For the first month, I didn't know how to answer those questions I got when we came home. None of my emotions seemed to make any sense. Not enough sense to solidify and slice into words. All I knew was that being at church was the hardest part of being home. Not our church in particular. I'm sure it would not have mattered what church I was sitting in. Church was simply hard. Sundays have been the time when I've felt the most turmoil in my soul. Coming home from Haiti takes one day. On Saturday I can be in Haiti, surrounded by tragedy and grave injustice. On Sunday I can sit in my home church. It's like being in a movie theater, watching a scary, disturbing movie then walking down the hall, a few doors down into a Disney movie. It's hard to process. It's also hard to stay in my seat or listen. What I want to do is stand up and tell people what is going on a few doors down. Right on the other side of the wall. While we're all sitting here in this new room talking about the weirdest topics, trying to convince ourselves that God is good and gracious towards us in our peaceful, thermostat regulated lives, horrible, horrible things are happening right down the hall to an unimaginable number of people.
The hardest part about leaving a place like Haiti and coming back to the United States is realizing that for the most part the church, God's messenger of justice in this world, does not seem to know what is going on outside of the US. Realizing this is painful. Realizing that two years ago, I had no idea what was happening outside our borders is more painful. Maybe sitting in church is hard because I want more people to know and care about human rights violations, rape, molestation, infant mortality, maternal mortality, genocide, honor killings, child slavery, and the many other horrors happening right now. Right this second. While I write a blog post, and you read it. These tragedies are playing out in real life around the world. Maybe the church not knowing grieves me. Maybe. What I know for sure is that my own life, my own self-absorption, my own lack of gratitude...the person I was two years ago, and the person I can be on any given day most certainly is hard to face when I'm in the US.
What can we do to love and care for the poor while living in the United States?
We can know they exist.
We can be educated about what is happening to women around the world. We can know how children are suffering. We can know...really know...how our brothers and sisters in Christ...our forever family is being persecuted...starving...dying needless deaths.
I truly believe that it is lack of knowing that leads us to do nothing. I can't help but believe that if people, who belong to God and have His Spirit living in them, begin to know the truth...to really see it...to study it...to seek it out...our hearts can't help but be spurred to action. As image bearers of God, I don't believe we can see...really see...other image bearers of God suffering and decide to do nothing.
How can we care for the poor while living here in the United States?
We can be informed.
Will this be easy? No. It won't. The truth is rarely told on the news at night. People are suffering in other countries because no one cares enough to report about what is going on...and continue to report about it. We will have to work hard to be informed.
I want to share a few ideas, and let others share ideas as well. If you are like me and know that you are too insulated, unaware of what is going on outside this Disneyland that is our country, then hopefully these ideas will give us all a way to be actively seeking out the truth.
Half the Sky. Hands down the best book I've ever read that not only reports what is happening to women (and little girls) around the world, but also gives lots of ways to help. If you are a Republican, the author's obvious dislike of President Bush that is evident in sprinkles throughout the book may irk you. Sorry. The rest of the book is amazing, and I wouldn't let this keep you from reading this book.
These documentaries were eye opening for us: The Corporation. China Blue. The Dark Side of Chocolate. Invisible Children. We could not be the same people after watching these films.
Food Inc., and Fast Food Nation both caused drastic eating changes in our family, not only because of the health information they contain, but also because of how they "out" the food industry's treatment of immigrants.
Nicholas Kristof's blog. Kristof wrote Half the Sky. He also writes for the NY Times. I've learned a great deal from him about issues facing the poor, women, and children around the globe. Have you read this article by Kristof? I thought it was incredible. Evangelicals Without Blowhards.
The Big Picture. Always click on "more pictures" under each new "story."
Nothing moves me like seeing something with my own eyes. It was The Big Picture's photos of Haiti that captured our heart right after the earthquake. I will never forget them. I could not get them out of my mind the weeks following the quake. I'm sure that caused me to pray. I'm positive those pictures have everything to do with where we now live.
Google alerts. Interested in sweat shops, fair trade, maternal mortality, child slavery, or a particular country? Google lets you set up alerts with key words that interest you. Then Google sends you an email with articles pertaining to your key words. Just go to Google Alerts. Type in the needed information. You can even decide how often you want the news delivered to your inbox.
BBC. I like BBC because they report about things going on all over the world. Most US news doesn't offer that option. You can also pick a certain country of interest and only subscribe to news for that region.
What about the missionaries your family or church supports financially? A part of sending and being the one that stays is being connected to mission work through the missionaries that are being supported. When you support us, for instance, I hope you know that this is the way God connects you...personally...as if you were there...to what God is doing in Haiti through our family and through Heartline. If you have missionaries that you support financially, see if they have a blog. Actually read those long letters they send. This is a great tool...a way to really and truly be connected in an honest, hands-on kind of way with people who are serving the poor.
We have two incredible guest posts coming up from people serving the poor in the US. We'll let them tell you about some ideas for being involved and informed here on the "home" side of the stadium.
Now it's your turn. How do you stay informed? What books have opened your eyes to the plight of the poor around the world? What blogs really teach you...show you...help you to understand how to pray and how to respond? How do you connect with the least of these? What writers, reporters, and bloggers ignite passion in your soul for justice and mercy? What news sources do you use? Let's share what is shaping us and what moves us to action. Ready, set, go.
Other posts in this series on "Caring for the Poor While Living in the US":
Caring for the Poor While Living in the Good ol' U-S of A?
Who Are the Poor?
Looking for the Poor
Hi, My Name is Heather and I'm a Modern Day Slave Owner
First, The Purging
The Better World Shopping Guide
More Really Great Shopping Resources
Running Hard After Redemption