I didn't expect too much as I walked down the school halls for my kids' "all-school exhibition." My plan was to simply cheer on my 2nd grader as she presented her projects, and then wrap up my parental duty for the evening. But before I could find her classroom, I was invited to step into another room where a middle school class was presenting different aspects of their year-long Real World Learning project entitled "Refu-Jesus." And I was amazed!
Refu-Jesus. No, that's not a typo. It's descriptive of this class's efforts to minister to refugees for the glory of Jesus. Over the course of this school year, these twelve and thirteen year-olds had been researching the plight of refugees in America, collecting donations for local non-profits that serve refugees, and even volunteering time at a refugee-specific food pantry...every Thursday afternoon! These young people had not done their homework to become aware of a rapidly growing population and their unique needs, but they had put forth individual and collective effort to alleviate those needs. It was reported that they had actually collected 2,000 pounds of rice and over 2,000 diapers for local refugees. In fact, as a culmination of their efforts to bring awareness and help in practical ways, the class has organized a Concert Cafe for this Saturday night to raise even more funds and collect even more donations. Like I said, I was amazed.
And I was humbled.
Humbled that a group of young people understood something about compassion and practical kindness that I didn't. Humbled that these kids were following the footsteps of Jesus in a way that I was unfamiliar with.
This morning, when I opened to Psalm 109 to start my devotional reading, this simple line brought back yesterday's Refu-Jesus presentation:
But I will give repeated thanks to the Lord,
praising Him to everyone.
For He stands beside the needy,
ready to save them... (Psalm 109:30, 31, NLT)
I believe the God we serve is not only aware of the plight of "the needy" but identifies with them personally, intimately. He stands beside. I love that. To stand beside is the opposite of running away, abandoning, or forsaking. In the time of Jesus' greatest adversity here on earth, there were plenty who ran away. But in the times of our greatest need, Jesus stands beside each and every one of us. And He stands ready to save. That's why Paul could face the Sanhedrin again though he had almost been torn to pieces by them the day before (Acts 23:11). That's why the psalmist calls God our "refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Ps. 40:1). When the Lord stands with, there's strength, there's safety, there's salvation.
If the God we serve is the God who stands beside, then shouldn't we be a people who do the same?
These middle-schoolers were modeling that very principle for me, and I feel inspired to follow their lead. Be aware and actually give attention. Take the time and put in the effort to understand a need and those who experience it. Partner with others who are meeting that need well and loving people well. Lord, thank You for standing by me. Please use me to stand by others in need.