I want to tell you a story of a beautiful family I met while in Nigeria. I pray this story challenges you to listen more and speak less.
While in Nigeria, I went to help out in a hospital in Benin City. When we first got there, I made my way to the post-labor ward where a beautiful family changed me forever. As I walked into the room that day, the eyes of a young mother caught my attention and penetrated my heart. I knew something wasn’t right and behind her tired, depressed eyes, she had a story and I wanted to hear it. I made my way over to her and sat next to her on the hospital bed. And with a smile on her face, she placed her sweet baby boy in my arms. He was so beautiful. I held him for a second and prayed over his little body. But I immediately knew something was off. He seemed older than a newborn baby and questions in my head started to rise of why they both were still there? He seemed healthy and everything looked good. My NICU nurse started to kick in and I began to scan his body trying to figure out what could be wrong. His mother continued to sit next to me and I felt the Holy Sprit tell me to just listen. And so I looked her straight in the eyes and asked her to tell me her story. Her eyes said, “You want to hear my story?” I put my arm around her with reassurance that it was ok to talk. In that very moment tears fell from her eyes and she told me, along with my team, her story. She said she has been in the hospital for over 3 months, not because of any medical condition but because she couldn’t pay her bill. In Africa, if you can’t pay your hospital bill you are not allowed to leave because there is no social security or any way of keeping track of you. Therefore, you sit in a corner, with not much more than an old cot, and hope and pray that your husband doesn’t leave you and sticks by your side doing everything he can to earn an income so the bill can be paid. I had to fight tears as I held this beautiful mother in my arms. I could not come to terms with the fact that she has been living in this hospital for 3 months with a healthy infant because she didn’t have the $500 she needed to pay her bill. Depression covered her and her self-worth had left her. Scripture began to come to my mind and I was fully confident in the promises of my God: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps 147:3), “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29), “In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear” (Isaiah 54:14). I began to speak Isaiah 61:3 over her life that God can give her “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” I knew the worth of this woman and how much God so desperately loves her, how He has a plan for her life, and that even though it seems He has forgotten her, He is ever so close to her. With everything inside of me, I wanted her to know that.
For a moment, I stood up from the bed and gathered my team together. I knew God had invested the power within us to meet this need (Proverbs 3:27) and through Empty Bucket Ministries we were able to pay the rest of her hospital bill so she could take her baby home. As we told her the news, she fell to the ground at our feet in tears and thanksgiving. A few minutes later, her husband walked through the doors and upon hearing, “You are free to go with your wife and new baby boy,” he hit his knees and cried. He couldn’t believe it. He had just come in from a long day of working on the streets, trying his hardest to make any money that he could. He was lucky to make a dollar a day and had started to lose hope in ever getting his wife and baby boy out of the hospital. All he knew is how much he loved them and would continue to work with all his heart. That day I saw a man who loved his wife just as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). A man who would give up anything for her, fight for her, and never leave her side no matter the situation. It was a beautiful God-written love story right before my eyes. A REAL love, the way God intended it to be.
As I watched that family walk out of the hospital that day, a portion of scripture came to mind.
“Whatever is good and perfect comes down from the father, who created all the lights in the heavens, he never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word, and we out of all creation became his prized possession. Understand this, you must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires so get rid of all the filth and anger in your lives and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” – James 1:19-21
Everybody has a story to tell if we would just stop and take the time to listen. We need to be ‘quick to listen‘ and ‘slow to speak.’ As a follower of Christ, we need to realize and start believing that we are God’s ‘prized possession‘ and the word that God has planted inside of our hearts, has the power to save souls. Can you imagine if we all walked in this power? That POWER has been given to us and lives inside of us. God wants to use you and me to change the world. Through this family in a little city called Benin in Nigeria, Africa, God taught me the power and value of just listening. I realized that I didn’t have to have words to say but just a heart that wants to hear. A life can be changed by you simply taking the time to listen and allowing the power of God to work within you. You never know the need that God has placed before you to meet. Through obedience, this one family is living in the freedom and love of Christ. God placed them in our path to invest in them and meet their need. We did it for the ONE because Jesus would have done it for the ONE.
When people talk with you, do they feel like their words have value and that you are truly listening to what they have to say? Wherever you find yourself this week, take some extra time to listen and walk in the POWER that God has invested within you. Don’t pass the ONE by when you have the word of God planted in your heart that has the power to save their soul.