Monday, January 28, 2008

RL3: Consequences and Compassion

This may be a SUPER long blog! I have finished Red Letters and am now halfway through Children of Hope by Vernon Brewer (request your free copy online). I have so many thoughts running through my mind that this should probably be 3 or 4 posts. . but, they all run together so it's either a full on conversation (no kids, no interruptions. . yeah right!) or a super long blog! I also am not promising that this will flow well or make sense! Yep, I process through writing and my head is full now, so I'm going to write. . .that doesn't mean it will all make sense yet. . that's what the writing is for ~ to help me make it make sense!

Consequences~ One of the first things that hit me in Red Letters is the concept of "victims" of HIV/AIDS. I think one of the reasons the church has been slow to act IS because AIDS can be viewed as a consequence of someone's action b/c it is sexually transmitted. This goes along the line of "why give condoms to kids in schools". . .basically, if we run in and "fix" the problem or find a cure for AIDS, are we just removing consequences? Now, you may not be one who ever felt this way and I may even offend you for saying it. However, I think this may be one of the biggest hindrances for getting "the church" involved in this crisis. To tell you the truth, I was hoping that Tom Davis would tackle this in the book b/c it was a question of my own heart. I do not ever want to step in God's way. Often, in this country, I believe that we try too hard to make people happy and too quickly remove consequences to that end. Initially, this made me uncomfortable with the AIDS crisis. A number of things touched me as I questioned this. . first, though, let's go with the assumption that EVERYONE who has AIDS got it from sexual promiscuity (not the case, but we'll go into that in a minute). If this were the case, would we still be called to help? The answer seems to be a resounding YES! If we look over Jesus life, we find him spending time with and even helping many sinners. Healing their bodies and restoring their souls. He granted forgiveness to the thief on the cross minutes before his own death. In fact, if we were so bold as to want everyone to "pay" for their sins, we would be quite unhappy if the Lord Jesus did this himself to us. That's what forgiveness and redemption are all about. Here's another thought. . .what if. . . think about it what if. . .the Lord was using AIDS as a discipline tool. Remember now, discipline and punishment are different. Discipline is something God uses to pursue us. To cause us to turn to Him. To change our ways to look at the Father. To get our attention. What if God were using the AIDS crisis to turn people to HIM. Possibly as OUR (the Church) opportunity to go into a place that has been held by Satan is so many way and speak His LOVE through offering hope and healing! What if? Right now, the church has been turning down that opportunity. Think of a man. Yep, the man who got AIDS b/c he went out and raped a woman or had sex with multiple women or any number of things. . .what if AIDS caused him to go looking for help. He got sick and he needs help now. IF, the Church were using our opportunities wisely. . we'd be there! We'd be there to offer the "cold cup of water" that Jesus talks about. We'd be there to offer healthcare or homecare or any number of things and maybe, just maybe have the opportunity to offer true healing in the form of introducing him to the healer!

So, all of the above assumed that people are getting HIV/AIDS because of their lack of self control. This is not the case! Over 90% of newly infected children are born of HIV infected moms. These children made NO choice. Violence against women is very high in Africa. As is unfaithfulness. Many women are getting HIV after their husbands come home with it. These women did not choose it. The saddest spread of HIV / AIDS is purely the work of Satan himself. Over 80% of those infected, seek help from traditional African healers. You know what many witchdoctors tell their "patients" and is now spread as a lie across Africa? That if you have sex with a virgin, you will be cured! Literally, men are going through villages raping women and even little girls to GAIN their cure. In the process, they are leaving behind wounded women and children, not just emotionally but literally. These girls made NO choice. They are literally victims! Then, there are those who are getting the disease because of their actions to keep themselves alive. With no food and no money, there are many young girls (often times single moms with children to care for or young orphan girls) who sell themselves for food. Tom tells the story of one young, orphan girl who at the age of 10, after waiting until she had not eaten for days; finally heads to the men. Hoping against hope that they will have pity on her and simply give her the food, she loses her innocence that day and loses her future in what she contracts. The other victims of HIV / AIDS do not have the disease itself. These are the children whose parents do. These are the children who are being left homeless and orphaned at such a young age. There are whole villages where there are no parents. Children raising children. The adults in many communities are simply overrun. The phrase "it takes a village" was born in Africa and these villages are doing all they can; but, a family can only take in so many children while living in abject poverty themselves! Over half of the population of Swaziland is in danger of being wiped out. Over a third of the adults in Zimbabwe have the disease. This disease is destroying villages, cities and whole nations. It is wiping out the work force, the farming industry and even the teachers.

Those factors combined leave my "maybe it's just the consequences of their actions" thoughtline obsolete. It does not matter. . maybe it is.. .often times it's not. Either way, I/We have an opportunity to make a difference. To share Jesus in a practical way that MAY lead others to a SAVING knowledge of who He is! However, that is hard! Yep, it hurts. I wept reading this book and am continuing to weep reading Children of Hope. Putting faces on these stories makes it real. Vernon Brewer quoted adoptive mom and author Mellisa Fay Greene (author of There is No Me Without You):

I lived in a very small house with my mother," my daughter tells me. "My
mother was very beautiful. She had long, long, long shiny hair that
fell to her waist. We had two things in our house. We had a shelf and we had a baby bed. The bed is too small for my mother, she has to sleep by pulling up her legs. I don't remember when my mother was not sick. I don't really remember my father, sometimes I think I remember him, reading a newspaper. My mother taught me to read when I was four. . .when I was five, I was the one taking care of my
mother. If she needed something, I go to the store for her. When she needs juice, she gives me the coin and I go to buy the juice for her. One time I saw at the store
little sparkly clips shaped like butterflies for your hair. I wanted those clips very much, but I bought the juice for my mother instead. At home, I told my mother about the clips, and she said yes! My mother always said yes. I ran back and I bought the butterfly clips! But, one day a taxi came and I think my mother dies in the taxi. People took me away and they didn't let me go into the house to get the butterfly clips and I never saw my house again. But why did my mother have to die?

One day about four months after arriving in Atlanta, Helen collapsed in my
arms, suddenly stricken with the memory of her late mother. I held her as
she writhed, wailing "Why she had to die?"A few moments later, she said
between sobs, "I know why she died. She was very sick and we didn't
have the medicine."

"I know," I said, "It's true. I'm sorry"
By then, I was well versed in the AIDS orphan crisis, but it floored me that
she captured it with such accuracy, brevity and grief more powerfully than
any of the thousand pages I had read on the subject.

"I wish I had known you then" I told the child in my arms. "I wish I could have sent her the medicine"

I know that was long, but it struck a chord in me. "I wish I had known you then" What a statement. We don't help b/c they are faceless. The stories and statics can be stuck back in some part of our brain. Why would we take them out to dwell on them? They hurt so badly. They don't have a face to us, we don't HAVE to feel that pain. Not like Melissa. . it's her daughter that hurts now. I sit and weep while reading these books, but I've not held a child in my arms who sobs when the medicine that could have kept her mom alive cost $.40 a day. I have never hurt like that. . .maybe if I did, blogging and reading wouldn't cut it for me. . .maybe those questions of "should we help" would not even have been thoughts in my head. So, I for one, will choose to hurt. I think I need that hurting (what little I experience without living in it and breathing it and holding their little bodies) to give God the room to move me.

The questions is SHOULD we hurt? Do we really have to go there? To answer this question or to just get you thinking, I want you to PLEASE go to Amber's blog right now and read what she wrote about compassion. I was tempted to just copy and paste it b/c I think it's that vital of an insight.
I encourage you to struggle through these issues. Ask the questions. Let God search your heart. Don't just choose to relegate it to a part of your brain that lets it be JUST knowledge or facts. I don't know what God will call us to, but I know we need to be willing and ask Him.


Missy said...

Brandi, I am still reading "There is no me Without You" and I just read that very story that you quoted. It affected me deeply too. Many of the books I have read have put names and faces to these horror stories.

My friend, Susan, struggled through the part in the book about the 10 year old who prosituted herself to survive. She could barely take it because she has a 10year old.

I have more to say about your post, but need to process your words a bit more.

Thanks for your wonderful insights and for sharing in this journey with me.


steffany said...

Brandi- yup you say my words with such wisdom and passion. I know it was a long book, but revisit there is no me without you. There is much insight/theory on Aids. It's time the stigma is thrown out. The truth there are PEOPLE, children, babies, women, men ,mommies, daughters, sons, daddies, all dying. While we can't "solve" the crisis we can do something. .40 cents a day to give a baby it's mother, a mother her son, a father his wife. .40 cents! The drug manufactures here in the US need a kick in the @#%^ or the love of Jesus to help them put the mighty dollar aside get rid of their patents for the "cure" and reach out. Use their knowledge and power to make a difference. We are All connected what happens across the world affects us all and visa versa.

Anonymous said...

Brandi-poignant post! I have also read the book "There is No ME WIthout You" earlier and it had studnned me that while the US had medicine readily available here to help with AIDS we had done NOTHING to get any of it to Africa. Our friends are adopting from Ethiopia and that had struck her as well as she read the book.
It seems it is far easier for us to "judge" people and deemed them not worthy of our help because possibly their actions caused their circumstances-what a weak excuse of the church-as you so clearly pointed out what if Jesus were to have acted that way toward us?
In Dennis Rainey's DVD "THe Christian Response to the Orphans" he says what if the church needs the oprhan as much as the orphan needs us-it came to mind as I was reading your post-we (churches) pray for the chance to spread God's good word, do things in HIS name, etc.-we are being given the chance and sadly we have been judging it not worthy and turning away-how Jesus must weep.
I have found at our church trying to raise awareness of orphans many times people don't want to see the face or hear the personal story because then it is harder to just move on-it has always struck me how sad that is-we (as americans) can choose to not hear the 10 year old prostitute's story because it bothers us-did she have the same luxury of being able to just turn away from her situation because it was unpleasant-NO
sorry this is so long-as you can tell this is something like you and Missy I am passionate about

Julie L

Anonymous said...

BEAUTIFUL post. I am so filled with a righteous anger and a sadness. Thank you for sharing this and sharing your heart.

Blu and Darbi said...

Amazing. Head to my blog. I posted today and went straight from my new post to here...


Anonymous said...

Do I hear "socialized medicine" in there somewhere:)?

up north where its FREEEEEEEZING

Brandi said...


NO to socialized medicine! Yes, to the church stepping up to do it's job and private companies and individuals doing their part!

Love ya,

Anonymous said...

Hi Brandi - I was introduced to your blog by my friend Julie. I have loved reading your comments - I, too, am a kindred spirit with a broken heart for Africa and orphans. We have 3 bio kids and 2 little ones from China and are awaiting a referral from Ethiopia. 5 years ago our hearts were literally broken as we started learming all we could about the situation in China, and the wounds never healed but our hearts have been vroken all over again as we immerse ourselves in Africa - a different story in many ways but the same, too. I wanted to let you know about an article someone emailed to me from Parade Magazine written by Melissa Faye Greene(There's no me Without You) about her experience taking her now 10 year old daughter back to Ethiopia. Go to and tpye "finding my daughters roots" in the search.