A few years ago, Bill Wilson of Metro Ministries in New York, came to speak on the campus where I work. He told the story of a Hispanic lady, whose name I can’t recall. She was an older lady and she spoke almost no English, but she came to Bill and through an interpreter said, “Pastor Bill, I want to help with your Sidewalk Sunday School ministry.”

In all honesty, Bill couldn’t see how a little old woman who spoke almost no English could help in the ministry. But he was so touched by her willingness that he asked if she would agree to ride on one of the buses that picked up the children for Sunday School. She could be a sort of bus monitor to help keep an eye on the children while the driver was busy navigating traffic.

She readily agreed and the first day on the bus, a little boy boarded. She had no way of knowing that this particular little boy of maybe five years old had never spoken a word to anyone in the Sunday School. The bus drivers and bus monitors and Sunday School teachers all tried to get him to talk, but he wouldn’t even tell them his name. But she had no way of knowing that and on her first day on the bus, she reached out and took him into her lap. From then on, each day, the little old Hispanic lady would pull the boy into her lap as he boarded the bus. And he would let her, but he never would speak. But the bus driver noticed that she was whispering in the boy’s ear.

After a number of weeks, the bus driver mentioned the curious scene to Pastor Bill and summoning a translator, he asked her what she was saying to the boy. It turns out she did know a bit of English. And she was saying to him one phrase that she knew quite well and she was saying it over and over again.

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Some more weeks passed, each time was the same. The boy boarded the bus and climbed in her lap and she whispered to him the entire ride to Sunday School and the entire ride home. And one day, as he climbed off her lap at his stop, he turned and took her face in his five-year-old hands and whispered, “I love you, too!” And he hopped off the bus and ran into his apartment building.

That night, Pastor Bill got a phone call from a friend of his on the police force. The body of a small boy had been found by a dumpster at that apartment building. He had been beaten to death with a baseball bat and stuffed into a garbage bag and dumped like so much trash.

But some of the last words he ever heard were, “I love you.”

My heart aches and grieves and breaks over all of the people in the world that suffer unspeakable horrors on a daily basis and never know that they’re loved.

I think that a lot of us feel that we’re too small to make a difference. Our voices are too soft. Our means are too limited. We don’t have the right skills. We should just live our lives and let others make a difference. But what if this little Hispanic grandmother had felt that way? She had no money. No education. She couldn’t speak the language. The leaders weren’t even sure they wanted her there. But she had love and to that little boy, it made all the difference in the world.

Today, we’re discussing Chapter 17 of Richard Stearns’ book, The Hole in Our Gospel and I have to tell you that this chapter ripped my heart out. It made me angry. I vented all over a poor, unsuspecting, but very patient friend. This chapter made me hopeless. I sat and cried. But most of all, it made me determined. Determined that everyone within the sound of my voice (spoken, sung, or written) will know that they are loved and that they are big enough to make a difference.

We, as The Church, can get our focus so wrong and so off-kilter. We pick and choose which parts of the Bible we want to live and too often we live the wrong parts and forget about love your neighbor. We often get so comfortable in the liturgies and traditions our grandparents taught us that we forget that the world is moving on and needs to see the Gospel in a way that applies to them and is relevant to their lives. And meanwhile, unchurched people quietly slip away, seeking love and meaning and understanding and acceptance and purpose in anything and everything but Jesus Christ. They find the love of Christ more readily at the bottom of a bottle of tequila than at the communion table. We’ve been talking about how we want the things that break God’s heart to break our hearts… THIS breaks God’s heart!

Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and came in the likeness of man.(emphasis mine)

Today, I don’t care what people think. I care what God thinks. I will sit in the gutters and the ditches if that’s what it takes to show people the love of Christ. Because I know that’s what He did for me and for you. He picked us up out of the gutters and the ditches and carried us home, even when he was beaten and spat upon and crucified. And I won’t be afraid that I’m not enough. Because I know I’m not enough. But in the power of Christ, I’ll sit in the ditches and gutters, whispering, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” to anyone who needs to hear.

This post is part of our regular Wednesday book discussion. If you have written a response, I welcome you to link it up below. I also encourage you to visit my co-facilitator, Jason, at his site, Connecting to Impact to see what he’s shared on this chapter.



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  1. Well, at first I was upset that the sweet story about the little boy ended so tragically. “Why would she tell that?” I thought then I figured out that it couldn’t go more perfectly with this chapter. It’s a rough world and we put ourselves out there to get hurt and ridiculed, but the heart of God beats there in those impossible situations. I think you’re right. If we really want to feel what He’s feeling, we’re going to have to go where He’s going. He’s always with the poor and afflicted, the lonely and desperate. The Church (meaning I and each one of us) has to be there in the gutter too.

    Thanks Sarah.

  2. Jason, I was afraid the story might upset or offend folks. But I also knew I was supposed to tell it. We have to be shaken to our core. We have to get so upset and offended that we crawl down to where the hurting are. I hope that’s the effect this story has.

  3. #1 Love God. #2 Love people.

  4. …Everything else is commentary.

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