It was one of the greatest races of my life. I didn’t win, but we won. It was the college conference championship for our cross country team. It had poured rain the day before so the course was a slippery mess and muddy. The gun sounded to start the race and we sprinted towards the first mile. Soon after the first mile, the top five runners of our team were all together in the front. This was had never happened before, especially since we had two very fast Kenyans on the team. But for the next three miles, we ran together, encouraged each other, pulled each other along. Even though we were five individual runners, we suffered together, we worked together, we pulled for each other, we won together.
Too often our short-term mission and service trip can look more like an individual race, than a team race. Our individual race is our team from church or school (or whatever group you participate with on a trip). We go, serve, hand out donations, and leave. We might learn about different issues of the community or what the ministry or organization is doing and then we go home. We just ran a successful individual race. We did “good” things like building a house, play with children, lead a VBS, handed out food, we met new friends and did what the leaders in the host community wanted us to do. Service and charity are important, but if done outside of this more important action, it is nothing more than an individual (possibly selfish) action.
But what is desired more than anything, is not charity, donations or building projects, its solidarity. Many of the people we serve are in places of hardship, oppression, struggle, and pain and they want to know are you in it with them? Not just by words, but by your actions. Not necessarily actions of service, but an emotional, gut-level commitment. If you have ever been in a struggle or if you have ever gone through a difficult time in your life, you know the importance of having someone in your corner, willing to listen, fight for and with you, someone who is committed to you to the end. Those we serve with desire solidarity, even more than what we have to offer in the way of our resources.
What does it mean to have solidarity?
- We listen to understand. Period.
- Empathize – See, feel, and hear the world through their eyes without pre-condition or self-justification.
- Raise their voices and not talk for them, yet…
- Defend them when they are dismissed, misunderstood, or attacked.
- Suffer together
- Rejoice together
- Be in the fight together and…
- Fight for them
- Lead together and…
- Be lead by them
Ask yourself, what does it mean for someone to live in solidarity with you?
The act of solidarity is the same act that God does for us. There is a beautiful Hebrew word that is mentioned often in the Old Testament. The word is Hesed. The English translation is mercy or loving-kindness. Just like most words being translated from Greek or Hebrew, our English words fall short. The definition of Mercy we often hear is, “Not getting what you deserve.” But in this case, Hesed means a commitment to someone that they will never let go or a love that will never let go. It is a commitment to someone that no matter what you are there for them. (look at Psalm 33:5, 42:8, 63:3, Lamentations 3:22, and Micah 7:18) God revealed this solidarity through His son Jesus by coming to earth and living amongst us say,” I am with you.”
As you prepare and go on your next service trip consider, how can you give the gift of solidarity. How can you put yourself in a position to be committed to the people you are going to serve by being in solidarity with them? How can you run a team race that suffers with and endures together?
“For the Lord is good and his love (Hesed) endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.” – Psalm 100:5
Authors Note: These thoughts came from Samuel Perez at a recent Global Immersion Summit. I am still learning what it means to live in solidarity. If you have other ideas as to what this means, I would love to hear from you.