Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Who's Outside Your Gate?

In Kenya, as in many developing nations, property is fenced with gated access. This is for both privacy and security. Most fences are fabricated from tin sheets or cement; the latter usually sports barbed or electric wire. Some only have broken glass poking along the top. All of them enhance ability to control surroundings.

     Look closely at the top of the fence. Hey, who's that "mazungu" gal in the blue?

Our current compound is encircled by thick, thorny bougainvillea. Our gate is strong and high, with a peep window; it’s always locked. A stern askari (guard) alongside vigilant dogs watch access from dusk to dawn.

This makes us “feel” secure. It erects an illusion of protection from the hard, hard life   happening “outside” the gate. Our possessions, our resources, our things are safe with us because they are ours - for us - mine - we must insulate from threats.

Of course I understand the necessity of living in a secured compound, especially since we are in a country rated “high threat zone” in the USA travel warning system. I’m very grateful for God’s provision - a preserved place to minister and raise our children.
Yet, as I see the imposing fences and bolted gates, some ostentatiously constructed, I start wondering how this constant, enclosed “security” and “safe-guarding” effects psyche, thinking, character, actions…. When I begin wondering about stuff like that, Scripture must set my standard.

What I found in God’s Word concerning self-preservation, the truly poor and gates challenged me…
Luke 16:19-31 tell a story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. The rich man could be anyone since he’s not specifically named. I find that symbolic. He could be me because globally, although I’m a missionary, I’m richer than 2/3s of the world. The beggar has a name – Lazarus. How many times do we forget that those less fortunate than us have names, have lives not defined by their misfortune? He was full of sores that dogs licked. Not a pretty picture and probably not something many of us actually see everyday. But the rich man, a cultured foodie dressed in the latest styles, could – if he chose to really see.

Now, I’m not going to do the whole “bleeding heart give to the poor because they have nothing” speech. Our experience working among the marginalized proves some who live in poverty can be just as materialistic and self-serving as some who are affluent. It’s always a heart issue.
What I am pointing out is there are DESPERATE human beings in DESPERATE situations – like Lazarus, covered by oozing sores that dogs licked; he desired to meekly eat crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Even crumbs would have made a difference.
Lazarus was laid outside the rich man’s gate. Sounds like he might not have had an option about where he was put. Truly, I’ve seen conditions where innocent lives are put in terrible places and no amount of “self effort” will alleviate their suffering. Conditions like children lying helplessly crippled in tall grass where poisonous snakes hide. Infants discarded in tea fields, left for animals to eat. Young mamas, widowed and abandoned with no education but with mouths to feed, bodies to cloth and minds to school. Little ones crawling along the dirt with oozing sores, very much like Lazarus.

These are the ones God has put outside my gate.
Will I blame government corruption and let these continue to bear the consequences?
"…and the government will be on His shoulders…”
They are outside my gate.
Should I fear for my safety and security?
“Psalm 91…”
They are outside my gate.
Do I keep what belongs to me because I earned it?
“Give and it will be given to you…” 
 They are outside my gate.
I hear another verse vibrating softly in my spirit… “So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood” Hebrews 13:12.

Jesus, my Savior, my Lord, my Example – He calls me to share His suffering and invite people into His holiness bought by His sacrificial blood – outside the gate.

Did we become so preoccupied with our rights for security, for control, for possessions that we can forget to see the genuine needs just outside our gates?

You might not have physical gates the keeps you separated from the surrounding desperation, but we all have created barriers that prevent us from seeing what’s uncomfortable, to govern our experiences, to insulate our hearts from suffering. It’s not necessary to take a sledgehammer and knock down those walls before we do something.  
Just simply open your gate and look who’s there...
 Maybe a lonely friend is facing a horrible crisis…
 Could it be a neglected child who needs attention?
 Is it a forgotten elderly person?
 Someone lost in prison…
 Someone who is dreadfully sick…

Ask the Lord how to show the wounded His mercy, His grace, His justice.

Welcome them inside your gate.

The rest of the story from Hebrews…
 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he  endured. 14 For here we  have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer  up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Asante sana for your prayers, support and encouragement.
hugs from the haugers Ooo0o