He Walks Among Us: Encounters with Christ in a Broken World

He Walks Among Us: Encounters with Christ in a Broken World

by Richard Stearns

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God sees the poor as blessed. Rich and Reneé Stearns show us why. 

We often separate ourselves from people who are different from us, sometimes even intentionally. This book is a great reminder of all the things we share in common—hopes, dreams, heartaches—and most important of all, it reminds us that He walks among


God sees the poor as blessed. Rich and Reneé Stearns show us why. 

We often separate ourselves from people who are different from us, sometimes even intentionally. This book is a great reminder of all the things we share in common—hopes, dreams, heartaches—and most important of all, it reminds us that He walks among us. All of us. This book offers great perspective from our brothers and sisters around the world. 

Rich and Reneé Stearns have traveled the world visiting the most poverty-stricken habitations imaginable, and they’ve discovered an amazing and common occurrence among the people who live there: joy can be found no matter how dire your circumstances. He Walks Among Us is a 90-day devotional giving readers an up-close and personal view of Christ in the lives of mothers, fathers, and children who have so little, yet are so rich in His spirit and love. Christians who are interested in or committed to missionary outreach will encounter the transforming power and courage needed to make a difference in someone else’s life. 

Spiritual lessons include: The Choice to Believe—No Matter What; Our True Identity Is in Christ; Discovering Joy in Unexpected Places; Having Unshakable Hope in the Power of God; Our Circumstances Don’t Define Who We Are; We Become Transformed When We Invest in Others; and Remaining Faithful to Your Calling No Matter the Obstacles. 

He Walks Among Us features the award-winning photography of World Vision® photographer Jon Warren.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Stearns (president, World Vision U.S.; The Hole in Our Gospel), with his wife Reneé, presents short, illustrated chapters intended to offer intimate, inspiring stories of suffering persons in the Third World countries around the globe where World Vision, the evangelical Christian aid organization, works to help the poor (of any religion). Regrettably, the book is poorly constructed and dubious in content, seeking to send the message that the poor are the rich among us, with clumsy parallels to the struggles of First World Christians. The plight of the less fortunate would be evocative and instructive if it were not consistently followed by a ham-handed tie-in of trite, aphoristic material concerning such matters as prayer, selfishness, and the need to go to church. Biblical references are scarce on the ground, and the link between the "lesson" of each chapter (there's a biblical quote to start) and the story of the particular child or adult covered is tenuous at best. There is no explication of the connection between Third World and First World faiths. The beautiful photographs by Warren (photo director, World Vision U.S.) provide some small redemption, but even newcomers to the Christian faith will find numerous better options for Christian inspiration. VERDICT A disappointment in both style and content, offering nothing but generalized and insubstantial anecdotes that are never brought to fruition through any deeper analysis or advice.—Kathleen Dupré, Edmond, OK

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Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2013 World Vision, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-529-10250-8




Whatever we are facing, we can rest in the assurance that the outcome does not depend on our strength but on God's.

The foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

1 Corinthians 1:25

RICHARD WAS THE FIRST. He was the first child I met on my first trip as World Vision's new president. And it was the first time I had ever seen a child who was facing the Goliath we call poverty.

I met Richard in the Rakai district of Uganda, where the AIDS crisis was taking away mothers and fathers, leaving children orphaned, and forcing young boys and girls to become heads of households. Richard was thirteen years old and taking care of his two younger brothers. Two crude piles of stones just outside the door of his hut marked the graves of Richard's parents, and he walked past those graves every day. He had buried his mother and father after spending months, maybe years, caring for them as their health declined. He had watched over them as their coughs filled the house, as they became too frail to leave their beds. Richard did his best.

Meeting this young boy, my namesake, was a punch in the stomach, as I had never before seen what poverty does to children. And it was when I first began to understand how much the very poor would teach me about life and faith. I asked Richard an awkward question, one that is normally asked of boys and girls who are free to go to school and to dream: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "A doctor," Richard told me, "so I can help people who have this disease." When I asked about his faith, he ran to get his Bible telling me that he loved to read the book of John, because it speaks of Jesus' love for children. Tears ran down my cheeks as I considered the insurmountable odds this little boy was facing. But Richard was facing his Goliath with both grace and courage.

Another young boy, this one named David, also faced his Goliath with grace and courage: "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin," he said, "but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head" (1 Samuel 17:45–46). With nothing but a sling, a smooth stone, and faith in the God he served, David slew his Goliath. So, too, Moses challenged a pharaoh and parted the Red Sea with a shepherd's staff. Peter, a simple fisherman, stepped up to lead the early church, and Paul challenged the Roman Empire from his prison cell with nothing but a pen. When people act in God's power, Goliaths fall.

I find great comfort in knowing that God's plan for us does not rely on our greatness, but rather on His. I don't know what Goliath you may be facing, but when your time of testing comes, you can be confident that God will not abandon you. No Goliath you face is mightier than the God you serve. Richard knew that Jesus loved the little children, and that love helped Richard stand strong. You can do the same as you face your Goliaths.





Cling too tightly to what's good, and we just might miss God's best.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.

1 Corinthians 2:9

NOT LONG AGO, Rich spoke at a church retreat. During the Q&A session, someone asked how our family had made the decision to leave our old life to follow God's call to World Vision. How did Rich walk away from his corporate career? How did we leave friends, family, home, and community in Pennsylvania and move to Seattle? The way these questions were asked seemed to reflect a bias on the part of the questioner that whatever it was we left behind was probably better than what we found when we got here.

These questions remind me of yet another question, one we asked of a little boy we met in Malawi. Stopping in a village, we found our vehicle immediately surrounded by children. Several had been playing a game of soccer just minutes before, and one boy approached with the soccer ball still in hand. I say soccer ball, but what the child carried was little more than a bundle of old plastic bags tied up with string.

"Can we trade?" we asked. "If we give you a brand-new soccer ball, will you give us yours?" We thought the ball would be a great example of childhood creativity, of how play can triumph over limited resources. For a minute the boy was puzzled, but then he realized that this trade would mean giving up the ball he already owned. He ran back to his buddies to discuss the offer, and only when all had weighed in on the matter did he hand over his homemade ball for the shiny, new white one emblazoned with a swoosh.

It must have been difficult for the little boy to imagine a ball that would be better than the one he had made with his own hands. That ball was familiar, he was comfortable with it, and it was really hard for him to give it up. As beautiful and sturdy as the new ball might be, the old one still had an allure he couldn't quite shake. A lot of people feel about their lives the same way the boy felt about his ball, especially when they sense that God is calling them to something new. They like what's familiar, what's comfortable, and they're reluctant to leave it behind, even if they are reasonably certain that to do so would be to follow God's leading. Hanging on to something that might be good, they miss what's even better.

To be honest, we were tempted to say no to God's call to World Vision. We loved our old life. But God was calling us to something new, and we just couldn't pass it up. We didn't want to be like Jonah who, in the belly of the fish, had an epiphany about the grace we forfeit when we refuse to follow God (Jonah 2:8). We didn't want to hang on to a ball of "trash" when we could have the real thing. What are you hanging on to that might be keeping you from obeying God's call?





You are the answer to someone's prayer.

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."

Jesus in John 15:16

SO HOW DOES God answer our prayers? Have you ever wondered how He processes the billions of prayers offered to Him each day? At times God intervenes powerfully and directly in our lives. He unlocked the doors to free Peter from prison, He saved Paul from a shipwreck, and even today He still heals and rescues. But there is another way He answers prayers, and that way is much more common and often overlooked.

Octaviana lived in the majestic Andes Mountains of Peru, at an altitude of fourteen thousand feet on a hillside dotted with mud-brick huts and populated by sheep, goats, and llamas. The natural beauty of that place served as a tragically dissonant background for the suffering of this mother of three young children. She had just been widowed, losing her husband to a respiratory infection, possibly tuberculosis, for which he had received treatment too late. Now, alone on the mountain in the harsh climate of the high Andes, Octaviana had to find a way for her little family to survive. Plowing, planting, harvesting, and raising livestock, in addition to parenting three small children, was hard work without a husband. But she worked ... and she prayed.

Reneé and I sat in her crumbling hut and listened as she poured out her story with sadness and tears. At a loss for words, yet sensing that she was a woman of faith, I asked her specifically what she prayed for. Her answer changed my view of prayer forever: "I pray that God will not forget me and my children on this mountain. I pray that He will send help." Here, almost three miles high in the Andes, some six thousand miles from my home in Seattle, Octaviana had been praying for help—and God had sent me, the president of World Vision. God chose me as the answer to her prayer.

In Revelation 8 we get a glimpse of just what becomes of the prayers we offer to God: "Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God's people, on the golden altar in front of the throne."

Our prayers come before the throne of God. And we are told in Ephesians that "we are [His] handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10). Is it not possible, even likely, that God heard Octaviana's prayers and sent me—because I had been created in Christ Jesus to do this good work in her life, a good work prepared in advance for me to do?

Today, as you read this, millions of people around the world are praying: an orphan in India, a widow in Niger, a teenager in an inner city, an elderly woman in your neighborhood, someone struggling to raise a disabled child, another person just diagnosed with cancer. And they are crying out to God through prayer. Might you be the one God is sending? Might you be the answer to someone's prayer?





We are God's children, dearly loved and valuable beyond measure.

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:13

"MOTHER BLINDNESS" is what my daughter, Grace, calls the condition that enables me to enthuse over the smallest of my children's and my grandson's accomplishments, to pronounce a simple art project a "masterpiece" or a piece of music, "breathtaking." If you're a parent, you know what I mean. In fact, you've probably experienced it too; you just didn't know this condition had a name. However, it was not until I met with Nagavani and her mother that I truly appreciated its significance.

Nagavani's small village outside of Vellore, India, is home to men and women, boys and girls, who are Dalits, members of the lowest caste in Indian society, forced to live alone in a remote location, cut off from the rest of the world. Despite her home's isolation, Nagavani had been swept up into the stream of commerce, sold into bonded labor so that the rest of her family could survive. For Nagavani, this meant that she would spend each day of her young life filling little paper boxes—1,444 of them to be exact—with matches. When I asked her what the hardest part of being a bonded laborer had been, she told me that it was looking out the window of the matchbox factory while she was working each day, seeing other children walking to school. It reminded her that, because of who she was, an untouchable and a slave, she was, by any measure she could understand, worthless except for what her labor could produce each day for the factory owner.

But through the intervention of her community, Nagavani had been released from bondage; she was no longer a slave to the demands of the matchbox factory owner. Yet she and her family were still enslaved by their vision of themselves as social outcasts, insignificant and of little value. In fact, as I sat with Nagavani and a group of local women, her mother spoke up and asked, "Why are you here? What do you see when you look at us?"

Of course, I saw them simply as hardworking women, eager to provide for themselves and their families, very similar to women we had seen in other villages. Yet these women knew that when their neighbors looked at them, they could view them only through the filtered eyes of culture and custom.

I found myself thinking about the filter God uses when He looks at us. When He looks at the world He created, what does He see? He sees His children, dearly loved and valuable beyond measure, so valuable in fact that He willingly sacrificed His only Son. Once we through faith become part of God's family, when God looks at us, He sees Jesus. "Father blindness," you might say.





We find contentment once we learn to see everything in life as a gift or opportunity. Perspective is everything. Happiness is a choice.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12—13

ONE OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL DECLARATIONS my wife spouted to our five children with great regularity was this: "Happiness is a choice—make it!" This was typically uttered when one of the kids was moping over some deprivation—the newest video game or the cutest-ever dress—or perhaps disappointment over that day's dinner menu. "This is not a restaurant" was another of her frequent exhortations. But we grown-ups aren't all that different from our kids. Contentment does not come naturally to most of us; it is definitely an acquired taste.

Finedia was seventy-two and caring for her seven-year-old great-granddaughter, Maggie, when I met her in Zambia. Perhaps more than any person I had ever met, Finedia had learned to be content in the midst of want. Why was this old woman caring for a child? Because everyone else—two generations of Finedia's family—had died. Elderly, homeless, hungry, and grieving, Finedia and her little Maggie soldiered on. They lived in an abandoned hut, and Finedia worked all day, when she could, for just a cup of cornmeal. I think what struck me most about Finedia was that she simply accepted her lot; she did the best she could, without any sense of entitlement.

Excerpted from HE WALKS AMONG US by RICHARD STEARNS, RENEÉ STEARNS. Copyright © 2013 World Vision, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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Meet the Author

Richard Stearns brought nearly 25 years of corporate experience to World Vision when he became its president in June 1998.Stearns holds a bachelor's degree form Cornell University and an MBA form theWharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His professional career began in marketing with the Gillette Company. From 1977 to 1985, he held various roles with Parker Brothers Games, culminating in his appointment as president in 1984. In 1985, he became a vice president at The Franklin Mint, then joined Lenox in 1987 as president of Lenox Collections. In 1995, Stearns was named president and chief executive officer of Lenox Inc. As president of World Vision Inc., Stearns is responsible for U.S. operations, which include fund raising, advocacy, and program development.Stearns and his wife, Renee, have been World Vision supporters since 1984. The couple has five children and live in Bellevue, Washington.

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