Your list is probably different. Mine goes like this:
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, 1998…maybe 1997. Funny how you forget what year it was but never lose the memory of the family’s face when your group handed over the keys to their new house. Previously they lived in a pallet/cardboard shack. Their bathroom was a hole in the ground with some curtains for privacy. It was the first time I ever saw extreme poverty. I was seventeen. I layered stucco until “stucco” was an expletive in my vocabulary. It was hard work, but I didn’t walk away from that construction site the same person. What I’d experienced was not okay.
Adelaide Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, 1999. It was the first time I ever worked in the inner city. The kids were dirty. When gunfire rang out down the block, I cowered in fear while they kept playing. Old news to them. Their homes were larger than the kids in Mexico but their lives were no more hopeful. I pushed them on the swings and gave them piggy back rides until my muscles ached. Then I got in my car and drove back to the suburbs. What I’d experienced was not okay.
Inner City, Washington D.C., 2002. More piggy back rides. More dirty kids. VBS. DeWayne and DeJean. Government-funded housing. Welfare culture. Would the kids I was carrying on my back make it out alive? Would they land in jail like many of their fathers? Would they pedal dope or the Gospel? I got in a van and drove back to the midwest and didn’t have answers to any of my questions. Still don’t. Not okay.
Santiago, Dominican Republic, 2005. “The Hole” is not the name of a neighborhood I’d want to live in. Hundreds of families do–in the midst of garbage and sewage and animals that they compete with for food. “The Fly” was not a hole filled with garbage but a mountain of it–constantly smoldering. I thought of the Greek word used for “hell” in the New Testament. These people were living in hell. The daily dumped contents of nearby cities was their livelihood. I flew back to the states and bought a bacon cheeseburger at the Miami Airport. It mixed with the taste of smoke and dirt in my mouth and I couldn’t finish it. I pondered the things I’d seen and on a Sunday morning after days of resistance I sat on my couch and I cried. It was a loud cry. I don’t know if I was crying for the people I had met or for myself. My spoiled rotten self. Things were not okay.
Mexico City, Mexico, 2010. More poverty. More hopelessness. Kids dumped in garbage cans, rescued by missionaries and given a home. Plenty of kids not rescued–living on the streets begging for money. Human beings owned by other human beings, pimped out for profit. More dirt, more smoke, more stupid systems and obstacles and red tape and frustration. More not okay.
India, 2013. The one-legged boy tapping on our window, begging for change. The persecuted pastors being beaten for preaching. The girl found in a plastic bag on the side of the road. The children dancing and singing as a welcome to the white people. The stench of the train, the glassiness of the eyes, the stories of children being rescued from red light districts. I got on a jet and flew twenty-something hours back to America. I realized the hook that was constant in all my experiences was the same: Things Are Not Okay.
Your list may be different in specifics, but the conclusion our lists lead us to is universally the same. There are things in this world that are not okay. There are people bought and sold as commodities. There are children starving to death. There are women widowed because their husbands dared to preach the Gospel. There are places where water is laced with sewage but the people drink it anyway because its wet and they have nothing else. There are cardboard shacks and diseases and glassy eyes and gunshots and hopelessness.
There are also a growing number of people who think that is not okay.
I am one of them, and I suspect you are too. After returning from India and my wife from the Dominican Republic my wife and I started a nonprofit organization that will buy food and drill wells and provide shelter and help sick people and welcome strangers and do all the other stuff Jesus says to do in Matthew 25. It’s called The 25 Group.
Because what we do for the least of these we do for Him.
Because there’s plenty in this world that is not okay.
Because Jesus doesn’t think that all this stuff is okay, either. That’s why He told us to take care of those people–with food and water and the truth about who He is.
Join us as we seek to leverage the wealth of the American church–the bacon cheeseburgers and the jets and the cars and the houses and the coffees and the mobile devices and the concert tickets and the designer labels and the whatevers–to fund global Kingdom work. There’s a village in India with no school, church building, clean water well, or community gathering spot. We’re funding a space that will serve all those needs. There’s a community in the Dominican Republic with an unfunded feeding center and there are in fact ten feeding centers in the country that are supplied vitamins year round (one meal a day, six days a week) by a ministry there. We’re going to fund the feeding center and the vitamins for all. The total cost is a little over $53,000 for both projects. We plan to visit each location someday, money in hand, look them in the eyes and say:
“It’s going to be okay.”
And it will be.
Your gift of any amount would go a long way, or you can commit to a monthly gift and watch project after project after project completed for folks like the ones I mention above. A lot of people just giving a little can make a big difference.
On that I think we can all agree.
The previous was originally posted on three great blogs as a part of a guest-post blitz I did to help get the word out about The 25 Group, the nonprofit I mention in the post. I wanted to post it here so it was easy to find in the future. However, I also want to encourage you to go check out these great blogs. They post great content and are even better people. Thanks again to Jon Cook, Whitney Masters, and Jenni Giesey on helping spread the news.