The half-naked young man before me lay stretched on a table, his lifeless limbs unnaturally awry. Long and lanky like many a twenty-year-old, his light-bronze skin, dark hair and angular facial features made him look the Arab that he was, while his clean-shaven face identified his Islam as moderate. He lay in Yemen, half a world away from me, but as my host held the screen and its image before me, the pain behind his eyes made death a palpable presence in the room. Adel, the youth in the image, was his little brother, killed two weeks ago.
Truth? Six months ago, I could have shown you Yemen on a map, and given you some basic cultural information — but while I may have had a nagging sense that things like human starvation, and violence, and oppression physical and spiritual should have prompted some kind of response in me — well, I may just have found it hard to care. I’ve heard this called “Compassion Fatigue” — which sounds so much better than “self-centered callousness”, the phrase I suspect may be more apt.
The difference now? An unlikely friendship.
I am a Jesus-follower, a “person of the Cross”, one who believes that real, vibrant, forever-life is found only through the person of Jesus, who is God-in-flesh, full of inexplicable love… and power… and goodness. And my heart cries, “Glory!”
My faith is irreconcilable with that of my Yemeni friends. The divide between us as bloody today as at any time in history. And yet…
In early March of this year, not even two weeks before the country of Yemen would plunge into civil-war-turned-international-conflict (or is it international-conflict-turned-civil-war?), our family received a remarkable invitation from people we had not yet met in person. (You can read here for the story leading up to this invitation)
On April 7, 1994, decades and even centuries of ethnic violence, inflamed by civil war, detonated genocide at a rate five times that of the Jewish holocaust in Nazi Germany. You all know the story. Africa’s most densely-populated country. Eight weeks. Upwards of 800,000 people brutally murdered on ethnic lines by neighbors, colleagues and militant mobs.
When the horror stopped, one in five Rwandans were dead — and nearly the entire remaining population carried the bloodguilt. The systematic use of rape as a weapon led to a steep spike in HIV rates, the number of child-headed households soared, and the economy and infrastructure were in ruins. If ever there was an entire nation suffering from trauma, it was this one.
In 2002, on the other side of the world, Rebecca “Becky” Byrd proudly received her school guidance counselor credentials. For more than a decade, she would invest her skills and her heart for kids in a high-poverty public high school in Washington State — and then she would transition to the sticky hugs and giggles and tears of a nearby elementary school. Becky loved her work with the kids, and esteemed her colleagues — but she began to have a hunger for … more.
It wasn’t more accomplishments or relationships or adventure, more money or pleasure that Becky was hungry for. It was more of God. More intimacy with Jesus, more of the life of the Spirit, more of the fruit of an active faith. And as her yearning grew, she began to hear God calling her to an extraordinary step.
I often hear people talk about their life verse. I honestly don’t have one yet – because there are quite a few in the running. I’d like to share one with you today. It has meant the world to me over the years. And again today, sustains me. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand […]
Monday Morning Quarterbacks You are probably familiar with the term. It is the phrase for all the “experts” that show up after the game is over to tell us how they would have done it different. Those “experts” try to chip away at the credibility of those who don’t have the luxury of instant replays, […]