I heard an interview with a man who was born of an American father and an Iranian mother. "I," he described himself, "have the blood of both the 'Axis of Evil' and 'The Great Satan' pulsing through my veins." How do we begin to identify more like he does?
In our family it's been lived out through adoption. One of "them"-- black, Haitian, poor, abandoned, unhealthy, underdeveloped-- becoming one of "us". But maybe that's the easy part, "them" becoming "us," that is. We call it conversion. We get to keep our assumptions that our way is better, that we are "right." The harder part, maybe, is "us" becoming "them."
Too often, we mistake visiting "the poor" with joining with "the poor" (whatever that even means). Our mission trips and soup kitchens are nice. They can be life changing for us. They introduce us to a culture very different than our own, but if we walk away thinking we understand, if we walk away thinking that we fulfilled our obligation, then maybe that trip has done more harm than good.
So how do we join with the poor? I don't know that I have any answers. Honestly, I've tried. My family moved to Haiti and tried to do this for more than six years and I stand before you now at a place of failure. Nothing worked the way it was "supposed to." Yet I am not afraid of that word because I'm becoming more and more convinced that the gospel lives in our failure.