Monday, November 19, 2007

Closing comments

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I’m writing here on the plane home and am just starting to process. I am a person who needs time alone and space before I can really think and feel. Luckily, there’s nobody sitting next to me.

This morning, one team member was sharing about how the poverty of all the children in Hialeah affected him – and how hard it was then to enjoy our luxurious day and meal at the volcanic lake the next day. I then wondered why it hadn’t really bothered me when we were there or at the lake the next day. I dug into my nutritious and delicious meal of fish, rice, french fries and vegetables, with bottled water and beer and enjoyed it. And I didn’t think at all of the desperation of the food distribution at the church the day before. I honestly didn’t think of the little girl that was trying to get some water for her little brother – and who I didn’t give any to because we didn’t have any cups and I didn’t want her to drink out of my water bottle and start a stampede with all the other kids who were thirsty and most likely had no source of clean drinking water. All after we had just had Bible school and done an activity and skit about the Good Samaritan and that when people are thirsty, we should give them water.

I thought of a few reasons why I wasn't bothered:

1) My natural instinct when I am overwhelmed or when I have not had any time to myself, is to withdraw or avoid.

2) I suspect that I’m a little burned out in general. I sometimes find Washington overwhelming in need…and causes…and feel “cause fatigue”. Just at our church – we have so many ministries for so many things – all very important and all very needed. And I just have to remind myself of all the wonderful people in the world, and all they are doing on behalf of those in need. I don’t have to, nor can I, nor should I, try to do it all myself. As we’ve kept saying on this trip – we each have different gifts.

3) Through different living and traveling experiences abroad and in the U.S., I’ve seen different kinds and levels of poverty. Upon reflection, I think that has led me to become a bit cavalier (or sometimes fatigued) to the point of losing some capacity for compassion. Sad but true that I wasn't shocked at all seeing the conditions people were living in.

This trip and those kids have really humbled me. I'm comforted in knowing that I do have respect for and think of those living in poverty as my equals. But it’s easy for me to confuse pity with compassion. Pity for those in poverty (I'm thinking of material, but I suppose it applies to emotional or spiritual poverty as well) feels paternalistic to me. I don’t want to “feel sorry” for people – because that is taking away their power. But it is something else entirely to be compassionate and empathetic.

[Disclaimer: I'm not saying that one shouldn't be shocked, angry or depressed by poverty or feel bad for people - people just experience things differently. I'm left wondering if my sense of justice isn't jaded because I wasn't more emotionally affected.]

Today, Monday, November 19

Going back to work this morning. I want to post some last photos. I'm not sure how long I'll keep this blog up - but at least for a little while. We plan to do a short presentation in church and a longer one after. I hope to post our presentation/photos from that, so those of you not in Washington can share with us.

In closing - I'd like to say it was a challenging and very rich experience. These type of short-term mission trips are as much or even more about helping us grow and learn, as it is about helping the people in whatever country. Growing and learning is a worthy goal, and I think my team members would agree with me in saying that God stretched and grew all of us. Our hosts did a fantastic job of setting up meetings with many organizations, to give us a good overall view of the work being done in many areas. So many thanks to all of them.

Our specific trip was meant to help build longer term relationships - and I think we have accomplished that. I'm excited to see the fruits of this trip!

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