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Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, CEO of Compassion International, joins us to talk about the power of hope, God’s goodness, and love—three of the most powerful forces in the world.
Fort Worth Campus Update
How to Not Waste Your Life
The Church Matters
How We Think About Being Externally Focused
Evening with the Elders
Reflection Sunday: The Goodness of God and the Futility of the Wicked
Easter and Its Relationship with a Photoshopped Hell
Good Friday 2019
A Relentless Activity
The Motivation to Forgive
Love Precedes Life Change
Where in your life do you have the most hope? What about the least—if any at all—hope? Share these answers with your community group, and then pray for each other where you each have the least amount of hope.
Check out Watermark’s initiative and partnership with Compassion International: Impact a Child, Impact a Country.
Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado, CEO of Compassion International, joins us to talk about the power of hope, God’s goodness, and love—three of the most powerful forces in the world.
* Hope is a fragile but powerful force. When you have it, no challenge is beyond your reach. When you don’t, even the smallest act is hard.
* In any desperate situation, even the smallest glimmer of hope is enough to find your way out of seemingly dead end situations. You don’t need a ton of hope...you just need a speck of it.
* Take the small hope you have and act on it in obedience. You must start. You must act.
* Knowing that others know you are in trouble and need help is a source of hope. Suffering alone is horrible. Suffering with others can produce hope.
* What are you drowning in? What are you about to give up on in life? Where do you need a speck of hope?
* God’s goodness is not dependent on circumstances going our way.
* Difficult and uncertain times often produce a greater appreciation and understanding of God’s goodness, regardless of the outcome.
* I want to live a life that is not in denial of the storm, but to have enough faith in Jesus so that I can lay down and sleep next to Him during the storm.
* God is an expert at making good come out of the terrible things in our lives.
* Trials and hard times will come in the future. Take heart, you can trust God when they do.
* What caused me to lose all sense and do irrational, reckless things to save my son, even if it meant my death? Because he’s my son.
* God’s love for you is worlds beyond an earthly father’s love for his son.
There are over 400 million children in the world that are living on less than $1.90 per day. There are 500 million Jesus following families in the world. The church alone could help!
Compassion is simply trying to connect the well resourced church and the under resourced church. Compassion is not a child sponsorship ministry...it’s a church equipping ministry.
Suggested Scripture study: Isaiah 40:29-31; Romans 8:28; Matthew 8:23-27; Jeremiah 29:11
Ministry: Impact a Child, Impact a Country
Sermon: What a Compassionate God Wants You to Consider as Your Next Yes
Blog: Are Child Sponsorship programs healthy? A smart idea? A biblical idea?
It was July 16, 2007, and my family and I were on vacation just south of the California border in Mexico, in Baja, and we were meeting some relatives my kids had never known. All week long, my 13-year-old son was begging me to go swimming. "Dad, the beach is right there. We have to go swimming." But we're meeting that family, meeting the other family, so we never had time to get to the swimming part of it.
But on this day, we're finally going to get to it. I wanted to give him a fun experience, have a great time with my son. Just before reaching Rosarito, we saw a beach. It was a little deserted. There was a lifeguard stand but no lifeguard. The tide was going out. I noticed that, but I wanted to have so much fun with my son, against a small voice in the back of my mind that said, "Man, the water doesn't look quite right here," we jumped in and started having fun together.
This picture was taken by my daughter. We discovered it sometime afterward. She took that picture moments before we jumped into the water. Before we knew it, he just ran into the water. He's a Midwestern kid, so he doesn't know about the beach. I grew up in the tropics, so I knew about riptides and the beach and all of that, but before I got a chance to talk to him, he just took off running, got into the water.
When we got into the water, all of a sudden I began to notice he's kind of being taken out into the ocean, but not only him…me too. Every time we'd go up and down, we'd be another 10 yards out. So I thought, "Hey, we're done here. I need to swim to him. We're getting into a bad situation here." So I started swimming to try to catch up to him as he's kind of being taken out into the ocean. Just as I was getting close to him, he looks at me and is now struggling, trying to keep above the water. A wave went over, and he went down.
Then all of a sudden, I could see his hand struggling to get back up to the surface. The water is just barely right at the surface of his face as he comes out. He sputters, "Help! I can't!" I can't tell you the streak of chilling terror that went down my spine as a dad, watching your son struggle for air. I finally got up to him, and right when I got close to him, he grabbed me and started climbing on top of me. I couldn't keep him and me up, so we both went down.
Then we came back up, gasping for air. A million thoughts raced through my mind at that time. I remember looking at the shore and seeing how far we had gone from the shore, and I concluded, "We're about to die." You always wonder, "How am I going to die? What are my last days going to be like?" I thought, "Well, I'm just about to find out, because it's happening right now." Maybe 5, maybe 10 minutes, but there was no way we were getting back. I'd made that conclusion.
We were too tired. We were exhausted. My son is struggling. He's panicking, and nobody on shore could help. Again, no lifeguard, no boat…nothing. Just my family. I could see them strolling along, but even they didn't know we were in trouble. What happened in the next few seconds would save our lives. I'll get back to that in a few minutes. It was a strange ordeal when we got back to the shore. And we did get back. I am standing here. Unspeakable relief mixed with shock at what had almost happened. A terrible ordeal was over, or so we thought.
When I reached the beach, I immediately collapsed and started vomiting. I remember telling my dad, "Man, this feels like two decathlons in one." My heart was just pounding, and it wouldn't slow down. I'd run hard before, 400 meters and stuff like that, and your heart calms down after a few minutes. My heart was not calming down. After 5 minutes, 10 minutes, it's still pounding away, and I'm rolling around on the sand.
My dad said, "Man, this is not good. We need to get you to a doctor." So they picked me up, carried me to the van, and we went home. The doctor came and checked me out, checked my vitals, and said, "You know what?" By then I did start to calm down. He said, "You'll be fine. Have a good night's rest. You'll be good to go tomorrow." So no one thought anything about that, but something bad was silently going on inside my body.
I didn't want to mess up everyone's vacation, so every day I'd wake up and go, "Let's just keep going. We have to meet that family. We haven't met them. I want my kids to meet them and them." We just kept going on with the vacation. The doctor said I'd be all right, so I'm kind of like, "Okay. I have to figure out how to overcome what I'm feeling," because it just felt bad.
About three days later, we were scheduled to come back to the States, and I remember literally in the airport telling my wife, "Hey, you guys have to slow down. I can't walk as fast as you." I'd begun to swell. I ended up gaining 25 pounds of fluid. I was just swelling everywhere, and I was walking really slowly. It felt like someone took a basketball, filled it with water, and shoved it in my stomach. It hurt to move.
When I got back to Chicago, I went to the ER, and I was shocked to learn that because of the extreme physical exertion, my kidneys shut down. I had broken down too much muscle, which are made out of protein, and the protein clogged these little tubes in the kidneys that keep your blood clean, so they just shut down. I was poisoning myself.
They said, "We need to get you into dialysis right now. We have to put a catheter in your neck, because your creatinine is almost 13 times what it should be. You're poisoning yourself, and if we don't clean you up, you're going to poison yourself to death." My head is just spinning. "What? My kidneys aren't working?"
So they took me to dialysis, and my first question to the doctor, of course, was, "Is this permanent? Will they come back?" The doctor said, "We don't know. Every person reacts differently." It's a condition called rhabdomyolysis. They see this in triathletes and marathon runners who push themselves too hard.
They did three rounds of dialysis, and over the next week and a half, my kidneys did turn back on and I started passing the 25 pounds of fluid and an additional 7 pounds of muscle mass that had just disappeared from my body. My legs were these skinny little things. I ended up losing 35 pounds in the whole thing. Not my recommended weight-loss program.
Thankfully, in the end, I was told there was minimal scarring on my kidneys and I could expect a life expectancy for my kidneys. I was good to go. No restrictions moving forward. I thought, "Phew! Now could this terrible ordeal be over?" A week later, one of my closest friends came by for a visit and challenged me to journal about what I had been through before I forgot the details.
He said, "Over time, you're going to forget the details. You're going to want to capture some of that. Now that you know your body is going to heal up, you may need to just live in this a while. It's not often that you go through an experience like that. Why don't you just ask the Lord if there's something he might want to speak to you and teach you along the way as you process through what happened?"
So I started journaling about that. With the remaining time, I just want to share with you some of the lessons or even some of the things I knew, but because of this situation I knew at a deeper level. Have you ever gone through that, where you know something but then something else happens and you learn that lesson at a deeper level? Well, that's what happened to me.
About three things I was really familiar with in life. I grew up in a loving, Jesus-centered family, so I knew these concepts. I want to talk to you about love, God's goodness, and hope. These were not new concepts to me, but this profound experience helped me learn some things about them in a little different light.
The first theme I want to talk to you about is hope, what I learned about hope through this thing. Hope is a fragile but powerful force. You know this to be true. When you have hope, it seems like there's no challenge you can't overcome, but when you don't have hope, even the simplest task… For some, even getting out of bed is just too difficult when there's no hope. It all goes dark.
Now let me take you back to Davy and I, when we were out there in the ocean, tired, struggling, full of panic, and about to give up. Davy had just climbed on me, and we both went under. When we came up, I was shocked at how far we had come in such a short time. I remember looking at my family, and they were just happy, walking along the shore, picking up stones and seashells.
I remember thinking, "They have no idea, but they're about to go to a double funeral that is in their near future." I pictured the chapel of the church where I went to at the time. I pictured two caskets. I pictured the portraits of Davy and me next to them, and I thought, "Wow. I wonder how the bodies will look, if they recover them." We were about to die, and nobody knew except me. I was like, "Oh, this is going to come crashing down on their lives."
At first, I was just so angry. How could Davy and I lose our lives for such a throwaway experience? It was just to be a 15-minute dip in the Pacific Ocean, then get back in the car and go up north. It was a total nothing experience, and we were about to lose our lives because of that. "Our lives can't end like this. Certainly not Davy's. He's 13 years old. He has so much to live for. I want to see him and my daughters grow up. I want to grow old with my wife."
I was angry at the situation, but I was even more angry at myself. I was just beating myself, saying, "How could I have let this happen? I know better about the dangers of the beach. Why didn't I tell Davy about riptides, and 'Hey, let's not go in too deep. Let's just keep it right here and keep it safe'? Why didn't I say, 'You know what, Davy? I am so sorry. We just can't do it today. Let's go tomorrow to a better beach where there are more people there and it's a little bit safer.'" I felt so stupid that I had led my son to his death. I did.
Then a flood of profound sadness came over me. I had lost all hope, and I started to think about our final minutes. I wondered what it would feel like to breathe in salt water. Would it hurt? Would it sting? Would Davy's death be my last memory or would my death be his last memory? Who was going to go down first? All of those thoughts raced through my mind it seemed like in an instant, and then my focus immediately went to Davy. I yelled at him, "Davy! We cannot panic. We're panicking. We can't panic. This is when we have to be calm. Davy, stop panicking!"
What happened in the next few seconds is what saved our lives. Davy obeyed. He acted on my words. His panic immediately turned into resolve, and he started swimming again. That, in the darkest moment of the nightmare, birthed a small glimmer of hope…hope enough to get going, to not give up. The truth is I didn't have enough strength to save a victim who was panicking, but I did have enough strength to help a contributor, and that's what Davy became in that dark moment.
Now, I still did not have enough hope that we were getting back. I was kind of like, "Well, Davy is swimming. I'll help him, and we'll try to get back, but this is just going to prolong it a little bit more. But if he's trying, I'm trying." In any desperate situation, that's all you need. No matter how hopeless the situation, even the smallest glimmer of hope is enough to get you going. Not that the whole thing will get figured out but that you could just make that next move.
Its greatest potency for hope comes when you're in the deepest of trouble, when you see no way out. Here's the beauty of it: you don't need a ton of hope. You do need a speck of it, but a speck is good enough. Just whatever little hope you have, act on it. Here's the miraculous thing that happens. When God gives you a little piece of hope or a little piece of faith, you take whatever you have to him, and he multiplies it.
He gives you a little bit of hope. You act on that hope. He shows up and gives you more hope to make that next move. It's how God works with us as he's training us. Remember in the Old Testament when the Jewish people were wandering in the wilderness? How did Jesus feed them? Did he give them a month's supply of manna, that little flaky bread substance? Did he give them a week's supply? Of course not.
How long of a supply did he give them? Just a day. He was training them that the first thought of the morning is how God has provided for them. There's his provision daily. Then they would lean into that provision. They'd wake up the next day. There would be new provision from God, and they'd lean into that. Every day he was training them to do that.
When we start heading in the right direction, acting on what God gives us, then God shows up with more along the way. It could be more grace, it could be more hope, more resources, answers, new direction, but we have to get started on what we know. We have to get started and act on, lean into what God is doing in us as he directs us. Lean into that, and God will continue to show himself. The Bible says in Isaiah 40:29-31 (I love this passage):
"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
For Davy and me, in a very real physical sense, "They will swim and not drown." I acted on that hope God provided in that dark moment. I took a deep breath and went under water. I grabbed Davy's swim trunks in my right hand, shoved my left hand under his armpit, and paddled as hard as I could toward the shore until we ran out of breath. When I came up for air, we started yelling, because we wanted those who were on shore to know we were in trouble.
Here's the thing. When you're in trouble, do you know what's worse than that? It's bad enough to be in trouble. What's even worse than that is when you're going through trouble alone, when you're going through trials alone. There was just something instinctive in us that said, "Our family, our loved ones are on the shore, and they don't know we're in trouble." So we started yelling and screaming as loud as we could. We didn't know if they would hear us, because the waves were crashing and it was just chaos everywhere.
We're screaming, "Help! Help!" My family did understand. My daughter was the first one who said, "They're in trouble." They said, "No, they're having fun." She said, "No. They're in trouble." Then my 80-year-old dad started to take off his shirt, because he was going to get in the water for us. They held him back and said, "No, no, no. God forbid three generations." So they just started praying. There was nothing they could do at that time.
Here's the thing. When I saw them mobilizing, when I saw them reacting and looking at us and I figured out, "Okay, they know we're in trouble," somehow that was another piece of hope. "We're not alone in this thing. I know they can't do much, but at least we're not alone. They're praying. They're doing all they can to save us." So I took another deep breath, went under, grabbed Davy's swim trunks and under his armpit, and started pushing and pushing and pushing.
It didn't seem like we were getting far. I came up for air again, but then I noticed my cousin Andre. He was on the shore too. A big guy, over six feet tall, wearing a big bright red shirt. He starts walking out as far as he could on a sandbar, and all of a sudden, now it didn't seem as far. We don't have to get to the beach; we just have to get to Andre.
He was walking out this way, so we started swimming toward him at an angle. We couldn't tell where the current was, but as we were going toward him, we started making more progress. I think it's because somehow he got us out of the current, as we were moving toward him and not necessarily the shore.
I thought, "All right. There's another dose of hope. Let's go. Let's keep pushing." So I went under water, and I tried to grab my son's swim trunks and do the same thing again. This time we were moving a little more, but this time my hand started failing. I literally hit it, and I thought I could grab his swim trunks again, and there was nothing there. I could not grab him. My arms were not working. My legs were not working.
Thank God, that little guy made it the last 10 to 15 feet or so to Andre. Andre carries him, and he's walking him back to shore, and as he's walking him back to shore, I caught eyes with my son and smiled at him, because I thought, "You're safe. That's awesome." Then a wave went over me and I went down, because I couldn't keep myself up.
It couldn't have been that deep at that point, maybe 10 feet or something like that, because I went down, and then all of a sudden my feet hit sand. I thought, "Whoa! That feels great." When my feet hit sand, that was the last bit of hope that would get me back, because I thought, "Man, that's sand. I'm going to die someday, but it's not today. I'm going to push off of this thing. I'm going to get back." My cousin came back. I kept pushing up, and then he got me, took me to the shore, and that's where I collapsed, and you know the rest of that story.
I want to ask you a question this morning. What are you drowning in? It may not be water, it may not be the ocean, but what are you drowning in this morning? Maybe it's an overwhelming sense that you're not living up to other people's expectations of you. Maybe it's a broken relationship or a family issue that hurts more than you can say. Perhaps it's a school or work experience that's defeating you or an addiction that's winning in your life more than you want.
Whatever the case may be, you don't have to have hope enough that the whole thing will get resolved; you just need hope enough to make the next move, and God will meet you along the way with what you need. Before I move to the next theme, I want to pray. I want to pray for everybody in this room who's in need of a speck of hope to keep going because of something you're going through right now.
Before I pray, I want to ask you to do something courageous. These words are resonating with you. I want you to stand up right where you are if you are in the middle of something and you want to be more hopeful about it than you are. Right now, please stand up. There's something you want to have more hope about than you have right now, and you want to ask God to give you some. Just stand up right where you are.
Earlier, I said it's awful to go through something hard, but what's worse is to go through something hard alone. As you notice some folks standing up around you, I want to ask those of you who are around them to stand up, go over, and put a hand on their shoulder, by that, saying, "You're not alone. You're not alone in this thing, and together, as a community of Christ, we're going to pray you through and walk you through this." Let me pray.
Gracious heavenly Father, thank you for being in this room. Thank you for being a God who is well acquainted with suffering and seemingly hopeless situations. Thanks for promising to never leave us or forsake us, for being a truth-telling God who tells us over and over again in Scripture that we're going to go through trials and hard times, but thank you for being an expert at walking us through these valleys.
You know just what we need and when we need it, and right now, Father, I want to pray on behalf of everyone who stood up in this room saying they want more hope from you about something that's going on in their life. I'm asking, Father, that you would provide them with this powerful force that you created…you are the source of it…hope in just the right measure. You know the exact circumstances that are making hope humanly difficult to access, but you are not a God bound by our human point of view.
You are not a God short on hope, and you're not a God who's unwilling to help. You're right here. You're a God abounding in your desire to birth hope in us when we need it the most, so we ask for it, Father. Give to each of us, as we need it, hope enough to get going. We trust you for hope along the way to keep us going. Let it build our faith in you for all of our needs. In Jesus' name, amen.
It wasn't long before another theme started to ricochet in my soul at the time. It had to do with God's goodness. I know a lot of folks were praying for me while I was in the hospital, thanking God for sparing my son and myself and asking that we would both recover emotionally and physically and, specifically, that my kidneys would turn back on, but something happened in the dialysis center that, upon further reflection, turned out to deepen our understanding of God's goodness more than we could have ever imagined.
I remember sitting in the center wondering if dialysis three times a week was going to be a normal part of my life rhythm, just like it was for many of the folks who were sitting in the dialysis center at the same time. As I sat there for hours while my blood was getting cleaned, with my wife Leanne next to me, something extraordinary happened to both of us at the same time. And we talked about this. We said, "Well, why don't we pray? We have three or four hours here. Why don't we pray?"
We did pray, but we didn't specifically pray for healing, which is a little odd, because praying for God to heal us and heal family members is kind of a normal part of our prayer rhythm and a regular part of our lives, but this time, as much as I wanted my kidneys to start working, I didn't feel, nor did she feel compelled to pray specifically for my kidneys to be healed. I looked over at the others for whom dialysis was a normal part of their lives, and I wondered, "Why not me?"
If my kidneys never started working, would that change the way I viewed God's goodness? Would somehow he be less good because my kidneys didn't start working? In that moment, both Leanne and I were simultaneously flooded with peace and contentment in God's goodness, period; that his goodness would not be in any way impacted by whether or not my kidneys would turn on, that he would answer a particular prayer to have them healed.
Then my thoughts immediately went to the first Bible verse I learned in my life. That Bible verse was the first verse I learned in my life because as we learned the alphabet, our parents would teach us a verse that started with the same letter in the alphabet. So, if you were to say, "G," I would say, "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world." Or if you were to say, "J," I'd say, "Judge not that ye be not judged." (It was King James back then.) Whatever letter it is, there's a verse that immediately comes to my mind.
The verse A, which was the first verse, was Romans 8:28, and it would usher in peace that met my wife and me right where we were. It says, "** And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. *""And we know…" *Not "And we doubt" or "And we think."" **And we know that all things work together…" Not some things. "…that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
I remember, as a young kid growing up, knowing that verse… When my dad was incorrectly incarcerated by Manuel Noriega's secret police in Panama, I heard my dad give testimony after that three-day ordeal in front of the whole church afterward, talking about how God did great good in his soul, in his life because of that three-day ordeal, that he had to depend on God for everything because he had no idea whether he would ever get out.
Then I remember my mom giving testimony when we were in Bolivia and she was bleeding internally and they couldn't get her to a doctor in time. She felt life slipping away, and she begged God for life, and God stopped that internal bleeding. Then she talked about how it made her a better wife and a better mom because she felt like God healed her and gave her a second chance to live beyond.
My parents lived it, and they talked about it, and when stuff would happen, in God's hands. All things work together for good. Even when the circumstances aren't good, he'll make it good in his kingdom way. They passed it on to me, and I'm passing it on to my kids. Do you remember the account in the New Testament when Jesus calmed the storm? He was on the Sea of Galilee with his disciples, and a quick storm came. The boat was rocking, and they were taking on water.
The disciples were freaking out and saying, "Oh my goodness! We're about to die. Where's Jesus? How come he isn't helping out here?" So where was Jesus? He was asleep. I was actually on the Sea of Galilee a few years ago on a boat, and they said, "This may be a little bit bigger than the boat Jesus was on." I'm thinking, "Man! Storm. Boat. Rocking. Was he really asleep? How in the world could he have been asleep when that boat is rocking like that and they're taking on water and everything?"
Sometimes I wonder… It's just my own conjecture here, but did he kind of let them think he was asleep to test the disciples to see how they were going to react in the storm? So I'm thinking through that, and it dawned upon me. I want to be the kind of Jesus follower who isn't in denial over the storm, but I want to be the kind of Jesus follower who, in the midst of the storm, recognizes where Jesus is and goes and lies down and takes a nap next to Jesus. That's the kind of follower I want to be. There's no other safer place to be on earth than next to Jesus.
So, if regular dialysis was to be a part of my life from there on out, we could rest in God's amazing goodness along the way. If that's what it took to get Davy and I back to shore, we were good with that. His grace would be sufficient. His love would be enduring. His plans for my life and my son's life would not be derailed. His words in Jeremiah 29:11 would still be true for us, when he said, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Today, I want to remind us all of that at a deeper level. God can and will make all things work together for good to those who love him, to those who are called according to his purpose. It doesn't matter how bad the circumstances are. Nothing is beyond the reach of God's expertise of making good come out of anything when we put those circumstances in his hands.
To help sear this into our consciousness in a way that I hope you will never forget, I want to ask you to raise your hand if you have personally experienced God turn something terrible into good in your life. Please raise your hand high so you can give a witness to that in your life. Keep your hands up. I don't want you to miss this. Look around. Look at the forest of hands that are up. Isn't that awesome? Every one of those is a testimony of how God turned something terrible into something good. That's what he's an expert at. He does that in his kingdom way.
Now, a couple of words. For those of you who have not yet said, "Lord, I want you to be the leader and forgiver of my life," this is the testimony. This is the story that's in your future if you give your life to Christ. He'll never leave you nor forsake you, and he'll walk with you, and when you put things in his hands, he will always make things good in his kingdom.
For those of you who are believers and raised your hand, you need to have this in your mind as well. Sear it in your mind. Why, do you think? Because hard times aren't done in your life. Trials will come your way. I have more coming my way, and I will keep that memory of the forest of hands that went up and said, "No, no. God is good. He can be trusted on." It's a beautiful picture.
The final theme that came through my soul in that season was some things around love and some things I learned around a question I asked as I was thinking about what had happened. Here was the question: What was it that Davy did that caused me to turn into an absolute raving lunatic, willing to sacrifice myself in an instant if it meant saving his life? What was it that he did that caused me to react that way?
By the way, Davy was fine physically, but he was processing a lot of the emotions. On the way back in the van, he was in Leanne's arms, saying over and over again, "The thoughts, Mom. The thoughts. I can't get the thoughts out of my mind." One of those thoughts troubled him for a decade. About a year and a half ago, it was our tenth anniversary of when this thing happened. He's working in New York. I happened to be there, and we went to dinner.
He said, "Dad, there has been something that has been troubling me since that incident, and it's a phrase that in community with those I'm in community with… They saw how troubled I was, so I shared this thing I'd never talked about before in community, and then they said, 'You know what? You need to share that with your dad.'" So at that dinner, he said, "Dad, I just need to share with you a phrase that Satan put in my mind, and I've been struggling with it for a decade."
Now, remember, he was 13 years old, and I'm involved in church ministry and he respected that. This was the phrase, the lie he carried for a decade: "The worst part of the family almost killed the best part of the family." It crushed me to hear that, that my little guy would carry that. I'm not the best part of the family. He's not the worst part of the family. Just because I'm in vocational ministry, somehow I'm more "special than"?
He works for Hershey and provides chocolate for all of us. Free chocolate for life. He's using his creativity there, and he's in community, and he's loving on the people who are around him. He's a minister at Hershey every bit as much as I'm a minister in what I'm doing. I love this church, because I know from Todd and I've seen messages and I know it's a deep core value here and is preached from this stage all the time. You're all ministers.
I love how he describes church services here. It's a pastors' conference, because every one of you is a pastor. I love how you end your services. "Now, actually, the ministry is starting as we let you go out. You're going to go pastor wherever you are, whether you're a mom or a dad or with your friends and workplace, whatever it is. You're pastors."
"Davy, we're together in this. We're ministers together." He said, "Yeah, I know, Dad." Satan has a way of telling you lies, doesn't he? We all carry them. I have lies that I pay attention to Satan more than I should and the evil messages that come through. He said, "I just needed to bring light to this thing so it doesn't have power over me anymore." He's moving on, letting that go.
That same year, back then, New Year's Eve, we did something that probably a lot of you guys do. We gathered together as a family and kind of did the high/low thing. What were the highs and lows of the year? We kind of processed that, talked about that. When it came time for Davy's turn, he said, "I have to go get my journal." So he went and got his journal, and he read a long passage of stuff he had journaled that very day that this thing happened. I'll just read you a little excerpt of what he told us.
This is what he said: "Those few bits of sand," when he finally touched sand, "soothed my mind and gave me assurance, and even though the water was still up to my ears, I knew I was safe. I got to the shore, looking up at everyone, and then I sat down, and I turned back to look at you, Dad." I wondered whether he would remember that, that moment when we caught eyes and I smiled at him because I was totally fulfilled because he was safe. He remembered that and journaled about that.
"I turned around once to see my dad, and I knew he'd be okay, not because he was 50 meters from the shore, not because other people were trying to help him. He was still in trouble, but he was good because he knew I was safe." That's what God communicated in my look, my smile, when I caught eyes with him. Beyond reliving it as he read his entry, the thing that rocked me deeply was Davy saying he knew I would be okay, even before I was out of physical danger, because I knew he was safe, and he was right.
The moment he was safe, I was good, saving his life in that moment, and he knew in the depth of his soul that I loved him more than anything and more than myself. So, back to the original question. What was it that Davy did that caused me to turn into an absolute irrational raving lunatic, willing to sacrifice myself if it meant saving him? Was it because he behaved so well that week even though he wasn't getting to go swim? Was it because he's a great kid? And he is.
Was it because he's really talented or smart or creative and the world would miss him if I didn't save his life? Was it those things? Is that why I reacted that way? It wasn't any of that. I acted that way because he's my son and I love him more than myself. There's nothing Davy could have done to earn my love. He just had it. The truth is he could have been a prodigal, a misbehaver, an addict, or a rebel. It wouldn't have made any difference in my response, because my love for him is bigger than his behavior.
I'm so grateful that Davy knows in his heart that there's nothing he ever needs to do to earn my love or sacrifice on his behalf. God's love for you and me is way beyond that. God doesn't say, "Try to earn my love." He says, "Enjoy it based on the forgiveness of your sins that I made possible because of what Jesus did on the cross." This God who sacrificed himself for you wants to be in community with you, in a relationship with you.
In many ways, I'm now grateful that I went through that incident with Davy, because it taught me what it was like to feel complete hopelessness and defeat. That situation was the most humbling and humiliating experience of my life. I never felt so small, so insignificant than being confronted by the power of the ocean. Back then I remember thinking, "Boy, I don't matter much." Now I'm blessed to work with a ministry that's rescuing children who don't think they matter much in this world.
Do you realize that in our world today there are about 400 million children living on less than $1.90 a day? Extreme and unacceptable poverty. That number can be so big it, at times, has a way of paralyzing us to go, "Well, what can we do for 400 million children?" But do you know, the best we can tell… Really, only God knows, but when we check out various numbers we get from ministries here and there around the world, there are about 500 million Jesus-following families in the world. Again, only God really knows, but best we can tell, it's about that.
Here's what I do know for sure: the church can meet the need. Jesus said he would build his church and the gates of hell won't prevail against it. He's also the one who said the Great Commission. "Go into all the world, make disciples out of all nations, teaching them to observe all my ways." Jesus was the one who said the church can do this. The kingdom of heaven can come on earth, but do you know how it comes to earth? Kingdom bringers like you and me, when we let God come into our lives and help us be kingdom bringers wherever we go.
I tell you, in the midst of all that poverty, here's what I've also seen: a great amount of hope. I've seen how God provides hope and goodness and love and how that's releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name. We get to serve a little over two million children in 25 countries, some of the most impoverished communities in the world, and we serve these children by serving 7,500 churches.
You may go sponsor a child… And I'm so grateful to Watermark. I think I heard that you guys set a goal of getting in the lives of 2,500 children, and you're now at 2,700 children, changing their lives. Let me tell you where those resources are going. Those resources are going to equip a local church that is within walking distance of that child. You are putting that child in the arms, in the hands of a church that's going to love on that child.
That church is going to come around that child during the most at-risk years of their life, and they're going to bring the love of Jesus to them, the full gospel to them. They're going to meet their physical and cognitive and emotional and spiritual needs. They're going to love on them. They're going to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
So your sponsorship is actually equipping a local church to help them be salt and light, to be that light on a hill to bring the love of Jesus to that community. So, thank you, Watermark. And an extra "thank you," because I was born in El Salvador, and so many of the kids you're sponsoring are from El Salvador. I love that. Know that in Central America we serve about 300,000 children through churches.
You know how in the news we hear about these 10,000 people or so who are marching to the border from Central America? I can tell you, none of them are our kids. Why do you think that's the case? Because there's a church that's loving these children. Why would they go on a crazy, very perilous, thousand-mile march when they're being loved on right where they are? They're being loved on right where they are, and you're helping make that a reality.
So thank you. Thank you so much. Every time a child receives the love of Jesus through a warm meal and clothes and medical care, a letter from a sponsor, it gives them this precious gift of hope, this precious gift to understand that they're not invisible in this world, that there is a God who knows their name and is going to love on them and wants to be in relationship with them. So, bless you, Watermark, in Jesus' name, for being a community that is bringing the kingdom of heaven in Dallas, in El Salvador, and the uttermost parts of the world. Pray with me.
Gracious heavenly Father, I want to thank you for being the God you are, so faithful, so trustworthy, so good, so merciful, so loving, and you invite us into a relationship with you. Oh, it's the best. Thank you, Father, for journeying with us, for having patience with us as we learn to walk in your ways. I thank you, Lord, for being who you are. Thank you for this faith community that has been faithfully serving here in Dallas now coming on 20 years. I pray that you would continue to walk with them. In Jesus' name, amen.