Wednesday, September 2, 2015


These books helped me start seeing
how communities look away
and thus allow violence.
When Kent and I were freshman in college and dating seriously, his brother and a friend decided to test my worthiness of Kent and their family through a series of interview questions.  The one question that shook my 19-year-old self was, "If you were a German in the 1930s and '40s, would you house and hide Jews?"  I had grown up learning in school about Anne Frank, Native American maltreatment, black history and oppression, and at church about persecution of the early Latter-day Saints.  I had always wondered how communities and nations got to the point of--and then got away with--persecuting and killing whomever belonged to those deemed the wrong demographic.  The friend who posed this question with my future brother-in-law had herself fled Poland as a young teenager and ended up homeless, trekking across the U.S.  The struggles of Eastern Europe were real for her, making the qusetion poignant for me.  Part of me wanted to shout, "Of course I would hide Jews.  That's the right thing to do!"  But the part of me that was planning a future marriage and family wondered if I would--or should--endanger them in such circumstances.  I didn't know what I would do.

I didn't realize until years later that such worries and fears, held by the masses, are the reason why Evil gets away with its atrocities.

Three weeks ago, our family took our annual service trip to Mexico.  During the drive, we listened to an audio book, Castaway Kid by R. B. Mitchell.  It is the author's story of his childhood in an American orphanage, and of finding God in young adulthood.  His  home life in the orphanage was very much like that of the children we serve in Mexico.  We (at A Child's Hope Foundation) partner with orphanages that operate as close to a family life as possible, sending kids to school, church activities, and teaching them to give back to their own communities through service.  Rob had these things in the American orphanage where he was raised.  Still, he struggled with hurt, anger, and rage throughout his childhood, trying to understand why his mother would abandon him there, but still visit occasionally, and why his extended family wouldn't take him in and raise him with their own children.  For me, listening to his experiences was a glimpse into what the children in the Mexican orphanages might struggle with.  A few of them are true orphans.  Most, however, are there due to neglect or abuse of some sort at home.  Their parents can come for visits, but they rarely release their parental rights, and because they never fix their own problems, the children are raised in the orphanages.

There is one group of five siblings in particular that my heart has become attached to.  They are really great kids, always positive, fun and affectionate when we are there.  One boy in particular, Santiago, has a dynamic personality.  I have watched him from a distance as he's grown from a fun-loving young boy to a sweet (but still cool) teen.  A few years ago, one of our work project volunteers fell in love with these five siblings and began the process to adopt them.  Because Mexico keeps almost all their adoptions in-country, she used her half-Mexican ancestry to gain Mexican citizenship so she could be these kids' mom.  When it came down to it, though, their own mother wouldn't relinquish the parental rights, and the adoption fell through.  The siblings were never told that someone was trying to adopt them, and so they'll likely never know that they could have stayed together, being raised by loving parents in Hawaii.  (The volunteer and her husband were able to successfully adopt two sisters from Nicaragua the next year.  They continue to send monthly financial assistance to Buena Vida Orphanage that is taking care of the kids they love.)
Santiago and #5 in 2011
Saying goodbye at the orphanage last month, I thought a lot about Santiago and whether his experiences parallel Mr. Mitchell's.  I started wondering if there is a way that Santiago could live with our family as a high school exchange student.  If he could learn English, that might put him in a position to secure a bright future.  As I thought about our family dynamics and whether we have the space in our house, creeping thoughts of concern came to mind: if he has hidden emotional or anger or other issues related to abandonment or abuse, will I be able to help him, since I don't even speak his language?  It feels like the same argument, on a smaller scale, that I fought within about the hypothetical situation to house Jews.  Do I put my own family at risk to help another?

I am mature enough now to recognize these concerns for what they are: fear.  Labeling fear for what it is, and knowing that "there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear", I can put my heart back in the right place.   If an exchange program is possible, I will move forward to bring Santiago into our home for a school year--if that's what he wants too.

Graffiti identifying the family in this
Iraqui home as Christians.
Glenn Beck has recently raised the issue for me in a different way.  Last weekend, at the Restoring Unity event in Alabama, he promoted efforts to rescue Christian refugees in the Middle East.  Those Christian families have been marked for death as Followers of the Nazarene.  The violence being committed against these Christians make the Nazi gas chambers look humane.  I won't go into it here, but Glenn Beck has described the violence, and this unaffiliated blogger gave a fair and powerful look at what is happening and the #NeverAgainIsNow movement to rescue these families.

Vernon Brewer, president and founder
of World Help, displaying "nuun" in
solidarity with Nazarenes.
I haven't listened to Beck's show much over the summer, but I am continually impressed at the charity he promotes through Mercury One, the non-profit arm of his business.  They have helped immigrants who are suffering at our border, given aid in Nepal and other locations of natural disasters, and funded covert operations to rescue children from sex slavery.  I did tune in yesterday and caught the last few minutes of Glenn's monologue asking church congregations, neighborhoods, and individuals to donate toward the goal of $10M to bring 2,000 Christians away from the horrors of ISIS.  He is asking for families who can't give money  to consider whether they have space to house a refugee family.

As I listened and envisioned inviting another family to live with us, the same old little fears about what that would look like on a daily basis began to creep in.  Would they have mental health problems as a result of their suffering and loss?  Would one of their children need to cope with having been in a rape warehouse.  How would that affect my family?  But the words of our common Master keep coming back to me: "Perfect love casteth out fear."  So what can I do?

What I realized yesterday is that even if I can't bring a family into our home right now, I can give to Mercury One's Nazarene Fund right now.  This Sunday is the LDS Fast Sunday.  The first Sunday of each month is our family's opportunity to go without food for a day and donate to our Church the amount that we would have spent on the two skipped meals.  Our bishop uses the funds to give relief to our neighbors in need.  It is a day to give and to strengthen our spirits as we set aside the wants of our hunger in the interest of others.  About 15 years ago, Kent and I realized, with prompting from the Spirit, that we needed to give more than the cost of two meals on Fast Sundays.  We needed to give enough that it hurt a little, making our giving a true sacrifice.  As we've followed that direction ever since, God has taken our little sacrifice and returned blessings to us.

This month, my church will get less as I give part of our fast offering money to help my fellow Christians in the Middle East.  I wish I could buy one of the houses for sale in our neighborhood to give to a refugee family.  I would love to bring them here to this place of hope and neighborly kindness.   For now, though, my action for #NeverAgainIsNow (a call to remember the world's vow of "never again" at the conclusion of the Holocaust) is a simple monetary donation.  I encourage you to match or exceed my $100 donation to the Nazarene Fund, and to pray for those suffering at the hand of Evil.  For me, this is a step away from my thoughts of doubt and fear and towards love and goodness.

No comments: