On my last trip into Vietnam, shortly before the fall of Saigon, a desperate mother offered me her beautiful three-year-old child for adoption. Her only motivation was to get her little girl to safety in the USA. Anyone who knows my heart for children would understand what a temptation this offer was. But, I never could base my happiness on another person’s heartbreak. My immediate response to her was, “Let’s see how we can get both of you out of here!”
The story, how God opened the doors and made it all happen, is too long to tell here. But, a year later this mother and daughter came to visit me at my home in Minnesota. Her new American husband, sitting on my front step, said to me, “I have to ask. How did you get them out of Vietnam?” My reply, “It wasn’t me. It was God.”
Television news-magazines and dramas based on true stories are full of case histories without such a favorable outcome. Of course, people claim to have only the best of intentions when children are taken away from a broken-hearted parent, brothers and sisters are separated as children and spend a lifetime trying to find each other, and struggling families doing their best to make a home for each other find themselves devastated by those with the power to take control. Particularly sad stories make me cry out to the t.v. set and to God, “Where is the church!” Was there no one from the church to lend aid to the widowed father who had no option but to leave his five little boys at home, looking after each other, when he went to work? Was there no one to be his advocate when he was overwhelmed by a system that treated him like a criminal, and punished him by depriving him of his children?
We know what God’s heart is on the matter: “Ye shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; And my wrath shall wax hot....” (Exodus 22:22-24)
Perhaps it is too easy to trust the system we support with our tax dollars. System people are the experts, after all, and we’ve done our part by paying our taxes. So, I don’t need to be bothered? That is a convenient cop-out! Well, we might rationalize, I don’t know the whole story. It’s none of my business. I have my own responsibilities. I shouldn’t meddle. Let the system take its course. After all, everyone has the children’s best interests at heart, surely! We even go so far as to say, “What can I do, anyway? God will work it out in due season.”
I can just hear Jesus’ voice, waxing hot, “You hypocrites!” It should come as no surprise to those of us in the church that God wants to work through one of us in every season.
God doesn’t ask any one of us to rescue the whole world. He does, however, set the Good Samaritan before our eyes as an example. This man saw a need and interrupted his own schedule to render aid and comfort to the beaten stranger in his path. That is all God asks of us. He asks us to look at what is right in front of our eyes. We can turn away like the priest and Levite, avoiding involvement, putting the sight behind us and seeking to keep life all smooth and unruffled by the messy truth.
But, God calls us to intervene, to clean the wounds, to bandage them and invest ourselves in providing the care that leads to healing. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)