Jesus, the Plan Changer
It was our first morning on the beautiful island of Lesvos, Greece. Kim Garrity, of Greater Europe Mission, gave us orientation to our upcoming ministry, using the words of Jesus in Matthew 25: “When you provide—or fail to provide—food, clothing, shelter, compassion to the least of these My brethren, you have done it—or not done it—to Me.” Kim likened the ministry here to a three-legged stool, which only accomplishes balance and function when all three legs are present. The three legs are our ministry to the refugees (duh! That’s what we came for, right?!); and to the Greek nationals, whose fascinating island with its strong tourism component has been challenged, littered and damaged by the present crisis; and to the others with whom we serve (other volunteers, UN staff, etc.).
Then came our second Lesvos morning. Kim wanted five of us to go the nearby stretch of beach, to pick up litter which has been left behind: primarily the abandoned dinghies, in various states of disrepair and fragmentation. Cool! I enjoy cleaning up roadside garbage anyway, so why not do a similar thing on the beach! I’ve always loved ocean shores, so the plan to go there was a no-brainer!
Then, plans changed. Without announcement. Kim drove us to the beach and introduced us to Isabelle, the dynamo who provides leadership to Lighthouse, the group who is largely responsible for overseeing the clean-up. Turns out that Lighthouse volunteers had
already done a bunch of beach clean-up, leaving piles of debris here and there (you can see it in one of the attached pics). Our job was to cut up objects in the debris piles, so that items can be made from the “garbage,” which will be sold, and the money donated back to the island. Hmmmmm….. Not what I’d had in mind. Nor am I good at cutting things or designing or shaping things (I always try to get my wife to wrap her own Christmas gifts; that’s how bad I am at crafts-related stuff!).
As we began working, I grumbled inwardly. And also asked myself, “What does this have to do with Matthew 25? How am I serving Jesus and “doing this unto Him”? Fortunately, Jesus was listening, and He spoke answers to my less-than-content heart. Yes, we were giving to Him, in various ways. For one thing, we were doing what was asked of us, even if it didn’t “fit the plan”: He’s bigger than our plans; He’s worthy. Also, we were giving to Him by giving to the islanders, who have opened their hearts to the refugees, but in so doing have not always been able to tend to their own needs. Furthermore, only Jesus knows the people who will receive the benefit of our labors, in the form of bracelets, headbands, camera straps, handbags/backpacks, and various other products which will be made from the pieces of rubber, Styrofoam, etc. which we were cutting up (you can see one of the necklaces in another pic). My heart softened a little.
A bit later, I glanced out across the stunning scenery which surrounded us: the waters of
the Aegean lapping at our feet, and not too far away, the shoreline of Turkey. “Oh, God,” I prayed, move mightily in that land. No doubt, some refugees are huddled in those trees even now, waiting for some human smugglers to collect exorbitant fees from them, to load them into dinghies, for their journey over here to Greece. Furthermore, Turkey is the beginning of the land of Asia, a land inhabited by many persons who do not recognize our Lord Jesus, nor do they receive the many blessings which He desires to pour out onto them. Specifically, much of Asia is contained in the 10/40 window, where many people live without knowledge of God, and comparatively little work has been done to spread His Gospel. My heart softened even more, and my eyes filled with tears, as I recognized the significant location where we stood, and remembered that God is working in much bigger ways than my plans and nearsighted agenda.
I walked back to the place where I’d left my water bottle: the warm morning sun was reminding me of the need for hydration. Just near my water bottle, in rocky soil, grew two small purple flowers: a type of violet, perhaps? I remembered Jesus’ words that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like just one of these flowers! And, of how much more He values humans than the flowers! Again, my eyes filled with tears, as our Lord showed me a bit more of His agenda. His love. His value system.
It was about that time that I realized that my perspective had changed. So what if “my plans” hadn’t worked out?! So what if my paltry crafts/cutting skills were being stretched? Our Lord continues His good work: in fact, we are His handiwork, and He has planned good things for us beforehand (Ephesians 2:10). Those good things include changing schedules, plans, agenda—but the primary plan will never change, as He continues to develop His image in us!