Sunday, October 26, 2014

on seeking safety & sierra leone

". . .I've been listening to the radio, on and off while I've been working on the house,
a lot of news on NPR, and I'm struck that I don't think I've heard Africa discussed even once since I've been here. It's so strange for me. I mean, not that Africa has to be in the news. . . " She turned away, looking out her window. Then she said, "You know, it's always hard, coming back. Bridging the worlds. But this time around, it's so pointed, the sense of disconnection. . .
Somehow- maybe it's just being up here, not in a city, America seems so insular now.   More than before, yes. And the [current political drama], which is so ridiculous, really, is part of that for me. I mean, how can this be what Americans are talking about. . .when there's so much horror in the world."  excerpted from The Arsonist, Sue Miller, pg. 133

When we flew back to Chicago after our first trip to Africa, standing in a fast track customs line as a US citizen, I was just blown away by the lack of patriotism I felt.  American soil!  Wealth! Freedom! All I could think about was how insulated, how blind I had been my entire life to how the rest of the world lives. I think the world revolves around me; that's human selfishness.  But Americans think the world revolves around them and it's considered patriotism.  It's all so very complicated.

". . .we didn't have to worry with the poor because we were paid pros serving the saved.  We spent so much time blessing blessed people, there was nothing left over." Seven, Jen Hatmaker 

I've thought a lot about this over the past year and wondered at the happy bubble we're content to live in.  We want to send money to a crisis, we will quickly jump on board a hashtag activism bandwagon, we give our castoffs to charities and drop our loose change in red buckets at Christmastime.  We aren't mean.  We're actually pretty kind.  We're giving.  (Two years ago, American individual household contributions to non-profits and charities totaled 228.93 billion dollars.But we really don't want to know what's going on out there in the big wide world.  Maybe that's why Time Magazine even prints different covers for their US editions.  That way, during the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, we can think about what's really important, like how dangerous football is.

And Ebola!  It's coming to town! 

I can't find any news source that's not bursting with some new development on this crisis.  Last week, a popular Christian ministry posted an article about the hospital in Houston.  It popped up on my Facebook newsfeed because a friend of mine commented that African Christians have been dealing with these diseases for so long and while it's alarming here, it's important to be in prayer for believers outside of our relatively safe nation.  She was blasted by the ministry's moderator for "criticizing the American church."  I would have laughed if it weren't so sad. 

So much fear and yet so few reasons to actually panic.  Unlike West Africa, we have running water, and efficient public waste systems; we aren't malnourished and we have an unbelievable amount medical options to choose in case something does go wrong. 

I won't pretend to have any knowledge of medicine, or even Ebola; but I have had my blinded little eyes opened to how the other half lives and I refuse to live with sanitary safety as my purpose in life.

Morningstar, a beautiful old hospital-turned-school in Welkom, South Africa welcomes children with HIV; this wall marks and remembers the lives of the little students who have died. 
America today is a "save yourself" society if there ever was one. But does it really work? The underdeveloped societies suffer from one set of diseases: tuberculosis, malnutrition, pneumonia, parasites, typhoid, cholera, typhus, etc. Affluent America has virtually invented a whole new set of diseases: obesity, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, venereal disease, cirrhosis of the liver, drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, battered children, suicide, murder. Take your choice. Labor-saving machines have turned out to be body-killing devices. Our affluence has allowed both mobility and isolation of the nuclear family, and as a result, our divorce courts, our prisons and our mental institutions are flooded. In saving ourselves we have nearly lost ourselves. John Piper
At Morningstar, there is a bathing area for the older and weaker children.  In an effort to create sanitary conditions, this is a little personalized washcloth hanging area; it is next to an elevated tub, designed to reduce wear on volunteers and staff as they lift the children in and out of their baths.
I found this letter on the wall at Morningstar, written by a fifteen year old wise beyond her years.
Our west coast friends Jon and Kelli are headed to Sierra Leone with their children in February, not on a mission trip or visit but to live and pour into lives and people, extending hope and life and Christ.  I tell Kelli all the time I'm so jealous; ministry is never easy street but it is such a joy to be with people hungry for the Gospel and I can't wait to see what God will do through their obedience and lives. 
Kelli and I at my brother-in-law's wedding

The first time Jon and Kelli stayed with us Daniel was working and I was solo-hostessing.  I greeted them, brought a few bags in and feeling a weird poke on my finger, looked down at my engagement ring and saw four bright prongs staring back at me.  I'd lost my diamond.  I couldn't very well hide my surprise and thus ensued a housewide search which everyone enthusiastically took part in.  I couldn't even believe the irony.  I am hosting missionaries headed to the slums of Africa and I can't even say hello without asking everyone to help me find my jewelry. Jon even took my sink/ drain-trap thingies (whatever they're called) apart to see if it had fallen down there.  Realizing this was a needle in the haystack kind of event, I told myself I'd look in the recent trash and then just be done with it and try not to dwell on my diamond-less ring. I found it twinkling up at me from a pile of coffee grounds.  It was a pretty happy sight and Jon and Kelli were really gracious about my materialism.

In light of all the hubbub about Ebola, I can't help but think of them;  I asked Kelli if I could share from their most recent update and she agreed.  I love their courage, perspective and singleminded vision. 

from Jon. . .

First, I want to state that we are still moving forward towards a departure date of early February.  We are “watching and praying” as the situation unfolds in Sierra Leone and currently see no reason to change this date.  As we watch we are continuously reminded of 2 Tim 1:7.  The news coverage of the situation in West Africa has been VERY sensationalized and designed to promote a spirit of fear. However, God’s word reminds us that the spirit of fear is NOT from Him.

We have to continually bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”. (2Cor 10:5b)  We have His spirit giving us the power of the Almighty God to overcome the fears of this world.  We have His supernatural love to help us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to love them that Christ came to seek and to save.  Finally, we have His wisdom giving us a sound mind able to make Spirit led decisions.  We do not need to be swayed back and forth by the fears of this world.  What an opportunity to show the power of Christ to a lost and dying world!

I think that it is very important to keep the current situation in perspective.  There are over 20 million people in the three countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia and to date there have officially been under 10,000 people infected with Ebola resulting in the deaths of about 4,400 people.  These numbers show you how small the outbreak is relative to the populations of these countries.  It also needs to be remembered that every day in these same three countries, thousands of people die of Malaria and thousands more die every day from Yellow Fever, Typhoid Fever, Cholera, and Tuberculosis, etc.  We need to ask ourselves why so much fear over this disease?

The truly sad aspect of the Ebola deaths is that many of these people have died without ever having heard of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” it matters very little what someone dies of, but it matters for eternity in what state they die: Saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ or an eternity in hell for the wages of sin is death!  We need to run towards those who need to hear of Christ and are dying without Him, not run away in a vain attempt to preserve our health or lives.  As my wife says so well “We are not going to Sierra Leone for our health!”

For over 2 years we have been going around the country telling people about Sierra Leone and have been amazed and somewhat saddened that so few people had ever heard of Sierra Leone and that even fewer where aware of the great need and open door for the gospel.  We “know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)  Ebola has placed Sierra Leone at the forefront of world news and now, for maybe the first time in it’s history, thousands of Christians are praying for these very needy people.  I believe that God is using this outbreak to further open hearts in Sierra Leone and to call more laborers into this white harvest!  Ebola is an opportunity!

More links:

From the son of the doctor treating Dr. Kent Brantly while still in Liberia

Don't Freak Out

Seemingly off topic, I found this article from the Washington Post fascinating; the thread tying it to seeking comfort and safety is our obsession with ourselves.

Even more terrible things are happening to the American Girl Doll

More on Sierra Leone

Jon and Kelli

a cemetery for children outside Thabong, a township in South Africa
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he could never lose. Jim Elliot

1 comment: