In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic response, I had a couple of high-earning clients express to me their distress over the sudden losses in their stock market portfolios. Years of growth, hundreds of thousands of dollars, had been wiped out in a couple of days and they were both deeply shaken. Like many of us, the realization of how serious this crisis was triggered a strong need to protect our interests (toilet paper!) and respond by taking steps to secure our future. It was easy to get caught up in the wave of self-centered thinking … although realistically, with investments, RSP’s, savings, lines of credit, material assets, government benefits, and welfare, most of us were many buffered steps away from any food insecurity.
Later that week, conference calls with Patrick and my Justice Journey teammates revealed truly dire situations in Cambodia and Mexico: millions of people who live day-to-day as labourers or street vendors were going hungry. Barred from their work, these people had no income, no savings, and no government to provide for them. They were getting hungry. The Tenth Church missions partners nearby were all shifting from development to relief in order to save lives.
This news of fellow human beings in desperate need ran headlong into my impulse for self-preservation and hoarding of resources … I found myself struggling spiritually in this tension. Do I give, or do I gather to myself? Jesus’ words of “Do to others what you would have them to do you” came to me, of course, but honestly, I was still struggling to trust and open my tightly closed fists.
Then another client shared his perspective of “Love is what you do when you believe that we are truly one.” That helped. My experiences with the Cambodian and Mexican Justice Journey teams had woven these beautiful and vulnerable people into my heart. I was one of them and they were one with me. We had laughed and cried and prayed together. Offering some help in this time of need now felt like something I wanted to do, not should do. Aware that I still have many layers of buffer here in Canada, while they have none between them and sharp hunger this evening, we wrote cheques and are still writing cheques. And the joy of knowing that feeding the hungry is feeding Jesus (Matthew 25:35) is warming my heart in these troubled times.
Mark Anderson is the former Pastoral Team Leader of Marineview Chapel in Vancouver, BC. He is now a full-time Whole Life Coach who provides Spiritual Direction for some of Tenth Staff and Justice Journey Teams.
Picture above is from a recent team-building exercise at Shalom Valley in Cambodia. Mark is on the left.