Last fall I listened to a fellow colleague, Pastor Paul Schwarzkopf, share about an experience he had while working for The Peace Corps in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As a young man his eyes were opened to a poverty that he had previously only read about. After being there for a few weeks he knew he had not seen the poorest of the poor. That all changed one day as his driver pulled up to a work site. Nearby, Paul saw a group that stood out amongst even the poor. There they stood barely clothed in rags. Their bones protruded through their rough skin. Their eyes told the story of weariness and little hope. As Paul looked on he asked his driver, “What do you call those people?” The driver replied, “Watu wa Mungu.” Paul thought to himself, “Watu wa Mungu means the people of God.” Paul took a second look and noticed some other people standing outside of a church building. Thinking his driver misunderstood him he said, “No, not the people by the church,” and pointing his finger said, “Those people.” The driver responded, “Yes, I understand. Those people are called watu wa Mungu.” At this point Paul was confused and asked, “Why are they called the people of God?” The driver replied, “Because only God cares for them.”
Watu wa Mungu. It has a nice ring to it. I, like my friend, would have been quick to point out the people at the church. Those are the people of God. After all, it is those that have received Christ as Savior and are spoken of as Sons of the Living God. Still, it seems that there are those that only God cares for. Who is it that hears the cry of the 143 million orphans in the world? Does anyone really notice the 16,000 children that die daily from hunger-related causes? What about the thousands that will not reach their fifth birthday because they do not have clean drinking water? Does anyone care for the millions of men, women, and children trapped in modern day slavery? Sure there are ministries that reach out, but by and large they go unnoticed in the world I live in. They are watu wa Mungu. Only God cares for them.
They are watu wa Mungu in another sense. They are the people of God not because they have been born again by the Spirit of God but because they are created in the image and likeness of God. The world around us is full of image-bearers of God. We encounter them daily. Some of them we choose not to see. Perhaps not noticing eases our pain and discomfort. Notice them or not, they are there and God sees them and cares for them.
The Scriptures tell us that God has a special affection for the destitute and most vulnerable among us. In Deuteronomy 10:18 we are told, "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” He invites us to follow in His ways as He instructs us to, “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). Later He warns His people in Isaiah 10:1-2:
Woe to those who enact evil statutes
And to those who constantly record unjust decisions,
So as to deprive the needy of justice
And rob the poor of My people of their rights,
So that widows may be their spoil
And that they may plunder the orphans.
What do the most vulnerable among us need? They need the same thing all of us need. They need to hear and respond to the hope of the Gospel. The need to hear that Jesus came to preach good news to the poor and that He came to proclaimed freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed (Luke 4:18). They need to hear the words of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
While most Christians realize that people need to hear, receive, and experience the good news, sometimes, from our places of comfort, we overlook a particular disadvantage that many of “the least of these” have in hearing the Gospel. Lawrence Bergeron author of Journey to the Fatherless describes the situation. “For many of the vulnerable children around the world are short on love, hope, and dreams. Far from our view, they are short on health, clean water, medical care, and education, but mostly they are short on time. Many of them live an incredibly short life. These children warrant an all out search. They are precious to the Father.”
Bergeron is right. Rather than ignore them, they warrant an all out search. The watu wa Mungu are short on time. Do you see them? Do you hear their cry? Will you answer the call? Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15).