What People Want

People want to be heard. The desire to tell
one’s story and to have it heard is universal. It’s part of the desire to live
a meaningful, purposeful life.

Kampala, Uganda–As I prepare to return to my home base, I leave behind people for whom I have enormous appreciation and respect. In the Philippines as we posed for a group photo some of the victims of repression joked that the gathering was the gallery of the next of those to be the disappeared and departed. It was dark humor born of their life and death struggle for human rights. It weighs heavy in my heart and on my mind.

As we left Yei, Sudan the coordinator of The United Methodist Church in this outpost, a young Sudanese, spoke of the lack of transportation and communication and said, “How long must I be a beggar?” He was requesting help in re-building the infrastructure that has been destroyed by twenty years of war. Virtually all that is needed to keep a society running must be re-built.

As I leave Kampala the remarks of our team leader here are embedded in my memory. “We are dying of poverty.”

These are not merely self-serving pleas for aid. They are statements of fact. Life is certainly good. But life that is repressed by violence, by neglect and by poverty is life denied. To claim their God-given destiny is a right we believe should be available to everyone, no matter the geography they inherit.

I leave these friends knowing that we stand in solidarity with each other and together we shall make progress in bringing this claim to reality. It is their commitment and hard work that will bring it to full flower. My presence is transitory and secondary. But they must know that we who live in more blessed circumstances care, and that we are committed to standing with them for more humane, fair and equitable living conditions. It’s the least we can do.

So I prepare to return home grateful for these brothers and sisters who have vision and who are committed to serving others because they have an understanding of themselves and the world as God’s creation. It is to be protected and revered. They understand that those who are forgotten among them are people of dignity who are to be set free from the bondage of poverty and repression. And they know that life lived in service to others is life fulfilled, and this is our calling, to live in service to others.

It’s deeply moving to know these people and learn from them. Their testimony to the power of change for the good is made not only through their words but in their actions. I prepare to leave carrying with me hope, gratitude and joy that they are in this world and they understand these things so clearly and they live by principles of justice and serve daily. They give me strength and hope.

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