Phillip was in his late 20’s and dying of AIDS. His family had disowned him, and day after day he was in his bed, waiting to die. Sister Judith, one of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, helped take care of Phillip. She would change his bed sheets, clean his room and do his dishes.
Sister Judith was a hard worker. She was diligently washing Phillip’s dishes one day when he called out to her.
“Sister Judith!” he yelled from his bedroom. “Come in here!”
“I’m doing your dishes,” she replied. “Need to get this done.”
“I said, come in here,” Phillip shouted back.
Sister Judith went in Phillip’s room to see what he wanted. He pointed at an empty chair beside his bed.
“See that chair?” he said. “Sit in it.”
It was a lesson Sister Judith said she would never forget. She had been running around trying to “help” so much that she missed the importance of simply being there for Phillip, being someone to sit with, someone to talk to, someone to form a relationship with.
Sometimes, your presence is enough. Sure, there are things you can do to help people, but often what helps the most is just being there.
In September I’m going to Thailand with my church and Destiny Rescue. It is not technically a “work trip.” We aren’t building anything or painting any walls, we are simply going to visit. We are going to build relationships with the girls who have been rescued from child trafficking and sexual exploitation.
What does it really matter? Will our presence in Thailand at these rescue homes really make any sort of a difference? I can say with all sincerity and confidence that I know it will. I’ve seen it happen before.
When I was in Zambia with Lifesong for Orphans, I remember talking with some precious third graders. One said to me, “Why are you here?” I told her we were there to visit, to get to know them and to talk about Jesus with them. She then asked, “How much do you get paid?” My heart broke.
Once I explained to her that those of us who were there were using our vacation days from work to visit, she was absolutely dumbfounded. She couldn’t believe that we were there for them, and even more so, that we had to pay and raise the funds to get there.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth
for a sincere brotherly love,
love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”
1 Peter 1:22
When I went to Nicaragua with my church and Food for the Hungry, part of our mission in the village of Terrencio was to dig latrines. While I know it needed to be done, no one seemed overjoyed at what we were doing, but they were more than thrilled when we spent time with them. Our sponsor children and their families were elated when we came to their homes just to chat.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil;
hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection,
and take delight in honoring each other.”
One afternoon in Uganda, my friend Debby and I went to visit the father and stepmother of her sponsor child. Their mud home was as clean as a mud home could be, with furniture covered in white sheets, just for us. They even gave us cold bottles of Coke. Rude to refuse their kind gesture, we indulged, and spent the next few hours enjoying our time together. Their hospitality told us what didn’t have to be said.
“You came to see ME,” is what it said. In Zambia. In Nicaragua. In Uganda. “Someone from the other side of the world came just to spend time with me in the name of Jesus.”
I find it funny that people assume mission trips have to be filled with doing construction projects. Which is fine, but wasn’t Jesus the ultimate missionary, and what did He do? He spent time with people.
Even after Jesus came back from the dead, He spent time with people. He didn’t dig any latrines or paint any walls. Check out Luke 24:13-39. After the resurrection, Jesus walks a dirt road with two of His followers as a simple, loving gesture.
At first I felt strange asking for financial support as I embarked on this journey to Thailand, but the more I thought about it, I realized it’s just as important as any other mission trip I have gone on. Looking at what these girls have been through and simply being there to love them might actually be even more important than any mission trip I’ve already been on.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”