Seeing People

By Reed Hoppe –

Fernando was going door to door, asking for food, when TMS Global cross-cultural workers Graham and Sharon Nichols first noticed him. Graham and Sharon were preparing to host a children’s ministry event in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, Ecuador. As they gathered dozens of children together and began to sing, they saw 10-year-old Fernando.

Graham and Sharon moved to Ecuador in 2011. Sharon has served as the director of Sunday school and Christian formation for the region through The United Evangelical Methodist Church of Ecuador for the past four years. The Nicholses’ primary ministry is the discipleship of children. Their hope is that the children in their programs will begin to disciple other children – making disciples who make disciples.

When Fernando came onto their radar, they knew he needed help. Fernando had four hungry siblings to feed. The children’s fathers were not involved in their lives and their mother worked in a city three hours away. When the food ran out at home, Fernando begged. “We saw a light in Fernando,” said Sharon. “There was just something different about him.”

A great deal of ministry comes down to simply seeing others, taking the time to be involved in people’s lives and helping them to feel loved. Often these encounters can brighten someone’s day, but sometimes they can even change the trajectory of a life.

Over the past four years, Graham and Sharon have discipled Fernando and he has grown in his relationship with Jesus. The Nicholses’ ministry has expanded to include 400 children in several communities around Santo Domingo. Many of the children in Fernando’s neighborhood are not allowed to attend the ministry events because they have to walk a long way and cross a busy highway.

Fernando asked the Nicholses if they could start a children’s ministry in his neighborhood. They agreed, and arrive in his community every month ready to teach dozens of kids. Fernando knocks on the doors of each house, gathering the children for the event, and sets out all of the chairs in the field in which they meet. “He wants to serve Jesus,” says Sharon, “and he does things that I have never seen a 14-year-old boy do.”

“Fernando tells us,” says Sharon, “’You loved me, and you loved me the way I imagine God loves me. I want to love others the way God has loved me through you.’

“If not another child becomes the disciple that Fernando does, everything we have sacrificed would have been well worth it. Children like Fernando will change the world for Jesus Christ because they have been loved and they want to give that love to others. And it is all because we noticed him.”

Sharon’s story challenged me to pay more attention to the people God has placed in my life. In addition to working at TMS Global, I am a pastor’s wife and am involved in children’s ministry in our local church. Am I truly seeing the children that I serve and trying to meet their needs? Am I training them to become disciple makers?

Eleven years ago, my husband and I led a discipleship group for three young women in our youth group. We felt it was an utter failure. The girls barely spoke in the group, and we couldn’t tell whether or not it was making any difference in their lives.

What we recently discovered was that, for two of the girls, the group laid a foundation of faith that continued to grow. The girls became involved in college ministries after they graduated and their faith blossomed. One became a missionary, and the other married a pastor and now disciples young women in the church they serve. God helped us to understand that the time we invested wasn’t in vain. God was at work, but my husband and I didn’t see the fruit for years to come.

Who can we see today? In each of our lives, there are people who feel unloved, people who are struggling, and people who need Jesus’ transforming grace. I guarantee that there are hurting children and youth in your local church. It can be easy to go through the motions of ministry, or to think that we are not making a difference. Let us trust the Holy Spirit to work in all of our lives, drawing us closer to himself as we pour ourselves out for his glory.

Reed Hoppe is the associate director of communications for TMS Global – www.TMS-Global.org.

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