I look back at the past twelve months, and memories flood my mind. I certainly experienced a range of homes, met a variety of people and covered nearly every continent.
In some of the dwellings, my back aching on what barely passed as a bed, I thought the night would never end. Other nights, sprawled in mansions, I stayed awake till the late hours, living in luxury but flooded with guilt, remembering my bothers and sisters suffering.
I sat in African huts, encouraging dying, young people, wondering, myself, how it must feel to die so young. I sat with old grannies, wishing I could answer their questions about how an old lady is going to survive with her house full of orphans. On other occasions I found myself sitting on a spot-lit bar chair while very smart college kids from North America hung on my every word as I told stories of Africa. I spoke to churches in Europe and North America, with people waiting forty minutes in a line to speak to me, only to stop when it was their turn, shake my hand and just weep.
But among it all I noticed a common thing: people wish for justice. Hard to believe in a time when millions of orphans roam hungry in southern Africa, when $12 billion is spent annually on perfume while 30 000 children die daily from poverty. So where do we go wrong? When all the dust in Africa settles, will it really be possible for justice-loving Christians to say: “we just didn’t know what was happening?” How, in this age of information-explosion can we be so ignorant?
Maybe it’s here that the verse “hearing without hearing and seeing without seeing” makes sense. Perhaps the real price to pay for justice is just too high. But, my friends, preaching evangelism without social involvement is half the good news, and half of the truth is simply not the truth.
If my observation is right, if, inside, we really do want justice, we must wake up. When I meet dying young mothers or eight-year-olds heading households, I feel deeply sad, but also heavily challenged: I know I could make a difference. I know individuals can change the world, not corporations or institutions. Just look at Jesus. His sacrifice changed millions of lives forever. His followers should do the same today, sacrifice comfort and safety and follow Him among the poor and broken.
What prevents you from doing it?
The place to start is to draw a line, to say I cannot live a life ignoring this any longer. I often say to people that “the house is on fire.” And in drastic situations drastic action is required.
Hands at Work in Africa has embraced the goal of reaching “100 000 by 2010” (pg 10). We unashamedly not just call but challenge Churches, individuals and organizations to kick in the doors of “burning houses”. Looking back and seeing so many that joined us just a year after we made this commitment both humbles and encourages us. God’s call to go beyond what we dreamed possible is becoming reality as we step out in faith together. But never forgetting it is about caring — one by one.