by Molly Stawarz
On our last full day of ministry, we returned to the Asentamientos–the “settlements” that we had previously visited on our first day in Mexico. The people living there have next to nothing. Their walls are made of large sections of scrap metal, if they’re fortunate. Otherwise, it’s cardboard cobbled together with bottle caps. Plastic tarps from recent political elections are the desired material for roofs, since they do a fairly good job of keeping out the rain. Most of the homes were small, around 10 feet by 10 feet and would sleep upwards of 5-6 people. And yet, this place was not without God’s presence.
We know from God’s word and from the incarnation of Christ Jesus, himself, that God deeply cares for the poor, the fatherless, the widows, the sick and the oppressed. He sees them, he knows them and he loves them. They have not been forgotten. Their tears and their struggles do not go unnoticed. So much so that God even called a bunch of rag-tag teens and a couple of goofy leaders from Hopkins, Minnesota to spend some time with them and hopefully demonstrate his love for them! Isn’t that incredible? Our Good Shepherd really does go looking for lost sheep. What a privilege and incomparable joy to join him in that work.
During the bus ride to these settlements, Pete asked if I would share a brief message with the kids and their parents who were coming to our VBS type youth program. After a couple silly songs and dances, I shared a brief message. And I’d love to share it via blog with you as well since it will give you another glimpse of our work down there. Furthermore, I hope it can be an encouragement to you in your own relationship with God.
Kids Outreach Ministry
The youth performed a skit of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. If you’re not familiar with it, go check out Daniel 3. I began by asking the audience why they thought we wanted to tell this story. It’s from a long long time ago! In a place far far away! Does Mexico have a king? No… Are there any 90 foot tall statues around? No… Where’s the nearest idol people are bowing down to worship? … Of course there’s no king and there are no idols… Or are there?
I suggested that an idol is simply anything that we love more than God. This could be work, money, appearances, a significant other, the pursuit of pleasure, family or any number of things. I defined worship as giving our whole selves to something other than ourselves. Loving something with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. Under these definitions, haven’t we all been guilty of idol worship? I know I have!
The fruitlessness of this practice is perfectly illustrated in Psalm 115.
“Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.” (v.4-9)
Not only are the idols we make for ourselves completely unworthy of the adoration and praise that only God deserves, but, when we are in trouble, they cannot help us! They are mute, blind, deaf, lame, and lifeless. But we have the capacity to know, love and serve the one true living God! The one who stood with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. The one who saved his people Israel from destruction, time and time again. We serve a God who was made man, who hung on a cross in our place and now lives to intercede on our behalf. I KNOW that my Redeemer lives! What joy this blest assurance gives!
I ended my time of sharing with a bit of a blunder, by asking, if this God is for us, what more can we want? The phrase kinda slipped out before I could even think it through. I’m sure they can imagine A LOT of things they could want. And not just want, NEED. Walls, roofs, floors, jobs, food, education, healthcare. Who am I, this rich American, to ask them that question? I don’t know. So I go back to the God that I do know. And I remind myself that he sees them, he knows them, he loves them. I am in awe of this God and strive to worship him with all I can muster. And I keep looking for ways to love my neighbor, even those neighbors that are 3000 miles away.