Matthew 10:37-39 – Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (NIV)
This past January, a group of college students and adults from our church went to Cite Soliel in Porte au Prince, Haiti, to build houses for two homeless families. Cite Soliel is the worst slum in Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It abounds in poverty, hunger, dirt and all the other aspects of human misery. It is about as far removed from the comfortable, middle-class existence of suburban North American life as one can imagine. Yet, in listening to the group talk of their experiences, one heard little about the hard work and discomfort, but much about the joy of playing with the children, the satisfaction of having helped others in need, and, above all, the love they shared with the Haitian people.
One story in particular stood out. One the young ladies spoke of her doubts about going on the trip, since it was during Christmas break. Her friends, whom she had not seen since the beginning of school, were planning a skiing trip to celebrate the holidays. If she went to Haiti, she would miss this opportunity to be with them, to catch up on what they had been doing and generally to have a good time. In place of getting together with old friends, she was going to a strange and unpleasant land to do dirty manual labour. However, having "sacrificed" a guaranteed good time with friends for toiling in slums of Haiti, she had an unforgettable experience that she would remember and treasure for the rest of her life. It was a decision she had no regrets in making.
This is what our faith is all about. Christianity, to use my grandmother's favourite expression, is a hard row to hoe. It calls us to make sacrifices — some great, some small — sacrifices which others often do not understand or accept. Yet with each sacrifice comes an even greater reward — as these students learned in Haiti.
Prayer: Gracious Lord, grant us the courage to take up our cross each day, and to make the sacrifices necessary to follow You, knowing that in doing so we gain the greatest gift of all. Amen.