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“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8
God dwells in the high and holy place, but also amongst the broken and lowly. We often think about wanting to “see God” according to our own place of need, but as we approach this Beatitude, we are reminded of the places beyond our own need—places where we may most deeply see God.
As followers of Christ, we are called to become pure in heart like our Savior. God’s heart is for others; we see this most clearly through Jesus willingly dying on the cross for a sinful world. To become pure in heart like him, we must seek him, and intercede for others as Jesus does for us. As we consider the most broken, desperate and destitute places of need in our world, the Lord asks, “Will you seek me here?” Will you labor in prayer as if you too dwelled with the poor, the abused, the enslaved, the wrongfully imprisoned?
Accra, GHANA – Foli was raised by his grandparents in a loving home in Ghana several hours from the largest manmade lake in the world: Lake Volta. They wanted to send him to school, but simply couldn’t afford his school fees, so Foli stayed home. His grandfather gave him small jobs of weeding cassava fields and planting corn on their small farm.
One day, his grandfather was on his way to a funeral in town when he was struck by a car. His leg was injured badly, and medical expenses quickly began to pile up.
For many people, poverty is the first step on their journey into slavery.
It was then that a relative who lived near Lake Volta visited them and offered to take Foli in. His grandparents were promised that Foli would be put in school and taken care of until his grandfather healed from his injuries. This was a lie.
Foli soon arrived at his new home on a remote island on Lake Volta with no school or medical facilities. He didn’t know it at the time, but he had just become a slave.
Early one morning, Foli was taken by his boatmaster out onto the massive waters of Lake Volta. He sat and shivered in the canoe while the shore vanished in the distance. As they floated in the deep, dark water, he wondered why he was brought on the lake.
They soon began throwing nets into the water as they paddled along, and one of the nets became tangled on a branch below the surface. It was then that Foli learned why he was in the boat.
The boatmaster needed children like Foli to dive into the dark, murky water and untangle the net. Foli looked down at the water and froze. He didn’t know how to swim.
Eighteen-hour work days would become routine for Foli. Monday through Friday, he woke at 2 a.m. to begin his day. He would say a prayer every morning before rowing out in the dark to set the fishing nets, and after working all day, would fall asleep around 8 p.m., only to start again in a few hours.
When his grandfather healed, he saved up some money to visit him at Lake Volta. He was horrified when he saw the terrible condition of his grandson, and he asked to take him back home. Instead of kindness and understanding, he was met with insults and threats to his life. Foli even tried running to his grandfather, but was grabbed before he could reach him.
One morning, soon after his grandfather’s visit, Foli along with his boatmaster and several other boys piled into their canoe and paddled out like they did every morning. But this morning was different.
You see, on this morning, some IJM social workers, investigators and local authorities were also out on the lake. They were looking for children who were working as slaves.
When their boat pulled up next to Foli’s canoe, the abusive boatmaster was arrested and Foli was taken from the canoe with the other boys. Foli was free.
Today, Foli is home living with his family, and he dreams of becoming a doctor or teacher. As I think about Foli now, I can’t help but to think back to the prayer he prayed each morning before heading to the lake:
God, we have awaken, and we are going for fishing. We pray that it does not get entangled so that someone would have to go and remove it.
I pray it will not go to a place where a human being cannot reach. God please have us set our nets in a good place so we don’t need to go underwater to untangle them.
I pray that, oh Father Lord, as we are about to set this net, I pray that you protect and put your hands around it, that it does not go that deep that it would get stuck and they would ask me to go and untangle it.
- What does it mean to be pure in heart and why is it important in order to see God?
- Is it ever difficult to see God in our culture, where we have what we need and are very rarely destitute?
- What does Foli's story teach us about perseverance? How does Foli's perseverance relate to the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8?
- How can we pray for people (like we are there with them) when we are often very far away?
- Pray for those suffering from injustice as if you are there beside them experiencing their pain.
- Pray that those seeking and advocating for justice would see God’s hand at work in all circumstances.
- Pray that God would hear the cries for justice from all the boys like Foli awaiting rescue.