After the Gulf War in 1991, hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. They made it to a mountainside just inside the Turkish border where they set up a refugee camp with little or no food, medical help, or sanitation. Christian agencies, of course, felt the urgency of people who were dying there every day, so they rose to the occasion, and they came in with a flood of emergency help and supplies. Many Christian representatives were there – but missionaries from one agency reportedly experienced a unique receptivity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While many Christian representatives worked from truck and distribution points, handing out food and blankets, the Operation Mobilization missionaries succeeded in getting unusually close to the people…because of the garbage. Mountains of trash just rapidly overtook that camp – dirty, smelly garbage that no one wanted to touch. But these missionaries plunged into picking up that repulsive trash. And the ones who were willing to pick up the garbage were the ones who found many people willing to hear about their Jesus.
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A WORD WITH YOU today about “The Garbage And The Gospel”.
When you are there for the garbage, it’s amazing how people will open up to your Jesus. One of the great ways to build a Jesus-bridge into the heart of someone you know is to be there for them in the “garbage” times of their life – the time of loss, the time of illness, the time of hurt or need or stress. Or, as it says in Romans 12:15, our word for today from the Word of God, “Mourn with those who mourn”.
You may not consider yourself any kind of "super-Christian” or someone who is good at communicating your Christ to a lost person – but being there for an unreached friend during the bad times is a step of active love that anyone can do. When it’s hurting time for someone within your reach, you drop everything, realizing this is a precious opportunity to display the Jesus-love you want that person to experience.
People never forget who was at the hospital, who was at the funeral, who was there for the emergency – and who wasn’t. Folks remember who calls or visits when they’re sick – who even notices that they’re missing. When you are there for the bad times of someone you hope to introduce to Jesus, you often find moments of unique spiritual softness – the kind of moments when you can tell the difference Jesus has made for you...how He offers a relationship with Him that withstands every storm a person will face.
I watched that happen in a major way when the “flood of the century” hit our area in northern New Jersey. The people of our church responded with their hands, their feet, and their hearts, helping the flood victims clean up a filthy mess. They gave clothes and furnishings and they helped in locating alternative housing. There are people in those towns who know Jesus because believers who came to their spiritual rescue opened the door for them to hear about Christ.
When you’re thinking about rescuing the spiritually dying, you understand that their moment of crisis is your opportunity to show them Jesus – which means you have to drop what you’re doing to serve as a “be there” person for their storm. Nothing opens doors or hearts like our sacrificial acts of love. When you show up, like Jesus - to serve, you will be in the best possible position to show and tell what Jesus is about. There’s something about being there to help people pick up their garbage that opens their heart to the Gospel. If you’ll make a point to be there for their bad times, they may ultimately be there with you in heaven.
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