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Article Archive >> Autumn Tourism

Points to Ponder: Remember the Girl in the Yellow Dress

Points to Ponder
Remember the Girl in the Yellow Dress

At a leadership Summit in August 2007, sponsored by Willow Creek Association, I was struck in the heart while listening to Pastor Bill Hybels interview British filmmaker, Richard Curtis. Curtis is in his 50's, not very clear on matters of faith for himself, but moved to use his skills to reach out to desperately impoverished people - particularly children in Africa. He uses his film making talents and his contacts in the movie and television industry to raise awareness and resources to bring hope to hopeless situations.
Pastor Hybels pointed out to those of us in ministry the convicting irony of this man who has no clear theology or profession of faith as yet, but he's doing so much more to confront a grave injustice against helpless children than Hybels himself (and by implication, most of us) are doing. We claim to know the Lord God and profess faith in Him; meanwhile, here's a man who doesn't proclaim in words what his life is proclaiming. He's going into areas which most of us never even think about.
One particular project Richard Curtis did in Africa was to "just let the camera run." Instead of editing and pasting together snapshots here and there of impoverished children, like we might see in a commercial for a charity, he took real-time footage of various children here and there as they went about what they were doing to survive that day.
One shot was of a toddler kneeling on a curbside of a flooded, muddy street, reaching his hand deep into the muddy gutter water. He fished out some mucky thing he perhaps thought was valuable. Another scene showed a small girl in rags (perhaps six years old) bundling up her baby sibling and settling the child down to sleep on trash-filled street. But the scene that brought tears down my cheeks was the nighttime footage with the digital "11:37 p.m." in the corner of the screen, a camcorder style shot.
Zooming in from a short distance away, the camera follows a little black girl of about 3 to 4 years old in a yellow dress. Her hair was disheveled, as if it had not been combed since the previous morning. She was tired and perhaps lost, as she slowly walked along a city sidewalk past closed-up buildings, or businesses. Pedestrians walked past her not even noticing. The camera follows her to the front of a doorway, which had a pulled-down garage door type of entrance - typical security door used to shutter inner-city business entrances at night. She gently unfolded a bedroll, like a thin quilt or spread, on the sidewalk. She tossed a small sofa pillow at one end, then set herself down with a resigned yawn, curled up and went to sleep. As the scene ended, a man walks right by her and doesn't even pause to question why a toddler in a yellow dress is sleeping all alone on a city sidewalk. I could barely contain myself from breaking down. I could only imagine my little three-year old fending for herself on a city street in the middle of the night. My children cry out when they are frightened by things that aren't even there. To whom does this little girl in the yellow dress cry out about all the frightening things that really are there for her?
As we become wealthier and more comfortable and our privileges become demanded expectations, it gets easier to not even think about the vast majority of the world's population. I am no "bleeding heart." I've worked with enough poor and homeless folks to know that some of them are where they are by their own poor choices. But then there are the children. Who's to blame for their predicament? Does there have to be anyone to blame? Does it help even if there is? So what do we do?
"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27)
To "visit" comes from the Greek term for overseer. It implies this: don't just write a check and be done with it; if you really want to practice your religion and please God, get involved in their lives. In what way can we individually (and especially as members of Christ's church) "oversee" their care?
Notice that the scripture does not say "pure undefiled government" should do this; it says religion, the practice of one's faith, is to get involved in the lives of the most destitute.
As the founder of World Vision used to pray, we should pray as well: "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." Ponder what that may mean for you.

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com

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