This last week there were winter storms running across the Northeast and the Midwest in the U.S. bringing lots of snow, with even some records being set for the amount of snow for this time of year. I don’t know about you, but that sounds cold to me!
In some of the nations where we work, it can get quite cold. I remember the days when I served with a team in North India. It was so cold. We slept outside every night, but thankfully we had these feather sleeping bags that kept us warm during the night. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to sleep outside at night without even a blanket!
Believe it or not, tens of thousands of people live like that on the streets in Asia. During winter, temperatures can dive surprisingly low, and these freezing temperatures cause many problems. Although in some places, their cold weather is warmer than the Midwest right now, it is difficult or even dangerous to the homeless population. Many die during the winter season.
I remember one time when I was in Ajmer, Rajasthan. I went to the market with the bicycle we had to buy some milk for the team (I was the one who was cooking the food). It was winter time and so cold. I don’t remember what I was wearing, but I was warm enough and had a blanket-like shawl also. While I was going on the way, I remember so clearly this beggar just shaking and shivering in the cold. He barely had one whole piece of very thin clothing to cover him.
It hurt me to see him there so cold. I stopped my bike, got off and gave him my shawl. I remember going back with just my undershirt on my back.
This winter, I recorded this video below about the blanket distribution we have for those living on the streets; it was made to be a representation of the many blankets workers help to distribute in these nations. When we recorded it, it was 4:30 in the morning, dark—and cold. I had put the blanket I was planning to give away around me to help me stay warm as I walked. I saw this man lying asleep in the street. Seeing him, I realized how many hundreds like this man find their home on the streets. For me, it was a beautiful experience to again give my blanket away to someone in such need. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people to sleep in the streets in the bitter cold with no shelter. It is remarkable that they can survive.
Gospel for Asia works with partners on the field to help bring these people the warmth of a blanket and help keep them alive. By God’s grace, we have now distributed tens of thousands of these blankets to poor people like this man. I am so glad that Gospel for Asia is able to demonstrate God’s love and compassion to the people of Asia through distributing these blankets.
While Nepal was experiencing extreme cold this winter, we were able to help provide warm blankets to a hospital that was in need of blankets. Central heating is not common, so even if you’re inside, it can be quite cold.
Our GFA-supported pastors distributing the blankets said, “We are happy to do this, because the love and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ encourages us . . . and we will be doing more.”
Compassion is a privilege more than a duty. These pastors shared warmth in the cold out of the love of Jesus. They had compassion on those in need of warmth.
I remember January 4, 1974, when I landed in the New York airport and came to the United States of America for the first time. I was a lost alien! I had no clue what to do. I needed to make a phone call from that airport to the people who were going to pick me up in the next city, but I just could not figure out how to make a telephone call.
There was one of those old telephone booths, but I didn’t know what do with the thing. The two or three people that I had asked all responded by saying the instructions so quickly, that their words blended together and sounded like one word to me: “dropadimeanddial.” I could not figure out what they were talking about and what that meant I was supposed to do. If they had spoken slow enough, I would have heard: “Drop a dime and dial.” I didn’t even know what a dime was.
But then, finally, a lady was there who had watched what was going on with this alien. She came to me and explained how to do it. Even when she explained it, I still didn’t know how to do it. Then she took a coin and she put it in the booth, dialed the number, and I was able to get through. I’ll never forget that experience. I’ll never forget her kindness and her compassion towards me in the midst of her own life full of things to do and places to go.
We can all recall incidents like this one in own lives—people who stepped in and saved us. There are a fantastic variety of ways out there for how we can make another person feel better and to find some sense of happiness.
Compassion means “to suffer with; deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to relieve it.”
The Lord is always compassionate. The Scripture says, “But, Thou, O Lord, [art] a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).
The Greek word used in the New Testament has this very unique meaning: “To be moved in the inward parts,” meaning that you are deeply troubled, deep within, and it propels you to act. Its usage here is more similar to becoming second-nature, like when a piece of dust or a fly tries to get into your eyes when you are driving a motorbike or you are walking along, and all of a sudden your eyelid responds instantaneously. You don’t think, “I am now going to close my eyelid because a fly is coming toward my eyes.” No; it is instantaneous. This impetus and the driving force deep down for compassion is the nature of God in us.
Compassion, kindness, is like an ocean. It is a continual flow. It is about being stirred within by God’s Spirit so that we are moved.
Christ is our example. He left the unimaginable riches in Heaven to bring the light of His love to a world of people in desperate need of a compassion that only He could offer. Jesus Christ, who is the perfect expression of God the Father, continually had compassion on the those who surrounded Him in the streets and on the hillsides during His ministry here on earth. The Gospels are full of stories about His compassion. His very presence among us was because of His compassion for us.
Compassion is an awesome privilege, a high honor and opportunity God created in our lives. When we see the privilege it is, than it is not a sacrifice. It is not an agony; it is not a duty. It is our privilege from God.
Compassion—even in the simplicity of giving warm blankets —is a thing born of God’s love that, when nurtured and practiced can become a way of life. And the grace of God sustains it.
Because of the love of Christ Himself, compassion becomes a way of life for believers. In whatever way God is putting it on your heart to have compassion for someone, don’t wait for someday when it feels more convenient. Now is the time to be compassionate as the Lord’s presents opportunities. You cannot do everything; I cannot do everything. But let us be faithful to do what He shows us. And this is Christianity.
Father, help us to see the world through Your eyes of compassion. Forgive us, Our Father, for the times we so easily forget; the only reason You sent Your Son into this world is because of love. And for the sake of love—caring, healing, restoring, giving hope to the hopeless, loving and embracing, Your Son suffered much. Please help us not to forget it. Yet thank You for Your mercy, Your compassion.
Thank You for the privilege You give us to be compassionate and kind and loving. Help us, we pray, that You will give us the grace to be Christlike here on earth in our generation, through our words and attitudes, behaviors and actions.
Gospel for Asia provides compassion to those who need protection from the cold in slum areas, on the streets, in leper colonies, and in remote villages during winter months. Click here to donate to blankets.
Click here to listen to Dr. KP Yohannan share about the grace of God to sustain us to serve Him well in the midst of all.