LISTEN TO THE AUDIO VERSION OF TERRY TALKS
man was sitting by a pool of water, just below a waterfall. As he looked at the water, he noticed a swimmer frantically trying to make his way to the shore. The bystander threw off his shoes and jacket, jumped into the water and rescued the man. After they swam to shore, and caught their breath, they noticed two other swimmers floundering in the torrent below the falls. They both jumped in to save the drowning people. A short while later, three others came over the falls, fighting for their very survival. And on … and on … and on.
During a brief respite, the first person began to wonder what was happening above the waterfall that led to so many people falling into the water. He dashed up the embankment around the falls and there he saw the problem: the mooring of a footbridge had been broken. This caused the unstable condition, which led to so many near-deaths. Fix the bridge, he thought, and the risk of multiple drownings would be radically reduced.
When the staff and global partners of CBM work with kids at risk, we find ourselves on both ends of the waterfall. We are certainly seeking to save as many children as possible from the perils of violence, sexual assault, child labour, illiteracy, predatory and other unjust practices and, indeed, life without God. But there is a second, longer view that we witness over and over again. And that is when a child’s life is spared, the “multiplier effect” is huge. When we engage in ministries among vulnerable children, we are not only helping them, but we are making a huge impact in risk reduction within entire communities.
CBM’s Western Canada Representative, Dennis Shierman, and his wife, Judy, moved from Indonesia to Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 1994. For several years, they laboured alongside the Latin America reps, David and Cathie Phillips, and our Baptist partners to develop a vibrant ministry: Casa de la Amistad, or the Friendship House, where children of incarcerated parents are offered a safe environment. While children no longer live inside the prison due to new government policies, they are still stigmatized by their parent’s situation. The Casa provides them with educational support, psychosocial care, nutritious meals, health care and hygiene training. They also learn stories from the Bible and are invited to find faith in Christ. For children who attend the Casa, it’s a safe place to thrive and learn and just be a kid. Casa de la Amistad has ministered to thousands of children in its over 30-year history. Many of these same children, now grown up, have gone on to careers in civil service, law enforcement and many other professions. Several have also become caregivers and guardians to other kids who are at risk of delinquency.
In Robert McAfee Brown’s delightful little book, Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (Westminster John Knox Press, 1984), I discovered that “the least of these” in Matthew 25 was, in the language Jesus spoke, Aramaic, a common term used to describe children. When we serve the needs of kids at risk, we are doing it for Jesus.
In this issue of Mosaic, discover the rich blessing of working with children above the waterfall (through stories of education, youth outreach and prevention), while also attending to the gruelling but needy work below the waterfall (with victims of rape, child poverty and displacement). Jonathan Wilson and I have written an article ‘en duo’ – he grapples with the macro-view of our scriptural mandate, while I recount the micro-view of specific endeavours to care for kids at risk.
And now this word from a proud father: My second daughter, Caitlyn, is studying at Tyndale University College in the Bachelor of Education program. She wants to be a teacher – like her mom. When she was pressed in her interview for her motivation to become a teacher, she replied without hesitation, “Because it is my very best shot to help change the world.”
Thank you for taking your best shot at changing our world by caring for kids at risk.