A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Kabul to work with some of the most talented colleagues that I’ve ever had the honor to work with. We trained government and private sector leaders on stakeholder mapping and helped them develop an advocacy plan to improve the health of the country. I had been to Kabul once or twice prior and had fallen in love with the city and its people. From the roof of our office you could see out across the city to the mountain ranges that circled the city. [It was breathtaking.] My local colleagues were incredibly hospitable. And lunch at the office was AMAZING. I still dream of the big bowls of pomegranate seeds that were served for desert.
But…. the whole time I was there, my body and mind were on edge. I was exhausted and had a headache, but didn’t think much of it until I left Kabul and landed into Delhi. Walking into immigration in India, my whole body relaxed. I literally breathed a sigh of relief and exhaled as a recognition that I was away from the tension created by chaos and war. It was an unconscious reaction to the reality of having been in a war-zone.
I imagine that this is likely the reality for many of our Charlotte-area kids (and families) who live surrounded by chaos and crime. Their bodies and minds are constantly tense and at attention, until they get somewhere where they feel “safe”. And, then they can exhale. But while in the chaos and crime, their bodies and minds are constantly being overloaded by stress. This prolonged exposure wears away at them and affects their ability to respond to other things going on in their lives. They become numb.
I was exhausted after a week of it. I can distinctly remember the impact on my body. I can’t imagine living in a constant fight or flight mode on a daily basis. But, it’s the reality of many people (children and adults alike) who are living in neighborhoods that are rife with crime.
Beyond providing for our physiological needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), safety is the most important in our human experience in regards to personal development. [Maslow describes these “needs” as a hierarchy and goes on to rank them into a pyramid where safety is followed by love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization. See pyramid below.]
Safety isn’t isolated to our physical environment. In the pyramid, Maslow uses the term safety to mean our personal security, emotional security, financial security, health/well-being and safety needs against accidents/illness.
God built us to yearn for safety, security and significance. These yearnings begin as a child. God provides for all of these. But what if you are constantly surrounded by chaos, crime or war? Your sense of safety, security and significance is probably closed to zero.
It is up to those of us who know how God can provide for our safety, security and significance to share it with those who do not know it. We are to be ambassadors for Him….Gospel Carriers.
We can be that refuge for children (and families) who are constantly surrounded by chaos. And yes, I know it’s much easier said than done. Start with a friendship or be a mentor. Become friends with someone who is living in an area where they are constantly on guard. Find a child who would benefit from your time. Be that calming presence for them and demonstrate God’s love.
On Sunday mornings, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center’s Children’s Church is the refuge for these children (as is the broader church that meets at The King’s Kitchen for the homeless and others who are constantly surrounded by chaos). For a few hours, these kids get to feel completely safe while we share with them how much they mean to us and to God.
My hope is that the safety, security and significance that we share with them on Sundays takes them forward into their week and fills up their “safety bucket”, providing a shield to attacks from bullies, neighbors and demons. When they come back the next Sunday, often their defenses have been depleted….. their “safety buckets” empty. We have to help them fill up those buckets again so that they can go out into the world, ready for a new week and often another round of attacks.
With the kids who have been coming for a while, I have noticed that their “safety buckets” stay fuller longer than the kids who just started coming to church, or who come intermittently.
Safety is a function of nearness to God. [The Israelites learned this the hard way.] It’s the same with us and the same with our CMDC kiddos. The nearer they/we can be to God, the safer they/we are – in so many senses of the word safe. They/we have to learn that God is always with them/us and that He can fill their/our “safety bucket” in an instant – all they/we have to do is ask him.
Become friends with someone who lives surrounded by chaos. Mentor a child. Be that physical and emotional safeguard for a person. And share with them how God can provide. Fill up those “safety buckets” so that we can begin ending the cycle of chaos and crime.