My Challenge to the Christian World

When I was a child (it’s fascinating how many of my sermons, blog posts and thought processes begin with those five words) one of the things my dad taught us brothers to do (there were three of us) was to string together a litany of cause and effect scenarios, explaining why we should not perform a certain action (yes, I grew up in a slightly eccentric home).

For example, we had a gravel driveway, and we would sometimes go out with an old baseball bat and hit rocks out towards a wooded area that was near our home (have you ever seen a father hitting baseballs to his son?  It was like that, only with gravel, and nobody on the receiving end). Needless to say, it was a pretty pointless activity.

Rather than facing the futility of telling us to stop doing it, however, my dad would come up with this elaborate chain of events leading to the destruction of the world…all because we hit that tiny piece of gravel into the wooded lot.

Here’s an example, if you’re interested.  “Imagine…you hit that piece of gravel across the road, and because it wasn’t where it’s always been, the rain is going to wash away the dirt that is now exposed to the elements.  Because of that dirt being washed away, this winter the ice will freeze in that spot a little bit thicker than last time, which will cause the sun to glint off of that one spot of ice, striking me in the eye some sunny afternoon this winter.”

“Because of that glint of light, I’ll misjudge the amount of space I have to park the car in, which will make me hit the house with the car.  The house will fall on top of the car, the paramedics won’t be able to dig me out because of all the debris, and since they’re not available to respond to another situation (because they’re trying to dig me out from under the fallen house), a small child elsewhere in Wellman will go without medical help at a time of crisis.”

“That small child will end up dying (my father could be a morbid man), and they will fail to become the president of the United States, the only one who could have achieved world peace.  Because they were not able to assume the office of President, world war breaks out instead of world peace, we are cast into the abyss of nuclear warfare, and the entire world is destroyed…all because you had to hit that stupid rock with the baseball bat.”

This mental exercise became kind of a past-time of ours.  Whenever someone was behaving stupidly, rather than telling them to stop, we would make up these elaborate stories, linking the chain of events (always with the demise of the world as the logical conclusion) to their action or inaction in a given situation.

As you can tell, this was a pretty creative, and comical way of encouraging us as kids to develop some critical thinking skills, as well as linking our actions in the present moment to a future outcome.

I only wish all such chains were as playful as the ones I grew up with.

Did you know that every year 15,000 children age out of the foster care system in the United States?

* 98% of those will not earn a bachelor’s degree,

* 51% will be unemployed.

* 30% will not have health insurance, even though they qualify for Medicaid (they apparently won’t know that).

  • Up to one in five will commit suicide in the first year after aging out.
  • One in four (25%) will experience homelessness in the first year.
  • 84% will become parents in the first year after exiting the foster system (and the cycle will continue).
  • 60% of the young women will become prostitutes
  • 70% of the young men will become “hardened” criminals.
  • 70% of the victims of human trafficking in the U.S. were foster kids.

(all stats taken from this site)

These are simple statistics, but they tell a story about who has privilege, who has power, and who doesn’t have anything.

So last night, Christine and I were talking about this story, and what we can do to change it. We recognize that we have unbelievable resources compared with most of the world.  As I contemplate a sociology class I had in college, I am at least aware of my invisible knapsack (a.k.a. ‘white privilege’), even if the contents haven’t been fully examined.

This is a chain that can be broken.  We are in the process of adopting a child from Colombia, and we will most likely adopt more children in the future, which will break this chain for at least a number of children.

But we’re not satisfied with that.

We would like to encourage more families to consider expanding their families through adoption, but we wouldn’t be satisfied by simply doing that, either.

Because the truth of the matter is, all of us can do something, and I’d even go so far as to say all of us are on the hook.  It’s not simply that we need more parents who are willing to adopt children (though we certainly do).  It’s not that we simply need less orphans (though we certainly do).

It’s that we also need mentors who are willing to come alongside foster kids of all ages (and even the young adults who are struggling).  We need jobs willing to hire kids with no experience.  We need to educate girls everywhere; tell them they are beautiful, strong, independent people who have a future.  We need to teach the boys too; that there is a cause and effect relationship in the world; their actions today determine the tomorrow they wake up to.

Each and every one of us can do something about this chain of events leading to the heartbreaking statistics I’ve listed above.  And it’s each and every one of our responsibility to do so (all the more if you claim the term “Christian” as any part of your identifier).

So here’s my challenge; I want you to take responsibility to do something (anything) more than what you’re doing to address the issues I’ve outlined above.  I challenge you to volunteer your time, your voice, your money, or your home.  Open up your life to the needs you see around you.  If you can encourage someone to adopt, do it.  If you’ve been considering adoption, do it.  If you always think about volunteering when you drive by an agency, or an outreach, or a church; do it.

If you give $100 every month to an organization that educates, or informs, or feeds, or advocates for the orphan, or meets the needs that create less orphans…this month give $150 (chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you can afford it).

I’m tired of counting baby steps towards solutions to problems that are so clearly identified; especially by people who claim to represent the biggest, baddest God to be found.  I can do something more.  You can do something more.  So let’s do it.

Here is a list of places to get started if you just don’t know where to begin.

Your local church.  Talk to your pastor(s) about the significant issues facing your community’s young people.  Together, you could develop an action plan, or assist other local agencies, non-profits, organizations or school systems that are actively working at some of the things that contribute to the problem.

Your local schools.  For the most part, principals will likely be glad for the chance to enlist some help.  Ask what you can do, if there are after school programs you could help with, students that could use a mentor, etc (be prepared for a background check).

Here are some websites that are worth checking out as well (I am Mennonite, so you’ll see a bias reflected).

Compassion International

Alliance for Children (my personal favorite, they are facilitating our Colombian adoption)

MCC Global Families program (they support community based education for children and youth around the world)

MEDA (Creating business solutions to poverty)

Mennonite Mission Network

Ten Thousand Villages (creates opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term fair trading relationships.    Product sales help pay for food, education, healthcare and housing for artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed).

 Showhope adoption resource

Elegant Tees (buy clothing made by women who have come out of (been rescued from) the sex trade).

This is a very partial list. The chances are, you have more power than you think you do in creating a better world.  If your actions keep even one child from becoming a ‘hardened criminal’ or a victim of the sex trade, isn’t that worth making that change?

I challenge you to make a change for the remainder of Lent, and beyond.  Do something.  Then tell me about it.  Leave me a comment (Facebook, this blog, etc).  I’d love to be encouraged by you in this way, and I’d love to receive the encouragement of your witness as well.

Will you do that?

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4 Responses to My Challenge to the Christian World

  1. Joyce Klingelsmith says:

    Thank you for this post. Our family (we had 2 daughters) welcomed a foster girl into our home when she was 17 and adopted her when she was 20 yrs old. We went through many, many difficult years with her; attempted suicide, anger, lying, fear, etc. which led to many challenges to our family. Through it all, she refused to become a statistic, she entered into therapy (and still receives therapy) and has worked very hard at believing in herself and trusting others. She is a college graduate, married for 17 years with 2 beautiful children. She just called me today and said that she has been accepted into seminary. I know ours may not be the normal story for foster children, but I believe it is a story that demonstrates the power of God to heal and that we can make a difference in the lives of these young people whom society would simply discard.

    • nafzigpa says:

      Thank you for your comment Joyce. As we continue on our own adoption journey, I find myself becoming more and more of an advocate. I so appreciate hearing stories like your own, mixing the joy with the pain.

  2. My wife and I have sponsored a Compassion child for the past 3 years, inspired by the stories told at the Creation Music Festival.

    Perhaps it’s the coward in me, but at this stage in our lives, I’m not sure what more we can do in a more direct sense. We don’t have a lot of financial resources to take in a child ourselves, our house does not have any extra bedrooms, etc.

    One thing that we are doing, though, is getting involved, as best as we can, in our community. Our youth pastor is doing some amazing things in his area, building a new community center outreach program. My wife and I, once we’re done a particular personal journey, see ourselves mentoring in that program so we can organically multiply it in our own area. It’s a long term view, but it’s one of the ways that we see ourselves trying to break those chains.

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