Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Weight Of Inequality And The Baby In Front Of Me

Her brother knocked on our door as soon as we returned. He is a friend of ours. Could he bring his sister and her new baby to see us tomorrow? He told us the baby is sick. 

I wasn’t prepared for the depths of pain for this 14-day old boy and the grief of his mother. This beautiful baby is missing part of his skull (though all is covered with skin), has severe spina bifida (The skin never closed over the back and so part of his insides, about the size of an orange, are outside of his little back, nerves and all. His legs are limp and unresponsive and he nurses between pained cries. 

She was discharged from the hospital as she didn’t have money to get to an Addis Ababa hospital where operations are available. In recovery herself without a father of the baby in the picture, the mama is grieving and angry at God for giving her a child like this. She knows, even with best-case scenario outcomes to medical treatment, this survivor, overcoming tremendous obstacles just to be born alive and to fight to nurse, will need a wheelchair for life. A wheelchair in a rutted, mud world doesn’t sound promising to her now. She sees the way people don’t understand physical or mental handicaps and the repulsion for differences. She hears the hopelessness in people’s voices and the suggestions that it would be better for all if the baby just died. 

Tomorrow, she heads on a bus with her brother to Addis Ababa where SIM contacts will meet them at a bus station to navigate the maze, jumble and smog of Addis for the first time. 

The inequality in the healthcare systems and available treatment has churned in my mind. I have access to medical evacuation flights and the best medical care in the world for nothing I have done but because of where I have been born. Believing that all humans are valuable, even the less than perfect ones, even the ones who weren’t born in countries of privilege, we pray and trust God to be revealed through this, in beauty, though all the family can see now is brokenness and what seems to them as a cruel sentence of pain and death. 

Please pray with us for the difficult trip ahead for her, the first time in Addis Ababa, protection, Doctors who can take time to show her love and the precious little life, squirming, trying to get comfortable in her arms. Pray she is comforted. 

I’ve felt deeply convicted and burdened lately with a lesson God is not letting me escape, teaching me on every side. I recently worked through a Bible study on the Minor Prophets, moving into a study on the Old Testament Judges. A banner theme throughout each of these prophets and onto the judges surprised me. God repeatedly called His people back to Himself from their cycle of sin. Their sin is clearly known as the Israelite people serving other Gods. But what I previously did not see as a theme woven through is also the Israelites rejection of God’s command of working for justice, loving the “Quartet of the vulnerable” (From Keller’s, “Generous Justice”) Orphans, widows, immigrant and poor.

IMG 5089

Amos 5 specifically talks of the many ways the Israelites have forsaken justice and oppressed the groups God has commanded his people to care for. 

Amos 5:21-24

“ ‘I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offering and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.”

Finishing up with Judges, a friend handed me the previously quoted Tim Keller book, “Generous Justice”. I can’t recommend the book more highly, though I am only 50% complete. 

Our family’s memory work right now is Isaiah 58 (Wow, read it). God is hitting me over the head with this theme. I am praying I learn how this looks for me, for our family, here in our community and in our world.  How do we consistently show Jesus and God to a hurting a broken world? How do we work out justice for the vulnerable? I care about the unborn, how do I show in tangible ways I care about the born? Not just the born who are like me or from my area but seeing each soul as inherently precious as a creation of God?

My heart is breaking about it all and I have sat silent over many issues the Lord burns in my heart because I fear making people upset.  My intention is not to be polarizing or upsetting. At risk of walking into a minefield, the current narrative of children separated from parents in the news highlights one of the four groups God does not let us forget as a vulnerable and oppressed. As Christians, can we make it not about politics but about Bible? 

The Bible overflows (Old Testament and New Testament) with calls to radical, counter-comfort love. God-fueled love poured out on behalf of the vulnerable, on behalf of those who can’t pay me back in any form. These calls to justice, to fight oppression, it applies to immigrant children. It applies to their parents. There needs to be laws and immigration policies in place but in the process, can all still be treated humanely? 

1) Our family has children who have experienced the trauma of separation from birthparents and it still affects them today.

2) We directly see the implications of how being born into poverty or an unstable political climate has lasting effects on entire societies and we don’t take lightly our privilege and blessing but also don’t want to be entitled to it as ours, or our life goal to preserve.

As I prayed yesterday, I wondered at what cost to me, to America, if like the Israelites, we turn our backs on the vulnerable. The orphan, the widow, the immigrant and the poor. I put myself in the place of a mother who knows the way to a different country is fraught with danger, probably rape, possible death and sure mistreatment but as she weighs her decision, her desperation ebbs from every mental space as these terrible risks are easier than what her family is currently facing. I know how easy it is to reduce people into groups and then we can make broad and sweeping decisions. I would never want someone to make these broad and sweeping decisions if my children fit into these groups. 

Isaiah 58:6-10

“Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the find, and speaking wickedness,

if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted. than shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.  


Anonymous said...

So many thoughts. Thanks for again for your raw honesty. Isaiah 58 is so convicting! Amen and may God help us to see our own selfishness in light of Jesus!


Kristen Hoerr said...

Thanks for sharing what you have been learning. That is a very convicting theme in your study that I never noticed!

smw said...

I have been noticing this same theme as I read through the Bible. Having similar thoughts all around. Praying He guides me to know how to help. It’s so big that I don’t have a clue how to begin to help. Praying for the baby and his family.

Janel said...

Your way with words is amazing! This is hard stuff! Praying for that little boy and his mama! And for you guys to know how to walk along side!