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What the Master has Given

Her embarrassment was so keen that she nearly folded herself under the table, desperate to hide. Why had they asked her to be first? The sense of being in the spotlight was agonizing. 

Crystal was being complimented, and it was almost more than she could bear.

Earlier this year I joined a group of selected leaders from various churches in Burundi who were meeting to forge a new way of thinking about themselves, their work and their God-given abilities. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 was a key passage for our time together. We all reflected on this story of a master who gave each servant something to use, to invest. As we applied this parable, we were led to ask ourselves, “How do I uniquely reflect the image of God? What talent has the Master given me?” Then, as a community, we were to take turns discerning and proclaiming over one another, “This is what I see that God has given you.” 

Crystal’s reaction of discomfort showed just how unfamiliar she was with this kind of overt affirmation. In this culture, it is not common to give this kind of spoken praise. For example, one member of the group was a gifted athlete in his youth, competing in races throughout the region. Then one day he was confronted by an elder who questioned the amount of time he was spending in practice with non-believers. This man immediately withdrew from his sport. Many in the group related that they had lived through similar experiences.

And so, when we began to go around the table with intentional words of affirmation, it was very uncomfortable. The reaction from each recipient was the same: chins tucked into the chest and eyes downcast and firmly fixed on the floor. Then, as the encouraging words continued to be poured out over each one, a shy smile would begin, the head would slowly lift and eyes would lock onto the speaker. It was a visible sign of transformation, and each person left that day with a renewed spirit.

Burundians are encouraging Burundians, laying the foundation for an entire nation to nurture the image of God in one another.

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