The Most Valuable Thing You Possess (excerpt from Unfinished)

Last Tuesday, Rich Stearns -- president of World Vision U.S. and best-selling author of The Hole in our Gospel -- launched his second book: Unfinished: Believing Is Only The Beginning.

Below is our second excerpt from the book, which explores God's plan for the world and how each and every one of us is called to a unique role in that mission.

Miss our introduction to the book last Tuesday? You can check it out here.

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What is the most valuable thing you possess? Would you be willing to offer it to Jesus?

I’d like you to really stop and think about this for a moment because the answer to this question has profound implications for your walk with the Lord. This most valuable possession might be something you own: a home, a business, or a treasured possession. It might be your accumulated wealth or a six-figure income. It could also be your career, your position, your accomplishments, or your credentials. It may be your reputation, your self-image, or your sense of identity.

Christians can so easily fall into the trap of spiritual identity theft, letting ourselves be defined by what we do or what we own instead of by the One we follow. Jesus understood the idols of the human heart: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). The call to follow Jesus is a call to lay down our lives and everything in our lives that might compete with our commitment to follow him. It is a sacrificial call to lay down the most valuable things we possess at Jesus’ feet.

I recently met a young woman who taught me a profound lesson about sacrificial love. Reneé and I traveled to Cambodia in February 2012 to see the work that World Vision was doing in the area of human trafficking and what we call child protection. Thousands of children in Cambodia, often because they are poor, are funneled into the sex trade to literally become slaves. I will not soon forget the 22-year-old woman Reneé and I met there. I will call her Ruse -- not her real name -- to protect her identity.

Ruse had spent three years trapped in a Cambodian brothel before being rescued and sent to World Vision’s trauma recovery center in Phnom Penh. This is where these broken children are taken to heal and to be restored. World Vision’s trauma counselors try to put these girls back together one piece at a time, like beautiful vases that have been shattered. There were more than 30 girls in recovery there at the time of our visit, some as young as 8 years old.

Rich Stearns, along with his wife, Reneé, daughter Grace, and World Vision staff members meet and pray with Ruse, a graduate of the World Vision trauma recovery center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Photo: Jon Warren/World Vision)

Ruse’s story was both heartbreaking and inspiring. The eldest of three children, Ruse grew up in a family that was extremely poor. Her father had abandoned them, and when Ruse was just 13, her mother became seriously ill and needed medical care. But there was no money. Ruse had a neighbor who knew a brothel owner who would pay a lot for a young virgin, and she approached Ruse and her mother with a terrible proposition: Sell your virginity and save your mother.

You see, there are men -- often American or European men -- who will pay a great deal to have sex with a young girl, especially a virgin. Virginity is the most expensive prize in the sex-trade business. A night with a virgin might be sold for more than $1,000, while a night with a non-virgin would bring only $5.

As Ruse told us her story that day, she said something I will never forget: “My virginity was the most valuable possession my family had.” Can you try to imagine being so poor and desperate that you would actually count your daughter’s virginity as the most valuable asset your family owned? Thirteen-year-old Ruse was confronted with a terrible choice. These were her exact words to us: “I finally decided to sell my virginity because I wanted my mother to be healthy and I wanted to help my family’s living conditions to be improved so that we could have enough food to eat. My two younger siblings were so small, as I am the oldest daughter, and I had to do whatever I could to help my family.”

And so Ruse sold herself for $400 and spent the next three years in a brothel, having sex with more than 700 men a year. I find great poignancy in this story of a young girl who loved so much that she would give herself to save her mother and her siblings. This is the same kind of love that Christ lavished on us: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

What is the most valuable thing that you possess? And would you be willing to offer it to Jesus? This call to follow Jesus requires that we first lay down our treasured possessions in his service.

Ruse was rescued and restored by what I would describe as a veritable bucket brigade of Christian love. She was first rescued by the International Justice Mission in a brothel raid. Then she was initially received by another Christian organization called World Hope before being transferred to World Vision’s trauma recovery center. After two years of loving care and healing from her trauma in a safe environment with loving counselors, Ruse was ready to move on.

Today she has a small apartment and a job as a nanny. She is now raising her younger brother and sister, the ones for whom she sacrificed her most valuable possession. She also has committed her life to Christ and is being discipled at a local Baptist church. Ruse is an example of the great “rescue mission of God” in action, the one that we have been invited to join. For this young girl the kingdom of God had come near, and she had become one of its newest citizens.

Unfinished is now available. Order your copy today at Barnes & Noble or Family Christian!

Learn more about Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S.

If you're Ruse's story moved you, consider making a one-time donation to World Vision's Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls Fund. Your gift will help prevent abuse and restore physical and spiritual health to rescued girls by providing things like safe shelter, medical care, nutritious food, vocational training, compassionate counseling, and when possible, reintegration with a loving family.


    I am very unfinished, a pilgrim on its journey. I read "A Hole In Our Gospel" and read "Unfinished" today. Both tremendously valuable, moving. Two questions- If the church is to lead, to be our fortress, our community and they've failed in its mission (love the analogy to M&Ms- priceless. I refer to them as CINOs -Christian in name only) shouldn't focus START with World Christian Leaders to "lead", walk the walk. Start calling out the hypocrites (scribes, high priests, etc.). Secondly the bible instructs us to be patient- is it possible God wants Christians to be patient and allow God's miracles to slay the wicked; allow the evil to self-destroy. Sometimes God destroys all (sinners, deniers, false prophets) and lets future generation (unblemished) enjoy bounty. Many empires self-implode, by their own doing.

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