We recently organized our first puppet show for children visiting their fathers in the toughest men’s penitentiary in Mexico City, the prison for inmates who have lost all their appeals, even their plea to not be transferred to that penitentiary. There, they have nothing left to do but live out their sentence.
In the course of our lives as followers of Jesus, there are always ways to minister to others, either occasionally or regularly. The common denominator in each such activity or scenario is that the goal is to convey love and kindness.
I recently took my teenage son to an ecotourism project in the big Complexo do Alemão group of favelas [slums] in northern Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There are cable gondolas that stop on all five mountaintops, from where we could see the entire bay and all the beautiful mountain ranges. Dotting the mountains, there are also thousands of small huts lacking decent roofs and with bare and unpainted brick walls. Those were the favelas.
The Bible teaches that we are responsible to do our best with the talents and abilities that God has given us.1 He has entrusted us with skills, resources, time, energy, minds, and spirits, and we’ll find the greatest satisfaction when we invest them in things that please God and that are aligned with His plan.
Two essential ingredients for success in life are a sound personal relationship with the Creator of life, followed closely by sound relationships with those around us. In fact, it’s impossible to be truly happy without either of those. Jesus gave us the key to both when He said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”1
It looked like a small settlement—rows of matching buildings on one side and neat vegetable gardens on the other. In the distance was a basketball court. Farther yet, a vendor sold fruit.
I walked up the dirt path behind my father, who chatted with some men as he walked. Small crowds gathered as we passed by. They stared and whispered. I didn’t know what they were saying, but I walked on, trying not to show any sign of fear.
What makes people crave a fruit like durian? Why do they light up when they see clumps of those prickly, greenish-brown husks hanging liberally from vendor stalls? How do they get past the pungent, even revolting, odor? What makes them fight their way through the thick, prickly outer husk in order to reach the inside?
The right friends are a huge asset. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys in life. Many might have fallen beneath the bitterness of their trial, had they not found a friend.”
You might think that being that kind of friend requires you to do or say something amazing on a regular basis. But I’ve found that the simple act of showing up when needed is often what really counts.
There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran—
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I believe that God wants to encourage people, but often He needs us to do it. And, believe it or not, we do have what others need. We have God’s Holy Spirit and His words of love! Our life can be influential because of the power of our words. Our words don’t need to be profound or eloquent—just simple words that meet a person’s need for love, hope, significance, or comfort.