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When There Are No Formulas

As we approach our third winter here in Mongolia, I am reminded of a dilemma that we face on an ongoing basis. What do we do about the street children?

In our family devotions last week, Bernie referenced the verse where Jesus tells His disciples that if someone takes their coat, they are to give their shirt as well. “Give to everyone who asks of you…� (Luke 6:29, 30). Cori then raised the question that we wrestle with internally all the time. “If this is what Jesus said, why don’t we give money to the street children?�

Wanting to make sure my daughter is well informed and well trained, I looked at her and gave her my best answer.

“I don’t know.�

And I don’t. Oh, I know what I tell myself. They just have to give it to someone else who will use it to buy vodka (true almost all the time, though I have seen them use it to go buy food). I know that if I gave money every time I was asked, pretty soon we would have nothing left and would have to return to the US and work at McDonalds.

We’ve tried just giving them food, and do this sometimes. But this isn’t really a long term solution. Imagine sitting in one of the nicer restaurants with your husband on your anniversary, and one of the street children slips past the hostess and stands at your tables and looks at your food and says, “I’m hungry.� I wanted to get up and give him my chair. The waiter came and shooed him away, but my appetite was gone. Yet, what would happen to the restaurant’s clientele if everyone gave in to the street children who came in? Then you’d have a restaurant owner out of business.
Not long ago, the young guy that we have singled out caught me as I was going into the grocery store. He offered to wash my car, but I didn’t have time as I just planned to run in and run out. So he rubbed his stomach and said, “I’m hungry.� I nodded, and he knows us well enough to know that we usually try to buy him food. Then he looked at me, and placed his order. “Ham.� Well, that didn’t set so well. I wanted to buy him a package of spinach or a carrot or something.

How do you move from giving out bread to seeing them realize their need for the Bread of Life? How do we as “rich� Americans bridge the gap between our world and theirs? I leave the encounter and go to a warm home. They leave and go who knows where, some to homes, but others to sleep under the streets by the warm pipes. Especially when you know that is not the purpose God has sent you to this city to fulfill.

Jesus stated that the poor would always be here. But He didn’t leave us a detailed plan of how to deal with this. Oh how I wish He had. I ask myself, “What would Jesus do?� I DON�T KNOW. Obviously even He did not meet the need of every poor person.

This past summer I was sitting in church and had purchased a bottle of juice to drink because it was a hot day and there was no AC and little breeze. We were singing and a little street girl came to the doorway to listen. I turned around a saw her and smiled. She saw the juice in my hand and held out her hand for it. I was sitting toward the front and didn’t really want to take it back to her (and honestly didn’t want to give it up – I had already drank half of it). But every time I would look back she would hold out her hand. Needless to say I didn’t enjoy the service very much. On one hand it wasn’t a good precedent to set, but on the other, I felt guilty for not giving it to her. I shared this with Bernie later. He had given the message that day, and he told me that she had hung from the wrought iron bars and listened to the entire sermon. Perhaps had I given it to her she would have just left. Or maybe I just feel better if I tell myself that.

But back to our devotions. This is what we shared with Cori, after honestly sharing our own inner struggle. For us it has boiled down to this. Walk in the Spirit. The Spirit of God knows the will of the Father. There is a quote from one of our Christian forefathers that has meant much to us. “Learn to detect and obey the inward impulse of the Spirit of God.� It always comes back to this – a daily surrender of my life to God. When I am in the right place, walking in fellowship with Him, His Spirit will lead me, even in these little things.

That still doesn’t make it easy. It doesn’t mean we don’t still wrestle with it, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. I don’t think God wants us to boil our lives down to formulas and policies, even though those are sometimes necessary and helpful.

The big issue is for the church here. Please pray with us for a healthy, growing church that in love and compassion can do so much more than hand out a bag of peanuts. Pray for the church in Mongolia, that out of their love for God and compassion for people they would bridge the gap and share bread, thus paving the way for relationships where the Bread of Life is shared as well.

Reader Comments (1)

Today there was somebody outside in front of Golomt Bank on the East side when it was below -20F. Even false motives, that was pretty sad. False motives go out the window when it's that temperature. Hey, I met everyone in the parking lot about 2 months ago on a bike. I moved. I think I was in a room overlooking the place. Merry Christmas.

December 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBob

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