I had a really great conversation with a gentleman tonight whose family came to the US from Jordan when he was 12 years old. He is a Muslim and he has been following what The Great Need is doing in Iraq, and just wanted to talk to me about why we are doing what we are doing.
In no way was he accusatory about our motives and the entire conversation was extremely cordial. And I think we found considerably more common ground than differences. But it made me think about those that may have seen a little bit about The Great Need, maybe seen some pictures that we’ve posted or maybe even donated to our cause. And it made me want to clarify the “why” of what we do. Or maybe more to the point, “why we don’t do what we do.”
I understand there is a level of suspicion that comes from American charities working in developing countries. Sometimes it’s a suspicion of action…is this person or group trying to take advantage of others. And very often, there is a suspicion of motives. Is this a case of “the great white hope from the west riding in to save the day.” Both are understandable because both of these things have been major issues in the past.
This gentleman tonight questioned me politely more about the second of these concerns. And he put it as bluntly as “are you helping these kids purely out of pity?” I told him, and I want to say as clearly as possible here, no. We are involved in Iraq (and Haiti and all the other places we are working and ever will work) for two reasons.
First, out of obedience to God’s call to care of those who need help. This ties into the second reason, and I’ll tie it together in talking about that, but otherwise I won’t belabor this point. Either you agree or don’t when it comes to matters of faith, that’s fine.
But the second reason is out of immense respect for these children. When you serve others out of pity, you are essentially saying, I am awesome, therefore I am going to help you because you’re not awesome. I don’t think anything could be further from the truth. I want to help these amazing kids in Iraq because THEY are awesome. They are spirited, intelligent, resilient, beautiful children who have survived things that I probably wouldn’t. That retain a smile even in the midst of chaos. They play, they laugh, they sing, they dance, they remain kids, when everything around them is giving them a reason not to. THAT. IS. AWESOME. I’m just a computer nerd from Texas that is most decidedly not awesome.
I don’t pity these kids. I look at them and I struggle not to pity our kids here in the US. Our kids who don’t know any different than the “American Way.” Who learn greed and selfishness and “being a self-made man.” Who don’t hear “no.” Who don’t know how to go without…anything. Who don’t know contentment.
These kids in the IDP camps of Iraq may own one pair of clothes and share a soccer ball among 40 other kids. And they’re content. Yeah, they have wants…their family back together, to return home, to go back to school, to grow up. But they are content in their circumstances, and I want to learn that from them. I want to be like them. I hope some day to “grow up” to be like a 10 year old in Iraq.
I said the first reason and the second reason tie together and here is what I mean…from Genesis to Revelation, this common theme of caring for the hungry, the orphans, the widows, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the outcasts…it comes through again and again and again. Because God loves His children. More than we can imagine. He loves us, more than we can imagine. And His love doesn’t know levels. It’s full throttle, all the way. Pedal to the metal, raging, crazy, ridiculous love.
And He loves little Fadi in the IDP camp outside of Dohuk the same as He loves me. And if I decide that I’m so awesome that little Fadi must have my help, then I’m basically saying, “Because God loves me more, I need to love this little kid more so he feels more loved.”
Because God loves Fadi recklessly, furiously, passionately. How can I not hold Fadi in immense respect? How can I not want to walk through fire to help him, to get to know him, to love him, to learn from him?
The name Fadi means “redeemer” in Arabic. That’s what it boils down to. “For God loved Fadi so much that He sent His one and only Son, that when Fadi believes in Him, Fadi will not perish, but will have everlasting life.” The ultimate expression of God’s immense love is His redemption, a gift that is offered to every single person.
And when I realize that I don’t hold that monopoly, respect grows.