I generally don’t like statistics because they stay in my head and I have trouble translating them to a language my heart can comprehend. When I hear that 40 children die of AIDS per hour, it shakes me. My jaw drops and I wonder if that number is real or is just a poor estimation used to shock the audience. I try to do the math in my head and the instantaneous spinning that ensues causes me to give up in depression as the number painfully permeates my mind. I don’t want to think about it. I want to remove it from my thoughts so I can enjoy my day and focus on remaining positive in the midst of my own circumstances. 250 children lose a parent to AIDS every hour? Really?? WHERE are these kids because I am not seeing them in East Cobb… in Georgia… in the United States.
Do we know what 40 kids dying in ONE hour even looks like??? You send your child to school one morning and hour by hour, entire classrooms are wiped out leaving no one but a stunned teacher. During the same hour that a classroom is wiped out, 250 children are left motherless or fatherless due to this same disease that killed the classroom next door. EVERY HOUR. This world is big but it is not big enough that we should be able to hide our faces from these children that represent this statistic. Maybe we begin to think of our own families—the kids we babysit, our neighbors, our own children, our nephews and nieces. We try to make it personal, however difficult and unpleasant that is. It is farfetched to imagine the people I know and love in this situation, so I put out the fire that was lit when I heard this statistic and wish whoever it is that represents these numbers the best. It’s unhealthy to stay in the state of intellectual shock these numbers initiated and my mind slowly sinks into a depression (brief, if at all) and then denial and avoidance as I am responsible for just too many things to add this to my list.
But what if the fire that was started when I heard these numbers roared…. What if I let the Holy Spirit continue igniting the flames instead of allowing my mind(which takes it’s responsibility of caring for me very seriously) to distinguish them before I started to feel the burn? What if the flames continued to grow and grow and grow until they began spreading to others? What if we all set out, united and hearts ablaze, to find out just what this ‘true religion’ we hear James talk about looks like? To ‘look after’ the orphans and widows – what does this mean? It means to take responsibility for them. It means to care about ourselves less so we can care about them more. It means seeking them out and finding out how we can encourage and love them. It means believing His words in Matthew 25 that HE is the one we are serving when we serve them. It means not seeing this as a special duty that some are worthy of or some are especially drawn to and others are not. It means accepting that the message is the same in every Bible—this is not just in the ‘mission minded believer’ Bible version. Mother Theresa was reading the same Bible we read. She knew the same Jesus we know. She followed the same Jesus we follow to the best of her ability. This is not a portion of Scripture God decided to include so that pastors would have something to preach about on Missions Sunday or when the homeless shelter down the street needed someone to buy them all beds.
I don’t even believe this thought of caring for our brothers and sisters is so represented in Scripture (and through the LIFE He lived and told us to mimic) because they NEED us so much—because we have oh so much to offer them and without us, they would cease to survive. I really and truly believe we need them far more than they need us (us, the ones who think we have so much to offer them). Maybe this is a controversial thought that will not be well-received, but I don’t believe for one second that the Garden would have collapsed if Mt. Bethel had not stepped up and supported them and I don’t believe that the orphans at HOREC children’s home would not experience His love if I were not there and constantly willing to be a channel of that Love. I do believe that His Spirit is always desiring to lead us and sanctify us and mold us and when we are listening and willing to move, He accepts our surrender and allows us to be part of what He’s doing here… I do believe that He humbly lifted up some hearts that were bowed down and allowed them to be a part of His restoration and renewal at the Garden and here at HOREC. What an incredible gift… but I don’t think He said “hey, you know what the kids of HOREC need right now? Some Annie Coppedge. That’d really do them well…” Ha… that makes me laugh even to consider. I do believe, however, that He cares so deeply for the kids at HOREC and when He sees people who are on their faces begging to be used by Him--yeah people who are bad at loving their family and who are way too selfish for their own good and who would score less than 10% on a Bible trivia quiz and who have no idea what they’re doing most of the time—He rewards that and lets them take part in His loving.
Anyway, as always I am rambling (true to the title of this blog site), but just want to tell you that He is allowing me to be Him right now and He is allowing me to touch Him everyday through the people that represent these statistics—a very small portion of these statistics. I see their faces when I wake up every morning and until my eyes shut when I go to sleep. I hold their hands. I tickle them until we are both laughing too hard to continue. I tuck them into bed at night. I hold them as they cry about something silly—but far from insignificant in a 4 year old mind. I hold back tears as I watch the face they make as they drink their dissolved, bitter tablets because their bodies are too exhausted to swallow the 17 pills they require each day. I hold them close as they chew their bitter tablets because they’re simply too young to have mastered the art of swallowing pills. I fight off overwhelming anger as I think about how this child was simply passed this disease by their now-absent parent… having done absolutely nothing to deserve this suffering. I ask God again and again, why this precious child must endure such hardship and suffering because of MY sin, because of YOUR sin. I make them put on clothes even when they’ve prefer to be naked-a common desire among preschool boys worldwide. They throw rocks at me when they are angry and do not know how to express it any other way. They kiss me on the cheek and tell me they love me at the most random and wonderful times. They fall asleep in my lap and sometimes we both are wet by the time they wake up. Their sticky hands touch my face and run through my hair and they try to tickle me like I tickle them, but it feels more like pinching. They are kids. They run, they jump, they try to do cartwheels, they can do a million handstands a day and it never loses it’s thrill. They stub their toes, they fall off the swing and skin their knees, they put their shoes on the wrong feet, they spill their drink all over the carpet, they yell really loudly at inappropriate times, they cry when someone calls them a copy cat, they color on the walls, they put their underwear on backwards, they confuse certain words and it is too cute to correct them, they see every single object on this earth as a toy and know no boundaries as to what their creative minds can view as entertainment, they pick the cabbage out of their beans, they lick their plate when they’re done, they somehow manage to add a new stain to their clothes daily…. They’re kids. They are who God created children to be and they’re beautiful. Simultaneously, they ARE these shocking numbers.
David Platt explores James 1:27 in a sermon and he explains that the Greek word for ‘to look after’ as James uses is seen 11 times in Scripture. Time and time again, the word is used to describe the way God came to LOOK AFTER us…to show concern for us…to take responsibility for us..to care for us. And then, it begins to describe the way the recipients of this care and concern rise up to do the same for His people. To top it off—the same word is used in Matthew 25 as He tells us that when we care, have concern for, take responsibility for the sick-the hungry-the prisoner-the poor… we’re doing it for HIM. The opposite of this word in the New Testament means to forget and ultimately, to neglect. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . So, if we are not looking after, showing concern for, caring for, taking responsibility for these kids – should I even say it? We are choosing NOT to seek out and take responsibility for them… and are thus actively forgetting them. I have no doubt that if we could see their faces in our weekly children’s church service or in our own houses we would NOT be neglecting them, we’d be living out this true religion as day proceeds day. But is that a valid excuse? ‘Sorry, God—surely you understand that I would be doing this if these kids showed up on my doorstep. You know that right? If I ever meet an orphan, I promise to give them some new clothes and buy them a meal.’ God wants us to see the 15 million orphans from AIDS and He wants us to touch the 147 million orphans and He wants us to encounter Him as we give our lives for their sake. This is where we will find Him… I just don’t know that we’re looking for Him here.
here He is…
(just a brief, brief preview)
Mary and Tomato