Finding my Jerusalem

Feb 19, 2018 by

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The conversation over a fellowship lunch at church dealt with the California parents charged with child neglect and abuse of their 13 children, charges to which they pled not guilty. I noticed the men were matter-of-fact and trying to figure out what kind of Virginia Tech graduate (we’re all fans here) would do what this father did. The women? Pity for the children. Not that the men didn’t feel for the kids, mind you. They just leave their emotions at the door quicker than do the women.

A child said, “I wanted to adopt the 3-year-old, but my mama said no.” (There’s more than one reason her mom said No — the beginning one being that moving kids who are wards of the state from California to Virginia would be a mammoth undertaking in itself.)

Anytime, it seems, that a deplorable situation like this comes to light, there are women the world over who offer to take a child or the children. While it’s a noble gesture and could insinuate that no other woman would be willing to step up to the plate, it gives me pause.

What is it about us that makes us want to step up and do the noble thing when the cause is known state- or world-wide?

What about the kids in our own backyards, neighborhoods or our own counties?

What are we doing about them?!

There are myriads of true stories of folks who reached out and made a difference in the life of one or two kids. They did it right on their front porch or backyard simply by rubbing shoulders with lonely, empty people.

What happened in California could likely be happening in any of our communities. Really — have we even looked?

When Jesus talked to his disciples (somewhere near Jerusalem) before he ascended to heaven (Acts 1), he told them to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. He said they would receive power.

After they received the power of the Holy Ghost, he told them, they would be witnesses for him. You know where he told them to start? Right where they were: Jerusalem.

He said to start at home. Jerusalem was located in Judea, which was part of the larger Samaria. The words He used are: “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

It seems to me that Jesus wanted them to start at home and then branch out. Jesus said to start right where they were. How many of us are willing to start at home?

It’s a lesson for us as well. (A missionary does not a good missionary make in another country if he hasn’t first learned to be one at home.) Start at home and learn to gather in harvest from there; then start spreading out until the whole world knows about him.

We don’t have to wait until our kids are grown or until we’re debt-free. We don’t have to wait until we’ve truly got it all together because that will never happen, anyhow.

What we need to do is learn how to live out our faith in the Jerusalem of our homes, beginning right with our neighbors. The problem is, sometimes that’s not quite grand enough for us.

What is it about us that makes us want to be part of the grander schemes when we haven’t learned to clean toilets or emptied the trash at home? What is it about us that makes us willing to donate and contribute to causes in prisons in other states when we won’t darken the doors of the jail in our own county? What is it about us that makes us want to adopt a child from another country* when there are kids in our own county who need a home and someone to love them?

God calls us all to be in different places and to do different things. If he calls you to move to the uttermost parts of the world, then you need to pack your bags and go. Just be sure it’s his call and not your own. Just be sure it’s not your escape from who God wants you to be here. Just be certain you’re looking to spend yourself for the cause of Christ and not looking for glamour, significance or personal fulfillment.

The harvest is plentiful, no matter where we live or where we’d like to move. If we’re faithful in Jerusalem, he will guide us over into Judea and then Samaria and on into the “uttermost parts of the world.”

For many of us, I’d say it’s time to learn to feed the hungry at home instead of looking for fulfillment in other places. It’s time we’re faithful in Jerusalem so God can use us in other places as well.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still finding my Jerusalem. There are places in my Jerusalem that I never considered going in the past. It’s not always easy, or pleasant, or fun. Sometimes it’s just plain inconvenient. A few weeks ago we received a phone call asking for our help in a situation.

I told my husband, Dave, “This is not good timing; it’s just so inconvenient.”

Dave reminded me that God’s call on our lives is not about our personal convenience. It’s about being willing to be spent for him. Dave is right (he usually is, this man of mine). Until God calls me to Judea, then being spent in Jerusalem is where I need to be.

*I am not opposed to adopting children from other countries. I have friends who have done this. My question is the reason behind the places we choose to minister. If God calls us to adopt a child from another country, we would be remiss if we did not. Does God sometimes call us to reach out to those in our own communities, and are we as willing to do it there as we are if it’s in a noticeable place?

Gert Slabach is a member of Faith Mennonite Church in South Boston, Va., which is part of Mountain Valley Mennonite Churches. She blogs at My Windowsill, where this post first appeared.

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