I hope you've heard Shaun Groves.
I don't mean that you've heard his music, though it's outstanding, and has landed him on the cover of the old CCM Magazine and blah blah blah. Or even his incredible new, indie stuff, from "Third World Symphony." When I say I hope you've heard him, I mean, I hope you've HEARD Shaun Groves. Really heard him.
What he has to say, particularly with regard to God's heart for the poor, the marginalized, the weak, and the vulnerable, is wonderful news: for them, and for us. As Shaun is fond of saying, we are not merely saved "from", we are saved "for", and that's to do the work of the Kingdom. We GET to do this. It's way more exciting than a teaching. It's a mission.
So I hope you've heard Shaun, loud and clear, even if you didn't know he was a big-shot Christian pop star-feller. Or is. I don't know, or care. I'm not sure he does, either.
He asked some blogger-types to host a "blog-tour" with the release of "Third World Symphony", and to write about a bit of our own engagement with the "third world", and how we saw Jesus at work. I've written much about this theme, over time, and as I say, what I've seen in developing nations hasn't just changed my mind on things, or how we spend our money, or my mindset on this or that. It's done much more.
It's helped me fall in love with God.
Where God Lives
WRITTEN FROM NAIROBI, KENYA, 2008
(First, before today's blog entry, let me note that I'm typing to the strains of a tuxedo-clad young Kenyan on the piano in our hotel. I'm sitting in the lobby, and he's regally playing -- of course -- "You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille", by Kenny Rogers. Many things don't translate cross-culturally, but -- make no mistake -- Kenny translates. Kenny crosses all boundaries)
Susan leaned over, from her seat in the van.
"Notice where the children are playing -- look out the left window," she said. Susan knows this area well, she's worked for Compassion for years.
They were playing next to a pile of trash that's well over their heads, and seems to stretch for miles. The stench hit us immediately.
"They put all these schools next to the dump. All of Nairobi dumps its trash here," she said. Children of Dandora -- another sprawling, Where-the-Streets-Have-No-Name-type slum -- scavenge through the refuse, looking for food, or something to sell. Anything.
We stopped, and walked in a Dandora Baptist Church, where children at a Compassion project were singing. Their voices bounced off the walls, singing praises to God. Then we met about dozen people in the church who are suffering from AIDS. The whole community is suffering -- every family, one way or the other -- from AIDS.
A young man -- they called him "Timothy" -- stood up to introduce himself to us.
We could look out the windows to the right and left as he spoke, and see children in the filth. We could see dozens of vultures flying directly overhead, over the trash, over the dirt, over the disease-riddled, dark cardboard homes. Welcome to Dandora.
"Welcome to Dandora, where God lives."
Where God lives?
Circling vultures. Men, women and children crying out with disease, children searching through stinking trash for anything...where God lives.
Timothy has lived his whole life here. Someone sponsored him through Compassion International, when he was four. He's now in his twenties. He's now has a degree in Computer Science. He now teaches kids in the program about computers.
He knows where God lives. He knows God does not run away from suffering. He moves closer. Dandora is suffering, and God gets His mail here.
He also teaches the children -- who are where he once was --about the love of God.
"I understand the love of God. I understand how a God, whom I have not seen, can love me. This is because someone, whom I have not seen, loved me enough to sponsor me. I understand the love of God."
Where God lives.