We’re the first truly digital generation. We’ve grown up online; smartphones are standard and world news is background noise. Everything is instant. We’re more aware of poverty and inequality than perhaps our parents would have been. We’ve seen the campaigns and worn the wristbands. But it still hits hard when you take time out, away from the noise, and see poverty and injustice firsthand.
After three months in Tanzania I found myself stepping back and asking, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’
I can still remember travelling back to our base from a day helping in a rural primary school in Tanzania. Gazing out of the window and sharing moments from our day, we watched Tanzanian life unfold. Children on their long walks home, having collected water for their families; women cooking on open fires. We passed houses that had collapsed during the recent rainy season and thought about the families that used to live in them, now sheltering in crowded makeshift buildings which were unlikely to withstand the next downpour.
This time last year I was on a three-month placement with Tearfund Go, volunteering with Africa Inland Church Tanzania (AICT). Being there for twelve weeks meant that we had time to get stuck in to what AICT were doing across Tanzania. We frequently travelled across the country visiting different areas and different projects. These journeys were an amazing time for reflection. I can still vividly recall rejoicing, as well as times of shock and sadness, sometimes all in the same car ride.
Watching life pass by us on this particular journey, my mind began to teem with questions: why does God allow such suffering to happen? How can my loving God allow this pain? What can I do?
As I spent time in prayer, reading my Bible and listening to God, I realised that He was not absent. God cares deeply about the suffering of those in Tanzania and all over the world.
C.S. Lewis explores God’s compassion and empathy in his book, ‘The Magician’s Nephew’. In one scene, Digory nervously approaches Aslan, the great lion, and asks him to heal his dying mother. Expecting to be met with anger and reproach, Digory slowly lifts his head to see tears in the lion’s eyes. Aslan is filled with sorrow for Digory and his mother’s suffering. C.S Lewis paints an amazing picture of God’s compassion and the sorrow he has when he sees us suffering.
Volunteering in Tanzania, I saw Jesus’ victory over death, sin and suffering. Over three months we were able to immerse ourselves in community and build significant relationships with the people we were working with. We met some incredible, inspiring people who, despite the circumstances, knew God deeply, rejoiced in him, and trusted him to meet their needs.
Through Jesus’ death, God has defeated worldwide inequality, poverty and injustice and shown us that he is the only answer to these things. There is no alternative solution. This truth gave me such freedom and rejoicing. No longer was I trying to be the saviour, God had already saved.
Individually, surrounded by so much need, we can feel powerless to bring about change. But when you become an active part of God’s family, fighting with God for justice and an end to poverty, things can start to change; we can see glimpses of God’s kingdom on earth.
Knowing that Jesus has won the battle against injustice and poverty inspires me to consider how I can live justly, taking into account the values and needs of those I am connected to around the world.
With so many things to change and so many causes to care about, I was quite overwhelmed! But I began to pray and ask God what I could do. Since then God has gently taken me on a journey and revealed ways that I can take part in his victory over worldwide injustice, step by step.
Is this a prayer you might also be willing to consider? I encourage you to give it a go and ask God to reveal areas in your life that you could change, to reflect his call for justice.
Keen to immerse yourself in life overseas on a three-month placement? Find out more at www.tearfund.org/go.
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