When You’re On the Receiving End

Life looks different in another person’s shoes.

I’ve often heard statements like this, but it hadn’t quite hit home until God gave me opportunities to experience a life-changing perspective.

The first came in a soup kitchen.

I was joining a group of Christian friends from my school to help serve food to the homeless in our city. We went with the idea that we were going to help people – to serve them. We planned to serve, clean, and pass out bags of food to those in need.

Some of those expectations became reality, but all expectations fell apart when one of the homeless came into the kitchen.

“I want to come thank you for coming to serve and help us,” he said.

He was a kind enough person, and we asked if he would be willing to tell us more of his story. Graciously, he shared of his life before, trying times, and where he was now.

He was a pastor.

He had served faithfully in a local church, but the church could no longer afford to pay him. He struggled to find a place that would hire him. He depended upon the soup kitchen for one consistent meal. But he still held onto hope in God, and he still desired to serve others.

So he asked if he could bless us.

As he prayed over us, we all were struck to the core. We came to serve but found ourselves being served. We come to meet physical needs, and this man met a spiritual need in our lives. In that moment, our perspective on the homeless would forever be changed.

As I stepped into his story, I learned God’s call to honor the poor.

After that day, I would hear people talking in hasty generalizations about the homeless. I heard people say, “Those people deserve what they have.” I could not just stay silent. I would immediately share the pastor’s story and challenge them to reconsider their perspective.

I may not be able to influence everyone, but I could determine that I would always speak up.

In Proverbs 31:8-9, we’re given a call to do just that.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy. (NIV)

Most people won’t take the time to learn the story of the homeless, but God had allowed me to see this man for a purpose. God was teaching me to speak up and honor the poor.

If that moment weren’t enough, God allowed me to truly feel what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a person’s desire to serve the poor.

God sent my family a box.

Cara and I had taken jobs teaching in an international school in Belarus, and we moved there for a year with our, then, 5-month-old daughter. We also had the opportunity to teach youth in a local church plant. It was an incredible time of learning, growing, and developing a bigger picture of God’s heart for the world.

It was near Christmas, and a local church had just received a shipment of boxes from Operation Christmas Child. The church had begun distributing boxes to the children around them who would not receive much, if anything. Some boxes were also sent to the church plant where we were serving, and we received a big surprise.

They gave us a box for our daughter.

As little Anna opened the box, Cara and I could see firsthand what it must feel like for parents to watch their child open one of these gifts. We had a hard time understanding why they gave one to Anna at all considering our ability to give and care for her. But, I think God had something bigger in mind.

God gave us an opportunity to be on the receiving end.

It was humbling.

Ever since, we have been involved in collecting and sending boxes through Operation Christmas Child. Every year, we tell the story of how Anna received her box, and it causes all of us to want to put thought and prayers into each item we choose to place inside. Our careful consideration is yet another way we seek to honor the poor. We know that this isn’t about a box – it’s about a child.

Whether it’s a homeless person we see along the street or a box we’re packing to send off, we all are called to honor the poor. Fulfilling this call takes on a whole new meaning when it’s wrapped in a relationship.

In our Commissioning group, we have determined that we will not let the poor among us to nameless. In other words, we are praying and seeking those among us who are poor not only financially, but also those poor socially, emotionally and spiritually. When God allows us to see them, we won’t walk on the other side of the road.

Instead, we’re going to honoring them by valuing their name.

We want to ask them to share their story and give of our time to listen.

When we do, God will give us a picture of what life is like in their shoes.

May we not be held captive by hasty generalizations but be determined to move beyond our expectations and find the person on the other side whom Jesus loved enough that He died.

—-

Do you have a name and a story that you can share to speak up and honor the poor? If so, I would love it if you would take time to share in the comment area below.

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