(The following is a transcript of Jeremy Courtney’s interview + Steve Carter’s “Just Show Up” message, all part two of Celebration of Hope 2017. The video is also available to you.)
H e a t h e r : Well, Jeremy, we are so glad that you’re here with us today. And I cannot wait for the congregation to get to hear more about you and about your family. Start off by telling us, how in the world did you end up in Iraq?
J e r e m y : Morning of September 11, 2001—like many of us in this room—I woke up to the news that America was under attack. And I don’t remember talking about Islam or terrorism on September 10th. In the last sixteen-some years since then, it doesn’t seem like we’ve stopped talking about Islam and terrorism and what that means for us and how we’re going to engage and relate to Muslims around the world, and... that day, the fork in the road of September 11th, I stood with two options in front of us—our family had two options in front of us. And I think a lot of you felt the same way. We could recoil into ourselves and into fear and get our fists up and take a very aggressive or defensive approach to what was happening to us. Or we could try, in the face of that fear, to try and follow Jesus and take Jesus seriously and see if there was a different way to live. And so, surrounded by people who were saying things like, “Bomb Afghanistan back to the stone age” and “Turn Iraq into a parking lot,” we, instead, gathered that night to pray for Osama bin Laden. And I think there’s just something about that defiance in the face of fear, that slight turning of our head, turning of our face toward a potentially more loving way forward, that, ultimately, over the next couple of years, landed us in Iraq, in the middle of the war, trying, again, just kind of one small step after another to take Jesus seriously. And it was that slight turning of the head, to pray for Osama bin Laden, that, ultimately, I think, landed us in Iraq a couple years later.
H e a t h e r : Wow. And your wife was okay with this—your wife actually wanted to move to Iraq?
J e r e m y : Oh, please. My wife is the driving force of this. I actually went into Iraq, in the middle of the war, and found myself surrounded by a situation I’d never seen before. I mean, this was a scouting trip, a vision trip of sorts. And so, I’m with a friend who’s kind of showing me the ropes. I’ve got a bulletproof vest on. We’ve got snipers and sentries on the wall protecting us in this small, little neighborhood inside a contested, conflict-ridden town. This machine-gun preacher guy that I’m with has like basically bought off the entire city block and said, “You’re gonna protect me.” And, day in and day out, he would bring in these amazing Iraqis who were telling me these stories that I’d never heard before. God was on the move in the middle of conflict in a way that I never imagined. They told me about visions of Jesus. They told me about their lives being transformed. They told me about healing. And I’d sit with them and hear their amazing testimonies—my life was boring outside of what was going on there—and I thought, This is so full of life. Never mind the bombs and the bullets. God is at work here. We’ve gotta move here. And then I’d leave these little living-room conversations we were having and go outside and see the bombs falling in the distance and feel the heat of an explosion on my face and see the snipers on the walls protecting us and thought, This is insane. We can never move here.
Went back out of Iraq to my home in Istanbul at that time. My wife was waiting up for me at three in the morning. And she said, “So? You’ve been like incommunicado in the war zone for a week now. What’s the story? Are we moving to Iraq or not?”
And I said, “It was amazing. God is on the move. You’ll never believe it. And we couldn’t possibly move there. I mean, 125º heat. No running water. No electricity. Bombs”—we had a one-year-old baby girl—“We couldn’t possibly move there.”
And she said, “Okay. Thank you for your trip report. We’ve been praying while you’ve been gone, and we’re moving to Iraq.”
H e a t h e r : That’s awesome. So you have two children now. What is it like for your kids growing up there?
J e r e m y : Well, it’s home for them. It’s really all they’ve ever known. This place that you guys have here—we’re American, but this place that you guys have here is like... all candy and Disneyland to them. This is not, this is not normal life. This is the place we come for vacation. Place we come to see the cousins. But Iraq is home. That’s where they’ve been raised. That’s where their friends are. They actually feel very uncomfortable here sometimes. They feel a level of suspicion about their friends, their Muslim friends. They feel a level of bigotry about people who have darker skin than they do, when they’re here, that they don’t understand. They’re, they’ve been kind of inoculated or... it’s foreign to them, some of the bigotry and the suspicion that they sense when we’re here. The political environment is foreign to them. And so they actually feel very uncomfortable here a lot of times. And they’re like, “I just wanna go be with our Muslim friends, and I don’t know why America seems to hate them so much.” So they’re kind of, they’re kind of trying to navigate that space, I think, right, now, as they grow up.
H e a t h e r : Yeah, it’s truly home for them.
J e r e m y : Yeah.
H e a t h e r : So, when your wife got her way, and you moved to Iraq, then you told me a story about a gentleman that you ran into in a coffee shop, and he told you about a little girl who needed a heart surgery. Tell us what happened.
J e r e m y : Yeah. So we’re in Iraq, in the middle of the war, and I’m working every day on my laptop at this little hotel café, and the chai guy approaches me and sets down my cup of tea and says, “Can I ask you a favor?”
And I said, “Sure.”
He said, “Well, you’ve been coming here for a while now, and I just wanted to let you know that my cousin has a little girl, she’s about yea big now, but when she was born, she was born with this huge hole in her heart. And after all these decades of war with Iran, and Sadam’s dictatorship, and U.N. sanctions against our country, and Al-Qaeda targeting our doctors and nurses, there’s not anyone left in Iraq who can save our life. You’re an American. You clearly came here to help us. We’ve talked about your faith. I’m just wondering, would you help... like, our family? Not just the Iraqi people, or not just war, but help us.”
So we threw in with that family to the best of our ability and tried to see what we could do to help this one little girl. Cousin dad comes to the hotel a couple days later, and when he rounds the corner into the café, he’s got his little girl at his side. And before they make it to my table, where I’m working, I’m a goner, you know? Looking at her big brown eyes, coming at me. There’s no way out, you know? I’m cornered. And they sit down, and she starts coloring on a napkin, and we try to kind of negotiate what’s going on. And this medical report says, “Hole in heart.” I’m not a doctor; I don’t know anything about how to help this girl. But that seemed relatively simple—if you have a hole, it needs to be patched up, I guess. And so we kind of set out, very trepidatiously, to see what we could do to help this one family. And we must’ve injected some hope into the community. Because, I think, cousin dad turned around and told the pediatrician’s office, “There’s a bald American who’s listening.”
And my phone started to blow up with calls. And taxi drivers started to bring strangers to my front gate. And they’d just shove their babies in front of my face and say, “Hello, mister. You help baby.” You know? And it was just amazing kind of moment where hope had arrived on the scene. We were so naïve. We had no idea what we were doing. And that was actually the recipe for success—for hope, at least, in some ways.
H e a t h e r : So you went down this whole path of helping with heart surgeries. But then a turn came. ISIS entered into Iraq and bombed Fallujah. You ended up being in the midst of devastation that still continues in many areas today. And we’ve got some images of what it was like and, really, what you still experience in the areas where you go. What’s it like to walk through a situation like this?
J e r e m y : Well, after that first, meeting that first little girl who needed a heart surgery... we weren’t an organization at that point. And we were surrounded by people who had this general posture of “Shoot first. Ask questions later.” Whether military or militia or Al-Qaeda—everyone was trying to protect themselves. And everyone was operating primarily from a place of fear—fear was driving the bus in a lot of ways. And, as a follower of Jesus, I was trying to figure out: Is that what I wanna do? Is that who we want to be as a family? We want to let fear be in the driver’s seat of everything? Is “Shoot first. Ask questions later” really the way to be? In the face of Al-Qaeda, in the face of war, in the face of all these things. And I didn’t know the answer, but, again, kind of naively, we just said, “What if, what if we try to love first, and ask questions later? What if we try to be the people who, instead of, like, get you before you get me, what if we dare to love you before you do anything to love me?” And that’s gotten us into a lot of holy trouble over the years. When ISIS then sprung up from inside Iraq, we were not powerless. We were not agency-less—we had agency over what was going to happen next in some ways. Because we had chosen that path. We had chosen to be a group of people who would dare to love into hard situations.
So ISIS comes on the scene. Overruns the city of Mosul, like we saw in Carlos’s video before. This is a little town called Sinjar, which is really ground zero for a group of ethnic-religious people called the Yazidi people. And, I mean, you walk in now and walk—this is a neighborhood, this is an entire neighborhood with multi-story houses that have just been blown up. Either from air strikes from above against ISIS, or ISIS’s own explosions from inside the town seeking to wipe out this people. And it’s a devastating scene to see a little plush toy in a kid’s living room right next to a family photo album right next to the dinner table that’s still completely intact, miraculously—you can just imagine these families having been here. So when we ask questions like: “Why are they trying to leave their country? Why do they wanna come here? Why aren’t they fighting for their homeland?” Take a walk. Take a walk through their neighborhood, take a walk through their living room, and it starts to become a little more understandable.
H e a t h e r : Wow. And in your world then, your work began to change as well. Going from focused on heart surgeries to, suddenly, the people around you were in need of food and shelter and safety. We’ve got this image of this little boy that just shows what was around you and how people were suffering. How did your work change at that point?
J e r e m y : For about eight years, we were focused on these kids who needed heart surgery. And then ISIS comes on the scene, overruns about a third of Iraq—it seemed like everyone was headed for the doors. I mean, if you had money to get out, you got out. Oil companies were pulling out all their workers. Aid organizations were actually leaving. Missionaries were leaving. We weren’t new on the scene. We weren’t itinerate people who worked on six-month contracts and then came back home. We hadn’t just been living in the Philippines, working on some other humanitarian crisis. This is home. This is... these people have become our people. This isn’t a project. It’s not even a job. This is like everything to us now.
And so... I think Newsweek ran a headline cover story that said, “The End of Iraq,” and had Iraq on fire. And we said, “I don’t think that’s true.” ISIS was marching its way toward Baghdad, consolidating its base in Syria. We took everything we had—all the money—and put it in the middle of the table and said, “We’re banking on the future of Iraq.” And so we pivoted hard, from heart surgeries and medical work, to trying to be a group of people who—what we’ve now come to describe as kind of “First in. Last to leave.” The first responders—when people are running away from violence, we’re trying to run towards the violence, in some ways, because we know there’s a lot of hurting there. We know there’s a lot of suffering there. And, quite frankly, the aid industry is broken. The aid industry is not set up to go toward violence. We talk a lot about displacement here this morning. The aid industry is set to sit on the sidelines, in many ways, and say, “If you can make your way out of violence and find your way to us, we’ll help you.” There’s not a lot of people running toward the violence to say, “If you’re caught up in conflict, we’ll help you.”
And so we’ve been trying to be “First in,” in a lot of ways. But “Last to leave” because this isn’t gonna be solved by handouts alone. So we show up on the front lines in Fallujah and Mosul and Aleppo and Idlib when there’s chemical attacks. And we’re handing out food. Flour. Lentils. Beans. Cheese. You know, to make sure to fatten people up who have been living under ISIS control for so long. And, in many cases, we’re showing up in a scene where they actually might suspect us as enemies. I mean, live under ISIS propaganda long enough—see ISIS rise up in part because of American military presence that set off a certain series of events and then withdrew and set off another series of events. I mean, they would be right to see us as their enemies. And so, to show up in that context, and offer food—but handouts alone aren’t gonna get the job done. And so we try to be last to leave, in the sense that we’re trying to set up long-term economic development—rebuild their infrastructure with them, alongside them. Set up jobs. Help them really stand on their own two feet and bring their communities back to life. We’re not the solution to their problems—they are. But they need us to stand alongside them and help them.
H e a t h e r : I know many of us have been really inspired by the long-term economic development that you are doing and the job creation. Willow has come alongside of you to partner in a number of ways. And one of those has actually been about soap making. So we wanna take just a minute, we wanna show you a video—we sent a crew out to be able to capture the story of what’s happening with soap making in Iraq. So take a look at this:
In 2014, Faris and his family of 14 were forced to flee their home in Sinjar, Iraq. Willow Creek’s Partner, Preemptive Love Coalition, is empowering him to rebuild his life.
“If you think ‘Refugee’ means ‘Weak,’ then you don’t know these men and women.”
—Ben Irwin, Preemptive Love Coalition
In the beginning, we were all just trying to help these displaced people, these refugees inside of Iraq, kind of get themselves settled, just so that they could survive with their children. The camps filled up really quickly. There just wasn’t enough room for all of the families. (Jessica Courtney, Preemptive Love Coalition.) At that point in time, it was just, “How do we survive?”
When we first met Faris, there were probably fifteen families living in that abandoned hotel. It was a really desperate situation out there. They’d like set up tents just on the floors, and living in very close proximity to one another. No matter what their family was trying to do to protect their children, to take care of their children, they really were just so helpless, you know? They were just at the mercy of everything around them.
The boys, they were just playing together. And they got too close to the stairs, and one of them just fell down four stories onto concrete. When he fell down the stairs, it was just kind of a wake-up call that something had to change.
We quickly found that these people had every capacity that they needed to be able to support themselves. And they actually wanted to support themselves. Most of the men are working these day jobs that are inconsistent. And the women were just trapped at home, but they wanted to do something to help their families as well. We had this idea of making soap. There’s actually been a soap shortage. We just realized they can do this, you know? If they can cook, they can make soap.
One of the things about Faris—and all of our soap makers, really—is that they wanna turn out the best product possible. In the summertime, our soap makers are outside gathering chamomile flowers and dry them on the roofs. They gather rose petals and dry them on the roofs. Faris especially is very inventive. And every time I go out to his house, he’s trying something new in the soap. He’s created the cinnamon soap. He also created the charcoal soap. And so soap, I think, has given him this outlet to be this person that he’s always wanted to be, that he’s known that he can be. And so, for his family now, he’s been able to take that role of providing, and just within a week of starting the business, they had earned almost all of their rent. And that’s what’s been paying the rent up to now. Every bar really does get these families closer to those goals of being able to just be independent and take care of themselves and rebuild their life here.
Every bar of soap provides hope.
H e a t h e r : I love that phrase: “Every bar of soap provides hope.” And we really wanted to be able to allow each of you here at Willow to be able to see firsthand what that is like. So we have for you today bars of soap as you head out. There’s a male version, for the men, it’s called Kinsman soap. For the women, it’s called Sisterhood soap. You can each pick these up. We ask just one per person as you head out today. But as we use these items, we really want it to be something that helps us to understand what’s going on with refugees around the world. So, Jeremy, help us to know, what is the impact that this bar of soap makes for a refugee family?
J e r e m y : I think we might have a photo of this woman who’s part of our soap-making program here as well, her name is Sozan. And all of this soap-making initiative really came out of Lynne coming and spending time with us in Iraq. And Aleppo, Syria is the traditional hub of soap making in the Middle East. And when Aleppo came under attack, and the soap makers were driven out, and the factories were destroyed, and we were trying to find a way to help refugees, Jessica had this idea of what if we help set up a soap-making initiative outside of Aleppo because they can’t live in Aleppo anymore? And the region actually is already set up to want this product. So we started working with Sozan and Faris, in the video, and others. Small, little like hundred-dollar investment to buy some olive oil, and to buy a couple of containers, and just these little, simple things—it’s really an investment of time and love more than anything. These are our friends. These aren’t some project; these aren’t refugees in some faceless sense. And so just, day after day, investing our lives in them—really, Jessica being on the front lines of this more than anyone. When Lynne met Sozan initially—when we met Sozan initially—I mean, she had been driven out of that destroyed town that I showed you. Her daughter—they had been driven up this mountain by ISIS, where they were stranded. You may remember, August 2014—stranded on this mountain for weeks. And starving, parched. Their daughter died—her daughter died on this journey. Women were literally throwing their babies off the mountain in an act of mercy to save their babies any more suffering. We found her right after that. And these small, little hundred-dollar investments—and slightly larger investments—in these communities have now brought, I mean, truly, this picture of her smiling is unimaginable to me the day we met her. And to see the way Willow’s investments in her and Lynne’s personal encouragement of us and helping us find our own way out of the trauma and see kind of a hope and a vision on the other side of things has really brought about so much impact. Faris now pays all of his rent, and they live in a home. Sozan and her family bought a car, and they can get around where they need to go. These kids are getting back in school. And it’s actually more than soap now. We’ve been able to expand into like their candle making and some other beautiful, beautiful projects. And so, you think, in the midst of such suffering, there can be nothing beautiful. There can be no hope. That’s sometimes how we’re conditioned to think. We work really hard to help them make these beautiful products to just remind that hope is never lost.
H e a t h e r : It is so inspiring to see how you’re bringing hope in the midst of what’s going on there in both Iraq and in Syria. And if you’re interested in hearing more about Jeremy’s story, he does have a book called Preemptive Love that’s available out in the lobby. You can also check out his website with that as well.
S t e v e
Hey, in our remaining moments together, I wanted to share with you a passage of Scripture that spoke to me a number of years ago. Kind of on the concept of compassion. What it means to be someone who is compassionate. And how we can engage here. Where we live. Today. And in this week.
But I wanna take you back to the Old Testament, where there was this king by the name of David. The most influential king in the Old Testament. There was this season, though, where he was betrayed. By a family member. By his son. And this son decided one day to go stand outside the city gates and begin to kind of steal the hearts of the Hebrew people. And he did. He didn’t just steal the hearts of the people; he actually took David’s closest strategic advisor. And, one day, this son said, “I’m going to take the throne from my father.” Which forced the king to leave his palace. And run for his life.
Some of the men of Israel—his soldiers—had his back and went with him. But most of them saw, man, that his son now had all the power. And they left David. They abandoned David. They forsook him and took off.
And so David’s running for his life. And you think it might be easy for a king to leave, but let me tell you—people, if you read through 2 Samuel—people were picking up dirt. They were like throwing stones. They were yelling obscenities at David. And David was weary; he was exhausted. Physically exhausted. Mentally exhausted. Emotionally exhausted. Spiritually exhausted.
And every moment that he came just to take a breath and begin to exhale, maybe get his thoughts together, the sounds of his son and the soldiers started to come. And so he had to get back and keep on running.
Friends, let me tell you that there are 65.3 million people on the run today.
This is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our day. And they are exhausted. Emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually running. 34,000 people each day are having to flee their homes, flee their cities, because of some form of conflict or persecution. Running. One out of every 113 people in our world is a refugee.
I mean, if you think, 34,000 every day? That means one person every 2.5 seconds is a refugee. And you might’ve seen images like this—thousands of people. Exhausted. Traumatic. Running. Hoping. Not sure where their next meal would go—come from. And they’re just running from place to place.
Some people who actually have money can actually pay $3,000 to get on a boat. But these people overcrowd the boats. Look at a little picture like this. And many of these boats are just capsizing. And then they’re just trying to swim. And what’s amazing to me is they get to the other side, and they’ve got nothing. Nothing.
They don’t know what is next. They don’t know who’s gonna show up for them. And this is exactly what David is experiencing. His son, and the men of Israel, they’re chasing after David. And they find themselves in this little city. They’re out in the wilderness. It’s dark. It’s scary. It’s unknown. And they are exhausted. But something happens.
The Scriptures tell us that three guys show up. Now, these three guys’ names. The first guy’s name is Shobi. The second guy’s name is Makir. And the third guy’s name is Barzillai. Such great names.
Now, these three—I need you to understand this—they are not Israelites. They’re not Hebrew people. They’re foreigners. They each come from a different city in a different land. They are strangers. And there’s no reason why they should be helping out David. When you just read it in the text, you’re wondering, Why? Why would they help David?
Because they can understand that David’s son has all the power. David’s son is about to steal the kingdom from David. So they’re not actually kind of helping to think that David’s gonna have some opportunity to come back. There’s some kind of growing compassion that stirs within these three. And in 2 Samuel chapter 17 verse 28, look at what the Scriptures say, that these three, “They brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, ‘The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.’”
These three saw that, man, David and his men, they’re just exhausted. They’re hungry. They’re thirsty. They’re in the wilderness. They’re in this season of unknown. We have to show up for them.
My question for you is: Who are you showing up for? Are there people in your life who are deeply exhausted—who feel as if they are in the wilderness of their own life. And are you showing up for them? These three, they believed completely, radically different views on God than David did. And they still showed up. They still showed up.
I started to think about all the stuff that these three brought. So I went to the Jewel-Osco locally. And I started to like, just, take my Bible and start to think through, okay, so these three, they brought bread, which would’ve been awesome. They brought some butter, some Earth Balance Original. They brought some green beans. They brought some sheep meat, which would be lamb, which is just fantastic. They brought some flour, the Scripture says. They brought some cheese, which is always good. They brought some lentils—fantastic. They brought some barley—never had that before. They brought some honey, which is awesome. And then, it says that they brought curds, but I’m not sure what curds are, so I did find some frozen cheese curds.
So I have this moment where I’m just sitting here thinking about this. When you don’t know when your next meal is gonna come from, and then three foreigners show up, who believe something radically different than you, and they set the table, and they bring bedding, blankets, and pottery... and food. And they show up for you.
I think, oftentimes, we show up in the bare minimum. Maybe with just a little text: “Praying for ya.” But these guys, at a risk to themselves, at a risk to their future, show up and they bring something that’s gonna cost them something, and they share a meal with David and his men.
What’s amazing is... one of the greatest Psalms that were ever written; David pens Psalm 23. And there’s this verse from it, you might remember this. David says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” And the scholars believe that David writes that line remembering his time on the run.
When you begin to read 2 Samuel 17 and 18, this meal actually strengthens David. And in this, the whole story begins to change. It’s almost as if David’s reminded that God showed up for him through these three—that God provided for him when he was exhausted. That God showed Himself to be so kind and generous even in the unknown, even in the wilderness.
And you gotta understand that compassion, it’s a beautiful word to the Hebrew people. It actually comes from the word “womb.” And the thought is, is that when we are compassionate, we actually care for what God has birthed into the world. So every time that you show up for someone, it showcases your compassion—that you care for what God has created. And every time we choose not to show up, we choose to not actually provide opportunities to sit and listen and give... what’s it saying? We somehow don’t care for what God has birthed into this world.
Some of us are like, “Well, I can’t show up because that person doesn’t believe like I believe.” It breaks my heart. I look in this story, and I go, “Man, these three, they didn’t believe what David believed. But they showed up.” God can work in incredible ways.
Let me just quickly ask you: Do you care what God has birthed into this world?
Who are you showing up for?
If you’re like me, you’re wondering: Why did these three show up? Like, why were they compassionate? It’s amazing is, when you flip through 2 Samuel, you begin to understand some of the backstory. Shobi—his father was a king. The king of the Ammonites. And his father passes, and so he hands the kingdom to the eldest brother, and the eldest brother was a tyrant. And David sent some soldiers out to go, kind of congratulate, almost like the president calling another president to congratulate them on their new victory. And when these men show up, David’s men, this tyrant leader shaves half of their beards off and basically rips off their pants and sends them back to go see David—humiliated. But Shobi, when David’s on the run, when he’s fleeing for his life, he shows up. Why? I think he shows up because he’s trying to tell David, “I am not like my brother.”
Maybe for some of you, you come from very judgmental families. Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re like, “I’m not like them, I promise.” Maybe you’ve been, had, like, conversations where someone’s like, “Oh, I don’t believe that about God.”
And you’re like, “No, no, no, I don’t even—I don’t either. That’s not my God. My God is gracious. My God is filled with truth. My God is unconditionally loving humanity. That’s who my God is.”
And I think, in Shobi, he’s just saying to David, “By showing up with compassion, I want you to know my values and my beliefs are different. I am not like my brother.” Maybe, for some of you, that’s where that holy discontent, that picture of compassion is birthed, because you have seen it done poorly all around you. And you’re like, “No, no, no, when I read the Scriptures, and I wanna take the life of Jesus seriously, I have to show up.” Is that you? You got a little Shobi in you. I love it!
Now, the second one. Makir. Why does Makir show up? He comes from this city called Lo-debar. And Lo-debar in Hebrew means “No thing.” Like, nothing good comes from that city. In California, that was the city of Fresno. Now, what’s amazing, though, is you go, why does he have compassion? Well, one day, years and years ago, David had this whisper and this prompting from God, where he basically pulled all of the servants and leaders together and goes, “Hey, the former king—king Saul. Are we sure that there is nobody still left in his family? Because I wanna just bless them; I wanna take care of them.”
And one of the servants says, “Well, there is one—his grandson.”
David’s like, “His grandson? I don’t even know about this guy. What do you mean?”
Well, this grandson, when Saul was killed, and Saul’s son, Jonathan, was killed, the family felt like they had to flee. And so the nanny picked up this five-year-old and began to run with this child, fleeing for their life, but tripped and fell right on this child, basically breaking the legs of this child, and this child became paralyzed. And from then on, everywhere he went, he had to be carried around. And so they brought him to this city, Lo-debar, where everyone goes who does not have anything.
David hears about this, he goes, “Are you kidding me?! Bring him to my house. Bring him to my table. Let him sit around. I will show him God’s kindness.” And you know who was the caretaker of this child? Makir. So why does Makir show up for David? Cause David showed up for this child that he loved and adored. For some of you, compassion is birthed cause you see it in your family, not a great example, and you’re like, “No, no, I’m not like them—I gotta show you what the text says.” But some of you are more like Makir, and you have experienced the gift of somebody showing up for you, and you’re like, “That is how we are called to live, and I’m gonna do it for somebody else.”
For some of you, when you were exhausted, when you were in the wilderness, when you were hungry, when you were thirsty, when you—mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually—had nothing, were at the end of your rope, somebody showed up for you. And, in that, you were like, “I just have to do this. I gotta pay it forward. I gotta be Jesus. I gotta do this.”
But Barzillai. What about him? Why does he show up? When you read 2 Samuel, you find out he’s eighty years old. And he’s very wealthy. And scholars believe that he had been afflicted with affluence, and he was an incredible entrepreneur—incredible business person. And many believe that he flipped the bill for all of the provisions. He paid for it all. And for some of you, God has blessed you in profound and real, tangible ways. And maybe compassion is going, “You know what I know how to do? I actually know how to bless other people.”
And as you walk through the lobby, you feel your heart being stirred. And you kinda go, “Man, if I just spent this much money this week in a gift next week at this offering, I could bless Guatemala. Or I could bless some partner churches in Iraq. Or I could do some incredible things to help our world. For some of you, it’s around the blessing that God has given you, and you know that God has given you this heart of compassion to care what He’s birthed into the world because He’s blessed you with resources.
Some, He has blessed you with an experience, where someone has showed up for you. And for some, you’re like, I just can’t stay on the sidelines, I am not like my family, or I’m not like that example. I wanna take Jesus seriously. Who are you in this story? Why do you show up? Why are you compassionate? Which one of these three are you?
And my hope is, that this week, God would begin to whisper and prompt you with opportunities to show up, to be compassionate, to put yourself out there, to risk. To go, kind of, farther than you even think is possible. Maybe for people who don’t think or believe or act any way in which you do. But because you know what’s right.
And I love our church because we’re gonna give you some incredible opportunities. I mean, right after this service, you could go pack seeds. That’s one unique, very tangible opportunity to bless partners all throughout the world. Or even next week—you have a chance to actually run for refugees. And I wonder, how many of you are going to show up? And some of you are like, “Well, I don’t run a five-minute mile—it’s a race. I just want—” No. Who cares. Walk. Pray with every step. Stand in solidarity with so many other people who are running for their lives. Get a sense of what that must be like. Pray for that. Show up for that. Register for that.
And let’s make a statement to the world that, man, we are a church that shows up—we care about the things that God has birthed into this place and into this world. And then, next week, we’re gonna give you the chance to actually remember the ways that God has blessed you, and to begin to kind of take a special offering to showcase that generosity, cause God’s been so compassionate and kind to you. And it might mean for you to look at your budget and say, “You know what? Alright. I’m gonna do away with lattes and eating out and this pair of shoes that I really want because I actually wanna show up well.” But how are you gonna show up this week?
I think we are the kind of people that want to be compassionate. That wanna be like those three that showed up for David. Who wanna prepare people a table to kind of receive the gift and the beauty and the power of God’s presence. But it requires you to show up. Who’s showing up this week? You gonna do it?