“We head off today. I’ll be honest, I’m a little nervous. Scared even. I don’t know quite what to expect. I have driven a fair bit through Nepal and the mountain roads are sketchy at the best of times – add an earthquake and I imagine it’s going to be a ride to remember!”
This was penned by a guy I know who last week helped deliver 500 relief packages to people affected by the earthquakes in Nepal. He delivered them from the orphanage he runs with his father in Banbasa, India.
An orphanage helping the Nepalese.
The needy helping the needy.
If ever there was a picture of the generosity that Jesus calls us to, this is it. Giving selflessly, even painfully, because the need cannot be ignored – not just giving out of duty or overflow.
Clifton Shipway is the grandson of Maxton D. Strong, the founder of The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission. He moved there from Launceston as a 19-year-old to help. He’s still there today, working as the deputy director of the orphanage alongside his dad Rick Shipway. Clifton is married with three sons and their lives are completely invested in the wellbeing of the children who come through the GSAM doors.
When his posts flick up on my news feed, I drink them in like iced tea on a hot January day. They are unaccountably refreshing. Perhaps it’s because I wish my life was as pared back and impacting. Perhaps it’s because I can see Jesus so clearly in their work.
So, when Nepal was rocked by one earthquake, and then another, the blokes at the GSAM were also rocked by the plight of their neighbours 800km away. They devised a plan to put together 500 relief packages and deliver them in person to Nepal.
Initially, they planned to fund it themselves but on account of the number of “What-can-we-do?” queries received, they opened the opportunity for near and far-flung friends and supporters to get involved financially.
The US$6000 project was funded in less than two days. God was at work!
About 40 of the orphanage children, staff, leaders and volunteers rolled up their sleeves. For a whole day, they opened boxes, weighed and bagged dhal, sugar and rice, loaded sacks, stitched the packages shut and stacked them onto a bus.
“It was a blast!” Clifton later wrote, “We finished the last bag at around 11:30pm. It was incredible. What a perfect lesson for our kids.”
Then, they were off. A bus, eight tonnes of relief food and aid and a police escort into the volatile reaches of Kathmandu.
Last week I wrote about my dismay at Australia’s budget cuts to foreign aid. It’s true that we as a nation have a responsibility to support our neighbours. But when I read of Clifton’s crazy idea that became a crazy reality, I was reminded that the onus is as much on us as individuals to advocate for the needy.
Why did the GSAM do such a costly and dangerous thing?
Clifton shared a verse that he was chewing over in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquakes:
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
It distills into three imperatives:
- Help those in need.
- Emulate the life of Jesus.
- Do not yield to worldly temptation.
Don’t we complicate things? Don’t we get distracted by things that just don’t matter? Don’t we furrow our brow over ‘first-world problems’?
Thank you to people like Rick and Clifton who simplify it for us. We can’t all pack up our lives and head to India, but we can develop a heart ready to do anything to make this world better. A world that honours its maker because, as Clifton signed off in his blog post the other day before heading into the unknown of Nepal, “Religion is not about rules or judgement. It’s about love. Loving God and loving our neighbours as ourselves.”
In God’s economy, generosity is not measured in dollar value but in the willingness of the heart. Take the first step and he will do the rest.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday May 25, 2015. Photo credits: Clifton Shipway and The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission.