I received a text on vacation. “We have a friend who is 8 ½ months pregnant with a 6 year old son and she is here from Africa. She has no place to live. Do you know anyone in the DC area?” I wracked my brain, and immediately went into action, sending out texts to connections I had in that area. She needed to stay close to be near the hospital and her doctor. My home was an hour away, without traffic. “She will be on the streets by tomorrow. The state has already paid for 5 days in a hotel,” another text said.
My attempts at finding a place close to the doctor were turning up futile. “I mean, we could take her in, but, I couldn’t promise being able to get her back and forth to her doctor in DC. I mean, I home school 3 of my kids, run a business and have a busy life,” I told myself. But my arguments were falling flat, slowly descending like a deflated balloon and eventually making their home in the pit of my stomach.
I sent a text to my husband (who had left vacation a bit early to return to work.) “We are having an 8 ½ month pregnant mom and her 6 year old son stay with us for a few months.”
To which he responded, “Where did you find one of those?” “Africa,” I replied.
I packed up early, headed home to meet her by noon the next day. Her attorney would drive her to us. “We’d prefer not to have to move her before at least a month. She needs some stability with the baby coming,” her attorney explained after a pleasant handshake. “Thanks so much for being willing to do this. She had no place to go.”
The attorney didn’t stay long.
Over the first three days, my busy life slowed down; really, it came to a halt. The more I lingered with her, the more I wanted to be with her. She eventually warmed up and gingerly accepted my insistence to kick her tired feet up on my sofa. As the hours traveled from one day to the next, she settled in and began to feed me one page at a time, her story. I savored every bite, longing for more.
She and her husband had been missionaries for 7 years. Just two years ago, they moved back to their home country, wanting to be close to family. Not all of her family welcomed her with open arms. In fact, because she married a poor, artist, who is devoted and in love with Jesus, she was mocked, threatened and beaten. A member of her family would come into her home when her husband was gone and strike her and her swelling belly, rhythmically landing kick after accusation. She wanted to go to the police, but this family member was in the military. To report him would be to bring more problems on her household.
Her husband put her and her son on a plane to the US. He tried to obtain a visa but was rejected. He’s currently in hiding.
Repeatedly since that week, we’ve been told by Christian friends, “Wow! You and your family are amazing! I can’t believe you took her in. But, how did you know her? I mean, how did you find out about her?” I’d share the story not understanding their responses that hovered between amazement and incredulity. “What else is there to do?” I’d ask. To which they’d say, “You guys are special.”
With each syrupy stroke directed to my ego, quickly scripted to silence their own still, small voices, a gentle boil began to roll somewhere deep.
This should not be a unique story. Our story should not be special. This story should be all of ours.
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27
Yes, we said yes. But, isn’t that a simple, undefiled expression of our faith? To be inconvenienced, to lay down our lives for another, to be willing to be used however we are asked?
We talk about living missional lifestyles, being in community, being the hands and feet of Jesus. We spend countless hours reading books and attending conferences to learn more about how to be filled up and fired up to go and be a generation that sweeps over this earth, doing big things for God. We sing songs with arms lifted high, “Here I am, send me!”
What if all of that was static noise, keeping us from a much simpler plan? What if it were just as simple as saying yes? What if we were willing to be inconvenienced?
As I reflect on the countless conversations I’ve had these past few weeks with fellow Christians, I’m a bit sad to realize that opportunity like this, is all around us. I almost missed it. I almost pulled the, “I’m too busy to do this” card. It would have been so easy to draw that card, and in many minds, a justifiable move.
I told my houseguest the other day, that selfishly I think maybe God brought her for me. Her faith, her humility, her willingness to rely solely on her Father for a place to sleep, food, community…to come to a place where she has no family, nation or home, has taken my comfortable, western worldview and flipped it on it’s back, floating dead on the water. I’m watching it drift downstream.
I see my excess through her eyes. I hear myself speak and constantly want to reel it back in because my profound thoughts seem trivial.
I asked for a favor from some friends with regards to my guest. “After days of praying about it, we have to say no. If we made an exception this time, others would take advantage of us. We would make an exception if it were a life or death situation.” I let those words hang in the air. Calmly I responded with “why” I thought this was a great example of life and death situation. To which she responded, “I’m amazed by you and your ability to say yes and be Jesus to her.”
Meanwhile, rising in my mind, “Isn’t she Jesus to me?”
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me…’Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:35-40
Just think, if I had said no, or passed this opportunity on to someone else, if I had been too busy, I would have missed His knock at my door. I would’ve let the day pass on as any other day.