Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Compassion: The Heart of God As The Basis For Ministry

These are just some of my notes from the key note Speaker: Dr. Phyllis Kilbourn
Children At Risk – March 9 2007 (Anaheim, California)

How should compassion shape our ministry?

Compassion is a matter of the heart and not of the intellect. Unless the church begins to have moral outrage at the atrocities being done to children, unless the church begins to get angry enough to respond, nothing will change. Children are deeply valued and loved and yet we have let them become markets of exploitation for the lusts of men. Henri Nouwen’s definition of compassion is 4 fold:

1.Compassion is crying out with those in pain. It involves a deep identification with those who suffer and calls for incarnational ministry. Jesus saw the broken, the widow and the orphan and His heart was moved. Jesus moved from the most exclusive gated community to the ghettos of the world where the real suffering, pain and hurts were. Are we willing to follow our Lord in this way, to live incarnationally, to cry out with those in pain?

2.Compassion involves tending to the wounds of the poor and caring for their lives (like the Good Samaritan). It is an act of involvement that responds to the needs of the total person Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” If we are going to have a compassionate ministry, we are to have a holistic ministry. Children who are traumatized have suffered many wounds: physical, spiritual, emotional, exploited. These kids we work with don’t care how much we work with them until they know how much we care for them. Until the children can learn to trust us, they are not going to accept love on a spiritual level. Therefore, we need to be consumed with God’s compassion by tending to their wounds and caring for their lives.

3.Compassion involves advocacy. It means defending the weak and indignantly joining the oppressed in their struggle for justice. We have most lost this in the church. We are not really looking for ways to speak up as Proverbs 31:9 says: Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Children have the least opportunity for a voice, they have no voice in the government, no way to gain resources no way to speak for laws. Our moral outrage is going to have to speak up to be a voice for these children.

4.Compassion involves pleading for help with all possible means. This involves doing whatever it takes to bless these children. Not in coming in and doing our programs but offering agape---genuine biblical compassion. Willing to sacrifice to do whatever it takes to encourage them.

Stresses of caregiving
But one’s compassion can run dry. While we are clothed with compassion, sometimes our garments can get ragged. What are the reasons for the raggedness when you care for children? This ministry is physically, emotionally and spiritually challenging. The demands are endless --- this is part of the ‘sacrificing care’ where we go to the broken places of pain and weep with those in tears (H. Nouwen). It is possible that we can become exhausted as these situations can drain us because of the anger over the injustice. We need to be careful that our anger can dry out because we don’t care for ourselves. Caring for children who are abused and exploited involves intense spiritual warfare. Could it be that the children of this generation may be the last generation in proclaiming the gospel? The enemy delights in breaking the spirits of these children.

How do we mend our raggedness? Self care is important. If we fail to look after our own needs we can burnout. The story of Elijah who had won a tremendous victory at Mount Carmel and finds himself exhausted after that victory. Twice God sent an angel with fresh bread and water. Elijah laid down to eat and drink because the journey was too much for him. Some times the journey can be too much for us and Jesus modeled it with His disciples where He encouraged them to come and rest for a while. Caregiving involves balancing our needs with our care for others. How do we replenish ourselves? First, we can fail in this whole area of our spiritual lives. God is our source of compassion. He is the ‘well’ and our safety net. We can develop spiritual apathy because we neglect our walk with him. Second, we need to focus on who God is. He is a just Judge. We need to focus on His different promises. He is in control and He has ways of comforting. Third we need to reset our priorities and expectations and truly care for ourselves. If our relationship with God is not right, our relationship with our co-workers is not going to be right. Fourth, we need to establish relationships within the community. They can see things from a new bias. They can help us to detach and find areas of recreation. It is important to detach emotionally and we need to look at each of these to see where we have lost our touch.

In our brokenness, we can be a compassionate blanket of love to reach out to these children to give them warmth. May God make us that blanket of love and shape for children.

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