Sitting in 23b

At the end of Nehemiah he said to the Lord “Remember me, oh Lord, for the good I have done.” What is that about? Certainly the Lord does not need to be reminded about our good deeds. Does He?

On a recent flight, I sat in seat 23B from LAX to TUL next to a linebacker from Iowa State and in front of a smelly bathroom. It was obviously the worst seat on the plane. So in order to get my mind off the moment, I went down memory lane. I started to think about my work over the years. Millions if not billions of people had been impacted with the Gospel of Christ. But, I found myself not dwelling on the numbers, but on the face-to-face encounter I had with one of the little ones who had been impacted.

Kenya has a population of over 40 million with the number of orphaned, abandoned or homeless children numbering more than 459,000. With the average salary of the average Kenyan being $80 (USD) per month, the economy is near shambles. The need is everywhere, especially with the 12 million people desperate for water in the worst drought in a decade.  Some call this nation a place of suffering; but Kennyans call it home.

I recalled driving through the filth, squalor and grime. Dirt was everywhere; it was crusted dry and the red dirt was prominent. Young boys were on every corner, smoking glue and sleeping the days away.  There were little children lining the streets, the majority had no clothes.  We were in Mathare Valley, Nairobi, Kenya, home to Africa’s 2nd worst slum; three square miles of hell.  700,000 people live there, 450,000 are kids; no sewage, no running water, no electricity, no police.

I met an 8-year-old (we’ll call her Sarah) as she waited for her meal at the Child Development Center. She was holding hands with another little girl.  As I handed her the plate of piping hot, great smelling food, her toothy grin was wide and beaming. She took one plate in her left hand, then held out her right hand and said, “I will carry hers”; pointing to her friend.  I noted as she walked away, and found a place to sit against the 18-foot high border wall, that she was caring for her friend.

A few hours later, after school was out, Sister Jane took us deep into the lawless Mathare Valley, walking through small alleyways that were maybe two-three feet wide. In the middle of alleyways, were paths where streams of sewage puddled and was sweltering. There were feces on the ground, banana peels, food, trash, and trash bags strewn everywhere. Lines of clothes were being hung by women doing laundry, holding meager babies. I was witnessing absolute poverty.

Sister Jane wanted us to meet one of her students, as we turned a sharp corner I heard her say, “There you are!” as she grabbed a little girl like a rag doll in a huge embrace. As the embrace loosened I realized it was Sarah. She had that same grin on her face; happy.  And, she was holding her little friend’s hand again.

Sister Jane confided that Sarah had been raped 3 years ago by a glue-sniffing thug who infected her with HIV. Her life expectancy was less than 7 years.  Jane said, “The thing I cannot get over about this child is she is always helping someone else and cares nothing about herself.”

As we were standing there, in the midst of this hell, there was Sarah showing the love of Christ.  Sarah didn’t need to be a charismatic leader, and she didn’t need to be wealthy, and she may not even see her 20th birthday; but she had love and extended that love to others in whatever way that she could.  Even in the midst of Sarah hardship and pain, she was Christ’s hand extended.  Romans 8:39: “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sarah was not separated from the Love of Christ; and because of His love was able to be LOVE to those around her.

Suddenly, 23B didn’t seem so small after all, but I felt larger. Sitting there, I asked the Lord to remember Sarah and to remember all of the children in Kenya and I prayed that God would bless the work of my hand and shower any person that I touched, whether via a media production, or personally, would be showered with His LOVE; unconditionally, unabashedly, with abandon.

Yes, life is filled with negatives; but we can look back and watch the highlight reel of our God moments. They make our 23B moments seem like nothing.

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