A Tabernacle of Trash


How can a tent made of trash become a tabernacle for the very presence of God?

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NIV)

Looking around, I can scarcely take in a home so different from my own. I am at Raju’s house, visiting a man who has spent his whole life as a rag-picker in India. Along with the rest of the community he leads, he spends his days sifting through a local dump, looking for materials to retrieve and recycle.

His house is a hodgepodge of things he’s salvaged. The walls are draped in plastic, old blankets and sheets. Metal bicycle rims, tires and rusty car parts secure the tarp roof of his large tent home. Thin blankets on the floor are seats for children and adults who come to meet with me and the rest of our Proverbs 31 International Initiatives team. We are given plastic chairs of hospitality and honor.

Raju circulates in the midst of the gathered crowd, smiling and greeting his guests. There are families that he not only loves, but that he pastors and teaches in the church and literacy class that meet in his home.

When everyone is gathered, Raju stands and greets us through an interpreter before he prays. He bows his head and starts a stream of words I can’t understand. Later, we learn he prayed a blessing over us. All I know is I am suddenly overcome.

Unbidden, tears stream down my face, and I steel myself against the sobs threatening to wrack my body. Through the sweep of emotion, I ask myself, What’s going on here? I can’t even understand what he’s saying. Why do I feel such awe and brokenheartedness?

The weight of God’s Spirit fills the room. I can hardly explain it. It’s the most powerful, tangible presence of God I’ve ever encountered. As Raju prays, it’s truly as if God is sitting in the room with us.

Suddenly, a tent made of trash became a tabernacle for the very presence of God.

It’s been months since I sat in Raju’s house in the cloud of God’s power, but I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. Raju isn’t a man our world would consider wise. He barely has a fifth-grade education gained through one year of attendance in literacy classes, yet he has partnered with Mission India to teach others to read.

He isn’t physically strong, yet this man leads his community with a fierceness and joy that none can deny.

He might not be a man of material wealth, but as a pastor, he daily leads his congregation to the greatest riches of the King of Kings.

He’s found the secret to joining Jesus in life-changing, Kingdom-growing work: God wants you to give Him your all, but all that’s essential is your heart.

So often, I mistakenly think the essentials to having a life that counts is more Bible knowledge, more financial resources or more influence. But both Scripture and Raju’s life tell me differently. Our key Scripture tells us that God doesn’t just tolerate the foolish, weak and lowly. He chooses them. To make a difference, I don’t need more. I need a willingness to give more.

Though the world may tell us we’re unworthy or unqualified, or that our very lives consist of “trash,” God can take a heart like Raju’s — or yours and mine — and change the world around us. All that’s required is our surrender and His power.

Lord, I surrender my whole self to You for Your work. I know what I’m offering is completely insufficient, so I trust and find joy in Your sufficiency. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

James 3:13, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (NIV)

What have you felt is a limitation to you serving God?

How does Raju’s story and today’s Scripture change the way you think about that limitation?

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