Sunday, October 5, 2014

In The Presence of Royalty in the Kingdom of Tonga

Koe Otua lei lei.  Koe Otua lei lei. Koe Otua lei lei.  Otua lei lei, ki a te au.

God is so good.  God is so good.  God is so good. He's so good to me.

Perhaps you you know that song? If so, why not hum it along with me as you read this blog post.

Our team returned from another meaningful and memorable trip to Tonga to join God in his mission, lived out through those who serve at the Mango Tree Respite Centre.  Mango Tree serves those living in poverty with disabilities through physio and occupational therapy, parent support, Braille classes, home visits and computer classes, as well as equipping clients with wheelchairs and other equipment.  It's quite a remarkable ministry really, and I count it a huge privilege to have been able to see and participate in their work first hand for two consecutive years!

We worked hard, laughed a lot (and sweat a lot!) hosting a sensory learning Bible camp for children with severe disabilities.  Many of these children have limited to no mobility and are dealing with visual, hearing, and intellectual impairments.  It was messy, tiring, and oh so wonderful!  We were amazed at the stamina and faithfulness of the Tongan staff members and the parents of these precious children, just making it through each day on their "daily bread", reliant upon God for every need of every kind.

As I crawled around the floor with the children, covered in slobber and sand, with an aching back and sweaty palms, the Lord stopped me in my tracks and cautioned me: "Alison, take note and humble yourself.  You are in the presence of royalty.  These are those 'least of these' who will be the greatest in my Kingdom. They will one day be kings and queens." 

Whoa.  What a much-needed reality check. I was brought down a notch.

 Who knows how many times I have preached about serving the "least of these", or taught on importance of ministering to the marginalized and poor, yet have done so from a place of authority, superiority, or false humility?   These children, whom Tongan society generally considers "cursed" and less than human, are on the bottom of the world's caste system.  They are pushed aside and hidden away from public view, and parents are often left unsupported and alone in their efforts to provide care.  Most of these children (and adults) are completely vulnerable and helpless, at the mercy of others for protection, feeding, bathing, educating, etc.   For individuals with disabilities and impairments, the world is an especially dangerous place.  They are the lowest of the low, the bottom of the social and political totem pole.

BUT. . .

A different reality is on the horizon.  In the Kingdom of God, the least become the greatest.  The last become first.  The paupers become princes and the peasants become royalty.  The children, the poor, and the helpless suddenly find themselves on top, while the self-important, self-sufficient, and arrogant are conveniently shifted to the bottom of the social order.

Right there in the middle of  this tiny Pacific island hardly noticeable on a world map, I found myself in the presence of royalty!  I honestly cannot wait for the day when I meet these children in heaven when the Kingdom of God is complete, and see them running free, exercising their God-given authority as children of the King.

Please enjoy some photos from the Kingdom. (And yes, don't forget that Tonga's official national name is "The Kingdom of Tonga".  Kinda appropriate, eh?)

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