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May 7, 2013

Firsthand Experience | Day 22

Secondhand Statistics

Scripture to meditate on: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)

The following is an excerpt from Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own by Ryan and Josh Shook.

We want to share with you some disturbing facts we once heard from Pastor Rick Warren.

  • If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, then you’re better off than 75 percent of the world today.
  • If you have any amount of money in a bank account or in your wallet, then you’re better off than 92 percent of the world’s population.
  • If you’ve never experienced the pangs of starvation, then you are better off than the 500 million people who are experiencing starvation right now while you’re reading this sentence.

    These facts should disturb us. Usually, however, it takes more than facts to disturb us enough to do something. I know it did for me (Ryan).

    My mom has been leading our church’s mission work in Haiti since the devastating earthquake of 2010. She told me the disturbing statistics that more than 300,000 people had lost their lives, that 1.3 million people were still living in tents a year after the quake, that 300,000 children were orphaned and had nowhere to go and no one looking out for them. I felt bad about it, but the statistics didn’t mean much to me, to be honest. It wasn’t until I experienced the situation firsthand that I became divinely and deeply disturbed.

    Last year I accompanied my mom on one of her mission trips to Haiti. I was there mainly to film the work going on in order to encourage more people in the church to go on the continuous trips. After filming the clean-water system, school, and coffee ministry we had started, we took a trip out to a place that left me completely undone. It was the area where, right after the earthquake, the Haitians disposed of thousands of unidentified bodies before their decay could spread disease to the living.

    We arrived at this massive grave site on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake. I started to film as thousands of people streamed by, going to what looks like the city dump to pay respects to their loved ones who died in the quake. But soon I had to put my camera down and turn it off as the enormity of their tragedy came over me like a wave. I watched as widows, orphans, and friends walked in solemn silence to pay their respects.

    I had driven by this grave site several times since we’d arrived in the country, but I had never even noticed it. Yet now I understood. These weren’t numbers in a textbook I could just glance over; these were broken people. It dawned on me that the faces in front of me had names and loved ones and real pain.

    Thousands of people with tears in their eyes were going to what they assumed was where their loved ones’ remains ended up—in a giant pit of dirt and trash. Suddenly all those statistics started exploding in my head: 300,000 people dead, 300,000 orphans, 1.3 million people in tents! God disturbed me deeply as I moved from secondhand statistics to firsthand grief. These were no longer mere statistics but real people who had experienced pain I couldn’t begin to comprehend.

    God used that experience to move me out of my selfishness and into service. Now I’m committed to going back to Haiti and wherever else God takes me to make whatever difference I can in serving the poor and the powerless with the love of Christ.