From gratitude to wholeness

February 19, 2014

by Raija-Liisa Teigen , Case Manager, Southern Alberta Restoration Project, Samaritan's Purse

Samaritan's Purse staff member Raija-Liisa Teigen reflects on her experiences in the disaster-stricken Philippines and the power of God to bring restoration.

Today, I’d like to invite you on a journey that I’ve embarked on this year—one of thanksgiving, faith, and restoration*. It began during my recent trip to the Philippines, where I worked with Samaritan’s Purse to help survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

What I saw was incredible: in the midst of the devastation, the Filipino people have hope and they are working hard to rebuild. Yes, we are helping, but we are partnering with people who are courageously taking initiative to restore their communities, and who are filled with gratitude for our support. 

It was beautiful to see, particularly after living through years of international relief work that were filled with stress, struggling people, and conflict.  Recovery is often slow and can be incredibly frustrating.

But when I left the Philippines a month after I arrived, I saw restoration taking place—whether it was through another pile of rubble that was removed, or a set of power poles that were set up again.

In the midst of the transformation I witnessed there, I was reminded of a story in the Gospel of Luke.

In the story, Jesus heals ten lepers of their disease. They rejoice and go away—but one returns, and something unique happens: the man falls on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanks Him.

The man’s gratitude isn’t the flippant “thanks for the coffee” kind of thankfulness. Instead, the Greek word used for “thanks” is “eukaristeo,” meaning “a thanksgiving that wells from deep in the soul.”

And Jesus’ response is even more fascinating:  “Stand up, your faith has made you well.”

Isn’t it strange how Jesus equated the leper’s act of thanksgiving with an act of faith? I’d never noticed that connection before this year. The gratitude that welled up in the man’s heart grew from a certainty of who Jesus was—the Son of God who had made Him whole.

And remember, nine other lepers were healed, so Jesus wasn’t referring to the tenth man’s physical wellness. Instead, the Greek word used is “sozo,” which means “saved and made whole.”

This story paints a beautiful picture of the Gospel.

Just like the leper’s healing wasn’t only about his body, the salvation of Jesus isn’t just about freedom from sickness, or solely freedom from sin. Instead, it’s the power of a life completely transformed—physically, emotionally, spiritually, economically, and every way possible.

The leper in this story gives us a picture of how we are to live as Christ followers: with thanksgiving, which wells up from faith in Him and marks the beginning of Jesus’ work to make us whole. 

In the Philippines, I saw God powerfully restoring lives and communities—even in the chaos and pain of a disaster like those that we so often face in this world.

Today, I invite you to join me on my journey of thanksgiving, faith, and transformation. As we walk this path to wholeness, my prayer is that we will be used by God to bring His transformation about in the lives of others.


* The reflections in this blog post were influenced by the writings of author Ann Voskamp.