Collapsing the Distance

Poor childSharon Rhodes Wickett, her powerful sermon, “Collapsing the Distance” shares the following story:  I attended the Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The meetings were held in the large sanctuary in the capital city, Freetown.  Each day as we entered the large doors into the sanctuary there was a young girl, maybe about the age of 8, who begged at the door. She looked ragged, dirty, her hair was matted and knotty, and she had on tattered clothes. No one seemed to know her, and people brushed her aside upon entering.  Some of the pastors tried to tell her to go away. We were busy doing the work of the church. She was a bother. This went on for several days.

 As I sat in the pew observing the Conference one day, my peripheral vision caught some motion outside. I looked out the window, and there on the patio, outside the sanctuary was a woman, a lay member of the conference. She found a bucket and some soap. Although dressed in a beautiful traditional tie-dye gown, she pushed up her sleeves, and she was giving that 8-year-old girl a bath.  She soaped up her hair and was tenderly making her all clean and new. She washed the clothes the child had been wearing, and they were spread out on the bushes in the sun drying. The woman went out and got another dress for her to wear, too.

 Hundreds of pastors and devoted lay persons poured into the Methodist Church of Freetown to do the work of the church. But outside, on the edges, quietly and without notice, the work of redemption – the work of Jesus Christ was being done. It was not the work of committees and reports and programs. It was the work of soap and water and human touch and being able to see the face of Jesus in that of an abandoned 8-year-old girl.


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