In our home group we are doing the small group study for the book The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns, the CEO of World Vision. I read the book a few months ago and it had a significant impact on me and how I view my responsibility toward the poor and the world around me. I never realized how many verses there were in the Bible about helping the poor. Like James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” And 2 Corinthians 8:1-8, Luke 12:33, as well as Proverbs 28:27 among many others. Stearns talks in the book about how in our American Christianity it seems we almost cut out many of these passages. Thus, they leave “holes” in the Gospel. We are supposed to show people Christ as the answer to their spiritual need but often we are supposed to first meet their physical needs.
It can truly be overwhelming when we look at the physical needs of those around us and downright immobilizing when we consider the needs of the poor and needy globally. However, our inability to meet ALL the needs does not excuse us from doing what we CAN do as an individual. And there is much that CAN be done.
The study has a website that you can go to for individual devotions, www.sixweekquest.com. This site also has great ideas of ways to help your family and your children really feel the needs of others, at least on a small scale. We have been talking about the problem that many countries face in not having clean water. So last week I decided to try one of the ideas I found on the website with my boys.
In other countries people have to walk for miles to find water. Many times children are the ones that have the job of walking to find water and then carrying it back to their families. This one bucket of water may be all they have for their family for that day or even for many days. Sometimes the children will walk for hours just carrying water. Then that water is usually dirty and truly not healthy or fit to drink. Sometimes they will try to purify it but many times they just bathe, cook, clean with and drink it, all the while exposing themselves to disease.
So I charted out a course from a park to a friend’s house that was a mile long. We each carried a bucket and walked that mile and then filled our buckets. We then walked back to the park with our buckets of water. This was great!! I was fully aware that it could have been a disaster. It was late afternoon just before dinner. I wanted them to feel the urgency of making it back before dark. Where many people live darkness means danger with animals coming out that could kill them, as well as humans that will harm them. I wanted the boys to be tired by the end of the walk. I wanted them to experience the frustration of trying not to spill the water and being bored along the way.
They were really great. Eli found a long walking stick and once the buckets had water in them, the boys figured out how to string the stick through the handles of the bucket and then two of them grabbed each end. They were patient with one another and took turns carrying the lighter load and resting when Eli needed a short break. We had lots of great conversations along the way discussing how many conveniences we take for granted in America. They talked about how blessed we are to have indoor bathrooms, running water, electricity, heat and AC, refrigerators, among others.
Eli carried an empty apple juice bottle instead of a bucket. I thought it might be easier for him to carry that. At one point he dropped it and the lid fell off and water spilled out on the ground. He rushed to pick it up and save the water. All of a sudden that water was much more precious to him after he had walked at that point a mile and a half to retrieve it. It was a great taste of the desperation people in other countries must feel for clean water. He was super careful for the rest of the walk to not let any more water spill.
This was such a great experience for all four of us. It helped move our eyes off of ourselves and the things we take for granted. It helped us realize in a tiny way the weight of some of the needs of other people that we can’t see with our eyes. I am so thankful the Lord allowed it to be used as a teachable moment instead of a major meltdown:) And a major meltdown is what I hear going on in the other room…so I better run!