When we landed in Entebbe, Uganda to prepare for our trips to Sudan and rural Uganda with our mission, we were picked up at the airport by a taxi driver and driven to our guest house for the night. I had not been back to Africa since we left Malawi a few years earlier, and I was so happy to be back on the continent. I was also absolutely exhausted, already missing my kids, and unsure of and anxious about spending the next two weeks with strangers in places I had never been – essentially with it being a “job interview,” since we would find out if one or both teams would invite us to come do life with them. My mind was doing a million things and I had a hard time focusing.
But I can clearly remember driving through Entebbe and Kampala in the dark, seeing fires on the side of the roads as people hawked corn and pastries and whatever else one might want to stop and eat after a long day. Children ran everywhere – dressed in varying amounts of clothing. Some laughed and squealed, some cried with runny noses and flies buzzing. The diesel smell filled the air as the traffic buzzed and hummed all around. There were conversations being spoken in a language I was not at all familiar with. I couldn’t take it in fast enough.
As I drank it in with all my senses, I kept thinking, “I don’t know any of these people, yet they all have a story.” They have all loved (and probably lost.) They have desires for peace and family, love and happiness. They long for security, need money and shelter, do the daily tasks of living life. And, most importantly, each of them were created in the image of God, just like me. We couldn’t be from two more different worlds, yet we all had our Maker in common. God loved each of us.
The difference was that I knew this truth. It was one of the reasons I wanted to be in rural Africa – I wanted to be a part of spreading that truth to those who may not understand it yet. Yet as I sat in that taxi, I was overwhelmed by the fact that I was one small, tiny, minuscule little speck in the tapestry of history. My own story and my life was important – so much so that I knew Jesus would have gone to the cross for just me. But it was not the only story.
One of our desires for living overseas was to help our kids see this. Yes, they were the most important people to US, but they were NOT the only important people in the world. Each person, made in the image of God, is unique, beautiful, and important. Each of us are also broken, wounded, and sometimes feel worthless. God knows every single person intimately. The Bible tells us he knew us before we were formed in the womb. He knows the numbers of hairs on our heads.
I couldn’t fathom that thought as I stared into the chaos of an African city street at night. Small houses with tin roofs; charcoal fires cooking foods that perfumed the air; layer after layer of houses and people and houses and people and houses and people – going far back into the darkness with millions I would never even see, let alone know.
But God does.
This year as I think about the verses and things God has laid on my heart, I want to continue to be aware of this truth: that each person I meet – EVERY SINGLE ONE – is made in his image. Whether in a developing country where poverty is in your face every day and the needs are obvious, or in a place like DC, where wealth, status, and influence seem to permeate everything in life. The truth is still that people living in all these environments are all made to have a relationship with their Creator. Nothing else can fill that void. No matter what color, culture, belief system, background, political leaning, education, sexual preference or identity, or gender. Whether or not they are “easy” to love, or if it takes a bit of intentionality. Whether I have the margin or I feel depleted on my own strength. Whether I believe it in the moment or not, it doesn’t change the truth. Each person I meet is made in his image and important to God – therefore, they need to be important to me. Their dignity, their desires, their needs are all things that I want to be conscious of. While I know I cannot impact and truly love every single person in the world, I can be aware of who He sets in my path each day and be an imager-bearer to them so they can meet Jesus where they are and truly know Love. As I set my mind on things above and surrender my heart to him each day, I believe that I will see him in ways that will make me more like him.
“Show me you in each person I meet, Lord.”