I’ve always had a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of “justice.” In our culture, social justice has become a bit of a buzz word and it’s hard to figure out how we as Christians respond to overwhelming and tragic issues of injustice in our world. Growing up, I had a very narrow view of “justice.” Immediately my mind went to things like judges, prisons, and the TV show “COPS.” But a broader view of justice, and our role to be people pursuing justice, is essential to the life of the Christian leader.
This concept of “justice” hit me really hard a few years ago, as I few home from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti after visiting my son prior to our adoption being finalized. Here’s an excerpt from my journal and a question to get us started.
“There I sat on the verge of tears in seat 16A on a packed American Airlines flight from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti to Miami, Florida. Minutes prior, I had experienced the chaotic traffic through the nation’s capital, the sorrow of saying goodbye to missionary friends, and the whirlwind and insanity of customs in the tiny pre-earthquake Haitian airport. On my way to the make-shift terminal gate, I stopped at a gift cart and purchased a tiny book titled, “Haitian Proverbs.” This trip was exceptionally difficult for me. It was one of twenty or so trips I would make to this country, and each one seemed to get progressively less hopeful.
I sat in my chair next to missionaries and nuns and teenagers with fluorescent mission trip shirts. They were buzzing with stories of hope and progress; I was broken by what seemed like a never-ending story of disappointment and tragedy. They left behind suitcases of supplies and toys; I left behind my two children, Amos and Story, who we had been trying to bring home through international adoption for almost two years. Passengers around me were leaving Haiti with photo albums filled with children laughing, houses painted, and mountains climbed; I was leaving Haiti with the painful memory of my son, Amos, standing on the top floor of the Real Hope For Haiti rescue center, screaming, “Papa! Don’t leave me!” as rivers of dusty tears streamed down his weary Haitian cheeks.
Seat 16A was one of the most uncomfortable places on the planet for me in that moment. In fact, traveling back and forth from Austin, Texas to Haiti were some of the most difficult years of our lives. Years of red-tape and a corrupt government have slowed down Haitian adoptions, and here we found ourselves pleading with God to do what seems impossible – to end this process and bring our kids home. The fact that half of our family lived in poverty in one of the most broken places in the Western Hemisphere is a truth that neither of us could seem to handle.
I thumbed through the book of Haitian proverbs I had just purchased, hoping to find some sort of comfort or explanation to what my heart was feeling. The first one I read has forever stuck with me. It simply says, “When you come to Haiti, your heart is broken into a million pieces and you can never leave with all of them.”
If this is true, I’ll never again have all the pieces of my heart in tact. It’s been broken too many times. Orphaned children I met on the western shore of Haiti, in the village of Canaan, broke my heart and stole some of its pieces. My friends Tara and Troy Livesay, who have been ministering to the people of Haiti for nearly 12 years, stole sections of my heart. My heart has been shattered, and pieces stolen by every visit I had with my two Haitian children over their two and a half year adoption process.”
This sense of breaking and stealing is one of the most beautiful things God has done to my heart as He continues to make me in the image of His Son, Jesus. Amos and Story have been home now for a five years. God literally did the impossible when he brought them both home to America. Their story became my story. Their sadness became my sadness. And the places of my heart that were broken and stolen by their injustice… well, I’ll never get those back. My heart will always be broken by their injustice that became my own.
As artists, leaders, and pastors, we must have hearts that are willingly broken and stolen by experiences of poverty and injustice. It’s only then that we can have a truer understanding and sense of empathy for the world we’ve been entrusted to lead towards Jesus. And dare I say, it’s the only way we could be the Church that responds to injustice in a holistic, caring, effective way.
So, question — what have you experienced recently that broke and stole pieces of your heart?