Monday, 25 January 2010

Haiti, transformation and the safety of my cheque book

“As long as there are people, Christ will walk on earth as your neighbour, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As I noted in an earlier post, I’ve been thinking about Haiti – how we should respond and what our response would mean.

First of all, I think that there is an imperative that we do actually respond – in cash and in prayer.  We should meet the immediate humanitarian needs that arise from the impact of the earthquake, which has hit an already poor country.  And while there is an inevitable feeling of helplessness (“Can my few quid make a difference?”), we should follow Mother Teresa’s guidance:

“If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed just one.”

BUT (and, if you read this blog regularly, you knew there was a ‘but’ coming!) there has to be more than just a cash commitment in the face of catastrophe.  I liked what Jim Gordon said about working out theological response in the community of faith.

My thinking has taken me down the track of engagement: deep, long‑term, community‑to-community, transformative engagement.  For a long time now I’ve argued that churches, my church, should get involved with one or two projects and embrace them.  I’m talking about getting to know the people and the faces, about making connections that are informed by personal contact, not just by satellite technology. 

I’m talking about giving to help, and learning in the process.  This type of transformative engagement will encompass social, economic, moral and spiritual dimensions – for both giver and receiver.

It’s too easy, in my view, to wait for the next disaster to come along, then respond and forget.  We need to be involved in a deep and enduring way.  As an example, Tony Campolo has been involved in Haiti for many years.  Are we – am I – willing to get so close, to establish long-term commitments with all of the associated frustrations and disappointments?  Or will I hide behind the safety of my cheque book?


That Hideous Man said...

Are you aware of any local models in practice of churches achieving what you describe? How did they decide where to focus their attention? How did they get their congregation to own such a vision?

Les (Endlessly Restless) said...

Over the years I've come across two examples that stick in my mind. Durham Cathedral used to be twinned with Soweto (don't know if they still are), and some of the folk from Montrose Baptist Church were deeply engaged with helping kids from Belarus who had been affected by the Chernobyl disaster.

How to decide - probably based on something they were already involve din, or were inspired to get involved in.

As for the vision.. Hmmm! I guess that it takes energy and endless patience??