Just A Comparison

30 December, 2009

Redoni and mother, Korçë, Albania, 2006.

Redoni and mother. Korçë, Albania. 2006.

There are situations in which you feel uncomfortable, and there are those that are close to unbearable. This photo came from the latter. I visited Korçë covering the story of Ian Loring who had been deeply involved with the people of Albania since the collapse of the communist regime ruled for forty years by the dictator Enver Hoxha. (The Loring story is chronicaled in the book, Christ and the Kalashnikov. See links below.)

One of the many ministries operating in Korçë is a medical ministry that sends nurses into the community serving those without access to medical care. I rode along with the team as it visited Redoni and his family. I entered the small apartment where this family of four lived; Redoni, his mother and father, and small brother. Their home consisted of one room that was about 10 feet by 15 feet. The only furniture in the home was the bed where Redoni’s mother lay, a small couch across from it, under the only window in the flat. There was a hutch opposite the door we entered on which the nurse I was accompanying prepared compresses of honey for Redoni’s mother.

His mother had been paralyzed since the birth of Redoni’s little brother. The compresses were the only method of treatment for the horrible bed sores that festered as she lay confined to the bed. It was obvious that she was in considerable pain and discomfort and would painfully moan during the procedure to apply the honey compress bandages.

It was a situation that had me questioning whether or not I should be there. I asked the nurse if they truly approved of my presence there during these procedures. The nurse said the family welcomed my presence. I’m not sure whether the boys knew why I was there, but they seemed to enjoy this stranger and watched me closely as I worked.

At one point, Redoni moved closer to his mom and put his hand on her shoulder as she moaned in discomfort. It was the smile that he gave as he did this that was most telling. I had no way to know what he was thinking, but his smile seemed to say, “Everything is fine.”

I couldn’t help thinking this was a strange response to the situation I was witnessing. How could he be fine with this life in which he found himself? Then I realized this was my error by comparison. The scales over my eyes do more than just perjure my judgment of others, they also create false assessments of good, bad, blessings, and affliction. I was looking at this situation through eyes that prejudged the scene as pitiful. My standard of blessing with which I viewed the world was my experience in the west, the southern-California Christian culture. My standard should have been God’s standard.

If God’s standard is our measure, then all of our existence is rather pitiful, we are all poor, crippled, and wretched. Through that understanding comes a great blessing, when we see that our lives here are fleeting, vaporous. This is when we are liberated to see that our purposes should be God’s purposes; to visit the lonely, comfort the sick, feed the hungry. We can see that wealth is not happiness (quite the opposite), and the powerful are weak in proper comparison to God’s power through the meek.

Redoni had the smile of a child unburdened by such pointless human assessments of afflictions and the blessings. He had the smile that we should all seek which evidences our faith and trust in God to meet our needs in any situation in which we find ourselves.

Information on Ian Loring:

© 2009 A Mission Proclaimed

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