a deacon's passion
by Doug Stutts
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Three seconds hardly seem worth mentioning. It goes by so fast. What can one really do in such a short amount of time? It has taken you longer than three seconds to read this sentence. Yet this short period of time is significant?
Every three seconds, a child under the age of five dies somewhere in the world from a preventable disease such as diarrhea, malaria, or measles. Right now, a little girl is taking her last breath because she didn’t have access to clean water. And a little boy won’t wake from sleep because he contracted an illness that could have been prevented by a one-dollar vaccination.
None of it has to happen! God called His Church to reach out to the poor and the needy—to take care of His children…all of them. In Proverbs, He asked us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” In James, we’re called to “look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
In all, more than 2,000 verses in the Bible address children and the poor. God is serious about their care. He has commanded us to get involved. The very least we can do is pray. Please take some time today to pray for the millions of children in the world who suffer from illnesses that could and should be prevented. Then find an organization on the frontlines of ministry and get involved. Every three seconds we hesitate may cost another life that could have been saved.
One such frontline ministry is Compassion International. Compassion ministers to more than 800,000 impoverished children around the world through personal and corporate sponsors. I became involved with Compassion about five years ago during a sponsorship drive hosted by a local radio station.
On this particular day, as I listened to the sponsorship drive during my 35-mile commute to work, a sobering thought hit me. “I spend more to buy snacks and soda during this commute each month than it would cost to support a child who has nothing.”
Two days later, I signed up to sponsor a little one. Before long, I realized I was blessed far more than the child I sponsored through the letters we exchanged. I can hardly imagine that little girl praying for God to bless me when she has nothing, at least according to western standards.
Compassion began to send annual invitations to become an advocate for these children. I always dismissed the idea quickly. I couldn’t imagine doing something so bold as to speak to others about the fate of children in developing countries.
That changed in the fall of 2007. When I received the annual invitation to become an advocate for Compassion, something felt different. Maybe God’s still, small voice was speaking to me; I don’t know.Although I prayed about the challenge, I thought it was something I really couldn’t do.
I thought that if God did not answer my prayer, that would be the end of that. Boy, was I wrong!
Not long after I asked God for direction, He answered in an obvious way. You see, I have severe problems in both my upper and lower back. At the time, I was anticipating a highly technical and dangerous surgery to correct the condition. It was a frustrating and painful time in my life; yet God answered my prayer during a visit to the pharmacy.
When I arrived at the drug store, I was in a great deal of pain. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t want to talk to anyone when hurting; I just want to be left alone. I handed my prescription to the pharmacist and learned that I would have to wait about 15 minutes.
After glancing around the crowded waiting area, I thought to myself, “I think I’ll just walk around the store.” On one of the aisles, I discovered my favorite candies—jellybeans—and I grabbed four bags.
I made my way back to the waiting area to find that only one couple remained. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw they had two kids. I really didn’t pay much attention. I just wanted to sit and suffer in peace.
A moment later, however, a blond toddler with hair that desperately needed brushing leaned against my knees and pointed to the jellies. As I looked into the small face that needed scrubbing, my first thought was “Go away! I don’t feel like talking to you.”
Yet before I could utter a word another mischievous, dirty face appeared, just like the first. Identical twins! I couldn’t open the jellies because I had not paid for them, and I didn’t know what their parents—who had jewelry in strange places and a substantial collection of tattoos—would say.
So, I began to play a game with the girls, pointing out colors and asking the toddlers to identify them. At first, I could not understand their whispered replies, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they were afraid they would be punished for talking too loud.
Before long, the girls warmed up to the game and the attention. They chirped out answers with childish excitement. They were so cute that I thought to myself, “I wish I could take them home to raise!”
When the parents got ready to leave, it was all I could do to keep from giving the girls a goodbye hug. When they left, the pharmacist called my name, and I realized I was the last person in the store. I had become so absorbed in talking to the girls that I did not notice how quickly time was passing.
I collected my medicine and headed for the door when it hit me. I was no longer in pain. My back no longer hurt. Something else hit me too…God’s answer to my prayer.
Through my back pain, He had given me an encounter with two of the most precious children I had ever seen. He reminded me that little ones cannot speak for themselves.
Is God trying to speak to you? Does He want to remind you of the millions of children around the world who need someone to hear their cry and come to their aid? I pray that you will heed the words of Proverbs 21:13. “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”
About the Writer: Doug Stutts is a deacon at Flatwoods FWB Church
in Lawrenceburg, TN.
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