I thought I knew what it meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
I mean, I’ve heard it said all my life. We are the tangible expression of His love for His people. So go feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Care for the orphans and widows…
But I’ve realized lately- it’s more than that.
God has entrusted 16 precious children to me and I love them with a love I truly didn’t know existed in me. Every day I have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus to them. We feed their hungry bellies a hefty meal twice a day. We provide clothes for them to replace their dirty torn ones and we wash the rest for them to wear. And for most of them we are the only arms that hug them all day long.
By the grace of God and the support of people like you, we are blessed to be able to love and provide for them this way every single day.
But the deeper my relationships get with these kids and the longer we journey together, the more the outpouring of my love has changed.
In the beginning, all I could do was love these kids. I couldn’t speak the language well so there wasn’t a whole lot of talking between us. But if they were hungry, they got food. If they needed a pair of shorts because all they had was a pair of Heineken beer boxers covered in holes then we gave them new shorts. When they were thirsty we brought them water.
No matter what they did or what their lives looked like, we wanted and needed them to learn that we are a safe place for them to come.
Now after many months, my relationship with these kids and my love for them looks very different than it did at first. For me, being Jesus’ hands and feet doesn’t just mean giving them food and clothes. A lot of the times, especially because I work with street kids, it means having to give tough love.
It means refusing to give a kid food until he gives me his rugby. It means holding a kicking and screaming 6 year old in a body lock in the middle of town because he wants to throw a giant stone at one of his friends who made him mad. It means saying no to the boys who want to come to school high for the day. It means staring one of my favorite girls in the eyes and explaining to her in a stern voice that she is not allowed to pick on the younger girls anymore or she has to leave.
Tough love is so hard to give. It takes discipline, courage, and strength to stick to your guns. And there is always a risk involved.
Recently, I’ve been the bad guy more times than I can count. I’ve been cussed out and then hugged by the same kid minutes later. Sometimes I get kicked, threatened, and ignored. Then, in true child fashion, it’s all magically better later.
But through all of this, I have truly understood so much better the love of God. I’ve realized more than ever before that He disciplines me because of the depth of His love for me.
I know that sniffing rugby is destroying these kids. And I know that if JR throws the giant stone he could really hurt somebody. I know if those boys come into school high it will only bring the other kids down. And I know when one of my favorite girls picks on the other girls she is really hurting them.
And because I love them so much, I can’t just sit back and let them destroy their lives or anyone else’s. It literally hurts me inside when I find the kids fighting with each other or out on the street sniffing rugby.
Sometimes, it feels like the hardest thing in the world for me to discipline them when all I really want to do is hug them and never let go.
“My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, just as a father disciplines a child in whom he delights.” -Proverbs 3:11-12
But here’s the deal. God found me and chose me- my mess and all. His unconditional love pulled me in and showed me that He was safe and trustworthy. But now that I’m in…now that I’m here…its His tough love that continually shapes me to become more like Him.
He loves me way too much to just let me stay in my mess.
And it’s the exact same way for me with these kids.
Sometimes being the hands and feet of Jesus is easy.
But sometimes, its really, really hard…