After almost three years living in a slum, a couple reflects on why they came and why they’ve stayed.
Jesus radically welcomed people; he blessed and honored the poorest people, shared his life, lived humbly, and told stories about God’s place for them in His Kingdom. Jesus welcomed Samaritans, Jews, Gentiles, and challenged them to love each other; he brought “sinners” into his inner circle, and challenged the “good religious people” to release their judgments of them. He welcomed women and children, lepers and the ill, the blind and the lame, strangers and foreigners, all to his inner circles, not as an audience but as a central part of his lived life. And he calls us, over and over, to do the same.
We’ve felt that like Jesus, we’ve grown up in a world of disconnect, a world of “others”. The rich and the poor don’t live in the same community. Many of our things were made by people in India or Bangladesh or China, but we have likely never seen those people or known what their lives were like. The Western world and the Muslim world are highly separated, with a great deal of demonization of the “other”. The people whose actions lead to destruction of the environment (over-consumption of fossil fuels, forests, minerals, factory farmed food, etc.) are disconnected from the environment and the people most affected by its destruction. We felt so separated; it was difficult for us to love people we didn’t know, and difficult to care about those whose lives we weren’t participating in.
To that end, we moved to Asia in 2010, to begin to build a tiny bridge between the global poor and the Western rich, to place ourselves in the shoes of those we did not know, and to give them access to the best things a Western education and upbringing have afforded us, all while letting the best of their culture and experience transform us. We’ve seen and understand the transformational power of relationships; we want to know and love people here, sharing our selves, culture, and faith, and we want to be known and loved and challenged in return.
We want to continue to build this bridge, to invite more of our wealthy friends into the lives of the poor and marginalized and help them to experience more of what it means to be human. As our own American society becomes increasingly dependent on money and technology, we want to place our family in a different world – moving away from overwhelming materialism, technology, individualism, achievement-orientation and getting back to relationships and community and people.
As we understand more of the hopes and dreams and resources of our community, we want to be a part of its transformation, working alongside through our relationships, bringing ourselves, everything we have to offer. The literacy and safe house projects are our first attempts at that. We don’t just want to be giving charity, but together growing true justice and inhabiting the Kingdom of God.
In the long term, ideally we want to create something that will grow beyond our direct influence and last far longer than we do. We hope that the people we impact will continue to influence others, that programs we start will be taken up and pressed forward by others, that our own meager contribution will grow into something much greater than ourselves and take on a life of its own. We may spend our lives in this ministry, but we hope this will last far beyond ourselves.
If you want to learn more and/or to support these friends, please email the editor at kimmiem(at)team.wcfellowship.org