We have had a special needs young adult female visiting our small group at church. I’ll call her Jane. Jane has been coming three or four times now. She has been direct and open about the challenges she faces and how peers and others often respond to her negatively or with outright rejection. Our small group was planning a back yard family get together at my house over the July fourth weekend. We were all discussing what food to bring and what time to arrive. Jane felt so much a part of our group that she offered to bring food, and she was looking forward to the party.
After a long night of food, fun and fellowship it was eleven o’clock and Jane’s mother was on her way to pick her up. Jane asked me several times if I would wait with her on the front porch of my house to meet her mother. It seemed like an eternity until her mother arrived. I did not want to appear rude to my other guests, as I was the host of the party. Jane’s mother did arrive, and I was happy to meet her. I assured her that Jane had had fun, and it had been a pleasure to have her at the party. Jane’s mother explained that they had been encouraging her to get out of the house and meet people. When I returned to the party, I shared this “ministry moment” with the group. By including Jane in the group, we had blessed her, learned from her, and reached out to her family by inviting them to our church as well.
Is this what Mother Teresa meant when she said “We try to pray through our work by doing it with Jesus, for Jesus, to Jesus. That helps us to put our whole heart and soul into doing it. The dying, the cripple, the mental, the unwanted, the unloved they are Jesus in disguise.” Jesus speaks to the righteous in Matthew 25:35-40:
“For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (NKJV)
There is a purpose and reason to the people we meet, the conversations that we have. You can never be fully sure of the impact of a simple smile, prayer, conversation or display of faith can have on our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to remember that anyone we meet, come across, or speak with can be, to borrow Mother Teresa’s words, “Jesus in disguise.” We have an opportunity to be different, to decide to treat others with respect and love. For at the end of the day, the King will answer and say to us, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
I had a choice to accept Jane for who she was or ignore her. Jane went swimming and shared a meal with our group. After Jane swam, I caught a glimpse of one of the ladies in the group brushing Jane’s hair. What a sight that was!