Before I tell you about the exciting Christmas planned in South Sudan, did you hear about Martin Avdyeitch? Martin is one of the salt of the earth types—hardworking, trustworthy, humble… a “George Bailey” in a Russian setting. Martin is a cobbler by trade and a widower who lived alone in his basement shoe shop. One night in a dream Martin was told that Christ would visit him the next day—“look tomorrow on the street. I am coming.”
The next morning, as Martin worked his trade, he regularly lifted his gaze toward the ground level window watching for Christ to pass by. And, as you might come to expect, as Martin waits for God throughout the day he has three interactions—first, with a too old man who feebly sweeps the cold winter streets; next, with a young mother with no coat trying to keep her infant child warm; and last, with a street kid who steals from a widow…. Martin compassionately shares from the little he has with each visitor as he continues his vigil waiting for Christ.
At the end of the day and wondering if he made too much out of the dream, Martin puts away his work, opens his favorite book, and has a final encounter:
“Martin—ah, Martin! Did you not recognize me?” A voice asks from a corner of the dark room.
“Who?” exclaimed Martin Avdyeitch.
“Me,” repeated the one voice that then became the voices of each visitor who stopped at his door that day. “It was I,” and “It was I,” and “It was us.”
Coming now to understand his encounters, Martin’s soul rejoices when he reads, “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me… I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” (Matthew 25 MSG)
“And Avdyeitch understood that his dream had not deceived him; that the Savior really called on him that day, and that he really received Him” (Leo Tolstoy, Where Love Is There Is God Also).
As I reread the story of Martin Avyeitch’s encounters with God through his love for the ‘least of these,’ I was warmed by the thought of our children at Hope For South Sudan, along the border of Uganda. On Christmas day instead of celebrating within the walls of their own safe compound, our children and the HFSS leaders will go out and visit with Christ—the overlooked and ignored—in prison. Through song, encouragement, prayer, and the never to be overlooked ministry of candy dispensing… these young ones will also incarnate the very good news of Love for all to the vulnerable men and women incarcerated in their community.
Honestly, every time I think of our kids overflowing with love for the vulnerable—the overlooked and ignored—I’m both inspired and humbled.
What a beautiful Christmas gift our children take part in by lifting up the most vulnerable in their communities—generously extending connection, faith, hope, and love to others from what has been generously poured into their lives. For I’m certain that the children who experience love through you and the prisoners who experience love through them—will have an encounter with Christ this Christmas. For where Love is there is God also.
This Christmas, may we each be watchful and open to encounter the Divine in the most unlikely of people and the most surprising of encounters. “Look tomorrow on the street. I am coming.”
Merry-Love-made-manifest-Christmas to you,
A Christmas Gift For You:
Where Love Is There Is God Also by Leo Tolstoy
This year-end, LUV has needed to raise over $400,000 to continue providing life-saving care in our anti-trafficking network. These resources help us lift up the most vulnerable through education, housing, security, food, discipleship, medical care, and lots of love. Because of many generous partners support and sacrificial giving we only have $84,000 of our goal left to raise before Dec 31! Your gift of LUV mobilizes the children in our network who ARE the next generation of peacemakers in warzones. Join us today!