We Need Grace – Just as Much as the People We Serve

We Need Grace – Just as Much as the People We Serve

A few days ago I had a speck of dirt that got in my eye and under my contact. It was really irritating my eye. As I began to rub my eye to try to get the dirt out, my eye started watering and turning red. With no relief I flushed my eye with saline solution.

Thankfully, that was all it needed, and the irritation was gone. “There is a sermon in that,” as my mother-in-law would say – and she would be right: God has been helping me see the speck/sin in my own eye, quite literally.

Damba*, our 18-year-old Ugandan neighbor is essentially orphaned. His father passed away a few years ago. His mother is remarried and lives now at a different compound. Damba and his brother Bitalo* do not have much contact with their family. Culturally, it is very common that a husband is not responsible for children that the woman already has. In this case, the four youngest stayed with the mother, leaving Damba and Bitalo to live on their own.

Damba struggles to get by from day to day. He truly does have a difficult life, one with much suffering. He struggles to make wise decisions with money, alcohol, and women. A few days ago, Damba came to us and informed us that he got a girl pregnant and wanted us to help him by giving him some money.

Damba, like I said before, doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to using money. He will often lie or deceive us so that we will give money towards a need (mainly food) only to find out that he spent it on clothing, jewelry, or on a new straw hat, or worst of all, alcohol to get drunk.

We initially said “No,” that we wouldn’t help him – not that we were insensitive to his trouble, just that we were strong in our desire to show him tough love and not condone his decision making. Now that he is going to be a father, we thought, he needs to get a job and provide for his child.

He was visibly upset. Brent talked with him about what it meant to be a man, act like a man and all those good things about trust, respect, integrity and hard work. Damba stormed off, but he came back the next day. He asked again for assistance. I sat on the front porch with him and listened to his story.

God began exposing cultural differences, and showing me glimpses of my life that I tend to overlook and forget. Damba makes poor choices at times; so do I. Damba lies to get what he wants; my sinful heart can manipulate and deceive people as well.

Damba didn’t have a father who taught him how to manage money or set a good example for him. Damba’s dad was an alcoholic who struggled to provide for his family. Now Damba, with what little money he may make from his cocoa farming, helps to look after Bitalo, his 16-year-old brother who is still in school. And when his little sisters come around, they might need money for books at school or other school fees. It’s very cultural for him to give them money if they ask.

All I saw was a boy who got a girl pregnant. A poor choice, yes, but it is not my place to judge him. It’s easy to see his problem and say, deal with it yourself.

I was able to talk to Damba, and share that even though we make poor choices our Father in heaven still loves us. I was also able to share that even though his dad is gone, and wasn’t a good father figure, that he has a prefect Father in Heaven who loves him. God also protects and provides for us when we trust in him.

Damba knows about God, and says that he prays often. I asked if he would let me pray over him and he agreed. I prayed that God would multiply his cocoa crop so that he could provide for his child, for himself and help his family. I prayed that he would believe that his Father does love him and care for him. I prayed that God would guide him and help him make good choices.

After I prayed over him, my husband Brent and I did gave him a small gift. We wanted to let him know that he is our friend and our neighbor and we want to love him and encourage him.

It’s easy to see the poor choices that other people make but not see the ones that we make. The speck in our friend’s eye is easier to spot then the log in our own eye. We often ignore the sin in our own life or pretend that it doesn’t exist or try to justify it.

God reminded me how dangerous my own sin is. God gave me a literal example of dirt in my eye. He showed me how much pain and discomfort and irritation it causes, and that I needed to stop what I was doing and flush my eye out to get rid of the speck.

Our sin should be treated the same way: it should be so irritating to us that we need to flush it out. I was reminded that the speck in my eye is more important than pointing out the sin in someone else’s life.

In Damba’s case, I pray that even in his poor choices that he may know the love of Christ and the forgiveness of sin. And you know what? I need to pray that for me, too.

* The names have been changed.

Alisha Justice
Alisha is a registered dietitian and leads the BundiNutrition program and works in the health center to treat severe acute malnutrition. She and her husband Brent serve with Serge in Uganda.

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