In Praise of “Messy Ministry” - Justice & Mercy International

In Praise of “Messy Ministry”

A former pastor of mine once shocked my sensibilities by challenging the notion that God could look upon sin, something I was educated to believe he could not do. It was always my understanding that his holiness would somehow be compromised were he to do so. But the good pastor insisted that, not only could he look upon sin, but that it was his job to do so! (I’m sure there are those who would prefer to put that dirty work on Jesus and somehow wall off the Father from all things grimy, but that presents a whole other can of theological worms since “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.”

Now that I’ve lived with the idea a while, I must confess that I like it. I like the fact that when God created Adam, he did so from the dust of the ground. In the Hebrew, the picture is more that he knelt down in the mud and fashioned him with his own hands. Messy, all the way under the fingernails! And with each passing day, with each created person, things just got messier.

The international ministry that JMI would “market” to the public is also messy. We have the audacity to connect – intimately connect – Americans with real, live children: orphans, abandoned children, highly at-risk kids with histories that include unanswerable and unthinkable tragedy and are breeding grounds for all sorts of potential pathologies.

Many organizations are smart enough to sanitize their work for the public. They have sponsorship programs that call for a sponsored child to write 2 or 3 letters a year to their benefactor. There is no real give and take….no real, ongoing relationship….no revelation of problems or personal struggles. It is clean, heartwarming and most of all, controlled….just the way we’d like our lives to appear to the world, even though it’s a cheap illusion.

JMI currently has sponsorships available for children in Moldova. Our suggestion to our sponsors is that their personal relationship with their child is just as important as their financial support. We want them to come to know each other over a long course of time. That knowledge (available through regular emailed letters or mission trip visits) will come slowly as trust is built, and trust requires appropriate, non-invasive, encouraging and consistent interaction. We counsel that not every sponsorship will overcome a lifetime of hurt and deprivation, or even guarantee that a child won’t succumb to the influence of traffickers, child-predators or the lack of social support systems. Each child we serve is offered as something of a gamble. More often than not, the sponsorship gamble pays off in life-transforming ways. Occasionally it ends in heartache.

That’s the way real life is for most of us. It is a gamble….the same kind of gamble Jesus banked on when he subjected himself to a cross, believing that sacrifice rather than control or coercion was the path to our battered and self-centered hearts. Not very efficient. Not at all clean. Extremely messy! But unequivocably, a gamble he thought worth taking.

JMI….I guess you could call us “the messy ministry!”

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