Searching for the missing

Luke 15:1-10 Luke 15:1-10

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  Then Jesus told them this parable:   “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

It is easy to get caught up in the mindset of the Pharisees.  There is plenty of work to do within the church, to nurture the faith of those already here, to tend to their needs. We have people struggling with illness, with divorce and broken relationships, with alcoholism and drug dependency.  We have people getting married and starting new jobs.  We have people grieving losses and celebrating new beginnings right here in the local church.  Why search for more struggling, suffering people?

Churches are struggling, too.  They worry about paying their pastors and meeting their other financial obligations.  In the offices of the synod and AIEH, the service branch of the church here in Honduras, there is a lot of concern about money.  We talk about efficiency and cost effectiveness and sustainability of programs.  Can the church afford to spend the time, and energy and MONEY to go out and look for the lost?  Right here in the churches already existing there are buildings in need of repair, cars to maintain, past due bills at the pharmacy to pay.

And, in Honduras it takes a lot of effort to find the lost sheep. They live at the top of mountains, in tiny villages at the ends of nearly impassable roads.  These are the roads we must travel to meet people in the villages with tremendous needs, those lost to the world, living in hard core poverty, with incomes of less than $2 a day, those with large families who we say are subsistence farmers, but who are not subsisting on their tiny, overworked farms. Does God really expect us to reach THESE people over deeply rutted roads with washed out bridges and precarious drop-offs?   Surely we can’t be expect to minister to those village that are not even accessible by our 4 x 4 pickup, but only by horse or on foot?!

We met an amazing woman the other day, a physician Doctora Ruth, who works in the community of Yoro.  She is the doctor at a small clinic operated by the church.  Her monthly salary is around 3000 lempiras, about $160.  For each patient she sees she charges 30 lempiras, and keeps 20 for herself.  Thirty lempiras is $1.60.  If a patient can’t pay, she doesn’t charge them.  She gives away medicines she can’t afford to pay for, provides services for people who can offer her nothing but a smile and a thank you, and does it all with unfailing faith that it is what God has called her to do.  She tells of visiting a village accessible only by horseback, and of descending the mountain after seeing over one hundred people in this village, late at night, in the dark, on a horse.  She told us that she had to trust the horse to guide her down the mountain, and not over the edge of the mountain, because she couldn’t see the narrow pathway. 

Dra. Ruth also told about standing in sewer water for hours, providing health care and in so doing, bringing the gospel, to prisoners in the Yoro jail.  “I could smell that smell of dirty bodies, sewer water, and sweat for days afterwards,” she says.  “And, I had nightmares about the huge cockroaches and rodents crawling about.  But, these are men ready to hear the good news that God loves them and cares for them.  How can I refuse to visit them?” 

Dra. Ruth is a powerful witness to the gospel.  She works untiringly to find the lost, and to help them to know the love of God found in Jesus Christ.  And, in so doing, she herself experiences salvation.  “How can I refuse?” she asks. 

Jesus speaks to the Parisees, and through the parables to us today, of the need to seek after the lost in order for not only the lost sheep to be saved, or the lost coin to be found, but in order for us to experience salvation and the joy of discipleship.  When the lost is found, when men in horrible prisons or hungry children in remote villages are healed and cared for, we, the disciples of Jesus rejoice along with the angels.  In finding the lost, in taking the time to go out, to seek, to minister to the lonely, to tend the missing, to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, and to clothe the naked, we come to understand that each and every member of the all inclusive kingdom of God is just as important as every other member.  And, this includes you.  In this, we too experience the coming and present kingdom of God. 

Bruce and Linda Hanson,
Seth and Kesia  

Bruce and Linda Hanson are missionaries who serve with the Evangelical and Reformed Church of Honduras assigned to the Association of Evangelical Institutions of Honduras (AIEH). He serves in the health ministries as a nurse. Linda serves with her pastoral duties and also works as a physical therapist.