I think that in order for us to appreciate ANY of this, we must understand that the Third World exists. All the time. Right now.
I think that every American should visit a third world country at least once in their lifetime, if possible. You may have to seek out opportunities instead of just letting life happen to you. You may have to raise a lot of money. You may have to work really hard, and do things that make you uncomfortable, but I promise it will be one of the best experiences of your life. Eye-opening, convicting, emotional, life-changing. You are NOT too old. (And if you have parents that trust you, you are not too young.)
I can post this in good conscience because I’ve seen this kind of poverty twice – and it has rocked my world, twice.
Here is the first quote from Revolution in World Missions, which is actually a quote from economist, Robert Heilbroner, as published in his book, The Great Ascent: The Struggle for Economic Development in Our Time.
He is describing the “luxuries” (read: everyday, commonplace conveniences) the typical American family would have to surrender if they lived among the 1 BILLION hungry people in the Two-Thirds World:
“We begin by invading the house of our imaginary American family to strip it of its furniture. Everything goes: beds, chairs, tables, television sets, lamps. We will leave the family with a few old blankets, a kitchen table, a wooden chair. Along with the bureaus go the clothes. Each member of the family may keep in his wardrobe his oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. We will permit a pair of shoes for the head of the family, but none for the wife or children.
“We move to the kitchen. The appliances have already been taken out, so we turn to the cupboards…the box of matches may stay, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt. A few moldy potatoes, already in the garbage can, must be rescued, for they will provide much of tonight’s meal. We will leave a handful of onions and a dish of dried beans. All the rest we take away: the meat, the fresh vegetables, the canned goods, the crackers, the candy.
Again, I’m reminded: reality. Right now. He continues,
“Now we have stripped the house: the bathroom has been dismantled, the running water shut off, the electric wires taken out. Next we take away the house. The family can move to the tool shed…Communications must go next. No more newspapers, magazines, books – not that they are missed, since we must take away our family’s literacy as well. Instead, in our shantytown we will allow one radio…
“Now government services must go next. No more postmen, no more firemen. There is a school, but it is three miles away and consists of two classrooms…There are, of course, no hospitals or doctors nearby. The nearest clinic is ten miles away and is tended by a midwife. I can be reached by bicycle, provided the family has a bicycle, which is unlikely…
Oh the things we think we’re “entitled to.”
“Finally, money. We will allow our family a cash hoard of five dollars. This will prevent our breadwinner from experience the tragedy of an Iranian peasant who went blind because he could not raise the $3.94 which he mistakenly though he needed to receive admission to a hospital where he could have been cured.”
At this point, K.P. Yohannan writes (and this statement affected me more than the preceding paragraphs),
“This is an accurate description o the lifestyle and world from which I came. From the moment I touched foot on American soil, I walked around in an unbelieving daze. How can to so different economies coexist simultaneously on the earth?“
An accurate description.
One of the most significant things RiWM did for me was to created a moment-by-moment awareness of the Third World. That the hunger, illness, and danger does not cease to exist two months after I return home. (Which is about how long it takes for me not to think about it constantly.)
I cannot imagine how difficult this is to grasp for someone who has never seen it firsthand. I can say in earnest that now, I think about the Third World when I do my laundry - every time. When I run my clean water – into my washing machine – that’s plugged into my wall – in my home – and load in multiple loads of clothing.
I think about the Third World when I drive - every time. When I ran errands with Madeline yesterday, when I bought us lunch at the drive-thru at a fast food place. When I bought Dan’s birthday presents.
We can’t appreciate the “extravagance” of the American lifestyle that K.P. goes on to address if we have nothing with which to compare it. So this is the beginning.
If you want a preview of what’s to come, here is how K.P. Yohannan continues this passage in his book,
“…How can two so different economies coexist simultaneously on the earth? Everything was so overpowering and confusing to me at first. Not only did I have to learn the simplest procedures – like using the pay telephones and making change – but as a sensitive Christian, I found myself constantly making spiritual evaluations of everything I saw.
“As the days passed into weeks, I began with alarm to understand how misplaced are the spiritual values of most Western believers. Sad to say, it appeared to me that for the most part they had absorbed the same humanistic and materialistic values that dominated the secular culture…I had to warn God’s people that He was not going to lavish this abundance on them forever. But the message was still not formed in my heart, and it would be many years before I would feel the anointing and courage to speak out against such sin.”
The first time I read this, I felt pretty uncomfortable, but I’m glad. Because as someone wise once told me, often it takes someone waaaay down at “point M” pulling and pushing and prodding to get us to move our feet from point A to point B. And to be honest the more I read, pray, and evaluate, I’m not sure we all shouldn’t hop on down to point M together. It’s not comfortable; it’s extreme, but it’s become virtually impossible for me to feel “okay” about living the way I’ve been living. Big changes in store for the Conner household. Stay tuned.
I recently finished the book Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan. I understand that the title makes it sound lame. Text-bookish. Perhaps because the word “revolution” is overused. But when I say that this book revolutionized my thinking – I mean it in the truest sense of the word.
This is the first in a series of posts based on this book; none of which will be for the fainthearted. I agree with Francis Chan when he said, “I doubt anyone has ever accused K.P. Yohannan of soft-selling anything.”
Before I delve into the meat of this book, I want to prepare you – or rather, share with you how God prepared me for the material therein.
God reminded me of the vast, colossal difference between ignorance and indifference. Ignorance is one thing, but once you have information you become accountable to it. It is one thing to be unaware of an injustice, but to know of it and do nothing?
Proverbs 24: 11-12 says,
“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it? Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?”
If you’ve never heard, understood, been awakened to the suffering of the people around you, God is merciful to you. He does not hold you accountable for that which you have not known. He is fair and just indeed. Scripture says that He remembers that we are dust. He knows how small and feeble and sheep-like we are. He does not fault us for acting as what we are.
…woe to those who have heard of the plight of the needy and are foolish enough, selfish enough, lazy enough – to do nothing.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” [Proverbs 31:8-9]
“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” [Proverbs 21:13]
Woe to him who hears of his neighbor’s hunger and does nothing.
Woe to him who learns of a lost soul’s addiction and does not respond with love, compassion, help.
Woe to him who learns of the frustration and added difficulty of a person with a disability and does not offer his abilities to serve them humbly, like Christ would.
Woe to him who learns of the exhaustion and ache of a single parent, and does not give generously of his time, in service and in prayer.
If you have ever been moved by the suffering of a poverty-stricken outcast in India, an oppressed woman in the Middle East, a child soldier in the Sudan, a famine victim in Ethiopia, an orphan with Aids in Uganda, a freezing homeless man in your city -
If you have ever, at any point in your life become aware of, and thus accountable to the MILLIONS of people around the world who have never heard about the good news of Jesus Christ, who live without his peace, hope, and love; and who WILL DIE without his salvation –
Try that word on. It’s ugly isn’t it? It feels dirty: like guilt, shame and accusation. I don’t like to think of myself as wicked. I doubt anyone does. I found myself thinking, “Why so harsh? I can’t possibly help everyone!” And that’s true, I can’t help everyone. But it is pretty pathetic to use that as an excuse to help no one.
Don’t we resent those who hurt our loved ones? Doesn’t it make us angry? It makes me angry! I will go to bat for Dan, and he for me. And in the same way, God will go to bat for a grieving widow. (Only more ferociously, because God is God, and He loves more ferociously.) He will go to bat for a neglected little boy. God will say to us in our selfishness, laziness, and apathy, “In your close-fisted selfishness, you are harming the apple of my eye.” He will tell us, “Your comfort is NOT more important that their salvation.”
“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” [Proverbs 14:31]
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” [1 John 3:17]
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” [Matthew 25: 34-45]
Being ignorant of a need is one thing – being indifferent is quite another. What information are you accountable to? And how, now, will you respond?
Those are the questions that God put into my heart about 2 weeks before I started reading Revolution in World Missions. This is already quite long, and I think the first set of quotes/statistics/challenges from RiWM deserves it’s own post. Coming soon.
1. It began when an army captain invented a code of dots so that soldiers could read in the dark.
2. Said captain and Louis Braille, for whom the modern code is named, are from France. Bam.
3. It allows anyone with vision loss to be TOTALLY independent. (Can all the mothers cry and say “Amen, praise the Lord!”?) Braille gives the blind literacy. The ability to read and write. Can you imagine living life without the ability to read? Wow, wow, wow.
4. Anything you can do in print, you can do in braille. Trigonometry, calculus, composing music, every conceivable punctuation mark. Which leads me to number 5…
5. There are separate codes for math, music, and computers. That’s a lot of dots. Intense.
6. It’s like a secret code!
7. Advanced braille readers finish one line of text with one hand, WHILE beginning the next line with their other hand. My brain just exploded.
8. How the heck can people do that???? (We start teaching the braille cell using tennis balls in a muffin tin. ie: A ball in the top left cup is the letter “A.” Balls in the top two cups is the letter “C.”)
9. Braille is such a great tool that even people with some vision use it to make their lives easier. Madeline can read enlarged print letters – but will use braille to read long passages like novels and textbooks. With braille, she can engage in public speaking with notecards like anyone else – not enormous print cue cards. Brilliant!
10. “There is a wonder in reading braille that the sighted will never know: to touch words and have them touch you back.” [Jim Fiebig]
When you think of the beach, I’m sure your mind conjures up images of white(ish) sand and blue-green water. Maybe some waves, some gulls, some kids with buckets and shovels. The one dude carrying around a surfboard to impress women.
That’s what I think of – and thats what the kids in our youth group thought of when we told them we were going to take them to the beach.
“Beach” may have been false advertising.
We have several kids who had never seen the ocean in all their 13 years of living. Dan and I decided this was a shame – and that we would love to be the ones to introduce them to the wonderfulness of ocean. We counted the cost and decided it would be worth it to drive a tad out of the way, adding about 2 hours(we thought) to our trip, to take our kids to the beach. Gracious, no?
Well it began to unravel before we even left camp. The internet went out, leaving us with no specific beach to head towards, and without any directions except for our basic knowledge of US geography. Florida and Alabama touch the Gulf. That’s what we knew – and we went with it.
Somewhere near Tallahassee we decided to get off the highway and head “towards water.” Theoretical water. We received directions “to the beach” from a gas station attendant, a burger king employee, and a man grilling catfish on the side of the road. ”Just go straight down this road and you’ll see it,” they all said. Bunch of dirty freaking liars.
We went “down that road” and back up it three or four times before the kids in the back of the van started asking questions. We went over a bridge, which boosted morale and bought us another few minutes. We passed about 6 swamps, 3 rivers, and a pond. And then, mercifully, a sign. ”Mash’s Island Beach.”
We unloaded in a tiny, cul-de-sac of a parking lot and found a sign that read:
“We participate in the ‘Healthy Beaches’ program. Please visit the bath house for information about water quality and conditions.”
Oh. My. Word.
The beach was narrow, with lots of asphalt chunks from the parking lot, driftwood, oyster shells, and PINECONES all over the sand. No waves, no dudes with surfboards. In fact, there was a giant yellow floating divider about a quarter-mile out – the kind the separates the swimming area from the boating area IN MAN-MADE LAKES. There were maybe three other families there; none of them were in the water.
Still, for the sake of the kids, trying to stay positive.
Undaunted, our middle schoolers plunged in. Almost immediately I heard a scream, “Ouch! ouch! ouch!” I watched as they turned around and made high-knees back out of the water. The WHOLE bottom was covered in rocks and oyster shells. As they emerged, they showed me their slices, like long, deep paper-cuts, all over their hands, feet, and legs.
Three brave boys ventured on – the rest came out to nurse their wounds. We all sat in a sad little row, on asphalt chunks, next to the pinecones, pouring bottled water over our bloodied feet.
A woman and her dog walked by, “Oh, if you go around the bend the bottom over there is sandy. You just got in at the wrong spot,” she offered.
We called our three brave boys back in, and told everyone to change into their dry clothes.
“I forgot to pack mine in the van – they’re in my suitcase.”
“On top of your suitcase?”
“No, at the bottom.”
Of course. Sigh. We open the back of the van to reveal a teetering pile of luggage. ”Okay, which one is your suitcase?”
“The one at the bottom.”
“I forgot mine too….”
I’M GOING TO KILL ALL THE MIDDLE SCHOOLERS.
An HOUR LATER we have retrieved everyone’s dry clothing. They are changed, the luggage is packed back into the van, and we are driving the two hours back to the highway. The kids are griping, “The beach stinks. This is nothing like you see on TV. I don’t ever want to go to the beach again.”
I am sitting in the front seat clenching my fists so that I don’t punch Dan for taking us here in the first place. He was trying to do a loving, gracious thing, and it backfired. Plain and simple. You can’t win ‘em all.
But let me tell you – there is a bit of redemption at the end of all this.
We have one boy, one tough boy from a tough home who had a tough time at camp. Who had never seen the ocean before in his life. Never been more than two hours from home. And as I showed him oyster shells, and explained about barnacles, and we looked out to the horizon and tried to imagine Mexico down there somewhere, I got to see WONDER in his eyes. He didn’t care about the pinecones or the rocks. I saw wonder.
Here’s a visual of our three brave boys – guess who’s leading the pack.
It reminded me of the end of The Awakening. This teenage boy experiencing something entirely new and wonderful – and he just went further, and further, and further until he couldn’t go any more. It may have been the worst beach trip ever, but I’m really glad we went.
Welcome to Camp Swampy Rat …when you leave, you will smell like a swampy rat.
We had a nine hour van ride there. Nine hours. Eleven people, eleven seats, eleven hundred pounds of luggage. Here is the story of the ride to Camp Swampy Rat “in statuses.”
1. “We’re 2 hours into our trip. There are 5 middle school boys in this van. How many times have they farted and laughed about it SO FAR? If you guessed less than 20, you are wrong.”
2. “Zebra F-301 pens are the only pens worth their salt.”
3. “We’re After Your Heart.”
4. “What percentage of youth group relationships unfold on a 15-passenger van? I guess close to 75%.”
5. “Dan just said, “Keep your gas to yourself.” He’s awesome.”
6. “Lunch at Burger King, or as Madeline would say, “Booger King.”
7. “Misty Edwards, “Waste My Life” on repeat.”
Statuses from the rest of the week:
1. “Camp director said, “No kids by the lake at night.” I said, “So they don’t make out?” He said, “No, because of the gators.” WHAT??”
2. “Just got pranked by the yellow team – GAME ON.”
3. “Which is scarier? The 5 inch black spider nesting in the ceiling tile in our cabin? Or the can of Raid-turned-poisonous gas bomb when the cap broke off and it wouldn’t stop spraying?”
4. “Precious to see old friends from Florida! Even better to see them dressed like this:”
5. “I miss Madeline so much, my guts are sore from it.”
6. “5 fire ant bites on my right foot so far. I’m about to go postal.”
7. “Lost my voice on the SECOND day. It was worth it – our team won the tug-of-war.”
8. ”This pond water is Tidy-Bowl blue. What’s crazier? I got in.”
9. “The Green Team’s flag is done – there are some super creative dudes in the boy’s cabin!”
10. “I can’t wait to see the rap videos tonight! I’m so proud of our girls, who wrote it, storyboarded it, choreographed it, costumed it, and performed it. The tribal/battle theme is awesome!”
11. “Taco night – our cooks are AWESOME!!”
12. ”So, the leaders MAY HAVE just spent some time in our meeting watching Youtube videos. ”It’s a double complete rainbow…just tell me what it means…”
13. “I had the supreme privilege of praying with a beautiful girl tonight – who decided to let Jesus be the boss of her life! She became a Christ-follower TONIGHT!”
14. “I’m super-thankful for my awesome cabin co-counselor, who reminds me an INCREDIBLE amount of my precious college roommate. We’ve laughed a lot.”
15. “Difference # 540,538,450 between boys and girls. Our cabin smells like citrus-y soap and hairspray. Theirs smells like fart/foot/funk. Oh, and armpits.”
16. “The Jolly Green Giants take second place in the boat race! Bam!”
17. ”This year at camp, I learned the power of…deodorant.”
18. ”Superhero prom tonight – I think I’m going as the mean, green, clean, pristine, queen-of-hygiene, machine. Catchy huh?”
19. ”Correction: for superhero night I am wearing an absolutely beautiful cape and mask that sweet Ginger sewed just for me! She is thoughtful and selfless with her time, and she made my cry in the middle of the cafeteria when she gave it to me.”
20. ”Every time we go into morning worship, and I hear my husband speak to these teenagers, I leave very proud and very much in love.”
That gives you a good idea of what went on this week at Middle School Camp! I’m sure there will be a (more insightful, reflective) post or two to follow. In fact, one will be titled, “Even a bad trip makes a good story,” and you’ll be able to read about the most stressful, terrible beach-trip ever. And I would be remiss not to include some of the incredible teaching and life-changing truths we encountered. Oh, and rap videos.
Madeline learned a song last week that goes something like this, “Yayus, yayus, yayus, to Vee Bee Ayus!”
Translation: ”Yes, yes yes, to VBS!” When I tried to correct her Alabama dialect, she informed me that I was singing it wrong.
Here’s a super-fast recap of VBS.
1. I survived a week of crafts. Although I did get paint all over my favorite walk in love. shirt.
2. Dan grew a beard. Photos to follow. I give him a hard time, but secretly love it.
3. And this unforgettable moment happened.
Taking Madeline horseback riding is on my life list. I’m not exactly sure this qualifies, but it’s a great start. I love showing her the world – that real horses are not like horses in tactile kids books. Real horses are BIG, and warm, and noisy. Vision loss makes everyday parenting experiences infinitely more precious – I can’t explain it.
And, if you were wondering how my full week of frozen meals went, I highly recommend Butoni’s spinach ravioli. Super fast, and the best tasting meal we had. 550 calories for a generous portion – more than your average frozen meal – Madeline and I shared.
I spent nearly an hour pouring over writings, thoughts, and funny videos in search of something clever/inspiring/generally wonderful to post here while we’re at camp this week. And what did I decide? I decided to go to sleep.
I’ve read parts of two books, lots of quotes, lots of old journal entries – and now my soul is feeling nice and full. Like my stomach does after Thanksgiving dinner. I’m content: all filled up, happy, thankful, and amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness to me. So I’m going to go lay down and let it all settle in and take root. In the words of Ingrid Michaelson, “with hearts too big to fit our beds.”
I did post an old journal here: it’s a tad gloomy, but I ASSURE you it has the happiest ending that’s soon to follow. I mean it’s beautiful – Walt Disney can’t make this stuff up.
We’ll be back to the land of internet addiction next week. For now, real life. (And boat races!)
Over and out.
I might be a tad sunburned,
from sitting in my yard,
in my bathing suit,
in full view of the road,
in a $8.99 bright yellow baby pool, while Madeline was inside napping.
Go ahead and judge me.
But I love the nose and shoulder freckles from a day in the sun. AND I made a nice dent in my most recent book, Do Hard Things. I’ve loved it (and have wanted to post many facebook statuses about it, but I can’t figure out a way to phrase them without inviting endless “That’s what she said” jokes).
It’s excellent, though! The subtitle is, “A teenage rebellion against low expectations.” If you are a teenager, have teenagers, work with teenagers, or have ever seen a teenager – you should read it. The concept is excellent! From the introduction:
“Most people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going to tell you in this book. And even if you understand, they don’t expect you to care. And even if you care, they don’t expect you to do anything about it. And even if you do something about it, they don’t expect it to last. WE DO.”
This coming week at Middle School Camp, we’re challenging our teenagers to do hard things. Things that take them out of their comfort zone, things that go above and beyond any requirements or expectations, things that don’t pay off right away, things that are too big to do alone, and things that go against the flow. I’m so excited.
Can you imagine what it might look like if we stopped telling teenagers that they are immature, irresponsible, and nothing but trouble? And started telling them that their teenage years ARE NOT a chance to do all the foolish things in their systems before “real life” begins – but instead, an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape themselves for, and launch themselves into a meaningful, successful adulthood? Who says teenagers have to make dumb decisions? Whose rule is that? What if they DON’T WANT to waste those years?
I’ve shared this video on the Girls Night blog, but it seems to fit here too…
So go! Be used of God! Do hard things! Change the world.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” [Thomas Edison]
“All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days, nor will it be finished in the first thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. BUT LET US BEGIN.” [John F. Kennedy]
“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” [Thomas A. Edison]