About three months ago, I was perusing the book of Faces and tasting its virtual tapas-bar of entertainment. Amidst the adorable baby videos, outraged political rants, and quizzes that look deep into my soul and tell me which kind of 90’s fashion accessory I am, I happened upon a video from the Daily Show. Now I love me some John Stewart, so I clicked and watched a segment mocking the panic about Ebola possibly breaking out in the US. The clip was well-written, well-performed, and had biting commentary on the current state of human nature. These are all the elements that make me love the Daily Show. Except this time, it wasn’t funny. Not because the jokes weren’t good, or John was off, or it was inaccurate, but because I couldn’t laugh at Ebola. The jokes implied how removed we were from Ebola, but I didn’t feel that way. The physical dangers and effects, yes those were far away, but the other effects Ebola had on people? That was quite close.
Our local ward covers a suburban area right outside the city of Minneapolis. We have a high number of immigrants and refuges in the Twin Cities area (Minneapolis and Saint Paul), and in our ward, there are a lot of immigrants from Liberia. Some have been here many years, but I believe most have come here somewhat recently. All of them, however, have left family (sometimes immediate family) and friends behind. When the Ebola outbreak happened, I honestly didn’t pay much attention at first because it felt so distant. But when I’d go to Church, if any of our Liberian saints prayed in meetings, they passionately pleaded with God for understanding and hope and grace for their families and country. Their prayers were so fervent and sincere, especially compared to the reserved Minnesota Mormon tradition I come from, that it literally felt like my heart was getting pierced as I listened. Such a simple but intimate communication with God shot through my walls of indifference, apathy and ignorance reminding me of something important. These were my people too.
If I am truly to take my baptismal covenants seriously, I am entrusted with bearing the burdens of my brothers and sisters, even if those burdens originate in a land far away. This experience made me realize the real cost of an international church: Disasters and wars no longer happen to distant people far removed from us, they happen to our people. The world’s fate is our fate because our people are everywhere in it. The price is not money, but comfort. Our hearts must collectively expand to hold everyone’s burdens.
I used to think that sounded all perfect and lovely, and “la, la, la, we’re a world of happy love,” but now I see it’s not pretty getting there. Our hearts must be pierced and broken repeatedly to make more room. It’s painful. It’s messy. It’s sometimes brutal. But it’s also necessary if we want to know God and share in the kind of life He has. A life that shares in the joy and sorrow of every soul.
Of course it’s not always something dire that causes our hearts to expand towards one another. It can come bit by bit as we do what we can in our current circumstances. I can’t do much from here to fight Ebola, but I can pray for those involved. I can listen to and honor the stories of my brothers and sisters who have been through so much and who are wracked with worry. I can ask what is needed and do it. As I do these things, I can feel a small bit of apathy or indifference scraped away from my heart to make more room for love. I believe strengthening and expanding the borders of our own hearts creates the foundation we build Zion upon.
Another thing we can do is offer aid when we have the means to. If you are feeling a desire to help those outside your immediate circle, but aren’t sure how to start, please consider donating to the Liahona Children’s Foundation. Our blog has adopted a stake in Ta Khmau, Cambodia in the hopes that we can raise enough money to provide nutritional needs to the stake for one year. If you would like more information on the project with a detailed explanation on how to donate, please click here: Join With Us.
I wish you all an expansive holiday season!