The invisible hero in your midst

The Invisible Hero In Your Midst

A few years ago, I knew a set of twins—I’ll call them Sarah and Sasha—who were both passionate about missions. They were both profoundly introverted, and yet expended nearly all of their social energy on supporting and promoting global outreach awareness and prayer events at college. They both dreamed and prayed of a life in Kingdom service abroad.

But.

There were two obstacles: one, they had parents who needed increasing help and care as they coped with disability. And second, they had significant student loans. Sarah and Sasha talked and prayed, and after graduating Sarah joined a team serving in Asia. Sasha returned home to be with her parents, and get a job to start tackling those loans.

I’ve received a number of letters from Sarah over the years, with news of how she has come along in learning the language, of significant relationships with coworkers and students where she has opportunities to share Jesus. She has been able to travel and visit many local families, and has had no shortage of opportunities to speak about God and the life He offers.

It has been easy to see, and rejoice, in the significant service Sarah has offered.

Last week I got a letter from Sasha. After eight years at home, she has an opportunity to go and visit Sarah this summer and partner with her on a short-term outreach trip to a neighboring Asian country. Sasha has saved up for many years to pay for this trip, but needed some help to pay for the relief care for her parents, who cannot do without outside physical assistance these days.

It occurred to me how little I had noticed or esteemed Sasha’s service, while it has been no less significant, or costly. 

Sasha has given her twenties to caring for her parents, and working to pay off loans: something very few first world young adults have to do. She has done so prayerfully, willingly, and quietly; offering a support without which her sister could not have gone.

And yet she doesn’t get to introduce herself as being “a missionary”, and she doesn’t have the stamps in her passport (not that I am glamorizing the life of a missionary, but still….)

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The service of those who send and support is no less valuable than those who go. Those who write checks for sponsor children are just as critical as those who distribute the food and teach the lessons on the other side. Those who faithfully pray through the prayer letters in their email folder are just as critical as those who sit cross-legged in small huts, sharing the good news of God.

So much of the world’s critical work is accomplished by people in the quiet of their houses: being faithful to pray and give, even if they never get to go and do.

For every Sarah in the world, there is a network of unsung heroes: quiet Sashas whose faithful service is noticed and rewarded by the Father who sees what is done in secret.

May we be faithful Sarahs and Sashas, wherever God has placed us.

facebook-gifts

She wouldn’t give up her Barbies or the doll’s bed. Even though she doesn’t play with them. Even though they are dusty with neglect. Every few months we purge the unused, unloved clutter from our house and every few months I asked: “isn’t it time to pass those on?” And every time, she said no.

Just last week I put together another bag of clutter and asked about the barbies and doll’s bed. Again, she insisted they remain.

The day after we dropped off our donations, I got an email from a friend who is setting up a child therapy practice. He will be working with traumatized kids, he said, and often they can’t tell their story with words but they act it out with toys. His start-up practice was pretty empty: did we have any toys that we were done with which we could send his way?

I didn’t expect much from my kids, since it had been just days since our last clean-out, but I decided to ask anyway. “We have a friend who is helping kids who have been hurt and who are scared to feel better. My friend says one of the ways that helps kids is to be able to tell their story with dolls and toys, and he wondered if we had any we could share?” I sat stunned as my 6 year old kicked into high gear. A pile of figurines, finger puppets and Little People grew in the center of the floor. The two Barbies were added to the pile, and then she ran from the room. I wondered where she might have gone to, but seconds later she reappeared lumbering the heft of a dolls bed and adding it to the pile.

“Are you sure?” I said.

“Maybe it will help kids who have had nightmares,” she said. “You know, to have a bed to tell their story.” I hugged her so hard she complained.

* * * * * *

I’ve been mulling over what I learned from my daughter last week. Giving something up is not the same as giving something away. She was not willing to just give up the Barbies, but she was willing to give them to kids who might need them.

Giving things up is hard. Giving things away in love is still hard, but it makes it worth it. There’s a world of difference between sacrifice, and sacrificial giving. My daughter’s generosity reminded me of all the times I have tried to cut sugar out of my diet. My “cold turkey” efforts have seldom lasted longer than 3 days… except for that one time when the doctor told me I had gestational diabetes and I had to quit eating sugar for the health of my baby. That time, it stuck that day, and it stuck for months.

Giving up sugar sacrificially? No way. Giving up sugar to love my kid? Yes.

I am reminded that Jesus didn’t just sacrifice his life. He sacrificed his life “for the joy set before him“, in love for us. I am reminded that sacrifice in itself is not the point, it’s sacrificing in order to better love another. And this, in itself, gives me a little clue as to understanding Lent. Maybe I made a mistake in thinking Lent was just about “giving something up”. If Lent was just about sacrifice, no wonder it has never stuck with me. I always wondered how giving up chocolate could possibly tie to Jesus giving up his life. But if Lent is a season not just to give something up, but to give something away in love, to give something up in order to make space, in order to bless, in order to have reserves of energy or time or money with which to love others – it makes more sense to me.

There’s a white plastic bag filled with toys, two barbies and a dolls bed making its way to a therapy office. I’m thinking about that bag: I’m grateful, I’m challenged, and I might just consider observing Lent next year.