I woke up to my own chronic coughing. It wracked my body as I stood before the sink, trying to take my various medicines, and finally giving up on shaving - lying down instead to rest a bit before taking another lunge into the day, claiming usefulness and stability and contributing something to this new day of life.
It turns out, the radio informs me, that today, April 24th, is "Holocaust Remembrance Day." Public Radio had on a woman reporter just back from one of the great refugee camps in northern Kenya - housing multiple thousands of Somalis, fleeing their country to the north. She describes vividly the famine that has overtaken Somalia, and also this camp in the desert. She quotes the United Nations' description of it as the worst famine since the Second World War.
Her take on this greatest famine, is the indifference of the world. That, she says, is the sin of our time, that the world doesn't care.
My heart holds that condemnation for a while, and I remember the early 1980's, when five of our churches in Edina responded to World Vision's plea, that "people are dying in the Horn of Africa; Will you come over and help us?"
And we did, at some risk to our ministerial jobs, and at the enormity of the task of doing anything meaningful to help. Yet, we did. Eighteen of us from those churches went to see for ourselves, to be touched in our own hearts, and wrenched in our comfortable lives, until we were on fire to stir our fellow Christians and to persuade them to raise the quarter of a million dollars we were asking: until on Easter Sunday, 1983, those churches together, raised $369,000. And we were captivated, and transformed, and went on raising multiple sums, throughout that decade, to build wells and dams, pipelines and experimental farms - there in the Antsokia Valley of Ethiopia.
Many journeys back to those farms, we made, and deep became our own heart-roots in those villages of Mekoy, and Humbo, and Western Abaya. People in that iron curtain country, came to Christ, and churches grew and buildings were built and lives were transformed. Mekoy the death camp, became a virtual Garden of Eden. The "Holy Highway" was built, and a bridge across the Borkena River.
A transforming experience for us, and for them. But now I am no longer 53, but nearly 88. And I sit safe, with Molly, in a gracious retirement community, in a town called "Golden Valley," of all things. And I hear about a new famine - the worst ever. And the young journalists say the worst sin is indifference.
Later, Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Laureate, my own brother's friend, asks, "What is it to be moral?" and he too, says on the radio "immorality is indifference to those dying of hunger."
And I grieve, but defensively answer: "I'm too old. I was there. I went to the camps. I and the people of my American
suburb answered the call, and fed the hungry, and saved lives. But now there is a new dying."
Is it just for the young to do something? How do I care? How do I make a difference? How do I be moral in this new day, this late day of my own life?
I think I must begin by renewed prayer. I think I must beg my friends to be serious right there, at the point of faith, of being Jesus' friends, and listening to Him again, and somehow acting with pure heart and in good faith, in a world that must struggle forever with the question of being moral, and making a difference, and remembering to Whom we belong, and daring to hear what He says now.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES