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It’s something I’ve experienced and I think a lot of us go through. It’s almost cliché to mention it: the young idealist who wants to change the world, to end hunger or poverty or save the whales or bring about world peace.
The fierce black-and-white way we initially approach injustice.
I had always been told been told it’s something you grow out of. That once the young idealist sees the “real world”, they realize things are not as simple or easy. They compromise. They settle.
That’s why Sihle* (name has been changed) was such a surprise.
An Unexpected Call
I first met Sihle after a church service at Lily. He had a big smile and was easy to talk to. It wasn’t long before we were swapping stories of what had brought us to Lily. I listened to his story. The beginnings were not unusual, familiar even, but then his story took a turn.
Sihle began his work as a youth pastor. He had a real talent for it and was well liked at his church. He was well on his way to moving up into bigger responsibilities and greater impact.
But then he met a man who needed food.
Being a generous young youth pastor, Sihle spoke to this man, and after hearing his story, felt led to buy him a meal to take home to his family. So when Sihle went shopping for his own food, he bought some for this man as well. But when he brought the hungry man food, he realized he had spent only a fraction on the man’s meal and much more on his own.
As Sihle told this part of the story, his face darkened. He said it was as if a voice asked him, “Why did you buy him cheaper food?”
When Sihle realized how naturally and instinctively he had placed himself above the other man, he broke down and wept. He gave the man all the food and went on his way.
A Radical Response
Sihle began noticing the hungry and the needy in a new way. He became more aware of their predicament, and was tortured by the problem so many of us face.
How do you know when someone really needs help, or when it’s just a scam? He became frustrated by the church’s need to be wary in its giving.
This is where I felt the story was familiar. I could relate to his desire to help others. I could understand the frustration of discovering it often isn’t that simple.
But what he did next blew my mind
He left his job. Left his church. Flaunted the path that he and everyone else assumed he was supposed to be on, and signed up to be a full-time foster father for teenage boys at Lily.
This was an example of radical obedience. This was a rebellious sacrifice.
A Drastic Impact
The decision wasn’t without resistance. His friends, his community and even his pastor thought he was crazy. But when I asked him how and why he went through with it, he said he was encouraged by Jesus’ own words:
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:31)
Now he serves at Lily. A lifeline to the teenage boys here who are in desperate need of male role models. An orphan himself, he has been able to speak into the lives of these boys with power and authority.
When he speaks to me about the church, I can feel that power too.
He tells me that scripture is not meant to be saved. We save money for houses and cars and children, but the way we keep the scriptures is by dispersing them. He speaks passionately about the need to not only care for the people who know, but for those who don’t know the love of God as well.
His passion for spreading the love of God is palpable, and contagious.
In my time here I have witnessed the teenage boys at Lily display a remarkable maturity and leadership. Leading bible studies, speaking their testimony, even going to serve the poor and marginalized outside the walls of Lily.
These boys have displayed a passion and willingness to serve far beyond their years. Now I can see where they get it from.
I think back to my home community and the injustices I have seen there. The hunger and poverty I have witnessed only miles away from where I live. How often I have told myself the issue is too complicated. That there are too many facets or angles or concerns.
I always thought the only two options were blind idealism or reluctant compromise.
I never imagined rebellious sacrifice.
Living on the borders of need, trying to sort out who really needs my help and how to best use the limited resources I wish to donate, I never thought of the most obvious solution. To put myself in a situation where everyone needs my help, and no longer limit what I am willing to give.
Such an idea is more than a little frightening. But when I see how God has used Sihle, when I see the work he has done that no one else could do, when I see the fire in his eyes when he talks about how God has transformed him, I know it’s more than worth it.
And through his commitment to others and unwavering desire to be used by God in any capacity, Sihle has inspired the young men he mentors to follow Christ in a new and bold way.
I find that he’s inspired me too.
And I’m looking forward to my next chance to rebel.
- Are there places in your own life that God may be prompting you to act? Pray that He will make these clear and give you the courage to take that step.
- No community is far from injustice, but we often pretend that it is too hard or complicated to help. LSA is creating an interactive HIV Positive Experience that will bring information about the AIDS pandemic to Indianapolis. Contact Nick for more information on how you can get involved or take a tour once it opens!
About the Author: Brad Miller is a year-long fellow with WND. A student of Psychology, Biology, and Theatre, he's worked as an actor, teacher, balloon artist and last-minute fill-in guy for any number of projects. He loves camping and tinkering with broken and discarded things. Brad's passion in life is to unleash the potential in others.