Youth Ministry and Philanthropy: An Interview with Jeremy Affeldt

And I truly believe that this is it, man. Jesus said, "I have come to set the captives free!  The slaves will be free!  I have come to heal the broken hearts."  I mean, if you look atit you'll see he said all those things.  He said, "I have come.  I am the river of life, I am the bread of life, I'm food for your hunger, I'm your shelter, those who find their dwelling in me I will protect."  He cares about shelter, he cares about food, he cares about water, he cares about those who have broken hearts and those who are enslaved in something they're not supposed to be in.  So for me, what better opportunity? 

I have two girls in Uganda right now who work for me, and they have sent me pictures of the well that we put in with Living Water International.  They busted that well, and these kids are standing under it.  They're washing themselves in it.  This is clean water and they are rejoicing.  I've never seen anything like this.  Ninety percent of the diseases in their village will leave now, because they have good clean drinking water.  The joy that's on these kids' faces for just water -- the same water that's in my toilet bowl -- those kids are actually rejoicing in it. 

This is awesome! You know, I'll sit at a restaurant where I have the opportunity to say, "I don't like this water, can I have a different kind?"  And we're talking about kids that are just like, "I just want water that is not dirty," you know, or these kids that are like, "I just want to wake up one day, and not be a slave.  I just want to wake up one day, and know that I'm not needing my chains taken off and told to go have sex with this guy because I gotta pay my debt that some guy says I have."  Right?  You know, "I'm tired of going in these fields, and working hard tirelessly every day, and what do I get?  I get put right back where I'm at, I get hooked to the floor, and I get a thing of bread thrown in front of me as my food." 

When I tell people, they feel that devastation.  But to release a kid from that, or to take part in releasing them from that, and to see the joy, that's the love of Jesus.  Period.  Not standing on a soap box, not holding up a sign saying that without Christ you're going to rot in hell for eternity -- I don't believe Jesus did it like that.  He didn't walk through the villages and say you'd better accept me or rot in hell.  All he did is redeem people, man.  He had a relationship with them.  He loved on them.  And then when he spoke, because he'd earned the right to have a voice in their life, he said, "The opportunity is to love God.  To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind." 

Two commandments!  Love your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love others as yourself.  Those are the two commandments that God gave us. But we're not doing any of that!  You can't love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind if you don't believe in that God.  And we continue not to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We don't do that.  Because are you telling me you want to be enslaved?  Are you telling me that you want to not have food and have to eat dirt like some of these kids are eating just to be able to feed their appetite?  Are you telling me you would want to drink the same water that you bathed in, only 20 feet from the latrine? We wouldn't want to do that! 

So the idea is to love your neighbor as yourself.  The idea is that I have a right to decide who I'm going to have sex with and not have sex with, and I have a right to not be told that this is what I have to do to pay a debt, you know, I have a right to choose what job I want to do, I have a right to choose my destiny and my path in life. I have that right and people are taking that away from me solely because my mom or dad might have sold me, or maybe they died because of some of these other scenarios like bad drinking water or lack of food or HIV. And so I get snatched up by these groups and thrown into a truck and sold into child soldier slavery where I gotta shoot people because some dude told me to shoot people. 

A lot of these scenarios are taking place.  They all work together.  What better for a young person to say, "Hey, I have an opportunity to help make a dent in this scenario, and to feel the joy of releasing some captive or seeing a well that has been broken open," and a 14-, 15-, 18-, 22-year-old man or woman gets to say, "I helped with that."  And it's the joy they see these people have, that this is life, and now that young person says, "I feel fulfilled!"  This is such a good thing!  And what they may not know -- some of them do, some of them don't, hopefully they all will -- that is the love of Jesus!  That's what he did!  So now they say, if that's Jesus, I want more of that Jesus.  As they go through life, they start seeing opportunities, and it's not a "dos and don'ts" thing, it's a respect for what he did for you.  That's how he loved you, he earned that voice in your life. 

2/23/2010 5:00:00 AM
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  • Beth Davies-Stofka
    About Beth Davies-Stofka
    Beth Davies-Stofka teaches courses on comparative religion and the philosophy of religion. Her teaching and research focus in two areas: the challenges that violence and human suffering present to theological ethics, and explorations of philosophy and...
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