World Vision U.S. president Rich Stearns and his wife, Reneé, released two new books last week! He Walks Among Us: Encounters With Christ in a Broken World is a book of devotionals, and God’s Love For You is a Bible storybook for kids.
Today, Rich describes the journey of writing these books and his encounters with God during his travels all around the world with Reneé and World Vision.
* * *
When was the last time you experienced a holy moment? At our annual Day of Prayer, which begins our fiscal year, speaker and author Gordon McDonald asked us that question. We need to encounter God in those special ways.
One place where I can expect to discover God is when I visit World Vision projects around the world. One thing we learn about Jesus in the Gospels is that he identified with the poor and downtrodden. So, I guess it makes sense that if we want to find Jesus, we should look for him among the poor.
This week my wife Reneé and I published two books together, a devotional called He Walks Among Us and a children’s book, God’s Love for You Bible Storybook. Each book tells the stories of the holy moments we have experienced while visiting World Vision projects around the world. Together, Reneé and I have been to dozens of countries and seen how World Vision is working on behalf of children, their families, and their communities. We have learned that God is present, and he is at work in our world.
I think of Joel, a dentist on a boat traveling the Rio Negro in Brazil. Joel shared his infectious smile and his love for Jesus with children up and down the river. After Joel finished working on each child’s teeth, they not only shared his smile, but Joel had helped to make it a beautiful one. The joy Joel shared with those children was a demonstration that God was there.
I think of Htun Htun (pronounced Tun Tun) Win from Myanmar. He was born with a deformed spine in a very poor family. His deformity led to paralysis, incontinence, and open wounds. Unable to care for him, Htun Htun’s family abandoned him to the streets. It was there where a World Vision team caring for street children found him. After surgeries and care, Htun Htun joined the children’s choir. As we watched them perform, the children wheeled this little boy, still a frail figure, to the front of the stage. And then he sang in the most hauntingly beautiful voice. We were in tears, and once again I saw that God was there, amid the pain of deformity and rejection.
He does indeed walk among us. We see him, as Mother Teresa said, “in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
Day to day, we don’t always see when God is present in our lives. We read stories in the Bible of how God rescued Noah or miraculously provided food during a famine, but we don’t always see God at work in our lives in the same way.
As Reneé and I talked about writing this Bible storybook, I realized that God is as present and active in our world now as he ever was. Today, when communities are ravaged by flood, God is present. When famine strikes, God is there, often through the hands and feet of his people. As Gordon McDonald reminded us, we can discover those holy moments when God is with us.
As we look ahead to the Christmas season, we remember that God came in the “distressing disguise” of a poor little baby born in a manger. And he is still in this world. He is with us as the Holy Spirit. In a different way, he is in the face of the poor. And he is working through our hands when we provide a cup of water for the thirsty or a loaf of bread for the hungry.
I am thankful for World Vision supporters who are helping to make God present to a person in need. May God be with you.
You’ll find He Walks Among Us and God’s Love For You available for purchase through your favorite book vendors at Rich Stearns’s website, along with his other books, Unfinished and The Hole In Our Gospel.