While on a trip in Uganda, my brother, Tim, told me of a memorable encounter in the countryside. He and some other missionaries were traveling in a van and offered a ride to a lady and her son on the side of the road. The young boy immediately wanted to sit beside my brother. Then the boy wanted to lean against him. It surprised Tim a bit, but the lady with the boy encouraged my brother to permit this.
Later, after the boy had departed from the van, the lady explained to my brother that the boy had recently been hunting with his father when they stumbled upon some honey bees. The father unintentionally ate some of the honey with a live bee in it. Tragically, the bee stung him in the throat and he suffocated in front of his son. His son had been grieving horribly ever since. My brother became, as it were, a surrogate father to this young man for a few hours.
This boy needed someone to sit beside, lean upon and “remember” the warmth, touch, love and security of being with his dad. In regard to showing compassion to those who were hurting or in need, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” I wonder sometimes if God sends His angels, appearing as “the least of these” to test us and open our hearts to the brokenness of this world.
As a very imperfect adoptive parent, I understand a little about this. It takes so little of my resources to offer the hope, love and touch a scared or homeless child needs; but there are so many selfish reasons to deny them that attention and time. (This represents my confession, not my attempt to shame anyone that would never consider adoption or foster care. If you’re feeling guilty, talk to the Holy Spirit about it—or call your county DSS office.)
From a totally human (fleshly) perspective, I truly do not have the time to care for these boys in my home.—the demands of my ministry are far beyond my skill-set, experience and stamina. And yet I am learning (or remembering?) that each time I lay down my lap-top computer to hear about Tommy’s new pet toad, or Tyler’s imaginary fight as a “power ranger”, or Tate’s excitement about being in his new home (ours), I am reminded that nothing is so important to them than my willingness to lay aside my work, and other “adult” pre-occupations and allow them to lean against me.
I do not believe that the tragedy this boy experienced caught God by surprise- nor is this something God caused to happen. And I don’t believe that He is incapable of stopping such heartbreaking events in life. No, these things are “echos” of our rebellion against God—-the collateral damage of our determination to live without/outside God. But the beauty of all these things is how God can change a tragedy into victory (e.g. The horror of Jesus’ torturous execution transformed into the resurrection and redemption of mankind.)
My brother (and any who share in his kind of “hands on evangelism”) is blessed by being of service to the King of Kings.... and all the more because he was able to offer a shoulder for a little boy in Uganda to lean upon.