There is a passage in scripture – Matthew 25:34-45, “The Least of These” – that has, does, and always will strike a chord with me personally. I first heard it in college and also, at the same time, found its first application to my life. In many ways, I consider it a part of my calling in regards to my personal testimony. But I feel that there is something so poignant and widely applicable about its message. The Lord can do much with a willing servant’s heart, even if you – mistakenly – don’t feel worth the investment.
I spent my four years as an undergrad at a Christian university in upstate New York. There was, at one point, a time where they were requesting volunteers to hand out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the evening to any who wanted one, as well as spend some time with children in an impoverished community in the Bronx. It sounded like something I might be interested in, so a friend and I signed up to participate. When we arrived, it became quickly clear that my ministry with youth was not exactly producing fruit, so – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in hand – I started to walk around the community with my friend in search of what the Lord might have us do.
And that’s when I first heard it… a painstaking, piercing meow…a cry for help.
Something inside me kicked into gear and I began to fervently search for the young kitten. I found it, dirty and smudged, starving, alone, and howling as it wandered beneath the cars parked on the side of the street. I immediately tried to approach it to scoop it up, but – and it still aches to this day – the kitten wouldn’t approach. But he must have known we were kind strangers, because we at least convinced him to follow us. I asked my friend to keep an eye on him while I went into a corner grocery store, praying they had a can of cat food, which, fortunately, they did. I barely had enough change for the kitty chow and some water, but I was at least able to put something down in front of that cat. No collar. No tags. This was way before microchips, and I had no carrier in which to literally trap the animal so I could rescue it. However, at least it would eat from the can I gingerly set in front of it. I remember taking enough care to put the can up against a brick wall so as the kitten ate and the can slid along the sidewalk with every bite, there would be a barrier behind the can to hold it in place and make the experience not quite so frustrating for the kitten. And then, and only then, because the van ride back to the college was leaving, I had to abandon my attempts to coax the kitten into my arms and leave it where it was. I still pray for that cat every time I think about it over a decade later, still feeling that I didn’t do enough. My friend tried to tell me I had a very kind heart, but those words still don’t assuage the pain I feel.
However, it was a good lesson about many things. And I can now see why the Lord had me experience that situation.
- It opened the doors to a ministry. I’ve been rescuing cats privately ever since and have rehomed several that otherwise would have been lost. (One of them sits purring in his cat tower in my apartment as I type this.)
- It was a great reminder of how God sees and cares about every person even when they think he must have forgotten about them. No one besides the Lord would have seen a tiny, lost kitten in the middle of the Bronx, much less provided a set of circumstances in which the kitten’s greatest need – food – could have been met. Also, the metaphor is striking: If God saw and cared about every part of this kitten’s situation, including the minute detail of allowing me to think about its comfort in eating what was probably the last meal it ever ate, then surely he cared about other people and myself the same way. How often then, had the Lord tried to rescue me with abundance and I had turned His hand away because the relief didn’t come according to my timing, in my scripted way, or how I imagined it would be?
- It taught me that no amount of help is too small. There was just no way that I could fix every part of that cat’s discomfort (mostly because it wouldn’t draw near), so I did what I could. And that cat went to sleep with a full belly tonight because of what I did. Next time you are prompted by the Lord to help others, but you feel that you “can’t do enough,” remember he scripture passage above…nothing is ever, ever wasted and even a small deed is great in the kingdom of the Lord.
The title message of this year’s Women’s Conference at Capital Christian Center was “Here I Am…Send Me.” My prayer for all of you is that you will learn that – just as you are – the Lord has equipped you to be a part of his kingdom. And yes, He sees you just as He saw that kitten many years ago. You truly are that precious to Him.
Questions for Reflection:
- Consider donating one can of food to the Peace Center. Did you know that if every person in attendance at Capital Christian Center did just that, there would be well over 1,000 cans of food on its shelves?
- Pray to the Lord about how he might use you – in ways that seem great or small to you. What is one thing you are especially equipped to do that might be someone’s answer to prayer?
- Consider donating one hour of your time to a local gospel mission or something similar. Even dishwashers and greeters are greatly appreciated!
- Take a moment and thank the Lord specifically for how he has rescued you in life. Write down your prayer and tuck it away in a book. Re-read the prayer one year later.
- What is one creative (and safe) way that you could minister to those in need? Challenge yourself and see if you can figure out a way that costs less than $5 in today’s world. For example, a case of 24 water bottles costs – on average – less than $5. Perhaps driving around with one in your car and handing out water bottles as you go about your daily errands on a hot day is something that could work. Please be encouraged to share your ideas as well.
House of Worship: Capital Christian Center – Lacey, WA