This class is a preparation for the people who wants to work with them specially in the juvenile detention center, where they reach kids and try to rehabilitate and reintegrate them into society.
I learned about the reality of the children and teenagers there. Almost all of them come from broken homes, very poor families, and soon they get involved with drugs. It doesn’t take long until they start thinking that the traffic of drugs is their only option in life.
But there is another fact about them that I had no idea: the majority of them were abused in their childhood or early teens, by someone close to them or after they entered the “system”. I’m not talking about only sexual abuse, but also psychological or physical.
Have you ever thought about what you consider a sign of love?
The other day I was going through some photos from one of my trips to North Carolina, and I remembered an interesting scene that I observed while I was having lunch at a restaurant facing the ocean in Wilmington.
While I was eating and enjoying the beautiful scenary, a couple approached one of the tables in my line of vision. The man had white hair and he was in a wheelchair. I couldn’t tell the age of the woman. Maybe she was his wife or daughter, or someone else.
I got distracted, and when I looked back at them, their food had already been served, and the woman was feeding the man. Apparently, he couldn’t move his arms either.
When she finished feeding him, she took a napkin and cleaned the corners of his mouth. I thought that whoever she was, she was taking good care of him.
In the last couple of Saturdays I attended a leadership class prepared by Suzanne Duppong, a missionary from JEAME, the non-profit organization I’ve been working with.
Suzy, as we call her, has worked for 31 years reaching for the needy and preaching the Word of God in slums, state shelters and in the streets, seeking for children and teenagers in need, usually those who are somehow involved with drug addiction.
Even though the class I’m attending is technical, in order to prepare us to be social project leaders, she also shares stories. Stories of amazing things that God has done in her life and also to reach those lost young ones.
Last Saturday, a few people from my church and I went to Francisco Morato, a city near São Paulo, to visit one of the facilities of a non-profit organization called JOCUM (short for “Jovens Com Uma Missão”) which is the local branch of YWAM (short for “Youth with a mission”).
At this facility the missionaries work to help and provide for a very poor population (Francisco Morato is one of the poorest cities in Brazil). Their main focus is the children, for whom they provide several activities in order to keep them from drugs and criminality. They have soccer practice, English and Spanish classes, and they also teach them the Word of God.
The vast majority of these children comes from broken homes. In that region, unfortunately, it is common that the father flees and the mother is left behind to care for herself and the many children.
It is overwhelming to see such poverty so close to São Paulo, the richest city in Brazil. Yet, it is reassuring to see the sacrifices that those missionaries face every day in order to reach for those people. I am sure many other missionaries face similar difficulties all over the world at this very moment.
Looking at such poverty and overwhelming need, I kept thinking about how God works.
When we talk about liking and loving, most people think that the difference between them is the intensity of the feeling, but it actually isn’t. They are quite different in fact, but still most people get them mixed all the time.
I’m not talking only about romantic relationships, this applies to all relationships in our life.
When you like someone, it is all about how that person makes you feel. You are proud of them, you like being near them, talking to them, spending time with them, etc, because they make you feel good.
However, if something happens and that person disappoints you, the feeling you have for them starts vanishing. Why? Because this feeling is based upon what you get from that person, it is conditional.
Liking is about you.
On the other hand, when you love someone, it makes you put that person’s interests before yours. No matter what the person does, even if they disappoint you, you still love them. True ove is unconditional.
If anyone would ever request God a proof of His love, I am sure there couldn’t be a greater proof than sending His own Son to die for us. And what about us? Can we do something to show our love for God?
In fact, we can:
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)
This is love for God: to obey his commands. (1 John 5:3)
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (2 John 1:6)
Do you love God? Do you love Jesus? Then, according to Him, you will obey His commands. It’s that simple.
And this is not about proving our love so we are worthy of anything. We will never be worthy of His love. But when we show our love for Him, we are giving back something that He gave to us: true love.
Have you noticed how our culture became the culture of “I”? Everything is about oneself. Everyone is trying to find pleasure, happiness, satisfaction – for themselves. People talk a lot about love, but do they have love in their lives?
Try to ask someone how they know that they love someone else. They will tell you all about how they feel when they think about that person or when they are together. What if that feeling vanishes? Does it mean that their love is gone? If so, was that ever love, true love?
More and more we see that the focus is on ourselves. However, Jesus taught us the exact opposite: love is all about the other person. And it’s not about what we feel, but it’s about what we do.
A while back we talked about how love means action, not just a feeling or words. That’s what Jesus showed us with his own life. And there is another lesson that we must learn regarding love: it is completely selfless.
Jesus used many parables during His ministry to teach us deep truths about God’s kingdom. He also used daily situations as comparisons to show us more about His character (for example, He pictured Himself as the Good Shepherd so we could have a first glimpse at His amazing love).
And one of the most beloved and known parable He told is the one about the lost sheep:
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:3-7)
There are a few things that fascinate me about this parable.