by Taylor Bruce on September 30, 2022
November 11, 2022
On Wednesdays in Equip Students we’ve been going through the different ways we experience love: both giving and receiving it. This past Wednesday, Matt went over our love for strangers and he shared with our students how one of the main ways we love others is by treating them with dignity. Even on our best days, this is a difficult task. But this task is doubly difficult when we’re loving strangers. Matt reminded us that we’re called to love strangers because all humans bear God’s image. This isn’t based on income status, skin color, nationality, education level, or accomplishments. It is something that is basic to every life God breathes into existence.
This past August, we got the opportunity to experience the difficulties of this love for strangers firsthand as we took a group of high school students to Honduras to visit the Micah Project for the first time in 3 years. This was my first overseas trip with our students. For most of our students this was their first time in a developing country and I wasn’t sure how they were going to react when they experienced poverty on the level we were going to.
On our second day in Honduras, we went with the team to the streets of downtown Tegucigalpa and engaged in some street ministry. I was walking up a staircase toward a town square and I turned around to see if our students were behind me. They were, but had stopped. They were standing with a young mother doting on her little baby, cuddling and kissing her. It was a beautiful example of them reminding this young mother that she had dignity; that she bore God’s image. They spent the rest of their time wrestling with other kids, playing soccer with them, coloring with them, helping them to jump rope. All activities that many kids across the world get to do every day without a second thought. I was so proud of these students and so thankful that I got to witness these events. It was a ministry to my own heart.
Another one of my great joys on this trip was sharing it with one of my own kids. My oldest daughter, Molly was on the team and I asked her to share a few things that stuck out to her:
"One of the things that stuck out to me on the trip, was how all of the Micah Boys were so welcoming, and so quick to initiate friendships with us. That felt very different from how it is in America, and I thought that was a beautiful thing. Even with the language barrier, it felt very easy to form connections with them. We communicated mostly through playing games, like soccer or ping pong. Google translate really came in clutch when either our Spanish or their English failed. It was just such an amazing experience, and it was so fun to get to hang out with all the boys. I even gave most of my bracelets to them, which is pretty serious, because I love all my bracelets dearly."
We didn’t build anything while we were there, nor did we spend time on any projects or backyard Bible clubs or anything like that. Instead, we spent most of our time just hanging out and building relationships with all the boys and some of the people they know who live on the streets of Tegucigalpa. During one of our debrief sessions I asked the students if they felt like that was ministry in the same way as a project or street evangelism might have been. I challenged them to broaden what they thought of as ministry to include such relationship building and I made the statement that missions and evangelism at their heart are really the restoration of God’s image bearing in a person’s life. Of course, that includes a recognition that sin has corrupted the image of God in all of us and the need for all of us to cry out to Jesus who bore God’s image perfectly all the way to an unjust death on our behalf. But the starting point for all evangelism surely is the reminder that strangers bear God’s image; both a reminder for us and for them.
As you can see in my daughter’s take-away from the trip, the boys ministered and evangelized to us as much as we did to them. We spent much of the time mutually encouraging the growth of God’s image in our lives. The last challenge I gave our students on the trip was to think of ways they could do the same sort of missions and evangelism in their own contexts. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that missions only happens somewhere else. But really, when it begins and ends with the recognition and restoration of God’s image in another human, missions and evangelism happens everywhere God puts and places. It happens in our homes, in our schools, in our places of work, and even in our churches.
Where has God placed you? Who are the people who are in your lives that need to know they bear God’s image? Who are the strangers God is calling you to get close to? We have a large church and I’m willing to bet that to many of us, many of us are strangers. There are plenty of places to plug in and volunteer and help those strangers become friends and brothers and sisters, to remind them they bear God’s image and for you to be reminded that you bear God’s image.