From Bystander to Responder: An Invitation


heidi and familyThis is a guest post written by my friend Heidi Kellar. Heidi and I have been working with a team of friends to raise awareness about the largest humanitarian crisis in our world right now. Read her thoughtful words about her journey from ignorance to action. Then join us on June 4th for a family-friendly, interactive experience about the Syrian refugee crisis


That would be me, right?

Ever since the fourth grade, my mind has been intrigued by what some might say is a strange topic: the Holocaust. I read any book I could find, studied it in college, and even made a special visit to the world-renowned Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London.

I am equally appalled and enthralled. Appalled, obviously, by the extent of the atrocities committed by ordinary men against the Jewish people.

Enthralled by the heroics of those committed to rescuing those in need.

In college, a professor assigned the book Conscience and Courage by Dr. Eva Fogelman. In this book, the author, a psychologist, researches and reports on the lives and motivations of those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. She draws conclusions more holistically about what it takes for people to stop being a bystander during tragic events. If any book spoke to my heart and mind at that formative stage of life, it was this book.

Conscience and Courage

Here are a few of the quotes that I underlined in 2002 about the individuals and the types of people who responded during the Holocaust (all emphasis mine).

“[The rescuer’s] humanitarian response was derived from an inner core of religious values…She asked… “What if this was my child, my mother, or me needing shelter? What would Christ have done?” (p. 173).

“Similar to their World War II predecessors, today’s rescuers are not larger-than-life heroes, but ordinary people who see inhumanity and feel a personal responsibility to address it.” (p. 314)

“Modern-day models of moral courage display a willingness to see what others choose not to notice. There is a determination, some would say a stubbornness, to pursue truth no matter where it leads.” (p. 317)

My young college self read these lines and brazenly thought, “I would have been a rescuer. I would not have sat by and let my fellow man be treated so terribly. I would have pursued truth no matter where it led, darn it!”

That would have been me. Right?

Reality

Fast forward about fifteen years. I am no longer that dreamy-eyed college student. Three young children, a part-time job, church leadership responsibilities, a Mt. Everest laundry pile in my living room, a never-finished sink full of dishes. You get the idea.

Plus, when I do get a chance to relax and sit down with the paper on Sunday morning, I am more interested in the sports page and the grocery sales. The World News page is just not that interesting, okay?

This is why it took me four years. Four years to notice the largest humanitarian crisis in our world right now. In fact, the largest number of refugees in human history are right now struggling to escape to safety, struggling to wake up in a place where they do not fear death daily.

It took the image of a little boy washed up on a beach to wake me from my apathy.

refugee boy picture

A little boy who looks so much like one of my own. A little boy whose family were desperately trying to escape violence to travel to their relatives in Canada. A little boy whose father gave a heart-breaking message to the world at Christmas.

I wept. I wrote a passionate Facebook post. I sat on the bathroom floor on the phone with a friend, praying for an hour one Saturday morning. We sat with other friends over dinner to ask and pray. What can we do? What can we do?

Would we see inhumanity and feel a personal responsibility to address it?

Would we display a willingness to see what others choose not to notice and pursue truth no matter where it leads?

 Would we ask, what would Christ have done?

In the meantime, life marched on. Dishes and laundry piled. Children argued. Every-day duties summoned. Still vaguely sad and convicted about the Syrian Refugee Crisis, I felt my lens zoom back in to my own “problems”. This would still likely be true if God had not intervened, using some fellow ragamuffins like myself to compel me to action.

Loaves and Fishes

Courtney, another busy mom in our area, also felt heartbroken and drawn towards action. And at six months pregnant with her fourth child, she had even more of a reason to keep her head in the sand.

But Courtney felt a personal responsibility and bravely called a meeting in January. A half dozen of us met late one night to begin the process of asking, what can we do?

Nobody present had much money. Or time. Or resources. Or connections. But we each had a little bit. Could it be used to help somehow? We didn’t know.

Do you remember the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand hungry people with only two small loaves of bread and five fish? Do you remember who gave him those fish? A young boy. It was his lunch and it would have been so easy for him to take that lunch and feed himself with it. It wasn’t enough for more people anyway.

But, thankfully he didn’t. Instead, he gave it to Jesus. And Jesus – the Provider, the Bread of Life, the one who could have ordered that bread shower down from heaven to feed everyone (after all, God had done that before!) – took that little boy’s lunch. He gave thanks. And he multiplied it to feed all of the hungry people with plenty of leftovers.

The six of us didn’t have much more than our lunch to give, but we decided to gingerly offer it up. Offer it up to the One who multiplies.

And it worked! Through teamwork, prayer, meetings and effort, we eventually decided to host an event for families.

The purpose is, first of all, to help others see the inhumanity behind the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

Second, we hope to help people feel a personal responsibility to address the needs.

Third, we want to invite people to offer up a small loaf or fish so that together we can watch it multiply. 

Are you willing to see what others choose not to notice?

Will you pursue the truth no matter where it leads?

After all, today’s rescuers are not larger-than-life heroes, just ordinary people offering up the little they have to the One who provides.

If you are interested in joining us, please consider attending our Syrian Refugee Awareness Night next Saturday from 4-6 at Compass Church. Please read the invitation below and invite friends!

Syrian Refugee Night Info Sheet

Want to know more, but can’t attend on June 4th? Check out the website my sister-in-law, Heidi Dryden created with loads of information, videos, and interactive websites you can view with your family: Syrian Refugee Awareness Night.

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