What If This Were Your Story?
“My name is Emmanuel Shyiraker, and I am 18 years old. I have been coming to Africa New Life Ministries for 4 years. Some street kids told me about the programs they had. I thank God that I’m still alive now. My dad died in 2000, but I still have my mom and young sisters. I got sick and my mother couldn’t take care of me anymore so someone else took me to a hospital in Uganda. After I got better, I was abandoned in Kigali. Although my mother lives here, she cannot support me, so I feel I have to support myself. I have a friend who is a watchman who let’s me sleep in his office. I would like to be a defense minister in the government in Kigali one day. I would also love to study welding at the Vocational Training school. I fear seeing people kill each other again. I have been in jail several times, but God has helped me stop my bad habits and I no longer get in trouble. Having my name known somewhere would be amazing. That means so much to me because it makes me feel valued. If I get to go back to school, it would be so wonderful for my life.” (from the Hello Somebody website).
Jesus himself said that the second greatest commandment in Scripture, after loving God with all you are (Matt. 22:36-38), was to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39). And since he is the Word and was there when it was written (John 1:1-3), I’m going to pay attention when he says something is important.
I may not live next door to Emmanuel in Rwanda, but this verse is not exclusive based on proximity. In fact, it’s all-inclusive. We are to love anyone we meet, anyone we know, as ourselves. No, I haven’t met Emmanuel. But I know of him, I know his name, and I know he is valued by God. The digital age has made our world smaller, in a sense, and made it easier to connect with people halfway across the globe.
So when I read Emmanuel’s story, to love him as myself, I need to put myself in his place. I heard it described once as stripping off your own skin and putting it on someone else. John Piper puts it like this:
“As you long for food when you are hungry, so long to feed your neighbor when he is hungry. As you long for nice clothes for yourself, so long for nice clothes for your neighbor. As you work for a comfortable place to live, so desire a comfortable place to live for your neighbor. As you seek to be safe and secure from calamity and violence, so seek comfort and security for your neighbor. As you seek friends for yourself, so be a friend to your neighbor. As you want your life to count and be significant, so desire that same significance for your neighbor. As you work to make good grades yourself, so work to help your neighbor make good grades. As you like to be welcomed into strange company, so welcome your neighbor into strange company. As you would that men would do to you, do so to them” (Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, Part 2).
So, what happens if you put yourself in Emmanuel’s shoes? Try it. Imagine:
You lost your dad when you were young. You became so sick that your own mother couldn’t take care of you and had someone else take you to a hospital in another country. When you finally got better, you were abandoned in a city. Your family can’t support you, so you feel like you have to take care of yourself. You live on the streets and sleep in a friend’s office. You’ve gotten in trouble with the law and been in jail before, but you’ve put that behind you and are trying to make something more out of your life. You have dreams to be a defense minister and study welding. The only way you can pursue these dreams is if you get to go back to school. You have to depend on the kindness of others to be able even to do that. You have seen death, and it is your greatest fear to see people kill one another again, and you are thankful to be alive. You have a deep desire to feel valued and just want someone, somewhere to know your name, to know who you are, to care about you.
How would you show yourself love if that were you? In Jesus’ words, that is the way we are supposed to show love to Emmanuel.
We have a privilege, an opportunity, and a responsibility to love Emmanuel (and others like him) as we love ourselves, to provide for him the things we provide for ourselves. By sending him to another year of school at Africa New Life Ministries, we can help him chase his dreams, just as we pursue our dreams by going to school and working towards our goals. We can enable him to learn skills that will allow him to provide for himself and his family. as we seek to train ourselves. We can provide two meals a day for him, so he won’t have to go hungry, and can focus on school, as we feed ourselves (usually much more than two meals a day). Most of all, we can show him that he is valued and loved, just as we want to know that we are valued and loved. God knows his name, and so do we.
I’m not talking about just sympathizing with Emmanuel and loving him as yourself “in spirit.” As dcTalk so aptly put it back in the day, love is a verb. I’m talking about taking an active, sacrificial, real step to to love him, just as you would do for yourself. Right now, you can buy a watch or donate in Emmanuel’s name (literally— be sure to write “Emmanuel Shyiraker” in the Note to seller field on the order/donation review) through Hello Somebody. It takes 70 watches or $1000 to send Emmanuel to school and feed him two meals a day for a year.
This is real. It can make a real difference in Emmanuel’s life. It can show him God’s love.
You can see this as a guilt trip and shrug it off; be annoyed that I keep talking about this; think, “oh, that’s something I should do,” and never do it; OR you can take action now. It’s your choice. I want to help Emmanuel, but I can’t do it alone. I need your help. Together, we can show love and change a life.
For more information and updates, see Team Emmanuel S, like the Facebook page, and join the Facebook event. Let’s rejoice in what God does— please comment and let me know when you buy a watch or donate! And please, spread the word.