I met James a few weeks ago as he was going church to church asking for help. James was not asking for help for himself but rather for a Christian drug rehab ministry in a small house on a dusty street in Juarez. On his belt were key chains he had made that he sold on the streets of downtown El Paso, and he carried a small bag filled with snacks he also peddled to make ends meet. James ran this ministry on a shoe string and a big heart.
James is a tall African-American from my hometown of Fort Worth. He says God called him to come to Juarez to make a difference in people’s lives even though he speaks little Spanish and has no formal theological education nor training in rehab. Yet, this gentle giant of a man has an infectious smile and a heart as big as gold. Clearly he loves Jesus, and he loves people.
Yesterday James dropped by to pick up a ministry funding check. Our church agreed to join him in his work, and after yesterday’s conversation I am a bit embarrassed at how little we gave. As we were awaiting on the paper work of a large church bureaucracy, James shared about the events of the weekend. Just a few blocks from his rehab center two other rehab centers were shot up by gunmen. The gunman simply walked in and opened fire. The assassins killed four and wounded a number of others.
As James spoke of the shootings, I feared for him. He assured me I had no need to worry because God would protect him as he slept in a small walk in closet behind the only locked door in the house. Instead of making plans to pick up and head for a safer assignment, James would go back “home” and settle in for the night.
The Psalmist wrote:
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me? (Psalm 118:6)
The longer I live in El Paso and befriend those who serve across the river, I realize I am a member of a Kingdom that I don’t know much about. In the affluent safety of the West our definition of courage and abandonment are quite lame when measured up against the real deal.
Sebastian Junger in his book entitled “War” revealed a military study of courage and opened my eyes to its mystery.
What the Army sociologists, with their clipboards and their questions and their endless metanalyses, slowly came to understand was that courage was love. In war, neither could exist without the other, and that in a sense they were just different ways of saying the same thing.
Courage is love, and love is courage. I suspect the most courageous among us are those who experience the love of Christ the deepest, love Christ with abandonment, and love others as themselves.