Haiti. It is hard to imagine. Tucked in the somewhat artificial security of middle-class American suburbia, I found my mind continually drifting back to this tragedy, trying to make sense of it. The poverty of the area, the magnitude of the earthquake, the depth and breadth of the hardship and grief. Because even though I could offer some theological explanations for the existence of evil and adversity in the world, there is still the reality of the personal suffering and pain.
If you think about it, the large-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti could hit any of us. Especially for those of us living in northern California. So I live in this weird juxtaposition: I sip my latte and pray for Haiti.
Honestly, it paralyzed my blogging for a time. I felt that anything I had to say in terms of faith and the arts paled in comparison to the larger issues of life and death, tragedy and circumstance, God’s will and the brevity of human life.
There are bright spots. Worldwide, nations have responded to the crisis. Individually, men and women have demonstrated great generosity and acts of service. Internally, more people are—at least for a moment—considering the deeper things of life, and counting their blessings.
My wife, Debbie, and I have talked about this. Faith should lead to action somehow, if the faith is real. So we have supported the relief efforts, as many of you have. But I also want my art to count for something too. Because if my art is an expression of my faith, then I want my art to have some tangible expression of walking my faith. So here’s what we came up with.
For the next month, if you purchase any of my CDs, we’ll give 100% of the money to the relief efforts. Just go to the CDBaby link below:
If you order any of my four albums (either in Compact Disc or MP3 download), we’ll give all of the money to the relief efforts. We’ll open this up for the next month and probably longer. If you haven’t yet gotten any of my music, now is the best time to do so. (You can also listen to it first, so you’ll know what you’re getting!)
We are giving through Compassion International, and we recommend this amazing organization to you as well. If you don’t want to buy my music, or if you simply want to give, then please hit this link:
Either way, we strongly urge you to give. Like I said, faith should lead to action somehow, if the faith is real.
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-16 TNIV
Many of you know that my nineteen year old son, Justin, and I recently returned from a missions trip to Ecuador, guests of Compassion International. There is nothing like an overseas missions trip to give one a sense of perspective, and both of us have had our perceived worlds expanded through the experience. So it was with great appreciation that we accepted the offer from the twins (and their teacher, Mrs. Banks) to visit their fifth grade class and tell them about our trip.
I should have known something was up though, because Justin, who is my often outrageously fun-loving son, offered to “warm up the crowd” as we spoke. Sure enough, my cringe moment came when Justin faced the classroom of ten and eleven year olds and asked his ice breaker: “So how many of you know what ‘The Runs’ is?”
All kidding aside (and Justin was actually adolescently mesmerizing), I struggled a little with the whole idea of sharing our trip with these fifth graders. I was even having trouble simply sharing it with Rachel and Paige. We live in an upper middle class neighborhood, where the children play in soccer leagues with brand new matching uniforms, all own X-Box or Nintendo DS systems, are able to access hundreds of TV stations on their large flat screen TVs. The idea of real poverty–that a large portion of the world still does not have clean and drinkable water (much less plumbing), or has dirt floors in their small homes (if they have a home), or access to basic medical assistance or education–is difficult to express to these children. How do I help these children gain a compassion for people they don’t know? How do I help them gain an appreciation and thankfulness for the privileged lives they lead? How do I help them make their own perceived worlds bigger?
So Justin and I told them our story. Of how we took the long plane trip from Sacramento to Dallas to Miami to Quito. Of how we visited different project sites and met all of these beautiful children who have been given hope through the physical, emotional, and spiritual efforts of Compassion. Of how we encountered a group of people who were very different than us, but were very similar to us.
Mostly we talked about meeting eleven year old Jefferson and his family, and how we spent half a day with them. We told them about how Jefferson wanted to be a soccer player or a carpenter when he grows up. We told them how Jefferson is able to go to school (school not being a given) and how he and his unborn sibling are being taken care of by Compassion. We told them of walking the dirty, dusty streets of their town, of visiting their church, of picking strawberries in the field that his father leases. We told them how this is the only way that they make money, earn a living, feed the family.
There were good questions. Justin and I contrasted how much money an Ecuadoran earns per day (about $7 per day) versus how much they get in allowance (about $20 per month). We contrasted how many Ecuadoran people sleep in one room (an entire family) versus how they live (many children had their own bedrooms). We talked about buying Jefferson a soccer ball as a gift, and how grateful he was to have it (as he hardly had any toys at all).
In the end, I think they were starting to get it. Many of the children talked about being thankful for what they had and for the school they go to. And the biggest thrill for me was getting thank you hugs from Paige and Rachel at the end.
Later, as I thought through the events of the day, I had this picture in my mind of Jefferson. What if he were suddenly transplanted from his modest home in Otavalo, the one with no plumbing and two light bulbs and no floor, and dropped into Rachel’s and Paige’s classroom, with its high-tech multimedia system, Promethean interactive white board, row of computers, and children in designer clothes. What would he think of us? How would he act? And how would we respond? I would like to believe that he would be welcomed in and befriended by my children and their classmates. I would like to believe that he would soon be out on the playground, smiling, laughing, and kicking a soccer ball with his new friends in El Dorado Hills.
For as much as we were so warmly welcomed and invited into the lives of our Ecuadoran friends, I would hope the same of us.
NOTE: I strongly urge you to check out Compassion International and consider supporting their world-changing efforts through the sponsorship of children around the world—in the name of Jesus Christ. Check them out at Compassion.