by Gary Brumbelow and Darrow Miller
Over 20 years ago, Dr. Ted Yamamori, the President of Food for the Hungry International, was walking through a refugee camp in Ethiopia. He heard the unmistakable cry of an infant struggling for life. Following the sound, he entered an otherwise-empty hut to find the source: an abandoned baby. Picking it up, he stepped out to locate the mother. She was nearby and unconcerned. “Leave that baby alone,” she insisted, “it was meant to die!” “No!” Dr Yamamori said, “This baby was born to live.”
That brief exchange captures the conflict of two radically different worldviews leading to two dramatically different, yet predictable, outcomes for the baby. On the one hand, we see the fatalistic, death culture of animism; on the other hand, the freedom, life culture of Judeo-Christian theism.
This story illustrates a key DNA concept: the gospel exposes the lies embedded in every culture. The mother was desperate with poverty and convinced of a framework of lies. She believed that human life has no value (a “doctrine” of animism) and that history is something that happens to you (i.e. fatalism). Blinded by these lies this mother acted against every maternal instinct.
Every culture has its lies. For years I (Gary) served cross-culturally and didn’t recognize these lies or confront them. I regarded such lies as examples of cultural relativity, thinking, Those are the values of the culture and we have no business challenging them. But Jesus identified the devil as the father of lies (John 8:44). His lies enslave and impoverish people, communities, and entire societies (Revelation 20:3, 7-8). The gospel of Christ exposes these lies. In John 10:10 Jesus threw down the gauntlet: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. He indicted the devil and declared his own mission and power. His is the power of truth, the power of a Biblical worldview.
When Dr Yamamori rescued the baby (and took it to a medical clinic) he acted from biblical conviction. His response was clear and immediate for at least two reasons:
1) His missionary practice was deeply informed by the biblical teaching about the sanctity of life, and,
2) He understood the importance of challenging the lies prevalent in the culture.
Such clarity only comes in the context of appreciating the whole-life picture of God’s concern for the world. Which leads to an important question for those in cross-cultural witness: How well prepared are we to recognize such lies? How faithful are we in confronting them? Too many Christians have been influenced by cultural relativism and thus will not challenge, or even recognize, lies where they are found.
I (Darrow) have had the privilege of knowing Ana dos Santos from Brazil for over 20 years. She is one of my heroes. Ana was serving as a development worker in a Muslim country in north Africa. She understood that development was more about truth replacing lies than about money. She understood the same worldview principles as Dr. Yamamori.
Ana grew up in Brazil, the daughter of a church planter who served in underprivileged communities. Bob Moffitt and I were privileged to mentor her. She continues in key leadership capacities in the Portuguese-speaking world. Some of Ana’s story was published in a DNA Global E-newsletter last September. The following narrative about how she adopted a destitute baby, and what happened, was not included in that account:
I first met Kalla on a dusty street. She was wrapped in a sheet held by an old lady. When I stopped the car, they came begging. Initially I did not give them much attention: the heat was above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) and I was in a hurry. However, when I saw that little girl—her expressionless face, her almost disfigured form of skin and bones—my heart almost stopped.
The old lady was her grandma and told me that Kalla was two years old. I rushed to buy water for her and to my surprise she responded and drank it all. Because it is an Islamic country I couldn’t just take her home with me. So she stayed on the street without hope. When I got home and saw other children eating and happy, my heart was too tight. I heard something very soft, like a strong whisper: “Ana, you left me in the streets, hungry and naked?” I couldn’t say anything. I knew I was guilty.
Without thinking much I went back to bring Kalla home. As I was talking with her grandmother, asking her to bring Kalla’s mom to our house, she looked at me and said: “She will die soon, we have try to help her, but it is God’s will. We should accept it, we can’t change it.”
I remember clearly the fight between worldviews, the ideas that decide between lifeor death. I looked at the lady and told her I was going to take Kalla home with me. “She is destined to live, to live an abundant life,” I said, “and this is what she will have!”
Today Kalla is 14 years old, loves Jesus, loves life, and we are praying that she will continue to grow towards God’s intention for her life.
Kalla’s story continues. As we were working on this blog, Ana wrote:
Another great thing happened yesterday. I received a phone call from the American school here in Brazil. They have offered Kalla a full scholarship to attend school until we leave for [country name withheld]. God never misses one detail of His great care for us!
Ana Santos loves her Savior. She understands that her Father in heaven loves the widow and the orphan and that we should, too. We hope you are encouraged by Ana’s understanding, and how she acted on it, to provide a home for Kalla. In a following post you will hear more of Ana’s story.