What Can You Do to Make a Big Difference?

With God, we can do that, you know. We can make a big difference, bigger than we think.

From the time I was in nursery school until the very last class of my Master’s degree, I spoke out five times and not because I raised my hand. Nope, attracting attention in school scared me. 

Why?

One night, my dad screamed at my mom and told her not to ask stupid questions. I didn’t know which of my questions were stupid so I shut up. So did my sisters.

Thirty years later, in The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, we had to take a class called Multicultural Issues and participation was 90% of the grade. I didn’t think I could pass and because of that, I didn’t think I’d graduate.

But God had another plan

Just before my last semester, I went to a retreat on healing put on by a ministry called PRMI. The speaker said, “Does anyone need healing? If so, raise your hand.”

But that’s what I couldn’t do! Because I didn’t have to say anything, I put my hand in the air.

A group of people gathered around and prayed. Inner healing, they called it as they led me back to the memory of Dad yelling at Mom. I forgave Dad and realized the decision I’d made that night, to stay silent. I chose to take my voice back.

At the same time, I wasn’t sure if it was that easy. You know, if after all these years, all I had to do was pray and my problem would go away.

But that’s what happened. That night, I raised my hand and spoke out at the retreat. I know it sounds like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but it was truly a miracle.

In class, I became the person in the front row who raised her hand at every opportunity and the questions were tough. The first thing the teacher asked was, “Who are you prejudiced against and what is your dance around that people group?”

The answers fascinated me.

One woman said, “Latino men” and pointed at her Latino husband sitting next to her. A black man said, “black men.” Imagine what that did to his identity.

We read The Sneeches by Dr. Seuss. Click here if you want to watch a short video and hear how Dr. Seuss teach kids about racism.

Star-bellied Sneetches.

We also took a survey. Could we get Band-Aids in our skin color? What about greeting cards? Then we tallied our score and stood along a continuum, saw the stark difference between what the whites in the class had available to them versus those of color.  

Even though I had no idea I’d end up working as a missionary and how helpful the lessons would be, this was my favorite class. Today, I wish every kid in junior high could take it.

Why am I going on about this?

Because the other night, I sat with my friend on her porch. She’s a teacher who’s preparing to start back to work. With a high population of Muslims and Jews in her school, she’d spent the day making a plan to protect her kids in case they had a shooter.

Afterward, we talked about my recent experiences in Israel. I told her how I’d been wondering why God would have me write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most of my experiences and notes are old. Who’d want to read them?

As I waited for Breaking the Silence to start, one of the tours I wrote about in my last post, a girl in the crowd actually said, “I wish I knew what it was like to live in Jericho during the Second Intifada.”

“I know because I lived there!” I said realizing how specifically God was answering my question.

All heads turned toward me. “You did?” she said, “What did you do there?”

“Feed people.”

“Look where we are in this country,” said my friend on the porch the other night. “If we don’t learn how to get along, we’re headed in that same direction. Maybe your observations can teach us a thing or two?”

So here’s a story you won’t see on the news . . .

In Jerusalem, I stood outside my friend’s stall in the Old City. He’s a Palestinian, a Christian. As we chatted, someone passed behind me, made plans with him to meet later. I turned and saw an Orthodox Jewish man. Raising my eyebrows, I mouthed, “Who was that?”

“That is my friend,” he smiled, “and I didn’t tell you, I adopted a Jewish girl!”

Wha-a-at? “You mean you sponsor one, send her money each month?”

“Yes,” he nodded. “God tells us to love our enemies—not that she is my enemy—but supporting her makes my heart feel good.”

I told him about my new Jewish friend who’d grown up in a settlement. “You could bring her by,” he said, “for conversation.” I high-fived him, got excited about the possible chat, but she wasn’t ready, not yet.

Like I was saying in the comment thread of my last post, I also met a mosaic-ist in the group taxi on the way to the airport. She’s an American Jewish girl who made aliya (immigrated to Israel). She told me about an art project she worked on with both Jews and Arabs and I told her about this blog.

We agreed. If we all do what we can, maybe we can make a difference.

You make a difference

For thirty years, I didn’t speak up. Then God healed me and took me on a speaking tour around the country, to talk to people about Jericho. Now He has me writing. Seems I can’t shut up.

Like my new friend, Corrie, said in the comment thread of the last post, “small circles of influence are actually extremely powerful—the seeds of reconciliation—small pictures of truth that God releases through us and uses in unexpected ways. Partnering with Him to birth them is the key.”

Is it just me or have you wondered if you make a difference in the lives of the people around you? Just so you know, you do! And you probably don’t realize how much. 

But Corrie’s right, when we partner with God, way more happens than when we don’t. So if you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to give it a shot.

Because that’s how we make the biggest difference.

In order to partner with God, what do we need? For one thing, we need to sense His direction. I know I’m not the only one who hears God. So for those of you who’ve done this already, I have a question. How do you sense God communicating with you, nudging you?

Related Post: Your World Needs What You Have To Say

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you, Elizabeth. I am grateful for your prayer.

    You’re right, the experience your dad and your family has experienced is definitely not sparkling & glorious. It was maddening and frightening in the human view. But, the way you’ve been vulnerable, given others the opportunity to pray for your dad and for you, the insights you’ve shared, the gratitude offered to Christ for being present–these are glorious. And the gift of your voice to teach, using your unique experiences, and to encourage others is wonderful.

    I just finished a wonderful book that God used significantly at this juncture of my life. I think it might resonate with you, too.

    The Broken Way, by Ann Voskamp.

    I love her writing. Each chapter touched my heart and mind in meaningful, beautiful ways. Good tears welled up more than once. She writes about the beautiful, God-intended gift of communion given to us as we share in Christ’s suffering and as we share in our brokenness with others. Her writing is unique and provoke thoughts that linger.

    1. Thank you, Carol! I don’t know about you but when I’m in a tough season, I appreciate enCOURAGEment more than usual so thank you.

      I’ll have to check that out. I’ve seen her other books, but not this one. She has such a lyrical way of writing, doesn’t she? And I love your poetic words that describe her writing! ☺ xoxo

  2. Glorious & sparkling.
    My words for your stories & how God uses them–even when clouds float in your own life.

    I am in a different season. It’s tempting to believe this season isn’t “valuable & lacks influence,” but I fight not to sink into that mindset. Prayers, words of encouragement & support in my sphere feel quiet, but it’s where my Lord has me at the moment. And, writing as worship & obedience, with trust for its future use persistently nudges.

    1. Season. I was just talking to God about that word!

      When my Dad landed in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, my world shifted. So I understand the temptations you’re talking about. I don’t think you’d use the words glorious and sparkling to describe this experience.

      Where did my peace go? That’s what the next post is about.

      We’re always in a season, aren’t we? Each different with lessons of its own, maybe we couldn’t learn them without these tougher places?

      Please, continue to worship out and trust God even in pain. Another season will come, I promise!

      Lord, reveal Yourself to Carol? Show her the special blessings, the meaning You have for her where she is. I don’t think You waste anything. Refill her with Your joy for the journey You’ve set before her as she trusts and worships. Thank You, Lord.

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