Blessed are the poor in spirit

By Krista Burns

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them… Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God...”  (Matthew 5: 3 - 11)

I am fascinated by God's economy: the idea that He took everything that seemed natural to us and flipped it on it's head declaring that what was up is now down. We've been invited to live in an upside-down world. The poor will be rich, the hungry will be satisfied, the lowly will be exalted. I just wish it weren't so easy to forget.

I heard a knock at the door and as I answered I was greeted by a broad white smile on a dark African face.

"Hi miss, I'm Joseph. I'm here to take you to the airport, can I take your bags?"
I could tell he'd not had much experience with rolling suitcases before because instead of rolling it along the footpath, he clumsily turned it wheels-up and placed it on his head. I smiled to myself and followed him to the car.

I had been in Niarobi for a week to attend an International Board meeting for African Enterprise, an organisation focused on evangelising the major cities in Africa through partnerships with local churches. I was blessed to hear from the local ministry leaders about how God was at work and to be surrounded by some truly remarkable people.
Surprisingly, I had been asked to represent Ireland at the meetings, even though I’m not even Irish. This thoroughly confused people.
"So... you're Irish," they would say.
"Actually, I'm an American, but I live in Ireland and I’m here for Ireland."
"But you're from Ireland," they would insist.
"Well, yes... but...I’m American too."

I was excited by the opportunity to be there. I was also quite pleased with myself, if I'm honest. A 20-something girl, from a small country town in Oregon sent to represent Ireland in Kenya at an international board meeting. I was going places.
Joseph had managed to get the suitcase off of his head, and into the boot of the car.
“I've never been on a plane but someday I will,” he said, making flapping motion with his hands.
“I hope you do!” I said as we settled into the car for the journey.
“It was such a pleasure to have you with us,” he said. “I was so blessed to see you here, my sister! Someone as young as you! It makes me excited for the future of this ministry.”
Flattered, I thanked him and for the next 15 minutes he asked about me. So I told him ALL about me. What I do, why I live in Ireland. We talked about my boyfriend and what he does. All the while Joseph listened intently.

It was as if joy was dripping from his pores.

“I praise God for you my sister!” he would say over and over. It was as if joy was dripping from his pores. The broad and infectious smile never left his face.
“Anyway,” I said, realizing I had gone on long enough. “Tell me about you, Joseph.”
So Joseph told me all about himself and it was a story that completely shocked and humbled me.

Joseph’s story

Joseph was born into a village outside Nairobi that was heavily influenced by witchcraft. As a child his parents decided he was the least likely of all their children to be successful. So they broke his legs and hoped that he would die. He didn’t die but was left severely crippled and had to be carried from place to place.

When local missionaries visited his village, they led Joseph to faith in Jesus Christ. He was so excited by his new faith that he prayed for God to heal his legs so he could walk to church and learn more about Jesus.

Miraculously, over a period of a few weeks he went from being carried, to walking with crutches and then walking un-assisted. Using his new legs, he started walking to church every Sunday.

Trying to read the Bible proved another challenge because Joseph only spoke Swahili and the Bibles were in English! So again he prayed asking God to open his mind to read His Word. And God did that too. Joseph was able to read passages of the bible in English without any English education!

He was so excited by his new faith that he prayed for God to heal his legs so he could walk to church and learn more about Jesus.

“I thought I was going crazy”, he said “ for weeks I felt like blocks were moving around in my head, rearranging themselves. But I just kept praying because I wanted to understand. Then suddenly, I did!”

Today, Joseph works at African Enterprise cleaning the offices and helping where he’s needed.
“I am a cleaner, praise God! I get to clean the African Enterprise office and now I am driving people to the airport! I love serving Jesus any way I can,” he said, his smile bigger than ever.
“God is so good to me, and I know that whatever I do I’m doing for God.”

Joseph now supports the family that cast him aside so many years ago. Many of his siblings have contracted HIV, leaving Joseph to care for their children as well.

“I take clothes and food back to my village when I can. They are always happy to see me coming, because without my visits, they would have very little.”

“Do you know what I love to do?” he said. “I love to throw dance parties in the slums! I go with loud music and once a crowd of people has come around to dance, I stop the music and tell them about Jesus. Then, we dance even more to celebrate all the people who get saved! Now, I am saving up so I can buy a generator to take the music anywhere and have even bigger dance parties and tell even more people about Jesus, praise God!”

In spite of all his past challenges and present hardships, Joseph’s focus is still squarely on Jesus. I sat in the passenger seat utterly ashamed by my own attitude. He had reminded me of something it is so easy to forget. That God uses the weak things of this world to confound the wise and God’s heart is toward the broken. That is the beauty of God’s economy.

My week in Kenya began with my pride in being counted among the leaders. It ended with my desire to be like Joseph, the office cleaner. He was a person who, unlike me, understood that God is always enough and was fully satisfied to just know Jesus and make him known.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Thanks to Joseph I see Him a little more clearly now too.