Finding the love of God in unexpected places
By Julian Bryant
I woke up sweating, headache, stomach pains and had really bad diarrhoea. I was lying on a thin roll of a bed in a slum made of metal in the middle of Phnom Pehn, built on an area strewn with rubbish, and it was hot and humid. It was like an oven and I felt so bad.
I was there to help with a drugs project for young people living in inner city slums and was staying with a really poor family. Many people in these slums are the poorest of the poor. I had committed myself to eating whatever was put in front of me as these people had so little. And so despite people telling me not to, I had eaten the three-month old fermented fish offered by another family.
But now I could hardly move – and the place for the toilet seemed so far. And yet the family I was staying with, who had hardly anything, gave me practically everything. They bought me bottled water despite being poor, fanned me to cool me, tried to feed me and cared for me so much. I was there to share my knowledge with others but I learnt so much about the love and compassion of God through these people. The love of Jesus often comes to me in unexpected places.
I knew a young woman called Jenny whose life had been taken over by crack and heroin. Yet at Christmas she always made a huge effort to stop using so that when she met her children, who were in care, she could show care for them and love. She also used the money she had to give them presents. If love originates in God then maybe she was showing something of the love of God to her children.
Jesus was born in an unexpected place. Not in a palace or in a rich house. There were no professional health care staff and consultants ready for the birth. Those people who did find him had to be shown where he was as there was no giant crowd or media circus. The wise men went to a palace first and then had to be guided to a stable. In the unexpected place they fell to their knees and worshipped Jesus; and then soon after, you would have found Jesus as a refugee fleeing persecution.
So where will you find the love of God this Christmas? Maybe you should go to the unexpected places, where people are on the margins, or without food or seemingly having nothing. Maybe you will find more of the love of God there than you have ever experienced in the safe places.
And maybe you will have to accept that love and worship Him there as He ‘shines on those in darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.’