When I first started receiving pictures of the children who had begun coming to Redeemer Christian School, it struck me that, in all of the pictures, none of the children smiled. Their faces were sullen; their eyes were hollow and distant; despair seemed to literally ooze from their pores.
Why weren't they smiling? Living in the US, I have loads of pictures of my children laughing, smiling, giggling with delight. I see pictures everyday of happy kids on Facebook. We giddily all say, "Cheese" before a picture is taken. It's easy to smile when your belly is full, you have a roof over your head, you know that you can safely walk or ride your bike down the street in your neighborhood, or you are securely tucked into bed each night by your parents.
But...what if you have no parents? What if you are an orphan and roam the streets each day begging for food? What if each night is spent in a different place and your hope is that the next morning you will be alive? What if you fear walking down the street because you have seen others your age snatched and sold as sex slaves to extremist terrorists or recruited into jihad seminaries? What if you went to God's house...the church...only to see your neighbors blown to bits by Islamic extremist suicide bombers? What if you witnessed youths, professing to being Christians, being burned alive in broad daylight in the streets and the officials doing nothing to stop it? What if?
Some people have asked me, "Why do you care so much about these people in Pakistan?" I can appreciate an honest question. I openly admit that when God called me to this ministry, I said, "Who me? You want me to do what? where?"
I had all the perfect excuses...but I began to see the director, the teachers, and the children as real people...as God's children.
Would I, as their parent, want to see my innocent daughters with swollen, pregnant bellies because they had been passed from fighter to fighter to gratify lustful desires? Would I want to see my sons' minds brainwashed with glorified dreams of suicide missions? Would I want the messengers of my Word rounded up in raids in the middle of the night and thrown in jail and the key thrown away as well? No...I couldn't rest well knowing that this is going on. I could not continue to turn a blind eye or keep my head buried in the sand.
In Matthew, Chapter 25, Jesus relates the story of the sheep and the goats. In this apocalyptic text, Jesus relates:
"All the nations will be gathered before him (the King/the Son of Man), and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats." (verse 32)
The people question why and how they are being divided...
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'" (verse 40)
Then, furthermore, He adds...and this is the part that makes us squirm...
"'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (verses 45-46)
The interpretations of this part of scripture about "doing for the least of these brothers of mine" go from the narrow: what we do for our Jewish brothers and sisters - the Nation of Israel, to a broader sweep: what we do for messengers and missionaries spreading God's word, to an even broader brush stroke: what we do for the poor, the orphans, the destitute.
I'm not even going to pretend to know fully the mind of God and how the King will choose to interpret "the least of these".
All I do know is that I want to be counted among the sheep whose inheritance is eternal life.
Back to the childrens' faces in pictures. The faces of those who enter the doors of Redeemer Christian School are beginning to soften into smiles. They are being ushered into the throne of God's great grace, and love, and mercy. When they learn that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and a Savior, Jesus, who loves them enough that He was willing to die for them to give them eternal life in paradise...a life far removed from the destitution that they know and live each day...they have reason to smile.
Though the world outside may be thick with evil, they begin to taste and know that He is good.
I have learned so much from the director. As a messenger of Christ, he cannot find employment to supplement the school. He moves from place to place and sleeps restlessly because he must be ready to flee if they come to round up Christians in the middle of the night. He goes without meals and sells his few belongings to survive. He knows he has a target on his back...
But, yet he smiles...
Why? Because he knows his Savior. He knows the Truth that will ultimately set him free. He knows the Hope that is within him is faithful, constant, and true.
The example of his faith has stretched and challenged mine in ways I never dreamed imaginable. He has shown me what a valuable treasure I have in having the gift of God's grace.
I merit it (grace) not, but He (God) gives it anyway.
I stop to ponder...if I had an empty belly, no roof over my head, extreme fear when I walk down the street, but I did know that I have one thing...God's grace, would I be able to smile?
Dear Lord, Thank you for lifting the veil from our eyes to truly see what is going on in this world. We lift up the messengers of Your Word and the children to whom they teach it and ask for a hedge of protection be placed around them. Thank you for the refuge that RCS has become for these destitute children. Let your light and love continue to grow deep into their hearts and let the joy of the hope they now possess be reflected in their smiles. Move us, Lord, to care for the "least of these" in the same way that You do. Thank you for our many blessings. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
If you wish to come alongside Redeemer Christian School in providing a haven from the evil that surrounds them and to let them know that God's people love and support them, would you consider making a donation to the good work of the school? **Update: Help Needed: 20 more children are seeking refuge at RCS...we want to enroll them, but need greater financial support. Please help if you can so that we don't have to turn any child away...
Donations can be sent/made out to: Bev Rihtarchik (put RCS in memo)
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC 27513
**Note: RCS is not yet a registered 501c3 organization...we're working on it, but it is very expensive. Every penny - literally - goes to the children. That I can promise.
Please, please, please pray for God's protection to surround them!