My name is Matt and this is my blog. Pastor of Students and Education, Ultra-Fanatic (50K, 50, 24 & 72 Hour), Marathon Maniac, and Ironman (70.3).
I enjoy reading, writing, and thinking... I run. A lot. Like Forrest, beard and all. I like to eat waffles and drink coffee.... I love Jesus, His Church, and my wife.
As a final follow up to my posts “Compassion Trumps Fear" and "It Made a Difference to That One" I wrote over the past two days, here’s an old-ish song we heard for the first time yesterday on the radio. Seriously, walk your way - v e r y s l o w l y - through these words:
"Jesus, Friend Of Sinners"
As a follow-up to my post, “Compassion Trumps Fear,” about what I shared to the Board President, Superintendent, and distinguished School Board members of GPISD in regards to their proposal to temporarily house unaccompanied minors from Central America, I thought I’d respectfully refute one of the comments that was made that has been gnawing at my soul since around 7:30 PM on Thursday, July 17, 2014. No, it won’t be divisive. On the contrary, I hope it will be an encouragement.
"We can’t help everyone."
When those words rang through the Board Room at the GPISD Administration Building, my heart sank. Not because I hadn’t heard it before, or because they were saying something with which I may have disagreed, but because that might just be the saddest conclusion someone can ever come to…even if it is ultimately true.
My wife and I have now fostered 10 people, ranging in age from 11 months to early 20s. Yet, on any given day there are nearly 400,000 children in foster care. Furthermore, 640,000 children spent time outside of their home at some point last year. Our home is rated for 4 children, with or without special needs, and we’re currently fostering 2 young girls, with 2 on the way.
"We can’t help everyone."
Of course GPISD cannot help everyone, but they do have an opportunity to help a whole bunch a ‘em…and it will make a difference.
The 10 human beings made in God’s image that we have fostered to this point are barely a drop in the bucket to the nearly 400,000 out there. We can’t help everyone, yes…but we can help some. And at the end of the day, that’s all we really need to worry about.
As someone who was practically raised by my church, in that I was there Monday through Friday all day in daycare until I graduated Kindergarten, every day after school until I made it out of Elementary School, and just about every Sunday the doors were open, morning and night, I heard the old “Starfish Story” quite a few times.
It is actually a Christianized or Motivational-Speakerized version of an essay called “The Star Thrower,” written by Loren Eiseley. As it is often said from a pulpit, it goes something like this:
While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said:
“It made a difference for that one.”
I couldn’t help but think back to that story as the speaker shared how we simply “can’t help everyone.” Although she’s right, that doesn’t mean we can’t help some. Because as we do, we’ll dadgum sure make a difference in the lives of many, many, many frightened children and teens.
And friend that’s reading this thinking you simply don’t feel compelled or called to help with the crisis at the border, this post is for you, too. Don’t ever, every, ever, ever, EVER think that just because you can’t help every ___________ (insert whatever you’re passionate about), that you shouldn’t at least help a few. As Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”
(I referenced some statistics about Foster Care that can be found here)
Last night I had the privilege of addressing Grand Prairie Independent School District Superintendent, President, and School Board in regards to the potential use of one of GPISD’s abandoned buildings being used to help process some of the unaccompanied minors from Central America.
There was an organized protest of sorts from the Tea Party, but considering many of those that were opposed had already shared their thoughts on Tuesday, the speakers and the majority of those that were respectful in the crowd were overwhelmingly positive. It was sad to hear jeers towards those that were speaking, but when so many were misinformed by the media and politicians, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Snippets were shared on channels 4, 8, and 11, and I presume on 5 as well, but we weren’t able to catch it. A friend did, however, share with me a link to see WFAA’s report, and you can view it and read it here. The GP Reporter also quoted me and you can read it here. As my wife said last night, “With that behind us, now we can get to work.” I have no doubt that GPISD will do the right thing and regardless of whether that means we have the privilege of serving them here or in Dallas or on a trip to the border, now it’s time to put some of these words to action.
I had originally written a five minute speech, but was told to expect it to be around three minutes, so I had to strike a few things to make it in the time limit. I’ve put what I shared in bold font, while leaving the rest of what I had wanted to say.
It will take awhile for me to fully process what took place, but the manuscript of my opinion shared is below:
Good evening Board President, Dr. Hull, and distinguished members of the board. My name is Matt Henslee and I am the Pastor of Students and Education at Inglewood Baptist Church here in Grand Prairie, and was raised and currently reside in Grand Prairie, after a brief exile to Arkansas.
In Arkansas, I was a Student Pastor, taught adults with Special Needs, and cared for an adult with special needs in our home that had been sexually and physically abused throughout his childhood and adolescent years.
Now back home, literally next door to the house in which I was raised, my wife and I continue to serve children and students in need, most recently as foster parents of a few precious girls who have had an unimaginable upbringing, or when crises strike our students, such as the recent death of Vicente Hernandez.
I say that to say, my heart aches and my soul mourns when I hear of or see people hurting around me. As a pastor I see this daily. As a foster parent I see this daily. And as a human being I make the daily choice to see the needs and hurts and difficulties around me, and do whatever I can to help. Although in my reading of the Bible that would seem to be part of the “Christian” way of living, I truly believe that to be the American way as well. We help each other, we care for each other, we hurt with each other, we cheer for each other.
But I stand before you tonight frustrated and heartbroken, but emboldened at the humanitarian crisis we are witnessing at our border as refugees, many of them are unaccompanied minor children, are fleeing unspeakable violence, rape, and torture in Central America. When I first read the reports, I couldn’t help but picture our beautiful girls we call princesses, and what it would have to be like for me to remotely consider sending them away. Unthinkable.
These are not kids just seeking work and opportunity that the United States of America affords, but are fleeing an exploding drug war, the sex slave trade, and the utter chaos and violence that has become a normal way of life for these frightened kids.
We don’t have to agree on public policy or politics, but I do believe that we must agree on our response to these children, whether they look like, behave like, or talk like us; and that response is compassion, not fear.
In Luke 10:27-37, Jesus teaches a parable about the Samaritan who has every possible reason to be afraid, especially seeing a beaten man before him. Yet his fear is cast out by love and compassion. The beaten man wasn’t the Samaritan’s responsibility, yet he treats him, a stranger, as if he were his brother or his son. And upon Jesus being questioned whether this is showing mercy, Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”
That’s what I’m begging you to do today. The border crisis is going to take careful work by our federal, state, and local governments, it’s going to take a church willing to give, pray, and love, but I believe it is going to take every proud American’s willingness to help, love, and care for any and every person we see in need.
Compassion trumps fear.
For as the inscription on the Statue of Liberty states,
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Here at our sea-washed, sunset- gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mothers of Exile. From her beacon hand
Glows world-wide welcome, her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” she cries
With a silent lips, “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I’ll leave you with this quote from Al Street, Professor of Biblical Exegesis at Criswell College in Dallas:
Jesus was an immigrant. He and his family left their homeland and crossed the border into Egypt in order to escape Herod’s hit squad.
Had Jesus not escaped, He would have been one of the innocents who was murdered.
This means that immigration played an essential role in salvation history.
In fact, others in his ancestral line were immigrants who advanced salvation history. Think of Naomi and her family who moved to Moab, where her son married Ruth. Then the widowed Ruth, in turn, migrated to Bethlehem where she met Boaz and gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of King David, who fathered the royal line leading up to Jesus.
Without immigration there would have been no messiah and no salvation.