A couple of days ago my group and I were told we were going to go to a hospital to spend time with the sick and pray for them. What a great experience, I thought, I can go see the reality of being a Haitian. Finally the time came for us to get in the car and drive down to the hospital, and we were all pretty excited for the time we were given. When I finally stepped foot into the hospital I realized that this was nothing that I could’ve imagined. The place was an old airplane hanger that had been converted to a makeshift hospital using prefabs. I am not a doctor but I do know that hospitals need medicine and sterile environments, I saw very little medication and no sterile areas.
The first two rooms we went into were for children, what a hard way to start the day. Looking at children who are holding onto life with whatever strength they have left, just hoping for a miracle has a way of jarring any human being. I had taken my camera along in the hopes of maybe capturing a couple of moments to remember the day, but there is this interesting thing that happens with photography, it seems that seeing a picture of yourself on a tiny screen gets rid of language boundaries and brings dignity. I was walking around taking pictures of babies and showing the moms for a good fifteen minutes and the moms were absolutely loving it. They would look at the picture, their eyes would light up and they would laugh. I have to thank God for the opertunity he gave me that day to bring joy to those people.
One mom in particular came running to get me so I could take a picture of her beautiful baby girl. When I showed her the picture she laughed and showed her other daughter (maybe three years old) and then called over other woman in the ward to look at it as well. I could see pride in her eyes and that made my heart skip a beat. When I looked down at the baby girl I could see she was extremely sick, I asked what was wrong and her mom told me she had anemia. I don’t know much about desease, but I know that anemia is pretty manageable, so I sat with the child, prayed a prayer of healing and then walked to the next room.
Here is a picture of the girl:
Five minutes after taking the picture that girl died.
Death is always an interesting topic, and it’s always easier coming up with cute answers until you are faced with a crying mother who just lost a beautiful baby girl. The isn’t a new thing, children die of curable diseases every day and they are going to continue to. This is a harsh reality.
When people go to church they hear of the times when the sick grew back limbs or when the dead start breathing again, and by all means these are great things to celebrate, but what about the times you pray for a child and then minutes later she dies? What about then? How often are these situations discussed?
Eugene Peterson says we ignore these questions because “it is a blasphemous assault on the precariously maintained America spiritually to the pursuit of happiness. Wanting to avoid the evidence that things are not right with the world, without love, without faith, without sacrifice. It is a lot easier to keep the American faith if we do not have to looking the face of suffering, if we do not have to listen to the lament and do not need to deal with our tears.”
People who do not believe in an after life do not have the excuse of heaven, and maybe they are lucky for that. They are forced to deal with the here and now, they are forced to realize what their decisions do to those who are lower on the economic food chain. In the face of unbearable disaster, like a child dying of an extremely curable desease, I have heard many “believers” use the safety net of the after life and even call the death of a child a thing of mercy. By no means do I disregard that the child is now able to feel no pain that that this is probably better for that child, but I think the mercy God shows is probably not for the child, its probably for us, because we are the ones in need of mercy. We caused a world where children die of anemia while we go out to buy that third car that will get more miles to the tank.
Albert y. Hsu says this; ” Christians something think that we are not supposed to grieve at death because our faith and theology provide us with the confidence about heaven and eternal life. But while 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, that we are to grieve as those who have no hope, we grieve never the less. Those without hope grieve in one way, those with hope grieve in another way. Ether way, grief is universal and NOT to be avoided. It is a legitimate, response to loss.”
We live in a world where the rich are getting richer and the poor are dying. If you are reading this blog I can assure you that are firmly in the former group. As human beings we have a responsibility to do something about this. We have to say enough is enough. Jesus told the rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor otherwise he would not inherit the kingdom of God. Have you ever done that? Have you ever even thought about doing that? We ask why we do not see more heaven on earth, maybe its because we are too busy creating hell? We have been told to love our neighbor, well our neighbors are starving to death.
Just before I left the hospital a desperate mother passed me a piece of paper. When I looked at it I realized that it was a prescription slip, and without a seconds thought I handing it back to her and said “sorry I can’t help you”. Bull shit. (sometimes I think its ok to swear, here is one of those places). I have enough money to help her and many others in the hospital without it even affecting my bank account. But I tell myself that if I help her where does it stop? I found an answer to that question that night.
It stops when children stop dying of iron deficiencies.
Thats when it stops.
Until then we should be thanking God that he is merciful enough to take care of the children we have neglected.
1 John 2:3-4 says ..”by this we know that we know Him, if we keep hi commandments. He who says “I know Him” and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.” So what is this Commandment that the writer is talking about? “…Love one another, as I have loved you, so that you can also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35). Maybe it’s time to recognize that we have been liars. The most basic form of love is to care for someone who is dying, in fact I’m sure that doesn’t even fall in the category of love, I think that falls in the category of being a human.
Jesus was very harsh to people who didn’t take care of those in need, remember this passage:
“…Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
Interesting that He didn’t say that we should be happy that the sick are going to a better place, he says depart from me I do not know you.”
Yesterday was a wake up call for me. I realized how selfish I had been. I think God for the mercy He has given me and I stand up for change. May that be the last time I look at a dead child and know that I am part of the reason why children are dying of curable diseases. May we stop looking for excuses, but take responsibility for our actions and begin a new world today. Maybe we should join the poor, join the mom and sister who lost their family, join Jesus and weep. It begins with me, and it begins with you.
Let me add this. I have no interest in creating shame. Shame only ever produces guilt, and I do not think that God honers that. I know that an initial response to reading something like this could very possibly be shame, and that is a legitimate feeling, but I am asking for you to move beyond that. I am looking for people to become passionate. Passion brings about change, passion creates fire, passion saves peoples lives and passion brings heaven on earth. This is what I think the world needs.
If you are interested in finding out how you can be involved with creating heaven on earth here are a couple projects on the top of my head:
http://www.charitywater.org/ (bringing clean drinking water to the underprivileged in third and forth world countries, unclean drinking water is a major killer in these places)
www.notforsalecampaign.org (I can’t speak more highly of this company, especially because my amazing brother is part of it so I guess I am a bit bias, but they do amazing work with human slavery)
http://www.fmsc.org (feed my starving children is an amazing organziation who are sending in food to third and fourth world countries)
There are tons and tons of organizations, I really would recommend you take a stand behind some of them and do your part to make a difference.
If you are interested in the concept of heaven on earth and hell on earth and how our actions can affect which is more visible I recommend love wins by Rob Bell.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.