Lord. I needed that" I quickly prayed.
When my new friend finished her phone conversation, she quickly dove into what was really going on in her heart. The break must have been exactly what she needed to push into it and test me with her struggles.
"Listen, you've been here longer than me. How do you handle all that's wrong with this country?"
I smiled as she went on to share the running list of all that was 'broken' in this country of people all striving to get back to their first-world status with a government who has no experience running such a country. And I understood each and every complaint this new missions partner was sharing, having recognized my own voice in her complains spoken them time and time again to the Lord. As she finished, I sat silently smiling, knowing in my heart what God had orchestrated just moments ago to help us both. When I had gathered my thoughts, these simple words escaped my mouth:
"Focus on the one in front of you."
I continued to tell her about what had happened in the yard next door, and how I had just been learning this lesson. I shared with her the connections God was putting together for me as we spoke.
Things like, "He didn't ask us to come here and save the whole country."
Or, "They already have a savoir, they don't need another one. What they need is someone to show them who the Savior is."
And, "Look for the one God is shining His light on right now, the one He has led to you because He has already been working in their lives long before you."
Together we came to the realization that God knows so much more than we do! And He most definitely knows what we need. So, He MUST know what they need as well. Our job isn't to come to a country and try to save them, or "give them a better life..." or any of the other things missionaries believe before they come to a new land. All we are meant to do is to speak love and life to the one in front of us, over and over and over again, for as long as God honors us with the privilege of serving Him.