Guest Blogger :: Brooke Arnett on Prioritizing the Flourishing of Others

In the post below, Brooke offers us another look at the remarkable evening that was "The Light in the Grove" at the National AIDS Memorial Grove.  Pay special attention to her reflections on how the cost of causing the flourishing of others is trumped the experience of actually getting to participate in the adventure of human flourishing. As my fellow Open Door peers and I arrived at the AIDS Memorial Grove on Saturday night, we entered into an evening together as servants to the HIV/AIDS impacted community in San Francisco. The setting was stunning and elaborate, with no detail overlooked. I could describe all the particulars and preparation from the huge tent the event was in, the lighting set-ups, catering, floral arrangements, and so forth, but it would never convey what the night was really like.

As guests arrived at this peaceful and sacred space inside of Golden Gate Park, I witnessed a unique and loving community come together for the sake of humanity. My role that night was to serve appetizers, and as I walked around offering delicious finger foods, I watched people leave their differences at the door, and gather together to support one another and to remember loved ones that have been lost to HIV/AIDS. The night was filled with passion, it echoed their pain, but most of all, it was fueled by hope.

Many of the guests that were there have been largely affected by HIV/AIDS and have suffered more loss than some of us will ever face. Over the years, the HIV/AIDS community has been ostracized, overlooked, misunderstood and disregarded. It's hard to contemplate that a few short decades ago this pandemic wasn't even a reality in America. Since then, their community has turned a story of tragedy into a reason to hope for a better tomorrow.

I didn't say yes to volunteering that night because I thought serving small bites to strangers sounded fun. I didn't say yes so I could get a free meal, or because I had no other plans that night. Quite the opposite in fact: I turned down plans that day and even had to buy a new outfit and pair of shoes for the occasion. Not to mention that new and unknown situations give me a lot of anxiety. Does any of that matter? Certainly not.

I said yes because I want to be a the kind of person who is part of making wrong things right. I said yes because I have hope that those who have been broken will one day feel whole again. I said yes because I desire for people who have been marginalized to feel acceptance. I believe that love and kindness heal, and this world doesn't have enough of it. Being a servant is not a role I have lived into my entire life or even do very well today. But I know that every time I say yes to an opportunity to put the needs of someone else before mine, I find Jesus there.

God has been working in a big way to teach me how to count others more significant than myself as Philippians 2:3 calls us to do. Serving at the Grove was a reminder that this life is not about me. I am learning that I am equipped with everything I need because I know Jesus and that my role in life is not about serving appetizers, but His love.

Maybe saying 'yes' that night cost me financially, cut into my free time, and forced me to face some anxieties, but there is no price you can put on prioritizing the flourishing of others. When you say yes to serving others, you're allowing an opportunity for God to work in ways beyond what we can fathom.

Somali Crisis

On Sunday (8/14/11), we began our gathering crying out to God on behalf of our East African family.  This post is intended to connect us to the drought/famine that the head of the U.N. refugee agency has called, "The worse humanitarian crisis in the world right now." The Story:  The famine is a result of two factors: first, no rain for far too long has resulted in the death of livestock and vegetation and, thus, the death of tens of thousands of human beings.  Second, war has ravaged Somalia.  Conservative and harsh insurgency organization, Al Shabaab, has fallen out of grace with the U.N. and, therefore, has banned aid organizations from bringing any food, water, or medical aid to the hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Today, 10 million people are in dire need.  5 million are children...most of them are malnourished.  Conservative estimates indicated that 29,000 children have died in the past 5 months to starvation, cholera, and measles.  The Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya currently hosts 380,000 Somali refugees...10,000 new refugees arrive each week to Dadaab where the mortality rates are 3 times the rate for emergency ceilings.

Muslima Aden, a mother of four, walked thirty-five days from Somalia to Dadaab.  She lost three of her four children along the way.  In an interview with the U.N. she said, "I became a bit insane after I lost them."

What can we do?  We are becoming a community that follows Jesus into the suffering of others.  We refuse to become paralyzed by the scope of global suffering, choosing instead to make a difference one video, article, prayer, and thoughtful donation at a time.  Below are listed reputable ways to learn and to contribute.

Learn/Listen/Watch: Reuters, BBC, ABC News, Al Jazeera

Contribute Online: ABC Help, Save One, World Vision, Doctors Without Boarders

Reputable Texting Donations:

World Food Programme: text AID to 27722 for a $10 donation.

Save the Children: text SURVIVE to 20222 for a $10 donation.

A Creative, Tangible Solution: A supplement company called Edesia has developed Plumpy'nut, a peanut-paste with milk powder, sugar, and vitamins/minerals.  Plumpy'nut is one of the most effective ways to treat severe acute malnutrition and is easily distributable.  The project, in partnership with Global Giving, will reach 40,000 children.

Pray:  In your daily prayers, include prayers for others such as these...

"Lord, Have mercy on those who suffer."

"Spirt, grant us the wisdom and courage to enter into their suffering and to become the answer to our own prayers."

"Father, give favor to Aid organizations."