It’s my pleasure to welcome Noel Brewer Yeatts, vice president of the faith based humanitarian organization World Help—whom I’ll be traveling with to Rwanda and Uganda in January–to my humble blog, to give away her new book, Awake: Doing a World of Good One Person at a Time. Here’s Noel…
I sway back and forth. It is a beautiful summer day with a nice breeze. I look out over the water as I lie in a hammock a few feet away and rock back and forth … back and forth.
My eyes slowly close and my surroundings and thoughts start to fade as I watch boats cut through the water. The repetitive sound of the wake hitting the shore helps me slowly drift away as I continue to sway back and forth … back and forth.
I am lulled into a deep, peaceful sleep, and it feels wonderful.
For a few moments, I forget and escape everything – my problems, my anxiety, and all my fears. I dream about only good things and forget the bad.
I become numb … comfortably numb. Awake, p.21
I met her in a dusty village in Guatemala – a village that literally had nothing. There was no school, no clinic, and no clean water. Just homes made out of sticks, tarp and whatever they could find. As this mother and daughter approached me I could see the desperation in their eyes.
I found out that this beautiful, nine year old little girl standing in front of me—named Margarita—had been raped. She had been so brutally raped that her intestines were protruding from her body. She had already had two surgeries. Her mother gently pulled down her skirt just enough so we could see the bandages and the drainage bag.
I couldn’t believe it … I looked around me … I wondered, “How has she survived? It’s filthy here! How has she cleaned her wounds? They don’t even have clean water here to take medicine. How has she survived?”
Her mother had a plastic bag in her hand with all of her medical paperwork, trying to show us, “Look, I’ve been a good mother. I’ve done everything I can, but I’m out of resources.” And her daughter needed one last major, extensive surgery to completely correct the problem—and the mother had nothing … had no way to help her.
Now some people could say, “That mother was smart. She heard that a group of Americans were going to be in her village that day, so she decided that this was her opportunity.” But I never looked at it that way. She was just being a mom. And as a mom, myself, I would do whatever it took to get my child the help that they needed.
I found myself overcome with the unfairness of it all—this little girl had done nothing to deserve this—her innocence was swept away in an instant, and she had no way out – simply because she was poor. Simply because she lived in an area of the world that was overcome with poverty and destitution.
It didn’t sit well with me. It just wasn’t right.
One of my favorite quotes says this:
Let us be the ones who say we do not accept that a child dies every three seconds simply because he does not have the drugs you and I have. Let us be the ones to say that we are not satisfied that your place of birth determines your right to life. Let us be outraged, let us be loud and let us be bold.
I wish I could say that a great pastor or Christian leader said those words. But, I can’t. Those words were spoken by an actor – an actor named Brad Pitt.
Now, I don’t claim to know what Brad Pitt’s beliefs are, but I know what we claim to believe. And as people of faith, I wish that when seeing the injustices in our world that we felt this same way. I wish that this made us outraged and that we wanted to be loud and bold about it.
But too often we just get overwhelmed. It’s uncomfortable to be bold. It’s much easier to be numb. . . to forget that the rest of the world is suffering unimaginable circumstances—conflict, genocide, famine, slavery, oppression—it simply isn’t a part of our everyday life.
What is hard for you to see? What makes you want to turn away? What makes you want to live with your head in the sand? Some of us don’t like to look at our bank accounts and prefer to live on credit cards. Some of us simply turn off our televisions to avoid the negative news of the day or the never-ending political battles. Others elude doctor visits and would rather live not knowing if anything is physically wrong.
For me, there are lots of things I like to avoid – getting on a scale, thinking about how few years I have left with my children before they leave our home, and acknowledging how much laundry there really is left to do.
While most of these things are not very important in the grand scheme of life, they all represent denial on some level – denial of the truth and of the real world. And we are really good at this. It is as if we all took a special class in school on how to live our lives in denial.
In my book Awake, I address this issue head on and question if we really “see” people around the world and their desperate needs. Do we see ourselves in their eyes and in their pain?
We have become experts at turning the channel, looking the other way and filling our lives with so many distractions that we never have to fully face reality. We are living with our eyes glued shut.
In Awake I write:
Too often we settle for a God who knows and loves everything about us. A God who takes care of us, who makes all our dreams come true, and who keeps us safe. And we are comfortable letting God keep the hurt and pain in the far corners of the world all to himself. He can keep all of that; just let us keep living in our world – our cool, clean, comfortable world.
But, the truth is, we have been lulled into a deep sleep – and we need to wake up.
A life unaffected by the needs of the world – is no life at all.
John Stott said:
The horror of the situation is that our affluent culture has drugged us; we no longer feel the pain of other people’s deprivations. Yet the first step toward the recovery of our Christian integrity is to be aware that our culture blinds, deafens and dopes us. Then we shall begin to cry to God to open our eyes, unstop our ears and stab our dull consciences awake, until we see, hear and feel what through his Word he has been saying to us all the time. Then we shall take action.
My family was able to help provide the last surgery that Margarita needed. The doctors said they had to completely rebuild her insides. The group that was with us was able to provide the funds needed to build her a home in her village and now she has a safe, clean and healthy place to live.
One life … completely transformed. One life … saved.
I have decided that I know what bothers me and what wrecks me. I know what I can’t stand and what seriously disturbs me in our world. I know what I want to change. If you are honest, there is something that gets to you too.
I don’t want to be numb to these things anymore. It is just too hard. I want to see the needs, feel the needs, and touch the needs – I want to make a difference.
May we all find ourselves awake and doing a world of good.
Click here to watch a short video of Noel and Margarita.