By LESLIE LUDY
In 1890, Catherine Booth wrote, “It will be a happy day for England when Christian ladies transfer their attentions from poodles and terriers to destitute and starving children*. She reminded women that living for pleasure and filling their days with eating, drinking, dressing, and sightseeing left no time to serve God and become His hands and feet to the poor and outcast. We as modern Christian women can greatly benefit from this reminder as well.
In many previous Set Apart Girl articles, we’ve talked about the importance of turning away from empty pursuits and pop culture distractions. But once we forsake these things, what should we be doing with our time? In addition to cultivating our relationship with Jesus Christ and serving the people He has placed in our life (husband, children, family members, friends) we have also been commissioned to rescue and defend the weak and vulnerable. This is not a special call for certain Christians. It’s the byproduct of coming away with Jesus. This is what Jesus Himself does.
Listen to how He described the ministry that the Father sent Him to do: “He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lk. 4:18). And then He tells us, “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you” (Jn. 21:2). What a sacred calling He had entrusted to us! Are we taking it seriously?
Hudson Taylor once made a convicting statement that certainly applies to American Christians today: “It will not do to say that you have no special call to go to [the mission field]. With the command of the Lord Jesus to go and preach the gospel to every creature, you need rather to ascertain whether you have a special call to stay at home.”
While God may not ask you to live in a foreign country, all of us are called to adopt a “missionary mindset” no matter where God has placed us. Ask Him to show you where and how to start being His hands and feet to the weak. Though the need around the world is staggering, He often wants to cultivate sacrificial love within us by starting with one.
When Eric and I first began to feel the call of God to reach the orphans of the world, the idea was daunting. We didn’t know where to begin. And then we heard about a baby girl from South Korea who had been abandoned because she had deformities on her feet and no fingers on her hands. And we knew this was the one God wanted us to start with. Today this little girl is our daughter, Harper Grace. Just over a year later, He led us to adopt a baby boy domestically and build a relationship with his birth mom through open adoption. As I write this book, we are in the process of bringing home two toddlers from Haiti.
God might not call you to adopt, as He has us. There are countless ways He may lead you to lay down selfish pursuits in exchange for a life of sacrificial love. The first step is willingness. The second is prayer. If you surrender your body, your life, your time, and your resources to His purposes, you can be sure that He will open your eyes to the ways in which He desires you to become His hands and feet. Here is a quick list of some of the people for whom God’s heart is especially burdened:
- The persecuted church
- The fatherless and widows
- The impoverished
- Prisoners and slaves
- The sick and the elderly
- Refugees and foreigners
- The unborn
- The unsaved
Ask God to show you which of these areas to invest your time and energies into. It may be a combination of more than one. Ask Him to burden you with His heart and His love for these precious lives. And ask Him to open your eyes to the needs right around you, and around the world.
It is relatively easy for us to toss money toward an orphanage fund, or to send toys and gifts to impoverished children during the holidays. Those small acts are needed and important. But God has called us to more. He doesn’t ask us to stand for the weak every once in a while, whenever it’s easy and convenient. Rather, we are called to a lifestyle of serving them. This will look different for each of us.
Some of us may be called to minister to the homeless; others to adopt; others to fight for the unborn; others to start orphanages overseas; others to encourage the persecuted—and hundreds of other possibilities. Allow God to stretch you beyond what is comfortable and easy. We as Christian women usually have full lives and often we don’t believe we have much time or energy available to serving those in need. But we must remember that what God calls us to do, He equips us to do.
If you study the lives of Christian women who have made the most impact for God’s kingdom, you will notice that it was rarely, if ever, convenient for them to do what they did. Their mighty acts for God required enormous personal sacrifice and a willingness to venture far beyond the realm of the easy and comfortable. If today’s Christians are too busy, who will take up the torch of Gospel-centered rescue work in this generation?
Of course, serving the weak is not the only thing that we are supposed to do in this life. God entrusts us with many other callings, such as loving our husbands, training our children, ministering to the Body of Christ, practicing hospitality, encouraging younger women, being diligent in our places of work, and so on. And we are not to neglect our families or the other things God has called us to in order to serve the weak.
So, how do we do all these things and still embrace a lifestyle of sacrificial serving? Here are some suggestions.
1. Involve your kids.
If you are a young mom (or will be in the future) it’s easy to see the child-raising years as a season built around soccer practice, play dates, homework help, and piano lessons. While these developmental activities are important, we are called to train our kids to be ambassadors of the Gospel of Christ. That means teaching them to turn outward, to get outside their comforts zones, and to love sacrificially.
Ask God to show you ways that you can get your kids involved in turning outward and serving the weak. Even if your children are young, you can still find ways to help them to be Christ’s hands and feet to the weak. As a family, we study the needs of the persecuted church around the world (Voice of the Martyrs and persecution.org are great resources) and our kids send letters of encouragement to pastors imprisoned for their faith. We are currently working on planning a family trip to visit and encourage families of persecuted Christians. All four of our children have been involved in preparing our home for the two toddlers we are soon to adopt from Haiti. They pray for their new siblings daily, and even use their own money to purchase special gifts for them. When some friends of ours brought their older adopted boy home from Haiti, our kids made welcome signs for him and left special gifts in his bedroom.
The first time we visited our soon-to-be adopted children in Haiti, we brought Hudson along. He was seven years old. Seeing the needs and destitution of an impoverished nation firsthand made an incredible impact upon him, and gave him a vision for doing something bigger with his life than just playing with Legos (though we still need to remind him of this “bigger vision” from time to time!). He sponsors a little boy in Haiti, and prays for his sponsored child daily. He writes him letters and sends him special gifts. Hudson has also come up with several fundraising ideas for orphans in Haiti since that time. We frequently speak to our kids about the needs of orphans around the world, and they constantly talk about rescuing orphans when they grow up. As our kids get older, we have plans to take them to various places around the world where they can experience what it means to become Christ’s hands and feet to the needy and vulnerable.
Even if you have young kids at home, remember that there are still many ways you can be Christ’s hands and feet to the weak. In fact, you have an amazing opportunity to demonstrate a lifestyle of sacrificial love to your kids by teaching them about the needs around the world and helping them become part of the true solution.
2. Work together with the Body.
Remember that you don’t have to take on the problems of the world by yourself. If you feel burdened about a specific area of need, talk to other likeminded women you know about joining forces. Meet together to pray for God’s direction as to how you can work together to make an impact. Find out what other ministries already exist in these areas, and look for ways to come alongside of them and serve what they are doing, or look through their websites for ideas and practical steps your group can take.
For example, Voice of the Martyrs outlines some practical ways to pray for and encourage the persecuted church. Christian Alliance for Orphans and Family Life Today offer many great resources for getting involved in orphan care. Compassion International provides opportunities to change a child’s life through sponsorship and Samaritan’s Purse provides ways to get involved serving the impoverished. These are just a few among many great Christian service-oriented ministries that exist. Even many local churches have established ministries to orphans, widows, refugees, prisoners, elderly, and so on. Look for ways to join up with others in the Body who are passionate about the burdens upon God’s heart.
Remember that “changing the world for Christ” often starts with small first steps. But be sure that the ones you take are stretching you as far as God wants to take you! Be willing to venture outside the range of what is comfortable for you. Each step of sacrificial love will expand your capacity to take on even bigger burdens for the Kingdom of God.
There are cries of anguish resounding all over the world — from the starving child to the Christian being tortured for his faith. May we not drown them out with our movies, T.V. shows, social lives, and career pursuits. May we learn to give as Jesus gave, holding nothing back.
*Our People – The Incredible Story of William and Catherine Booth, Vision Video, 2009