Fall 2023 newsletter
Kyle Johnson, Tanzania
Recently I watched the movie Jesus Revolution, and I was moved by the following piece of dialogue. It is a variation of a quote that has been around for a long while, but for some reason I heard it differently this time. It goes as follows:
Chuck: So many voices, it’s hard to hear the truth.
Kay: The truth is always quiet. It’s the lies that are loud.
Chuck: It’s complicated.
Kay: The truth is simple.
Wow! Did this ever strike me. When I read the news or engage in almost any conversation these days, I am often caught in a web of political discussion. You can’t escape it. Everything is political. Now in the U.S. and in many other places around the world, we are sharply divided by our political beliefs. These beliefs are the lens through which we see the world. Unfortunately, we often forget that our view is simply that. A view.
My view of the world has shifted since coming to Tanzania. In many ways, I think it has become more simple. How so, you ask? I recently wrote about how complex poverty can be. It is…. But helping someone who needs help is actually not that complicated. The barriers we put between ourselves and other human beings are artificially created. At the soul level, they simply don’t exist. The story of the Good Samaritan embodies this. If we get caught up in the politics of a situation, we lose sight of what is most important.
Immigration is a highly complex and political issue, but feeding the hungry and giving shelter to those who need it is not. Politics is complicated, but doing what is right is usually very simple. It is simple, but not easy.
It is not easy because of the systems we put in place to separate ourselves from human suffering. These systems come in the form of gated neighborhoods, of the clothes we wear, the vehicles we drive, the foods we eat, the schools we attend, the prisons we build and the political parties we belong to. Anything that excludes usually does so as a result of our not wanting to see or interact with something or someone else.
It is difficult to avoid suffering in East Africa. You see it every day. It is in your face as soon as you leave your house and sometimes it comes to your house.
On a sweltering hot day, I walked almost eight miles before I could catch the bus I needed. I bought some water, and shortly thereafter a little boy asked me for it. I gave it to him. You would think I would’ve felt satisfied by doing a good deed. Instead, I was pissed off and thirsty for another four miles as I trudged along feeling sorry for myself. Simple, not easy.
On another day, I ran into a man on the street whose leg was so infected, that it looked almost fake. I was shocked by what I saw. He didn’t even need to ask before I helped him out.
And then on another day, I was a coward and walked away from a poor woman and her hungry child. I just couldn’t do it that day.
Mission is helping me simplify things. I’m asking “why” way less than I ever have in my whole life. I’m just trying to do what needs to be done or what I can do. I pray that this way of viewing the world stays with me.
We can discuss tax deductions all day, but in the end we just need to give. We can argue politics until we are blue in the face, but that won’t help the immigrant mother and her child. Jesus tells us take up his cross and follow him. It is as simple as that. But it’s not easy.
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