More Thoughts on Mercy Ministries
At George Mason University, where I serve, Campus Crusade is sponsoring an event we call “Love Week-Love Haiti.” We are partnering with as many student organizations as we can to pack meals for people in Haiti. We hope these newly formed friendships pave the way for gospel conversations.
I’ve written a piece we plan to give to everyone who comes to help us pack the meals. I’ve copied it below. I welcome your comments about it.
Why do we love Haiti?
The question probably sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t anyone love Haiti? Hasn’t that country suffered terribly? An earthquake destroyed homes, roads, hospitals and other buildings, killing thousands. A cholera epidemic now threatens to kill even more. And the weather report of heavy storms forebodes still more tragedy. How can our hearts not go out to these beleaguered people?
The outpouring of aid has been historic and encouraging. People from all over the world have offered financial and physical help. In the midst of such a crisis, it is worth examining our motives for helping Haiti and anyone else in desperate need. One lesson we can learn from the past is that, without substantive long-term motivation, aid to Haiti will dwindle before all the needs are met.
When there’s an emergency people pitch in and help for a variety of reasons. Most of those motivations are very good. Some do so from a concern for equity. It just isn’t fair, they reason, that some have so much while others starve. Some express compassion because of our common humanity. They think, “I’m just another human being on a different spot on the same planet.” Still others have a sense of “rightness.” “It’s the right thing to do,” they say. And most people sense that’s right! And some give time, money, or tangible goods as a rebellion against things that should not be.
It’s true that some people probably offer aid with selfish motives. Writing a check makes them feel good about themselves or helps them with a tax break or alleviates some sort of free floating guilt. One could easily see why such motivation is less than ideal but the overall net effect, globally speaking, outweighs any hypocrisy. Even if people give in order to gain, it still seems better than blatant selfishness or gluttonous consumption.
“Love Week/Love Haiti” at our campus is sponsored by a Christian organization, Campus Crusade for Christ. We affirm the good motivations mentioned above. We are grateful to partner with other student organizations and individuals with a diversity of motivations. And we delight that we can share in common human cause with people who believe differently about God, people, goodness, life, eternity, or other worldview-shaping topics.
Nevertheless we also cherish some specific motivations that Christians find helpful in addressing the seemingly never-ending needs of a broken world. We hope you’ll read on and hear some of our thoughts about why we love Haiti and hope to sponsor similar events year after year (until a day comes when packing food boxes, collecting money, sending medical help, and offering clothing just won’t be necessary).
We are whole people with physical bodies, emotional centers, spiritual cores, and social connections. As such, we relate to, find similarity with, and feel compassion for all people with the same multifaceted makeup. We resonate with people in need and care about them – body, soul, spirit, and community.
As people who see God’s hand of provision and care behind every good gift (perhaps that’s why we pray before we eat a meal), we are thankful for every morsel, every cup of water, each garment, and all pleasures. Out of gratitude to a generous giver, we want to share what we have been freely given.
As readers of a revealed text, the Bible, we affirm that the world isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. And it’s not the way it someday will be. The Bible’s beginning and ending (Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22) both show us that the world was originally made good with no earthquakes or natural disasters that would ever destroy lives or harm the environment. It speaks of a world where the physical surroundings and human flourishing worked hand in hand to display a connection between Creator and creature. There was even harmony between animals and humans.
But people’s rebellion marred all that. Ever since, we see evidence and feel pain in a world that’s out of whack. We long for a day when harmony in every dimension of life will repair chaos. Some of our best songs and works of art plead for a time when sorrow, anguish, ugliness, and death will be no more. That longing unites us today and gives us foretastes of a world that will one day look like the world as it once was.
This corresponds to an inner longing many of us feel – a sense that not only the world around us is out of order but we ourselves are not the way we should be. One popular Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, put it this way in an essay titled The Weight of Glory: “Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”
Most of all, as Christians, we feel an eternal sense of gratitude that God has taken care of our greatest need, the need for forgiveness. We have each come to the realization that we need the divine pronouncement of pardon or we would be fairly judged and worthy of eternal separation from our Maker. God would not be unfair to allow us to have the logical consequence of eternal separation from his presence since we lived (and at times still live) as if we’d like God to leave us alone. “God leaving us alone” would be horrible, given how good he is. To be separated for all eternity from any of God’s goodness would make the current situation in Haiti look like a minor tip of an iceberg. In fact, in some ways, that’s an accurate way to look at all the natural disasters of the world – tips of icebergs of alienation from God’s goodness.
Since we’ve received a gracious solution to our greatest spiritual problem, we can give away earthly goods to help others with physical needs. Since we didn’t deserve God’s grace but benefit from someone dying in our place (that’s what we believe about Jesus’ death on the cross – it was more than a mere political martyrdom), we can reach out to people no matter who they are. Our right standing with God came not because we’re good enough but because Jesus’ good work on the cross purchased our pardon. We can give things away because we were given the greatest gift.
The blessings we sense in this life – a close connection with God, the freedom of forgiveness, an overflow of gratitude, and many other prompters of praise – point us towards a world that will one day be restored. Brief blessings in this life point us with hope towards the next one. They give us strength to work for justice, equity, relief, and expressions of love – even in the midst of tragedy, earthquakes, disease, and death. That’s why we love Haiti. That’s why we love life. That’s why we love God.
This article is written by Randy Newman, a staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ at George Mason University. You can express comments or write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org