My friend and favorite superhero Bob Goff is a creative genius when it comes to loving people like Jesus. His gift is stopping to notice other humans in a way that makes them believe they matter.
For example, Bob travels to Uganda with his pockets stuffed with medals, so he can pin them on former LRA child soldiers, and say: “You are unimaginably important,” and make them believe it.
Bob Goff is the reason 160 foster kids in Madagascar are wearing medals around their necks today.
In the extravagant, inefficient, upside down Kingdom of God, this is how love does:
A couple of years ago, I met Bob in Los Angeles. Probably like a million other people, I picked up the phone and dialed his number, which, like a lunatic, he listed in the back of of his NYT Bestseller Love Does. To my great surprise, he answered, and then squeezed me into his already tight schedule. Sitting in a cafe at Pepperdine University, Bob looked at me and said, in the most literal way possible, “how can I help YOU?”
I mean really, who does that?
At that time, I knew Bob had negotiated with the publisher of Love Does for an advance that would cover the construction of a school for former child soldiers in Gulu, Uganda. I also knew that he gave 100% of the proceeds from Love Does away. I’m sure that’s some of the reason there are more than 300 students there today.
What I didn’t know was, every time he goes to Uganda, he brings little, pin-on, military-style medals. So when he’s talking to a teenage boy, who was abducted then conscripted into a life of violence and depravity, he can pin one on him and say: God sees you and you are precious to Him.
You can’t imagine how many people need to hear that, and not just child soldiers.
So a couple of months ago in Texas, my colleagues and I were discussing how, in two-weeks time, anybody can reasonably expect to impact a bunch of neglected and abused girls in Madagascar. Ridiculous really – a total fools errand.
“We ought to take them swimming,” my partner said.
“Yah, and pin some medals on them.”
Sometimes when a thought bypasses my brain on it’s way out my mouth like that, I think God’s behind it.
I spent hours on-line looking for the kind of medals I imagined Bob was pinning on kids in Uganda, but I couldn’t find them. So I called my friend Kim, who owns Hometown Trophy and T’s – a mom and pop trophy shop in my town. I explained what I was doing and since she’s read Love Does, she said, “Yep, got it. Let me call you right back.”
Ten minutes later, her daughter Lindsey called and showed me, not a pin-on medal but a heavy Olympic-style medal with a crown on it. She offered to string a ribbon on it that matches the Malagasy flag and asked if we wanted anything inscribed on the back. Sure! Can you write beloved, chosen, precious, courageous and overcomer on them?
“You bet,” she said. Then she donated them – All 200 medals.
It had been a hard, discouraging week in Texas. One where you think any second the alarm will sound, so the real player, the one who isn’t incompetent at your job, can step in and take over. As I’ve said before, sometimes I forget this thing I do isn’t all on me.
The day Lindsey and Billy delivered those medals to Mercy Ships, I held one in my hand for a very long time. I turned it over and over and read the word Beloved engraved on the back.
The end of the story is this:
After Madagascar’s wildest pizza party, we had 35 medals left. Akany Avoko employs 40 staff.
The next day we walked back up the hill to Akany with 35 medals in my backpack, hoping for a solution to the obvious problem. I told Director Lalasoa, how much we wanted to give her staff those medals but we couldn’t imagine which five people would not get one.
“Wait, you have 35 medals in your bag?” she said.
“I have five left over from last night, just sitting on my desk.”
“What? You have five medals sitting on your desk?”
For those of you bad at math, that’s 40. Later that week, Lalasoa called her staff together, thanked them for their hearts and hung medals around their necks.