Saturday, January 19, 2019

On Desperation and Compassion

This post could go so many different ways, but I'm going to try to stick with a single focus.
Today, I spent most of my work hours focusing on the high school's yearly "Act for Compassion" event through Compassion International. Each year, we focus on a different area where the organization is helping. We've covered at-risk-for-trafficking kids in Brazil, the Medical Intervention fund, and the Water for Life initiative. It is a way for students and their families to learn about families in developing countries, families who are similar to them and who have the same wants, needs, and dreams. While writing out the weekly emails, I found myself trying harder than ever to get across how similar we all are, but how the dark hole of poverty can crush those in developing countries, and how we can help.

But I was also thinking about the current swords being swung, and how twisted the conversation around those living in these countries has become. I found myself, ashamedly, picking stories from African and Asian countries so I wouldn't be attacked over Central American ones. Yes, I've been attacked, repeatedly, and it has left a mark.

For what? Why?

I've been with Compassion International for over 21 years now. In that time, one of the main things I've learned is the families in these developing countries are lacking one big thing. Options. They are born into poverty. Born into limited food options. Born into limited or no access to clean water. Born into countries with crushed or corrupted economies, many of which the developed countries have caused. They are born to where there are precious few job opportunities. Born into where there are high crime rates because of the levels of desperation. Born to where getting a proper education is difficult or almost impossible. They are born into hopelessness, and there are very few ways out.

Charity organizations come in, and they try their hardest to make positive impacts. Some focus on infrastructure, like wells and streets. Some focus on building better housing. Some focus on just providing meals and vaccines. And some, like Compassion, focus on eliminating poverty starting from the child up... their food, books, uniforms, and supplies all purchased locally, to build the economy. Their tutors, those cooking their food, those sewing the uniforms, those teaching skills, all coming from the community, providing wages. The areas around the Compassion centers are growing and developing as the children do. Right now over 2 million children are in the program... but there are so many more!

I was attacked for pointing out that hopelessness, that desperation. For pointing out that you cannot just aid an organization or go on a missions trip to these places, making yourself feel good, and thinking it is enough for all. For one minute saying you love these hurting people, and then the next minute cursing their existence because they are trying to break free and get help. For speaking up when an acquaintance went to another country to build a church, and then came home and screamed about how dare those people, from the same country he just left, try to come to our border and beg for help. I'm not talking about border jumpers or those who overstay visas, I'm talking about the abused woman and her children who are escaping the cycle. I'm talking about the young men trying to get away from the gangs and drugs and find a better life. I'm talking about the mothers who know their children would likely die or never break free of poverty if they stayed where there are no jobs, schooling is too costly, crime rules the street, sex trafficking is out of control, food and water is scarce and more. These are the "least of these." These are the people Christ repeatedly asked us to help. Oh, but what about those in poverty here? Help them too! The ones making the most noise seem to be the ones who are not lifting a finger to help either group, or who think donating some ripped up leftovers is the best answer.

I had a member of my family who was rumored to have crossed the ocean as a stowaway to escape the rising communism in his native country. He was desperate to break free before it was too late. I've taught children who have told me the horrors their families faced before coming to the border and asking for asylum, asking to be saved. I had a student who was kidnapped by a gang and his father raced him up to the border the moment he paid to get him back, begging to be let in, too scared for his son to stay where he was. I've talked with their families, in between the multiple jobs they work, because they want their children to have what they never could. I've helped out when that transition has been hard, dropping off needed items, or just being there to listen as they relay the hopelessness of the past. I've also watched them thrive! A car bought, a house rented, a child graduating high school and then college, a parent moving up from menial labor to management because of hard work and determination... building up our communities here, building up our country!

We are called to love one another as Christ has loved us. We are called to love the least of these. We are called to help the orphan and the widow... the ones who would never be able to gather the thousands upon thousands of dollars to pay lawyers and bribe officers and clerks so they could "come in the right way." They are still coming in through the legal way, through the border crossing stations. Why are we not following the clear and simple commands Christ gave us? Why are we showing up to church on Sunday and twisting the Bible to be hateful on Monday? Why are supposed Christians attacking Christians for following what Christ said?

I felt anxiety when writing emails about charity today... purposely picking out countries outside of Central America to help teach others...

Because of the reactions of people who are supposedly followers of Christ...

Think about that.