God has brought an amazing young Congolese man into my life whose name is Tresor. Tresor simply wants to help those in society who have no voice. Tresor has reached out to former child soldiers, street kids, and rape survivors in the DR Congo. Thanks to his encouragement, I have been able to join him in reaching out to about twenty young girls who were kidnapped and raped during fighting in the DR Congo. These girls need advocates badly, for many have been rejected by their own families after escaping their captors and returning to their original homes.
Several years ago, on a trip to the DR Congo, I was asked to hold a one-day teaching seminar for these girls, who had been abducted and raped multiple times by Hutu extremists hiding out in the forests of Eastern DR Congo. I was humbled trying to think of a way to help these girls who had been hurt so deeply. But then I remembered an illustration used by a youth minister in the United States to speak to youth about their value. I started by holding up a $100 bill—they understood the value of American currency, which is frequently used in their country. I asked, “Does anyone want this $100 bill?” Everyone’s hand shot up immediately. Then I surprised them by crumpling the bill in my hands, then slowly unrolling it. I asked, “Who wants it now?” Everyone’s hand stayed up. Then I threw the bill down and ground it into the dirt with my foot. I spit on it. When I picked up the bill, held it before the group a third time, and asked whether anyone still wanted it, everyone still wanted it. Then I asked the girls: Why did they still want a bill that had been abused in so many ways? Because the bill had intrinsic value, holding its worth no matter what was done to its exterior. The girls got the point. They were still valuable, beloved daughters of God, no matter what had been done to them.
Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the size of our task and the sheer amount of people needing advocates. As Mother Teresa said, “we cannot all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” Tresor has adopted the phrase “small things; great love” as a motto for Mwangaza (Swahili for “shining light”), a nonprofit organization he started in the DR Congo.
A few years ago, my mother made me a birthday card reading “The first great rule in life is to put up with things; the second is to refuse to put up with things; and the third, and hardest, is to be able to distinguish between the first two.” Life is too short to put up with things that should not be put up with! I pray that God makes me sick enough over injustice to act. Justice is not about pity, nor about having feelings of sympathy. Justice is about biblical compassion—when something touches you at the core of your being and causes you to act.
In summer 2008, I returned to Africa after a fifteen-year absence. Flying over the Darfur section of Sudan at 37,000 feet, I reflected on what I was doing as a parable for our times. Horrible things were happening below me, but I didn’t see them, because I was flying at 37,000 feet. By flying over in a plane, I was living on a different plain. Hurting people are all around us, in our town and across the sea. But do we see them? Do we hear them? Will we take up the role of advocate for them? Life is too short not to stick your neck out for someone else who needs your help. Edmund Burke’s words are true, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
REFLECTIONS: The Bible calls us to hate evil. How can you keep your “hatred for injustice” alive? Ask God to make you sick enough about an injustice that you move from pity to compassion, causing you to act. What people live near you who don’t have influential voices? What people in other nations don’t have voices, for whom you can be an advocate?
To fear the Lord is to hate evil