Down here in Argentina, and I imagine all over the world, we are receiving news about the hurricane that hit the Eastern Seaboard of the United States this week. It looks devastating. The reminder that life is a breath, that we are not in control, and that the U.S. is not, in fact, the safest place in the world.
Here in our corner of the world there has also been death and destruction. Last week the ceiling of a supermarket here in town fell on top of the people inside. Ten dead.
Tony and I have both shopped at that supermarket at one time or another, but because of its location and size (too small), we don’t regularly shop there. The tragedy happened half a block from the Mennonite Church. We heard about it through a friend, and Tony stopped by the the church that night. They were already serving up coffee and snacks to those working to clear out the debris. No one we know was killed, but the mother of one of the students who goes to the Christian school attached to the church died. Life is so fragile. Sometimes we think we are closer to death and danger here, where it feels and seems so much closer on a daily basis, but the hurricane this week was a reminder that the U.S is really no safer than anywhere else in the world. Life is a breath and every day is a gift from God.
We were praying for friends and family back home during the hurricane, and have received great – in one case, miraculous – answers to prayers for protection. A reminder that God answers prayer. He is so good. I feel for the ones who lost their lives, for the ones who remain who lost family members. How do you go on?
As we watched the news here (online – yay, internet), I was impressed by the way many government officials handled the response to the impending danger and insuing destruction brought on by hurricane Sandy. From my perspective here in South America, they were on top of it. We were like, “Wow, those Americans.” The mayor of NYC encouraged all city employees to volunteer on Tuesday at their local shelter if they were unable to safely get to work. Chris Christie, governor of NJ, got two hours of sleep Monday night because he was busy handling the crisis and doing everything in his power to help. He looks like he really cares. It shows and you can tell.
We, the Church, have been given the command and responsibility to love and help our neighbor. Sometimes it appears the US governement does a better job at lending a helping hand than do we. Instead of being the hands and feet of Jesus and going to help those who are suffering right now and in need of water, food, shelter – what do we do? We either go to a conference to “worship Jesus” and preach the gospel to those who already have it (us), or we are planning the next conference or concert we are going to go to. Not that these are wrong in and of themselves, but you know what I mean. I don’t get it. I don’t think I ever will.
You know, living here, “doing missions”, has taught us a lot about what Christianity is and what it isn’t. Obeying Christ’s command to preach the gospel to all creatures, to those without hope and light in this world, to visit orphans, to care for widows, to help the poor and the needy, to love our neighbors (in our case, here in Argentina), to give a simple glass of water – has taught us a lot about the difference between the traditions of men and the commands of Christ.
Sometimes I get flack for my, admittedly, ever increasing big mouth. Granted I don’t always do it right or perfectly. But there are so many times in my life I wish I had spoken but didn’t. There is a time to speak, the Bible tells us that, and those who remain silent when God is prompting them to speak not only disobey God but participate in wrongs by their silence. It reminds me of a story I read this week,
“I lived in Germany during the Nazi holocaust. I considered myself a Christian. I attended church since I was a small boy. We had heard the stories of what was happening to the Jews, but like most people today in this country, we tried to distance ourselves from the reality of what was really taking place. What could anyone do to stop it?
A railroad track ran behind our small church, and each Sunday morning we would hear the whistle from a distance and then the clacking of the wheels moving over the track. We became disturbed when one Sunday we noticed cries coming from the train as it passed by. We grimly realized that the train was carrying Jews. They were like cattle in those cars!
Week after week that train whistle would blow. We would dread to hear the sound of those old wheels because we knew that the Jews would begin to cry out to us as they passed our church. It was so terribly disturbing! We could do nothing to help these poor miserable people, yet their screams tormented us. We knew exactly at what time that whistle would blow, and we decided the only way to keep from being so disturbed by the cries was to start singing our hymns. By the time that train came rumbling past the church yard, we were singing at the top of our voices. If some of the screams reached our ears, we’d just sing a little louder until we could hear them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it much anymore, but I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. I can still hear them crying out for help. God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians, yet did nothing to intervene.”
As Christians, we must speak. We must act. If we never speak for fear of saying something less than perfectly, we will never speak. I know, I did that for years. I am over it. If we never act for fear of acting alone, well… I don’t know what will happen. Nothing good, I’m sure. I personally have chosen to speak because remaining silent is worse. We have chosen to act because doing nothing is worse. But that’s our choice. Not everyone can do something, we recognize that. But a pivotal point in my walk with Christ was realizing I would stand before God alone one day to give an account. My husband will not be next to me. My pastor will not be next to me. My Christian friends will not be next to me. No one will be there soothing me with the words, “But at least you were willing in your heart, but you did the right thing submitting to your husband like a good wife, but you honored you pastor by you submitting to him like a good Christian”.
No one will be there to comfort me with these words of complaceny. It will just be me and God.
That’s been a sobering point for me.