Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve had a “heart for the poor.”
I distinctly remember seeing a World Vision ad on TV with poor, sick children from somewhere in the world I had never heard of, who were desperately in need of MY help. So, with my heartstrings pulled and my mom’s assistance, I set up a craft sale and lemonade stand and raised $25 to send across the world to help those sad and hungry children. I felt both proud and accomplished as I licked the envelope enclosed with the cheque, and sent it off to help the poor children.
Flash forward 11 years.
I’m 16 years old, applying to university and dreaming about my future. I was set on Global Development Studies, as I thought I was destined to become a missionary. Having had the opportunities to partake in two missions trips run by my church, I learned that we have a duty to bring His word and love His people. After all, I had so much love to give, and my heart was breaking for people who didn’t have it as well as I did! Writing my application essay, my heart was beaming with pride as I shared my desire to meet the needs of vulnerable people across the world.
Of course, I was ecstatic when I was accepted into my dream program at my dream school.
I remember my first lectures, and the series of crude awakenings that followed. I learned about the ideas about Western-led development, histories of oppression and “othering” in the name of aid or progress, and the ugliness of the white saviour complex; my conceptualization of poverty, justice, and my “heart for the poor”, was flipped upside down.
It was then that God began to completely unravel my ideas about poverty and justice, only to build them back up as He wove in a deeper awareness and understanding of His truth.
Don’t get me wrong! My desire to become a missionary was rooted in good intention. My heart broke for the poor and vulnerable, and there’s nothing malicious about that! But pride was my motivator, and was hindering me from discovering God’s heart for the poor, and my duty as His ambassador! I began to see that all along, my desire to “help the poor” was totally devoid of God’s truth, but was rather filled with an assumption that I would be the one to bring restoration. My shallow view of poverty, justice, and dignity put people in a box of helplessness, and me on the pedestal.
This is often where we get trapped in the lies of our own altruism, and lose sight of the One who deeply and intimately cares for His children, the One who is the author of salvation, reconciliation and restoration.
As Chris so perfectly put it in a past blog:
“…it is easy to fall into an activism that is fueled by self-righteousness. Don’t get me wrong. It is good to be active and fight the injustice that is happening all around us. However, it is important to realize that we are not working for our own cause. We cannot establish the Kingdom of God out of our own strength. God is building His kingdom.”
As I learned more in my classes, God began to posture my heart towards deep humility as He showed me His heart for holistic restoration; restoration in the realm of the physical, emotional, material, and spiritual. Our God is a father who gives good gifts, and is bringing things together for His good. How could I have missed this?
As the Father did some major renovations on my heart, I began placing Jesus as the King, the bringer of hope and peace, the protector and provider, and as the active force behind bringing about the justice He created us to live in.
This allowed me to begin thinking questions such as:
How do the Scriptures talk about the poor?
What does Jesus show us about God’s heart for the poor?
How do Jesus’ words and actions reflect this?
Where in my life have I allowed a “saviour mentality” to reign, rather than God’s promise to His people?
Because we’re called to bring God’s Kingdom to earth — to be agents of change and to join Him in working towards restoration, healing, and wholeness -—we have to start at the feet of the King! We are called ambassadors of Christ, not ambassadors of our own altruism (2 Corinthians 5:20). What an honour it is to partner with Him when He can do it all Himself.
God has been taking me on a journey of discovery as he uncovers His true heart for justice, and my role within His restoration plan. He has been restoring my heart to have eyes to see what He has been doing all along, and has been humbling me to come under His authority as He continues to bring justice and healing to a broken world.
Now at 22, as I begin my career in a Christian organization, God has allowed me to partner with him in my dream job not as a missionary, but as an ambassador of His mission. I can’t wait to see how He will continue to uncover deep truths of His heart for His people on His journey of restoration.