I’m reading “Schools for Conversion: 12 Marks of New Monasticism” and it is rocking my world! Here is an excerpt form Shane Claiborne’s chapter:
The more I have gotten to know rich folks, the more I a convinced that the great tragedy in teh church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor, but that rich Christians do not know the poor. A few years back I surveyed people who said they were “strong followers of Jesus.” Over 80% agreed with the statement, “Jesus spent much time with the poor.” Yet only 1 percent said that they themselves spent time with the poor.
It is much more comfortable to de-personalize the poor so that we do not feel responsible for the catastrophic human failure that someone is on the street while people have spare bedrooms in their homes. … When we get the heaven and are separated into sheep and goats, I don’t believe Jesus is going to say, “When I was hungry you have a check to the United Way and they fed me,” or, “When I was naked you donated to the Salvation army and they clothed me.” Jesus is not seeking distant acts of charity. He is seeking concrete actions of love: “you fed me…you visited me, … you welcomed me in… you clothed me…” (Matthew 25)
When the church becomes a place of brokerage rather than an organic community, she ceases to be alive. Brokerage turns the church into an organization rather than a new family of re-birth…. The church becomes a distribution center, a place where the poor coe to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get fed), but no one leaves transformed-no new community is formed.
People do not get crucified for charity. People get crucified for disrupting the status quo, for calling forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joinging them.
(talking about the early church in Acts) Redistribution was not systematically regimented but flowed naturally out of love of for God and neighbor. I am not a communist, nor am I a capitalist. As one person put it: “When we truly discover love, capitalism will not be possible and Marxism will not be necessary.”
The organization I work with is called Orphan Advocacy. We do just that, advocate for orphans, that they may have a family.
My office is inside of a state-run orphanage. Today on my way to a co-worker’s office across the way, I decided to stop in to the baby house. 18 children live there, most between the ages of 0-2. I fed a bottle, burped and held a little, under-nourished baby. Sometimes it is good to remember why I am doing what I am doing and not just be in paperwork all day.
It wasn’t the baby that grabbed my attention today. It was a 13 year old girl named A who was helping out, but also lives in the center. From the moment I saw her, she caught my eye. Many of the teenage girls here have a rebellious attitude, but not A. She was sad.
I left the baby house and she followed me, asking if we could talk. We sat down and she told me she had been here a month and could I please help her. She said she got picked up by the police when she was on the street doing errands. Her family doesn’t know she is here. Nobody visits and she isn’t allowed phone calls. She has a mom and some siblings at home. She cried. I cried. I didn’t want to cry in front of her, but I didn’t really have a choice. I told her I was very sad for what she was telling me and that our office would investigate to see what we could find out about her case.
In our work, we talk a lot about preventing the institutionalization of children. Today I was deeply impacted by the meaning of this. We talk about shortening the time children are in centers, so that they don’t become institutionalized. What I realized today that there is a great evil in the fact that a child finds themselves in a center and away from family. The length of time doesn’t really matter.
*Note: In the time I’ve been writing this blog, we have already found out what is going on with her case. She was taken off the street by police, but it was later discovered that she had been raped and was being prostituted by her mom. Thus, no visits and no phone calls. At this time, she will be sent to a special home for adolescent girls who have been sexually abused. The state is investigating her mother and looking to remove her siblings from the home. My heart breaks even further.
Pray for A and her family. Pray for these little kids running around outside my window.
Tonight I’m thinking about the effects of seeing poverty on a day to day basis and the levels of sensitivity we have to these kinds of things. I read a lot of blogs and once in a while I stumble upon travel journals written by North Americans as they take trips or short term mission trips to places like Honduras or other countries where there is extreme poverty.
Tonight I was thinking twice at the level of reaction some North Americans have when they see poverty, when they meet a poor family, when they see these issues up close and in person. Tears. Uncontrollable emotion. Anger. Pity. Guilt. Motivation. Unforeseen periods of doubting their faith as they wrestle with what this means. Life changing.
I’m thinking twice because I’m questioning myself and I’m questioning my culture. I know it wouldn’t be possible or healthy for me to have a deep, emotional, life changing experience everyday when I go to work. It would be counter-productive for me to spend everyday in deep sorrow for the state of the world and the amount of poverty that exists here. The human being has certain built in self-defense mechanisms that keep this from happening. I’m questioning the positive and negative roles that de-sensitization can play. I’m also questioning the hyper-sensitivity that my culture is producing. What does it say about us that we can be so easily shocked by the normal life situation that describes a majority of the world? I’m not saying I’m better or worse than my fellow Americans, rather I’m making some observations and raising some questions.
I want to be effective in my work in Honduras. I want to live and work out of a place of love and joy, not guilt and depression. But at the same time, I don’t want to lose sensitivity to things that God himself would look at and have compassion. When I go to my office everyday, which is inside of a state-run orphanage, I don’t want to see the kids running around as ‘just kids’. I want to remember who they are and what they need and how God sees them.