When I see the words “the least of these” in the Bible (Matthew 25:40), my mind often drifts to images of runny-nosed Malawian children and the many sports ministry leaders whom we have invested in over the years.
Last summer, my family and I had the wonderful opportunity to go back and visit Malawi for three weeks. We spent time and shared stories with dear friends, connected with the church we attended when Malawi was our home, we hosted a short-term team and had opportunities to share about the good news of Jesus. All of these things we ‘did’ were great. And, aside from having 11 rats living (and dying) in the house with us, the trip far exceeded our expectations. Despite all these good things that were “done by us” in Jesus’ name, the most transformative experience for me was something I just sat there and learned. Straight from the heart of the Father through a few individuals whom I previously labeled in my heart as some of the “least of these”.
One of our weeks in Malawi was spent serving at a netball camp with the Sports Friends team for young women from remote villages where few people followed Jesus. Many of these young women had recently come to know the Lord through their local Sports Friends coach sharing the Gospel with them. But even with their faith in Jesus, they were finding living for Him to be tremendously difficult.
One young lady named Mary shared how she was married at 16 and now at 20 years old has three children. Her husband was not a Christian and recently left her for another woman. His reason: “You are not pretty to me anymore. Also, you spend my money. I want to spend it on myself.”
On the second night of the camp, Fostance, our team leader had just finished sharing the devotion with the campers. It was a powerful message that many of them responded to with faith in Christ for the very first time. After finishing the teaching time there was an open time of response and singing. Praise broke out in that room! I was absolutely stunned by these women worshipping God whole heartedly. The words they were singing captured my heart and challenged me. All in perfect harmony, and with everything in them, they sang,
“We look to you Oh Man on the cross!
Oh man of suffering it’s you who deserves the praise.
Receive the glory Oh King Jesus!
We look to you oh Man on the cross
who shed your blood for us and took our sins away.“
My heart welled with the presence of the Lord in the room, my faith was growing. God was with us. These women were what I considered the “least of these” but could it be that I had it all wrong? I stopped my singing and just listened. Nobody cared about the time. We were meeting with the Lord. These women who I had come to serve were ministering to my spirit, just by worshipping.
Then I saw Mary. With her youngest baby strapped to her back, she was standing with hands high reaching for her King and singing praise after praise to Him. God was meeting her in that moment. She was weeping. She was broken, rejected and tired but the Lord was filling her up. She had absolutely nothing by the standards of this world but if you took one look at her face, you knew she was more satisfied than the richest person on earth. Mary was, as Jesus says in Luke 12:21, “rich towards God.”
I was deeply challenged in my walk with the Lord this night and it got me thinking. All my money, busy-ness, technology, education, and comfort actually don’t mean a thing in the Kingdom. Because the currency of the Kingdom of God isn’t measured in mission objectives, money earned, or programs planned. The currency of the Kingdom is actually quite simple: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
What an example of love these women had given me. Praise God for the opportunity to learn from them that night!
This missionary family served for 6 years with Sports Friends in Malawi, before relocating to the U.S. to pinoeer a new sports ministry initiative with refugees.