Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A matter of focus

This study has caused me to think about widows, orphans, and poverty. The course material is replete with sound bites, one line quotes, and provocative calls to actions. As I progress through the week, however, I begin to think about focus. The material pushes so hard toward the care of those in need that at times it glosses over the subtleties. For example, the passage of the sheep and goats is not about the poor in general, it is about caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We all too frequently remember the beginning of the passage, "Unto the least of these..." and not the latter portion " brothers." This passage, while consistent with God's passion for the poor in spirit, addresses how we are to treat those that are in Christ. Since Christ responds to an invitation by believers to live within them, not every person is Christ's brother, sister, or mother. This passage says, "charity, compassion, and the love you express to the least of the believers is likened to expressing it to Christ.

This picture if of my friend Dale who often travels to China with me. He's holding a little orphaned girl named Emily. She has Down Syndrome and was destined to spend the rest of her life in an orphanage. Life in the orphanage for a child with special needs can be very, very difficult. There is very little supervision and these vulnerable children can be easily victimized. Because of Dale and donors, Emily has been given a foster home with loving parents. Emily is just one of thousands of children like her.

During one of our earlier trips in 2005, Dale and I and one of my employees worked the night shift at a large orphanage. There were three of us and 45 babies. We spent the night feeding, and changing diapers. Since they never turned the lights off in that room, many of the children were awake. What we quickly learned is that with 45 babies it's not about loving its about efficiency. This is a night I will never forget. The room was eerily quiet. We're told that children will stop crying when they learn that no one responds. In the early morning hours we found a local hotel and got some sleep.

When I woke, I saw Dale staring out the open window. This experience made a significant impact on him. With a tear in his eye, he asked me if I knew the serenity prayer that begins "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..." He said, "Curt, this is my prayer right now." Looking back, my response seems cold. I said, "Dale, it's not about you. It's about God. He is the one who calls us to care. He is the one who equips us for good work, and he is the one who receives the glory."

It is difficult for me to explain; but, caring for orphans in their time of need is the effect. God is the cause. Through our pursuit of him, orphans are cared for. I know the power of images, statistics, and stories. It is so easy for me to pursue orphans over God that we have create specific statements and actions that help us keep our priorities right. It is through our pursuit of Him that care is provided to orphans in their time of need. "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

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