Without Putting Souls Under Obligation
The ministry of Orchard: Africa is directed toward the souls of people. Feeding children certainly is about the nutrition of their little bodies, but it is about more. Educating a child or providing tools to church leaders so that they can care for the vulnerable in their community is about more than the knowledge gained, the tool or the skill itself.
It is about the very souls of people. When people live every day (every single day!) in a state of vulnerability, they are fragile. As with all things fragile, we are to handle them with care. The ministry of Orchard: Africa is about caring for these fragile souls, about expressing the value and worth of each individual and of their collective communities.
Those most vulnerable amongst us certainly need food, water, shelter and education, all of which produce strong and resilient people. What makes a human soul thrive, however, is when all these basic life necessities are provided within a context of love, dignity and joy. These three are indicators of health and at Orchard: Africa we strive to be a healthy family.
If we provide for the necessities of the body, but not of the soul, the scriptures call us “nothing but a clanging cymbal.” There is no harmony, no melody, no beauty – just a noise that ultimately hurts the ears. Love, so crucial to the healthy development of every human being, is fundamental to our Christian faith. In living out our faith, we express our love through actions of good deeds. However, we can express our love in a selfish way – especially toward the vulnerable. Here is what Thomas Merton has to say.
"Now there is a spiritual selfishness which even poisons the good act of giving to another. Spiritual goods are greater than the material, and it is possible for me to love selfishly in the very act of depriving myself of material things for the benefit of another. If my gift is intended to bind him to me, to put him under an obligation, to exercise a kind of hidden moral tyranny over his soul, then in loving him I am really loving myself. And this is a greater and more insidious selfishness, since it traffics not in flesh and blood but in other persons’ souls."
At Orchard: Africa we (you, me, all who serve alongside us) do not traffic in human souls. We give without tyranny and we provide without putting souls under obligation to us. We treat others with utmost care, knowing the beauty of our calling is that, inasmuch as we do so to them, we do so to Christ.
May we think on these things.