Friday, August 19, 2011

Too Small to Ignore – Chapter 8

Today’s thoughts come from Sarah….


I admit, the first time I read Too Small to Ignore by Compassion International president Wess Stafford, I thought I knew exactly what to expect: a treatise on the desperation of children in poverty and the importance of having a benevolent heart. Good stuff, sure, but something we’ve all heard before. What I did not expect was a very human and intensely personal story.

What I quickly learned as I read and reread Too Small to Ignore was that, no matter how deeply you care about a particular cause, it will never be as real to you as it is to those who live it. This is the story that is revealed in these pages: personal experiences with poverty, injustice, and suffering that grew into a deep-rooted passion for the forgotten and voiceless, especially children.

Being broken for the cause of the needy isn’t an idealistic sentiment, often, as I learned in these pages, it is much more literal than you would expect. This is important, I think, because it changes how we view those we are trying to help. Rather than sweeping in as a benefactor with a bagful of money or a plan for social reform, we actually become partners with those in extreme poverty. In this case, God cultivated an advocate for the poor and oppressed; the vulnerable and voiceless, in the best possible way: by letting him be poor and oppressed, vulnerable and voiceless.

Remember those who are in prison, as though chained with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

These verses conjure up images of people chained or harnessed together, sharing experiences as one unit, one body. It’s more than uncomfortable to think of being that intimate with poverty, pain and suffering, it’s frightening. But I’m going to step out on a limb and challenge you to find someone who regrets doing so. This is something so deeply right that we cannot even begin to understand why; humans are designed to care for one another, to be united in this way.

Wess Stafford knows about the poor because he grew up with them; they are his family. Wess is an advocate for the oppressed and marginalized because he was oppressed and marginalized. He knew injustices and hopeless voicelessness the way only a marginalized child can know and out of that dark place, love and compassion grew.

Let me take a moment here and clarify that this is not an idea that applies to those half naked children starving in villages in Africa. This same principle applies to your overly shy neighbor or the teenagers in your youth group. But it starts in the same place: caring enough to chain your life to theirs, picking up the other end of the weight they’re carrying, not to carry it for them, but carry it with them.

This is the lesson I am learning…again: we may be able save the poor and needy from thousands of miles away, physically, but we cannot save the poor and needy when we are thousands of miles away emotionally and spiritually.

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