19 June 2014 by Adeline Lum CM-
Called by God from a place of affluence to live amongst the poor and downtrodden in the slums, Craig saw and experienced the heart of Jesus Christ.
“When Jesus left the most exclusive gated community in the universe and came down to walk amongst us, He particularly sought out the prostitutes, the outcasts, the poor, the beggars, and the disabled. The bible says that Jesus is filled with compassion,” said Craig.
Matt 23:11-12 says, “The greatest among you should be a servant.”
Craig shared how he was humbled from moving into a house in Cambodia, which was infested with rats, which frightened him.
“If you want to be humble, move out of your comfort zone. We followed Jesus who lived in the most gated community in the universe, who modeled what it meant to move out of our comfort zone,” said Craig.
Jesus did not come to earth the way we wanted it as a—president, powerful CEO, or rich man—but He came as the most vulnerable person imagined in order to identify with the most vulnerable children in the world.
“This is His Plan to save and transform the world. This is the counter-cultural message that we need to see at the heart of our gospel,” said Craig.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Cor 1:26-29)
When Jesus came as a homeless baby fleeing for his life from the Pharoah, He identified with the refugees who flee from their country. Craig was reminded of how his wife also fled Cambodia with his mother when she was young. Concealed in a fertilizer truck through landmine jungles to the refugee camp, his wife finally escaped the ruthless Khmer Rouge grasp at that time.
That is why Jesus constantly says, “Whenever you one of these little children in my name welcomes me.” (Mark 9:37a). And that is also why he said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matt 8:20)
Craig shared how Jesus took the scroll of Isaiah and read these words:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
That is the core of who we are as Christians.
Growing up, Craig did not understand why Jesus referred to good news ‘for the poor.’ Should not the good news be available for everyone? He finally understood this truth when he had children.
He shared an incident whereby his daughter broke her leg while playing on the trampoline. During those weeks of recovery, Craig’s heart as a father burdened for her pain; he hugged her more compared to his son because she needed more hugs from him.
But did he love his son less? No, he still loves his son and would lay down his life for him. But this is the picture of God’s love for his children who are in pain, children whom we are not concerned about.
Living with his family in the an area with the most concentrated drug activity in United States, where there are more than 5000 drug addicts in an area of five blocks, Craig would hear shouts, “There are kids on the block” whenever he and his children take a stroll down the street. Everyone would stop swearing, stop fighting, and put away the drug-administering needles.
“That is the picture of how God use the weak people, his young children. The police officers could not even stop their activity but my kids could. That is the picture of the upside down Kingdom of God,” said Craig.
Starting Alongsiders in Cambodia, Craig saw how God want to use the poorest people in Cambodia to be the forefront of the changes in the world. He is reminded of the valley filled with dry bones in Ezekiel 36, where the breath of God brought these bones to life.
“We began to encourage young people to take on a child and disciple them one-on-one, which spread out to India, Indonesia, and Thailand,” said Craig, referring to Alongsiders.
All children regardless of race, nation, and creed are precious in the eyes of God. Craig shared how he held up a USD1 note. Two hundred hands shot up in the air wanting to have that dollar note. Although Craig crumpled and trampled the note under his feet, the children still wanted the note because the value of the dollar does not change.
“Isn’t that like you and me? On the outside, you may be called the drug addicts and homeless people. But in the upside down Kingdom of God, each of us is made in the image of God and each one of us has value.
“The most beautiful thing is to encourage orphans. Someday, you’re going to grow up becoming Christian teachers, Christian prime minister of Cambodia, and successful Christian businessmen. They shook their head because they don’t believe they could,” said Craig.
Craig shared many young orphans resigned their worth to their circumstances in life, but a particular young girl raised her hand up amidst the orphans and said to him, “That’s me!”
“This girl would travel in the streets to find food for her younger brother. And we have a God who used an orphan named Ruth to save her people. We have a God who used Jesus Christ who came as a vulnerable child to save the world,” said Craig.
In these children lies the immense future that must not be quenched by their poverty and destitution.
Craig also shared how a 23 year old boy wanted to become an Alongsiders.
The boy shared about his reason to be an Alongsiders, “That is because I hope that there’s one boy in this universe who would not feel the loneliness and isolation like me.”
“Most of us are called to lead but we lead with a limp because not one of us is as excellent as we want to be,” said Craig who identified with weakness especially when he was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.
“I am not an invincible strong leader but I’m a frail sinner filled with fears, anxiety, and wanderings. But you know what keeps me out of myself? My multiple shortcomings are God’s glory.
“I take my eyes off myself and place it on that little boy who asks himself, ‘Maybe if I sniff some glue tonight, I will stop feeling hungry and lonely,’ ‘if I died on the streets, would anyone pick up my body?’, ‘does anyone know that I am chained to his bed in the brothel?’
“I take my eyes of myself and place them on Jesus, on the distressing disguise of the poor. I have come to bring good news to the poor because the last will be the first. If we want to be Christ-like, we need to follow Jesus to the poor,” said Craig. He praised the Lord for healing him after a few surgeries.
Lastly, Craig shared how a Cambodian family was willing to welcome an orphan boy who was mentally challenged and mute. This boy would bang his head on the wall to beg for food on the streets before he was welcomed into the family.
But after he was installed in a loving family, Craig saw this boy blossomed!
After a few months, this boy learned to communicate and mouthed a few words. He even learned to clean himself. Every time when Craig rides his motorcycle to visit the boy in his new family, this little boy would run out to the streets with a big grin across his face and hands extended, he would say, “Papa! Papa!”
“You see when you humble yourself and live among the people He loves, you meet Jesus. The paradoxical, mystical thing is that Jesus will be present among the poor, in our brokenness and weakness.
“If we want to see transformation, if we want to be leaders, we must come to the grip that we are going to be wounded healers. If we are covering and pretending that we do not have wounds, we are outdoing with the things and values of the world.
“God uses the weak and despised. You might say, ‘I am lonely, broken, and I have nothing to offer,’ but you are exactly the person that God can use,” said Craig.
Lead with a broken limp. It’s the only way God can use you; it is when you are broken and humble before him.
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