I long to live in “a thin place” — where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we feel and experience heaven on earth.
But to be honest, more often, life feels like I’m in a thick place. Thick with the weight of responsibilities and the realities of this life. Thick with the pressures and the pains of the things we experience. And yet all throughout the Scriptures, I get the sense that God’s invitation is to draw us into a holy collision, where heaven and earth crash into one another, where we experience his presence over and over — the thin place.
This past spring, I experienced the thin place of God’s presence in a way that I have never experienced it before. I tasted a glimpse of heaven on earth.
We invited each and every person at our church into a wild and holy adventure, to step into a sponsorship relationship with a child in Kenya. What was so special and so beautiful was that we replaced the structure of privilege and got to put the dignity and the empowerment into the hands of the child to choose their sponsor.
The response far surpassed our big, crazy, only-God goal. In two weeks, enough people said yes that we empowered hundreds of children to choose their sponsor.
We got to throw the greatest party on earth in Mwala, Kenya. Heaven came down, and the distance between heaven and earth collapsed. Love and light invaded the darkness as we sang and danced and celebrated over and over again as children chose their sponsors. I saw the beauty of children receive the blessing of choice. I saw children who go to sleep on a dirt floor and are often wondering where their next meal is going to come from receive the blessing of choice. Everything about these kids’ lives looks as if they don’t have choice. But that was reversed. They looked at photos of people from our congregation and they chose a sponsor.
Love and light invaded the darkness as we sang and danced and celebrated over and over again as children chose their sponsors.—Jeanne Stevens
Nothing has shaped my heart more as a pastor than seeing my church’s photos hung up in the middle of Africa and to see hundreds of kids coming and choosing them. I felt like my heart was leaping out of my chest. I am profoundly grateful to pastor a church that said, “We’re going to put the choice back in the kids’ hands.”
I got to see what a true transforming relationship with Jesus looks like. It is both personal and public. I long for people to have a personal thriving relationship with Jesus, but it can’t stay private because Jesus said, “They will know us by our love.” There are many ways I see the private and public love of Jesus on display, but the way it was put on display in Mwala, Kenya, was both profoundly private and public. It has transformed my life and our church.
As a leader, I am regularly trying to communicate in ways for people to get the heart of the gospel, that God gave his Son and that he chose us. To allow our people to be in the posture of actually being chosen was beyond anything I could ever preach in a sermon.
I hope you choose to let a child choose you today. I hope you experience that thin place, heaven on earth.
Jeanne Stevens is co-lead pastor at Soul City Church in Chicago, which has been partnering with World Vision for eight years to impact the lives of vulnerable children. Sponsors at Soul City were the first in World Vision’s history to be chosen by the children.