By Adrienne Ashby
Its the end of another semester at the university and the last paper needing to be written is on modern day slavery. I am working at the school library at the time, cataloguing and shelving books and stumble into an article on slavery in the 21st century.
Mildly curious, I decide to make it my papers topic. I begin my research on the web. Each site draws me deeper and deeper into a world of oppression: child soldiers in Uganda, the sex slave trade, bonded labor, child camel jockeys, the genocide in Rwanda. I am Alice slipping down the rabbit hole with no root to grab hold of. I am so engrossed in my research it haunts me even after I pull away from my computer.
Images of little children rolling cigarettes on cold cement floors run through my head as I brush my teeth and even though Ive tucked the paper away I cant shake it. Ruined after finally handing the regretful thing into my professor I go to my car and sit in the wreckage and rubble of my faith. God has a lot of explaining to do.
It takes me about a year to reconcile Gods character with all the evil of the world. I dont understand how a good God, a God that loves all the little children of the world, allows millions to be prostituted out dozens of times a day. I read a book about the Rwanda genocide and Im struck by one simple fact – Ordinary people were involved in the massacre of thousands of Tutsis.
School teachers, doctors, young boys and even mothers helped exterminate almost an entire tribe. Ordinary people have an incredible capacity for evil with the help of Satan. Its not God, its us. It was Eve eating the fruit and all the consequences of sin. I suppose He didnt have to give us the ability to choose good over evil but then we would all be robots, people doing good and following God not because we love Him but because its our only function.
I study the Word and highlight every verse pertaining to justice. I discover a God who continually calls for justice and is appalled when no one intervenes (Isaiah 59:16). I discover a God who desires to use us to be collaborators with Him and extend freedom to one person at a time. My advisor encourages me to apply to the journalism program and write about social justice. My pastor encourages me to take a year off for missions and practice the justice Ive been learning so much about. I do both.
I come to Africa with all kinds of ideas on how to make the continent a better place. My obliviousness to global injustices turns into a full fledge passion for human rights and I fall in love with the idea of Jesus, the social reformer. I imagine him out in all those dusty towns fighting for the rights of the people like a Walt Disneys Robin Hood. How do we come to entertain such ridiculous notions of Christ? Does everything have to be trendy? I fixate on different ways to mend what I see as dysfunctional. Let us teach the street sellers not to be so pushy and obnoxious and surely theyll sell more. Let us bring in some respectable port-a-potties so that the children dont go to the bathroom all over the sidewalks.
God is faithful to show me my folly within the first week of my arrival in Swaziland. I am at Orphan Camp. There are thousands of children and somehow our team and about a dozen Swazi grandmothers are supposed to organize the chaos. The Swazi grandmothers, otherwise known as Go-gos, win hands down. These sixty year-old women are a true phenomenon. They are not only raising up a generation of orphans, they are practically running the country since their own children are dying of AIDS.
I have a conversation with one of the Go-gos, and she shares with me a horrible but not unusual situation. When her first husband died of AIDS, she remarried only to discover he too had AIDS and he immediately died after she gave birth to their child. The parents of her first husband are enraged because she did not marry their other son as Swazi tradition and they are intent on murdering her brand new baby.
She tells me its like living a nightmare. She cant turn her head from the child for a second. We pray and in my prayer something radically shifts in my mentality. I keep praying for the hope of heaven and the Kingdom of God to reign. I have never used those terms in my prayers before, and I understand God is teaching me something new about this topic of social justice. I realize I cannot, even with the best theories and all the degrees in the world change her situation. I can only give hope.
Horrible injustices occur daily. Thousands will die of AIDS before the end of the day, and Christs primary concern is that they know him before leaving this world. See, the passion of Christs heart was neither the abolition of slavery, or equality between races, or between men and women. His primary concern was with the very essence of human existence, the salvation of human beings into Gods kingdom.
The ultimate injustice is that Gods children are estranged from Him, and true justice is carried out when we are reunited with God. The ultimate human right is that every person is given the opportunity to say yes to Christ. There was nothing I could offer that Go-go but the kingdom of God, and I continue to come to that conclusion with every person I minister to. It is a noble thing to be able to improve someones life, but it is even better to give life, and giving life is sharing Christ.
Adrienne Ashby just finished a discipleship training school (DTS) with YWAM in Argentina and has been spending the last few months in Swaziland and South Africa, ministering to AIDS victims.