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Go Get the Neighbors

We bumped up and down a steep dirt road again this morning. Sophie, Jamie and I braced ourselves against the seat in front of us and I wondered if I’d ever feel steady again.

It’s been two days and I still can’t escape the smell of the Mathare slum.

I’ve been swinging at hope my whole life. Sometimes it bursts open like a piñata and I scamper all around trying to pick up what it’s dropping. I scoop it up into the fabric of my skirt. I wear it like a shield. I post it at the entryway of my heart.

I look at hope, blind as I am, and with sober certainty say, “You are going to walk me right out of this world. Arm in arm. It’s you and me.”

I’ve heard hoping for what we can see is no hope at all. So we wait, patiently.

Some of the stories that have been shared this week make me want to go storming up to Justice’s front door, bang loudly and demand, “Excuse me, but you are needed here now. Yesterday was preferable.”

But today, we hadn’t taken two steps off the van onto the dirt of this little community, placed high above the Rift Valley, before singing caught my ear. It drummed a beat back into me. The mamas grabbed our hands and danced us into church.

I should note that we only danced halfway to the church door and then, as these things go, it seemed completely appropriate to continue our entrance into the church by way of a conga line.

Sometimes hope comes in the form of a conga line formed by mamas and babies.

We entered the church and as we took our seats, all lit up with joy, when we were asked to stand again. Because, more dancing.

Then we lingered and talked. Pastor Paul brought a short but sweet word. He said, “One day we will all stand at the gates of Heaven and hear our Father tell us, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant.’”

And I ached to stand at the gates of Heaven with Pastor Paul. And with the women of this community, Ruth and Victoria. Mary and Elizabeth.

Jamie and I would later go to the home of a mother who’s child has just been registered in the Compassion program. We beamed as she shared how she has been able to start a business. How her husband abandoned her but the church was not having any of that – they came in and helped her create a business so she could provide for her family. They registered her child in the Compassion Sponsorship Program.

As the mother went on I abruptly interjected, “But how did you know about the church? How did you get your child registered in Compassion?”

She looked at me like I had asked the dumbest question. She said, “The neighbors.”

Our translator intervened and explained that Pastor Paul simply tells the church, “Hey church, go into the community, to those who are in need. Bring them here. We can help.”

Go get the neighbors. 

That seems…undeniably simple. It seems instinctually like the mark of Jesus.

I brought my fascination back to the church and Shaun asked Pastor Paul to explain more how he shepherds his church. He has a passion for children. A heart for the needy. An obedience to the Word of God. And then he said, “With Compassion, we can reach so many more.”

And Compassion is made up of sponsors.

“Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” -Bryan Stevenson

Our life, this life, is not a dress rehearsal.

There will only be one curtain call.

We can come before our Lord filled with things of the world – which will look mostly like rot. I hope I come empty handed. I hope I can show my Lord my barren hands and say, “I gave it all, Father. Everything you gave me, I gave it all.”

Today I talked to Jeremy. He in the Middle East. Me in Kenya. But our heart beats the same despite the distance. I told him that maybe I don’t ever want to forget about the Mathare slum. Maybe I want to always be part of what God is doing there.

Maybe I’m banging on Justice’s door but maybe Justice is responding, “Come on in, sister! We need you. Let’s get to work.”

And Jeremy said, “It’s time to sponsor another child.” And we did.

We took a seat at the table of Justice. We decided to be the Church Pastor Paul talked about. We decided to be the people who go get the neighbors. The ones in need.

We can do this together. Will you join me? Will you sponsor a child from Kenya today?

New posts from my friends Jamie, Sophie and Shaun are also live today. Please read?

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    Welcome! I'm Bri! Accidental home cook. Lover of gathering people around a table over a meal. Author of Come & Eat (September 2017). What I really want is to pull out a chair for you at my table. But until then, I hope you stay awhile and enjoy my stories + recipes!

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