It had been a long trip. Day in and day out of serving the poor, the broken, and the marginalized had taken its toll. “How can I go back to plenty?” he thought, as he was just leaving a place of intense hopelessness and deprivation. However, the place was no longer hopeless. For a mark had been left in a nameless city dump in a small country in South America.
Days earlier, this young man was full of vigor, hope, and love. He had previously been training and preparing all year for this special opportunity. With a heart filled with love and compassion Jostein, a young man from Norway, was intentionally embracing the forgotten and unloveable. This dump, set in the outskirts of the city, was known for its sleaziness, drug use, and extreme poverty. However, that didn’t stop Jostein or his team.
It made the opportunity to love even more attractive to him. Pride started to well up in his heart for sacrificing a more dignifying opportunity to serve the poor and do such a good thing. Then suddenly his heart sank and his pride with it, as he turned to see a grown man in his mid 40’s. A man who was stumbling across the top of the trash dump completely strung out and naked.
That’s right, butt-naked except for the pants that hung at his ankles barely held up by a single worn-out holey shoe. His entire dirty emaciated body was exposed for all to see.
Now, I’m sure I am not the only one who would be completely stunned and taken a back by this situation happening before my eyes! I mean, I live in sunny beautiful Southern California. I don’t think I’ve ever even come close to being in a situation like this. How about you? When I heard this story, I was immediately putting myself in the position of this young man, thinking, “What in God’s name would I do if I was there?” And THAT is why this single story has forever changed my life.
Shall I continue??
At first sight Jostein’s heart melted with great compassion, he didn’t skip a beat as he started pursuing the man while bending down to pick up trash. Everyone around couldn’t help but stare, wondering (as we all are) what his next step was.
Jostein bent down before the naked man, and started pulling his pants up over his calves, his knees, and his waist. He then took the trash he had been collecting and started to fasten suspenders. In a brief moment dignity and honor had been restored to this man as the shame of his nakedness and sin was covered. But love didn’t stop there.
Jostein took the left over trash that he had collected and made himself a hat and a belt. Soon everyone in the dump had different clothing items made out of smelly trash that they were joyfully wearing. The night continued with dance, dinner and great fun. For a night, they all forgot their inhospitable location and personal accessories were pieces of discarded garbage no one valued or wanted to be around.
How is it that love, dignity, honor and humanity can be restored in a moment? How is it that this young man, barely 20 years of age, had the wisdom and compassion to change the entire culture of a community, down to the stereotypes associated with drugged-out, impoverished people?
Which leads me to think – how many times have I been given the same opportunity, it just wasn’t so obvious, overt, or candid?
Whatever the answers, I heard this story six years ago and I have never forgotten it. I simply can not afford to. I have forever been marked by this story and I hope it never grows old to me or to you. This I know to be true, in a moment we can make a decision to restore humanity back to its original design through love. And I choose love.
Jesus had demonstrated a deep and tender love for them. And now he longed to show them the full measure of his love.
John 13:1 (The Passion Translation)
Redefined by Grace,
Born and raised in Southern California, Christina Andriese currently lives in Murrieta, CA with her husband of 10 years, Ian, and their three incredible children – Aria, Ethan and Luke.
Christina loves to take in any and every opportunity to connect with people’s hearts and to encourage them to become the best version of themselves. Her dream is to see the church awaken to her full potential – to see humanity walk in freedom – ignited by hope, empowered to dream, and equipped to operate out of the resurrection power that Jesus provides!
When she isn’t being a chauffeur, ministering or working, Christina enjoys napping, going to the beach and reading.
See her posts here: Christina Andriese