Waking up to the stench of a nearby sewer filling the air and having no desire to get up and continue life. Forced to live in a cramped unhygienic, filthy little shack with no electricity and little to no clean water in a squatter camp where unemployment, crime, drug abuse and prostitution are on the rise. Praying daily that somehow your life will change for the better, that you will get off of the government housing waiting list for a decent place to reside, but realizing that you are just one of the million. Hope is bleak, fear is prevalent.
For many, this is as good as it gets. Within the world there are several places where this is the typical daily struggle. You may have only heard stories or seen pictures of these dark, deprived places where poverty is causing kids to be placed in orphanages solely based on their family’s inability to afford to feed them. This is heartbreaking and instills the inspiration to reach out and help people who are living this type of a poverty-stricken lifestyle. But what difference can one small effort make? How many people can a kind action really affect?
As Mother Theresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” For one couple this statement holds personally true. Their one small step of faith made a world of difference causing a ripple effect that changed the lives of many. Imagine uprooting your calm life of prosperity and luxury and moving to a foreign location where poverty and vulnerability are rampant. Leaving the comforts of your secure beautiful home in sunny San Diego to intentionally face devastating conditions where clean water and crumbs of food are treasured. This was only the beginning of the journey God had for Jae and Debra Evans, founders of Outside the Bowl.
The Evans first had the opportunity to visit Paarl, South Africa known as one of the poorest of poor areas in the world. It was there when they witnessed first-hand the conditions of suffering caused by poverty, their lives were forever changed. Their hearts were moved and they wanted to allow the Lord to use them. But what could they do that would make a lasting impact?
They came back home from their trip with a longing in their hearts. Each of them felt the calling. They desired to go back to South Africa and somehow make a difference in the lives of the people suffering from poverty. They were unsure of how they could be obedient in following this calling the Lord was placing on each of their hearts. But as they prayed and sought guidance from the Lord doors began opening and the direction God was leading became clear.
Soon what began as a simple visit to South Africa became the beginning of a ripple effect that is now feeding millions both spiritually and physically through their non-profit organization, Outside the Bowl. Their journey began in 2005 and within a relatively short time frame God has used their faithfulness just as He promises. [Isaiah 55:11-13] Today the Evans’ non-profit is affecting millions of lives. They are established in 3 countries – Mexico, South Africa, and Haiti. Seven soup kitchens have been built, with two others soon to open. They have produced 13 million hot meals since they have started and have worked with more than 150 ministry partners to distribute food. When the self-sustainable super kitchens are built they provide not only nourishment for children, but they also help each country’s economy through the employment of locals, buying produce from local farmers and bridging many ministries.
Risen sat down with Jae and Debra Evans to hear their story. They shared how their passion for sharing the gospel turned in more than they had ever expected. They had not set out to be missionaries, but loved to share the good news in the comfort of their home through Bible studies. As the Lord led them on this unexpected journey into the mission field, and through the development of Outside the Bowl, they soon learned how much more the Lord was able to do through them. Not only because of their obedience in surrendering to the Lord’s will for their lives, but also because of their education and talents.
Looking back at the beginning of Jae and Debra’s story, what if they had not listened to God’s calling? Think about all the ways the Lord was able to work through them because they were obedient.
Just as God had a plan and purpose for the Evans, God has the same in store for us. Because He doesn’t give us all of the puzzle pieces of His intricate design for our lives it causes our faith to stretch in His sovereignty. As we step out faithfully, He will faithfully supply our every need, giving us the strength and ability to fulfill His purpose. [Philippians 4:19] God still provides. He has not lost any power. His resources have not been reduced. He still gives wisdom through his word [Bible]. He still gives help through His people, and guidance by His Holy Spirit. The critical question is: Do we believe that God provides? If we do, then we must be ready for God to test our faith.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)
God wants to know that we are keeping him our first priority. At times He will test us to see if we have Him placed above everything else in life. In biblical times God asked Abraham to do the inconceivable, kill his own son. Abraham passed the test, he offered up his only son trusting that God would provide and God did. He did not understand God’s reasoning, but he trusted the character of who God is. [Genesis 22] Imagine trusting the Lord with your most prized treasure, such as your only son and offering him up as a sacrifice because you were asked to without knowing for sure if the Lord was going to give you a way out. That’s faith!
When we can’t understand God’s methods, we have to come back and ask ourselves, “Do we really believe that He is a good Father even in times when we don’t understand?” As we open our hearts, surrender our desires to the Lord and allow him to guide us, He will make our paths straight. Life is fragile, people are hurting and are in need all around us. If each of us listened to our calling and took action what would our world look like? How many lives could be changed for the better?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
Here, in the United States, it is easy to get wrapped up in our daily lives and the stress we create from trying to fulfill the pressures of societal demands. It’s even easy to be discontent in our extravagant, $5 coffee-a-day American lifestyles, where we are constantly striving to be more successful in one way or another. It’s a rat race. We find ourselves fighting and competing with our peers. But for what? Is there contentment in our material gain? Our achievements? Striving to better ourselves economically is a good thing, but is that all we are focused on? We have opportunities each day to improve our world. Are we taking advantage of those opportunities with a small word of affirmation, a kind gesture, a hug, or spending quality time with others?
Our time and resources may be limited in our typical busy American lifestyles, but what type of small actions can be made to make a difference? It has been said that your mission field can be wherever you are at. Some may be called to foreign countries, while others may be called to reach out just where they are. However, if you were called to uproot your life and move to another country like the Evans’ were, would you?
We each have a calling to serve a higher purpose in reaching others for Christ. What does yours look like? How does the Lord want to use your life to reach out to others?
I cannot tell you what God will do. But I can assure you of His promises. When we listen and are proactive in following His lead, He is faithful to provide. It may not look the way we would imagine and will most likely not be in our timing. But as we surrender our most cherished hopes, dreams, health, finances, and opportunities willingly, and keep listening for God’s voice, He will answer.
Keep trusting in God’s sovereignty, just as Abraham and the Evans’ did. God is in every challenge, so expect his involvement.
For the full interview with Jae and Debra Evans and to learn how they have established self-sustainable super kitchens to feed millions of children all around the world, click here.
Bringing hope and nourishment to children in need. www.outsidethebowl.org