Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Let's Offer to Help

If you want to be part of the solution in the anti-human trafficking efforts, the first thing you need to do is let people know that you are willing to help. So often we find a cause we are passionate about, see all the inspiring work others are doing, and fail to translate that into more than sentiment in our own lives. I am guilty of this as much as anyone else.

That is one reason I was totally struck and inspired when I read in Palmer Chinchen's book God Can't Sleep: Waiting for Daylight On Life's Dark Nights by his response to reading a NY Times article about the murder of albino mothers and their children in the African country of Burundi. He immediately wrote this open letter to Burundi's president:

Dear President Nkurunziza,
I write to you with a heart saddened by the tragic murder of a Burundian mother and her five year-old son.
 I write to say that these killers must be brought to justice. And I write to encourage you to pour every possible resource into protecting marginalized albinos in Burundi.
I know that you are a man of God. I know your heart is good. So I simply implore you to seek justice for the albinos of Burundi.
I write on behalf of Christians everywhere--please stop this senseless crime. I do not write to place blame or to judge; I write to encourage action.
I also write to offer the resources of every Christian in my country who cares about justice. I write to offer means to help educate a population that killing albinos in the worst kind of crime, the most senseless of crimes. Albinos, like all of us, are created by God, in His image, and they are loved and prized by God--it's just that their skin is a different color.
And only sheer ignorance would cause would cause anyone to believe that there is magic in their bones. 
I offer the resources of every Christian in America who cares about justice to help shelter and protect the albinos of Burundi.
I write to offer to partner with you to rescue those whose lives are threatened because of the color of their skin.
May God's great hand of blessing be on your life as you continue to lead with wisdom.
                                                                                                                    Dr. Palmer Chinchen

Whoa. That's how we as Christians are supposed to respond to the atrocities and injustices of this world. Now, I don't necessarily think it is prudent for all of us to run off writing letters offering the help and resources of all Christians at every injustice we read about. But I do think there are very real promptings from the Holy Spirit that can make us feel spurred to immediate, passionate action and that we ignore or wait on long enough to let doubt and fear rise up and quell the spark the Spirit was igniting in our hearts. I do believe that if every Christian responded this way to just one injustice that was his/her particular passion, that we would be doing a whole world of good without any one person risking too much. And I believe our brothers and sisters would be suffering less, dying less, starving less, killing less. Because God has given us the power to stop those things in His name.

Did you ever read the beginning of the book of Acts and wonder what it felt like to be the apostles, going out in public ministry for the first time without Jesus, and to find the courage and the faith to say to the blind and the lame to see and walk? It was risky for sure. And I'm sure in their humanity they were terrified. But in faith, they believed what Jesus had said to them when He told them to do just that. And so they followed the lead of the Spirit and reached out their hands. And the power was there.

I believe the Spirit is prompting all of us Christians to hold out our hands to someone and say "walk" or "see" or "be saved" or "take and eat" or "live". And I believe there are many if us who have stood far too long with itchy, sweaty palms wondering how we can possibly be part of the solution to something so very, very big when we are so small. And when we already have so much to do. And the whole hosts of other reasons we give for not taking action.

But the bottom line is, if we are to be part of His team, we must be willing to act. I have been meditating on the first letter of St. Peter in my prayer lately. Dense that letter it is. It's taking me days to get through one small paragraph. The one I've been stuck on lately is 1 Peter : 13-16:

"So then, have your minds ready for action. Keep alert and set your hope completely on the blessing which will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to  be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as the God who has called you is holy."

Why was Dr. Chinchen's response to reading the NY Times to write an open letter to the President of an African nation offering his help? Because his mind has been disciplined to be ready for action. I have begged God to make me alert and ready for action. I have begged Him to give me the grace to obey His leading. I have begged Him to free from the desire for approval and notice that I am prone to be motivated by in my ignorance and brokenness and sinfulness. And I have begged to be holy. As He is holy. And in His holiness, He acts. He creates. He communes. He reaches out. He sends messengers. He sends and becomes a Savior. He battles and breathes and He breaks bread and He multiplies when there is not enough. And He heals and He binds up the broken-hearted and He dies and He rises and He rules. This is the holiness of our God. The God of action. Because God is love and love acts and risks and is rejected and, when least accepted, opens a door for hearts to turn to Him.

So this week, I am taking a few risks and some action. I don't where this will lead me. I just know it is what the Spirit is leading me to do. If it goes out and never comes back, so be it. God is in that abyss. If it spirals into something big and beautiful and overwhelming, so be it. God is in that chaos.

This week, I either have already or am writing letters to people -- important people -- to let them know that I want to part of the solution to human trafficking and that I am ready to help with my time, my energy and my passion. Here's my list:

  • The Code: This is a code of conduct for the tourism sector to avoid engaging in business practices that promote trafficking. I think responsibility among the tourism sector is a big part of the solution here in Costa Rica. I have written to ask how I can be part of that work here.
  • Costa Rica's President Laura Chincilla: I used Dr. Chinchen's letter as a model to write the President and encourage continued action to end trafficking in Costa Rica, keep traffickers out of the country and provide programs to rehabilitate victims and reduce vulnerability. I offered my help in whatever capacity it is useful.
  • Regional Office of Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social: This is the government agency under which trafficking technically fall although I am not sure how much they accept it as part of their mission. I wrote to encourage them to make it a priority and to offer whatever help I can in the area of education.
  • Ambassador Anne Andrew: This one pretty much follows the pattern of the letter to the President too.
  • E-mail to hotel owner in San del Sur: I don't know why this was so hard and humbing for me to take the risk to do. But I e-mailed the hotel owner where we stayed in Nicaragua and told him of my concern for the little girl on the beach. I asked him if there was a local who knew whether there was an adult who accompanied her and if not, if they might know someone who could keep an eye on her or who could inform her family of the dangers and encourage them to send someone to accompany her. That was hard to do for reasons I cannot articulate. It made me feel very raw and vulnerable to criticism, or worse yet, indifference. But it was one bit of personal action I could take. I know it was important for me to do it because the Holy Spirit wouldn't leave me alone about it. 
  • Municipality of San Juan del Sur: Telling them of my experience, encouraging them to educate and protect their citizens and tourism sector, and again, offering my help. ( At this point, I am beginning to feel pretty foolish because I really have no idea what I will say if these people do accept my offer of help. I have no idea what I really can offer. But I do have some ideas. And if they're willing to talk to me, that one more person talking about this, right?)
  • Bishop of Cartago, Costa Rica: We know him personally and it is by his permission that we are working here. I wrote to ask him if he is aware of any area where the Church in Costa Rica is working  on this issue and how I might be able to be a part of this work. I informed him of the work I hope to begin providing meaningful work for women and asked him if there was any more I could to help the Diocese bring awareness and invite a response to this problem in the country of Costa Rica.
So there yo have it. Feeling not just a little silly, vulnerable and humbled, I did it. I have no way of knowing what the results will be. But I did (am doing -- still working on some of those) what the Holy Spirit has been tugging me to do. And I know it was right.

To whom can you write this week to offer to be part of the solution? Your local tourism commission? Your pastor? A local ministry to vulnerable women? One of the organizations I mentioned above?

Who can you ask to join you in your fight? Are you part of women's prayer group, book club, Bible study or other group that might want to host a fund-raising event for our Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative? Could you invite others to join to pray publically at your church or in another location for the end to human trafficking and slavery?

If you want more information about how you might organize an event or a fundraiser to support the St. Bryce Foundation's efforts to get the Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative up and running and support the work of Salvando Corazones, please comment or drop me an e-mail.

Are you ready for action? If so, take it. If not, pray and meditate with the above verse from 1 Peter and ask the Spirit to make you ready and then to show you what to do. He will lead. He will answer. He will act. Because He loves. You and those who need what He is calling you to give. While you wait, why not write to thank and encourage and offer prayers to someone who is doing the work now? If you have an organization whose work you appreciate, write to the staff, let them know. If you would like to send a word of encouragement to the staff at Salvando Corazones, you can find their e-mails on the page, but I would also be happy to deliver it to them if you would like to e-mail it me or leave it in the comments.

Let's offer to help to be part of the solution with our time, our energy, our prayers and our encouragement today.

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