A few years ago, I had the amazing privilege of traveling to Uganda with a team from America World Adoption. We spent about a week there teaching and loving on precious children, most of them being orphans. It would take more than one blog post to share all that I learned from that trip, but this week, I want to share with you one of the things that God taught me that has remained with me and become part of my heart.
I didn’t have to be in Uganda very long to become overwhelmed by the great need that exists there. I could list facts and statistics for you, but the truth is, those numbers will never grip your heart in the way that looking into the eyes of an orphan with HIV will. There’s something about being there, face to face with tangible humanity, that cannot be expressed in figures and percentages. When both of my hands were holding on to the hands of little ones who have experienced more heartache and loss in their short, young lives than can be imagined, and I looked around me only to see so many more just like them, I began to understand what being ‘moved with compassion’ means.
As I returned to our living quarters after spending a day working with these precious children, sensing the great need and my inability to even make a dent in it, I opened my Bible and read this passage.
“Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.’ But Jesus said, ‘You feed them.‘ ‘With what?’ they asked. ‘We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!’ ‘How much bread do you have?‘ he asked. ‘Go and find out.‘ They came back and reported, ‘We have five loaves of bread and two fish.’ Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed.” Mark 6:34-44 (NLT)
This was a special moment for me because I was approaching this passage with a new understanding of what it means to be completely surrounded and overwhelmed by the needs of others. Walk with me through this passage as I share with you what our Father taught me that evening in Uganda.
1) Jesus is compassionate.
He sees people in their need, and He has compassion for them. Their needs, both physical and spiritual, are not unnoticed by Him. He doesn’t just see their needs, but His compassion moves Him to intervene. Notice, though, that His compassion first moved Him to teach them many things. That was where He started – with their spiritual needs.
2) The disciples were compassionate.
True disciples of Jesus are also aware of the needs of others. They don’t turn a blind eye. They also feel compassion and long to see these needs met. They know Who to go to for help. Notice here though, in direct contrast with Jesus, their focus was not on the spiritual needs, but on the physical needs. Sometimes, we become so overwhelmed by physical needs that we forget that a person’s most desperate need is spiritual.
3) Jesus said, “You feed them.”
What?! Can you just imagine the disciples’ faces and their reactions? I wish I could have been there to see it! Jesus was asking them to do the impossible. They were face to face with a massive need, they had turned to Him for help, and He shocked them with three simple words. You. Feed. Them. It was a call to action. He was tasking them with something they could not possibly do on their own. But you see, He wasn’t asking them to do it on their own. Let’s keep reading.
4) Jesus asked them to identify what they had and give it to Him.
What do you have? Go and find out. Jesus was asking them to take an inventory. You don’t even begin to have enough to meet this great need, but what DO you have? Are you willing to give that? Will you take what is enough for you and be willing to give it up for the sake of others and their needs? Will you trust Jesus with what you have, believing that He can still take care of you too? Will you subtract so that He can multiply?
5) Jesus took what little they had to offer and multiplied it.
This is the greatest part. He took their meager loaves and fish and blessed them. Then, the miraculous happened. That little bit of food multiplied and met the massive need. It didn’t just barely meet the need. It exceeded the need. Everyone ate as much as they wanted, and there were leftovers – a lot of leftovers! Incredible, right?
Here’s the truth – God can meet needs, both spiritual and physical needs, without our help. He is so much more powerful than we can even imagine. Many times, though, He chooses to use us to help. I am still filled with wonder over that. What He asks from us is that we give what we have, even if it doesn’t seem like much. Have you ever felt that way? “Lord, what I have is so small, and the need is so far greater.” That is the best place to be! That is the perfect place to watch what God can do. When we say in that moment, “Lord, I don’t have much at all, but You can have it. Take these loaves and fish that I’m offering to You and use them as You will. I am willing to give what I have,” I believe that is a fragrant offering of worship to Him. He takes our little loaves and fish, He blesses them, and then He multiplies them.
This isn’t just true in a place like Uganda or on a hillside with 5,000 men and their families. This is true in the mundane, everyday-ness of our walk with God.
“Lord, this person I love doesn’t know You. I can’t open their eyes to see their spiritual need. But I am bringing You my loaves and fish – my testimony, sharing the things You’ve done in my life, explaining the Gospel in the best way I know, talking about what I learned in church this week. I’m willing to subtract. Will You please multiply? Please use what little I have for Your purposes and Your glory.”
“Lord, that family that just lost everything in a fire is in great need. I can’t replace their home, their possessions, or their peace. But I am bringing You my loaves and fish – my $25, my extra groceries, my prayers, my time. I’m willing to subtract. Will You please multiply? Use what little I have for Your purposes and Your glory.”
“Lord, my church needs nursery workers. I can’t care for all the children every week, but I’m bringing You my loaves and fish – a few hours of my time once a month. I’m willing to subtract. Will You please multiply and use what I’m giving for Your purposes and Your glory?”
Are you starting to see what I saw that night in Uganda? I should have warned you – it will change you. It changed me. I still see needs all around me, and many times, I hear gentle words whispered to my heart, “You feed them.” I’m learning to identify what I have, surrender it to my Savior, and then watch to see what He can do. I’m so grateful that sometimes He lets me be part of what He’s doing in the lives of others. What an undeserved privilege that is!
Father, I pray that as we walk with You this week, You will open our eyes to the needs around us. Help us to be compassionate, and help us to ask You for Your help when we see others in need. As You speak to our hearts, show us what we have that You can use, even if it seems small and insignificant to us. As we willingly give You what we have to offer, will You please bless it and multiply it to meet needs and to demonstrate Your love and power? Thank You for choosing to use us. We know that You don’t need us to meet the need, but in Your love and mercy, You let us be part of what You are doing. Let this become the habit of our lives – giving You our loaves and fish. Amen.