“Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world.” I grew up singing this song and still love it.
“They are precious in his sight.” Yes, they are.
I’ve spent the last year living in the Middle East with some of these precious children.
They are precious when they are sweet and beautiful, when they suffer and are in pain, when they display evidence of second-hand trauma and depression.
They are precious even when they carry the seeds of war in their hearts, in their words, and in the way they behave with other children.
This year I have been a NW Friend Serving Abroad at the Ramallah Friends School just north of Jerusalem. Founded in 1889, it is now K-12, co-ed, with 1200 students, 70 percent Muslim and 30 percent Christian, all of whom live under military occupation. I will return in August for a second year because I am part of a long-term commitment by NW Friends to express love and friendship on the other side of the planet. It is global ministry that can only be done by becoming local. We (Friends) said yes. And so did I.
Living out love requires us to show up where we are invited. And to stick around long enough to know and be known. Love, here or there, must be more than passing “interests.”
In essential ingredient in love is compassion permanence. That is an abiding commitment to the good of another even after the initial prompt has faded from its initial urgency. Compassion permanence means long-term commitment: “in God’s name, I will stand with these people through their storm that lasts beyond my natural attention span.”
In this way we can be healed from global compassion attention deficit disorder and corresponding compassion fatigue.
For nearly two thousand years, Christians have released other Christians for ministry in far off places, even though there was always plenty to do “at home” as well. We choose to become local. For this we must go past generalized well wishing or short-lived serial concerns to expand our own experience. NW Friends have chosen sustained involvement in Russia, China, and the Middle East.
So I was able to minister in Ramallah, a small city in the Middle East, because Friends from NFC and around our yearly meeting sustained me with dedicated prayer, personal connections, and financial support. And through compassion permanence, Friends will return me there this coming year. I know from experience that Friends are faithful supporters. Thank you, Friends.
And this year we Friends also join together to support Kara Maurer and Anna Thomas, who are going to live out love in Russia. Appointed by NWYM to continue Friend-ly presence there (Johan and Judy Maurer will be in the U.S. for sabbatical), Kara and Anna are committed; they will stay long enough to learn some language and culture and to serve and love in Jesus’ name. They go as part of a long-term commitment. As Friends of Jesus, we fund, equip, and send them. This year, they choose to be local in Russia. And we, by sending them, become local too.
Thank you, NFC. You become local in places that are far away. And love, here and there, prospers.
Elizabeth Todd is a Friend Serving Abroad through Northwest Yearly Meeting. She has returned to Oregon this summer to visit Friends, orient new short-term team members (Cheryl Engle, Lana Thurston, and Ashley Weinacht), report about Friends work in Ramallah, and eat pork.