|A Christmas Reflection by Claire Fedele|
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of lighting the love advent candle and speaking about radical love at a church that partners with Shade.
The Christmas story is really all about radical love. It’s a love story of the God of the universe sending His Son to the earth as a baby, that He might save us from our sin and death.
I began to reflect on this radical act of love of God and about how He’d taught me to love radically while in Tanzania. I’d like to share a few of those briefly now.
First, radical love is first and foremost about encountering the radical love of Father God.
Before God sent me to Tanzania, I attended a school for missions in Mozambique. When I arrived, I thought I would be learning what to do to be a missionary, but it turned out that it was all about who to be to be a missionary. It was all about identity in Christ.
God began to lead me into a deeper revelation of the truth that, in Christ, identity doesn’t stem from what I do, but from what Christ did for me. And when I truly realized this, it changed everything. It’s not all about falling in love with God, but rather realizing the extent to which He’s fallen in love with me. It’s only because He first loved me that I can truly love Him in return because He revealed Himself to me and professed His love on the cross.
Therefore, true identity is found not in what I can do for God, but what He has already done for me.
Once I encountered this radical love, I was forever changed. I couldn’t help but fall in love back. And being in love, I was ready to do anything for the One. I would go to the ends of the earth because I was compelled by His love to act.
This is what mission work is: being in love.
It’s not striving to earn love, to accomplish tasks, to find God, or to earn prestige. In Christ we are loved unconditionally, have nothing to prove, are assured in the promises of finding God, and ascribe to Him all of the glory.
Radical love is the foundation of missions. Not the radical love for others, but first the radical love of the Father that compels us to go.
Second, radical love means entering into the pain and suffering of the world.
The radical love of the Father compelled me to get on a plane with two suitcases and a one-way ticket to Tanzania. It sent me to a center for children with albinism, one of the saddest and most heartbreaking places I’ve ever
God gave me Sipe, a little girl who cried for days, and all she could say was that she wanted her mama, a mama who wouldn’t be coming back for her.
God gave me little preschoolers laid out on the floor, sick from drinking salty water from the nearby well because the water was shut off.
God showed me a new girl who came to the center with half of a face because the lack of pigment had caused skin cancer to eat away at her face.
God taught me that radical love means entering into
It’s only when I entered in that I could tell Sipe that she is loved and accepted and a child of God, bring clean drinking water and care for the aching bellies of the smallest ones, and declare there is healing in Jesus for the young woman who was ravaged by cancer.
Radical love means entering in.
Finally, radical love means pursuing the lost and bringing them home.
God showed me this through a little, six-year-old boy named John Charles. John was dropped off at the center for children with albinism, although he didn’t have albinism himself. He had been found at the bus station and had nowhere else to go.
John was a terror. He threw rocks at chickens, fought with the other children, refused to eat porridge and then laid on the floor crying that he was hungry. He was frustrating, to say the least.
But God was teaching me how to love him radically.
One particular day at the center, I was unable to find little John. After searching, I learned that he had run away the day before and no one had even noticed for over 24 hours. I walked out the gates of the center and sobbed. That’s when God spoke to me about the parable of the lost sheep: It’s always God’s heart to leave the 99 to look for the one.
I boarded a bus with a few friends the next day, traveled three hours to the big city where he’d gone, and miraculously, through showing a photo to a bus stand worker, he was found. Although hundreds pass through daily, the man recognized John and went away to bring John back, riding on his shoulders.
We bought him some breakfast. As we ate, I thanked God for being the One who pursues us and rescues us from the messes that we get ourselves in, and in joy feeds us with His very self when we agree to be found by Him. Eventually, John’s small voice spoke up: “I want to go back to school. Claire’s school.”
He slept the whole way back on the bus to Shinyanga in my arms, and when we arrived, he started to live at his new home. Our home.
Radical love means pursuing the lost and bringing them into
This Christmas, I am so thankful that God found me, lost and hopeless, and brought me into His family through His Son Jesus. As you reflect on the miracle of Christ’s birth this holiday season, I pray that you will receive a new revelation of the radical love of God for you and be filled so full that you will enter into the pain of a broken world to love others radically.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Shade Tanzania!