“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
So he began teaching them many things.”
To celebrate Christmas I decided to read through the gospels to see what else I could learn about this guy we call Jesus and whom we celebrate on Christmas day.
So many of the stories are so familiar being that I have heard them since I was a child in Sunday school: the five thousand being fed by a few loaves of bread and fish, Jesus walking on water, the sick being healed and the blind receiving sight or the story about the paralyzed man being dropped through a roof for Jesus’s healing touch.
I remember many of these stories by pictures or skits or cheesy vacation bible school songs. What I don’t remember being taught is how upside down and inside out these stories really are. How Jesus’s actions went against the society He lived in and the society we now live in. I don’t remember words like radical or compassion. I don’t remember skits about Jesus belittling the scholars and taking sides with the sinners.
This time around I discovered a new Jesus. Time and time again, stories and passages describe Jesus being filled with compassion and in turn manifesting some type of miracle.
“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.” –Mark 8:2 (the feeding of the five thousand happened next)
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” – Matthew 14:14
“Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” – Matthew 20:34
“A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” –Mark 1:40-41
The gospels in my Bible are now highlighted with passages that exploit a compassion Jesus had towards the crowds, the paralyzed, the lame, the sick, the sinners and lowlifes. Stories of compassion and miracles filled up the pages in ways I had never seen them before.
Sure, I’ve been hearing about the feeding of the five thousand since I was six. I’ve colored in scenes with my Crayola crayons of baskets full of leftover bread and a small boy who carries the baskets. The pictures were full of people sitting on a hillside, full and satisfied, with Jesus in the center. We were always taught about the miracle, but not the heart behind it.
The only reason Jesus fixed this meal was because His heart compelled Him to. He did not do it to gain fame or to have the headlines read “Jesus does it again; He feeds a large crowd with nothing but a few loaves and a leftover fish”. He did not do it to gain popularity or show them Pharisees wrong; he did it because his heart was filled with compassion. Bless him. In fact, after performing most miracles, Jesus tells the healed not to tell anyone about what has happened to them.
I have a hard time explaining how I feel some days when I stand in a home made of tattered tarp and floor made of dirt. Happy, sad, joyful, angry…I have never been able to find the right word. But, Jesus pinned this feeling of mine as I rediscovered Him this past month: compassion. Compassion that flows from the heart of our God and dwells in us because of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve learned and relearned that miracles are what follow when compassion is felt, embraced, dreamt up and lived out first. First, compassion. Second, miracles. First, going out and loving people. Second, God showing up and making His own miraculous moves.
At first glance compassion seems like such a beautiful word and feeling. But, I’ve learned its actually quite ugly and hard.
Jesus was filled with compassion when he saw the hungry, sick and sinners. I am sure he’s filled when he sees the happy, healthy and well off, too, but the stories in the gospels tell of him being filled with compassion when he saw something ugly and hard.
Jesus wasn’t afraid to see the darkness in the world, because He had the power to overcome it. He wasn’t afraid to be acquainted with sinners, because He had a message that would redeem them. He wasn’t afraid to surround himself with people full of sickness, because He had the ability to heal them.
Jesus taught me not be afraid, but to go into the world filled with compassion. I have seen my hurting neighbors. I cry when I leave their broken homes or when I don’t have another job to give or sometimes I cry for no good reason at all. I see poverty every day and it crushes me. But, I will no longer be afraid of it.
I will allow the Spirit to fill me with all the compassion my little heart can hold and breathe out life where it has been taken. Letting the miracles take place and allowing God to work His wonders.
Every single time I visit the “blue tent city” in Minoterie I am filled with compassion. I haven’t been able to describe what I feel for a long time, but Jesus has now taught me what it is. And I know compassion is what Jennifer and Lydia Lee felt as they walked the dirt paths with me, too. We dreamt up a better tomorrow and I’m honored, humbled and quite frankly blown away.
I am forever thankful for your generous and compassionate hearts. I am grateful to all of you who clicked “share” and got the word out about our friends who are living in such unbearable conditions. I can’t say thank you enough for those of you who followed through and clicked the PureCharity or PayPal link or donated through Touch of Hope. You are superheroes. Your donations mattered and they are going to manifest into something so very beautiful.
Today, I am honored to tell you that all the money has been raised to build the five homes for the five families who have been living in tents over the past five years. Today marks the 5 year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti 5 years ago, how appropriate we can remember it with such exciting news.
Additionally, I would like you to meet Yolanda.
Yolanda is the daughter to Yoline, a cook at our school. They have been living in a tarp structure for five years and it is where Yolanda has grown up. She is in first grade, has the sweetest smile and gives the most gracious hugs when I see her at school. Her mom started working at our school last year and this is the first real, reliable job she has ever had. I see them every Sunday at church and there is a glow that radiates from both of them that I envy. I visited Yolanda last week to deliver a Christmas present from her school sponsor. I entered through the twig frame and stood with Yolanda in the middle of her “house.” I asked her where she slept and she pointed to the bed behind her. I looked above and saw a very large hole in the tarp so I proceeded to ask, “Well, what happens when it rains?” Her reply, with a giggle in her voice, “I get wet.” Enter feelings of heart breaking and compassion filling every ounce of my body. Her mom gave me the grand tour, showing me around the back of her house where tarp was shredding and other pieces were sewn together with yarn. Yes, a house sewn of yarn.
Two days later, I totaled all the donations and discovered we not only had enough money to build five houses, but enough to build SIX. First, compassion. Second, miracles. Yolanda and her family will be the sixth family to have a new house built and I can’t wait to visit her in the near future and ask her what happens when it rains and her response be, “I stay dry!”
People, thank you for showing up and donating to this cause, I am forever humbled and grateful. May you be blessed tenfold. Updates to follow as the houses will be built in the month to come!
“Whoever claims to live in him, must walk as Jesus did.”
– 1 John 2:6