The first time I visited the Amazon jungle I had no idea the way it would change my life. I suppose it goes back to the idea of how encountering a world vastly different from your own will always change you.
John Paculabo, the man who first invited me to see the work of Justice and Mercy Amazon in Brazil’s jungle, used to give a wonderful illustration. He was staying at a hotel in Nashville that is modeled after the rainforest where small “rivers” wind through the hotel with forestry lining its pathways. One day as he was walking through the lobby of the hotel he thought, it’d be nice if I could stay in a suite at this hotel just once in my life. And then the Holy Spirit gently pushed back, as He so unmistakably does. But, John, this isn’t real. You’ve been to the real Amazon and this is only a copy of the real thing.
Whenever John told this story I braced for what was coming because I knew this encounter wasn’t only for him. “I realized what a false world this was”, John continued. “An imitation jungle, the illusion of exotic creatures and a river. And then it hit me. How often we as Christians who live in the wealthiest part of the world go to school and church together, write songs for one another, write books for one another, study the bible together. All good things, but sometimes we do this in a world outside of where so many live.”
John talked about the importance of pressing our faces to the glass and looking through into another world where the abandoned, vulnerable, orphaned, sick and lonely live. He felt that if he could just get people to see through to the other side that God would pierce their hearts and they’d be prompted to action. This is exactly what happened to me when I met the people of the Amazon for the first time. I encountered a mother raising a house full of children whose husband had abandoned her; A child whose mother had been killed by lightening; A woman who’d spent her life in a hammock with cerebral palsy; A two-year old with a horrific skin disease and no resources to canoe to a doctor; A jungle pastor who cleaned toilets for $10 a day so he could fill his boat with fuel to preach the gospel in remote villages on the weekends.
I can boast of nothing else but simply to have pressed my face to the glass. And when I saw through the glass, the Lord gave me a desire to reach to those on the other side. And what I found is that they have reached back and touched me in ways I didn’t know I desperately needed. I also discovered that you don’t have to travel long distances to press your face to the glass. The communities in which we live are a perfect place to start.
Moses’ words to Israel in Deut 10:19 are some of my favorites. “You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” The reality is we all live on the other side of the glass, we just don’t always know it. Jesus shattered that glass when He rose from the dead and now it is our call to reach to the other side, because we too were once slaves and without the hope of Christ in our lives.
Check out an excerpt of Kelly’s new book ‘Wherever The River Runs’
Enter to Win a copy of Kelly’s book!
Or purchase Kelly’s new book right away – Wherever the River Runs: How a Forgotten People Renewed My Hope in the Gospel.