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Inspiration

My friend, Tyler Watson, linked to a phenomenal story last week of a ninety-seven year old woman who was being honored by Poland’s Parliament for her role in rescuing thousands of Jewish children during the Holocaust. As I read her story, I was struck by the raw courage demonstrated by this woman in her lifetime, and also by her humility in seeing her actions not as worthy of glory but simply worthy of her humanity: “Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory,” Sendler said in a letter read by Elzbieta Ficowska, who was saved by Sendler as a baby.

So often today I hear people talk about how great our world’s problems are, how deeply the rivers of injustice flow, and yet so many of us sit by and do relatively nothing. We see the photos of Angelina Jolie in Darfur or we listen to Bono speak out about AIDS, and while our hearts resonate with their work, we keep our distance from actual hands-on involvement. The problems are too far away, too complex, and we are already overscheduled with our own life-commitments. We may wish that there were more that we could do, but what can we honestly expect of ourselves? We have homes to remodel, jobs to do, churches to plant, degrees to complete, children to raise…and the list goes on. And so we are left with our goodwill and maybe some prayer.

I remember sitting in a South African township in the home of a man who had spent more than twenty years in prison with Nelson Mandela. They were close friends, and this quiet, kind man was a strong leader in his community. My best friend and I were staying a few nights with him and his wife as part of a study tour with our University, and one evening after dinner we were ushered into the living room where a crowd of young male leaders in the township gathered around us. For the next three hours, these young men pressed us with questions about why the U.S. had not done more to dismantle Apartheid in their nation. We were there in the months leading up to the first free election in that country, and though tides were certainly changing and the end of Apartheid was in sight, for these men who had lost family and friends to prisons and murder and who had suffered the indignities of the Apartheid system, the questions burned with relevance.

Julie and I sat, stunned and largely ignorant. We later referred to it as our inquisition. And I remember our gracious host, sitting quietly in the corner watching with a slow smile on his face. He knew that what we were hearing and experiencing was good for us, and he was investing in our development as leaders just as he was with his own township youth. I am grateful that he cared that much about us.

As I read the story of ninety-seven year old Irena Sendler, I have to wonder where we are being called to enter the raging rivers of injustice in our world? The article states that Irena wrote the names of every child rescued on little slips of paper that she buried in glass jars in a nearby yard so that she could later help parents locate their children. I cannot shake that image: a yard filled with little glass jars, each holding the name of a child spared. Risking all, this woman claimed a shared humanity with those she did not have to see or acknowledge. So must we.

give thanks

I hope it is true that many of you who are reading this have been wondering where Erika has gone off to. And I do hope and sincerely believe that many of you were moved in your spirit to pray for Erika and our family perhaps because you found the absence of her writing to be of concern. As I write this, we are hopefully past the worst. Erika was hospitalized yesterday, and she was operated on this morning with success. She is currently recovering and doing as well as is to be expected.

Please continue to pray for Erika and our family. I am writing this post at her behest directly because her thoughts were turned toward letting all of you, her extended community, know what has occurred. We give thanks for God’s great faithfulness to Erika over these past several days. We give thanks for those who—with stomach-flued children, other appointments or expectations of these days activities, obstacles to overcome and daily living to cope with, responsibilities and jobs that may have required the inclusion, input or contribution of Erika or myself—have made every arrangement, every effort, every decision with Erika and our family in mind. We give thanks for our church community who has prayed for and supported us in so many ways. We give thanks to you, our broader community for your prayers and thoughts.

Thank you,

.douglas

The time is always ripe…

“I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: ‘All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.’ Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From Birmingham Jail