On the night of the Savior’s birth, the shepherds watched their flocks like countless nights before, marking off hours on a menial job to provide for their families. They were common, uneducated men living off the land, protecting their sheep from thieves and wild animals. The shepherds were the working poor, trying to eke out a meager living on the fringes of society. Yet It was to these poor shepherds the angels came that dark night. The heavenly messengers pierced the darkness in bright light to announce the birth of the Savior for all humankind, not to kings or diplomats, not to the rich or powerful, but to men society considered the least important of all. There were no angels dispatched to the palaces of the world—although wise men sought Him. They were not dispatched to the religious leaders of the time, or the great intellects or business leaders of the day, but to poor, marginalized shepherds.
The Father’s choice continues to amaze me—and humble me. God’s unexpected miracle of His Son’s birth established a clear pattern that would define Jesus’ ministry. Throughout His earthly walk among us, and then down through the ages, He has used the least of humankind to accomplish great works for the Kingdom. From the moment of His birth, He has worked among the least of society to confound the wisdom of the world and bring greater Glory to His name. This unexpected miracle still happens today as God uses the poor, who are rich in faith, to convict the world of its misplaced priorities. God works among people considered “the least” by earthly standards to highlight to primary importance of faith over wealth, power, prestige, privilege, or anything else.
Take a lingering look at these pictures of our church in Galati, Romania, captured as they met for worship this Christmas. This congregation began as a result of the faithful obedience of Bogdon, who was radically saved through the ministry of a missionary. Before responding to the good news of Jesus Christ, he was chief among the thieves in the valley of Gypsies near Galati. He ran a lucrative business peddling drugs and prostitutes. Bogdon typified why Romanians consider Gypsies irredeemable—a waste of government and ministry money. According to Bogdon, ninety percent of men sell drugs and urge ninety percent of their women to sell themselves.
Most respected Romanians avoid this place of great poverty and danger, yet it is here that H.I.S. BridgeBuilders helped Bogdon plant Grace Valley Church. They continually see souls saved, radically and dramatically. Couples unite in marriage and leave the streets. Sewing classes help the women earn an honest wage and disciples join them in prayer about how to take back their community.
While progress has been amazing, there is still so much to accomplish. The task can feel overwhelming. Even so, when we consider all that God has done through each unexpected miracle, His grace is all the more amazing. I am humbled by their desire to worship as they gather in a new little building provided by our International Board. A small heater barely keeps the room from freezing, the members live on less than two dollars a day, families struggle to find enough firewood to survive 9-degree days and perpetual snow on the ground—yet nothing keeps them from joining together to worship their King.
They have to wear heavy coats and hats in the church building to keep warm, yet they worship. They have no beautiful Christmas trees in their metal shacks, still, they worship. They have no toys for their children to unwrap, but they worship. They have no guarantee of income, and they worship. They don’t have enough firewood in the valley to keep them from freezing; even so, they worship. Their devotion in spite of humble circumstances humbles me beyond words.
I long to see our brothers and sisters in Galati thrive, and for their neighborhood to be restored in every way, but I am continually grateful for the unexpected miracles I see every day among them. They remind me of why God brought the glad tidings of the Savior’s birth to poor shepherds. The Father knew they would be faithful to worship the King of Kings and that they would respond in faith to His Son’s birth!
If the sheep you seek to shepherd are fat and happy, and if they have no desire to hear the Masters voice, I urge you to pray that this coming year the Lord would send you to minister among “the least of these.” As you serve the poor, I have every confidence you will see God work unexpected miracles in your life and the lives of the people you serve—for your good, and for His Glory!