by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
There are women in Sudan who carry food from relief shipments from the delivery area back to their villages. They carry twenty five kilos (fifty five pounds) of food on their heads for four hours through swamps. As payment, they each receive a little sugar and a little tea, because these are things they want.
My mother used to say she wouldn’t do one thing or another “for all the tea in China.” And yet these women endure extreme hardship, for a little sugar—and a little tea. They do for so very little what you or I might not dream of doing for any price, because if they didn’t, their people would die.
We’ve all read or heard countless stories of parents making sacrifices for their children, or people making sacrifices for their spouses. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13).
If you have a relatively comfortable life like mine, the notion of walking for hours through swamps with a heavy burden on your head might seem very foreign. But these Sudanese women accept it as a part of life, an everyday reality.
Few of us are actively persecuted for our faith any more, at least not in the United States. We don’t have to worry about threats to our lives, loved ones, or property. No one is going to shoot or imprison us for proclaiming the Gospel. All God asks from us is that we do something “icky” once in a while—like witnessing.
Jesus carried the cross and bore our burden of sin, because otherwise we would die. We must take up the burden of evangelizing the world around us, because we are surrounded by people who are at risk of spiritual death. The burden we carry might lead us into uncomfortable situations sometimes, but the consequences of doing nothing are far more severe. Physical hunger is not the only kind (Mt. 5:6), and spiritual starvation is a very real possibility (Jn. 6:32-35). People all around us are hungry for “the living bread that came down from heaven.” (Jn. 6:51a). And we can show them where to find tons of it. All we have to do is get beyond our discomfort. What are we willing to do for their sakes? What are we willing to do for the sake of the Gospel? What cost are we willing to pay, and what payment do we require?
Our reward is far more valuable than tea and sugar (Mt. 5:12). We need to decide if the work we are called to do is worth the risk and the reward. People are hungry; people are dying; people are waiting for us to come to them with the nourishment of the Gospel, and feed the hunger in their souls.
“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’
“‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’
“Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’
“Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’
“He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’
“Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’
“The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
“Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’
“Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (Jn. 21:15-17 NIV).