By: Shane Fookes
*This story was originally posted on November 11, 2015.
We sat there on short benches, ten Americans taking questions from 25+ orphans whose lives have been altered by terminal illnesses, mostly HIV/AIDS, in a remote part of East India. We gazed into eager faces perplexed that we would traverse the globe to spend time with them, even more amazed that some on our team had come a second time.
Six months earlier, we same ten Americans asked ourselves a similar question: “Why should I go?” After all, it takes months of preparation and thousands of dollars. And getting there is no picnic. No, it's a travel nightmare: about 36 hours across 13 time zones on 5 airplanes. Why should we leave our pretty comfortable, safe suburban American life to embark on such a journey?
The answer, though it may sound trite, is simple: to follow Jesus. After all, Jesus left the wonder and beauty and perfection of heaven and crossed time and space to become poor and powerless, sacrificing his life as an act of love. For us. How could we not do the same for them?
“We came because we love you. You are worth it."
It’s true. Before we came, we didn't know them, but we loved them. We met them through pictures and stories from others and we wanted to come and meet them first hand. We wanted to give our hearts to them to let them know they are precious in God’s sight. We wanted to love these orphans because we were orphans before God loved us.
“We came because we want to see God in you."
We came because over and over the Scriptures are clear: God is close to the poor, the powerless, the sick, the downtrodden, the overlooked, the widow, the orphan. If you want to see deeply into the heart of God, spend time with such as these. Care for them in their distress. And see the heart of God in them. As James, the brother of Jesus wrote, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (James 2:5)
Spending time at Gan Sabra Children’s home didn’t make us feel magnanimous. Rather, it humbled us greatly. Here are kids who have seen and experienced pain, suffering, and injustice beyond our comprehension. Yet, they are also children who have tasted of deep, abiding, sacrificial love. Lucy, who operates the home, is far more than mere “ministry director.” She’s a mother with 25+ children. She’s given these children a home and a family. She has shined the light of Jesus into their lives and transformed their story of despair into a story of hope. And their faces show it. They love Jesus passionately. They exude joy. They love unconditionally. They welcome with trusting hearts and open arms.
We went with love to offer, and received far more in return.