My all-time favorite quote by Mother Teresa is, “Do small things with great love.” I painted these words on a wooden board (in the shape of a heart) and hung it above my bathroom sink in my Greenville apartment the past two years. It was a daily reminder to me, that, God is not glorified only in the great things, but that He is most glorified in the small, unnoticed things that are done with His great love. Whether I was teaching my preschoolers in downtown Spartanburg, across the world serving orphaned and vulnerable children in Africa, or simply loving on a friend or neighbor nearby, I was reminded that God wants us to do small things with great love…and that every little small act of love and kindness brings glory to Him and joy to the people He has placed in our lives. He sees the heart and smiles down on us when our actions come from a place of genuine love for Him and His people – both big and small – in whatever season of life we may be in.
It says in the Bible,
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 – “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
God makes it very clear that, at the end of it all, love is the answer. Love is all that truly matters. Every day, every hour, and every moment, we have a chance to say yes! Yes to God, and yes to the daily tasks He has placed right in front of us – wherever we may be. He calls us to love Him and to love one another. And if anything as been made abundantly clear to me during my time here in Uganda, it is this. The Christian faith boils down to loving God and loving others. That is it.
While I have been here, God has slowly been whispering and growing some dreams in my own heart upon my return to America in a few short months. Dreams to serve His “little lambs” – and bring light to His children – both near and far. But, as God (and my supportive fiancé who listens to me, sharpens, and encourages me to chase after my dreams every day) is teaching me to dream big, I am learning the incredible importance of staying faithful in the small. The minuscule, everyday things that no one sees, and no one notices. The things that no one knows but our Heavenly Father.
Bathing little bodies before naptime. Spending extra time outside of class to reteach a concept to a child who needs help understanding. Reading aloud the same story over and over again, because the students love it so much. Sweeping up rice and beans off the floor, constantly. Laying down and cleaning up naptime mats. And, in everyday life at home, doing the laundry. Cleaning the kitchen. Putting food on the table for those we love. Loving the people in the place right before our eyes.
Christine Caine says it so beautifully – “You and I are chosen for a purpose, we are healed for a purpose, we are called for a purpose, and that purpose always involves other people.”
It’s okay to dream big (in fact, I believe God wants us to dream big), but we must stay faithful in the small. The unnoticed things. Praying behind closed doors, on our hands and knees. The little things that make the biggest difference. Loving others in the midst of our own brokenness of not having it all together. Remaining faithful in the small.
As I have finished reading Katie Major’s book, Daring to Hope, this week, I wanted to share another excerpt that talks about just this:
“As it turns out, faithfulness was in the ordinary, in the everyday things that do not feel glorious but, in fact, lead us to his feet.
Friend, faithfulness is what we repeatedly do, whether or not we see the results. Faithfulness is when we pour into hard people over and over, when we continue to serve in difficult situations, when we intentionally choose to lean into Him in our troubles as well as our joys. Faithfulness is a habit formed in our hearts when no one is looking, when the day is done and the stars creep out and our call isn’t easy but we don’t turn away.
And ultimately, faithfulness is truly and fully found in the One who pursues us though we thrash against Him, who sits with us as we wait in the silence, who fulfills all His promises with a yes and amen in life everlasting.”
This past week, I have seen, time and time again, examples of God’s people here showing His love. Small, tangible examples of His love make a bigger difference than we can even comprehend. And all it takes is being faithful in the small moments and saying yes to God and loving others.
Just the other day, sweet Alice surprised me at work with bananas she had picked from her very own banana tree at home in Walukuba. It was the sweetest day brightener and brought me so much joy!
On our Ugandan holiday (day off work) last week, I went with a group of people to the most beautiful place overlooking the Nile River, and was so sweetly reminded of God’s faithfulness through the generations. From little Moses to now. And, in this place, was able to process a lot of the dreams He has recently been placing on and speaking into my own heart. While, at the same time, gently reminding me to stay faithful in the small as I continue to dream big!
I witnessed two of our precious staff members at HEAL working diligently to raise money to give to another staff member who had recently lost her mother. I was humbled to my core and saw such a beautiful example of the body of Christ wrapping around one another, sharing one another’s burdens, in this moment.
On Friday, the entire preschool staff and interns worked together to create “scripture cards” from our little preschoolers (with their names and hand prints) for Jaja Tina (the founder of HEAL Ministries) to send to her as encouragement as she is battling cancer and going through surgery back in the States.
Later that day, I saw women and children come together to sing their hearts out to the Lord, as we praised and worshiped with everything we had, and prayed over various members of our staff – crying out to our Heavenly Father for the healing and deliverance that only He can bring.
This morning after church, Grace invited and welcomed me into her beautiful home in Masese (one of the largest slums in Jinja) for lunch and sweet fellowship with her family.
Grace finished preparing our meal over her small mud stove, we broke bread, we laughed, and just spent time reflecting on the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives and in the community.
She wanted to see pictures of my mom and my family, and she and her sweet children smiled so big and asked so many questions about what they were like and how we spent time with one another. It was such a joy to be able to share my own life with her, even though my people are halfway around the world. But she cared, and truly wanted to learn more about the people I love and who love me dearly. And that meant the world to me.
Moments later, she left the little area where we were sitting to eat, and came back in with a beautiful light blue necklace in her hand – that she had hand-made, just for me. She had asked me what my favorite color was earlier in the week, but I had no idea why.
This beautiful, light blue necklace was such a tangible representation of her love for me, and almost brought me to tears, as she put it around my neck and whispered to me, “God brought you to me. I have never had a friend like you at HEAL, Emily. You are my very best friend.” In that moment, not only did I feel Grace’s love for me and our friendship, but I felt the love of God wrapping around me, telling me that he loved me and had given me Grace as a dear best friend here, during my time in Uganda. What an answer to prayer.
I had surprised Grace’s family and brought a large pineapple that I found at the Jinja Central Market, and boy oh boy…I have never seen such happy smiles! As Grace was cutting up the pineapple and handing it out to her children, she just stopped, looked at me, and smiled. Then she said, “Sweet Emily. This is happiness. Such such happiness. Look at them. You provided this.”
It is crazy how sharing a pineapple (a treat and rare commodity in their household) could bring so much joy. But it did. And this moment of being a part of God’s love, while experiencing it from her family, was truly unforgettable. It really is the small acts of kindness, done in great love, that mean the most.
We just had the best morning/afternoon together, and I would never trade moments like these for anything in the world. To see, taste, experience, and be a part of sharing God’s love with one another….in the midst of our messy lives and broken, exhausted selves!
And then, hours later, I attended a “farewell party” for our sweet Betty – who has been a long-time staff member with HEAL Ministries. She has served the women and children here so faithfully and they just lavished her with love and appreciation by throwing the most beautiful party tonight – with dancing, music, decorations, and delicious food! They didn’t have to do this, but they wanted to. To show their love for Betty and to rejoice and celebrate the time that God had given Betty to them. It was definitely a night full of joy and laughter – an extension of God’s love to us all, as we celebrated sweet Betty!
My fiancé has been sending me a lot of sermons recently by a pastor in inner-city Chicago named Charlie Dates. And, in one of the most recent sermons I listened to while over here, He talks about the greatest life lesson he learned from his grandmother – years and years ago, as a young boy. He said that, whenever he would go visit her home, she would have him water the plants and garden with her. One day, though, he told her he didn’t want to help her water the plants anymore. When she asked him why, he responded with, “Whenever I try to water the plants with you, my bucket never makes it to the end of the yard because, by the time I get there, most of my water has already leaked out. I can’t make it to the end of the garden like you can, grandma.” His grandma chuckled to herself, and replied with, “Oh little one. If only you could understand…I gave you the broken and cracked bucket on purpose so that, through those tiny cracks and holes, the water would leak out to water all of the little seeds I knew were sitting in the soil along the path you would walk – can’t you see how they’ve now grown into beautiful flowers and plants after all this time of you carrying that leaking bucket?”
Essentially, Pastor Charlie Dates was saying that, through His grandmother’s broken bucket analogy, He learned the most important wisdom of all – that God uses broken vessels and the very things that we think make us failures to make us useful for his kingdom work. That when we are weak, He is strong. That in our weakness, His glory and light can shine even more brightly!
So good, right?!
Just like Mother Teresa says in my favorite quote, we are to “do small things with great love.” God doesn’t want us wasting our time worrying about our failures and where we fall short, but he wants us to love. Love Him and love others. To use our greatest weaknesses and failures to humble us and remind us that, he loves to use broken people for His glory, to show His love and compassion through us to other people, both near and far. Right along our life path, that God has planned long before we even came into existence.
I have been hearing so much recently, in both Christian and secular news, the recent fad and importance of “keeping boundaries” and spending time for yourself. While, yes, I do agree with the importance in making sure you are treating your body as a temple of the Lord and not over committing and stretching yourself too thin, I don’t think this is where Jesus wants us to stay. He calls us to literally POUR our lives out for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of others. Not to sit and stay comfortable in our own little bubbles.
Everyone’s “yeses” and callings look vastly different, but I think that every single one of us, deep down, know what these “yeses” are for us personally. And when we choose to refuse and not love the way we know Jesus is calling us to, someone is missing out on Jesus’ love.
Every big dream and every world-changing movement or idea starts with a simple yes. A yes to love the person and people right before our eyes. To care when no one else seems to care. To notice that someone isn’t okay, even if they keep trying to convince you (and everyone else) that they are “fine.”
God wants us to say yes, to the right now. Say yes, to the tasks placed right in front of us. Say yes, to loving and serving others unconditionally. Say yes, to dying to ourselves and living for Christ. Say yes, to believing that His plans are way better than our own. Say yes, to what scares us. Say yes, to putting ourselves out there even if we may get rejected. Say yes, to the unknown.
It takes unbelievable courage to say yes. But at the end of every yes is an “amen”- because God keeps His promises. When we say yes to Him and what He is calling us to do (big or small), He will always sustain us and keep His word.
As we say yes to Him and let Him carry us through, we can be confident that we are exactly where He wants us to be. To grow and to be stretched in ways that only He can plan. He knows what we need and will do whatever it takes to make us more like Him and to learn to rely on Him and Him alone.
“‘I indeed’ was this in the past, ‘but He’ came and something miraculous happened. Get to the end of yourself where you can do nothing, but where He does everything.”
My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers