Saturday, November 12, 2011

El Roi and the homeless

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in Genesis 16 (you can read it here). It is a very poignant story of rejection and scandal. The brief version is that Abraham and his wife Sarah are to have a son who will be the father of many nations. The only problem is that Sarah is barren. Even though God promised Sarah a son years earlier, she makes the mistake of trying to speed up God's plan by allowing her husband to sleep with her servant girl, Hagar. Hagar does conceive, which makes Sarah wildly jealous. (Um, what did she expect?) So much so that she mistreats Hagar until she finally flees.

Hagar is a foreigner from Egypt, a pagan, a pregnant woman, a runaway servant, an outcast for all of the above reasons, and is alone in the literal wilderness. Hagar is at the end of her rope, in the worst despair of her life. And the Bible says, "The angel of the Lord found Hagar..." Even when she ran, God pursued her.

Then and there, God shows up for Hagar. She didn't ask for Him, but He does anyway. He speaks worth into her soul, refreshes her purpose by giving her promises for the future, and sends her home with hope. But before she returns, Hagar gives God a new name; she calls him El-Roi, which, in Hebrew means The God who Sees. This is just so lovely to me.

This passage tells me that Hagar's question in her moment of deepest need was, "Does anyone see me?" And God answered with a resounding Yes. 

When we talk about the homeless, we can talk about providing resources, food, Bibles, and all those good things. But for me, what moves my heart is answering that question they all must have. Does anyone see me? They look around our world, and the answer is clearly No.

I don't claim to see them. I don't dare say I care enough, or that I stop every time to give change or a meal. I don't. However, I know the truth, that God sees them. He looks past their scandalous stories of trouble, and longs to speak worth and hope into their souls. I believe this. He knows their names.

So I wanted to let you know something is coming. As part of the Happy Day Project, on Sunday, Julie is again sharing the idea of making Blessing Bags, something I guest-posted about last November on her blog. They are basically large Ziplocs filled with basic necessities for those in need in our neighborhoods.

I may not know their names, but God does. Handing someone one of these bags gives me a chance to say so. God cares for you, I might say. Or maybe I'll put a note in mine explaining there is a God who sees them, who is pursuing them in love. 

So I hope you consider participating. It takes a handful of folks to make it happen, which is why the holidays are the perfect times to rustle up some family members to pull it off. This year, I'm thrilled to be bringing the idea to our local cub scout pack. And I know you know a group, a Bible Study, a mom's group, or a neighborhood of families who would be happy to join in a simple service project like this. The activity can be such a valuable teachable moment for children as well, one way to tear their focus away from their Christmas lists, at least for a moment.

Last year, many amazing stories came out of the Blessing Bags post, and so if you have any, I'd love to hear them after the fact. And lastly, the name comes from the Biblical idea that we are blessed so that we may be a blessing. God does not lavish us with gifts and resources just to simply enjoy. It is also so we may be generous people, and bless others in turn.

God saw you. He pursued you. By name. And He keeps pursuing, every day. He said to Peter as He says to us, "Do you love me? Then feed my sheep."

You are blessed to be a blessing.



  1. so so so great and inspiring, leslie. thank you!!

  2. This is amazing! Such a simple and profound idea! I am going to make one tonight!!

  3. Leslie- I have been planning do this for the first time with the kids along with my sister and sister-in-law and their kids soon. I think we are going to take ours to a nearby shelter and community fund as they have requested them. Great post! And thanks for inspiring others ; )

  4. This is such an amazing idea! My husband and I are hoping to get something together like this during the holidays. I just love it.

  5. Thank you for this reminder about the God that sees. I needed to hear that. I like this idea of putting together bags... I'm going to see if my son's school can incorporate it into their service project this month.

  6. our church does these every year around christmas and i think they're so wonderful. i'm glad you posted on these!

    so we're only an hour away from each other?? we'll be up north either wednesday or thursday (around LA)....are you close to there? I would LOVE to see you. email me!

  7. i really really really love this blessing bags idea. that makes me happy. i'm going to make some with my kids. i am. and i am going to watch them be blessed in the giving.

  8. leslie, i really like your interpretation of the story of hagar. i just read that last week, but today i really needed that reminder. you're awesome.