Growing in Grace

03/04/2014 11:07 AM | By Ray Benson, First B Cares Ministry

I grew up in a home that reached out to others. Mom served selflessly in church music, and Dad ultimately, gave up his successful medical practice to serve the forgotten, poverty stricken peoples of the northern highlands of South Vietnam. He and Mom lived there until forced out by advancing Viet Cong troops. Even as they poured their lives out for others, I, as their son, lived a life of privilege at college in America. At Taylor University (Indiana) I had everything I needed and wanted. 

I gave my heart to the Lord at age 9, but then went through major adolescent struggles and didn’t walk with Him. I was so miserable! At age 16, The Lord brought Tom Little into my life. He was a teacher (“master”) at the Stony Brook School for Boys 3,000 miles away from my home in Montana. Through his influence I was drawn back into fellowship with Jesus and found a great desire to love and serve Him. In college, my call to full-time ministry crystallized, culminating in pastoral ministry here in Eugene.

Through all those years, including my time in the pastorate, the poor weren’t on my radar. When I thought about them, I easily rationalized their predicament to be caused by a flaw in their character. Like the disciples in John 9:1-2, I asked, “Who sinned…?” (i.e. ‘What did they do wrong that got them in their predicament?’) I had more criticism than compassion. But once again Jesus wanted to draw me closer to Him and change my heart.

God kept bringing me into contact with the financially poor and Scripture began to change my thinking, my heart and my life. To the disciples’ inquiry “Who sinned…?” Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Jesus didn’t find fault, He found opportunity—to serve, to extend grace and mercy. Scripture seemed to keep directing Judy and me to scripture passages telling of Jesus’ ministry to the downcast and downtrodden. Most convicting of all were His words in Matthew 25: “…I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…”  Jesus tells us that His compassion for the poor is so great, that when we serve them, we serve Him. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these my brothers and sisters of mine, you did it unto me…” (Matthew 25:40).

This astonishing truth struck home: our tangible acts of love toward the disadvantaged were ways to physically serve our Lord. Judy and I were stricken with conviction that we were only doing these acts of love toward those in our immediate circle of friends and relatives. When we realized how small our vision was, we began to seek opportunities to stretch our boundaries in extending His love to folks in desperate need of receiving it in tangible ways.

This decision has turned in to an extended faith-adventure for both of us. Currently Judy works with the HIV Alliance, while I am serving on the FBC staff in the First B Cares ministry. It is my joy to steward your generous grace-gifts to the Cares Fund to convey our Lord’s infinite love and grace to those seeking assistance. When crisis needs are met, there is overflowing gratitude, tenderness and openness to hear more about the Savior. You are changing lives through your generosity, and it is a thrill to be a part of it!  Together we labor so “that the work of God might be displayed” in and through us for His glory. Thank you!