December 13, 2011
Rubber Bands for Rina
"Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'" Matthew 25:37-40 (NLT)
"What's up with the rubber bands, Mom?"
Curiosity shone in my nine-year-old son's face as he coaxed a beige wad out of his Christmas stocking. One by one our three children discovered, nestled beneath foil-wrapped candies and glittery trinkets, a tangled mass of rubber bands.
"When you've finished, Dad and I will explain," I answered with a wink to my husband.
My children were about to get a lesson in giving, even as they were receiving. Those rubber bands represented more than a way to bind up loose things; they represented the life of a child in need.
As a family we sponsor a little girl from Indonesia through Compassion International's program in her local church. Rina's smiling face in the photograph on our fridge reminds us to serve "the least of these" and be thankful for the bounty we enjoy. Each month we tuck a check in an envelope wrapped in prayer. It's our way of investing in Rina's education, spiritual growth and basic physical needs.
We regularly get updates on what she's learning at church as well as her academic progress and health. Compassion International also gives us a peek at Rina's family life and activities she enjoys. Not too long before Christmas, one sentence stopped me in my tracks: "Rina helps out around her home, caring for her younger siblings and assisting her mother with the cooking and with the family's animals. She also enjoys playing with rubber bands."
My heart sank. What! No dolls? No balls? Not even a jump rope? When finished with her chores, this precious girl passes time by playing with flimsy rubber bands. Hot tears poured as I eyed my own kids' overflowing toy box. Many items hadn't been touched in months.
That Christmas, my husband and I cut back on buying gifts for our family in order to send extra money to Compassion to purchase a special present for Rina. And, I prayed a portion of the offering would buy her a doll.
After our children had finished opening gifts in their stockings, we read Rina's report. "Can you imagine playing only with rubber bands?" I asked. "When we read that, Dad and I decided to use some of the money we would have spent on you to buy a present for Rina."
Two kids were immediately glad we did and one slightly sulked. However, we were all thrilled a few months later when Rina wrote us a letter scrawled in her own handwriting, and translated to English: "Thank you so greatly for the gift of the new clothes. And the doll." I just smiled. The previously sulking child asked if this could become an annual tradition.
Whether it's next door or across the world, people are in need. Today's key verse invites us to consider those lacking refreshment, encouragement or care. We are told that when we reach out to someone in any kind of need, it's not just a neighbor, co-worker or child across the world playing with rubber bands we are serving ... it's Jesus.
This verse challenges me to pause in the midst of my holiday hustle and consider ways I can reach out to others and make their lives better. There is always something we can do - whether it's prepare a meal for a family struggling financially, share toys with a child or spend time with someone alone. The size of the gift doesn't matter - it's the love behind the gift that does.
God chose to make our lives better that first Christmas. He gave us His Son so that we, prisoners of sin, hungering for truth, and thirsting for living water, might have eternal life. Now it is our turn. A simple gesture. Done in His Name. A life just might be changed forever.
Not only someone else's life ... but ours as well.
Dear Lord, are there those You want me to reach out to this Christmas? Speak. I'm listening. Show me how and where I can give. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Untangling Christmas: Your Go-To Guide for a Hassle-Free Holiday, Karen and LeAnn Rice's new e-book full of outreach ideas and ways to organize and simplify the season.
Sponsor a Compassion Child today and touch a life forever.
Gather your family or group of close friends. Brainstorm who might need some extra love or material goods this Christmas season.
What specifically could you do for them? Outline action steps and plan to follow through over the next few weeks.
Have I ever been the recipient of a loving Christmas gesture? How did it impact my life?
Proverbs 31:20, "She opens her hand to the poor, yes, she reaches out her filled hands to the needy [whether in body, mind, or spirit]." (AMP)
© 2011 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105