For a year we’ve lived our lives in the first person.
Our focus has been on “my health, my body, my safety, my family, my opinion, my choices and my anxiety.” This is, of course, not surprising as the existential threats of pandemic, financial loss and ideological civil war continue to loom over us.
I don’t remember a time in my life when my worldview has been so myopic and parochial.
Then, in short order this week, three world events caught my eye and made me catch my breath: the devastating virus surge in India, the coup and resulting violence in Myanmar and the horrific genocidehappening right now in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The scope and depth of these three tragedies are impossible to grasp. And they represent only a fraction of the incidents of pain, death and injustice gripping millions across the world.
Now let’s be honest. I’m about to lose a bunch of you. For a number of reasons, the needs of people around the world just don’t register with many. Maybe it’s because of the aforementioned personal crises. Maybe it’s because of an unformed and uninformed world view. Many don’t care or don’t have the capacity to care. I get that.
But some of you do. Some of you are gutted by the images of devastation readily available in the era of smart phone journalism. And you wonder, “What on earth can I do?” Maybe it’s more intense and insistent than that. Maybe you sense your calling has international implications.
So, what CAN you do, for those of you who WANT to do something?
First, start paying attention to news of the world. Unfortunately, U.S. network and cable news outlets have pitifully few features on international events or affairs. Pain, tragedy or injustice in the Congo or Latvia just doesn’t sell ads. Try the BBC News or the New York Times International Edition. Of course, there’s always Google. Pick a region, a country, a people group, an injustice, and search to your heart’s content or heart’s crushing.
You can also find an organization doing international work that stirs your heart and intentionally support it as best you can with finances, advocacy and volunteerism. Note the word “intentionally.” You’ll just sit on your hands until you get some kind of skin in the game. Get after it!
Open your heart and your home to international friends. 2 years ago my wife and I, along with a group of teenage friends we were mentoring, hosted an American Thanksgiving dinner for a handful of international collegians. We all really enjoyed the evening together. It was a bit stilted and awkward, but I could see the possibilities of ongoing relationships in that brief gathering. Do you have any international friends? Maybe it’s time.
Now, for those of you who have some serious tugs on your heart as you consider a part of the world or a people group or a significant cause, you may need to take some much bigger steps.
Back in the day, as a child in my little Baptist church, I would occasionally be intrigued, awed and sometimes frightened by mysterious and exotic visitors called missionaries. I have an odd and vivid memory of watching a missionary doctor’s slide show about enormous goiters (don’t look it up!) that he sought to heal in West Africa. The idea of leaving the US to serve people in another part of the world was preposterous to me. Then I married a missionary kid, became a pastor and got to know hundreds of these special people, both US citizens and internationals devoted to helping their own people. I also have met and been deeply impressed by others who have served in the Peace Corps or NGOs, doing incredible work fighting injustices of all kinds, all over the world.
Might you have a tug on your heart or hear a whisper of a calling to a people who aren’t your own? Could you imagine yourself on another continent, working side by side with locals seeking to right massive wrongs? Can you dream of the wondrous new sights, sounds and smells of a land for which you give your heart? Then let’s talk. I would love to help you figure this all out. We can explore your life story, your personality, your skills and your passions…then connect the dots to see what calling emerges.
Maybe you will be one of those mysterious, exotic people whose heart lies elsewhere in a world that’s desperate for healing, love and justice.