Monday, August 29, 2011
I got to hold Jesus once.
During my School of Evangelism with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) in Texas, I found myself with a large group and we were on a missionary trip through the States. We were driving and had stopped in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. My parents had met us at my church which was hosting us for the night. I remember walking with my friend out of the church building to our vehicle in the parking lot.
To our surprise, a small plane had landed in the lot and a great crowd had gathered around the stairway that had come down from the plane. There was quite a stir as whoever was inside was coming out. The crowd parted and this unknown VIP stepped into sight and looked straight at me. Immediately, I knew it was Jesus. He was dressed just like a normal guy, but his eyes revealed his true identity. He didn’t speak but held his arms out to me.
My heart rose with exhilaration and I took off running toward him. The crowd made even more room as I approached. I ran with all I had. I was getting ready to run into the arms of Jesus. That welcoming smile, those loving arms, the look on his face. I was almost there and my friend Mark woke me up. It was time for us to go to our early morning work duty to make pancakes for our missionary school.
My heart sank. I missed it. I missed a hug from Jesus in my dream to go make pancakes.
Every year I buy the YWAM prayer diary and daily planer. I seldom use it for it’s intended purpose, a reminder to pray for the nations, issues and peoples of the world. I more use it like a calendar. But today's prayer encouragement caught my eye and reminded me of a time when I really did hold Jesus.
The calendar entry says: “Pray for the children of Jamaica”
Before I joined YWAM, in 1989, I traveled with my church to Jamaica on one of my first ever mission trips. We did all the normal stuff...helped rebuild a church from hurricane devastation, ran VBS type programs in a poorer neighborhood, attended incredibly long, enthusiastic worship services at churches that make most North American expressions look pitiful and pasty and sad. And one day, we helped out at an orphanage.
When we arrived, the workers told us we were there for bath day. I think there were about 20 or so toddlers running around a good sized back yard. Here’s how bath day went. They gave all of us sponges and soap. The kids all got naked. Someone had a hose and let ‘er rip and we chased little naked kids around with soapy sponges. It’s one of the funnest ways you could ever hope to take a bath.
This orphanage took in handicapped kids too. I got asked to help bathe them as well. After all the hub bub, and there was quite a bit of it, we spent the rest of the day playing with the kids in the yard. Only, one of the handicapped kids couldn’t walk.
The workers called him “China-man”. He didn’t have a name. They called him that because of the shape of his eyes. He had come to the orphanage without an identity. He could not see, talk, walk or do anything by himself. I think he was about 4 or 5 years old. I was holding him after bath time and while the rest of the team ran and played, I needed to do something with China-man. I quickly found out that the one thing he could do was laugh. So, I sang “Can’t Touch This” and danced around with him while he laughed.
Then I sat down with him under a tree and we sang. He could only moan and dig his teeth into my shoulder but he held onto me for dear life and I sang and held him.
The down side to all such trips is that eventually, the time comes to leave. I had spent the afternoon with this boy and now it was time to go. I tried to put him down, but he wouldn’t have it. With a little help from the others, I got his arms from around my neck and we sat him down in the care of his workers.
Walking away, I told myself to not look back. I knew I should just go to the vehicles and not look back. I looked back. There he was, lying under a tree with his arms grasping at the air, looking for me.
If he is still alive, China-man is around 27 years old now. Today’s prayer suggestion made me think of him. I’m so thankful I got to meet him for just one sunny, hot afternoon. He helped me hold Jesus. I’ll never forget.
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I love you man. Knowing you is like knowing Jesus, just a little more pasty.
Beautiful and inspiring story. Makes me a sad too, to think about the "leaving" part of these mission trips and my own such stories. It's hard to be willing to keep an open and loving heart when you know it will hurt upon the leaving.
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