Emily always finds herself chronicling new adventures with the same lesson from God, “Trust me.” She knows what it is to come to the end of your rope and near hopelessness. She is a habitual wander-luster, who is guilty of planning the next trip from the one she finds herself presently on. She loves to read biographies, to cook, and to try quirky foods. (But she hates pickles and can smell them from a mile away). She believes that words matter more than anything because by them we were each spoken into existence. She loves finding out the meaning behind words in her spare time, and she has been called to use words to encourage others and point them to the hope of Christ by sharing thoughts on being extraordinary even in the ordinary.
When you read her observations on life at Reaching Beyond My Reach, she hopes you’ll be directed to true hope. She is a wife to a Professor and a mother to her cuddly black lab/dachshund mix fur-born “son,” named Oscar. She believes you should know that you are important. God has written your story into existence and has a special place for it in His Story. You’ve got a reach, but with the strength and help of Jesus, you can reach far beyond it. She’s a World Help blogger and alumnus of Liberty University, where she learned what it means to be a Champion for Christ.
Have you ever had your life ruined for the best or as my friend Cyrus Mad-Bondo, puts it, “gloriously wrecked”? I have. It wasn’t because of something terrible that happened to me. It was because of my encounter with a few hundred beautiful souls in a land that once existed only as an uncharted, frightening territory in my own little world. It was because of the souls behind the faces of the people I met in Africa.
My life was gloriously wrecked because of Linda. She was about 11 or 12 years old. Her parents had died. She was raising her two younger siblings while her aunt prostituted herself by the coast to earn enough money for them to eat. Linda tested positive for HIV. But when I met her, she was in a bright blue school uniform dress with a pure white collar, smiling under the African sun as we bumped a volleyball across a pretend net that might have hung between the two poles sticking out of the ground. Her siblings were there too, in the same clean uniforms, smiling as Pastor Christopher introduced them to us.
My life was gloriously wrecked because of the little girl, maybe 6 years old, holding her baby sister on her hip. Those wooden poles we were using for our volleyball net? They were leftover from the mourning tent that her father’s body was under before it was buried a few yards away. Her mother was sick herself, in her little hut. But that small child, about the age of my oldest niece at the time? Pastor Christopher had his eye on her family’s needs too.
My life was gloriously wrecked because of the children in the schools we visited, many of whom were orphans, who sang through the brightest smiles from the depths of their hearts, “Though my mother and father are dead, I will put my trust in you.”
My life was gloriously wrecked because of the orphans and widows who lined up at the local church to receive their meals of beans and rice. I was ruined when I saw a toddler carefully holding her spoon so as to not drop one morsel on the ground in waste away from her lips for her tri-weekly meal.
My life was gloriously wrecked because of Pastor Boaz and his wife, Helen, who will tell you while they’re shaking your hand and exchanging pleasantries that they have 42 children. I was utterly destroyed when he told me that he and Helen share the equivalent of a twin-sized mattress each night on their kitchen floor so there’s enough room for their children in the less than modestly sized house in which they dwell. My faith was put to shame when he spoke of how children just showed up at their house with no place to go, but were taken in because God had given Helen and him the task to take care of orphans. My mind was blown when he told me that Pastor Christopher was one of his “sons” whom he had trained to also bring in orphans to his family. My bags were lighter when he told me of the miracles that happened when people who came on mission trips always left clothes behind that wound up perfectly fitting his children.
My life was gloriously wrecked because of the women of the church who jubilantly presented me with a jackfruit and cooked ugali, and meat for our team, presenting their very best to a group of mizungu strangers from the west.
My life was gloriously wrecked because of Mary Muttai, the mother of my husband’s best friend, a widow, a native of Kenya, and principle of Legacy School, which she founded with her late husband in hopes to train up a generation of God-fearing champions for Christ that would impact their country with integrity and excellence. I watched her pull out her personal checkbook, which probably did not hold nearly as much as most of the people from my homeland, to sponsor local children at another school with grade levels they did not offer. My perspective on helping the least of these was forever altered as she wrote the check, reaching beyond her reach to help her neighbors.
My life was gloriously wrecked because of Steve Muttai, one of Mary’s sons, as we commented on the differences between the point of views belonging to those in a third-world country vs. a first-world country. My “needs” gained a new definition after he spoke the truth of his own people, “We don’t have options like Americans do. If Americans can’t afford something, they can get a credit card. But not my people. Here, if you have food, clean water, clothing, shelter, and medicine, you are content. If you don’t, you pray, because there are no other options.”
My life was gloriously wrecked when I returned home to the states with my husband, who had been laid off from his job and without work for 10 months at the time, as we looked around our bedroom feeling like millionaires and wondered how many orphans we could give a home to in that room alone.
My life was gloriously wrecked one Saturday in Virginia, when I met Cyrus Mad-Bondo, a native of Central African Republic and Vice President and Africa Chief Strategist at World Help. While we were serving “the least of these” with a free neighborhood yard sale and Gospel presentation, he chatted with me, fervently, about the needs of sponsorship for people in the far corners of the earth. Once again, my world was shaken for the best as he remarked how many westerners are hesitant to help because they either don’t know where to start or they are afraid of people becoming dependent on them. He taught me that the truth is, they ARE dependent upon us. People need us. There are people who have NO OTHER OPTIONS. They need help. And we can pray, which is so important. But we can tangibly help them as well.
All of these people and all of their stories share a common thread. Have you guessed it?
Sponsorship. Each of these breathing souls have been sponsored in some way. They’ve been given the chance, perhaps not even the second chance, but the first, that the conditions they were born into did not offer. They were offered this chance at life by someone who wanted to invest in them by tangibly proclaiming that they are worth something.
Can I be honest and let you know what I hope today? I hope that some of these stories have left you gloriously wrecked. I hope they bring “the least of these” to life for you, because they are real. I’ve met them. I’ve shaken their hands, held them, eaten with them, worshiped with them, spoken with them, and walked with them. If you don’t believe me, go meet them for yourself. It will undo you and unglue you, but you will be better for it.
But I also hope that this doesn’t just leave you with a tearful twinkle in your eye and lump in your throat as you think to yourself, “Oh, how sad,” and scroll on.
No, I hope you’ll do something.
At the very least, I hope you’ll pray for these people.
But if you’re able, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to invest in people like this and make a tangible, lasting deposit into their futures by sponsoring them through amazing programs World Help has set up.
You may be overwhelmed and feel that you can’t change the world. You’re probably right. But you can help change a village, one person at a time. And when you make yourself available to be a vehicle of change for another person, there’s no telling how Jesus can use you to change the world.
Get uncomfortable today. Reach beyond your reach. Serve God by serving people. Sponsoring a person who has no other options is a great way to get started.
I promise you, when you reach beyond your own reach and invest in the least of these, it will leave you gloriously wrecked.