Maybe it was the sorrowful tones of Bruce Cockburn as he mourned the victims of yet another useless war. Perhaps it was the way the naked sun bathed my daughter's skin in warm afternoon light as she slept in her mothers arms in seat 21F. No doubt the two hours of sleep that I had stitched together throughout the previous 26 hours of airports and airplanes and taxis and datelines was a contributing factor. Whatever the source of my melancholy, it's interesting that it didn't strike me until we reached the shores of Mindanao.
As we flew over the beaches, and then the mountains and rivers of this majestic island, I found myself welling up with emotion. What I was feeling was not what I had expected. The moment was not one of sadness at the fact that I had just left Canada for yet another year. Nor was I suddenly overjoyed at the prospect of returning to my home of two years, though they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and ten weeks is plenty of absence. One could certainly be caught up in the wonder of God's creation, but that wasn't it either.
No, this feeling was catching me entirely by surprise: Regret. Don't misunderstand me. I don't regret giving up my life in Canada for a life of adventure in the Philippines. Neither do I regret taking an extended vacation that spanned three countries, three states, and two provinces and saw us board 12 different planes in 10 weeks.
I was regretting the fact that I haven't done enough to make an impact in this place. We've been in Davao City for two years now, and I feel as though I haven't done much. I don't deny that the water project has had an impact. Our water filters are being used by at least 35,000 people and that's nothing to sneeze at. And yet I can't think of many that I've impacted personally—people that have been exposed to the intense love of God as a direct result of interaction with me.
Heidi Baker challenges us to "stop for the one" in front of us. Indeed, Jesus' ministry was imbued with this concept. Blind Bartimaeus, Zacchaeus, the woman at the well; imagine a New Testament without these characters. I love Jesus and I want to be like Him, but I can't think of the last time that I "stopped for the one". My wife does it all the time without even realizing it. Why don't I?
I've somehow become isolated from the poor and broken. I've justified this by saying "Hey, I'm working on the big picture." Sure, my efforts are bringing clean water to the poor, and I've put water filters in the hands of many evangelists who use it to demonstrate the love of Jesus to the broken, but I no longer get my hands dirty.
The Lord is challenging me to come out of my ivory tower and start loving people "to their face". I'm crazy for telling you this because it calls for a certain level of accountability. I have a really hard time interacting with people on a personal, one-on-one level. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to project management. Whatever the case, I'm going to start looking for opportunities to minister to people personally.
One of the challenges that comes with "stopping for the one" is that it requires you to slow down. As a North American working in the developing world, I am constantly trying to push the pace, challenging people to act swiftly. "People are dying," I exclaim. "No time for dillydallying!" How then do I continue to set that example while also accepting the challenge to slow down and interact with people on a deeper level? The Lord will have to give me the grace to figure this out. Thankfully He has sent me a spouse who is very good at stopping for the one, so I can probably learn a thing or two from her.
As we made our final descent into Davao, we passed over the miles and miles of rusty tin roofs that stand precariously over the poor families that live along the coast. So many people, and only one of me. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people who call for our attention. But the beauty of stopping for the one is that it is impossible to be overwhelmed because we become so focused on the person in front of us.
People in need of love surround us in North American cities too, but here their poverty flashes like a neon sign saying "LOVE ME". Jesus was pretty good at loving people everywhere He went. Maybe it's time I tried following his example.