The question "what did you learn this summer at World Relief ?" sparks millions of trails in my mind. There is no general answer.
Working with people in poverty or in suffering is never easy. It means stepping out of your comfortable, idealized view of the world and into a place where, the majority of the time, things just aren't fair. Often you end up wrestling with the nature of God--is He for us or against us? How can anyone say that God is for us when there is a family in pain and suffering, missing family members, barely surviving?
This stream of thought often leads to dehumanization. We isolate the pain, the negative stories, and assign it to a person as their only characteristics. This summer, I began to see people not just as victims of horrible circumstances--though they are, in many cases--but rather as feeling, intelligent human beings whose sorrow ran deep, because of their circumstances in life and because they are far from God. They laughed, like me; they cried, like me. They got hurt and confused, they had good days and bad days. Is my suffering in any way comparable to theirs? Hardly. But I realized that in order to truly care about the people I was meeting, I had to care about them as people. It's easy to care about them as a box on the checklist; it's harder to emotionally engage when you know, chances are, you will encounter difficulty and you may suffer as a result of truly understanding their pain. When running around with refugees constantly, it was easy to get caught up in meeting physical needs. And granted, these physical needs are essential and were what I was there to provide. However, using these physical solutions to cop out of engaging emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually was a fear mechanism I soon began to recognize in myself.
It's hard to remember that God is good when you're sitting with a family trying to get them foods stamps, and they don't understand what's happening but they can't tell you so all they can do is look at you and smile sadly. It's hard to remember that God is good when a child is screaming while getting checked for diseases...and tests positive. It's hard to remember that God is good when a hardworking, brilliant doctor comes to the States as a refugee and is not allowed to practice.
And sometimes, as Christians and as the Church, I think we fear those questions. We cover our eyes because it's just so hard to deal with these questions. The evil in the world is overwhelming. It seems like no matter what we do we can never make a dent.
Our duty as the Church, however, is to brave our fears of wrestling with evil and engaging with pain. One thing I learned about God over the summer of 2014 is that if you ask Him to break your heart the way His is broken for the lost, HE WILL. And that is not easy. It's painful and uncomfortable and disorienting. The whole question reminds me a lot of Psalm 22. David begins by saying "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest." In the moment of pain and hopelessness it is hard to understand, but David continues to seek the Lord's face in all that he does. The psalm ends with, "all the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!"
Throughout the pain, there is joy: there are smiles, there is laughter, and there are new friends and new faces. For anywhere that there is pain and darkness, there is the Lord proclaiming "I AM HERE AND I CARE," using His people to heal the hearts and hurts of His Creation.
More information about this summer's internship program is available here! Interviews for the Summer Internship 2015 will begin in April 2015 and the deadline for application is May 1.