Thursday, January 21, 2010

Responding to Haiti Long-term*

Haiti remains shell shocked after its 7.0 magnitude quake little more than a week ago. The people braced themselves once again as another powerful aftershock (6.1) ripped through the country Wednesday morning. According to media sources this further complicates search and rescue efforts and is hampering the ability to distribute aid.

Soon after the first quake rocked Port-au-Prince I had an interesting conversation with a friend that began with this engaging question, “How should we respond to the devastation in Haiti?” I realize there are some obvious answers to this question, and I know for a fact that this individual is invested both financially and physically in helping the people of Haiti, so I knew there was more to his question.

I asked if he could elaborate. He went on to say that he was finding it difficult to relate to the people of Haiti. He was frustrated that his emotions and his heart weren’t lining up with what his head told him he should feel and do.

He was not asking how will I respond to this tragedy, but how should I respond as a human being to the suffering of people that I don’t know.

Some will understand his quandary and others will not, dismissing him out of hand as an uncaring individual. What he was getting at was the larger picture. His statement was, “If I involve myself, I’m all in. If I choose to feel then what I feel may be immobilizing. How can I help one person if I can’t help them all? How can I help them now, if I am not willing to continue helping them in the future?”

This is a great point. It is much easier to involve ourselves with prayer and aid at the beginning of a relief effort and then once Haiti begins to heal and falls out of the news forget about it all together – though there remains work to be done. How can we identify with Haiti and its people or any devastated people on a long term basis? Should we even try?

Our church started a journey with Haiti months ago through the Global Orphan Project and The Crazy Love Campaign. Our goal is to help buy land and build a self-sustaining village to house and care for the orphans in the Jeremie region. We started by giving financially last year and have continued to follow up by sending teams and planning mission trips for the future.

When the earthquake hit my first thought was, “Oh no! What about our kids?” Amazingly through divine persuasion and practical mobilization my heart and my support were already connected to those who were hurting. We are linked in a tangible way to the people, the orphans, and their well-being. I began to think about the future and how our plans for building would be different because of the relief that all of Haiti would need immediately.

I visited our church’s blog to get on-the-ground updates and watched the news searching for more information. My search generated two stories that pressed deeply on my heart and those of my family. The first came from our local news about a couple here in Tennessee, who was in the process of adopting a five-year-old girl from Haiti named Tia.

Twelve hours after the quake, Mike Wilson, the adoptive father flew to Haiti with relief supplies and the resolve to bring his daughter home to the states. He soon discovered that Tia was safe but that all court documents for his adoption had been destroyed in the disaster along with the papers of thousands of other Haitian orphans leaving him to wonder if he would ever bring his little girl home. Miraculously only a week later Mr. Wilson and Tia left Haiti together. They arrived safely in Nashville early Tuesday morning and were greeted by a tearful group of family and friends.

The second story that moved me is harder to digest. Even Steve Harrigan, a seasoned reporter, from FOX news was choked up as he reported on the devastation around him. The most haunting image I recall is that of a woman lying on the ground insane with grief after having lost four of her children in the earthquake and the fifth shortly thereafter at the hospital. Her husband sat grief-stricken as well cradling her head in his lap and gently attempting to comfort her.

As a mom to four children and a fifth now with Jesus, my heart leapt out of me and raced to this inconsolable mom. A surprising desire to hold and comfort her, as well as run to embrace my own children overwhelmed me. Even now I long to comfort Haiti’s orphaned children and her childless mothers.

Compassion is awakened in us when we identify with another’s pain, grief, or loss. Busyness, stress, and everyday realities threaten to separate us from empathy toward our neighbors and even our own family members. This disconnect can be magnified exponentially when those experiencing loss are thousands of miles away and come from a different culture.

So, how should we respond to Haiti?

Many have acted quickly and practically by sending prayers, money, and much needed supplies through trusted organizations. And I believe we can further bridge the gap between us and the people in need by embracing the heart of God. God loves the people of Haiti and embracing God’s heart means laying our own hearts bare and asking God to let us feel their pain. Let us help to shoulder their burden.

Instead of steeling ourselves against pain and suffering through distance, culture, and isolation we can choose to get involved personally. This could mean adopting a family, an individual, or even serving on a short term mission project.

Fostering a personal relationship adds a name, a life, and a soul to the images we see on T.V. These efforts to build relationships go beyond Haiti and natural disasters. They reach across the globe and just outside our front doors to the hundreds of thousands who are hurting, hungry and alone.

My prayer is that more hearts will be softened through this tragedy and more eyes will be opened to the great need all around us, so that each of us will find a way to give, to go, and to feel.

*This post appeared first on Caffeinated Thoughts

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tickle Attack

Have you ever been the victim of a tickle attack? This is the ambush you never see coming – the surprise attack so shocking that it encounters your angry face before ever reaching your funny bone.

You’ve seen it happen – a mom quietly minding her own business, cradling a hot cup of tea while reading a magazine or book. Suddenly she shoots up out of her chair; barely aware of what has happened, registering pain on either side of her ribcage and under her arms. The tea she was holding now stains her top and still sloshes in her cup. She hears something akin to laughter coming from a nearby corner where two little hooligans skulk guiltily. The offenders who anticipated surprise and laughter have achieved only one of their goals and awoken a sleeping giant in the process. They are summarily dismissed to their rooms to await proper punishment while mom cleans up and cools down.

Tickle attacks are part of most adolescent boys’ vocabulary, and for some strange reason my son has a great need to include me in this ritual. Why he needs to see me wriggle and squirm uncontrollably I do not know. I’d like to think it’s just because he wants to see me laugh, but let’s face it, tickling is not about laughter – it’s about shock and awe!

To reduce the incidents of just such an event I foolishly granted my nine-year-old son’s insane request that every Wednesday be deemed Tickle Day. What was I thinking?

In my defense it was a compromise which I made under extreme duress. I don’t want to be the mean mom, the one who doesn’t like to have fun, or bans tickling altogether. Surely, I could be prepared for my son’s stealthy attacks one day out of any given week. But wouldn’t you agree that after awhile all the days seem to run together into one crazy blur? As such, I can never remember when Wednesday is coming. This puts me at a distinct disadvantage and ups the ante where my son is concerned. He has one day to get all of this tickling out of his system. Therefore, he must make good use of it, and with Mom off guard the sky is the limit.

But these situations, even when sanctioned, rarely end well. I have informed my children, and even my husband, that I cannot be held responsible for my actions once the tickling has begun. My body loses all sense of propriety and goes into survival mode. This means I will do whatever is necessary to guard myself from pain. There’s no telling who will be kicked, clawed, or flailed upon in the process. You tickle at your own risk.

This has given rise the public tickle attack. The kids are getting smarter. I’ll give them that. One day last summer while running errands with all four children we stopped in at Target to return a couple of items. While there, I, unwisely, decided to try a few things on. The kids were noticeably over it, and began to flop and complain. The nine-year-old had another idea.

Between trips to the dressing room and the retail aisles the kids were hiding in the racks of clothing. I’d finally found something of interest and upon holding it up to my body and examining it in the mirror I felt that familiar shock of pain in my ribcage. I quickly grabbed the intruding little hands and whirled around to face my attacker. Before I could open my mouth he announced, “It’s Wednesday!”
Of course it was. I didn’t even try to suppress the smile. We laughed out loud as he made another go for it. This time I was ready, but found I had to withstand a siege from three more squirrelly recruits as they charged. We received many a justified glare from passersby who were witnessing the greatest blitzkrieg Target had ever seen – as far as tickle fights go I’m sure. Once the fighting had died down, I gathered up all of my little enemy combatants and headed for the door wondering what our next public outing might hold particularly if it happens to fall on a Wednesday.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

CT: New Year, New Technology, Same God - Thank God!

I first posted this on New Year's Eve on Caffeinated Thoughts.

As we greet 2010 – a brand new year, I marvel at the changes brought by 2009 and how fast-paced our world has become. The constant flood of information we receive through our radios, TVs, computers, and phones is endless. Technology greets us as we wake up in the morning and follows us to our cars, our beds, and sometimes even joins us in the bathroom.

It is understandable that we have succumbed to this technology bug because the access to the information it provides is amazing. As a result of our immersion into this sea of iPhones and internet we are able to remain abreast of the current news ready to share and comment on the events of the day by the minute.

We need not wait for a paper to be delivered or for an editor to receive our letter – for the blogosphere and social networks like Facebook have made it so convenient to read, research, and communicate our thoughts and ideas.

But when do we turn it off?

Today I was reading in Isaiah – my favorite Old Testament prophet. He writes:

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us. Lord, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor.

Isaiah 26: 3-5, 8-9, 12-13

Sometimes I forget that this world rests in God’s hands and that nothing escapes his notice. The concerns and the challenges that each new day and new year hold can grip my heart and mind pressing me to seek out more and more information rather than turning to God and his Word for rest and comfort.

I was reminded over Christmas as I spent time with family and friends that missing a day or even a week worth of news was not the end of the world. The truth is one day this earth and all that is in it will pass away. At that time I won’t be writing an article or commenting on a blog. I will be bowing down in worship.

Though I put little stock in New Year’s resolutions, I will make one this year. My desire is to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. I pray that as I continue to write and comment on newsy items, His name and renown will be the desire of my heart, and that rather than yearning for more news and information my spirit would long for the Spirit of God – for only the Spirit of God prompts me to act in ways that have lasting value.

Happy New Year!