herefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
There’s a story that once a man was watching a butterfly struggle to free itself from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but after much effort, it stopped moving. Afraid that the butterfly was dying, the man gently made the hole larger. The butterfly fluttered again, but made no more effort. In his rush to do what seemed kind and compassionate, the man had doomed the butterfly. The struggle a butterfly endures is nature’s way of forcing fluid from the swollen body of a butterfly into its wings to strengthen them and infuse them with nutrients for a new flight. The man’s well-intentioned help was only temporarily helpful. He lacked the patience to exercise the necessary restraint.
The history of work trips as mission into impoverished areas of our own country and the developing world could well be categorized in this way. For centuries, people of faith with good intentions raced to help people on their struggles without first understanding if their help was like someone who frees a bird from a porch or a whale from a beach… or more like a butterfly from its cocoon. The intentionality and reflection is a necessary step in aid work that separates pity from compassion. Educational reformer John Dewey once said, “We don’t learn from experience, we learn by reflecting on experience.“
Scripture teaches us not to simply go and help or rescue people, but to make disciples. Jesus modeled a relationship that takes years. We must always be intentional to go and serve where we can build relationships with communities, hear their struggles, arrive at solutions together, and then do the work. And afterwards, reflect, learn more, and grow. That’s why our adult teams go back to La Lachosa in the DR over and over and why our youth are returning to San Antonio Del Mar. We are intentional to build relationships with the communities, to learn, and to do good work together. And each evening, we reflect on the work and the relationships we form. I hope you can join or support one of these trips. Perhaps you can travel with us, perhaps pray for us, or maybe send prayer cards. And perhaps you’ll learn with us and help us as we all grow through the leading of the spirit and wisdom of intentionality and compassionate care.