Day 1: “We are Rescued to Rescue”

God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. Ephesians 2:10, MSG

I heard a story once about a place called Cape Coast Castle. Located in central Ghana, this old castle was originally used for trading, and then as a fort —but during the height of the transAtlantic slave trade, it was used to house slaves while they awaited transport to the New World.

Dungeons were added beneath this building where up to 1,500 slaves could be kept at one time for as long as three months. Hundreds were crammed into tiny rooms  … chained and forced to lie in their own urine and feces for months. Can you imagine the smells and the absolutely horrific conditions?

Today, Cape Coast Castle is a tourist attraction. And as one of the tour guides led a group through the dungeons, he told them something that I have not been able to forget. “Guess what is right above these dungeons?” he asked. “A chapel!”

Think about that. A chapel. A place of worship was right above those horrible dungeons. So, while hundreds were held captive, people in the chapel above probably sang, prayed, read Scripture and perhaps even took an offering for the less fortunate. And all the while there was unspeakable suffering right beneath them.

Then the guide said, “Heaven was above — but hell was below.”

I believe there are still many dungeons here on earth — dungeons of poverty, dungeons of disease, dungeons of slavery, abuse, fear, and hopelessness.

And as people of faith, we can’t be numb and blind to the suffering all around us. We need to go into the dungeons — reach into the dungeons of this world — embrace the dungeons of the world — charge into the dungeons of the world  — until the dungeons become the church — that is what our lives should be all about.

My friend Mike Foster, author of “The Rescue Academy,” says that “Only broken things can make broken things beautiful again.” Isn’t that what redemption and rescue mean? We, who were once broken, lost, and desperate for help, can now help to rescue and restore others.

As people of faith, rescue is what we do. It’s who we are. It’s what we should be all about.

We all know what it’s like to have been rescued. It reminds us of our great need for God. Our own need for salvation and rescue. I believe that He is calling us to restore hope … we’ve been rescued so that we can now rescue. The same God who rescued me, can rescue you.

Day 2: “Love Like That”

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Ephesians 5:1-2, MSG

I was in Rwanda at one of the most remote locations I have ever visited. This was a community living in extreme poverty. They had the highest concentration of HIV/AIDS in all of Rwanda — yet no medical resources. And this was also a place where children were left and abandoned. Parents would leave the village to find work, never to return. So everywhere I looked were swarms of children. One of our donors had provided a much-needed church building for this community, and on this particular day we had the privilege of handing out Bibles to people who had never owned one. I wish I could describe for you the excitement — how they rushed to line up to receive their very own copy of God’s Word. In spite of their desperate conditions — God’s Word was still so precious to them.

We spent the entire day there; it was hot, dusty, dirty. And I was tired, hungry, and to be honest … emotionally spent and done. We had just loaded up the car, ready to leave. And I had just cleaned off my hands and arms to hold me over until I could get a good shower, when one of our team members came to my window and said that the pastor of this village wanted me to come into his home and pray over him and his family.  Now, I would like to say my immediate reaction was sweet and spiritual. But, it was not. I reluctantly dragged myself out of the car. But soon the heat and hunger disappeared as I stood before this dedicated pastor and his extended family in their modest home and realized he wanted me … me … to pray over him. I was humbled, I was convicted. And then he proceeded to present me with a gift. It was in a bag, but inside I could see a jerry can. I did not want to be rude, so I waited until we got back to the car to open it.

What could this be? Was it a jug of water? Was it cooking oil? To my surprise it was honey. And, the largest jug of honey I’ve ever held and I’m sure the most valuable thing they could have given me. In the face of extreme poverty, this pastor who shepherds a flock in so much need — this pastor and his family who live a life of extreme poverty themselves, they had poured out extravagantly and given me their very best. And I will never forget.

Maybe we all should give up our “honey” in the same way.

Sometimes “rescue” looks a lot like sacrifice. Loving others selflessly. Giving something away whether it’s a meal, your time, even an afternoon to help someone move. It’s all about love. And I believe we need to learn to “love like that.”

Day 3: Lost in Light

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5, NIV

(Before we begin today, watch this brief video on light pollution, it’s pretty neat.)

Maybe you have heard of light pollution. It’s the artificial light that contaminates our night sky, limiting our view of the stars. If you watch that video above, it shows the levels of pollution in different places and how you can see the stars clearer and brighter the farther away you go from all the artificial lights. Because of all the city lights, it’s hard to see clearly the beauty and vividness of the stars lighting up the sky. That’s why typically, if you want to look through a telescope to see celestial objects in deep space, you have to go somewhere that’s pitch black. Only then can you see the night sky as it truly is: littered with stars, planets — and on clear nights you can even see strands of the Milky Way!

This past year, I have focused so much on darkness — that we are called to the dark places — that we need to embrace the dark places and not “sanitize our faith.”  I’ve never felt the presence of darkness more strongly than when I walked the streets of Thailand. I felt lost in darkness.

In contrast, what I have realized is that here at home we live in a bright world — a blindingly bright world. We are not lost in the darkness, we are lost in the light.  This artificial light can distract us from the true needs that exist. Distractions of our comfortable lives: Netflix, vacations, shopping, and overall busyness of our day-to-day schedules. If we aren’t leaving room in our lives to see the darkness — those who are in desperate need — then we are in danger of living “lost in light” … when we really need to be reaching the darkest places of our world with the light of hope.

As hard and as dark as our work in Thailand is, I have decided this — that I would much rather stay in the darkness than live and stay in a place that is so bright I can’t even see real darkness.

When you are willing to step out of the light into that complete darkness — then and only then do you see God’s redemptive plan and the story He is writing across the sky. Only then can you see the stars of hope.

Once you step out of the light, out of all the comfort and safety, you can see clearly those who need rescuing. Those who need you are just outside of the light.

I don’t want to live “lost in light” — I want to embrace the darkness so I can see the true light.

Day 4: “You are Free”

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:36, ESV

Years ago there was a commercial by the Royal Bank of Scotland showing people riding up a mountain in a gondola lift, when all of a sudden it stops — just swinging mid-air,  high above the ground. Everyone begins to panic and scream. One guy takes charge and says, “It’s OK, guys, I’ve taken a course — positive thinking — a positive thought makes a positive impact.” They all start nervously chanting … “a positive thought, makes a positive impact — a positive thought, makes a positive impact.” Meanwhile, another passenger is quietly searching inside the gondola for a way to help and spies a green button. He pushes it, which starts the gondola back up again. The tagline of the commercial is, “There’s no substitute for action — make it happen.”

 

Sometimes Christians can act like the frightened people in the gondola. We get paralyzed by the fear of our circumstances. But we aren’t really stuck … there is a “button,” a simple solution to fix the crisis. Christ has made a way for us to be free.  Free from sin, fear, anxiety, addiction … we are set free once and for all through Him. But sometimes we cling to old habits, forgetting to walk in the freedom that was purchased for us.

If we have found the restoration and hope that is possible through Christ, shouldn’t it stir us  to see those who are suffering, and those without hope? Rescue never begins out  of neutrality. We can’t feel indifferent about it. We can’t shield our eyes to the dark realities of it.

As people who have been rescued and set free, how much more should we long to rescue and restore those in desperate need around us?  

As Christ-followers, isn’t that what our lives are really all about? Being God’s rescuers and His hands and feet here on earth. Being willing to answer His call, to bring hope to those who are desperate for it.

So today I challenge you to walk in freedom — remember that you have been set free. And take that freedom to the hurting world around you.

I love this quote from Rebekah Lyons: “It’s not your story of struggle, it’s His story of rescue.”

Jesus heals, rescues, restores, and redeems. That’s our one hope and the only story we have to share.

Day 5: Lessons from a Castaway

Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you.

Psalm 34:17, MSG

I heard a story on the news about a group of castaways whose boat capsized at sea and they washed up on shore of a deserted island. They spelled out the word “HELP” in big letters on the beach with leaves and branches. The sign led to their rescue when a pilot spotted it from the air. This story caught my attention right away and in some way seemed so unrealistic. It sounded more like an episode from “Gilligan’s Island” instead of real life.

I wondered, today, with all of our progress and technology in the world, do people still cry out for help by spelling it out on the beach?

And then I thought that just like that pilot, we are all flying around in our planes. We are safe and already rescued ourselves. And if we are not careful, we will simply miss the signs.

We will fly from one destination to another, in our hurried lives, forgetting why we were rescued in the first place — forgetting that we are on a rescue mission every day — forgetting that we are rescued to rescue.

Recently, I brought my son along on a trip to Guatemala where he was able to experience a baby rescue firsthand. We had to hike what seemed like miles in extreme heat to reach this family’s home in the mountains. When we arrived, they had three children who were severely malnourished. My son carried one of the little girls down the mountain where an ambulance was waiting to take her to get treatment. It was a moment I will never forget.

Rescuing babies from the mountains of Guatemala, and the slums of Uganda and Haiti, is all about life and death. In those moments, you never forget what the mission is.  

When you view your life through the lens of “rescue,” things become quite clear. The truth is, we are on a rescue mission every day. And people all around us are crying out for help, spelling it out on the beaches of their lives any way they can.  Will we see them?

Day 6:  “See the One”

She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me! Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!”

Genesis 16:13, MSG

Maybe you are familiar with the story of Abraham and Sara.  Sara could not have children and had given her servant Hagar to Abraham as a wife.  Hagar had a son named Ishmael and soon after Sara also had a son, Isaac.

As you will remember, things did not go well between Sara and Hagar.  Sara wanted Abraham to send Hagar away. Abraham was torn, but God told him to obey Sara’s wishes and promised to make a great nation out of Ishmael’s descendants, too.

So Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away. He sends them off with one container of food and one of water.  They leave, but quickly end up lost in the wilderness. They soon run out of water and Ishmael gets sick. It is interesting that the Bible says that they run out of water, but not food.  You see food is not always the main issue, even today. Without clean water, children can still get sick and die.

Ishmael gets so bad that Hagar knows he is about to die unless she gets water soon. Helpless, she sits him under a tree and walks about a hundred yards away and breaks down and cries out to God  — “I don’t want to see my son die!”

And then — this is the part I love …

God sends an angel to Hagar and opens her eyes. And when she looks up, she sees a well full of clean water.  

You know, God could have just taken her empty water container and filled it back up.  But He gave her so much more than a short-term solution.

Hagar then gives Ishmael the water and he makes a complete recovery.  

I thought about the reality of this story in my line of work. Like Hagar, mothers in deep poverty are having to sit their children down and walk away because they don’t want to see them die.

But, maybe we are the angels that God now wants to use and send to help meet their desperate needs.  

I believe we are.  

Isn’t it amazing that even though there are billions of people in the world, God still sees and cares for each and every person? There isn’t a place too dark or too dirty for Him. He isn’t afraid to reach down into the mess of this world and rescue us.  

Something that I have learned in my work is to not be overwhelmed by the masses. It can overwhelm and discourage you to see the overwhelming number of children or people who need help. Instead, I’ve learned to focus in on the one. To see the one. To rescue just one.

Mother Teresa said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

There is something about “rescue” … the literal act of rescue … that simplifies life for me. “Rescue” helps me focus in on the one … and everything else simply fades away.

Day 7:  Willing Rescuers  

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV

When I was growing up, my dad worked at a university. One summer he led a group of students to Brazil and my family was able to join him. One day we stumbled across this little boy.  He was about 5 years old, and his name was Nildo. He had no shoes, no shirt, he was just wearing this torn pair of underwear … and he was living by himself on the street. He was a street child. And, at that time in Brazil, there were thousands of street children, but God had put this one little boy in my path — one little boy named Nildo. I may not have been able to help all the street children in Brazil, but I could make a difference for him.

Although we get the opportunity to rescue, we aren’t called to save every person — that would be a huge burden that no individual can carry.  Maybe you feel inadequate, not fully equipped to help someone who is hurting or lost. I’ve got good news: you’re in good company.

I like what Christine Caine says: “But for the desperate, the hungry, the oppressed — for those in pain, rescue cannot come soon enough. And when the lost call to us for rescue, God doesn’t command us to be supermen. He commands us to simply be willing, and He will do the rest.”

Our part? Be willing. God’s part? The rest! That doesn’t sound as intimidating ,does it?

I know that sometimes insecurities, fears, and doubts can get in the way. Would God really call me to help this person, travel to this country, go THAT far out of my comfort zone? The answer is yes. He does call us to do hard and seemingly impossible things for those desperate and hurting in our world. But not all in our own strengths or abilities.

God’s strength and power shine like the sun through all of our weaknesses and limitations.

We are rescued to rescue. But ultimately the point isn’t in the rescuing — it’s in pointing others to the Rescuer.

Noel Yeatts (@noelyeatts)  is an active advocate for social justice and humanitarian needs around the world.  Noel is an author, speaker, and the President of World Help, an international, Christian humanitarian organization serving the physical and spiritual needs of impoverished communities around the world. Her heartbeat beats for rescue, restoration, and justice for all.

You can follow Noel on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @noelyeatts.

For more from Noel Yeatts you can visit her website www.noelyeatts.com to access her podcast and other resources as well as sign up for her newsletter.

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