She fixed me with her steady, perceptive gaze and responded, “What if that is exactly what you are doing now?”
I had just been reminiscing and almost laughing about a prophetic word I had been told many years before. He had said, “You will stand before kings and queens.” Honestly, that was more of a threat or a nightmare than a dream of mine. However, I had been puzzled by it. For some reason, I recounted this to my missionary colleague and friend. Her response stuck in my mind and began growing within me, resounding with truth and its implications.
What if I already stand before kings and queens?
I work with some of the poorest people on this earth. They live in mud huts, no running water, malnutrition is a very real condition, and they are afflicted by numerous tropical illnesses including deadly bouts of malaria, diarrhea illnesses from lack of clean water and poor living conditions, and rampant HIV and tuberculosis. Their suffering is real. Their sustenance farming lifestyle makes them susceptible to droughts and flooding, and their low social status, literacy rates, and desperation makes them prime targets for manipulation and exploitation. As far as their influence…some of these women’s husbands do not know their names and merely call them as the mother of their children. Many of the women have no idea their own age, much less their birthday, and can hardly look you in the eye. The elderly, sick, and vulnerable are targeted for robberies and abuse. These are as far from the courts of kings and rulers as you can get. They have no kingdom, they have no following, and they have no fans or congregants. They would never be called kings and queens on this earth.
However, in Matthew 19:30 it explains “But many who are first will be last, and the last first,” and is echoed in Matthew 20:16 where it says “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
What if I am standing before the kings and queens of eternity? What if I get to give a drink of water to the queen that will one day rule for eternity beside her God who rewards those that love Him? What if I give a bag of milk and a bag of food to a dirty, ragged, bent, grandmother and her infant, orphaned grandchild, and I am actually serving a queen of heaven?
I will call her Esther, after the queen of old. She winced visibly as she struggled to stand. Holding her head with dignity, she gasped out her thanks. Her labored breathing was still noticeable from behind as she made her way out of the room. She is a woman somewhere in her 60s, coming to pick up food and milk from the nutrition program for her grandchild, Bella (not her real name), who is severely handicapped. Bella is severely spastic. This is a medical term used to describe increased and erratic muscle tone causing her to make jerks and extreme movements frequently. It is hard to cuddle or to control this child due to the unpredictability of the movements and the strength of the muscle contractions. For six years, this grandmother has faithfully cared for Bella. She was abandoned by her mother at four years of age. Esther has a form of cancer eating away at her foot, causing extensive sores and horrible swelling. Her devastated immune system leaves her susceptible to severe lung infections. Esther continues to fight every day. She explained to me that she must live or she does not know what will happen to Bella. She prays that God will heal her so that Bella can live. She gives thanks to God every day she has the strength to pick up Bella and bathe and care for her.
Is she not a queen? This woman’s faithfulness, courage, and endurance humbles me. She does not rule nations, but she has grabbed hold of the heart of our Almighty God. Many grandmothers here care for their orphaned grandchildren in hopes that the child will care for them when they get older. Those who care for severely handicapped have no such hope. Except for a miracle, they face a future of themselves getting older and frailer every day, as their grandchild continues to grow in size but remains unable to care for themselves. We have some grandmothers not even 5 feet tall carrying 10 year old children on their bent backs.
I am certain that, while they continue on unseen and unheard in this world, the God who created all things is watching and caring for them. My Mozambican colleague likes to tell those who are hurting, “God is not your uncle, He is not your stepfather, He is not your father-in-law. He is your Father. You can trust Him.” God is their father, and He is watching how I treat them. I am tempted to be relieved that all I have to do is work with the needy right now. I don’t have to be nervous about going into the courts of a king or president or ruler and making a mistake. I don’t have to be afraid of the consequences of making a misstep. Or do I?
The more I think about my friend’s words, I wonder how much of my thinking is backwards. When I stand before an earthly king, of course I have to be careful. But when I stand before Esther, I am convinced that all of heaven is watching.
In Genesis 16:13 Hagar, the unfortunate maid of Sarai, accurately gives God one of my favorite names for Him. “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here see Him who sees me’”
I am so honored to be working with the poor and unseen heroes of this world. I pray that I will never forget that as I serve them, I stand before kings and queens.