Wrecked by God

Fr. Ted Pisarchuk | 09 April 2013

Today there are about 6.9 billion people in the world. If we made it into a global village of 100 people it would look like this:

  • 60 people would be Asian
  • 14 African
  • 12 European
  • 8 Latin American
  • 5 American or Canadian
  • 1 from the South Pacific
  • 51 male, 49 female
  • 82 non-white, 18 white
  • 33 Christian, 67 non-Christian

The well-respected relief organization World Vision reports in that same global village:

  • 5 people would live on an income of $105.00 per day
  • 60 people would live on an income of less than $2.00 per day
  • And 15 people would live on less than $1.00 per day
  • In that same global village of 100; 14 people do not have enough food to sustain them.  14 people are always hungry.

We pray in every liturgy for abundance of the fruit of the earth and God answers that prayer. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone; but the problem is that it is unequally distributed.

Something else we take for granted is water. Not thinking much of it, on an average day we take a shower, brush our teeth, flush the toilet, wash our hands, brew a cup of coffee, run our dishwasher and washing machine, water our lawns, and drink a cold glass of it. Imagine if tomorrow, all the water was shut off to our homes. Our lives would be transformed. We would be grabbing 5-gallon buckets and walking down to the nearest body of water, hoping it was safe to drink.

In the same global village of 100 people, 17 people already live like this. The average American uses 69 gallons – or 572 pounds – of water per day. In a family of four, that would be over a ton of water. That’s 27 trips with a 5-gallon bucket in each hand without spilling! Most of us would be late to work or school every day.

In preparation for Lent we read:

Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me (Matt 25:34ff).

In this parable, God identifies Himself with the poor and downtrodden. These words are not read to ‘bum us out,’ but to help us focus on what it means to be a Christian. God is love (1 Jn 4:8). And if God is love, and we are the Body of Christ, we are to be love also. The Holy Spirit engenders this love for others within us. Love fosters compassion, and if we have compassion, our hearts will be broken by the same things that break the heart of God. Love is all about the other. There is no ‘me’ or ‘I’ in love.

As Americans, we live in a bubble. We watch the news and see a devastating earthquake or a tsunami and we assuage our ill feelings by writing a check. This is a good start, but for some of us, God wants more. The Roman Catholic nun, Teresa of Avila, wrote:

Christ has no body on earth but yours,

No hands but yours,

No feet but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out;

Yours are the feet which He is to go about doing good;

And yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now. [1]

We are Christ to the world.

An African proverb reads: “Pray, but when you pray, move your feet.” The fruit of prayer is moving our feet and serving others.  Don’t be tempted into thinking  “I am only one of 6.9 billion people in the world. The problems are so big for me to do something about it.” Remember instead the famous parable of a boy walking along a beach after a storm. After the storm the beach was covered with thousands of starfish. The boy walked down beach and threw in starfish after starfish. An old man came up to the boy and says, “Just leave them alone, there are thousands of starfish, you can’t possible save the all.” The boy replies, “Yes, but I made a big change in that one starfish’s life.” God just wants us to make change in a starfish’s life. This is where our salvation is. And it has a boomerang affect.

projectmexIn June 1997, I took my first mission trip ever to Project Mexico and my life changed forever. In Project Mexico, I had an amazing experience of the love and presence of God. I learned more in one week serving in Project Mexico than I did in one year in seminary. It was all heart knowledge – something you cannot learn in a book or classroom.  To use a term from the field of missions, at Project Mexico my life was wrecked. I had a paradigm shift. The bubble that I constructed was burst.

At Project Mexico, for the first time in my life, I witnessed real poverty. I had a good education, a wonderful family, a home with all the modern conveniences, a paycheck, and a great parish. There, I met a family of five living in a pickup truck camper. I saw people living in homes made of discarded pallets with a tarp for a roof. The front door was a curtain. Most homes have no doors, no windows, no electricity, no running water, and no indoor facilities. When it rains the water runs through the house. Women wear no jewelry and dress modestly. No one smoked. No one had cell phones. No one played video games. No one had a refrigerator. No one complained. They are happier and more peaceful than most Americans are. They are not worried about keeping up with what the Jones’ have, not trying to find happiness from material things. While we were building the home, as we installed the front door the woman who was the future owner wept, saying she never lived in a home with a door.

Christ identifies Himself with these people. These are beautiful people, not possessed by material goods. In their poverty, they depend on God for their next meal – not the supermarket. In their poverty, they pray to God to protect them from the bad weather. They know who clothed the lilies of the field and provided food for the birds of the air.

At Project Mexico, for the first time in my life, I witnessed real poverty

The boomerang effect to mission work is this: until the time of my first mission trip, I coveted things that I could not afford: the nicer vehicle, a bigger home, a more lavish lifestyle. At Project Mexico, I met real people. People who were content with what God providentially provided for them. At that point, I was convicted. Convicted to eat less, fast more and to be satisfied with whatever I had. My life has never been the same. It is a spiritual truth that our material wealth and comforts anesthetize us to the gospel. Spiritual growth is outside our comfort zones. God is met outside our comfort zones. God is met in the mission field.

Mother Maria (Skobtsova) of Paris

The 20th century saint and martyr of the church Mother Maria of Paris said:

The way to God lies through the love of others, and there is no other way. At the last judgment, I will not be asked if I was successful at my ascetical practices, or how many prostrations I made. I will be asked “Did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and in prison?” This is what I will be asked. [2]

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matt 7:21).

As Orthodox Christians, we take pilgrimages to holy places. Today I challenge you to take a short pilgrimage into the mission field in a third world nation. Serve on a short-term mission team anywhere. Your life will change. You will experience God in the people and in the environment that you serve. If the Gospel is worth anything, it is worth everything. That means if we really believe it, like Peter, James and John, we lay down what we are doing and begin the adventure of a lifetime.

Do you feel challenged? Is God calling you? Got a question? Leave a comment!


[1] Editor’s note: This poem is widely attributed to Teresa of Avila, although it is not to be found in the saint’s published works, and its authenticity has recently been questioned.

[2] As quoted in T. Stratton Smith, Rebel Nun. (Springfield IL: Templegate, 1965), 135.

Source: Wonder

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