Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Three Questions with Shaun Groves

Yesterday on his blog, Shaun Groves offered an exciting opportunity to bloggers and everyday folks like me: "To spread the word about the music and message of Third World Symphony I'm offering any blogger a limited interview opportunity.  Three questions.  About anything you want, but only three questions."

Game on. 
If you've never heard of Shaun Groves, or if you only know him as that-tall-musician-guy-who-wrote-that-Twilight-song-back-in-the-day, then it's my pleasure to introduce him to you now!  He is a talented singer/songwriter, as well as a speaker, writer, and Compassion International blogger, among other things.  You can read his story here to get a fuller picture of who he is and what he's about, and then check out his answers to my questions below.  What he's saying is important, thought-provoking, and challenging, so take a while to mull it over (and then preview and consider ordering his newest album, which is infused with some of the themes of this interview).  There's a lot more to chew on today than I'll ever be able to provide in my own blogging, so… enjoy!

Me: What are the 2-3 most important things that we (middle-class US citizens) could learn from Compassion children and their families?

Shaun: What  great question. Thankful for the humility behind this question. I wish I'd learned earlier in life how much those we aim to help can really help us.
Let's see. The three most important lessons...

For me personally I'd say gratitude, joy, and gospel. That's what Compassion children and their families have taught me about most. If everything is a gift from God, manna and quail in the wilderness, used by God to guide us to God, then God is paying a lot of attention- my life is full of His gifts. That first breath in the morning. Daily bread. A body and mind that work as well as any other thirty-seven year-old's. Air conditioning. And to hear a mother with less than all this- in twenty-four square feet, with a sick child, with no work, ninety-eight degrees inside and outside- to hear her thank God for just Jesus is convicting and inspiring all at once. So, gratitude is the first lesson- that if I have Jesus I am rich, blessed, and have reason to give thanks.

And second, is joy. We could parse Greek on this but how boring for a word like joy! Call it security based on dependence upon God or call it spiritual happiness- I don't care. I just know it when I see it. And I see it in mothers walking miles to gather in a church to learn how to make formula for their babies, laughing together in a circle on the floor, dancing with their babies and singing songs to God at the close of the meeting. I see it in an eleven year-old in Kolkata, India who sang Lord I LIft Your Name On High while walking through an open-air brothel- a firefly in the darkest darkness. There is joy that comes from God only, from trust and dependence, from seeing each meal as evidence of His presence and love. Joy in all things because Christ is with us in all things.

Lastly, gospel. In America we mostly preach a gospel that is Christ crucified, buried and resurrected for the forgiveness of sins and defeat of death. I affirm that. But it is only half the gospel. If this is all the gospel then the poor can only wait for death to come- this is their hope, their only relief. But Jesus preached a gospel that he declared was "Good News to the poor." Elsewhere he said it was "God's will on earth as it is in heaven." Why is this gospel good for the poor? Well, Jesus said it would bring sight to the blind, freedom to captives, release to those oppressed. The pastors of the poor preach this- they call it "the kingdom of God" because, well, that's what Jesus called it. Jesus, through His people and by the power of the Spirit, can reign and rule now, defeating not only sin and death someday but this day. This is why I heard a pastor in Ethiopia pray for justice, food, good rain, jobs and on and on. Because He believes God cares about these physical temporal needs and not just the spiritual and eternal ones. 

Me: Have you ever felt a desire to move to one of the developing nations you've visited with Compassion, and if so (or if not) what has led you to stay here in the states

Shaun: Another great question! Yes. The first trip I took with Compassion International was to El Salvador back in 2005. And I wanted to move there. We've even talked over the years of splitting our time between Nashville and San Salvador- living here most of the year but spending summers there.

We've decided not to do this for a couple reasons. First, not everyone should go overseas- especially to nations where the church is strong and growing. Missiologists generally agree that the most effective and longstanding ministry is done by indigenous people- Salvadorans ministering to Salvadorans. And there are plenty of Christians in most of the nation to successfully spread the gospel in this way. What we looked at doing was serving these believers in some way behind the scenes that would make their ministry possible. We're still pondering this and maybe someday we'll move.

The main reason we have not gone yet though is because of Compassion International. Their ministry- through local churches- is extremely effective, the gold standard in holistic child development. As I've sought advise from friends at Compassion they've continually asserted that I'm more help to them by being one of their voices to the churches in the first world than I'd be doing anything else in the third world...at the moment. But that could change. And I'm ready if it does.

Me: What advice would you give to 20-somethings who want to use their lives to help build the kingdom?  

Shaun: A couple things come to mind. First, start with what you have where you are. I've met college students who ask me what they should do on the mission field when they graduate. And I always ask them what they're doing on their mission field at college right now. Most college towns have a rundown neighborhood, a homeless shelter, a family assistance center, a poorer school, a nursing home. Most campuses have students in abusive relationships, tangled up in addiction, non-Christians, new Christians in need of mentoring, depression, doubt, anxiety. There's plenty to be done with what you have right where you are. And neglecting to do what you can with what you have right now- I feel terrible saying this- makes me wonder about your motives for wanting to be a missionary someday. We love because we've been loved. Because Jesus is in us loving through us. If we've motivated by a loving Jesus inside us, then why not start now.

Second thing that came to mind is to think. It's cool to care right now. What's happening now with today's college students was predicted by sociologists many years ago. This generation was predicted to be "civic" and they are. Activism is in. But thinking before and during acting is much more rare. My fear is that this generation will do a lot of stuff to help a lot of people and then, someday, look back and see that they didn't make the difference they thought they would and get as cynical and apathetic as the last civic generation- the Baby Boomers- did. What a missed opportunity that would be! So I applaud your love, your passion. I admire your creativity and energy. But I beg you to think. Don't buy a RED t-shirt before researching how much of that price tag goes to help people. Don't go on a construction mission trip without asking if the work you're doing is taking work from locals. Don't do and give without first thinking. A great place to begin is reading When Helping Hurts by Brian Fickert. Great thoughts on compassionate living that does the most good and no harm.
Thanks so much, Shaun, for sharing your thoughts with us, and thank you especially for letting God use you in a big way.  Lives are being changed.
And one last reminder to readers: be sure to check out a preview of Shaun's newest album, Third World Symphony, which you can order here.  

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