Monday, October 25, 2010
An Invitiation to Redemption
When you hear reports like this one, about young Haitian girls being sexually exploited you can't help but wonder what this world is coming to.
Between reading about child trafficking right here under my nose, and the news reports about people suffering and dying from cholera right here in Haiti, it's been a rough weekend.
Our hearts are grieving for this country. We sat with the couple that works with us last night and made sure that Dominique and Soso know how to be safe and keep their children safe. We sent them home with some supplies and made them swear to us that if they get sick at all they will come tell us immediately. They admitted to being worried about cholera. Three days before, when I asked them about it, they said they were not worried. I was having a hard time convincing them that this cholera stuff is huge. "You poop out liters and liters of diarrhea a day!" This did not phase them. Thankfully, they said the radio here has been talking a lot about cholera, so the radio successfully freaked them out about how serious this stuff can be.
Cholera, sex trafficking...all things that point to a society totally broken and ravaged by poverty. Almost everyone who lives in a place like Haiti will admit that there are some days when the sadness is too much. It's difficult to know that children are being exploited within walking distance. It's difficult to know that cholera is real, not just something people die from on the Oregon Trail game. People get diarrhea in the morning and are dead within 24 hours. Why? Because they don't have access to something as simple as clean water. Oh. My. Gosh. Rage wells up inside of me. Makes me fighting mad.
It's easy to get discouraged. It's easy to feel overwhelmed. It's easy for me to sit here in Haiti and wonder why I'm here when there is no frickin' way, with needs this huge and horrible, that we're going to be able to make a dent in the devastation all around us. And maybe you sit where you are in America hurting for the poor, and feeling like you should do something but you feel helpless too.
Well, we're not helpless. Can I remind you of that, because really, I need to hear myself say it. We may not be able to singlehandedly fight every evil on this earth, but we serve a big God who has graciously invited us to be a part of redeeming all things. He has given us resources and power and asks us to steward those things well. We can make a difference. Maybe making a difference will look huge, like leaving the US to go serve in a foreign land where orphans and naked men walk down your street, or maybe it will look like changing the kind of chocolate you buy this Halloween.
With Halloween right around the corner, I wanted to be totally frank about a few things.
Maybe you read this blog and lots of blog like this one about people who left the comforts of the US to serve the poor, love the orphan, and advocate for the voiceless and oppressed. I'm glad God calls people to do stuff like leave and go. I wasn't glad yesterday when I didn't have electricity or water, but mostly I'm glad God has a way of uprooting perfectly happy people in the states and sending them to crazy, hard places to live and to love.
I hope you read this blog and leave here aware of things you maybe weren't aware of before. I hope you leave encouraged to pray, to act, to ask God some hard questions about what it looks like to seek first His Kingdom and store up treasures there. I'm asking God those questions, and it's nice to have you asking them with me.
What I hope never happens is that you feel like you can't do anything of value from where you sit. I'd never want anyone to think that just because they are not living in some place like Haiti, they are powerless to live out the same convictions that brought our family to this country. Worse, I would hate for someone to think that reading about injustice and fighting it are the same thing. They aren't. God wants us to be aware of what is going on in the world, to quit hiding from the truth, but I believe He wants our awareness to lead us to action. Like get off our butts and do something kind of action.
No matter where you are, you can be a voice for the voiceless. You can advocate for them. You can rearrange your life, send money to ministries on the front lines, fighting injustice...organizations sharing the gospel in word and in deed.
You can make a difference. Making a difference does not always look like selling your home, packing up your life, and moving across the ocean. It can. It may. I'll be the first one to admit that a year ago I would have laughed in your face if you would have said that my family would be living in Haiti. Maybe God has a similar plan for your family. Maybe He doesn't. What I think we can all agree on is that God wants to use each of us to fight injustice. Because the Spirit of God lives in us and He yearns to redeem this planet, our hearts should likewise long to live out redemption towards this broken, devastated, world.
I love chocolate. I love even more how the guy in the video says the word, "Chocolate." Is it just me, or does he make it sound even more delicious and dreamy?
Here's a great post about chocolate and Halloween from the Mama Manifesto blog.
In a nutshell, most of the chocolate consumed in the States is made by African children who are trafficked and sold into slave labor.
The solution? Buying fair trade chocolate instead. Chocolate that is not made by children. Chocolate that is made by adults who are paid a livable wage. If this is the first you are hearing about child slavery and how it relates to a Snickers bar, I beg you to spend some time educating yourself about this tragedy.
Mama Manifesto lists some great companies who sell fair trade chocolate.
Remember...this goes for all chocolate. Chocolate cookies, chocolate pudding, chocolate chips, etc. I remember reading all about child slaves making my Hershey's chocolate chips, and standing in the grocery store realizing how many of the items in my basket had chocolate in them. A lot. I stood there wondering what to do with this new information. Buy the stuff anyway, even though if I do, I know I'm participating in oppressing and abusing children, or put it away?
Do I oppress the poor, when scripture says not to? Do I continue to buy chocolate, cause it's yummy, even though buying it results in harming children and scripture says God hears the cry of the oppressed? He says scary things about the people doing the oppressing.
Standing in front of my grocery basket, admitting what a chocolate fatty I am, Isaiah 58 came to mind. What if we have to fast from chocolate for awhile in order to live out the fast God is talking about when He says to live in such a way that we're loosening the chains of injustice? What honors God? He says to set the captive free, share our food with the poor, and break the yoke of slavery. He desires for us to share the gospel, but He desires for us to live out the gospel in felt-board, visual, hands-on, Montessori school fashion.
Instead of thinking, "Crud. I can't buy my favorite, cheap, child-labor chocolate anymore," let's rejoice that God is inviting us to be involved in fighting darkness, oppression, and slavery by doing something as simple as changing what kind of chocolate we buy. Grocery shopping no longer is grocery shopping. It's an opportunity to worship God, protect and value children, and use the resources God has given you (your money) to advocate for the poor, the oppressed, and the voiceless.
Rejoice! Stand in the aisle of your favorite grocery store, laugh, smile, celebrate, and worship God as you live out the gospel towards your fellow man. Also remind yourself that buying fair trade chocolate doesn't make God love you more. If you belong to Him, it's finished, you're declared righteous, we are free from legalism and trying to earn favor before God. There are times when I end up with some sort of non-fair trade chocolate in my basket. Sometimes I have to fight to not feel condemned (because I am a recovering legalist). Once I remind myself of the gospel, I don't feel condemned. I feel sad. Sad because God gave me a beautiful chance, a wonderful invitation to live out His heart, to join Him in something lovely and good, and I chose something blah, base, and second rate instead. Good thing there's grace, right...and mercy as we learn?
I've read a ton about Halloween lately...who is for it, who is against it. Blogland fills up fast with posts taking sides on this issue. Halloween is as hotly debated as predestination. But I just wonder, if maybe Christians are totally missing the point. Here we are arguing about whether dressing up like a cowboy is satanic when the real issue might be that Christians everywhere will be buying chocolate in mass quantities this month, and the groans and the cries of enslaved children will be filling the heavens. God promises He hears them when they cry out. And who has those children's blood on their hands? Us. We can lick the chocolate off, but the blood is still there. God have mercy on your people, we can be so incredibly stupid.
Here's good news. God can use you this week to advocate for children in Africa. Buy fair trade chocolate.
He can use you to advocate for children in Africa in your churches. If your church is having a Halloween party that is not a Halloween party because Halloween parties are of the devil, so they are having a party on Halloween instead or a fall festival (got to love Christians, right?) maybe God wants to use you to educate your church about fair trade chocolate. Maybe next year your Halloween party that isn't a Halloween party, it's a party on Halloween because there is a big difference, (eye roll) will have fair trade chocolate to pass out. Maybe your church can use your fancy projector and huge auditorium to host a free viewing of The Dark Side of Chocolate for your entire community (even the lost people, what? what?). Who is getting excited?
You can also organize a viewing of the documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate in your own home. Get friends together, watch, and discuss. You can order a viewing kit here.
You can spread the word. Use your voice. Give others an opportunity to be a part of this invitation that God gives each of us to redeem how we eat and shop.
Don't ever feel like you can't make a difference. You can. Ready. Set. Redeem.