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Amigo  

Before traveling to Vicente Guerrero in Mexico, I had never even heard of, let alone met, a Oaxacan. They are among the poorest of the poor.

Partly because of their “lowly” heritage and partly because they are indigenous, they are looked down upon by many, so they typically get the crummiest of the crummy jobs. If it’s dangerous or back-breaking or low paying, a Oaxacan is usually doing the task.  My daughter and I were there to learn about them and minister to them, under the care of a beautiful Mexican ministry.

Our host, David, told me that their team regularly delivered a tank of milk to give the kids in one neighborhood some much-needed nutrition. Would we want to drive out with their team, assist them, and help pour the milk? Of course!

The next day, the back of our van rattled, and we could hear the warmish milk sloshing the sides of the metal tub. An unkind gravel path demanded too much of tires, shocks, struts—and passengers. But finally, we arrived.

We were expected because the kids came crashing out of cardboard houses, tents, and other makeshift homes. Clutched in every child's hand was a plastic cup, many of them filthy.

Having been handed a pitcher, I squatted down, one knee in the dirt so that I could reach the kids and their cups. One little fellow cried out, “Mas! Mas!” Even I knew that meant he wanted more. So we gladly refilled his cup. Gulping the milk, he melted into the crowd behind me.

I was so busy filling cup after cup that at first I didn’t feel it. A small hand patted my shoulder. With the kind gesture came the sound of a little boy’s gentle voice: “Amigo!” He couldn’t have been more than four or five. I do not know his name. But he presumed to give me a name I felt I did not deserve—amigo.

My initial thought was, How could I possibly be your amigo? Wouldn’t I do much more with this Mexican ministry instead of showing up for a few days if I was really your amigo? The thought haunted me for years.

But as I now think about that hot morning when we poured warm milk into the cups of those poorest of the poor, Christ’s words come to mind: “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones . . . truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward” (Matt. 10:42).

The fact that we wish we should or could have done more does nothing to erase the smallest gesture of kindness we did perform. The least acts of charity matter—not just now, but for eternity! In the amazing economy of Jesus, even giving a cup of milk to a poor Oaxacan boy is noted and somehow marked for future reward!

I think that's a lesson Christ might have been trying to teach me through the voice of a little boy who, in the middle of a hot, dry Mexican morning, downed his second cup of milk, patted me gently on the shoulder, and gave me that kindest of names, “Amigo.” Maybe that’s a message you need to hear, too.

 

You’ll enjoy a generous collection of stories like this in Kids Say the Wisest Things.  Why not get your copy on Amazon!  And do me the kindness of leaving a review, would you?  Many thanks!

 
Do You Wonder?  

“We all wonder.”

The bold white letters against the black background make a big statement.  Maybe you’ve seen the billboards or web banners for the Explore God website.  The ministry addresses the fundamental questions most of us have about God, the Bible, and the Christian life. 

The other day, while boarding the train heading home from Chicago, I bumped into one of those very ads as I hiked up the steps into the passenger car.  Except, just underneath the message, “We all wonder,” someone had scratched in the rebuttal, “No we don’t.” 

And there it was—the argument of the ages.  

The smugness of that reply made me a bit queasy. Such an arrogance—”No we don’t (wonder).”

Actually, that graffiti artist probably speaks for a lot of people in our culture.  Though God has left us plenty of evidence—what theologians call general revelation—many do not wonder.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 proclaims God “has planted eternity in the human heart.”  And Psalms 19:11 trumpets the reality that “The heavens declare the glory of God.  The skies proclaim the work of His hands.”  Then there’s Romans 1:19 which declares, “That which is known about God is evident.”

Those who choose not to wonder about God do nothing to subtract from the insurmountable evidence that He exists.  And the path they are on leads to horrific disaster.

Do YOU wonder?

The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’

—Psalms 14:1

 
To the Michigans  

It's a big week for four-year-old Lucy.

At her church’s Vacation Bible School, she was challenged to receive Christ as her Savior—and she did!  One might not expect to see much dramatic life transformation in a four-year-old (not exactly a "life of sin" from which to turn away).  But one would be wrong.

Lucy is suddenly a fearless (if not fiery) preacher.  Her mother calls her an evangelist.   She regularly gets into the face of her two-year-old sister and proclaims, “Sadie, you need to make a decision!”  But Lucy’s gospel witness is more than lip service.

At the VBS, students hear daily talks from missionaries who serve in Papua New Guinea.  Lucy now bubbles over with tidbits about life in Papua New Guinea, and the vast needs they have there.

So taken is Lucy with the spiritual condition of Papua New Guinea and the enterprising work of the missionaries, she boldly announced to her mother that she wanted to give her money to “the Michigans.” 

With due respect to our Michigan readers, Lucy’s spiritual journey is worth noting.  She wants her money (not somebody else’s) to get to “the Michigans.”

Lucy is living proof:

When Jesus touches your heart, He also touches your wallet.

And maybe that’s the reason so many of us give so little—we’ve only let Him touch our hearts a little.  But if He’s touched us—really touched us—then we can’t help but give.

To the church.

To the homeless.

To “the Michigans."

 
Dangling from a Rope  

A splash in the eye is what got my attention.

Huffing in the heat of the late morning, I gingerly hopped over several lines of train track coming out of Chicago’s Union train station.  Having cleared the last of the rails, something wet plopped on my head. 

The only place it could have come from was the high-rise off to my right, known as “The Residences at Riverbend.”  Currently, you can buy a one-bedroom condo for 404,900.  Need a little more elbow room?  A two-bedroom unit will set you back between $539,000 and $825,000.  But if you really want to spread out (and if you have just shy of a million bucks on hand), grab a three-bedroom unit.

I looked up and around and saw nothing that might have caused the splash on my face. Then I looked higher—and found the source.  Two squeegee-wielding window washers slathered suds on windows so high, I could barely make them out.

The Riverbend condo building is 37 stories tall.  Short by Chicago standards—but plenty high enough when you’re standing next to it.  Or washing windows outside of it!

Several hundred feet up, two men dangled from ropes whose knotted ends danced lazily on the sidewalk in front of me. The workers might as well have been ants on a distant limb. I paused.  Pondered.  Took pictures.   And zoomed in on these daredevils with my iPad camera.

Who in the world would do this?  Who would willingly suspend themselves several hundred feet above the pavement with nothing but a couple of ropes to guarantee their safety?  No doubt those ropes are reasonably reliable—but the hefty insurance premiums these workers pay bear testimony to the inherent danger.

A more sobering question then followed.  When it comes to eternal life, who in the world would be so foolish as to suspend themselves over the flimsy hope that God might let them into heaven if their good deeds outweigh their bad? 

Nowhere in Scripture do we find such a hope, but the idea is rampant in our culture.  Nothing less than receiving the forgiveness of Jesus and His rule over your life will grant you eternal life. 

Precisely what do you depend on to get you into heaven?

The Bible says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of Jesus Christ so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.”

Are you dangling from a risky rope…or certain of eternal life?

 
Beware the Gnats  

Out at the camper, we inherited somebody else's deck. 

With the help of a lot of friends—and a John Deere tractor—we managed to move two 8x8 foot wooden sections to our site.  The repurposed deck then got a thorough power-washing.  The next step was…a step.  Actually, we needed to build three sets of steps.

Like most "morning" projects, the construction of those steps turned out to be an all-day affair.  So I measured, sawed, and fastened, all the while vaguely aware of a cloud of gnats swirling and swarming.

After taking a much-needed shower and changing into some comfortable clothes, I took a look in the mirror.  More than 24 bites encircled my neck (yup, I counted).  They grew red and slightly swollen—but didn't itch too severely.   Looking back, it struck me as odd that I had worked the entire day with only a vague sense of their presence.  That said, their bite marks were anything but vague. Amazing the damage a nearly invisible insect can inflict.

But isn't it also true of you and me that we cause the most damage to our treasured relationships—with small things?  Am I the only one with a history of hurting loved ones with small grunts of ingratitude, tiny criticisms, snippets of cynicism?

Haven't you found it true that you can often avoid the "big sins," but you cause great trouble with the small stuff—the gnats of life?  Ecclesiastes 10:1 says, "Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench."  And James 3:6 points out that tiny tongue of yours is "a fire, a world of unrighteousness."

We Christian folks have a history of warning our kind about the big sins of life.  But I'm not sure we've adequately estimated the damage caused by "smaller sins." As they say, nobody ever woke up and decided to ruin their life—or someone else's.  But it happens.  A bit at a time.  A bite at a time.

Beware the gnats.

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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