I fully realize the sensitive nature of racism and ethnic judging. There is a force inside of me that reminds me to tread lightly and be easy as I write this. Instead of pointing fingers and coming across as being condemning, I am going to simply share my journey in dealing with my own racism; trusting that the Spirit of God will do His own work in your heart. I do not and have never considered myself a racist. I do not make racial comments and have never caused anyone to suffer because of the color of their sin. Because I was not actively committing racial acts, I excused myself as not being a racist. Then, out of the blue something happened that forever changed my definition of racism.
I was traveling to my parents home one afternoon about 18 months ago. Getting to their home requires that I drive through some poor, predominately black areas. On this one particular afternoon, I looked out my window at the run-down houses I was passing by and saw a little girl playing in the yard. She was white. Her blond curls reminded me of my daughter and my heart broke to think about this little girl living in these conditions. Then it hit me. I had never noticed the other children living in these slums. Even on this day, my heart did not break for the black children in the yard with this girl. I only hurt for the white one. Suddenly I looked up in the rear-view mirror and my heart broke as I began to see the ugliness and realize that racism doesn’t just come in the form of vile acts of hatred toward others.
The truly devastating form of racism comes in the form of passive indifference. It is this form of racism that encapsulates a heart and allows it to not see the pain of a person because of their skin color. It is the form of ethnic racism that allows us to observe images on TV and make jokes about starving people in Africa. It is the form of racism that prevents white families in the south from adopting orphaned children who happen to be born black. Until we all look at ourselves in the mirror and realize that God is the God of all colors, all people are created equal and that in Christ there is no ethnicity; we will never be able to hear the cries of the oppressed. Until we deal with our own fears and the belief systems that have been passed down from previous generations, we will forever repeat the behaviors of our forefathers. In the cities of the United States, there is a flight from areas of poverty. As neighborhoods deteriorate, land is surrendered and people move and settle into new neighborhoods and build new shopping centers. But this is not solving anything. Eventually, a generation will wake up to the reality that there is no more real estate. Eventually, a generation of Christians will have to realize that we are running from the very thing that breaks the heart of God. Eventually, a generation will have to stand up and fight for the future of poor people, regardless of their skin color, nationality, or location. The early church understood this and the scriptures continually pound it, but many followers of Christ seem to have lost it. It took me coming 10,000 miles to see what I pass by every day in my own back yard.
I want to introduce you to a lady that has stolen my heart, challenged my faith, and fueled inside of me a desire to fight against injustice. This is Winnie (See pic above)
In a word, she is a saint. Winnie is 56 years old and has worked at Tabitha for the past 7 years. Over the past several years, Winnie has seen many of her own family members die. In addition to the children that Winnie serves daily at Tabitha, she also has 5-orphaned children living with her.
There is a lot of debate in the American church about the place of poverty work and orphan care in the mission of the church. As theologians write books and groups of pastors wage debates, Winnie gets up every day, puts on the only set of clothes she owns, covers her feet with tattered shoes, and spends her 90 hour weeks serving the poor and orphans. She owns nothing and her monthly income of $350 has the same buying power here as it would in America. I love this woman. I admire her deeply. Joy radiates from every part of her being. I watch her worship and the spirit of God stirs within me the desire to continue in this journey and fight for her and the children that she impacts daily. Theologians can write and churches can debate, but for my family I pray that God finds us serving people like Winnie when He comes back.
I also have a new member of the Tabitha family I want you to meet- Baby A. A few days ago some people where walking by the river and observed a woman approaching the water with a bundle in her arms. Imagine the horror as they saw her toss this child into the river. As they screamed and ran toward her, she quickly retrieved the baby from the water and disappeared with him. Hours later and in the guise of darkness, he resurfaced. She had tossed him out again, but this time he landed in someone’s yard. A care worker was called and the child quickly found himself cuddled in the arms of the Tabitha staff. He was so severely dehydrated that his face was literally swollen. It has been amazing to watch as this child has literally moved past death and into life.
I love this verse from 1 Samuel 2:8, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.” That has become my prayer for this community and the people serving in it. Regardless of color, theology or beliefs about the poor, God holds these people close to his heart. When He looks down, He does not see their color nor does He hear our excuses. He sees their hurt, He hears their cries, and He hopes we will do the same.