caring is not a hobby

I have some words to say. But they have some big, powerful thoughts & feelings behind them, and that always makes me a little bit nervous. They’re also going to step on some toes. More nervous.

The good news? I’m not one to shy away from stepping on toes. Why? Because I’m going to step on my own, too, and that always softens the blow just the tiniest bit.

(And the whole wanting-to-have-perfect-words before I post this? Isn’t going to happen. And that’s a good thing, from a humility perspective.)

I just finished reading Ann Voskamp’s post about her recent trip to Iraq. Oh goodness. I dare you to read it, friend. DARE you. I’ll warn you–it will not be fun. Not one little bit. And you’ll be very, very sorry you read it.

But, friend. Our lives are just empty shells if we close our eyes & ears & minds to this and go on our merry, comfortable way.

Empty shells. Not really living. And certainly not following & obeying the Jesus we claim to serve.

People in America ask me what I’m doing to help the people of Cambodia, and sometimes I want to look them in the eye and say, “I’m waking people in America up.”

Because the suffering, hurting people in this world will never have enough (food, water, love, safety, justice, Jesus..) if we don’t wake up.

We must wake up.

As Ann says in her post, “Caring isn’t a Christian sideline hobby. Caring is a Christian’s complete career.”

We’ve made it a hobby, something we do in our “free” time, something we do every now and again to make ourselves feel better.

And here’s the part where I tell you that I’m not off the hook just because I live in Cambodia. So I live in Cambodia. Whoopty-doo. Guess where I am right now? In a coffee shop with wifi and comfortable chairs and a glass of clean water and an empty cup that used to have an iced chai latte in it. I’m here, because our power was out all day, and 100-degree heat without even a fan is unbearable.

Wait, did I say unbearable? As in, there’s no way I can bear it? I live in a beautiful furnished apartment with (usually-working) A/C in my bedroom and four fans and enough $ to buy food and anything else I need (and don’t need–including $2.40 iced chai lattes). I have money to go to school, and I pay someone to drive me where I want to go. (and on and on)

There are people ALL AROUND me who are desperate and hurting. No day goes by without one (or 10) people begging me for food or money.

Just yesterday, I was walking to a noodle shop on the corner, and a man came toward me on his belly, wheeling himself on a little flat cart. He was crippled and missing a leg, and a tiny little girl sat on his back while he pushed himself with one arm and one leg and held a bowl for money with the other. The small bills I gave him might feed them both one meal. And then what?

I see old, white men walking around holding hands with little Cambodian boys or girls, and while there’s a chance they are kind benefactors, it’s more likely they are pedophiles.

Human trafficking is rampant. Poverty even more so. Post traumatic stress disorder (from the Khmer Rouge 40 years ago) wreaks havoc in people’s minds and lives.

Yes, I live much closer to these horrors than someone in American suburbia does, but I still have the luxury of looking away when it feels like too much. I can retreat to my 3rd floor sanctuary and read Anne of Avonlea on my Kindle. I can drown my sorrow in cheap iced coffee & expensive imported treats.

These people have no escape, save alcohol or drugs or destroying others–often innocent children–for a few moments of pleasure.

This is their life.

And I see what goes on here, and I think of Iraq, where things are a hundred times worse. And I shudder. And ask God, “What do we do with this? Why are things like this? What do you want with us?”

I don’t have the energy or Ann’s talent for turning words into poetry, so I’ll just share some of hers here:

“We aren’t where we are, to just peripherally care about the people on the margins as some superfluous gesture or token nicety. The exact reason why you are where you are — is to risk everything for those being oppressed out there. You are where you are — to help others where they are.”

Friends, we can get so easily overwhelmed by the world’s pain. What can I do, small as I am? So we turn away, we do nothing, we go back to our carefree lives and try to forget.

Or we might even get angry. “What am I supposed to do about the world’s woes? They aren’t my fault; they aren’t my problem.”

Yeah, we’re wrong. Dead wrong.

Jesus says that, when we ignore the least of these, we’ve ignored him. Our faith is worth nothing if we aren’t caring for the poor.

THANK YOU to each and every one of you who is making big and small sacrifices to care for the poor. In your own backyard, in your kids’ schools, in your towns & cities, and around the world. You are an inspiration.

It’s not easy to put my churning, spinning thoughts in a blog post. It’s no fun to try to convince someone of something using clever words. It’s a bummer to think that people might misconstrue what I’m saying or think I’m insinuating I’m better than someone else.

But I have something that gives me hope. I have God’s Holy Spirit inside of me. And, if you’re a Jesus-follower, you do too. And I can pray that his Spirit will speak to your heart in ways I cannot.

I can pray that each of us will genuinely seek God and ask him what he wants from us, ask him what role we’re to play. Prayer? Giving a donation online? Volunteering to help refugees in our city? Becoming foster parents? Spending more time listening to other people’s pain instead of seeking our own happiness?

I don’t know all the answers.

I just know that we’ve got to open our eyes. We’ve got to take responsibility for our fellow humans around the world who are hurting and dying.

(And our breaker has flipped off seven times now while I’ve tried to wrap up this post. I have stationed myself out on the balcony right beside it, so I can flip it back on and get this published.)

Faith without action is useless, a mockery. The time to act is now, friends. And the good news? We’re all in this together. It’s so much better that way.

9 thoughts on “caring is not a hobby

  1. Chris

    Thanks Marla! Just read this in Joel

    Joel 2:12-13 NIV

    “Even now,” declares the Lord , “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…”

    I was thinking about how the Jews would tear their clothes in repentance/humility and sit in “sackcloth and ashes”. Maybe we should rend our hearts, humble our hearts. And return to the lord those areas of our lives we hold back.

  2. Melinda

    When, “I still have the luxury of looking away when it feels like too much.”

  3. Pingback: one small thing now | Marla Taviano

  4. Pam

    People in the margins…this is a phrase that seems to be coming up more and more in my life…God is trying to tell me something. I don’t know what it is but desperately want to listen and respond. Loved this post, Marla. Love that you continue to encourage and inspire me to love others all the way from Cambodia. Miss you!

  5. Alicia

    I finished reading your blog post and immediately pulled up facebook, not Ann Voskamp’s post, because it’s lunchtime and I am lazy and I don’t want to think/feel/be convicted at the moment. So, facebook. The very first post was a link that a friend of mine shared to Ann Voskamp’s post. God must have wanted me to read it and now I don’t know what to do with myself. Seriously, how do you process that? It makes me feel helpless because I want to step in and rescue and save and stop the awfulness, and I can’t. But I can pray and I know my God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that I ask or imagine. So maybe that’s what I need to do. Intercede.

  6. Sharon

    Thanks for your honest post, Marla. Forgive me if I’ve mentioned this exact thing I’m going to say next. I have supported Missionary friends for years and got their newsletter updates, met with them in person when they were back in the US, etc. It wasn’t until I finally visited them out in the field and worked alongside their ministry in person, that I realized it’s near impossible to get people (myself included) who haven’t ever seen and experienced what you are experiencing first hand, to truly “get it.” I love your thoughts on the Holy Spirit speaking to your readers vs you having the burden of finding just the right words to convince people. That being said, I do think you do a great job at describing the heart wrenching things you see.

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