Last week I went to Ireland. I wanted to go to Swaziland. I stepped into the hustle and bustle of European life and walked through streets of cobblestone and past aged architectural wonders. I had dreamed of passing grass huts and stepping into the lives of hungry and forgotten people. There were pubs and shops and even an Easter Egg Hunt that hosted people who were laughing, talking, looking and enjoying. My visions had been of humanity caught in the throes of poverty and misfortune, yet all around I saw beauty, technology, fullness and adventure. The scenes that unfolded before me were not those of a stark beauty cast as a back-drop to bare-boned houses with open windows and smooth dirt yards. They were portraits of nature at its best and magnificent structures of ages past.
The people moved in masses; set on courses of determined destinations – exploration and discovery foundational in their purpose. My plan had been to minister love to a people full of longing and need. Where was I and what was I doing here? My dream had been to go and share life with the forgotten of our world. Instead, I found myself in a beautiful and thriving land, full of the life and vibrancy of culture, history and nature. It challenged me!
I was awakened to needs not limited to hunger, sickness and poverty, but to the loneliness that exists in the midst of a crowd and the hungers that go beyond the belly and deep into the soul. An awareness came to me that in my spiritualized, westernized perspective, I had found sanctuary in the ease of going to remote, unreached places in the world. I had embraced a mass produced map of what it looks like to go forth and share the love of my Jesus, when just outside my door there exist the masses of people pressing forward in search of something to fill the emptiness in their soul…a void to be filled only by the love of Jesus.
So I drank in the refreshing beauty which was Ireland, and my soul was restored. I took time to see the faces around and I edged forward in to their world. I met Ramona, a beautiful gypsy woman who sat begging on the street. She told me about her two little ones – a 5 month old and a 5 year old. This was her world. This is what she did every day. This was her culture and my life was enriched as I talked with her and opened my heart to her. We met a young woman from America. She was traveling across Europe alone and was lonely for family on this Easter Sunday that we met. She was adopted for a day of travel with our group…and just maybe, she caught a glimpse of the Father’s love as she was embraced by a group of strangers. A bag of dog food and some bread and meat, given to a young homeless man and his dog, opened the door for sharing life and a little bit of love on a cobblestone street in Dublin. He eagerly responded to the love of Jesus – the most precious gift we had to give. That same gift brought tears to the eyes of an Irish Mom and Dad, as they watched their little ones play games at the Easter Egg Hunt, where we volunteered. They were stunned that people would travel across the ocean to help raise money for homeless and abused children in Ireland.
Where was I? What was I doing in this beautiful place called Ireland? I was there to share LIFE with others…the LIFE that brings life – Jesus! It had been easy to see the needs in the impoverished and hungry faces of the third world countries. NOT so easy, though, to embrace the lives existing in the mass of humanity in my own comfortable, technology-driven, soul searching world. So I will go! I will step out my own front door and see the faces of those who live next door or walk the halls of my school. I will look into the eyes and see the face of the homeless man who quietly walks the streets of my city. I will take the time to ask his name. I will step out of the comfort of my existence and go share LIFE with others – because that LIFE, my Jesus, has given me new life…and YES, someday I will go to Swaziland. I will love on the babies and the precious children and adults who are dying of AIDS and I will share my Jesus with them.