So I haven’t given an update on the 5% Project and what is happening to all of the dirty brown kids that we love and support down in South Africa. 5% of our revenue still goes to support the orphanage and it is very well spent but there are some new and cool things on the horizon. I was planning on doing it today but I got an email from Dave that was relevant and moving. I thought I would post an excerpt from that as a lead in to a very near future post with more info on the orphanage.
If you know Dave and what a kick ass self-less, other focused dude he is than you will not be at all surprised by what he has to say. Dave is also an phenomenal athlete and in reading this I was reminded of words from a famous track coach named Joe Vigil that truly great athletes, athletes that w remember and respect, athletes that inspire us through their achievements and make us dream of ever great heights of human capacity are first and foremost great people. Dave’s heart in the poorest neighborhoods in Seattle and the darkest jungles of Nicaragua can be felt just as powerfully in the gym.
The compassion curve & advocacy. I was reminded of this need for fresh eyes on a recent trip with a group of college students from West Virginia. Having been here for a few months now, I sometimes forget how different everything can seem when you’re seeing it for the first time.
We went to a very difficult community with severe health disparities – El Roblar. Often when we would eat dinner, young children would come to the door and watch us. They were usually covered in dirt and without shoes, and it made a deep impact on the college students. After a few nights of this, one of the girls eventually threw down her fork and left in tears. “I can’t do this,” she sobbed. “I can’t believe we have enough food and they don’t.” It was a deeply convicting moment for everyone and proved to be a turning point in the trip.
The discussions that followed dove deep into the shame that they felt as a group coming from such affluence to a place that was so impoverished. I felt the shame too and have wrestled with it often – not only here, but back in Seattle as well. It’s not just with poverty but with every place where injustice is found. It’s the confrontation that causes us to come face to face with the fact that we benefit from inequality. What we do in the wake of that moment is very telling; often our shame and pride keep us silent and drive us to avoid further confrontation.But it need not be so. In listening to these students wrestle with their privilege, I was profoundly hopeful because I see that they are beginning a good journey that can be drawn as follows:
The curves are borrowed from Dr. Greg Mitchell, with my own words added. The reason I am hopeful is because these students came with open hearts and a willingness to be moved. That alone is the greatest prerequisite for change: humility. They took an honest look at their own situation and were moved to anger and despair. They saw that it was not right and they wanted to do something about it.But this is the place that many people go astray. They come into contact with something powerful that moves them; they allow it to provoke them to anger and sadness, and then they act out of that anger. The world is full of these bitter, condemning advocates who smear us with guilt but don’t know how to move us in the right direction. But what if there were one more stage to the curve? What if we let our anger and sorrow ignite us to compassion, not only for those who suffer, but for those who are still ignorant? Instead of condemnation, what if we offered grace and the opportunity to learn? Instead of guilt and shame, what if we offered hope and a chance for reconciliation? The origin of the word compassion means “to suffer with.” That is what we are called to do: not only suffer with those who are hungry and oppressed, but also to suffer with those who are trapped in shame and guilt and ignorance, who don’t yet know how to get out.
Will it will be painful? Yes. Will we have to look at some really uncomfortable stuff in our own lives and perhaps even give up some things that we hold dear? Yes. Does this ever stop? I’m afraid the journey is ongoing – we may never feel comfortable again. But I promise you it will be worthwhile. In doing this, we will experience the heart of God.
To me, this is why we have short term missions. We are giving people the opportunity to catch fire, to see God’s heart for the world. Sometimes people criticize and say, “That $1,000 airfare could have purchased more supplies. Why didn’t we just send money?” And they would be right – if it were just about money and tasks. But we must not fail to see the potential in those who come on these trips. If it costs $1,000 for someone to start caring about poverty and injustice, and if that person returns to the US and compassionately mobilizes her/his friends to act and give, then that $1,000 was well spent.
I don’t know where or how you spend your time and money when it comes to supporting compassionate efforts but if you are looking for a place than Kwethu Children’s Village (the South African orphans) or the work Dave is doing in Central America are two great places. We will actually be doing a fundraising workout next month to help the Africans start a sustainable farming project. There will be awesome cycles and delicious chicken. How could anyone not want to be a part of that?