For the Least of These
By LeAnn Rice

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:20)

God’s heart for the poor and needy is clear throughout Scripture. So clear in fact that Jesus tells us when we serve “the least of these” in Matthew 25:40, we are actually serving God! It’s not that I forget verses like Colossians 3:12: “Clothe yourselves with compassion…” Or Matthew 5:7: “God blesses those who are merciful…” It’s just that somehow I got so wrapped up in my own little world that I was overlooking the fact that millions of people go to bed hungry each night.

In the past, I was so busy whining about my house being too small (not enough closets for all my stuff) that I was blind to how many people have no home at all. Is this the attitude God desires from me? Have I become so concerned with the contents of my closets that there’s no room for clothes of compassion, kindness and mercy?

God put a stop to my whining this past summer during a mission trip to Ecuador with ten members of the Proverbs 31 speaker team and Compassion International. Loaded down with food, school supplies and clothing, we were bringing much-needed supplies to the poorest of the poor. As ministry partners with Compassion International, we were also anxious to see the work they were accomplishing in Jesus’ name. What I saw was the love and hope that can only come from Jesus in the eyes of sponsored children. His love, in their eyes, opened mine.

From the moment I stepped off the bus at the first project center, I was swept into the presence of God. I met Ecuadorian Christians who are teaching children about Jesus while offering health care, tutoring, and vocational training through Compassion International. Most of these children live in small homes with dirt floors and no bathrooms. But they and their families have hope. They have been introduced to One who promises to never leave them, and His love shines brightly in their lives. They are grateful for what they have and willingly share their meager portions with those who have even less.

I was graciously welcomed into homes constructed of concrete, dirt and sheets of plastic. Homes with no running water or refrigeration. Homes where two to four children share a bed, and others sleep on mats on the floor. Homes that you and I would deem unlivable. Homes where all were welcome in the name of Jesus.

On Sunday morning, I sat on a creaky old wooden pew in a humble church in Pucará de Velásquez. Next to me sat a man whose eyes twinkled as he looked at me and said, “Amigo es Jesus.” My new friend and I worshiped together, unified through our relationship with our best friend, Jesus Christ. In a community where the average adult earns only $150 a month, far less than the cost of basic needs, this church overflows with songs of praise and worship. They don’t think about what they don’t have … they focus on what they do – they have Jesus and He’s enough.

The trip was soon over and I returned to my small house and asked myself some tough questions. Was I so dependent on the conveniences of my American lifestyle that I had become desensitized to the needs of anything or anyone outside of my small world? If I was stripped of all my worldly goods, would I be filled with as much hope as I saw in the eyes of the man with whom I shared a creaky, wooden pew in the mountains of Ecuador?

My journey to Ecuador had taken me from my small world and my overcrowded closets to homes with dirt floors and no plumbing. There I witnessed genuine compassion, kindness and mercy among the poorest of the poor and, as my blinders were removed, I was humbled beyond measure.

I pray that my “mission” trip remains so impressed on my heart that I never forget the God I met on that mountaintop – A God that wants us to share His compassion for “the least of these” – A God who is calling me and you to open our arms to the poor and extend our hands to the needy – a God who teaches us about Himself and His heart in the most unexpected places.

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