By Pastor Greg Bouvier
Each time I travel to our sister parish in Tanzania, Karansi Lutheran, Pastor Joshua Laiser takes me on some kind of adventure. Karansi is a small town on the edge of civilization. It would be much like a small town on the edge of the sandhills region of Nebraska.
On our last trip, our jaunts in the wilderness were often halted because of a cattle and/or goat drive. In Tanzania, herds of cattle and goats are led by kids. I’m quite unsure why the adults allow their kids to do this task, but it is common to see eight-year-olds leading in this way.
The displayed photo was my favorite from my last trip. Here we have a young boy, taking up the back of the drive, holding onto a small, weak goat. He is equipped with his tools for work and has likely spent hours in the hot and dry day. His compassion is what struck me. This boy is a “good shepherd.”
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”John 10:11
One pet-peeve of mine is how much we have “altered” Jesus. I would say this is especially true regarding his appearance. I had a seminary professor remark about the phenomenon of the “GQ Jesus.” I believe this to be true. Most renderings of Jesus we see in our American culture show a perfectly flawless, European-looking “gentleman.” And while on one hand, I get why this happens – the intentions of respect it delivers – mostly I’m saddened that we’ve sanitized Jesus. We have twisted Jesus into our image, rather than making ourselves into the image of Jesus.
Honestly, this humble Tanzanian boy has more in common with Jesus than the striking images and artist renderings that we hold so dear. This boy is a good shepherd. He cares, with great sacrifice to himself (seriously, think about smell and filth of carrying a goat!). Even more, this boy is living out his calling.
Would someone ever characterize you as “a good shepherd?” If someone took a photo of you at work, would they say you look like Jesus? I pray it be so.