Seventy times seven

Visitors from Tushmo

Visitors from Tushmo

Jim and I often get tired of people who repeatedly come to our door asking for help. The requests we’ve had over just the past week have been medicine for someone who’s sick, gasoline for a boat so a man get back to work fishing, documents needed for ID cards which children must have in order to have health insurance, food, payment for water or electricity, passage for moto-taxis to get around town in, items students need for their studies and diapers for a handicapped child.

We are rich Christians in a poor world! We need to be patient, loving, generous and kind. Sympathetic, responding like Jesus did, always ready to encourage someone, pray for someone, give someone what they need.

But we often fail. Our human nature gets in the way. Knocks at the door or desperate phone calls often come at inconvenient times. We’d rather continue what we were doing before the interruption came. We may be preparing breakfast, working in the office, watching a good movie or sleeping. We say, “We are here to help the Culinas and these people are not Culinas!” “Our job is Bible translating, not ministering to the poor around us!” And there comes another “but.” We may think we should be doing one thing but God may intend for us to do something else. (What verse is that? I can’t find it right now.)

These people who come are not hurting us. They are not stealing from us. They don’t slander us, they love us and thank God for us! But we get tired of them. We wish that our financial help would help solve their problems and then they wouldn’t come back. But that doesn’t happen. They never have enough to get ahead. They lose their capital that they were working with when there is an emergency, like a sick child, the birth of a baby, the death of a father, the robbery of their boat.

One day as I was pondering this frustration God brought two verses to mind. One was in the Lord’s prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The other was when Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

It occurred to me that the same principle of forgiving should also apply to the people who bother us by repeatedly asking for help. Seventy times seven is 490. But I don’t think Jesus meant 490. I think he said that to mean infinitely. Like God can forgive us repeatedly and doesn’t keep a record of how many times it’s been. And sure, God brought us to Peru to minister to the Culinas and we usually do that graciously, but he is taking care of a lot of needs our neighbors in the city have by allowing them to come to us, too.

So my prayer is this:  Lord, help us to be patient. Help us to be gracious and generous. Help us show your love to the people who come to us, whether they be Culina, Shipibo, Junikuin, Sharanahua, or mestizo. They are people you love, and most of them love you, too.