Injustice, poverty (spiritual and material), and people in need surround us, both in Western neighbourhoods and in the under-resourced world. To be fully ‘human’ is to reach out and give help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless wherever we are – whether it be a co-worker whose marriage is failing, a recently-arrived refugee in a Western city, or an orphan in Russia. But what does it mean to be ‘fully human’?
We are followers of Jesus, and have become captivated by what ancient writers 2,000 years ago called the ‘gospel’: literally, the ‘good news’ that a man called Jesus came to offer us a new kind of life. He called this new kind of life ‘eternal life’, and he described it as the difference between being dead and alive. He said that it was possible to be dead even while we were alive, in a sort of a sub-human existence, and he invited us into a new kind of life where we learn how to live as we were created to live: fully human. He described this life as the way of the ‘light and easy yoke’, where one learns the ‘unforced rhythms of grace’, and in which we are not his servants, but are instead his friends.
Jesus didn’t just see this eternal life as a sort of get-out-of-Hell-free card, or a contract to be signed which guarantees us a space in Heaven sometime in the distant future…no, his gospel is about a new sort of life-with-him which begins now and continues into the future.
The question which tugged at our hearts for several years was “What does this mean for us? What does it look like to live out this eternal life now, and share it with those around us?” For us, the HIV/AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa is something that has moved us deeply, and we felt our response for now should be to go as a family and live there, sharing the good news of the gospel with those suffering under injustice and poverty. In a book written around 2,000 years ago, one of Jesus’ closest friends said that the very definition of love is found in giving your life for another (1 John 3:16), and we have been captivated by this notion of a Jesus-looking life where one lives sacrificially, giving our lives to help others.
For us, ‘sharing the good news of the gospel’ means proclaiming and demonstrating the new kind of life that Jesus offers. We are doing this by volunteering our skills as a pediatric emergency doctor and project and management consultant at Kijabe Hospital in Kenya, seeking to be the kind of pediatrician and consultant that Jesus would be if he were us.
Inevitably, the question arises – how much can one doctor or one engineer really do? Why bother?
This has led us to think about how and where we want to serve. We want to contribute to the long term, sustainable health of communities through improvements in economy, water, sanitation, hygiene and health. One of the criticisms of international aid work in the developing world is that it often seeks to impose a quick-fix, first world type solution on a third world situation, with no local ownership or sustainable planning for long term success.
We are passionate about working to bring help from within, not from the outside. We are passionate about empowering local people, rather than making them dependent on the ones who help. We want to be part of an effort that comes alongside them like scaffolding on a damaged building.
We think real, sustainable change comes when you are working with people, within a system, from the inside out. We want to be a part of an effort that is training health workers in local communities, as well as training local nurses and doctors.
We also believe if something is worth being done, it is worth being done well, and this means giving our best efforts to provide the best quality ‘whatever’ we can.