It was one of those experiences when I felt cut down to size and put in my place. It challenged my middle class American thinking—and that, girlfriends, is an understatement.
On a Sunday morning a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast, I was leading my women’s Bible study group as I did every Sunday, only this time we had a visitor. Her name was Ami, and she was a young woman from Sierra Leone. I didn’t even know where Sierra Leone was, let alone what happened there. All I knew was that Ami was a Muslim, an immigrant from another country and was the single mother of two young girls. I was truly happy to have her join our circle and hoped we would be able to influence her for the Lord.
As we began, I asked the group, “What have you seen this week that has broken your heart?” It was a fairly generic question to get the conversation going. So with Katrina fresh on their minds, several of the women shared that they were heartbroken to see on the news, so many dogs on roof tops waiting to be rescued by helicopter or boat. As you may remember, there was footage on TV at that time of pets being recused from the flood. I had quite a few animal lovers in the circle.
Ami listened to the discussion for a few minutes and then couldn’t stand it any longer. She exclaimed to all of us, “I cannot believe you Americans! You treat your animals better than I was ever treated in my own country. We were treated like dogs and you treat yours like they are people!” I immediately felt the sting of conviction as all eyes shifted to her. She went on to describe the brutality to which she had been subjected.
Sierra Leone went through a brutal civil war where 50,000 of its citizens were murdered. There were horrible human rights violations against women and children. Rebel soldiers were particularly fond of terrorizing people with mass amputations. It was a way to keep everyone in line. Ami, her sister and their two infant daughters fled after their family was murdered. They ran under the cover of darkness each night to avoid being captured. This hiding and running went on for weeks and weeks.
At some point, Ami’s sister was killed and she was left alone with the two children. Many terrifying and heartbreaking events happened, but miraculously, the three somehow made it to the U.S. On the Sunday morning she landed in our study group, Ami was struggling to assimilate into a culture that she felt was excessive, selfish and spoiled. She was appalled and to be honest, I felt silly, shallow and exposed.
It’s funny--I thought Ami was placed in our circle for an encounter she needed, but instead, it was an encounter we needed. I love how the Lord uses anyone He wishes to deliver His truth to us. It often comes from those you do not expect!
Luke 12:48 b says, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required”.
The big idea in this passage is that we are accountable for the knowledge, resources, gifts and location that God has blessed us with. There is a world of hurt out there and we do not have to look far to see it. Yet, we can easily stay focused on our own comforts and a distorted view of what is important.
Since my encounter with Ami, the Lord has shown me that my faith, my church, my home, and my possessions were not given to me so I can simply count my blessings and be thankful. Instead, I believe thankfulness is the first step to action. We have been chosen to live here and now on purpose. Our stuff, our freedom, our healing and our opportunities are all for Him.
Oh, may we take full advantage of our blessed position this planet to look BEYOND OURSELVES and show up in the tough places where His light is so needed!
Where is the Lord asking you to go?
The good news is that our Lord never asks us to do anything He will not help us to accomplish. We never go alone!
Prayer: Lord, help us to step out of our comfortable lives and show up in the places where your love and light need to shine. It’s so easy for some of us to write a check and not get too close. Help us Lord to be present in the lives of those who need You. Help us lift our eyes our beyond ourselves to see where You would have us go. In Jesus Name-Amen