Friday, February 13, 2009

Haiti on my mind...

I can't sleep...and sleep is something that usually comes quite naturally to me. So, I decided to write, not for you, but for me...and if I publish this, you will get to listen to me ramble and test my thougts.
In 1999, Haiti changed Jen and me...we knew we would be back, not sure when, or how, but we knew. Now we've been back twice, and each time our hearts tug a little more, it feels a little more common, more like a second home. We look past the dirt, heat, sweat, smell, and begin to see people, faces, stories, opportunities. We've been given such a gift by visiting, the gift of perspective. But the gift is also a curse. Everything that we thought we knew, we realized we don't. Everything we took for granted now stares us in the face. It's not guilt that is bothering me, I'm over that, it's an urge to see the proof in my pudding, see my rubber meet the road, to have my nose on the grindstone...that sounded weird, but oh well, you get the point.
This evening I read that America has 4.5% of the world's population, yet uses 40% or more of the world's resources. That is staggering. I try to justify it, deny it, ignore it...but I can't. It's not THE issue, just evidence of deeper issues. We (as Americans) don't think outside of ourselves, and our worldview is so narrow and surreal, that we have fooled ourselves and numbed our minds to reality.
As usual, I digress. I'm not awake because I'm thinking about what America, nor Americans should do. I'm awake wondering what this American should do. Beyond that, what should this American Christian do? It's one thing to be an atheist American who lives for himself out of a belief system of being fit to flourish, it's another thing to believe what Jesus had to say and somehow try to reconcile it to our American culture. I used to think that this country was rich, but we did a lot of good with our riches. America contributes less than 0.4% of our federal budget to poor countries. We are second to last of the 22 industrialized nations. Again, I digress...probably because it's easier to talk about the faceless 'system' than it is to talk about this mug of mine.
So, Jen and I are asking big questions, wondering if there is a place in Haiti for us. Wondering if we have a role to play other than living in comfort while ignoring the rest of the world. Curious if there is more to life than earning a paycheck, paying the mortgage, planning for retirement, and staying entertained.
The nice part of it all is that while we are shifting in our seats, we're not in any rush. We're stable, and comfortable, waiting to see where God takes us on this adventure of life. We are open to the idea of working in or for Haiti, but not without wisdom, calling, and sober judgement.
Any thoughts?


Kristen said...

All I can say is, we are in the very same place. Every time we visit I imagine my kids growing up there, and feel unsettled when we leave. We feel a huge draw to Haiti that started a long time ago. We are also in a place of contentment here, so it is confusing. But I know where you are coming from.

Tim and Jen Pearson said...

What a role reversal! While I'm sleeping peacfully (sleep doesn't usually come easily to me) my wonderful hubby is up pondering the bigger things of life (and taking care of Zoe who was coughing...again, this would usually have me up in a flash). All i can say is that I thank God that our hearts our in the same place and I can't wait to see where he takes us!!! oh, and I must be one of the luckiest girls in the world to have this man for my husband!!! love you more!...shut up ;)

Leanne said...

Thanks for letting us into your thoughts. . .we are praying for you guys and trust He will continue to lead you. . .just keep looking and listening. . .love you guys!

Chris said...

Those are some good thoughts, brother o'mine. :) At times I feel incredibly overwhelmed by the massive waste and gluttony we all seem to take for granted, and it makes me proud that you're so interested in taking steps in your own life to make a difference. That said, perhaps not all atheists live "only for themselves." A lot of people don't belong to a religion, but devote their time and money to helping others anyway. Often people do good things simply because they're good things, and not because of religious affiliation. And many who self-identify as Christian could probably do a little more to think outside themselves like you're doing now! Love you guys!

Karen said...

I applaud Chris' comments. And, yes, our federal budget for foreign aid is relatively small, but that may be a good thing. That aid goes to governments and is politically motivated...there's no assurance that it goes to help the poor. What does make a huge difference, and is difficult to calculate but significantly larger that government funding, is private donation. This country's peoples are more generous and caring than their government, and the money is, for the most part, entrusted to organizations that work effectively all over the world. Do you damn Bill Gates for all the money he has, or praise him for the good his foundations do? We all need to help where we see help is needed and to the extent we wish to change our lives. If we're in a place of comfort it's because a long line of people worked very hard to achieve a degree of opportunity, safety, security and freedom that combined with successful capitalism to be the envy of other countries...and which enables us to have extra to give away. It would be nice to think that we now will have a better world view once we pull ourselves out of this pit of excess. This country is full of caring, generous and responsible people who have elected a man who wants to reach out to the world and make a difference that we can all support.

Tim and Jen Pearson said...

You read too far in to what I wrote. My point was exactly your point with different words. Simply put, I can understand how an atheist who believes that we are creatures of evolution under the principle of 'survival of the fittest' would not feel compelled to help those that aren't the fittest (and I have respect for those who are charitable regardless).
On the flip side, and more to my point, I'm having a hard time reconciling my American values with my Christian principles.
I feel like people (Christian and otherwise) are charitable up to the point that they don't have to sacrifice their comfort (me included)...and for those of us that respect the example of Jesus (Christian and otherwise), we should see in him someone who chose a life of sacrifice at the expense of his comfort, even through torture.
I don't think this can be disputed, and my thoughts at 1 in the morning were more focused on me and my life than to judge what others are or aren't doing.
Love you!

Tim and Jen Pearson said...

Oh boy...did I mention the 'a'-word and open a can of worms? I haven't said anything against anyone who is charitable, and haven't denied anyone the right to have his/her own worldview/religious view. You are inserting emotion and arguments to a discussion that is not here. How on earth did I 'damn Bill Gates' and his work?

Secondly, I'd like to contend your comment that "If we're in a place of comfort it's because a long line of people worked very hard to achieve a degree of opportunity, safety, security and freedom that combined with successful capitalism to be the envy of other countries...and which enables us to have extra to give away.". Our system of capitalism was built on the backs of slaves, and today is increasing the rich/poor divide as we continue to exploit poor people and nations. Greed is ruling capitalism now, and we are giving away the crumbs only after we are filled.

Furthermore, as I said to Chris, this post was not about what others are or aren't doing. It's about me and my convictions. I can't tell anyone else what to do, if they do what I say because I told them to, then they will be motivated by obligation not love...and that will kill them.
We're each on our journey, this is mine. I hope you can read it without being offended. Our sermon last week was about a time when Jesus said, "Blessed are those that aren't offended by what I say.". I hope you can read my thoughts as my thougts...apply them to your life as you see fit.
I love you too!

Karen said...

No offense taken or given...the love is flowing but may have been washed over by the fascinating philosophical questions. The emotion is from the rightness of what you're questioning and the desire to try and clarify a really multi-headed issue. Then there's the question of individual accountability. Big issues...tough issues. I think we all struggle with the questions of how much is enough to have and want, how much to we give to those less fortunate, where are we most effective... And you're right, every country has it's haves and have-nots and aren't we all surprised to witness the astonishing divide in our own country. And isn't that one of Haiti's greatest issues? Greed is a huge issue, but it's not the only issue and not the only result of capitalism. Greed isn't capitalism run amok, it's morals run amok. That's the Bill Gates question...does he have too much or is he forgiven because he gives some of it away?

Tim and Jen Pearson said...

I don't know Bill Gates' heart, and in fact I don't know your heart or anyone else's but mine. I do know that my heart has the propensity to be self serving, and historically when I ask big questions such as these, I slowly get distracted again by the pleasures of our prominance and soon numb myself with entertainment.

You are right, greed is morals run amok...and morals are an important ingredient to the success of capitalism. Would you agree that our national morals have been challenged greatly over the last 50 years?

Finally, in response to the Bill Gates question...does he have too much or is he forgiven because he gives some of it away?

It's a heart issue, why is he giving...out of guilt or love? Is he giving out of excess or sacrifice? The widow that gave 1 mite gave more than the others, it's all relative.

I can always give more, and always give less...the question becomes whether I follow my convictions or do I follow my pleasure? It's my hope that I will find pleasure in following my convictions, as historically following my pleasure has resulted in my disapointment when it doesn't fill me up.

I can't compare myself to others, they aren't my ideal example as they continually disapoint us, the same way we dissapoint ourselves. I can only compare me to Jesus (whom we agree is an outstanding example whether we think he is God or not), and I can only compare the 'me' of today with the 'me' of yesterday to see where I'm headed. I don't care what Bill Gates is doing, what am I doing?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I've been facing some internal struggles myself along a similar line.
I look forward to seeing what God will do with you guys and Haiti. Please keep us posted.
Curt Campbell

Elizabeth said...

I have asked myself the same questions. I think that your love for Haiti and disgust with the American lifestyle are two individual, though related, issues. I would not use guilt as a reason to go into missions, but conviction by the Holy Spirit about wanting to live differently does bring about these sorts of decisions.

It's a very personal matter. Some are called to foreign missions, others are called to influence the town/state/country in which they live. It is possible to throw off these comforts and be an influence in your community. As for serving overseas, being open, as you mentioned, is the first step.

Glenda said...

Hey Tim,

The term American Christian is a dichotomy. The struggle with posessions and distractions with entertainment permeates this society. Scripture states to lay up your treasure in heaven. Many christians have 'claimed' this verse as a way of putting their 'faith' in a mother lode of rewards that God has stored up for them in heaven and have diminished their affectiveness for the gospel on earth. The analogy of a banking system is what is best used, though the antithesis of the one in place not only in America but in the world. The treasure that is stored is to have constant activity with withddrawals and deposits being made and interest earned. The gospel tells of the one who is not engaged in this activity being condemned. To sacrifice posessions for this work is not enough. A christian is to give up a desire in his heart for material wealth in order to gain a heart that is set on heavenly things and in this transaction is given access to treasure that cannot fade and that rust can't destroy. What is gained is that those who are God's are revealed here on earth. There in lies the rub if you will, where the rubber meets the road. Are you using earthly wealth or heavens treasures to reach the lost with the gospel? I believe, it is not so much a moral dilemma as it is a spiritual dilemma.

"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." - Jesus of Nazareth

Rick said...

Haitians are certainly needy and God seems to be drawing you into increasing ministry to them. Where you call home may not be that important as you minister.

Stephen said...

Beautiful thoughts! Something I'm interested in myself.

I've been to Colombia, South America, three times, going on my fourth possibly in April/May, and if I was able to, I would adopt all the children that I worked with. The Holy Spirit was so strong in me for them all, and I can't wait to get back.

Now as far as the American Budget, I think trying to change the system is not what we need to do, but instead, looking at how many people in America call themselves "Christians", but can't, don't, or won't look and see the rest of the world and their lack of necessities. If we were able to impact the Christian community in America, and for that, the world, then there could be so much change, and so much more hope for the world. We need to not just ask for people to give to help others, but we need to DEMAND them to do it, to do the very thing Christ Jesus did so long ago, to do the very things the first disciples did, to do the call of our lives, to live with necessity (simply and with great compassion), and give necessities to those who don't have them.

That is our call.

Just a few thoughts that have been rumbling in me for the last 3 years.