Saturday, July 21, 2012

Significant Numbers

Our lives are full of numbers. They are on our driver's license, library card and mailbox. The scale, alarm clock, speedometer and caller ID all reflect numbers that we may or may not want to see. Statistics, account balances, PINs...the list goes on. Numbers are inescapable (as my math begrudging daughters will attest).

Earlier this year I read David Platt's Radical. Which is exactly what it says--a book that suggests a radical way of "taking back your faith from the American Dream". In short, it proposes a way of focusing on a Biblical view of the world in which the Church demonstrates the values of God's Kingdom rather than those of the materialistic society around us. Toward the end of the book, a one year Radical Experiment was suggested . The items that stand out (without looking them up) are:
  1. Read the whole Bible.
  2. Pray for the whole world. I've prayed for the world, but usually in one lump sum. Platt recommends resources like Operation World and the Joshua Project. Both are organizations that break the world population down into specific people groups (by language, country, etc--these are people who take numbers to a whole new level), and outline methods for praying for the unreached people groups across the globe, ideally in a year's time.
  3. Commit yourself to the local church (community).
  4. Sacrifice financially for a specific purpose.
  5. Sacrifice your time outside your normal circle of influence (comfort zone). I think 2% was recommended, which works out to about 2 weeks.
While I am not going to review the book here, I will state that anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ should probably read it. It still remains to be seen where God will lead me because of its influence.
As I began praying, and thinking in a different way, a new kind of number surfaced. Untold numbers of people without food, clean water, shelter and the good news of Jesus Christ. Voiceless people in countless numbers who are victims of exploitation, trafficking, and abuse. The mind and heart quickly go numb at the scope of it all.
It's easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of people who need help and hope. But I'm reminded of the story of the lad walking the beach and throwing starfish back into the water because it mattered to the few he could save. Until very recently, I believed the story was just one of those anecdotes that gets passed around, used in sermons, and bloats with retelling. I now have a source to track down and may post about it later.
The point of the story is that no one can save every one, but that isn't a valid excuse not to try to help any at all. We can make a difference to a few, or even just one.

And so, on June 5th, a new number became significant in my life. It's a seven digit number that changed the way I look at everything. And I mean everything. It's my sponsor number through Compassion International.
In June, the rabbits of Leaning Tree Acres and I began sponsoring 9 year old Edwin in Peru. (The humor of using profit from rabbit reproduction to assist in the reproduction of the gospel is not lost on me.) We are also corresponding with Aseet in Bangladesh and Kwaku in Ghana, and are hoping to take on a little girl in the near future.
I never dreamed the effect that sponsoring would have on me. In one short month, I have gone from knowing vaguely that poverty is a problem to being aware every waking moment that these boys' lives are at stake. Disease, flooding, drought, and food shortage are daily issues that control their lives. I have the nerve to get upset when my internet isn't working fast enough. The contrast makes me ashamed. And it should.
I have begun evaluating every bite I take and every purchase I make, wondering what I can do to consume less and share more.
David Platt asks in his book, "What would it take?" The question does not have a designated direction. You are supposed to think of what you'd like to see accomplished (with what you've already read in the book in mind), and then ask what it would take to see that goal reached.
Well, as of this morning, there are 2133 children on the Compassion International site that are needing sponsors. And that is just one site of many.
What would it take to see that page empty?
Zero children in need would be a significant number, indeed.

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