How do we as a Christian organization navigate in a world characterized by political, social and economic division and disparity, where seemingly everyman’s chief end is the advancement of self and self-preservation? Our world makes idols out of wealth, power, social standing, education, respect, health, appearance, personal pleasure and even patriotism. When they don’t provide satisfaction, and ultimately they never do, we are left with feelings of anger, bitterness, fear, helplessness and despair. It is the nature of life in a fallen world.
Our Lord came into just such a world, defining a new radical world view that elevates others over self, service over power, individuals over institutions, selflessness and sacrifice over self-interest and comfort; a world view summarized in love that was wholly other-focused. Jesus lived this life. He loved us and commanded us to love others in the same way. How much did he love us? Enough to die for us, and that is good news!
So where do we fit into this world we live in? We want to be part of a world where those who have time and resources use them to improve the lives of others, not out of some sense of religious or social or political obligation, or out of a desire for personal benefit, but out of love; love for our Lord manifested in love for our neighbors, responding to the good news that while we were still lost, Christ gave everything for us.
It is refreshing to find partners who love the people they serve in this way. We supported many in 2018 and all are valued partners. As examples, I want to highlight several.
Today, we all have a greater awareness about people fleeing violence, oppression and poverty and seeking a better life in our country. We may not be as aware, however, that many of these people have come through established programs, often after years of waiting and with few belongings and little means of support. They are welcome in our communities but the day-to-day challenges they face are enormous. Fortunately, some have chosen to reach out to these new arrivals and offer assistance. This is the story of Kaitlyn and Cameron Mullens, a young couple who realized 13 years ago that they were living among refugees from all over the world who had moved to Texas in search of safer and more secure lives. They needed food, clothing, places to live, furniture, jobs, childcare and English language tutoring. They also needed friends and a sense of community. Out of this realization the Mullenses began For the Nations Refugee Outreach, and through this organization, they have brought resources, time, attention and love to these families in need. More than 7,000 people have been served to date. It took courage, hard work, sacrifice and a willingness to take risk, but most of all it took a willingness to give of themselves to lift up and love these new neighbors.
Another challenge we face is the absence of opportunities for youth living in low income urban neighborhoods to develop skills that will further their growth, optimism and desire to be productive contributing members of their communities. So, in 2018 we decided to try something new. We created an internship program that gave some of these youth jobs for the summer with organizations that were investing in their communities. Behind Every Door, Dallas Leadership Foundation, For the Nations Refugee Outreach and Voice of Hope each were able to employ high school and college-aged youth to work in their respective programs. Each organization added valuable summer staff and each intern received the opportunity to work, earn money and develop important workplace skills that will serve them well when they complete their education; all desirable goals in themselves. But importantly, these partner organizations poured time, energy and love into these young people, deepening their relationships while offering valuable life lessons on work and service to others.
One final example. Many families across our city have been blessed with children who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. These children bring to their families joy and love that enrich all family members. There are educational opportunities available for these children and we as a Foundation have been privileged to support many over the years. But a challenge remains; how to continue to care for these children and provide ongoing educational and enrichment activities as they grow to become adults and age out of the educational institutions that have been available. One of our new partners is committed to addressing this challenge. My Possibilities in Plano has been engaged in preparing adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities for work, recreation and independent living that will enable them to flourish and continue to bless their families and communities. Why? Because they are loved and bring love to those around them. There is a profound selflessness exhibited by those working in this organization.
We can be lured into the same debates and traps that the world so often brings our way, or we can choose to follow the example of our Lord, who without compromising who he was, gave himself completely for our sake, asking only that we receive his love and in returning that love, extend ourselves out to those around us. We are convinced that He offers the better way. We choose love.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. ”