Better than Silver and Gold

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.-Acts 3:6-8

Today a young girl named Ana Paula asked us what we have to offer to help her leave the streets.  We were little taken aback when we heard this, not because of the question. It is just that Ana Paula rarely engages in any conversation with us. We were surprised that she asked us this decisive question.

Ana Paula is a young adult who had spent most of her childhood in the streets. She does not have any family except for her boyfriend. Igor, her boyfriend, is also an orphan and had spent his childhood in the streets. He has been in and out of the juvenile detention center for several years. Recently, he seemed to have stopped all criminal activities. He even tried to find a job as a cleaner. Perhaps together they have been seriously thinking about finding a way out of the street life. Henceforth, Ana Paula wanted to know what we have to offer.

There are so many social agencies working in the streets. Each group has something different to offer, perhaps a special program to help those living in the streets. It is only natural for Ana Paula to think that we are just like them. She thought that we must have something different to offer as well. Unlike us, most of the non-governmental organizations have silver and gold backing up their programs. We don’t have a social program nor the silver or gold to start one. Nevertheless, we still have something to offer. We do not go to the streets empty handed. The story from the biblical text above is rich in meaning and I believe that gives us a strong foundation for any Christian missionary work, local or otherwise.

Peter has seen this beggar many times. At this particular moment when Peter passed him, the beggar was expecting something from Peter. Perhaps he was asking the same question with his look as Ana Paula asked, “What have you to offer to help me?” Peter gave him the answer. The answer marks the difference between Christian missionary work and social work. We need silver and gold to be successful in social work but Christian missionary work can only be successful if we understand Peter’s answer.

Many things can be said about this healing incident. I have to limit myself here. Today we have a very superficial understanding of healing. Our understanding of healing is  limited to physical healing. We have doctors today to do this. However, doctors cannot heal the soul. The gospel heals the soul. Critics of our work tell us that social workers are more qualified to do our work. They are right if we are trying to do social work. However, we are here to offer the one thing that social workers cannot offer. We are here to offer what we have received. We are recipients of God’s healing. God’s healing has a name and His Name is Jesus. We present the Healer that brings wholeness to our lives has a Name. This Name is only powerful to those who have experienced His healing power in their own lives. If you think that this healing is purely spiritual and has nothing to do with practical life, then you have not experienced the healing power of Jesus. The man healed by the words of Peter was transformed completely. He could no longer return to his old way of living. Healing that the gospel proclaims changes our practical life. It cannot be the gospel if it does not do this.

We gave Ana Paula an answer. His Name is Jesus. We did not preach to her. We did not bring her to a church. Neither did we try to convince her to read the Bible. We told her why we were in the streets. We don’t have silver and gold. Silver and gold did not bring us to where we are today. We have one thing to offer and it is better than anything the world has to offer to her.

Ana Paula did understand what we were offering. She knew that she could not take advantage of all the social programs available for her if she was not healed first. Many of the social agencies have good things to offer but Ana Paula does not believe that she is worthy or capable of achieving any success in this life. She needs to be healed. She needs what we have to offer. We can only offer what we have received. Silver and gold cannot match what we have received from God.