When hope shows up
From a talk at Q Ideas
Our culture has been bent toward heaviness and despair recently, but we believe the Church’s role is to bring hope into the dark places.
Heath Adamson, Chief of Staff at Convoy of Hope, a global relief and development organization and Global Chairman, World Assemblies of God tells some compelling stories about some hope-filled work going forward in a changing world.
In the beginning, God spoke and the universe began to take shape. When God created humanity, rather than speak, God scooped up a mound of dirt and breathed. God speaks and galaxies form and yet he saves his very breath for humanity. There is a place before the face of God, where in our postmodern, post secular culture, if we slow down long enough, and gaze into the Father's eyes, we can catch a glimpse of who we truly are.
It's important to remember God does not bless who we pretend to be, nor does he bless who people perceive us to be. No, God blesses who we were created to be. And, because of that, every single person on the planet is of utmost intrinsic value. But tragically, many people today do not feel that way.
Our world needs reintroduced to hope.
In our common human experience today, each one of us shares a current historic setback. The events of recent years with the pandemic, supply chain issues, war in Ukraine, etc., have reshaped our generation. For the first time in 20 years, the percentage of the world's population living in poverty has increased and that number represents an additional 119 million people. Gains in education, agency autonomy and civil society, frankly, are gone. We see increased arcane ideologies, geopolitical fractures, the exploitation of the disadvantage, inequity and perhaps for me personally, the most troubling is mere human indifference. These among many are some of the contributing factors. And when hopelessness abounds, people do unspeakable things.
I spoke with a father in Southeast Asia, who sold his oldest daughter to buy food to feed the rest of his family. When you walk among the refugee camps filled with Venezuelans in nations such as Brazil and Colombia, you will notice a trend many of the women in the girls they shaved their heads why they're selling their hair to buy food. Parents in developed nations choose between paying bills or buying groceries for the kids. To a child who is hungry, hope shows up through a plate of food.
So what is hope? And does it really matter? Judeo-Christian scripture invites us to understand the transformative impact of hope in a deeper sense. What we do know is this hope is not whimsical. It is a fundamental human need. And I would propose it is also a human right. Hope is a place the human soul comes to, where what we see regardless of our experience, is not all that there is. It impacted Abraham this way - "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations." Romans 4v18 NIV.
In Joshua 2, a group of soldiers are conducting reconnaissance in and around Jericho. Upon their discovery, they hide to save their lives in the home of a prostitute named Rahab. She allows them to escape out of a window using a tightly woven cord. As they flee, they instruct her to allow the cord to remain visible in her window when they invade the city. Everyone in the home where the rope is visible, will be kept safe. That rope was a symbol that a promise made after a period of waiting will ultimately be a promise kept. When you read Joshua 2 however, you'll notice in the English translation, the word hope is not found. That's because the word Tikvah (hope) is translated as cord. Metaphorically speaking, hope is a tightly woven cord that when tethered to something strong and sure, it always gets you where you need to go if you hold on, tight enough.
Hope seems unreasonable, and at times for many of us it is irrational. And although hope and hopelessness are divergent, they are certainly not competitive. When our hope is tethered to the one who scoops up a mound of dirt and breathes, bringing life, innovation, beauty and creativity out of nothing, our hope serves also as a symbol that a promise made will always be a promise kept.
This is our experience day after day, especially right now in Eastern Europe, where we serve refugees pouring out of Ukraine. What does hope look like when when someone flees Ukraine, while for many hope looks like food and water in a place of shelter and safety. But what about the Roma? The Roma, because of their ethnicity in Eastern Europe, are marginalised and stigmatised. As they flee the war in Ukraine, they watch family after family board a bus, a train - somebody greets them with food and water. No-one wants to talk to them. No-one wants to touch them. To the Roma fleeing Ukraine, this is what hope looks like - Ronaldo. Ronaldo takes the bus to Ukraine's border day after day and looks for the forgotten ones. The ones that seldom have anybody reached out to them. They are the Roma. They board the bus. They are transported to churches and homes of Christians where they receive food and water and hope and the potential for a better day.
The Sahel is a strip 4000 miles long in Sub Saharan Africa. Rain falls In the months of May to August. 12 months worth of rainfall in those four months. The months of October and November in the villages are filled with singing, dancing and celebration, as every single family member enjoys a luxurious two meals per day. In December the families begin to conserve food. By the time February rolls around every single person lives on one meal a day. In March, the children become ill because they're hungry and malnourished. And in April at dusk, if you listen, you'll hear the cries of babies and infants because they cannot get comfortable. They cannot sleep because they have nothing of substance to place into their stomachs. And then inevitably, in village after village, hut after hut, there is a symbol of hope where a father will go to the shelf and take a bag of seed and do the unthinkable. He will take their last remaining grain and throw it into the dry and arid dirt. Why? Because he knows that soon, the rains are coming and that means shortly after that the harvest.
Now I can tell you unequivocally that the solution may seem elusive, it may be difficult to measure scientifically but it is real. It is more real than anything you can wrap your hands around and it is the power of hope.
And if you need hope today, I challenge you slow down long enough to notice that cord draped out of your window. Because for you, regardless of how you think and feel, a promise made by God is always a promise kept. If you would like to bring hope to someone else, refuse to be successful in life at what in the end does not matter and resist the seductive convenience of memorising Jesus, and instead do the hard work and become like him.
Watch the 9 minute talk here.
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From a talk at Q Ideas, 18/10/2022