Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do we actually care about missions, poverty, orphans, and the nations of the world, or are we all talk?

Shaun Groves, a singer song-writer and advocate for Compassion International posted last week about this pastor in India that is doing all of this practical humanitarian work in his church in India. The post got 90-some comments on it cheering on the pastor and condemning the lack of churches in the U.S. that use their space to meet practical community needs. That is, all except one commenter, who basically said to all of the other commenters that they were all talk, and that if they really wanted to be active in their communities, they would be.

Shaun recognized the irritation and perhaps cynicism on the part of that commenter, and so he wrote another post in response. He said:

So I posted the My Witness Challenge. I spread the word about it through Twitter
and Facebook - rallied all the troops I could. I asked everyone to dream a little and share their plan for meeting the physical and spiritual needs of those around them. I asked everyone to write down their plan and send me the details or a link if they blogged them. I promised I’d compile everyone’s great ideas and post them here today so we could all be inspired and bring some more of that good work we all loved in India back home where we live.
Are we all talk?

Shaun was rather shocked by the disparity between the amount of people that railed against the American church's lack of community service, but then the very small amount of people who wanted to have anything to do with solving the problem.

I have been very personally convicted about this. I am very willing to send money to sponsor a kid overseas, which is awesome, but is it just because I get cute letters and it makes me feel good about myself? It's so distant from me that it takes very little personal involvement and sacrifice, just a check a month. It's easily romanticized. My parents generation can get all fired up about missions, but sometimes I wonder if it's just because it's exotic and cool. My generation gets fired up about things like Invisible Children and justice and all of that, but that is also exotic and cool.

I've come to the conclusion that if we actually care about justice, about missions, about kids living in poverty and the people of the world, then we will do something about it RIGHT here. If we are unwilling to do that, then I question our motivations.

Ultimately, a community of people that truly knows God will be transformed to be like Christ and will love like Him. Of course every church is flawed, but the community around the church SHOULD be transformed by it. The love of God for the poor, the hurting, the widows, the orphans, the marginalized, the sick, the mentally ill, the strangers...... those are the people that God passionately cares for and defends throughout scripture. Those are the people that WE should also passionately care for and defend.

I was totally convicted by this, beginning in college. In downtown Chicago you have to be blind to not notice the desperate poverty of the ghettos of the city. My school matched me and my hubby with tutoring positions with the children of homeless people, immigrants, and folks with HIV. My corner of the world here in Dallas is very different, and at first I felt like I was surrounded by affluent folks that didn't outwardly NEED anything. I was wrong.

What I said on Shaun's blog was this:

I’ve come to believe very strongly that if we truly care for the nations, then we will recognize that they are also here, at our doorstep, in the form of refugees, international students, and immigrants. We are called to love and care for them, because they are the modern day equivalent of the alien and the stranger that God commanded his people to love.

10 minutes away from the swankiest mall in Dallas and my wealthy mega-church is a massive refugee community living in cheap housing. Thousands of them, and growing by the month. They come from Iraq, Bhutan, Burma, and many other places. Most of them have been waiting for YEARS in camps. They are lonely, many can’t speak English, and most come here with absolutely no money.
I am continually humbled to find people pouring out their lives for the homeless, the poor, children, refugees, the abused... etc..etc. On the other hand, I grow very frustrated when I come across the trend that Shaun is recognizing: people and churches that jump on a bandwagon of missions or justice but are unwilling to get personally involved.

New York City -  A Bhutanese refugee family's first day in the US

(photo of refugee family on their first morning in the U.S.)

For little over a year, I've been on a journey of attempting to learn how meet the needs of refugees here in Dallas. I've written some about it here and want to write more about what it's been like to be a sponsor to a newly-arrived refugee family. In that journey I'm struck by how often these precious people reach out to ME and encourage me, which is really the way it should be. Relationship, not charity. I've also just become all the more passionate about how HUGE this need is, and how much I think it is a part of the heartbeat of God and the mission of the church in U.S. Refugees are flooding in to cities all over the U.S. - we should be there to welcome them.

New York - Acrassicauda reunion
(refugee friends reconciled)


Jaimie said...

I am all talk about nearly everything in my life. Thank you, Kacie, for the multiple blogs about these refugees (and doing something about it!). One day, when I am not in the situation I am in, I want to find a community near me and help. Since I still live at home, I know I'd be up against my parents for "safety" concerns, but later I want to try to make this a priority. And "I want to try" is as honest as I can get, at this point. Maybe if we were all honest about our complete BS, we would all be inspired to start working... together. 'Together' is huge. It's hard to work these things alone.

Annie Peterson said...

I love it that your heart is so stirred by this. The church DOES need to realize Jesus' heart for justice -- for the poor, the oppressed, the fatherless.

You're right that a lot of my generation gets easily excited by the "social justice" movement...where we cry out for freedom for the oppressed... Sadly, if you look closely at a lot of it, it cries out for "justice" without crying out for salvation. There is a big chunk of my generation getting swept up into justice without Jesus, and that is so incredibly dangerous. I believe that many, many people are going to be awakened to justice, but it will be such a battle to stay true to justice Jesus' way. (you HAVE to preach the Gospel at the same time you do works of compassion!!)

We are called to take care of the poor, and I love that you are writing about it! I know in my Kansas City world, this is coming to light in a huge way on the matter of adoption... that James says that pure religion is to "visit the widow and orphan in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world". I am SO stirred by the people in our community that are taking in the orphans at unbelievable rates (2 or 3 medically and mentally challenged kids from the Ukraine at a time, for example) and setting up ways to take in refugee children that need homes...

This is so important, Kacie! I think we could all use a step up in our actions of taking Jesus to the people that are all around us. We need His heart.

Ian North said...