“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
To be honest, as a Christian and a pastor, this verse has always troubled me a bit. Not on the truth side or the understanding side, but more on the application side of it. It doesn’t take but a few chapters into the book of Acts to see that the early church got it when it came to the application. They understood the ‘least of these’ and caring for those in their community. Fast forward 2000 plus years and it would appear the Church has abdicated its responsibility in large part and handed it over to the government. So what would it look like for the Church to reclaim James 1:27’s mission? More specifically, what would that look like for individual Christians, like me?
We were grateful to our friends on the West Virginia team for allowing us to travel with them to Veracruz (outside of Managua) to visit the Remar Orphanage. This team has been working in Veracruz and with the orphanage for over 10 years and it was exciting to see some of the fruit of their labor. We traveled around to see some of the homes they had built there and handed out hundreds of pounds of rice and beans to families and coloring books/crayons and candy to children in the community. Word traveled fast (which happens with a team of gringos walking down the street) and we were quickly mobbed.
After returning to the orphanage, we loaded up the bus with somewhere around 60 orphans in tow to take them Christmas shopping at Wembes Market – a huge, local market that I take my teams to each year. They had a blast picking out their gifts and were so grateful. But to look deeply into their eyes and even through conversation with them revealed that even though the gifts were great, the orphanage is really top notch, their is a deeper longing… for family. So we hosted a Christmas party for them that night and tried to be their family. But as I walked away to load the bus, with my family, my heart was heavy. We visited the orphans in their affliction, but are we called to do more? We think so and we are praying about what that “more” could and should be.
We finished our time in Nicaragua in worship… which couldn’t have been more appropriate. Once again we were at Verbo Church caught up in the worship of Jesus with voices in Spanish, some English, but more importantly our hearts humbled in service before our King.
It was a difficult drive to the airport… not physically, but spiritually and emotionally. It’s always that way for me and the teams I bring, but now my whole family was experiencing it together. You always feel like you leave a piece of your heart in Nicaragua, but what you leave behind pales in comparison to what you bring back with you. God has been so faithful to my family and I to allow us to be a part of His global purpose of inviting the nations to give their lives to Him and find their greatest joy in a relationship with Him. We saw God work through us, but more importantly, saw Him work in us.
The mission never ends…