Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thanksgiving: A Season of Mobilization, Part 2

[be sure and read the previous posts HERE]

I think we should add a preparation time called Harvest before Thanksgiving, just like we have preparation times called Advent and Lent before Christmas and Easter, respectively. I think we should prepare our hearts to celebrate Thanksgiving by considering “going before the Lord” with an offering of praise and faith. We, too, can add to our Thanksgiving festival by making sure we don’t “appear before the Lord empty-handed.” Everyone in the Old Testament could participate in this Festival. If you were able, you could bring a lamb; if you were too poor, you could bring a bird. People were to bring what they were able; it wasn’t the size of the gift but the condition of the heart before the Lord. So...if you’ve stuck with me so far, how can we begin this new holiday/Holy Day tradition of preparing for Thanksgiving through a season of Harvest?

Well, since Thanksgiving involves expressing gratitude for God’s gracious provision in our lives, especially the provision of crops and food in general, why not celebrate Harvest each year by focusing on a spot in the world where crops, food and other provision is not as plentiful as it is for us? I would suggest that this year’s Harvest Season be engaged in by considering Somalia and the Horn of Africa. One of the greatest droughts in decades has destroyed crops and prevented harvest. In addition, the drought has turned into a full-fledge famine because of religious and political turmoil in the area.

Tens of thousands have died in recent months. Experts believe the drought could continue through first quarter of 2012, and possibly until August of ’12! It is estimated that up to 750,000 could die in coming months. During the summer months of 2011 it is estimated that over 29,000 children under the age of 5 have perished due to starvation. We are told that another 640,000 children are malnourished suggesting the death toll could dramatically increase. I’ll never forget watching the movie, “Hotel Rwanda.” When I saw the film I was outraged. I was shocked. I was embarrassed...I had noticed just a little of what was going on from watching the news, but I was embarrassed that I had no clue as to what was really happening. The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass murder of an estimated 800,000 Tutsi’s by the Hutu population.

Well, my own face is red...again. It is only through some dear friends at ONE that I was made more fully aware of
all that is happening in Somalia. It is, admittedly, a VERY complicated situation. There are certainly issues of governance, transparency and accountability regarding local leadership, but also centuries of back story we are only beginning to comprehend. There are also long-term problems that are agricultural: developing drought-resistant seed, proper fertilizers and early warning systems for coming droughts. There are short-term problems like increasing awareness and providing safe passage and delivery of aid to where it’s most desperately needed. There is also a need to ensure that aid is not “hijacked” and then sold at prices the desperately needy and impoverished can’t afford.

Recently, on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Bono spoke to this horribly complex situation: “It’s hard to believe that
this is the 21st century and you know, we mustn’t let the complexity of the situation absolve us from responsibility to act. That’s really the message...when you hear stories...of women leaving the dead children on the road to come beg for food; [women having] to choose between children...’Inward’ I have to leave this one (he looks the weakest or she looks the weakest), I’ll take this one.’

This is outrageous!...And it’s not our intentions, it’s our’s our priorities that define us. This is a defining moment.”
What would it be like for YOU to have to choose which child you will feed and therefore which one you chose to let die?!
If we begin to put into practice the Harvest Season preparation for Thanksgiving, there are a couple extremes we must seek to avoid: the one extreme is sticking our heads in the sand and remaining ignorant; the other extreme is seeing so much evil and complication that we get overwhelmed and paralyzed; so discouraged and depressed that we are immobilized; so cynical that we consider any option as meaningless.

Hundreds of thousands with no voice in places of power need our voice. They need our voices to tell others who remain in ignorance about what is happening. They need our voices to keep telling our governing officials that something must be done. They need our voices to be lifted up to God that He Himself might intervene by His great mercy and grace. Imagine a child falling into a pit, crying out, but no one comes. Imagine a girl being abused sexually, wondering where help is, where daddy is, where God is. Imagine 640,000 Somali children facing starvation. How are these children any different?

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