Monday, October 17, 2005


My trip to the poor areas of Rio de Janeiro was a blessing to me and a great learning experience. Brazil is such a country of contrasts. Just four short hours from where I live there is a level of misery and poverty that is hard to describe. How do you describe certain smells and sounds?

On the other hand, how do you describe happiness found in such places? If I could invent a "happiness meter" that could measure the level of happiness in a person, I believe I could dispel all doubts that Jesus can make people equally happy in any set of circumstances. I believe we have such a "happiness meter" built into us if we would just use it. It is the capacity to look into the eyes of another person and see the abundant life Jesus promised. I saw this abundant life in the poor of Rio. The only possible explanation is the presence of Jesus in their lives. The environment could never produce their joy. Only Jesus.

In one service the pastor called on his people to pray for the less fortunate of the world and give generously to their needs.
I sat there thinking "How can these people see the needs of others when their needs are so deep?" It is the presence of Jesus that causes the poor to see those who are even poorer. What a precious thing it was to see the truly poor care about the truly poor.
I felt I was witnessing a miracle.

I also visited the wealthy areas of Rio where the reality is one of complete comfort and service. As I looked into the eyes of the wealthy I did not see an appreciable difference in happiness. I saw a distinct difference in comfort and care. I saw a distinct difference in physical size and strength. When I met a believer in the wealthy areas I saw the same happiness I saw in the humble church in the poor areas. Jesus is the same in any neighborhood. HIs happiness is available everywhere.

I am really beginning to feel a deep excitement about the happiness I saw in Rio. It is the great equalizer in the world.
I can honestly say to anyone I meet "In Jesus you can be as happy as anyone in the world." Jesus is the source of happiness and He is making Himself known in every area of our cities. Abundant life in Jesus is the great discovery. It can take root anywhere and in any life. Just come with me to Rio and you will see for yourself.

At first you may find it hard to believe happiness can exist in such circumstances. Over time you will begin to see it and rejoice that such joy can take root in such places. In fact, it seems to take root in such places much more often than in the easier places. The soil in the poorest places receives Jesus' happiness really well.

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