The first time I visited Haiti was in 2012. I went on a vision trip with 12 other ladies; the goal was to open our eyes to the plight of the orphan in a third world country. And let me tell you, my eyes were opened. As we sang with, played with, loved on, held, cuddled, and laughed with orphaned and abandoned children the need to “do” something was overwhelming. The feeling of helplessness nearly debilitating, there was so little we could do to truly make a difference in the lives of these kids in the short amount of time we spent with them. There was no injustice we were going to end, no poverty we could erase, no lack of education we could supersede. All we could do was love them. Our motto during the time we were there was “Love the one in front of you.” And let me tell you, there were a lot of kids in front of us. So ultimately it came down to love that one, that one right in front of you, in this moment, at this time, that is the one (or two or three) God is wanting you to love right now. We had to let go of our own limited control and let God decide whom He would place in front of us and for how long. Our job was just to love them.
My church has recently partnered with the State of Kansas to pilot an emergency foster care placement program in our area. Half a dozen or so families in our church have stepped forward to become emergency placement homes for kids when they are taken out of their home. The families have gone through classes, trainings, home inspections, mountains of paper work, and dozens of hoops for the opportunity to do this; the opportunity to love the one in front of them.
You see these families don’t get to choose whom God places in their home, whom he puts in front of them. They are simply called to love that person. Sometimes that child will be with them for only a short amount of time – one day, maybe two; sometimes it may be for five days; some may turn into long term placements; some of these kids may eventually be looking for a forever home. These families do not get to choose whom they care for or how long they have them, they just get to love the one in front of them, for however long they are there.
The thing is, you don’t have to go to Haiti or become a foster parent to do this. God is calling each one of us to love the one in front of us, whether it is our own children, a spouse, a parent, a neighbor, or the check out person at the grocery store. Whomever you are looking at right now, you are called to love that person! God will decide who is front of you at any given time, and you are called to love them. We are all, each one of us, called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to love as Jesus loved. That is our job. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, it is God’s job to judge, our job is to love. We are not called to convict and we are certainly not called to judge. We are the body of Jesus, the one who loved. The one who loved everyone he encountered. Whomever the one in front of him was, he loved them.
As the Holidays approach and our already busy schedules get completely out of control, take the time to pause and remember that you are the body of Christ, his hands and his feet. And you are called to love the one in front of you, whomever that might be at any given moment, whether is it a family member, a friend, a co-worker or a stranger. God has put them in front of you for a very specific reason, no matter how brief your encounter with that person may be. You never know the impact you may have on them, when you love the one in front of you.