He spoke to me through a woman on a hillside in rural Kenya. I glance at her picture and I weep.
Lemme back up.
Before I went to Kenya, I frequently found myself getting emotional at the simple thought of being with the people of Africa, but it wasn’t out of pity. I knew I would be completely overwhelmed by their beauty.
Jesus said “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”
I believed that when I was with the people of Africa, it would be like I was with Jesus and I’d be looking into the very eyes of my Savior. And it wrecked me. It continues to wreck me.
October 26, 2015. It was our first day in the field and I couldn’t wait. The days prior were cool – Safari in the Masai Mara and a race in Nairobi – but the people – that’s why I was there. We drove for hours on some of THE roughest terrain I’ve ever driven on. It was like you see in the movies – look out the window of our vehicle and there’s the cliff, straight down.
At last, we came to the top of the hill, and there it was – a World Vision water storage tank standing tall above the trees, a solar panel nearby and a school yard, brimming with the joyful sounds of children playing in the yard.
It was real.
The community came out to greet us. They welcomed us warmly and made their formal introductions.
There was one woman I immediately connected with. She was lively and energetic. She walked with me arm and arm, chattering away – I couldn’t understand a word of what she was saying, but she was smiling. She was sheer joy.
But then she said something to me, and it was clear as day. She looked into my eyes and said “I love you”.
Sweet sister. I love you too, I said back to her.
It wasn’t until later though, as we were debriefing as a team over dinner, that it sunk in. “What you did for them, you did for me…”
She represents Jesus, and she said I love you.
This may have been the very best moment of my life. I never even learned her name, and maybe it’s better that way. I love her.
Through the suffering and through the voice of the poor, I am finally beginning to understand how God loves me. It’s finally moving from my head to my heart.
If you desire to be close to Jesus, go to where he is.
And when you’re there, when you are able to interact with the poor – the people who the world considers to be the least of those among us, instead of piously thinking about it as if you’re serving them, or even you’re serving Jesus, watch for how they respond to you. He is with them. He is in them. It is him speaking through their response. Don’t miss it.
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Africa is with me in much the same way that God is with me. Day in and day out, she is constantly in my thoughts.
My retelling of this moment will never do it justice.