Before 2008 I knew nothing about orphans or widows or the poor, other than they existed. I lived securely tucked in a comfortable bubble of my own making. I sheltered myself from images, stories and statistics that caused me to squirm or feel guilty. I assuaged my guilt by dropping a check in the mail every so often so I could lay down at night feeling good about myself. I continued my pursuit of the American dream confidently - I filled my closets and my home with things. And then we decided to expand our family through adopting from Ethiopia and everything changed.
To prepare, I started reading about Africa, how it was a continent on fire – burning up from disease, HIV/AIDS, unclean water, poverty, war, starvation and poor economic conditions. I watched videos, saw pictures of human beings suffering unspeakable things. And I wondered why I hadn’t really known what was going on in Africa. I wondered why the Church, God’s hands and feet, had remained virtually silent. I know now that there have always been voices shouting about injustice, poverty and the orphan crisis. I just never allowed myself to hear. It was too painful. But now, it’s too painful for me to go about life as I once used to.
When I traveled to Uganda and Ethiopia the statistics suddenly became people. They had faces and stories and hopes and dreams and families. God allowed me to see them the way He did and it has radically altered the course of my life. Little by little, God is changing my world view – He is growing in me a heart that wants to forsake the comfort of the life I know and pursue “loving the least of these” no matter what it might cost me. He is showing me that true joy in my life is found in giving it away – in spending it on the things and people that really matter. I’m finding that although I feel completely incapable of slaying the beasts of poverty and fatherlessness, that all of our voices are important – that we all must find a way to do our parts.
I’ve heard so many people say that they are not “called” to be involved in the lives of those who are orphans and who live in poverty. The need is the call. James 1:27 says “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress”. I can’t begin to tell you how much richer and fuller my life has been over the past few years as I have quit fighting and finally embraced God’s heart for orphans and those who suffer. It’s amazing what happens when you truly lay down your dreams and desires in surrender to the plans God has for you. Those plans may not come with white picket fences, nice cars and all the creature comforts – but they come with the deep satisfaction of knowing that when we are among the hurting and broken that we are with God.
It is a privilege to love and serve those who suffer. I am the one who is blessed because of my interactions with them. I am the one who is changed and beautifully wrecked. It is so humbling.
My ultimate longing and desire is to live the kind of life that God calls me to in Isaiah 58…
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.