Disclaimer: To many of my "real life" friends who read this blog, with spiritual/ religious views ranging across the entire spectrum and in most cases, dramatically different from mine, I'm going to come out and admit that I think of you every time I write a "Jesus-y" post like the one below. I worry a little more than I should that I'll offend you or that you'll decide you don't want to be friends with a religious nut-job anymore and secretly unfriend me on Facebook. So this is just a little heads up. Jesus stuff about to follow; feel free to ignore.
I read somewhere (no idea where) that as humans, we have a hard time processing huge tragedy wherein thousands are impacted (genocide, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.). We tend to disassociate our emotions from the facts of the events, to shut down emotionally because we can't process the scale of that grief and suffering. But show us a story of one little girl trapped in a well or a three year old battling with a brain tumor for his life, and we latch on. We are more likely to care and more motivated to get involved in the solution when it becomes personal.
I confess I often go numb when I hear horrifying statistics about poverty, human trafficking, genocide, and orphans. I find it impossible to process. I find it overwhelming to even consider. I'm tempted to give up before I get started, because the problems are too big and the solutions too small.
In the past few years, the issue of poverty and the plight of the orphan has become personal. I now have a face to latch onto. Two faces, actually.
My nephews James and Varney, once Liberian orphans in a refugee camp--struggling at 4 and 2 years old to find enough food to survive--these two precious children are now called sons.
I saw Varney yesterday, watched his mom sign his homework folder, heard her reminding him what chapter he needed to study in his third grade science book. It was just another ordinary afternoon for them both. And this--that horror and hunger are no longer the norm, what once defined an ordinary day for Varney and his big brother--this is extraordinary.
My sister will be the first to tell you she's no saint, and I will be the first to tell you that she actually is. But that's not really the point here. You might feel inclined to pipe in at this point and say that you aren't up for the huge commitment of adoption, that this is something you couldn't possibly do. I understand, because that's where I'm at too. So no need to pipe in.
I only bring this up to tell you about an event that my friend Kelly at Love Well told me about, something I think is worth sharing here. This is an opportunity for those of us who want to help but feel overwhelmed; this is our way to make it personal.
November 7, 2010, is Orphan Sunday - an event sponsored by Christian Alliance for Orphans. As Kelly wrote in her email to me (she said it best, so might as well just quote her):
It's a day designed to focus the American church on the plight of orphans around the world. Anyone can get involved, which might be my favorite thing about it. It’s customizable to your specific passion. Do you really want to connect people to Compassion? Set up a sponsorship table in the lobby of your church November 7. Want to tell your story of adoption? Ask your pastor if you can share your heart during the service that morning. Or maybe it would be a better fit with your small group. Or you could even plan a special evening for your family and friends. There are TONS of resources on the website – everything from bulletin inserts to videos for specific causes to posters to t-shirts. It’s an amazing opportunity.
Now, don't worry. I'm not going to lay the guilt on thick, imploring you to do something for the poor, starving children in Africa. I'm just trying to spread the word about Orphan Sunday so you can get involved if you're so inclined.
One of the things that drives my sister a little nuts is when she meets someone new, and their first response to finding out about her adopted boys is to tell her the reasons they could never adopt, to compare their path to hers, to give her a laundry list of the good things they do in lieu of adopting.
I think in the Christian community, we often and even unknowingly slip into the trap of caring more about what others see--about imparting an image of being super spiritual--than we care about the deep-down heart stuff that only God sees. If we respond to Orphan Sunday or similar calls because we feel guilty, or because we want to prove we are "good Christians" (whatever the heck that is), then we're totally missing the point. (Notice how I kept saying "we" and not "you"? Yeah, that was on purpose. Guilty as charged.) This isn't a contest to see who is the most compassionate, who cares the most about orphans, who is the most gigantic spiritual hero of them all.
Because the orphans, the poor, the exploited, they already have a hero.
It's not my sister. It's not Mother Teresa. It's not the guy who runs the orphanage in Tanzania or the lady who fosters troubled teens in Tampa. It's Jesus. He's the Hero. He's the Rescuer.
That said, I think if only for the joy He knows it will bring to us, He allows us to be involved in the rescue. He gives us opportunities to be His hands on earth, to help provide food, comfort, shelter to the most vulnerable among us. So, between you and God, all guilt and contests aside, would you consider how you might take a small step to get involved?
For a more specific and coherent post on this topic, check out the post Megan at Sorta Crunchy wrote about Orphan Sunday. And while you're there, read one of my favorite posts from her--in which she realizes she's called to serve not in some far off place, but "where her feet are".