“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Remember being asked that question? What was your answer? If you were like most children, your answer changed over time. But no matter what the answer, you always envisioned doing something important, having a significant, even heroic impact on others. 

I’ve never yet heard a child answer that question by stating: “When I grow up I want to be an ordinary person, go to my job 8 to 5 everyday and live in the suburbs.” And yet that’s how most of us end up. And often, we look back and say “if only……” we had made different decisions, better choices, taken more risks, our life would be in a different, more rewarding and significant place. We feel stuck, dead-ended, or fear we will become this way. Significance seems to slip through our fingers.

Meet someone who has a different outlook on life. He’s Austin Gutwein, a 14 year-old freshman with sandy blond hair and blue eyes who looks like any typical young adolescent. His passion is basketball. He loves shooting hoops and practices all the time. But there’s a problem. He’s on the small side, and frankly isn’t that good a player.

His aspiration to become a pro basketball player was crushed at age 9, when he failed to make the hoops team at his grade school. He was devastated, but not for long. Austin had a penpal in Zambia, Africa who encouraged him to learn more about Africa. Austin did so and discovered that the AIDS epidemic has left 15 million children orphaned, many of them in Zambia. Schools are few and far between, and clean water is often nonexistent.

Austin decided he wanted to help. On his own, he organized a basketball shoot-a-thon in his back yard, soliciting pledges from community members to pay him $1.00 for every hoop he sank. He made $3000, which he donated to World Vision, an international relief organization, to provide care and education for 8 orphans. The next year, he enlisted the help of his classmates, and they raised $35,000 to care for 100 orphans.

Encouraged by the success. Austin formed “Hoops of Hope,” and in the last 5 years has been joined by schools and churches across the nation, raising over 2 million in funding. To date, “Hoops” has built 2 schools in Zambia and a 3rd one in India, 2 medical clinics in Zambia, 2 orphan centers in Swaziland, and a water system in Kenya. Austin says this is only the beginning. He states, “Anyone, no matter what their age or skills, can make a difference for someone.”

I suggest we take the term “if only” out of the regret column and move it to the hope column. If only each one of us would see the need in front of us and reach out to help, what an incredible change the world would see! Years ago, Helen Keller said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Jesus also reminds us of the importance of the one in front of us. “I was hungry and you fed Me, thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, naked and you clothed Me, sick and you took care of Me, in prison and you visited Me. Whatever you did for one of these in need, no matter how insignificant they seemed, you did it for Me.” (Matthew 25: 35, 40)

Today, be significant! Reach out and meet the need of the one in front of you!

Please come and join us this Sunday at 10:30 AM as we discuss further how we can respond to social injustice and systemic poverty. Our guest speaker, Kris Vallotton’s sermon, “Stopping for the One,” is part 7 in our “Reformers’ Pledge”series.

Ché Ahn and his wife, Sue, are the Founding Pastors of HRock Church in Pasadena, California. Ché serves as the Founder and President of Harvest International Ministry (HIM) and the International Chancellor of Wagner Leadership Institute (WLI). With a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary, he has played a key role in many strategic outreaches on local, national and international levels. He has written more than a dozen books and travels extensively throughout the world, bringing apostolic insight with an impartation of renewal, healing and evangelism.