Yesterday we had lunch with a friend of ours, an experienced world-traveler, who has been keeping up on our adventures in Guatemala. We had a great time sharing our stories with an interested and active listener who challenged us to think about motivation, purpose, goals, and the potential for growth and expansion of our work in Guatemala.
Over the course of the conversation, our friend suggested we think about expanding our involvement in Guatemala to include others in the community, not just our church. After all, the people in our church aren’t the only ones who care about children and poverty. I know that a lot of people, regardless of their faith or theology, could get behind showing love to the unloved, providing opportunities to the overlooked, or giving hope to the hopeless.
Last night, in the middle of The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, one of his stories in a chapter about race jumped out at me. He was describing some of his interactions with a black businessman in West Chicago who described some of the hopelessness that is a common experience among inner-city blacks in the area. Many of them have no hope of living past 30 or getting to see their grandchildren grow into adults.
I think a similar thing is going on in Guatemala. Especially among orphans, there is a lot of uncertainty about the future and definitely a lack of guidance about long-term thinking. Even though the government and Buckner have rescued the kids we work with from a certain type of poverty by giving them food, water, clothing, and shelter, there is an emotional poverty that we are able to speak to. That’s the main focus of Foreign eXchange.
But what hit me as I put this all together is that by meeting this emotional need for love, we’re also stimulating the hope that causes people to want to learn and improve their existence. That’s exciting to me to see such a positive, unintended consequence of doing something that needs to be done.
If it goes no further than just passing on hope to the hopeless, I know a lot of people would be happy and excited to get involved. But for me, if that encouragement doesn’t spur people on to seek God and wrestle with who Jesus is, then it’s all just a nice gesture without any deeper meaning. My personal hope is that over the next several years we’ll be able to to spread both kinds of hope and that they wouldn’t be separated from each other.