ALS, Ferguson, Syria/Iraq, Israel/Palestine – my response

So, it finally happened…I was nominated for the ALS ice bucket challenge. I’m not sure what happened to me in recent years, but the more people challenge me to do something the less I want to do it. This is coming from the guy who snuck into his dad’s closet before school so he could wear his Tommy Hilfiger designer clothing. This is coming from the guy who worked at Abercrombie & Fitch during the height of their “let’s plaster our name on everything except the half-naked image luring people into our store” era (I’m not proud of this, but it is part of my story nonetheless). Clearly, giving into peer pressure has not always been an issue for me.

But now, the more popular something is the less likely I am to join in (I still haven’t read Purpose Driven Life…whew that feels good to get off my chest). So, the challenge came from a dear friend and I realized that I was trapped. Either, I do nothing and pretend I didn’t see it on both social media venues on which I was called out, or I just dump a bucket of ice water on my head and move on with life. Or, because I’m a third way kind of guy, think of some way to participate without participating.

This time the reluctance came less from me being a cynical stinker and more from me feeling the weight of the world events that were swirling in my head and heart and soul as the ice bucket challenge suddenly dominated my Facebook feed. Israelis and Palestinians fighting again. Racial tension escalating in Ferguson, MO. Christians and Yazidis and other people groups being targeted and ruthlessly murdered. War and famine and Ebola and you name it claiming innocent lives. People being beheaded and dying of thirst while millions were dumping buckets of water on their heads. So yeah, I guess that’s why I didn’t know how to react and I didn’t make the 24 hour deadline. In fact, I think I’m more in the 300th hour.

But, “better late than never” or so they say…whoever “they” are. So, here’s my response. I wanted to do something about each of these things that had caused a deep sorrow to settle in my soul. My first response was and is to pray. Most often, I find myself simply crying out, “Lord, have mercy.” Other times, I find solace in words prayed millions of times over from the Book of Common Prayer:

O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh, and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And other times I voice my own laments and petitions to God.

My other response is simply this: to listen. To listen to the voices of those crying out for justice. To listen before I respond, or re-post, or re-tweet or re-anything.

And finally, I respond by acting. In so many of these cases, I feel immobilized by the distance, the severity, and the complexity of the issues. Who am I to do or say anything? But do and say I must because my love of God compels me to mourn with those who mourn and to speak for those who have no voice.

I don’t know what the implications of this will be for the future, but for now I have chosen to take the action that comes easiest (if I’m being really honest). That action is to offer financial support to four different organizations.

First, I (and whenever I write “I” you should assume “we” because without the one who makes “me” into “we” I would probably still be chasing fads and popularity…and maybe even still wearing A&F) have decided to give to The Telos Group (www.telosgroup.org) mostly because someone I respect very much wrote about their work in his most recent book (Visions of Vocation by Steven Garber – a great read). Here’s a bit about their vision and mission:

Telos strengthens the capacity of American faith communities – and especially American evangelicals – to help positively trans­form the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Our vision is security, freedom, and dignity for every human being in the Holy Land, and our belief is that a two-state solution supported by the United States is the only viable way to realize that vision.

In other words, we at Telos are genuinely pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-American, and pro-peace, all at the same time.

Second, we gave to the Anglican Relief and Development Fund (www.anglicanaid.net) because we have the utmost respect for their organization and the work they are doing with people in Iraq and Syria at present. Here’s their mission statement:

Through the love of Jesus Christ, ARDF strives to connect those who can provide with those who need through a holistic, high impact, and proven community development approach so that believers are strengthened and encouraged, lives are rescued and made whole, and Christ is glorified.

Third, we gave toward a local ministry – Man Up Movement – run by great people whom we have the privilege of knowing. They recently began an initiative called “Manly Modeling” which is attempting to mentor young men in local schools (manupmen.org/mentoring). Here’s the vision statement for the initiative:

MANLY MODELING is a Masculine Mentoring Initiative for boys, teens, college-age students and adults….Helping them MAN-UP in their stage of responsibility by providing that personal, presence engagement of one Man-2-the-Next!

I believe in these people and in the vision they are trying to fulfill. This is also, in some ways, my response to what happened and is continuing to happen in Ferguson, MO and all over our country and world…my own community included. I don’t know what all it will mean, but the area of racial reconciliation is one area where I feel most implicated locally. My dream would be to have us all sit down and watch “The Color of Fear” together, and share a meal and discussion afterward. I will never forget the first time I watched the documentary in a Multicultural Psych class. My life and perspective have never been the same.

And last, but not least, we gave toward International Justice Mission. If you know us at all, you know that this was not a difficult decision. We have been captivated with their work for many years now, and so it seemed natural to give to their effort to end violent oppression around the world. We also hoped it would help soften the tension that Christy recently stirred up on Twitter with IJM’s president, Gary Haugen, about his #selfies 🙂

So, there you have it. It is getting late, and I am getting tired and this post is getting longer.

P.S. I’ll give my $10 to fight ALS too

P.P.S. What will you do?

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One comment

  1. I meant to mention and forgot…I have two close relatives and a dear friend who are police officers. The pain and risk and courage they must live with everyday is not lost on me. I am grateful for the sacrifices they make…physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc…to make our communities a safer place to live. Any recommendations on where to give to support their work?

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