Restoring Social Outcasts to Community

Dr. Matt Rindge, assistant professor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga University and a Compassion Child Advocate, spoke at our National Advocates Conference in October. In his message, he shared two observations about Jesus’ ministry.

  1. The primary effect of Jesus’ healings was to include social outcasts into community.

    Jesus’ healings restored outcasts to community by removing the obstacle that made them outcasts. By eating with outcasts, Jesus welcomed and accepted them just as they were.

    With the temple incident He critiqued a system/structure that excluded outcasts on the basis of their race.

  2. Jesus touched those whom He healed. He was willing to get dirty and even become unclean by touching them.
    • Lepers (Mark 1:40–45)
    • Bleeding / Hemorrhaging Woman (Mark 5:24b-34)
    • Jairus’ Daughter (Mark 5:22-24, 35-43)
    • Physically Disabled (Mark 2:1-12; 3:1-6; 7:32-37; 10:46-52)

As Compassion Child Advocates we are critical in the work of restoring social outcasts — children in poverty — to community. While I can’t say that I’ve ever healed anybody in Jesus’ name (I’ve tried), I do believe that Jesus is bringing healing through our advocacy — a healing that gives children a voice and that begins to take the poverty out of them.

What I’m especially convicted by is Rindge’s second observation about Jesus’ physical touch. Jesus got dirty, even unclean, according to Jewish law, by doing so.

I confess that a lot of my advocacy hasn’t gone that far.

Wess Stafford, our President and CEO, regularly shares that his mission is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

I love this statement. What’s also true is that the comfortable may afflict you right back. They did Jesus when they denounced Him for reaching out to social outcasts. And if my advocacy doesn’t result in me being marginalized myself, it’s lacking.

As you “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” are you encountering resistance?

If you are, it’s probably because you look a lot like Jesus.

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Non-Traditional Family Traditions

Many of Compassion’s sponsors are young families. Our family fits that category with children 9, 6, 5 and 2 years old. Not only do we want to help little ones overseas, my wife and I want our own children to realize the hope-stealing effects of poverty. We want our kids to understand poverty to a point where they’re compelled to do something about it both now and later.

Do you think this way? What traditions have you started in your own home to cultivate an understanding of what the poor go through in the developing world? We’re just starting out, and I know we can get more consistent, but here’s a glimpse of what we do:

    • I made an 8-by-10 print of this picture taken by Tonny Tunya. It’s in our dining room. Occasionally, we pause to see whatever we’re facing through the bright eyes of these children whose playground is a garbage dump in Indonesia. At best, our conversations are speculative. But there’s truth in these talks, too. And our perspective is refined bit by bit.
Several children stand happily on a large pile of trash at the city dump where they look for treasures.
  • When we sit down for a meal and make the effort to think about Karen, our sponsored child in the Philippines, and her family, our gratitude to God for the food in front of us grows deeper.
  • We’re moving in the direction of connecting each one of our kids to a different sponsored child. They’ll get to minister and be ministered to through sharing words of hope, art and prayers. Who knows? Maybe our kids will be some of the few of their generation to have a true pen pal.
  • I’m memorizing verses about children and the poor and my son is helping me. I hope that these scriptures sink in for him, too, and that seeing his dad take the time to do this would inspire him.

I’m sure there are many other ways to teach children about poverty through day-to-day life. I’ve heard of kids initiating fund raisers and families who rethink gift-giving at Christmas. Some of these families have even gone on one of Compassion’s sponsor tours to see it all with their own eyes.

Would you take a few moments to share your traditions? It’s OK if you don’t do them 100 percent of the time. None of us do. But we want to. And it’d be great to learn from others. The kids need it. Ours and theirs.

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Are You Okay With Dung?

In his book The New Friars, Scott A. Bessenecker tells a story of living in and serving a garbage community in Cairo with his family and some college students. After a month, “what at first was repulsive — rotting garbage piled everywhere, animals feeding off the trash, mothers climbing rubbish mountains with their babies playing next to them in the refuse” became normal. Inwardly, he questioned if that was okay. He wondered if they were “bringing Western standards of housing and cleanliness to people who have developed their own culturally defined norms for quality of life and are just fine with how things are.”

The Lord answered him in a dream.

I dreamed about the dung truck. You could always smell the dung truck before seeing it. It was the kind of smell that is more like a taste at the back of your throat; pasty and bitter…. Temperatures of over 100 degrees released the dung’s pungent odor with a vengeance, making this task even more intense than can be appreciated by someone reading this in comfort.

In my dream I was walking past the dung truck. To my horror, I saw my children, Hannah, Philip and Laura, sitting on top of the mountain of dung heaped on the bed of the truck. What struck me most about them was that they appeared perfectly content although every inch of their bodies was covered by animal waste. Then I felt the Lord speaking to me. He seemed to be saying, “As their father, are you satisfied? Even if they are satisfied, are you satisfied?”

I’m still sifting the impact of that dream, but the immediate implication is that a person’s contentment with a situation of poverty does not make it okay. My passion for my kids is a shadowy reflection of God’s heart, which yearns for his children to have more than the dung that surrounds them; not riches, but a life in which their needs are met in a way that doesn’t mask their need for him.

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