What's in your closet?
Author: Andrew West
"What’s in your closet”? This is one of the strangest questions the Lord has ever asked me.
I had heard the question before, in Cambodia in 1995 whilst building a fish farm for orphans and widows in that war ravaged land. I couldn’t believe that a blind, (former prostitute) widow was a better evangelist than I was, taking every possible opportunity to share the gospel. The children in that shelter also seemed to love the Lord more than me. I saw them eating fried cockroaches and rats, yet they beamed with a joy that was obviously heavenly, they seemed content with their simple life there.
I asked the Lord “Why do they seem to love you more than me, Lord?” I have set my career aside to be a missionary, trained hard at various bible colleges, but they seem to have a fire in their belly for the Lord that I didn’t have (well, the fire in me wasn’t as obvious anymore!).
The Lord then showed me a very distinct picture: I was standing there with my “stuff”, it was actually a closet full of the things. Things that I am and had earned, things like athletic awards, academic degrees etc. These things that are a part of who I am. There is nothing wrong with these things, and I had always asked the Lord if I was to pursue them, and I had given them all to Him. The Lord was also there, a very big part of who I am.
I then felt the Lord say to me “ Now look in her closet” and the closet of the blind widow was pretty barren, except for the Lord. He was ALL she had, and He wasn’t being cluttered out by other “stuff”, as good as the “stuff” may be.
“This is why she holds onto me with such fervor, I am all she has, I am everything to her”.
This wasn’t a rebuke, but my life suddenly snapped into perspective.
Why Lord was she born into a family (that was going to die in the war) in that situation and time? In a small developing Asian nation, in a poor rural society with dirt floors, with little chance of education, and only prostitution to feed her kids, then malaria, then blindness.
And why Lord, was I so blessed to be born into a Christian family, in a wealthy nation, with good education, good health, and access to a good career?
Yes, why was I so “blessed”, and she so “un-blessed”?
I asked the Lord: “Was it sin Lord? … Sin in her life, or her family’s life”?
The answer came “No”
“Is it because You love me more than her Lord”?
The answer came again “No”
Then WHY? Why the disparity in our lives?
The Lords answer was kind, profound, and simple:
“To whom much is given much is required.” (Luke 12:48)
I wish I hadn’t heard that! … because I owe A LOT
Twenty one years later I found myself in Northern Uganda with Living Stones Church’s first African outreach. What a place! What a team! And what a beautiful bunch of orphans and widows! The love of Jesus in that place is tangible.
Again, a land scarred by man’s atrocities. But looking into the eyes of such beautiful innocent kids makes the trip worth it! Many of these innocent eyes had witnessed the killing of their own parents by the rebels.
But looking into their eyes I see hope and a future. Man’s killing fields are once more being transformed into God's healing fields. But it has not happened by itself, It has happened because a faithful missionary couple “rescued” a bunch of orphans (some child soldiers) ten years ago and set up “Otino Waa” Children’s home. Totally putting feet to Gods word, James 1:27: "Pure and undefiled religion is to take care of the widows and orphans in distress.”
Again, God was dealing with my self-centered, proud, over-entitled heart. Placing everything again into perspective.
Each of our team were given eight kids, a house Mum (a widow) to eat with and be a part of for the entirety of our trip. Eight boys with only one bible between them, but they seemed to know the scriptures so well.
My boys took me to their room and proudly showed me their neatly made beds (with ripped mosquito nets). Then one proudly showed me his closet, and in this closet I didn’t see much, for he was wearing the only pair of shoes and socks he owned. I saw a few little items, pictures he had drawn, and a few knick-knacks. But he had Jesus. How can they love Jesus so much? Having lived through so much hurt in their short little lives … and possessing so little?
Again, that’s precisely why ... Because Jesus is EVERYTHING to them.
Maybe one of the most impactful things occurred walking with the team back from an open-air market. The amount of trash in the dirty ditch besides the road is pretty appalling. This road-side ditch had muddy, brown. stinky water slowly trickling through it. I witnessed a man in ragged trousers pawing at something in the mud. Curious, I slowed to see if the old gentleman was collecting plastic to recycle. But I was puzzled, as they don’t recycle here. As he fished out an old plastic cup from the muck I saw him “wash” it in the putrid water. Then to my absolute horror he dipped it in the disgusting flow and started drinking. I yelled “Please no, don’t drink that!” and with that I gave him my water bottle. He took the water and immediately shot out his other hand for money. I gave him a 1000 shilling note (approx. 30 US cents) and he beamed. Then I heard mocking laughter around me and I looked up to see derision on faces oflocals watching me. Their faces said it all “Why waste any amount of money on such a worthless guy?”
OK, in all likelihood that man is already dead. Did the meager effort on my part do anything? … probably not. He was born in obscurity and he probably died in obscurity, but one thing is for certain; He was made in the image of God. He is also loved by God as much as me, and valued as much as me, AND to quote the words of John Bradford (and later Wesley): “But by the grace of God, there go I.” So every time I look at the orphans and think of the road that they have had to tread, I too recite “But by the grace of God, there go I”
More to the point, what would you have me do Lord? Because To whom much is given, much is owed.
… and I owe so, SO much.
We are going back to Uganda next year. There are projects we feel that we are to partner with:
- Expanding the medical clinic
- Building a sustainable farm with a well
- College sponsorships for the orphans (only $5K to become a doctor)
- Helping a fledgling local church in a nearby district called “Kona” (seriously!)
But most importantly; we are simply being called to be the hands of Jesus. Some people may say “Why Africa? Why so far away?” … I say “Why not”? The word says:
“You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8