or India. or Bolivia. or Guatemala. or Haiti. I don’t care where. I just want to go. I want to have the opportunity to sit with people unlike me, who would have a difficult time imagining where I come from or how I live; vice-versa. I want the chance to sit under thatched roof huts. I would love to photograph mothers and children as they pray, praise, mourn, dance, and wait. The poor, discarded, marginalized and forgotten people of every society, their eyes draw me in and I am facedown broken before a mighty God.
I want to look in the eyes of the poor, to hold the lepers hand, to weep with the widow and encourage the AIDS infected man. I want to rock the orphaned infant, to hear their stories and to write their stories down on pages, on screens, on hearts. How can I write if I’ve never seen it, smelled it, lived it, loved the poorest places of our world. How can a homeschooling mother of four, living on one income drop her duties at the door and travel the world?
“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?” Romans 10: 14-15 The Message
“I want to go to Africa.” I blurt those words out in the middle of a conversation with a dear friend. I tell her my heart and she listens. She sits with me in my heart’s desire and offers me an option. She reminds me of the African, Indian, South American, Asian families (and more) living and working and struggling right here in my own community. My neighbors…
I know a pastor. He pastors a small church just outside a US city. This is an area where generations of religious tradition and complacency rule the inaction and stagnancy. Churches like these are what I have called, “home.” God’s people stuck on the repeat cycle of sleeping through their faith. Go to church on Sunday. Cheer on your favorite sports team. Go to work during the week. Collect your paycheck. Gather with family on the weekends. Watch your favorite shows. Help your neighbor when you can. All of these ok ways of living, but does God call us to a life of OK.
Then one day an African woman shows up to that pastor’s little church with her children in tow. She walks in through the doors of that little brick church on a hill, stopping where and when God tells her to stop, and that building quakes. The truth is that some in their midst have been praying. A few have been storming heaven with a beseeching call. “God, show us how to love the children and families who live in our neighborhood. Show us how to love our neighbor as ourselves. Show us how to minister to all the families living in the projects… a mile away.”
In communities throughout the United States God has literally brought Jerusalem, Samaria, Judea and to the ends of the Earth right into our midst (Romans 1:8). I have neighbors on my street from Sri Lanka, Brazil, Germany, various countries of Africa, Latin America and the South Pacific, but are they worth my time, my money, my comfort, my effort?
“We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” -Shane Claiborne
On a cloudy Sunday morning, I imagine a traditional African-garbed woman, with her baby strapped to her back, climbing that steep hill towards church…towards a gathering of God’s people. They have a glimpse of Africa in their midst. She walks and she does not stop until God says, “Stop.”
Here I am, a Jesus Christ Follower…I step out on my front stoop, look left and look right; ready to walk until God says stop…
I pray I am brave enough.
How is your neighbor? Who is your neighbor? Want to take the faith challenge?
Jessica is a mother of four; living outside Washington, DC. She can be found writing at her blog, Jezamama.