Hi Rachel, it is routinely said that when we go to serve, we often find that we end up being more blessed ourselves than we could bless others. Could you share with us some of the most significant lessons you have learned through your travels with Wellspring? How have these journeys opened up your heart and perspective to see more clearly?
Another great question! I think one of the biggest things I have learned is just how complex issues really are. Even though we so long for clear solutions and for the answers to be black and white, the reality is usually right in the gray. For instance, with the issue of prostitution, many would describe it as a woman’s choice. To some degree, it could be argued that it is, but when you start to peel back the layers, you can see the complexity of circumstances that have essentially landed her where she is.
For many women, the journey starts as a vulnerable child with limited access to quality education. Sexual and physical abuse may have played a large role in her childhood as well as growing up in a broken home. Substance abuse, running away, mental health, homelessness, lack of jobs, racial discrimination and other issues can all can be determining factors leading her to where she is now. There is actually a good video put out by Exodus Cry that explains the path to prostitution for many women: http://exoduscry.com/choice/
Just looking at that issue alone, the answers range from legalizing prostitution to give women more rights, putting prevention methods in place, ensuring that vulnerable children have access to quality education, providing better mental health support, teaching young men how to honor women, offering jobs to women to leave the sex industry, and so on. The issue is extremely complicated with a lot of different layers and no simple answers.
I see this complexity with all of the differing humanitarian components in which Wellspring works. For me, this illustrates the crucial need for us to continue to stay well versed and educated on these differing components. It also shows the necessity to listen to people-to truly listen to all of the angles from which people come when addressing an issue. Our responses have to be multi-faceted and open to change and input.
Another thing I have learned (and possibly more encouraging than my previous example) is that there is extraordinary beauty in some of the responses to the brokenness of humanity. In the leaders and staff of the organizations Wellspring supports, I encounter true heroes of our faith. They are people who have given up all status and pursuit of earthly treasures to walk in the trenches with people. I repeatedly am reminded of the goodness of the gospel through them. I see some of the most broken parts of humanity and the darkness of the human heart, yet I also see some of the most beautiful responses of selflessness, love, and sacrifice for another. This is an incredible gift to me and something for which I am eternally grateful.
There are honestly several things I could list, but those are the initial ones that stand out the most. It is such a privilege for me to do the work that I get to do, and I am always asking the Lord to continue to teach me and mold me through it.
Hi Rachel, I am so grateful for your kind but challenging and wise words. Thank you. One more kind of question: for people who are just starting to explore what it means to personally demonstrate a commitment to justice, where would you recommend they start? What are some good next steps to enter into loving those who are often in difficult circumstances? What are some cautions and ‘next steps’ to avoid?
That is a great follow-up question. I think starting with an open heart and mind and a desire to learn about an issue is key. With whatever cause or issue one is drawn to, I would suggest looking for books to read as well as open groups to join online to hear different perspectives. Two books that I would highly recommend as a starting point for learning about humanitarian issues are: Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. Both of these books expose a lot of injustices and will challenge some of the commonly held majority beliefs.
As I mentioned in several of my answers before, one key thing to avoid, in my opinion, is going into any issue with the assumption that you have the answers. Really listening to people who have experienced it is so important. As believers, we often reference the scripture where we are instructed to give the voice to the voiceless, but I think that first starts with actually listening to their voice and hearing their story long before we try to talk for them. Hear their stories and let it challenge your assumptions on the issue and on how systems work for vulnerable people. For instance, if someone is interested in the refugee crisis, I would suggest reading a lot of different voices and opinions, but then sitting down with actual refugees and hearing their experiences. This type of experience can educate us and validate them while also creating true connections.
I would also suggest looking for ways to connect and serve in your local community. In Atlanta, for instance, with almost every humanitarian issue that Wellspring supports internationally, there are also populations facing those same things here in our city. This can be a great way to learn more and to be a source of action. I believe when you find a cause and a community to invest in, it helps fight against apathy and feeling overwhelmed. It can also activate the reality that we all have a part we can play in bringing change.
As I have shared before, I am still on my own journey of learning, but I am always happy to be a resource to share any of my experiences or connections.
Thanks again, Carson!