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Founded in Compassion

I’m a klutz. I always have been. As a child, my local doctor’s office knew me well. I’ve broken my arm falling off a slide, my leg falling off of a tire swing, my arm (again) tripping over my feet in gym class, my foot tripping over a crack in the sidewalk and, as recently as last year, my thumb trying to be cool sliding across the top of my desk. I’ve gotten stiches from falling off a bed and swinging into another type of swing. All of this, and I have never formally played an organized sport in my entire life.

I have a tendency to fall down for no real apparent reason. I think I get lost in the thoughts I have going on in my head and simply forget that I’m walking and really need to pick up my feet. The fact that I have vision which is super bad a depth perception and a poor sense of balance probably doesn’t help. Most of the time, falling isn’t a big deal. Sure, I might be a bit sore, I might have a slightly twisted ankle, but it is my pride which tends to take the biggest hit.

But there is one fall which scrapped me up pretty badly. It was on a mission trip in Juarez, Mexico. I was a youth minister at the time and I was with a group of 10 kids from my church serving with YouthWorks, an agency which specializes in short term mission trips in the US, Canada, and Mexico for teens. About half way through the week, pretty much everyone staying onsite that week needed to walk a half mile to exchange the many empty 5 gallon water jugs for full ones at a local water store. Everyone grabbed at least one, most of us, including myself, grabbed two, and we headed out.

We walked through the neighborhood, waving and saying hello to the kids who had been coming to the morning program, being sure people knew they were invited for a worship service the next evening and made it to the store without incident. By this time, I had gotten in the habit of walking towards the end of the group to be sure I could keep an eye on the teens who were in my care and so was one of the last people to exchange my empty water jugs for full ones and set out back to the church we were staying at.

Remember how I said I think a big part of the problem was that I forget that I need to pay some attention to my walking? About half way back, as I was walking down the hill on a gravel road carrying two full water jugs (one on each shoulder), I stepped on a rock just large and round enough to cause me to stumble. Normally, not a big deal but carrying 10 gallons of water throws off your center of balance and I starting to fall, face first, down the hill and onto the gravel.

I know I ended up cracking and breaking one of the water jugs which resulted in us losing much of the water before we got back to the church but I think I managed to save the other one. However, the price I had to pay was a large, open, bleeding, area on my left shin and left forearm. Not ideal when you have no real access to a shower and are facing a six to eight hour border crossing back into El Paso, Texas if you need medical attention.

As I came limping into the church, the local ladies who were cooking dinner for us leaped into action. I was scolding, in Spanish I didn’t understand, for continuing to carry one of the jugs the rest of the way to the church and the local leader was scolded for letting me and not sending for help. Supper could wait, I was told, getting my leg and arm cleaned up was the more important. I suddenly had five self-appointed mom’s taking care of me and insisting I rest while they did the work I was supposed to do in feeding the multiple teams staying at the church that week.

In all of my injuries, that one has always stood out in a unique way. As these ladies dipped into their precious and limited first aid supplies to take care of me, the klutzy American who should have been more careful, I was very aware of their limited resources. The YouthWorks staff on site tried to insist they use the stuff YouthWorks had just such an emergency but they brushed them off, “Save it for something really big,” they said. This was a tangible way they could care for someone else. For the remaining two or three days on site, they made a point to check on me regularly to make sure I wasn’t developing an infection and was I sure I didn’t want to see a doctor?

The third part of our foundation of faith we talked about this summer was being founded in compassion. Compassion is more than just feeling bad for someone, it is being moved to do what can you alleviate their pain and suffering in a way which honors and respects them as a person. The local ladies couldn’t prevent me from falling, they couldn’t make my skin instantly grow back over my wounds, but they could take the time to pick the gravel out, wash it with clean water, and treat it some basic disinfectant to be sure I didn’t go home early due to an infection. We couldn’t communicate in the same language, but they still used hand gestures to ask permission before touching me to help me. They could have left the college aged YouthWorks staff to handle it on her own but, being moms and grandmoms who have seen this in their own families countless times, they took the action they could to help.

In Luke 15, we find a story of another person in need of compassion after making a foolish mistake. The story of the prodigal son is one of most well-known parables that Jesus taught. A son selfishly demands his inheritance early and, upon receiving it, leaves home to spend it on parties and girls. The money doesn’t last long and soon the son finds himself abandoned by his so-called friends and wishing he could eat food as good as the food the pigs he takes care of eat. Living among pigs is pretty much as low as a Jewish man in the 1st Century could get.

The son realizes then that even the servants and slaves of his father are treated better and eat better than him and so we begins his journey home with the plan to beg to be a servant of his father. He is broken, he knows he has messed up, he is at rock bottom. And as he begins to walk up the driveway, prepared to beg and plead, his father sees him and comes running. He is welcomed back into the family with open arms by his father.

The father had every right to turn him away. He had every right to hold onto the hurt he felt by his son demanding his inheritance and then spending it so quickly and foolishly. In the first century, the father would have been seen as exceptionally forgiving to let this foolish son even be one of his servants. But the father sees his son and has compassion. He welcomes his son home. He throws a party. He makes him instantly part of the family once again.

That’s the same type of welcome God has for us each and every time we repent and turn back towards him. There isn’t a lecture. There isn’t an “I told you so.” There is simply joy and welcome. The same compassion the father shows to his prodigal son is the compassion God shows us when we, broken and beat up by the world, start walking towards home in hopes of finding a safe place to call home.

Follow Up

- If you would like to learn our theme verse for this day, check out the video below!

- Looking for a mission trip opportunity for youth? Check out YouthWorks!


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