My life was changed nine years ago when the jeep I was traveling in pulled up in front of a cow dung home and a lean, shy 16 year old boy walked over and extended his hand to me. Two younger siblings peeked around the hut’s door frame.
Both parents had died of AIDS. Ramal was the breadwinner in the family. He was tending a small garden plot, caring for a few chickens, and with the support of an aid agency was learning how to repair car engines.
This was a family of dignity and strength. A family that was taking some of the worst life can throw and staying committed to their faith and to one another.
Oh I was so proud of him! Even now looking at his picture, I remember the quiet power of this young man. Someone had told him he was important. Someone had stood by him and his sisters while his dad died and his mother finally wasted away too.
That somebody was World Vision. And oh, was I proud of them. Ramal was a Muslim – a legacy of his dead father. But what was keeping that family together was a Christian agency who didn’t check his religious affiliation when they learned about his status as an “orphan headed household”. They knew that the embrace of God was huge, that Jesus would have made a beeline for Ramal’s door, no questions asked; and that they wanted to be where Jesus would be.
Since that trip in 2005, I have had the honor of sponsoring several children with World Vision. Our congregation has built school classrooms, drilled water wells and trained rural pastors. In less than 6 weeks another group will be departing to distribute backpacks, and learn about new arenas of how we can share the love of Jesus with a suffering world.
On Monday, when I first learned about World Vision’s employee policy – allowing all employees to marry – gay and straight — my heart leaped inside me. I thought this agency might show a fractured US church a direction to a deeper unity. I appreciate how doctrine must be central in churches, but surely, in an agency devoted to all of humanity, surely, the mission would keep “the main thing, the main thing.”
World Vision could show us how we all: gay, straights, divorced, single and married – – could recover our mantle as people of the way.
That’s not to be. There will be no leadership to a deeper unity. Instead there are just deeper fissures and more hurt.
I’m not going to denounce, condemn and bully. There’s been enough of that these last few days. I’m not pulling my support for my children. I’ll continue to recruit and support the many marathon runners who will endure 26.2 miles in order to bring clean water to people around the world. I will hand out rainbow armbands to every World Vision runner I can. And next month our church group – 8 straights, 2 gays and 10 opinions – will arrive in Tanzania where we will greet our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
But I’m sad. And I’m disappointed. Because for a moment I thought World Vision was going to show the U.S. church what they showed me that morning at Ramal’s house. I thought we all were going to see a truer picture of just how wide God’s embrace really is. and how important every single person is to Jesus. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.