Monday, May 12, 2008

Is something askew? . . .

If your newspaper is anything like mine, your last several days of papers offer some significant insight into not only the state of our culture, but the condition of the human heart. It’s made me ask, “As long as I’m comfortable, do I really care about other people?”

Let me state it simply: a little over a week ago a cyclone hit Myanmar. The devastation in terms of life and property has yet to be fully counted. At least 20,000 people are dead. Disease is rampant. Children were orphaned. Daily bread is scarce if non-existent. The government of Myanmar has been slow to allow international humanitarian aid to arrive. The death toll will rise.

At about the same time all of this was happening, a very expensive race horse broke both ankles and had to be euthanized. Lot’s of wealthy people stood in the stands cheering this horse and all the others in the Kentucky Derby on. The horse had a name – Eight Belles. Both print and broadcast news outlets provided me with an ongoing dose of still pictures, video, and commentary related to the horse’s demise.

Because I rely on news outlets to inform me about what’s going on in the world, by midweek I knew more about an expensive dead horse, than I did about the massive human tragedy in Myanmar. When at least 20,000 people die, shouldn’t the headlines be really, really big?

There’s a teachable moment in there that we should embrace and hand on to our kids. First, we need to give them some much-needed perspective that news coverage has largely failed to give. Gather last week’s newspapers and look at the space devoted to these stories. What does that space tell us about ourselves, our culture, and what we value in life? And, how does that contrast with the priorities of Jesus and what we read in the Gospels? There’s alot to teach our kids.

Then second, mobilize your kids to think about what they can do to begin to alleviate the suffering in Myanmar. . . . then do it. One component of suffering that Christ-followers must understand is that all human suffering is allowed so that God might be glorified. How then, can we, through our response to the suffering in Myanmar, bring glory to God? Teach your students about that country. Look at a map. Download pictures of the faces of those who live there. Look at the photos of the cyclone’s devastation. Then, gather your students together to pray for those who are experiencing things we can’t even begin to imagine. Finally, mobilize your students’ resources. Perhaps there will come a day when doors will open wide for some of your students to dedicate part or all of their lives to ministering personally to the cyclone’s victims. But for now, what is desperately needed is the daily bread that will allow survivors to continue to survive. There’s not a family, student, or church out there that can’t do something. . . . . yes, even though gas prices are a little over the top right now.

May I make a simple suggestion? I don’t know of a Christian disaster response ministry that is more effective than the Salvation Army. Over the years I have gotten to know many of our brothers and sisters who serve in the Salvation Army in the area of disaster relief. They know what they’re doing and they do it well. These are people who have been called and sent by God to respond to disaster. Now, we have the opportunity to help them fulfill their calling by supporting their work.

Here’s this week’s challenge: For all of you who are youthworkers out there, would you prayerfully consider enlisting some creative way to mobilize your group to respond to the Myanmar disaster with the “cup of cold water?” Would you be sure that the creative response you enlist funnels economic assistance to the Salvation Army or some other disaster relief agency that’s positioned to get the aid through? I know that at this point the Salvation Army is already there in Myanmar. You can donate whatever financial assistance your youth group can muster to the Salvation Army by clicking here.

May I ask you to do two more things? First, would you cut and paste this blog and then send it on to as many other youthworkers as possible? And second, would you help to build some momentum for this by commenting below on how you and your students will sacrificially respond? Together we can share our ideas and build some momentum.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Wow, this was exactly what I was thinking about when this disaster happened. Then today we get more news on the horrible earthquake in China. There is no question that our youth ministries have to lead the way to respond when so often these stories appear for a day only to disappear just as quickly. We will be brainstorming with our youth ministry, one of the things that comes to mind first is a cookout that we were having to raise money for summer trips, now we can devote that money to disaster relief instead. One of the toughest things is to get students to stop thinking about themselves and instead have a vision for meeting the needs of others. We will be praying for the victims families and that relief will come quickly and adequately. Thanks Walt.