Gospel for Asia (GFA) Report, Wills Point, Texas
You know that awkward moment when you’re stopped at a red light, and you can feel the presence right outside your window. You study the road in front of you, trying, unconvincingly, to look casual and nonchalant. Before, when you slowed down for this stop light, you saw the panhandler standing at the corner. You knew you were going to end up idling right next to him. You quickly think to yourself, What do I do? Do you smile and look away? Do you give him money? What are the chances it won’t go straight to the liquor store till? His sign says he has a family. Does he really? Will they see a cent of any money you give him? What about if you give him a gospel tract? Isn’t that really his greatest need: Jesus?
I have often wrestled through these questions and settled on one of the actions above, but never with complete satisfaction that it was the best way to help or exactly what Jesus would have done.
Usually, when Jesus was approached by the needy, disabled or downcast, He met their immediate physical needs, often through healing. But He also fed people, just because they were hungry. In fact, He told us that when we meet the immediate physical needs of people in front of us, we are ministering to Him directly.
“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” —Matthew 25:34–40
Our field partners in Asia see the same kind of desperate needs that we read about in the gospels. People affected by leprosy. People without access or means for medical treatment. Families too poor to send their kids to school or even feed them. There are so many natural disasters in rural Asian countries that don’t have the infrastructure to respond.
Gospel for Asia-supported Compassion Services teams are there to meet people’s real-time, immediate needs. Things like medical checkups and flood relief. These are vehicles for people to experience the real love and compassion of Jesus. Jesus sees their need. He sees their plight. He is not deaf to their cries, they reach His throne in heaven.
Compassion Services is where heaven touches earth. Washing a leprosy patient’s wounds gives physical representation to the spiritual reality of God’s cleansing forgiveness. Rebuilding the home of a family who lost everything in an earthquake speaks of an eternal home that cannot be destroyed.
When we reach out to the immediate physical needs of those around us in the name of Jesus, He ministers to them through us. We become the very hands and feet of Jesus on earth.
In a tiny farming village in Asia, two Sisters of Compassion met 125-year-old, Rayna, a poor widow who has lived her whole life in this village. The sisters made weekly visits to Rayna to hear her stories culled from 125 years of love and heartache and to pray for her. They noticed the torn and smelly blanket she used for warmth and realized she and her family couldn’t even afford a new blanket, because they used all their income on daily survival. There was no money left for improving their lives. The sisters were able to provide a new, warm blanket for Rayna through a gift distribution.
“During night time, I feel cold because there were no warm clothes in my house, and I struggled a lot,” Rayna said. “I could not afford to buy a blanket to protect me. But thank you very much for giving this blanket.”
Gospel for Asia partners work right in the middle of some of the most difficult plights of human need. Our partners work in 44 leprosy colonies in Asia, where leprosy still has a life-long stigma. As people affected with leprosy are often cast out of society, they gather in groups or “colonies” for safety. Our partners are busy ministering to these outcasts by cleansing their wounds, getting them medical attention, and providing livelihoods, such as goats, through GFA’s Christmas Gift Catalog so they have a sustainable means of living. We even have an onsite cobbler at one of the colonies to provide custom shoes for those with feet too disfigured to wear normal shoes.
Our field partners also work in slums spread across Asia, providing toilets and blankets to those who do not have access to these items of basic human need. We host medical camps in slums, leper colonies and poor rural areas that have no access to any sort of health care. Often in these areas, people’s only resource for medical care are traditional practices that spread more disease than cure.
After the decimating series of earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, coordinated relief efforts came from many Gospel for Asia (GFA)-supported partners in Indian states. Supplies of clothing, food and medicine were assembled to meet immediate needs. Building supplies were collected to help with reconstruction. Even school supplies were provided for thousands of children that lost everything. In times of crisis, when warning is impossible, Gospel for Asia (GFA)-supported Compassion Services are poised to respond immediately and remain for the long haul.
Jesus made time for the needy around Him. Even when He was busy, on His way somewhere, a desperate woman who reached out to Him was not turned away, but healed (Mark 5:21-34). Men would cry out to Him from the side of the road, and Jesus paused to listen and minister to their physical needs (Matthew 20:29-34). Often this led to spiritual transformation as well.
By touching people’s lives by meeting immediate physical needs, the door is open for deeper healing as well.
You remember the panhandler at the intersection? This is my someone-asking-for-help-while-I’m-busy-on-my-way-somewhere moment. How will I respond? Once I had kids and knew that these four little people were watching my life, I determined to come up with a way to reach out to panhandlers. I was done looking the other way and feeling embarrassed, not knowing what to do. So I put together a plastic bin that sits in my van, right between the two front seats filled with bottles of water. Each water bottle has a gospel tract rubber-banded around the outside. Tucked into the gospel tract is $1. My kids and I pray over the gospel tracts and write a warm note of encouragement before we wrap them around the water bottles. Now that we live in Texas, bottled water is perfect. When we lived in Washington State, it was cans of soup.
There are so many ways that Jesus continues to minister to the needs of people around the world. And He does it through the small and big acts we carry out every day. When we, as the Body of Christ, show up in a recently flooded village where all the crudely constructed homes have been washed away, Jesus is there. When we give a bottled water to someone standing on a street corner in 100-degree weather, Jesus is there. We are the literal hands and feet of Jesus reaching out in our local communities and across the globe, meeting people’s immediate physical and spiritual needs. Being the conduit for heaven to touch earth.
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