Each person who is involved with Love in Action International has their own story of awakening to the needs of others. For me it began in the late 70's while raising small children. I began to wrestle with a recurring question: "What is this life about and what is 'my life' to be about." In this time frame, probably because I was open to seeing differently, I began to see needs. Those needs had been there all along, I simply had not seen them. "How is it that there continues to be so much need when we have so many helping organizations and churches?" was a question I set out to answer. The answer to that question has been painfully life-changing.
That search has taken me and others to hospitals, prisons, homeless shelters, schools, and into homes where domestic violence and addictions are the rule. During this time, we began to see how all these areas of need were part of the same problem. The abused child without help often becomes drug addicted and sometimes homeless. They are our prisoners. The child who experiences violence in the home goes on to repeat the cycle, etc, etc. I also learned during those early years, if I wanted to change the world, I first must change myself.
To choose to see is to feel the pain of a world suffering. In 1992, we began taking 40 foot containers of aid into the former Yugoslavia and working with arriving refugees. Grieving for a world gone crazy was taken to new levels with every visit to Bosnia. It was the closest I have ever been to hell. Imagine a place where an army murdered civilians and called it war - a place where women and children were not casualties of the war but the target. After being in Bosnia and seeing incredible suffering and devastation, I went to a place that was beautiful and peaceful in Herzegovina. People lived as if there was no war though they were close enough to hear the shells. Their religious leaders blessed the soldiers before they went just up the road to kill their neighbor. God had spared their beautiful village, we were told. I saw with a new clarity blindness that defies understanding.
Phillip Hallie, author and poet, spoke very specifically of the battle within during a symposium on evil. He had come to a place in the wake of his experience in World War II of deciding he simply didn't want to live anymore. He insisted on facing the killer within himself and that experience had left him without hope. The world was simply unbearable. Then he read about the little village of Le Chambon. He said: "Their gray little church that they had in this tiny little mountain village was perched on a plateau on a high mountain in south-eastern France. This tiny little church was like a battery charged with love, charged with such a power of love that the Germans were disarmed in the literal sense." Their arms weren't relevant. It was like a disarmingly innocent child.
The question became, "How can we be a Le Chambon?" In the midst of such confusion and division how can we be a light - we're told we are to be a light. The confusion and division isn't out there you know. It is here - in us, in you and in me. Part of the painful process for each of us is recognizing our part in suffering. Then we find ourselves wanting only to take what we must and to give where we can. We want to love God and put love for our neighbor into action so that we, too, can be like a "battery charged with love" that is disarming.
- Rae England