The Outcast

By Ruth Johnson

The story I’m about to tell is a heartbreaking account of a boy who lives on a remote Mountain in East Africa. It’s also a graphic picture of the Father’s tender compassion toward those who feel lost, abandoned and rejected. Such a compelling picture of how God feels about us can help us to be assured of the depths of His caring and the magnitude of His unconditional love when we are hurting in the most devastating ways.

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worship-01During one of the years we ministered on Mt. Elgon in Uganda, the descent from heaven of the Glory of the Lord cascaded across the Mountain in a blaze of breathtaking miracles.

It was such a powerful Visitation that it still defies human terms to describe it.

worship-04While we were enveloped in this consuming fire that overcame all who were there with a holy awe, a young boy appeared who would affect our lives forever.

His mother was a despised Karamajong warrior who named him Easter because he was born on Resurrection Sunday. Yet because she was a vilely hated Karamajong, from the moment she died everyone turned on her son, including his father and the Christians on Mt. Elgon.

He instantly became an outcast and wherever this child went, he was beaten. After years of such violent treatment, he was so deformed he couldn’t speak or walk normally. All he could do was crouch low and shuffle from place to place as he moaned like a wounded animal. Yet underneath his marred, mangled body and tragically misshapen face was a heart that hurt with the same horrific pain that anyone feels who is cruelly mistreated and has no one to love him.

ruth-easter-2This strange looking boy now suddenly appeared from nowhere the night when God’s glory descended upon the Mountain.

He painfully crawled toward the harp and sat down close to me. When I glanced down, the horrifying sadness in his eyes shattered my heart.

As he stared at the harp he moaned in the most heartbreaking way, as if he was begging me:

“Please don’t send me away.”

By now, several agitated men were walking toward the harp. I sensed they were going to forcibly remove the boy. But I firmly motioned to them to let him stay. Then when I began to play the harp, I was immediately overcome by the agony I felt in the Father’s heart over his horrendous suffering.

While I was teaching, he suddenly appeared again. He sat down in the aisle very close to my feet while he imploringly looked up at me with those same pleading eyes. But this time I was able to kneel down in front of him on the dirt floor, hold his hands and smile to reassure him, while I told the people in almost a whisper:

“The love Jesus talks about isn’t just for those we want to be close to.
It also means us reaching out to the outcast, the leper, the ones no one wants to love.”

Yet the believers continued to push him away and each time they did, he let out a mournful wail of unspeakable pain.

Whenever the people stood up to greet one another, he reached out with both his deformed arms, aching for someone to please love him too. But everyone ignored his desperate plea and never included him in the expressions of kindness taking place. I also learned that whenever the Christians were gathered together, Easter would try to come into the room to be with them. Yet they always dragged him outside, threw him into the dirt and beat him. And whenever food was served, he longingly stared at the people from a distance as they ate because he was desperately hungry. But no one would give him anything to eat. So our Ministry Team began to be kind to Easter by bringing him food and each time they did, he squealed with delight and then frantically devoured it.

On the last night of our days of ministry on the Mountain, our team sat together and reflected on what had taken place. That is when one of the young Africans we were mentoring vulnerably poured out his heart about the boy in a deeply moving description of what impacted him the most significantly.

ruth-easter-1“One of the moments that affected me the most,” he began in a soft voice, “was when Mama Ruth drew that boy close to her at the end of tonight’s session.

The people stared at her with shock.

They couldn’t believe what they were seeing because for years Easter had rummaged like a wild animal through rotting garbage for all his food. And the only bath he’d had since his mother died was the rain falling on him.

So he was covered with the worst kinds of filth and smelled terribly of old urine and foul smelling human feces. That smell was worse than the most ghastly African latrine.

All of us could see maggots crawling all over him as Mum held him close to her.

The believers were horrified to watch this because they also knew he had terrible diseases that caused people to even more cruelly shun him. No one was willing to touch him, except to beat him.

Yet Mum wrapped this boy in her arms and drew him close to her. This is a picture of God’s love that the people of this Mountain will never be able to forget. I know for the rest of my life, I will never forget it.”

Tears streamed unashamedly down his face as he ended this gripping story and sat down. The rest of us could only weep. Though soon we began to encourage one another that several of the women who had grown the closest to us did respond to watching the Team be kind to Easter. They began to give him food and even talked about finding him clean clothes and a safe place to live. Being reminded of this greatly comforted our hearts. It assured us that long after we left the Mountain, the boy would have at least these kind women looking out for him and being good to him.

When Barry and I returned to our tent, I lay in the stillness of the African night for the longest time while a profound awareness welled up within me that what happened to an outcast in a faraway land captures the universal cries of the heart that affect all of us, no matter who we are, where we came from, or what we’ve been through.

Because no matter where we may go, even to a tribe and a culture on a remote mountain in East Africa, there are universal longings in the human soul that are common to “every tribe and people and nation” (Revelation 5:10).

When we are confronted with those universal needs in graphic ways, we can become so affected that the insights we get in touch with can change us in a forever kind of way.

I sense that this heartrending account of a young boy on a faraway Mountain will become one of those encounters with life-changing truth for many who read his story.

For through a searing picture of the agony of this one life, the Father longs to impart how earnestly He wants to bring this same unconditional love to each of His children when they are hurting and feeling completely and desperately alone.

I continued to reflect on all this in the quiet of that unforgettable night. As I did I felt such grief that in this hour of the history of Christianity, a passionate living out of the central message of the Gospels has sadly grown dim in so many believers.

Yet our Abba Father aches for His sons and daughters in every nation and culture to understand that not only does He deeply hurt for them and want to help them whenever they are suffering and have no one to care about them. But just as poignantly, He’s trying to tell us how much He yearns for His children to reach out to others with the same unconditional love that a heartbreaking outcast on a distant Mountain so desperately needed.

This is His eternal, unquenchable longing because He’s a Dad who knows how much the simplest act of kindness and the most humble expression of tender compassion can transform a troubled soul in a heartbeat.

It can even change the direction of their life.

Whenever this happens, we are witnessing a miracle. Because when someone in any culture, nation or tribe across the face of the earth is in so much pain that they feel despairingly lost in their pain, they are usually also feeling it’s overwhelmingly impossible for anything to change.

Yet when such despair overtakes anyone, they most often are up against tragically wondering if they will ever be able to hope again.

This is why God pleads with us to remember all the days of our lives and to the core of who we are that He is a Father who is the source of every mercy. He is the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in all our hardships and trials.

And yet why does He do this?

It’s so that when others are troubled, and in need of our compassion and encouragement, we can pass on to them the same help and comfort that the Father has so mercifully given to us.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4