Recently someone asked me an intriguing question: What statement should the Church of the Nazarene make about human suffering such as the hardships caused by immigrant displacement and environmental crises? My mind froze as I tried hurriedly to devise an appropriate response to these global issues that impact hundreds of thousands of people. The problems seemed so big and unmanageable that I could not get my head around a strategy that would bring relief to the suffering of individuals caught in these dilemmas.
Later that morning I read all of the stories in NCN News, as I do every Friday. Three stories jumped off the screen and into my heart. Immediately, I knew I had found the answer to my friend’s question. As I contemplated the question again in light of these three stories, I realized that what we must do in the Church of the Nazarene is not simply make a statement about human suffering.
We must put feet to our words and focus our energies on meeting needs, one person at a time—in Jesus’ name.
The first story focused on refugees fleeing their war-torn homes in search of peace and safety in other lands. Their journeys took them through frozen terrain blanketed by snow. Many men, women, youth, and children trudged through the snow barefoot because they fled their homes without even the necessity of proper footwear.
Local Church of the Nazarene members located along the refugee travel route purchased warm socks and winter boots in a variety of sizes. Nazarenes invited these people into warm buildings and personally put socks and boots on their cold feet. These caring Nazarenes brought comfort to hundreds of weary travelers who continued their search for a permanent home.
The second story brought attention to a city in the U.S. that informed its more than 100,000 residents that their tap water was no longer fit for human consumption. Again, local Nazarenes along with other caring people gathered cases of donated bottled water and personally delivered this vital resource door to door to assist local residents.
Tears ran down my cheeks as I viewed the photograph I saw above the story’s headline. I was so impressed with the picture that I saved it to my computer. It’s a shot of a young man carrying cases of drinking water to the front door of a neighborhood home. What captivated me was the big smile on the young man’s face. I thought, that is a picture of the hands and feet of Jesus reaching out to needy individuals.
The third story involved more refugees. This time citizens had fled a Caribbean island seeking a better life in Central America. They traveled on small boats bringing no personal possessions with them. They arrived with only the clothes they wore. Members of a local Church of the Nazarene bought personal hygiene products and clothing for hundreds of these refugees to assist them as they sought a new life in this new country.
All three stories share a common theme: people in need met up with members of a local Church of the Nazarene. While we recognize that it isn’t just Nazarenes offering assistance, we highlight these believers who became the hands and feet of Jesus ministering physical and emotional support to their newfound friends.
You see, our Nazarene family offers more than a word of encouragement or a philosophical position statement. They take shoes, grooming supplies, food, drinking water, and a variety of other items to needy individuals in their communities.
Such stories are not unique. What’s more, these stories are not isolated.
Nazarenes minister globally in nearly 29,000 churches located in 159 world areas*. These examples illustrate who we are and what we do as Nazarenes. And, we offer assistance with big smiles on our faces.
What motivates Nazarenes to live lives of compassion and mercy? We find a clue to our answer in Luke 10:25-37 where Jesus presents the parable of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer quizzing Jesus summarized Old Testament law with the Great Command: love God—love others. Jesus then illustrated the application of this command with the Good Samaritan story. He closed with, “Go and do likewise” (v 37). So we go in Jesus’ name to share His love through word and deed.
Frank M. Moore, editor in chief Holiness Today March/April 2016