Monday, November 05, 2007

God's Air Taxi

The Idaho Statesman recently featured a few stories of some MAF pilots and the types of ministry they're involved in. The article is here:

Articles like this are so compelling and exciting to read. As I read these stories sometimes I have to step back and think to myself... I don't really think that this is the type of stuff I'll be doing. It's encouraging and inspiring to me to see the huge range of ministries MAF is involved in, and sometimes inside me the desire flares up to be a pilot or help with some of the more dynamic parts of this ministry. But really... I don't anticipate any close brushes with danger while helping solve computer problems or supporting on-line learning. I cut my hand once, I guess, while I was replacing a zapped PCI card inside an old 486 computer.

Medical evacuation, flight support, and disaster response are all really exciting to see in action. In Central America, where hurricanes are a seasonal reality, sometimes I envision what it would feel like to be a part of that. The first thought, brought on by my media-stimulated mind, is how exciting and exhilarating it would be to help save lives and come to the rescue in an emergency situation like that. Quickly following that, though, I recall the gut-wrenching anguish of sharing in someone else's trauma. Would I even be able to function helpfully in a situation like that, when the whole time I feel deeply involved in the brokenness and suffering of those afflicted by natural disasters? Would it be too much for me? I don't know that living in Haiti has desensitized or numbed me to issues of poverty, violence, corruption, and oppression. Maybe it's hyper-sensitized me to the immediacy of the need and the very real connection between myself and those who are somehow overlooked. Somehow I'm looking for a way to live that out on a regular basis, instead of hysterically rushing from one tragedy to the next.

It also occurs to me this is truly part of the reason why I'm willing and committed to help with education and training. Given the opportunity, I could live the rest of my life scrambling frantically to alleviate the suffering of others, only to have my efforts washed away with the next hurricane. Disasters happen regularly - I don't mean to be callous and insensitive about the suffering that follows that, but disasters do happen and we have far less control over some things in our lives than we wish. Living in the U.S. we can function for quite a while without realizing that, but every once-and-awhile we are reminded abruptly of our involvement and inescapable connection with the rest of the world. So when I think of realms of influence and things that we actually can work towards changing, these types of changes have to happen over a long period of time. The solution for Haiti and other poor countries isn't going to come with a lightning bolt of transformation or with a huge grant from Bill Gates. Or with an agreement at the next U.N. meeting. It's going to take a lot of time, a lot of sacrifice, and the willingness to make choices in our lives that will be better for ourselves and others in the long run, even if they aren't glamorous, exciting, or easy at the time. This is why I am content to be involved in educational ministry for the long run. It isn't something I can decide to do and expect results over night. Part of why I can and want to devote myself to it is because if huge-scale, long-term changes are to be made for those in need, it starts with transforming the way we think and relate to one another in our daily lives. Those choices we make don't "filter down" to anything, because they start at the bottom and creep up, like water crawling up a dry napkin by osmosis. And my hope and prayer is that through good education equipping people with the tools they need to solve their own problems where they're at, those changes will happen.

If I ever got the chance to do disaster relief or something like that, I'd do it. But before I make the journey to do it "over there," I'd better make it a daily habit to engage in relief work right down the street from where I'm staying. Otherwise I'm only shirking my personal responsibilities and doing it for the excitement and adrenaline-charged thrill. And although that might be the advertising industry's demographic for a male my age, I'll start changing the way people think right now, by deciding and working towards something I can commit to long-term.

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