Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Question and a Rewrite

Katie Davis is settling into her first year in Uganda, and she’s feeling the contrast between what she left behind in the United States and what she’s experiencing every day in her village and school.

We’re in chapter three of Kisses from Katie, by Katie Davis and Beth Clark. Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter are leading our online discussion of the book. This chapter raises issues for me that are similar to the ones from chapter one. And so I will ask a question and attempt to answer it.

Is it possible to communicate the desperate need of people in a developing country (and for some countries, “developing” might be an exaggeration) without making comparisons to suggest a wealthier country is inherently bad, or flawed, or oblivious? It’s not that the book says that directly, but comparisons inherently imply or suggest we should feel guilty.

I should say that if we as American Christians center our lives on driving our SUVs to Starbucks and shopping at the mall, then we should feel guilty if we ignore the plight of the poor and sick. (For the record, I don’t drive an SUV, but I have been known to visit Starbucks; I try to avoid shopping malls.)

But that is not the American Christians I know. The ones I know are sponsoring children through World Vision, Compassion International and Samaritan’s Purse. They are supporting missionaries like Katie in Uganda and missionaries in the inner city in the United States. They send their children on mission trips. They themselves often go on mission trips, paying the full cost themselves. They teach Sunday School. They show up for church work days. They try to make a difference in their workplaces. They volunteer in prisons.

Here’s one passage from chapter three that I encountered and almost gritted my teeth over:

“As I thought about the discrepancies between the culture I came from and the one I now lived in, I could not stop thinking about my life and the lives of many of my friends in the States – and being appalled by our luxuries when people on our same planet were living in such poverty and need. I began to realize huge flaws and gaps in my faith, a wide chasm between what I proclaimed to believe and how I was actually living.”

Admirably, she turns these thoughts on herself. She feels compelled to do something, and she does. But her words also suggest something about what she believes about where she comes from.

Here’s how I would have written that paragraph:

“As I thought about the material blessings of the life I came from, and the gaping need of what I now saw every day, I couldn’t stop thinking about what God was saying to me, how he was stretching and growing my faith, and what he would have me do.”

To see more posts on chapter three of Kisses form Katie, please visit Sarah Salter at Living Between the Lines.


JofIndia said...

"Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."

But of course, He didn't mean it, did He...

Jerry said...

Good question and thoughtful answer. The rewrite is grace filled and worth searching our hearts over. I want to make time soon to read this wonderful book. I hear so many wonderful things about it.

Louise Gallagher said...

I like how you've interpreted her comment.

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

I agree Glynn. We certainly have stress in the USA. I've noticed that most Americans want to give generously to help others out. Sadly, many organizations have blown our trust. I believe many Americans are searching for a valid and honest way. It's heartbreaking to give to an organization only to learn the money was invested instead of actually helping the poor. Or we may give supporting one cause to find out the money is going to something completely opposite. I like the idea of searching our hearts to find God's answer. I know I'm not called to foreign missions. When I signed up as a summer missionary I was sent to California : ) Lots of kids came to know Christ.

Anonymous said...

i have just finished chapter three.

my thought is that anyone that is paying attention, in truth, will continually see a gap between what they think they are living in Christ and what they are actually living.

there will always be more work for the Holy Spirit to do within each believer as long as they are living on this earth.

guilt does not make anyone really "want" to give-up their comforts and things they might have treasured, it is something more, something different, that makes a person want to do this. i think that it is Love, God Himself, within us; it is the Holy Spirit speaking to our heart that makes people want to do this.

i think that all believers could really stand to pay more attention to what God is truly saying to our hearts. For what we hear, and in hearing, what we do is our business and our life.

What we do is between us and God as well as why we do it. Sometimes in helping, we can get carried away with the doing, and start to do things for our own reasons, and forget to do the listening and obeying.

and while thinking we are being good and doing right, we have instead gotten lost in our self.

such an easy thing to do...

perhaps that is why we are not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, so that our giving is done in secret. that way, it stays between the giver and God. and we do not as easily get carried away and lost in our self.

jasonS said...

Glynn, that's what I was trying to get at in my post, but I think it quite hit. The reason she knew there was something different, why education was so important, etc. was because she had experienced it herself. Is there more we can all do? I'm sure of it, but I also know that if it's not in our hearts and only out of guilt, we can't sustain it and we become resentful. Thanks for the thoughtful response once again, Glynn.