Field Story by Matt Cooper, Back2Back US Office
“Isn’t it overwhelming to come face-to-face with ongoing needs? How do you decide where to invest your time? Do you actually feel like you’re able to show love and compassion?” My response to these often-asked questions is inspired by missionary, Heidi Baker, who says, “Just love the one in front of you.” The Lord’s compassion is often demonstrated through interaction with others. I’ve long prayed God would open my eyes to the needs directly before me, and to help me love as He does.
One of my first roles in Monterrey, Mexico was to captain a local children’s home. In my work and advocacy for the home, I spent several days a week there. Many days I simply showed up, hoping to make myself as useful as possible. Sometimes that meant overseeing last minute homework, other times it was sitting with the boys at breakfast. Nevertheless, I showed up, hopeful my consistency was building rapport, and my presence making a difference.
There were days I found myself overwhelmed as the needs called from all sides. Mateo, will you check over these math problems? Give me a piggy back ride! Do you want to play soccer? Mateo, will you tie my shoe? It was in the midst of such a moment I heard God. Love the one in front of you, Matt. The day I met seven-year old Alex, his mother had just dropped him off at the children’s home the night before. He wasn’t speaking, but I imagined his feelings of confusion, loneliness, and abandonment. Slowly, tears fell down his face. There, despite a dozen boys vying for my attention, Alex was all I could see. I held him close as he broke down, and gently whispered prayers of comfort over him. He began to relax, resting his head against my shoulder as we sat together. Before I knew it, he’d fallen asleep. In a dorm full of boys with endless needs, God extended compassion specifically to Alex. I marvel at the way God sees each of us and uses willing servants, like you and me, to demonstrate compassion.
Imagine the relief Alex felt at being able to sit with Matt and fall asleep. That’s the arm Jesus extends to us, pulling us near to Him as He speaks truth. “I am here. I won’t leave. I love you.”
Today, our time with God is limitless. He is always available and always compassionate. Every time we listen to each other, share what we have, stop what we are doing to serve another, we are an extension of the compassion Jesus has given us and we can now give freely to others. Little Alex may not have literally been resting his head against Jesus’ shoulder, but in those moments of crying, and eventually feeling peace enough to close his eyes, Alex experienced Jesus.