As I finished an impactful Insight Trip to see Opportunity’s operations in Chennai, India, I was convicted again by Jesus’s example of meeting people where they are. No matter how a person regards Jesus–as a stranger, great teacher, gifted prophet or Lord–He meets each of us in our circumstances. To the Hindus, Muslims and people of other faiths, or no faith, in this country, those that serve on the Opportunity International team here are responding to Jesus’s call to serve the poor. Though they do not say His name, except in limited circumstances, they are dedicated to the Christ-like mission to meet the poor where they are.
In striking parallels to Jesus’s time, we met clients who fished from boats not too different from those on the Sea of Galilee, and we got to know very impoverished women with heavy loads overcoming generational poverty by seeking new life, in this case through microloans. And then those of us from the U.S. filled out the spectrum on the trip of those Jesus encountered–the privileged. The common denominator–the love given by Jesus meets us all where we are.
Jesus told us what we encounter in serving people in poverty: we encounter those who are chosen by God to be rich in faith. The spirit of the impoverished people we met was joyful, amazingly accepting of difficult circumstances and pervasive disease, yet thriving in new ways due to financial opportunities, transformational training, and help from an Opportunity India loan officer and fellow Trust Group members. It has to be that they are being met where they are–in part through this work that is growing opportunity for them.
Our group split up and cooked seer fish, a kind of mackerel, with the women from a couple of Trust Groups, just as they would in their homes. They wore their best colorful saris and we cooked with them on the floor. We danced, we laughed, and we judged who had the best fish. We were in a room that sometimes serves as a Christian church, so we prayed. Mauyra, a young woman with an infectious smile, broke away from the group when she saw me picking up some trash. She told me in her broken English that I had very good habits. It was a good thing that my wife Sharon wasn’t along on this trip to tell her the truth. Because the truth is, I don’t have good habits–I don’t have a habit of being joyful in what seem to me like difficult times. I don’t have a habit of being grateful for what I have, even though I have so much. I don’t have a habit of working hard under very challenging physical conditions, compared to life for many of these women. Mauyra and the women of the fishing village of Pulicat, India, have those habits–and a spirit of joy and peace that is truly remarkable.
Why is that? It is because for these women, Opportunity International is meeting them where they are–because the staff and leaders of Opportunity have been called to serve. They are the hands and feet of Christ–embodying His spirit of service even without saying His name.