Monday, October 24, 2011


"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak,
remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said:
'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

-- Acts 20:35

What's the best gift you ever received? For some people, it's the gift they gave to someone else.

The story goes that a doctor was driving through Kibati, Kenya, when he spotted a man approaching him with a bicycle. What quickly became apparent was that the man had a cleft lip--a deformity that often caused its victims to become social outcasts in that impoverished nation. The doctor pulled over, exited his vehicle and introduced himself to the bicyclist as Githinji Gatahi. Dr. Gatahi explained that he worked for an international organization called Smile Train, which could arrange for the surgical repair of the bicyclist's lip at no charge.

The bicyclist--named Peter--responded that he had heard about this remarkable bargain but always assumed there must be a catch. Dr. Gatahi assured him that the surgery was indeed free because generous donors from around the globe had already covered the cost. A few days later, the physician and his team drove their patient to the hospital. And just hours later, an awestruck Peter was staring at himself in the mirror. His cleft lip--the impairment that had plagued him for more than 30 years--was mended. And all it took was his willingness to accept Dr. Gatahi's offer for the costly, but free, gift.

"The words that keep ringing in my mind are that I don't believe it's for free...and yet I could never afford it," Peter said. "It just shows how many people we still need to reach out there," added Dr. Gatahi. "Luckily, people like Peter become real ambassadors for Smile Train."

Cleft lips and similar deformities are true curses in the developing world. In Uganda, babies born with clefts are named "Ajok," which literally means "cursed by God." These babies often must live lives of shame and isolation--and sometimes even abandonment--leading to death.

In modern industrialized nations like ours, we can be thankful that most babies with clefts don't face this fate. However, every one of us has been born with a sin defect that will lead to death and eternal isolation from God if someone doesn't pay for its repair. And the fact is that we can never pay that price--the one we rightfully owe for all the bad decisions, broken relationships and damage we've all wrought throughout our lives. The only way to solve this humanly impossible dilemma was for Jesus (known as The Great Physician) to pay for it Himself by dying on a cross. Jesus didn't deserve to be executed. But God loved us so much that He was willing to pay an incredible price just so we could avoid eternity in Hell and instead live with Him in joy forever.

Like Dr. Gatahi's patient who stared in amazement at his repaired cleft, we too find such generosity difficult to grasp. But it's true. The price for our salvation--one we can never repay--was paid in full through the death of Jesus. What's left for us to do is accept His precious gift with gratitude and become one of His ambassadors.

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