Feeding his Sheep in a Shrinking World
My Family, like the rest of us, have been inundated with coverage of the Ukraine war. Ever since the start of the war, every news cast has shown us the destructive effects from the war in such a personal way. The images that we are seeing range from the heartbreaking to the enraging.
What I did not realize was how it affected my children. This is their first glimpse of real war on TV. My generation has seen the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. My parents have recounted how they felt with the coverage of Vietnam. My Grandfather was a part of the greatest generation fighting World War II. Unfortunately, we have grown accustom to these images that are shown across the screen. My children’s generation has not had these experiences before.
My eldest’s emotions ranged from anger to bewilderment. He could not fathom why Putin decided to invade and why we could not do more. When the invasion started, my youngest came to my wife and I and asked if we had to leave our home. He did not realize that Ukraine was half a world away; to him Ukraine could be as close as Canada. We assured him of how far away the war is and his fears diminished. I, myself, was affected. Seeing and hearing from the Ukrainian refugees' stories, reminded me how quickly earthly possessions are lost. Many of those people, just a month ago, where more worried about how to pay their monthly bills; as compared to now, wondering where their next meal will come from and if members of their family are alive.
My children’s reactions also taught me something. To my children’s generation, there is no longer “over there.” Many of us have grown up feeling the safety of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. My children's generation does not. The world has gotten smaller because of Zoom and online gaming. There are no borders online. It is not uncommon to video gamers to be playing games against individuals living in China or Russia or the Ukraine. These gamers, to my children’s generation, are as close to them as the neighbor kid down the street. My children can watch football (soccer) matches live from England, Germany and other European leagues. My youngest’s favorite club is Manchester United (Manchester, England) and his favorite player is Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal national). My eldest loves Javy Baez, the former Cubs player from Puerto Rico. For my children, the borders between nations are slowly getting blurry. When they see injustice and suffering in this world, it is not “over there,” it’s in their back yard.
I have been a part of the mission team for about 6 years. Our team has been really careful about how we spend our mission budget. We have tried to spend a percentage of money internationally and a percentage of money nationally/locally. We have been questioned on why we have spent money in the areas we have. Questions on why we helped build a basketball court in Jordan for Syrian refugees are still whispered in our ears. We have received criticism for the money we have spent internationally.
Christianity does not acknowledge borders. Christ calls for us to answer needs of his “lambs.” In John 21:15, when Christ calls for his disciples to feed his sheep, Christ does not limit this help within a set square mile. When Christ was asked whom is to be considered a neighbor, he taught us the parable of the good Samaritan. (Christ hinted that anyone could be considered a neighbor.)
My children and their reactions to this recent war reminded me of these lessons. Their reactions teach me that in order for our church to be relevant for future generations, we need to be more open about our giving internationally vs. nationally. These future generations do not view borders or oceans as permanent as many of us still do. They see need and want to respond. These generations will not want to be a part of a congregation who does not see the world as they do.
As for Ukraine, the mission team has already made donations to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance fund and to the Outreach Foundation. Both organizations are working with churches in Poland and other border states to help with the refugee crisis. I know they are taking online donations if you feel the call to do more. Don’t forget that our church has also been active in assisting the refugees out of Afghanistan, Syria and Palestine. Let us try not to forget those efforts in wake of the current tragedy.
God’s sheep are calling out to us. Let us answer the call to feed sheep and help our fellow brothers and sisters in these times of need.