Thursday, October 28, 2010

poverty is ugly; injustice sucks

I've been listening to one of the audios from Urbana '09, a roundtable about intentional Christian communities living among those who are poor around the world. The voices in the roundtable are from folks who are from many nationalities, living in many different locations, both in the U.S. and abroad.

One of the contributors is at one point speaking to the group of college students, young adults, addressing that they will soon be asked to consider making a 1-2 year commitment to serving among the poor somewhere in the world. Here's a paraphrase of what he told them:

"If you go for a year or two, have the humility to say, 'I'm going on an exposure or learning experience'; have the humility not to say, 'I'm going on a short-tem mission trip' - Don't go and say, 'I'm going for a year or two to impact the poor' because honestly, it's more about you than the poor. And that's not bad; that's good, that's needed.
But think beyond that. We need people to say 'I want to to do this for the long haul.'
Living in the slums is hard; poverty is ugly; injustice sucks."

It's more about you than the poor. That's not an easy description to hear of our short-term ventures. He goes on to explain himself more fully, that if there are good communities, churches, systems, etc. in place, then the 3, 4, 5 people you touch might go on to really experience true life change. And that is good. He isn't saying that we will not have impact; he is asking us to reconsider what impact we imagine we're having and to be honest about how much of our experience is about shaping ourselves.

But recognize that the long haul is what we need. It's very easy to "go" but it is another thing to "stay."

Finally, another voice from the roundtable offered to us this important thing:

"We need to be willing to live to be forgotten."

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