KOH2RVA: Day 254

YosselinPray for the people of Oklahoma today, friends. The headline of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reads: “Massive Tornado Pummels Oklahoma.” The sub-heads carry the grim news that at least 51 people are dead and more than 140 injured; that a school was devastated and children, some dead, were pulled from the debris; that it was a powerful storm—a half-mile wide—packing 200 mph winds.

It’s that image of children being pulled from the debris of a school that gets me. There’s something about their innocence and vulnerability that makes that scene especially tragic. And even though I don’t believe this tornado was God’s judgment on the people of Oklahoma I still want to know why:

Why do children have to suffer?

I was asking that question on Sunday afternoon as I watched a documentary about modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Often it is children, some of them very young, who are the victims of traders and traffickers. Little boys forced to work in rock quarries or make bricks day after day in India. Little girls prostituted in brothels in Cambodia and hotel rooms in Richmond. It’s their faces that break your heart.

There is no joy there.

On the table in front of me on Sunday was the face of a boy from Africa. He was up for “adoption” through Compassion International. And even though I might never meet this boy face to face Compassion International assures me that for a little more than a dollar a day he can receive food, clothing, shelter, and education. In other words, he can be rescued from a life of suffering.

I already sponsor a child through Compassion (Yosselin, from Mexico, in the picture above), but on Sunday I thought about sponsoring at least one more. I like what Tony Campolo says, that “every Christian should have a kid’s picture on their refrigerator.” If we did that—all two billion of us around the globe who call ourselves Christians—it would make a difference. And beyond that we could support the work of the International Justice Mission abroad and the Richmond Justice Initiative here at home, both organizations working to set children free from slavery and the sex trade.

There’s not much we can do about tornadoes, but we can do something about this. We can do our best to bring people to justice who trade and traffic in human flesh, and we can give children a chance to live a different kind of life. Our efforts may not make a difference to all the children in the world, but as I look at Yosselin’s picture, above, I’m hoping they will make a difference to her.

Fast Lane at the Drive-In

SonicMatt Jeffreys is the pastor of Ridgeline Community Church in Temecula, California. He’s a young guy—hip, smart, and passionate about his ministry. I was having lunch with him at this meeting in Oklahoma City last week and he was telling me the story of what happened to him at the Sonic drive-in that just opened up in Temecula.

“My wife and I were kind of excited about the new Sonic,” he said, “because we used to go all the time when we lived in Texas. So, I pull up in one of the spaces, place my order, and while I’m waiting for my food to come I start tapping my foot to the music they’re playing over the speaker system. I don’t know what the song is, but I like it, and so I take out my iPhone, hit “Shazam” (an application that “listens” to music and identifies both the song and the artist), and it tells me what the song is. And then it (the iPhone) asks me if I want to download the song from iTunes (another Apple innovation that lets you buy music online for 99 cents a song). ‘Why not?’ I thought. And so I clicked ‘yes’ and the song began to download but it was taking, like, forever!”

And that’s when he noticed that the song had downloaded in less than a minute. It’s not like he was doing anything else. He was waiting for his food to come. But he had grown impatient with his technology for not being faster than it was.

Matt thinks (and I agree) that this is a symptom of the time in which we live, when anything less than instant gratification seems like too long to wait. When I asked his permission to tell this story he added these examples:

“Just this last week I found myself clicking my garage door remote over and over as I was getting closer to my actual driveway, trying to get the door to go up the very second the signal would reach. And I started pushing it well before I knew it would open. I guess I do that regularly, I’ve just never noticed until I started tracking the symptoms of ‘hurry sickness’ in my own life. It’s not enough that my garage door will open automatically, I want it to open FASTER. Pathetic.

“Also this last week, while going through the drive-through at Chick-fil-A in Temecula, I caught myself driving up to the window from the place where you order while the girl who was taking my order was still talking! She was just saying ‘have a great day & pull-up…’ but I was already on my way. I didn’t want to spend an extra 1-2 seconds while she finished talking. Again, pathetic!”

He concludes by saying:

“It’s definitely a different day in human history. Everything is so fast and easy, yet we’re more exhausted & frazzled than ever.”

Matt is being too hard on himself. He’s just part of a culture that’s been pushing us faster and faster, promising us more and more, and yet, as he says, we often end up “exhausted and frazzled.”

So what does Matt do? Every once in a while he asks his staff to turn over their iPhones and for 24 hours they all “fast” from the instant gratification of modern technology. They take things slowly, as they come, and try to rediscover the rhythms of life before the Internet, before the computer, and even before the 1950’s era Sonic Drive-In. They try to follow the stern command of Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”