Have you ever smelled death? I can thank the Lord that I haven’t been confronted with this very often in my life. This week I had an experience that has weighed very heavy on me. I was going somewhere by myself. Even though we have a vehicle now, I will still use public transportation if I’m going alone. It saves the stress of driving on the crowded streets, and saves gas too. Anyways, as I got nearer to the bus stop I saw a man sitting there that I recognized, as I have seen him several times walking down the street.
The man seems to me to have philariasis, a medical condition caused by a parasitic worm. It’s a condition in the leg. I sat down beside the man. His leg is in pretty bad shape. He can’t get a shoe on it, so he walks on it. This has caused him to get several cuts on this foot as well. His foot was covered in flies. As our springtime temperatures in the 90’s beat down upon us, I began to become overwhelmed by the odor coming from his foot. It smelled like death.
We chatted. We didn’t discuss the Trinity or the Virgin Birth or any other deep theological topics. We chatted about the weather, about the neighborhood, he asked about the United States, and I talked about which buses would take me to where I was going. Our conversation was cut short as I saw my bus coming. As I stood up I felt impressed to do something I was uncomfortable doing. I shook his hand right before I left.
The image of that foot is ingrained in my memory. It is really hard to imagine a need greater than giving medical attention to the parasite causing the problem. When I see things like this, it reminds me that things were never meant to be this way. God created all things good, and placed man in a wonderful place. Free from pain. Free from sweat. Free from disease. It was the ultimate place for man to enjoy God and his creation.
But life isn’t like that anymore. Man sinned and fell. We were friends with God. Now we are His enemies. And it is in that terrible place that we see the beauty. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” -Ephesians 2:5-6. How did He do this? Through sending His Son Jesus as our perfect sacrificial lamb. He took our sin, and gave us His righteousness.
Man’s greatest need is not physical. Man’s greatest need is to be reconciled to God. He needs to believe in what God has done to reconcile man to Himself.
But the problem is so many people don’t know what God has done for them. How can they believe something that they know nothing about? Someone must tell them. That someone is a person who has the gospel. That someone is you and me.
The man seemed surprised when I shook his hand. I wonder how many people have had physical contact with him. The analogy is a strong one. So many people live in darkness in this world. Those of us who are in the light must reach into that darkness if they are to know the truth.
Now that we’ve been here for 18 months, we’ve begun to have our opened to just how many people in Paraguay live in darkness. I say darkness. What I mean is people who don’t know God. This is a particularly dark month in Paraguay as people will make an annual trek to a city to pay homage to Mary. Then, at Christmas, people will remember baby Jesus. Many people have very little understanding that Mary was a human being in need of a Savior just as much as you and I. There is also little connection between the baby in a manger, and the Savior on the cross. We are arriving at a point in our understanding of culture that we can begin sharing Biblical truth in a very intentional way with our neighbors.
Pray for us as we continue to work towards a tribal ministry. But also pray for us to be salt and light to the people we currently have around us.