25 January 2010

Haiti: An Unimaginable Reality - A Call To Compassion

(A Haitian Woman Turning to Prayer Following the Earthquake on January 12, 2010)

There is little question that we have all by now heard of the devastation that has plagued Haiti and the Haitian people in the days following the January 12th earthquake near the capital city of Port Au Prince.

I admit that I am ashamed to reveal this, but until today--almost two weeks after the devastating quake--I had not seen one photograph nor read one official news account of the plight facing the Haitians. Of course I was privy to information emanating from second-hand sources and have even contributed to IOCC assistance efforts, but until just a few hours ago, I had no true concept of the magnitude of the situation.

In the midst of busyness and work, I somehow never made it a priority to log onto a news site and see for myself what my fellow brothers and sisters in the Caribbean are facing. Finding a few moments to log onto CNN.com, I was met with the stark headline, "Tired of stench, Haitians torch bodies in plaza"

What a wake-up call!

Set forth in an unemotional journalistic tone, the article described what might just be one of the most horrific scenes the human person could ever be faced with. Pointing out the lack of  "blood-stained dump trucks," used to provide a more respectable burial, citizens near the center of Port Au Prince were forced to take matters into their own hands.

As I read those words, I could not help but recall scenes from Holocaust concentration camps. While certainly the circumstances are different, the horrific scenes seem all too familiar.

The truth of the matter is that the Haitian people are living a hellacious reality that few of us could scarce even begin to imagine. There are no words to convey the shock I felt as I read the words of that article, trying to grasp at the pain and loss I had more-or-less chosen not to bother myself with over these last 2 weeks.

Like many others, I sit here wondering what it is I have to offer. There are so many people, so many needs, and in a real sense, so little time. I do not have the medical skills necessary to serve in triage or an OR, neither do I have architectural or big machinery experience to help in the process of clean-up and rebuilding. What is it then that I am to offer? 

Of course we should each offer, first and foremost, Prayers for God's Mercy and Love to be present in those most horrific realities the Haitians are facing. Given that most of us are unable to go and serve there on the ground in some practical capacity, we should be motivated to Donate Financially to reputable service organizations such as IOCC or the Red Cross. Further, I posit that the next most needful thing is for that which my own heart seemed to be lacking the most: Compassion.

Scripture is ripe with accounts of the compassion Christ had for others: Matthew 9:46, 14:14, 15:32, and others all give accounts of Christ, seeing the condition of those before Him, being moved to compassion for them.

Later in Philippians 2, we are reminded that "if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy," that we are again called to be imitators of Christ "by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." (vs. 1-2.)

Let us ever be mindful of what it is Christ calls us to in these seemingly overwhelming situations. Whether or not we are able to serve on the front lines of the devastation, our hearts should be overflowing with mercy and compassion for our suffering brothers and sisters! (Those who no less share our very same humanity being created in the same Image and Likeness of God!!)

As we journey through the coming days and weeks with the plight of Haiti abuzz about us, may we do more than simply go about the ins and outs of our daily life (Just as I have, unfortunately, managed to do these last 2 weeks.) Rather, may we allow God to cultivate in our dry and hardened hearts, a spirit of mercy, love, and compassion.

As theologian Oliver Clement has aptly reminded us, "Every one who relinquishes the security of a sleepwalking existence is sooner or later mortally wounded by the world's suffering." In allowing the tilling of our soul, may this vulnerability to the pain of the world be for us a path to Salvation. In so doing, we offer to the world far more than we could ever realize.

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