Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Meet Kati

This is Kati, say hi!



How cute is she?!?!  I "met" her on Christmas Eve this past year.  She has the same birthday as my son, even though she's a little older.  Those big brown eyes looked at me through a computer screen and I was enraptured.  She looked a little like what Soren looks like when he is confused about why I keep taking his picture and it made me smile.  At the same time, I wanted to just jump though space and go hug her!

Oh, wait, I have a video of Kati and her mom, it's amazing.  Here, take a look and tell me your heart doesn't just melt into a puddle.  Click here.  

Right?!?!

From what I know of her, she loves playing with dolls and is still too young to go to school so she helps around the house by running errands.  (That is a characteristic I hope is instilled into all three-year-olds since right now my 18 month old falls down in protest if I ask him to pick up a book.)  She has one brother and is blessed enough to live with both her parents.  Her parents both work as market vendors but have a very hard time making ends meet.  She lives in the most underdeveloped region of one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, the Equator province of Congo, a country that has been ravaged by civil wars for the better part of two decades. 

She is a child my family and I sponsor through World Vision.  We sponsored her as a Christmas "gift" for Soren so that he can get her presents for Christmases in the future.  With all hope and faith we pray that we get at least 15 more Christmases with Kati, I hope my children view her as a sister, I hope her family is safe and I hope one day I can thank her for helping rescue me, if only a little, from my ideals of what is comfortable.   

Prepare yourself, this is going to be a long one.

Recently, the president of the U.S. office of World Vision stated that they are hiring LGBT employees who are married.  I could really go on forever about why I think this is an ethically sound business decision, but I'm not going to.  I'm going to try my best to Minnesota-nice-yell at some people.  If you don't know what that is, it's talking very firmly, slowly and with many pauses because I'm going to try restrain my words but I also want your full attention and for you to know I'm serious.  This is how we yell, so don't for a minute think that my lack of caps-locked verbiage means I'm being flippant, it is the opposite, this is me heart-attack serious.  

I wrote about how weepy I have been lately, but the response from evangelicals upset over this announcement has caused me to strain in order try and hold everything in because I'm not sure I could pick myself up off the floor in time for work tomorrow if I were to let the tears go.  If you haven't heard, people are pulling out of the promises they made to these kids and their futures because there is a possibility that a woman who is married to another woman may have put the stamp on the letters they send to their sponsored children.

I have so many expletives that want to pour out of my mouth right now it's scaring even me.  But since my mom might read this and I have high hopes for her opinion of me, I won't type them.  Instead, I'll let some scripture do some talking.  The people who are pulling their sponsorships are talking about how hurt they are that World Vision isn't following the biblical rules.  This is what Jesus had to say about those who cared more about the rules than the people: (Matthew 23:13-24,27 emphasis is mine)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.  Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean."

Uncomfortable yet?  Good.

This is not a debate on the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality.  This is a war on our own blindness to the fact that we would prefer a set of rules rather than a mysterious, all-loving, all-merciful, all-righteous God who has never asked us to defend Him, He's big enough to do that on His own.  He has however, commanded us to defend His creation without regard to our opinion on whether or not they deserve our protection.  He is the sanctifier of the gold we hold back because it means more to us than the temple we bring it to, as if it was ever ours to begin with.

I have heard people say that there are other organizations that sponsor children without "questionable employment practices."  True, there are organizations like that, but what about these children?  They are not commodities or disposable feel-good sayings or refrigerator magnets kept to make us feel better about the fact there is more food in our fridge than they will see this month.  THEY ARE CHILDREN!!  Beautiful, lovable, giggling, crying, starving and sick children who are fearfully and wonderfully made.

So go ahead, play the video again, look into her eyes and tell her that she doesn't deserve my help because the channels that make sure she has food, clothing, access to medicine and an education don't fit into to your perfect set of rules that mirror your perfect reflection.  If that's the case, you're nothing but a whitewashed tomb, looking good on the outside but filled with the stench of death inside.

In Kati's country, more than 2.5 million children have died since 1998 in the fighting alone.  To put that into perspective, that is more than all U.S. military casualties in all U.S. wars since the Revolutionary War. [*]  So if you were to add that number to the 465,000 [*] children that die in that country each year from preventable disease and starvation, the statistic is staggering.  If we go from that 1998 mark, the number of child casualties is 9,940,000. That number is unimaginable, so let me give you a scenario to imagine it.

Think of September 11, 2001.  Think of where you were when you saw the flames rise from those towers, think of the horror that shook your entire being when you saw them fall, think of the tears you shed for the lives lost.  This isn't a cynical take on our American idealism, that day was a tragedy.  Think of what it was like to read the newspaper printed with the names of 2,996 sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, children and friends.  Honestly conjure up the emotion that came with the inevitability of war, the fear that came with the knowledge that evil got past our defenses, the camaraderie that you felt with your neighbor because all of a sudden you were standing against a common wickedness.  Think of how encouraging it was to see people from all sides of politics, religion, economic status, ideology, and generational gaps come together to give blood, give money, give of their homes and goods to make sure that this never happened again.  Think of the young  men and women who signed up to fight and give their lives for such a cause as this.  For a brief moment we all had a common goal and looked our neighbors in the eye like they weren't the strangers we shut out with our garage door openers.

The number of children who have died in Congo in the last 16 years is equivalent to filling those twin towers with 2,996 children and crashing them EVERY DAY for the next NINE YEARS.    

I would say I'm sorry about the caps lock but I'm not, this kind of thing needs to be yelled about.  That is only one country, who are we to take anything from them?  How dare we not cross our ideological lines for such a tragedy?      

But there is another victim here, the workers who ache in their very being to help these children and live out the Matthew 25:31-46 gospel.  They want nothing more than to see clean water, food, education, shelter and freedom from the fear of slavery reach third-world countries and we have told them they aren't included in the call to feed His sheep.  Why?

Tell me this, is the LGBT employee of World Vision any less created in the image of God than you, or me or Kati or her mom who has undoubtedly rubbed her crying child's back as Kati tried to sleep but couldn't because she was so hungry.  Is that employee a good enough reason for me to not want to do everything I can to make sure a fellow mother never has to worry that her children have enough to eat?  Why?

Why?

Our rules are strangling us, they are stifling our ability to be passionate and still measured.  We have raised up the idol of legalism before the one who carved His commandments into stone, then we used those graven images to nail His son to a cross and reminded Him we deserved it more than "them." 

The apostle Paul says it best in Philippians 3:4b-14 - "If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith."

He was the best of the rule followers and he said all that those Sunday School attendance badges earned Him were considered "garbage." If you were to translate that word into literal common-day English, that would would be "s**t."  Again, my mom is reading this, and if she's gotten this far, I love you mom.

Above all of it, feed the hungry, care for the sick, love your neighbor, love the God who made them all and make no excuses.

This is easy for me to say in my warm house but I am continually convicted about my comfort level and sponsoring Kati is a small step forward on that journey.

The best thing is, when the day comes and Jesus cracks the sky, returning like lightning to set His world right, you and I and all those in this argument will be humbled to the point of feeling nothing but fear and trembling in hopes of being found holy in His sight.  Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord and none of us are exempt from that.  

Until then, feed His sheep.

With hope and a good song,
Ali
Farther Along by Josh Garrels on Grooveshark