I have always considered myself a compassionate person. Raised by two of the most self-sacrificing and generous people I know, compassion for others was an innate part of my personality. And although I probably appeared to be pretty compassionate- going to Haiti every year, leading clothing drives, mentoring inner-city kids, and even studying to be a special education teacher- looking back, compassion is something I have lacked.
Now you may be asking yourself: “But you moved to Haiti to run an orphanage. Isn’t that the upmost example of compassion?”
My response to this is both “Yes” and “No”.
I say, “Yes” because Hunter and I did move here out of compassion for the kids at the CHCH. And “Yes” because we daily endure our lives here because of that compassion. No matter how hard things get, how frustrated we become, and how difficult our kids can be, our compassion for them far outweighs any negative emotions that may come our way.
But I also say, “No” because I fear that being a missionary has hardened my heart. Maybe that seems crazy, but it is the truth. For example:
Living among the poorest of the poor at first was distressing, but now, I barely flinch at the poverty that surrounds me.
The trash and pollution in Haiti used to disgust me, but now, the outrageous piles of garbage just about everywhere doesn’t even faze me.
People who would come and beg at my gate once broke my heart, but now, I sometimes don’t even take the time to listen to their stories. Instead I simply say, “Sorry, I can’t help” with no remorse.
Streets kids with tattered clothing and empty stomachs used to bring me to tears, but now, I rarely take notice to them.
Even as I write this I am calling myself a jerk. I mean, what is wrong with me? The poverty, the trash, the people at my gate, and the street kids should bother me….it should bother me a lot! And is should bother me not only because I am a missionary here in Haiti, but it should bother me because I am a Christian- a follower of Jesus and a disciple in His kingdom- a kingdom where compassion rules and poverty, trash, beggars, and homeless children don’t exist because everyone takes care of everyone else, and everyone takes care of God’s creation.
Knowing full well that compassion has been a downfall of mine for the past year, I have recently decided to pray about it. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point this year I just became disgusted with my heart. The weight of being uncompassionate became too much to bear anymore. And I just felt as though God was attempting to break my heart, make me unsatisfied, and push me to obedience.
If you are a frequent reader of my blogs, you know I am all about some Jesus following. 1 John 2:6 has become a staple verse in my life.
“This is how we know we are in Him. The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.”
I want to remain in Jesus and therefore I choose to walk just as He walked. Although I will inevitable do this with many daily failures, I continuously rely on the Spirit to guide me and the blood of Jesus to perfect me with every mistake I make.
And compassion, well, it has been a daily mistake for a while. And taking into consideration that Jesus was pretty much the most compassionate person that ever walked this earth, God made it evident that I needed to follow His lead and restore my once compassionate heart.
So like I said, I started praying. I have prayed that God would pour out in me (and Hunter) more compassion than we know what to do with. I have prayed that His compassion would all but overflow in our lives. I have also prayed that God would present us with opportunities to share His compassion-opportunities that we had specifically denied compassion in the past. My prayer has been that God would grace us second-chance opportunities. And above all, I have prayed that God would give us the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the strength and wisdom to be obedient- even when we don’t want to.
I am only a few weeks into this prayer and God has already supplied not only the compassion, but also the second-chance situations I have so desperately longed for. People we frequently see and frequently turn our backs to have been popping up everywhere. It is almost humorous to look at how quickly and how abundantly God has answered my prayers. It is almost like He listened to my prayer and said, “Jillian, it is about time!”
And although I don’t plan to bore you with the multitude of compassionate scenarios I have encountered recently, I do want to share with you one. I am not going to mention the person’s name just in case some of you may have preconceived (probably valid) opinions of him. Instead, I want to keep him anonymous.
There are a few boys that Hunter and I have had issues with. These boys used to live in the orphanage and for various reasons were forced to leave. Since leaving, their lives have been on a quick and troublesome downward spiral. Stealing, breaking in to people’s property (including the CHCH) and being caught up in the wrong crowds has placed both of them on the polices’ wanted list. With the chance of a life in prison hanging over them, these boys have had to play it safe and undercover. Without proper education, no family to support them, and no way to make money to provide for themselves, these boys live on the streets. One, I believe, moves around from friend’s house to friend’s house while the other sleeps on a cardboard mat inside of a car wash- a car wash we frequently pass.
Despite the fact that their stories seem pretty extreme and depressing, Hunter and I have lacked compassion on these two boys for quite a while. Moving to Haiti, we knew their records were bad which always made a cautious of them. However after they attempting to break into our house one Sunday while we were at church, needless to say, all trust and potential compassion flew out the door.
We have run into these boys on multiple occasions. I can’t say how many of those times have been chance and how many have been God putting them in our path. If the latter, I have to admit that we possibly have been disobedient to anything God may have wanted us to do. But regardless of our potential unwillingness to hear God’s will in past, we have recently chosen compassion over ourselves.
I say “we” have done this as if Hunter was aware that this prayer for compassionate hearts was public awareness, however I never exactly told him I was praying this prayer over us. This was for no real reason; I just never told him. Maybe he thinks this was intentional, but maybe God just wanted to show off His power in Hunter- a power that He can supply even when someone does not directly ask for it themselves. And in this case he did.
The boy I mentioned earlier who is living in the car wash is the boy I want to tell you about. I’ve never known a whole lot about him prior to moving here except that he is trouble. And since we have moved here he has been nothing but trouble in our lives. Without parents to support and train him, he has had to learn life the hard way and he continuously finds himself getting lost.
Hunter and I were pretty much on non-speaking terms with him after he broke into our place last summer. After then he not only wasn’t allowed inside the CHCH, but he couldn’t even be caught standing on the street outside our gate. When we saw him, we barely even acknowledged him. Hunter was angry at him and I was honestly just a little bit scared.
Two weeks ago, however, I was walking into one of our favorite bakeries downtown when I saw him. He was outside washing cars with the other street boys. He was begging for food, he looked a mess, and my heart, for the first time ever, broke for him. As I walked inside to buy some lunch for myself and my family I heard a voice inside of me say, “Buy him something to eat too.” Ya right, I thought. But even as I stood in the check out line, I battled myself. At the time, I didn’t even consider that this voice may just in fact be God’s Spirit within me. I just thought that maybe I felt bad for him or something. And as I walked out the door, he began to walk towards me, and I found myself too ashamed to even look into his eyes. As he nervously greeted me I knew that I just made a big mistake.
The following week (last week) I was back at the bakery with the Lipscomb team. Again, I saw him. This time, however, instead of just quickly passing him by on the stairs I stopped and talk to him. I shook his hand, looked into his eyes, and asked him how he was. Instead of the stereotypical “bien” he shrugged his shoulders, hung his head in shame, and told me how he had hit rock bottom- how he was living in the car wash, how he has no home and no work, how he can’t find anyone to help him finish school, and how he just wants Jesus to rescue him one more time. After promising him that I would start praying for him I headed into the bakery to once again buy me lunch. This time however, when I heard the voice telling me to buy him lunch (which I did hear again), I didn’t even hesitate. I bought him some pizza and juice and he was more than grateful and I think somewhat shocked.
I have been back to this bakery two times since I bought him lunch. (I know what you are thinking: “She sure eats a lot!” J) And each time I have stopped to talk to him, shake his hand, look him in the eyes, and pass on a little of Jesus’ compassion.
I have also prayed for him quite a bit these past couple of weeks. I have prayed for wisdom and guidance on my part in his life. I have prayed for some extra compassion to supplement for where I lack some towards him. And I have prayed that God would continually shower His grace on him so that His will may be done in his.
I have always considered myself a compassionate person. But the more I study Jesus and the more I try to be like Him, the more I realize that more compassion is vital in my life if I am even going to attempt to claim to be one of His true followers.
What about you? Do you have compassion?