Isaiah 58 is a butcher knife that cuts through the heart of everything we regard as holy. It begins with a whine and ends with a wallop!
God’s people are perplexed at why He isn’t moved by their worship, zeal, fasting and humility. They imagine they are doing all the right things, but in reality, they’re getting it all wrong. They think it’s all about what happens on the Sabbath, but they’re about to get set straight:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?….and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
There it is in black and white: spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed! That’s what matters to God….more than the emotion of our worship….more than our personal piety.
I believe sponsoring a child is one of the ways we can fulfill God’s dream for His creation. Sponsoring fits the criteria of Isaiah 58 and it fulfills our mandate to love others as we love ourselves. Last Sunday at Rolling Hills Community Church, 48 orphaned and abandoned children were sponsored in response to our Moldova report. That’s a great start! (Another 30 or more kids were selected the following week!). I’m excited for those kids and for the sponsors because I know the blessing that is in store for them.
I’ve had countless kids come up to me over the years and ask me if I would find them a sponsor to write. They have seen their peers receiving letters consistently and long to be “claimed” by someone who will love them if not simply acknowledge their existence. I sometimes cringe inside when I get that question, “Will you find me a sponsor?” because it puts all the burden of their hopes and dreams on my shoulders. Some of that burden was lifted last Sunday!
Many organizations offer sponsorships. I wanted ours to be more than a few random letters from children you really knew little about. I wanted the JMI sponsorships to be a personal ministry for Americans in which we could take real responsibility for a child’s desire for father or mother or sister or brother, in all the shades of expression that come with such expectations. And I was willing to let those sponsorships be as real and “raw” as life is for an otherwise anonymous child in a third world country. For example, some kids will ask for extravagances that would almost immediately be stolen from them such as bikes, watches and walkmans. Others may divulge thoughts of running away or even suicide. You cannot be orphaned or abandoned and not be adversely affected regardless of how angelic you might appear. Regardless of what might transpire, divine or depressing, between sponsor and child, I am willing to place my bets on our sponsors to rise to every occasion with grace and maturity and nurturing responses to the needs of their child.
JMI does good things with our sponsors’ money and the integrity of our program is transparent and verifiable through the frequency and testimony of those who enjoy face to face time with their Moldovan kids. Sponsored children receive seasonal clothes twice each year, hygiene supplies and vitamins four times each year, school supplies at least annually, case management and translation of correspondence, and periodic medical and dental care as needed.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to sponsorship is being a long-term witness to a child’s life and being there as a consistent friend. To connect with a 10 year old, see them through the crucial transition at around 16 and potentially be around for graduations and weddings….well, that’s something for which we can only be thankful!
So I encourage anyone who feels led to spend yourself! Spend your money and spend yourself on something eternal. When you look back on your life someday, it may be the greatest thing you ever did!