Which of these two questions causes you to squirm the most: Why do seemingly honorable people suffer? or Why do the people who do bad things prosper? I wrestle with both of them. For instance, it makes we wonder why people who strike unethical deals and cheat on their contracts seem to get away with their schemes and even prosper, while someone who is seeking to live for Jesus struggles to pay his or her bills.
In the midst of the rain and cold of an icy winter in 2014, more than 800 illegal shack-dwelling families were evicted from their homes along the southwest coast of South Africa. Although the eviction followed a high court order to prevent further land invasions and had come after many years of wrangling between land owners and the city council, the timing and the method of the eviction caused a public outcry. There appeared to be a lack of compassion shown by the leaders involved.
God has given me new things to treasure and value since I left the US for Uganda 6 years ago. Some of the interests and things that I truly enjoyed before moving to my new ministry have, to my surprise, been replaced. I haven’t even missed American football—my favorite sport! Nor have I missed many things that my birth country’s culture suggests are necessary for fulfillment, significance, and happiness.
In Mumbai, India, a boy named Lakhan lives with his elderly grandmother, Sakubai. Lakhan has cerebral palsy and is deaf. With no home or family to help care for him and Sakubai, they slept on the pavement behind a small bus stop. A published photo shows 9-year-old Lakhan tied to a pole—the only way his grandmother could ensure his safety when she went out to search for work. Sakubai explained her drastic action: “[Lakhan] is deaf, so he would not be able to hear the traffic coming. If he ran onto the road, he’d get killed.” Thankfully, a group that works with special-needs children heard the story, secured a room where both grandson and grandmother could live, and helped the grandmother obtain a job.
A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.
Recently I decided to renovate the living room of our old terrace house. I painted the ceiling and replaced the ugly and dated lights. I took down the faded curtains and put up roller blinds. I spent hours on the walls—sanding off flaking paint, filling the many dents and holes, resanding, then applying multiple coats of new paint. A cement slab in the corner was removed and new tiles were laid. The fireplace also needed to be replaced. Finally, I sanded back the skirting boards and repainted them with gloss. It was hard work, but I felt proud of the changes I saw each day.
After I moved to Africa, a couple living in the US contacted me and said, “We’d like to make a financial contribution to help you with your ministry in Uganda.” Because my job at the time didn’t require that I raise funds, I thanked them but declined their generous offer.
When I was hiking in a park with my grandfather, our trail lassoed a lake at the bottom of a valley. As we walked, several smaller paths broke away from the main trail. Each time we came to a fork in the road, my grandfather let me choose which way to go. I always picked the steepest, rockiest, most difficult choice. My grandfather sighed a few times, but he took on the most challenging path for my sake.
This week I bought $30 worth of toilet paper in order to qualify for a mail-in rebate. The rebate form told me to address my envelope to “Road to Glory.” Really? I hadn’t slain a dragon or won a championship. I had merely purchased TP. So I laughed at the ridiculous title as I wrote it on the envelope.
In 2011, marine biologists around the globe were fixated on a pod of sperm whales in the North Atlantic Ocean; they had adopted a bottlenose dolphin calf. Jens Krause, a German behavioral ecologist, told one news source that sperm whales have “never been known to mingle this closely with another species.” Apparently the young dolphin had a spinal defect and couldn’t swim fast enough to keep up with other dolphins. But surprisingly, the sperm whales gathered the struggling dolphin into their fold.
In a speech given during the commencement of a newly formed missions agency, my friend—who heads up the ministry—spoke of its mission and vision. He also gave everyone a clear picture of its goals and plans.
Christmas cards and nativity scenes depict the wise men visiting the Christ-child. But I think the story is bigger than the way it’s presented. The wise men’s journey is also a paradigm for our spiritual journey.
During my last year of high school, I saved up my money in order to buy extravagant gifts for my family. When Christmas came, I blew the whole $1,100 on my parents, my sister, and my grandparents. I imagined that—with college looming—I might never have the chance to be as generous with my money again.