Friday, October 14, 2011

Could We Really?



I sponsor through Compassion.  I do it for many reasons, but the biggest is that I hope that my small contribution (which really amounts to a monthly credit card payment) might make a difference in a little girl's life.  And, I have found that Compassion has given back to me over the years, most recently in the form of tickets to a screening of the movie 58:Fast. Forward. The End of Poverty.

I have to admit, I was nervous about the film.  Many years ago I foolishly prayed that I might glimpse the world through God's eyes and I have found my heart broken, again and again.  As I learned more about God's love for me, I became more concerned with the suffering of others.  We sponsored one little girl in Peru because that has always been a country that I felt drawn to.  One girl, well, it reminded me of the story about the little boy throwing starfish back into the ocean ("I made a difference for that one!"), but there were so many more!  And, while we aren't wealthy by American standards, we certainly are by the world's standards!  Even more, I know we are rich in grace!

When I saw the video of Bono and Bill Hybels at a Global Leadership Summit, I was dismayed at the way he accused the church of being so disconnected from the needs of the world.  (Frankly, I am all about calling out my brothers and sisters, but it is embarrassing when someone not in the family does.)

A friend from church had gone on an expedition of sorts to Africa and came home with amazing stories of an American teenager who was mothering over a dozen Ugandan girls.  Her ministry, Amazima, which means truth in Lugandan, was teaching the people about the love of Jesus by being the love of Jesus.  She reminds me of stories I read of Mother Theresa as a child as I began to follow her blog.  Desiring to be a part and supportive of her ministry, we began to sponsor a little boy.

My journey continued when I read the book Half the Sky, a remarkable book that looks at the plight of women and girls around the world.  While I admit to being annoyed by the patriarchal and hierarchical undertones in conservative Christianity, this is nothing to what is happening to sisters around the globe!  It was after reading about the dangers to girls in India, from the poverty to the child slave to the sex trade, that led me to sponsoring our 3rd child, a girl, of course, this time again through Compassion. 

At this time I also wanted to try something completely new to me, microfinance.  I had known of Kiva for a long time, but I really felt a bit intimidated by the term "microfinance" and wondered if anything termed "micro" in the world of money could really do any good.  I added my $25 with some other people, and we made a loan to a faceless man in Lebanon (his face was blurred for his protection due to the volatile situation in his country).  He received his loan for his business, and then, believe it or not, he started to pay the loan back!  Not only did he have hope in his future, but he had respect for the way he came by this hope because it wasn't a hand out.  It wasn't charity linked to some Western group looking to make themselves feel better.  While it is paid back to each lender in portions, when my full $25 is paid, I will then be able to lend to someone else's hope.

There is a friend I met on Facebook who is a missionary in Uganda (not with Amazima).  I began to follow her blog, and she put faces to the tragedy of lack of access to clean water.  I watched as she posted pictures and videos of a dreadful muddy stream where the village people would get their water, until blog friends raised the funds and her village got its own well.  To think that 30,000-and I don't even know really how to make that number sound more real-children die every day due to HUNGER and PREVENTABLE DISEASES!  It is truly beyond my ability to understand!

While God has been teaching me about the way he loves, and the way he expects us to love, I have been struggling with this piece of the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25:

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
    “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
    “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

See, the people that the King told to depart were not bad guys, per se.  They were just indifferent to need in simple, everyday people.  If they had known Jesus was making an appearance in the soup kitchen line, they would have fought to serve him.  But he is a bit sneaky.  He doesn't always announce himself with the fanfare one would expect of a king (like being born in the muck of a barn).

I don't want to be apathetic, but I also don't always know what to do.  Sponsoring even three children is still nothing!  So when I received an email from Compassion that they were offering tickets to this screening, I went figuring that perhaps the God of hide and seek grace games was providing an opportunity.

As I said, I was nervous.  I brought tissues because I have learned that tears flow too easily when my heart is touched.  I promised my husband that I would not sign up to go overseas or sponsor another child that night.  While I knew the International Justice Mission and Compassion were partners of this movie, I was pleased to see a local ministry, HOPE International as well as ones I hadn't heard of yet.

My initial impression of the film was...heartbreaking.  When a 12 year old boy feels there is no sense of having dreams because he has become an indentured slave to a quarry for his parents' debt (for a child's dowry)...when a woman picks through the garbage for vegetables that have been thrown out, only to wash them to try and sell what she could (and take the worst home to feed her 3 children)...when a pregnant woman walks 4 miles into town to sell firewood she carried on her back so that she can buy food and water to carry the 4 miles home (to feed her 5 children)....could it be anything other than heartbreaking?

My friend's daughter, who dreams of being a missionary, went with us to the film.  Her impression, however, caused me to rethink mine.  She saw hope.  And she is right.

Extreme poverty has declined.  Children dying of malaria has declined.  Thanks to child sponsorship programs, children are being given the opportunity to attend school with their fees paid by a sponsor.  They have a chance to avoid being trapped in the same cycle of poverty.  Thanks to microfinance, people are able to begin to make a living for themselves and their families.  They have hope.  Organizations fight the sex trade, some fight to save environments in dire situations like that of Ethiopia, and others to provide access to clean water.

The movie is to awaken us to the True Fast we read of in the book of Isaiah chapter 58:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I."


I don't know that I, myself, can make a dent in extreme poverty.  I do know that if my church family, my Facebook friends, my coworkers, my birth family, and all my friends in between, would pitch in, we could, really, fast forward to the end of poverty.  So, please, check out the Live58.org page or their facebook page.  Think it over.  Pray about it.  Ask for ideas, or throw out ideas.  Try something and try something else.

The only wrong thing to do...is nothing.


So, what are you going to do?

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