— Going And Doing Likewise
by Vicki Penwell
published in Equipping the Saints magazine 4th quarter 1995
On one occasion, an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus with a question ( Luke 10:25-37). The ensuing dialog reverberates down through time to where we live today, and continues to send shock waves through the lives of all who dare to obey the answer Jesus gave in response.
The original question was about eternal life. Jesus responded with a command to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind; and love our neighbor as ourself. To illustrate, he told the story of the good Samaritan, defining the neighbor as the one who had shown mercy. He then gave the mandate to “Go and do likewise.”
What does it look like today when a people take seriously that command to “Go and do likewise”? The Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Northeast El Paso has taken that challenge to heart. In 1995 we established the Vineyard School of Missions here on the border of Texas and Mexico. The school’s focus is on equipping the saints to meet the unique problems and desperate felt needs of poor people in underdeveloped nations.
In order to walk like the Samaritan, we have to first look closely at the story and answer some questions of our own.
Who is my neighbor?
Jesus’ definition of “neighbor” is quite simple: A neighbor is anyone we meet who is in need. Rhona was nearly dead when we found her, a three-week-old infant curled up in the dark corner of a filthy hovel in Manila. She had never eaten and was starving to death, unable to move a muscle. Her parents, who had other hungry children and no money for a doctor, had given up. Our medical mission team took her to live with us in our clinic, and for months we nursed her back from the brink of death.
Not all needs are as urgent and extreme as baby Rhona’s, but we meet neighbors everyday with felt needs of one kind or another.
Where do I find him?
Many Christians avoid ever walking the roads in life where hurting, beat-up people may be found. Others see the bleeding stranger by the road, but they, like the priest and the Levite, pass by on the other side. In sharp contrast are those disciples of Jesus who purpose to walk with their eyes open to the suffering around them, making it a priority to stop and rescue along the way. My friend Raquel, who has been all over the world using primary health care to serve the poor, was once asked why she traveled to the most beautiful and exotic places on earth and always ended up on the local garbage dump!
In a recent study of people who risked their lives to help Jews during the holocaust, the researchers found that these people didn’t just happen upon opportunities to rescue; they went looking for them. They believed in social responsibility, and found the moral courage to ignore the danger and do what was right.
Our church establishes clinics in desperately poor areas of the world. We operate one in a gang and drug infested neighborhood in Juárez, Mexico, and another one in a squalid squatter area of Davao, Philippines. We coordinate short-term medical mission outreaches into far-distant slums and garbage dumps in Asia, and give food and clothes away in nearby areas of poverty in El Paso and Juarez.
Some Samaritan encounters are well planned and organized. Others are spontaneous. The other day I was buying ice at a local grocery store and I met a family of migrant farm workers in the parking lot. Through talking with them, I found that they hadn’t eaten in two days and had no gas to get to the next town. So I bought them lunch and gave them gas money. Across the world or across the street, opportunities to be a Samaritan are everywhere, if our eyes are open.
How do we help?
If we are going to help, we need to know how. What are the steps?
1. Stop The first step is to simply stop when faced with human suffering. The Samaritan was different from the others because he did not pass by on the other side. He did not shrink from touching the wounds.
Recently a young lady told me how surprised she was the first time she went with us to Juárez and saw us stopping in the street and reaching out the van window to hand money and sandwiches to the beggars. She said “I’ve always been taught to just look the other way.” Her words really touched me, because there was a time I used to just look the other way, too. It is so much more comfortable to not make eye contact with that street person holding the sign, or to ignore pleas for help from far-off missionaries. Often we are moved to sorrow but not to action. This is the line we must cross to become like the Samaritan. 2. Have compassion as our motivation. The Samaritan was drawn to the side of the beaten traveler by God-given compassion, not by any hope of personal or monetary gain. He was not motivated by a need for gratitude or earthly recognition.
Compassion is like faith, it grows larger each time we use it. It is a gift from God, and I pray for more of it all the time. I also pray for pure motives. Rescuing is something we do because we are so very in love with Jesus.
One thing I like about the Samaritan is that we don’t even know his name, and there is no record that he was ever thanked for his deed. He remains a nameless, faceless person, known but to God. That may not seem fair until you consider how awesome it would be if Jesus were telling a story about mercy and used an example from your life to illustrate it! What a priceless honor.
3. Be prepared to spend time and money The Samaritan was going somewhere when he saw the beat up stranger by the road. He chose to allow himself to become inconvenienced. This is what giving up our rights is all about — a willingness to be inconvenienced for the gospel. Later he spent not just his time but his money to insure the man would have a place to receive proper food and rest while recovering. It is significant to note that he put no limit on how much it might cost him.
Many of us may be willing to go, but not too far, to stop and help, but not for too long, to give, but not too much. How God must long to use us to demonstrate His immeasurable, limitless mercy to a broken and dying world, if only we would trust Him to go as far as He wants to take us.
4. Be equipped to meet the need Every day 40,000 children under the age of five die due to preventable and treatable causes. One out of every ten babies born in the third world will not survive to the age of five, and if his mother dies in childbirth, a tragic and all too common occurrence, his chance of survival is poorer still. Even in the United States, a wealthy nation by all measures, the infant mortality rate is double for black babies what it is for whites. Low birth weight, a result of malnutrition in the womb, is our number one birth defect.
Our global neighbor’s children are dying unnecessarily at alarming rates, and if we believe the Bible, we must be willing to do something to rescue them. But how do we meet this enormous challenge? How do we take the ancient Biblical story of the Samaritan and put it into practical application?
The Samaritan wasn’t a doctor or religious leader. He was an ordinary man, but somewhere along the way he had been trained in the first aid of his day. Looking at the story from a medical perspective shows the wisdom of the Samaritan’s actions. Wine was probably the best available antiseptic and cleansing agent for open wounds. Oil was a practical pain reliever having quick acting analgesic properties. Bandaging continues today to be an important means of preventing infection and speeding healing.
The Vineyard School of Missions accepts Christians with no medical background and teaches them how to prevent and treat the common causes of life-threatening illness among the poor. Basic training in health care is incorporated into our three month church-based mission preparation school. And since women and babies are often the ones most affected by poverty, we also offer an advanced 15 month degree-granting midwifery program.
Groups like World Health Organization and UNICEF have found that you don’t need eight years of medical school to meet over 90% of the world’s health needs. A basic course like ours in primary health care is enough to save the majority of children’s lives now being lost.
Student midwives and primary health care workers from the school work and train beside us in the clinics in Mexico and the Philippines, serving the poor and walking out the gospel at the very rawest level. Faced with patients living in the most abject poverty, they are learning Biblical rescue, offering love and dignity, medical attention, food, clothing, and the greatest gift of all, an introduction to Jesus.
This takes us to our next point:
The great commission is tied to the Samaritan commission.
When Jesus left this earth, he gave his disciples this command. “Go ye into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15) and “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19)
In setting up the Vineyard School of Missions we meditated on the words Jesus used in giving the great commission. In Mark 12:28 Jesus said there is no commandment greater than to love God and love our neighbor. What better thing could we teach missionaries than this?
Recently our church planted a church in the nearby town of Chaparral, New Mexico. Acts of mercy and servant evangelism were the building blocks of the new church plant. In Chaparral they give away free clothes, throw parties in the parking lot of the one store on main street, and at Thanksgiving they fed three hundred people in the public school gymnasium.
The Chaparral Vineyard has a food bank that is well known in their community of mostly poor families. In addition to giving out food, church members learned how to weigh babies and children under five years of age, thereby identifying undernourished children. Mothers return each month to mark their child’s progress on a growth chart, and at a glance we can see if the child is gaining or losing weight. At another station students from the mission school take blood pressures and give basic health and nutrition advice. Best of all, we have an excuse to touch these beautiful indigent people. Now more than ever they are asking for prayer as well as food.
The response to this church plant has been phenomenal. They started with forty core members and in two months have grown to over one hundred members. It really is true that people want to know about Jesus only after they know that you care about them. Often the “good news” has to be spoken first with action.
Missions, mercy and church planting
Every Wednesday for the past two years we have held a clinic for pregnant mothers and sick children in Juarez. We start off in the morning with a health teaching. The mothers eagerly watch while the mission school students act out skits designed to teach them how to keep their kids alive and healthy. The kids laugh and clap when puppets and silly actors direct messages at them. Since the leading cause of death among children in Juárez is diarrhea, our teachings are often on prevention through breast-feeding, hand washing and home hygiene, and how to make a simple salt, sugar and water drink to prevent fatal dehydration. Later, while the doctor and midwives see patients one at a time, a care group is held for those waiting, complete with Spanish worship, a message, and prayer and ministry time. Many have come to the Lord and been discipled in this group. One of the families will soon begin a home care group of their own.
When we first began working in this colonia we noticed that the norm was for the boys to be in gangs and the girls to be pregnant by the age of 13 or 14. We developed a children’s church as an early intervention, to introduce these impoverished Mexican children to Jesus. Lately two of the 12-year-old drug dealers are coming to color and sing about Jesus each week with us, and for a few hours we get to love on them and treat them like the little boys they still are.
Malnutrition in the pregnant women and young children is one of the worst problems we face, so we began a feeding program. At noon we serve a hot lunch of beans, rice and tortillas, or a nutritious soup, to the hundred or so people that attend. Pregnant moms take home a bag of “vitamins” for the growing baby within: eggs, milk, beans and rice.
Half of the people who now come to the clinic on Wednesdays come even when their children are not sick. A church plant in this community is the next step, one we are praying over and working towards.
Through the mission school we’ve been able to take the Vineyard value of mercy one step farther by adding the health care component. Our stratagy is to build models for modern day Samaritan encounters, with the goal of combining mercy, missions, and church planting. One of our present models is our birthing center and malnourished children’s home in Davao, Philippines. Others include our clinic in Juárez, Mexico, and our church plant in New Mexico. We are “going and doing likewise” for the kingdom of God in areas of our world that are near, far, and very far away, simultaneously.
Do it unto Him
After being born again and choosing to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, the next question awaits an answer in each of our lives: “Who is my neighbor?”
In Matthew 25 Jesus tells us if we have fed the hungry, given the thirsty a drink, invited the stranger in, given clothes to the naked, helped the sick and visited the prisoner, we have done it unto Him.
Find the “least of these” among you and treat him like Jesus, for this is pure worship unto God, and in so doing you will have fulfilled the greatest commandment of all.