As I was planning our trip to the Boundary Waters this summer, I prayed that God would touch our hearts in new ways in this place that was such a constant reminder of his glory. He had met me in many undeniable ways during the two summers I spent there, and I hoped and prayed he would do the same for all of us once again.
This is the story of how God met Bethany there.
A couple of days into our trip, my brother was sharing how the primitive conditions there in the wilderness reminded him of the villages in West Africa, not far outside the cities where he and his family have spent the better part of the last 20 years. He said the difference was striking, though. We went camping for fun, for a vacation, a place to get away, and would soon happily return to our lives of comfort. The villagers always had little, were far from medical help, and had no choice in the matter. For them, it was just life.
Dave told us of his good friend who lived near their home. This man had moved to the city in hopes of earning a living and sending the money home to the village to support his family. He worked a series of temporary jobs, and could barely get by himself, while sending what little he could to help his aging mother. He told Dave, "You and I are the same age, but you are young and I am old."
Therein my brother found his dilemma. You see, Dave would visit with his friend and think, here I am going home to a house with food and beds and a healthy family. I even have an air conditioner in my bedroom so I can rest well in the heat. Should I take the money I use to cool my bedroom and help my friend?
Ahh, one of life's most difficult questions for the American middle class individual. How is it that I am the one who got to be rich by the world's standards? Why do I have so much when others have so little? And what must I do? can I do? should I do? am I willing to do...to alleviate the suffering of those without?
There are no easy answers. The question leaves some overwhelmed and hopeless. Makes many want to turn away.
My brother concluded that we are blessed to be a blessing. That God puts us where he puts us, and gives us what he gives us, so that we can joyfully pass it along.
Our kids listened intently to this story. Suddenly it was as though someone flipped a switch, and Bethany was a girl with a mission. You should have seen her! She began making plans that exhausted all of us just to listen to them, but she was determined that there were people who needed help, and she would respond. It was absolutely priceless, and so clear to me that God had truly touched her heart with his compassion for people in need.
It's so easy to overthink the dilemma of wealth, but it's really pretty simple. We are not meant to despair because we can't do it all. We are not meant to declare ourselves unworthy to serve because we remain comfortable. In the end, I don't think my brother turned off his A/C. But I'm positive he was a blessing to his friend. We can all choose, every day, to be a blessing in one way or another.
Stay tuned for the carrying out of Bethany's plans.