Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision U.S. begins The Hole in Our Gospel: The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World with the story of a young boy named Richard, who was orphaned by AIDS. Meeting Richard in Uganda and experiencing the way he lived “was to be the moment that would ever after define” Richard Stearns. While also reading this story, I was simultaneously researching the situation of children who had been orphaned by AIDS. I couldn’t help but compare my encounter with AIDS orphans with that of Richard Stearns. I wish I could say that I had a life changing experience reading about how many children have been left orphaned because of HIV/AIDS (more than 14 million in Sub-Saharan Africa). To be clear, I was sad as I read these statistics, but I regarded this research as part of my job. It was just something that needed to be done. I decided I wanted to do some personal “soul-researching” to discover how I could bridge the gap between Stearns’ experience and my own.
First, I asked myself what the differences were between Rich Stearns, a white, upper middle class American and me, also a white, upper middle class American. He lives comfortably in Seattle with his wife and kids, and I live comfortably in my apartment at college in Virginia. But here is where the differences enter: Rich made a decision “to be open to God’s will for his life” (34). Sure, the decision wasn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t a decision he made in one night. But, Rich decided to devote his life and his life’s work to God’s will: helping “somebody else’s kids” (107). Stearns made the choice to help kids like Richard, kids who were thousands of miles away.
I’d like to say that the only difference, then, between Rich Stearns and me is that I haven’t had the chance to visit Africa. I could say that I can’t help the way he can because I have other responsibilities: I have to go to college and I have to graduate and get a job. Because of these other obligations, I’ve never seen the way that AIDS can impact an entire community. I don’t know what it feels like to see a young boy take on the responsibility of his siblings and grow up before he should have to. However, I think this is a cop-out on my part. I don’t have to sacrifice a college education to help suffering children in Africa. Instead, I have to sacrifice everything. It seems contradictory, I know. This whole week I have been trying to understand what Rich Stearns means when he says “God asks us for everything” (1).
To sacrifice everything sounds crazy. To sacrifice everything for God sounds a little less crazy, for it sounds like what being a good Christian might look like. The hardest part is finding out how to give everything for God, like Rich Stearns did. To begin with, I have started to ask myself this week how I can act in a way according to God’s will. Reading and analyzing Rich Stearns’ book was the best avenue to figure this out. There is not one simple answer to follow God’s will for me. I need to be open for what comes my way, but I also need to seek out ways to challenge myself and make myself uncomfortable. In giving my whole mind and spirit to God each and every day, I will gradually come to know what God has intended for me.
It brings me back to that day in late January when Professor Marsh announced this internship possibility. Working at a non-profit, like ONE, sounded exciting. Working for ONE in an explicitly theological way caught me up. I have always considered myself a deeply religious person, but in a very personal way. I had always considered religion as something to be nurtured within, not something to be proclaimed externally. It has taken a small phrase in Rich Stearns’ book to show me that this internship is a lesson in opening me up for God’s will in my life. Everything I do here at ONE is part of the “everything” that God expects of me. I think I am ready now to bridge the gap between Rich Stearns’ experience and my own.