One of the most penetrating, convicting, and inspiring statements from the lips of Jesus was shared in Matthew 25 regarding to the poor, the imprisoned, the naked, the thirsty, and those in desperate need. He said when we assist them and meet their needs, we have in fact done it to Him. “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these, you were doing it to Me!”
As you know, this year Betty and I are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, and also 50 years of ministry. Following the nearly 30 years of crusade outreach and local church revivals, we were sent by God to the mission fields of the world and were called to focus our attention on serving others. Through the LIFE Today television program we were also led to diligently call the family of faith into the family room and help them get to know the Father, identify with His heart, and learn to express it while extending His hands in loving compassion.
Our first mission trip was into the war-torn country of Mozambique where we encountered rapid gunfire and fighting in the streets below our hotel room, Marxist forces and freedom fighters battling it out, and children starving by the thousands. As dangerous as it was, I joined Peter Pretorius preaching a crusade where thousands attended, hundreds came to Christ, and many miracles occurred. The lame were healed and blind eyes were opened. It was awesome! The people had never been taught not to believe the Gospel and they received it gladly with childlike faith, never doubting what God could do.
But the most powerful impact of that mission trip was in refugee camps near the border of Malawi. With us on the trip was Carleton Hurdle, a lead member of our television production crew. Standing nearly seven feet tall, a truly gifted athlete and basketball player who attended ORU on a scholarship, he had been with me for many years (now at this writing 34 years). He had come to stand alongside of me right out of college. Carleton is one of the greatest examples of Christ’s compassion. It is amazing how many of our staff have been with us for so many years. It’s like they never want to leave. They simply want to stand at our side lifting up Jesus.
Seven years ago as Betty and I were preparing to return to the mission fields of Africa, Carleton was led of God to write a note of appreciation and poem concerning the children in Africa and other third-world countries. In the note addressed to me and Betty, he referenced a specific young child I called “Little Buddy.” The gratitude expressed by his beautiful smile spoke volumes. I told him in English he could not understand that the food was given in love and it would make him feel better. Out of his mouth he spoke the simple word, “Yeah.”
Dear James and Betty,
Seventeen years ago this month we journeyed together to Mozambique for the first time. It will always be a highlight of my life. As you are returning on another trip, I felt compelled to write and thank you for heeding God’s call to reach out to the hungry and hurting children of Africa. Your faithfulness has resulted in millions of lives being saved and as many souls being won for the kingdom.
I have written you a poem that I hope blesses you. I am blessed to know you both as my friends.
You are in my prayers,
Carleton (August 8, 2006)
Here is that beautiful, encouraging, inspirational, and challenging poem:
You’ve finally come full circle
To where it all began
Where God reached down and touched your heart
With love for this distant land
You didn’t know how to do it
Or where you would begin
But stepping out in faith
You knelt and took my hand
My feet were cracked and calloused
My stomach empty and bare
My hair tinged red from malnutrition
When I first heard that you cared
They told me of hot soup
That you prepared for me
They said you knew someone
Who gave His life for me
I did not understand it
But yet I got in line
And waited with the others
To see what I would find
You spoke another language
I did not know your ways
You handed me a bowl of soup
And smiled at me that day
You called me “little buddy”
I did not comprehend
I smiled and nodded and said “Yeah”
For I had found a friend
And now that I have grown
And we have parted ways
I know you probably wonder
What’s come of me these day’s
Look for me within their eyes
They look at you the same
They feel your love in each embrace
As you bless them in God’s name
You’re with your little buddy
Every time you feed a child
You can feel me in each heartbeat
You can see me in their smile
And if you listen closely
From the children at your knee
You’ll hear our Savior saying
You did it unto Me
Even as I reread that poem this week, tears welled up in my eyes as I remembered that boy I referred to as my “little buddy.” I knew that he represented millions of precious children around the world who would express gratitude for any expression of love however insignificant it might seem to some.
Jesus made it undeniably clear, “When you do it in their behalf, you have done it unto Me.” I can honestly see as I reflected on the eyes of that child, Jesus saying, “Thank you.” So I want to say to all of you who have prayed for us and supported the outreaches of LIFE the greatest thank you I can possibly express. How can I adequately say it in words? Perhaps Carleton’s poem expresses it far better than I ever could.
If you are moved to provide another bowl of soup or cup of water, I pray you hear not only the thanks of the children and their families, but also from the Lord Jesus Himself, “You have done it unto Me.”