"Black Lives Matter." That sign has become an enduring logo of the Ferguson debacle. Regardless of what one thinks about the mess there, that sign is true. It is limited to be sure, but true as far as it goes. The fact is lives matter, ALL lives matter. Once one becomes truly convinced of that one great truth, decisions begin to make themselves.
If lives matter, and they do, a massive ethical superstructure rests on that foundation. What one believes about murder, the unborn, the weak and defenseless, the elderly and the handicapped is the vertical and visible ethical high rise, but the foundation upon which it all rests is the inherent value of life. LIVES MATTER. Period.
Any qualification on that foundational truth and the entire edifice trembles ominously. The Nazis said Germanic lives matter. What they meant was that no one else's did. They slaughtered Jews by the millions because in their world view, Jewish lives did not matter. Likewise they wasted millions of
Gypsies and homosexuals and the mentally and physically handicapped. If only healthy German lives committed fully to the Fatherland matter, then the deaths of millions outside that definition simply do not matter.
Any qualification, absolutely any qualification on the value of life is noxious to an ethical civilization. Because lives matter we are compelled to act in their defense. Because lives matter we must make ours count. Because lives matter we must see to it, in so far as we can, that the lives of others are not merely protected, but fulfilled, lived to the fullest and their destinies realized. Because lives matter, destinies matter. Because lives matter, wasted lives are a reproach to decency. Because lives matter, no life matters more than another and no waste of a life is any more tragic than another.
After the terrible double homicide of two high schoolers their principal said this: "What makes this so sad is that they were two of the best, brightest and most beautiful students ever to attend this high school." That sounds like a nice thing to say, but in fact, it is dangerously unethical thinking. What makes it sad is not that they were young or talented or good-looking. What makes it sad is that their lives mattered, no more and absolutely no less than anyone else's. If that principal is correct, then if they had been ugly or elderly or mentally retarded, their murders would not have been quite so sad.
It's not young lives that matter or comely lives or intelligent lives or lives of any particular race or gender. Lives matter. All lives matter. No life matters any more or less in one single jot or tittle than another. The death of a mentally deficient child in an orphanage in Azerbaijan matters no less, absolutely NO LESS than the death of a handsome, talented, and highly productive nuclear physicist. If a teenaged junkie, selling herself on a street in Detroit dies of AIDS, it is no less of a human death, no less of a tragic loss than the death in a car crash on the way to her senior prom of a sweet and virginal homecoming queen. Because lives and destinies matter, deaths matter.
That is why my wife, Alison, and I started House of Grace for tribal girls. We saw these lives and destinies being wasted and felt compelled to do something. We could readily see that the problem of a voracious modern society preying on defenseless little girls was global and unstoppable. Social scientists tell us there are a million underage prostitutes in Southeast Asia. A million! We knew we could never make much of a dent in that horrifying statistic. In fact the numbers seemed way too staggering. Then we decided that because we could not do everything was not reason not to do something.
We could not fix a worldwide problem, but we could do what we could do. We never ever thought we could save a million little girls but perhaps we hoped we could save some. By God's grace, through House of Grace, not a few, but many, as we understand many, have been spared a life of meaningless degradation and been given the opportunity to make their lives matter.
The motto for House of Grace, Chiang Rai, Thailand, says everything we are about:
SAVING LITTLE GIRLS FOR BIG DESTINIES.
I am typing this post from my hotel room in Bangkok. I am headed to Malaysia for a pastor's conference. We had a dinner for a few House of Grace alumni who live in the Bangkok area and it is late and I am tired, but while this week and this splendid evening are fresh in my mind I wanted to share these thoughts with you.
This week I returned, as I have almost annually since 1986, to see House of Grace and its precious inhabitants: more than one hundred girls-clean, happy, hopeful girls-headed with determination for their life's dreams with bright minds and eager hearts. It was, as it is every time I return, a rollicking, tumultuous family reunion. How can I describe wild excitement and the unchecked tears of joy? I wish you could hear shouts, nay, the screams of a hundred girls, "Daddy!"
I guess I am their Daddy, the only one they have anyway. Alison and I are their parents. All the donors and child sponsors and prayer warriors at Global Servants are their family and their protectors, their providers and their biggest cheerleaders. Their little lives matter to us because they matter to God Almighty and we are determined as He gives us strength to make their lives count.
The facilities at House of Grace are terrific. We have fourteen buildings on two campuses, including a full-court gymnasium, a dining hall, three dormitories and staff housing among others. The girls are clothed, housed, kept safe, educated in the best schools and given the very best medical attention.
An American preacher who went with me on this trip said, "These are the happiest girls I have ever seen. The spirit of joy on this campus is incredible!" I agree wholeheartedly.
Furthermore it's not just temporary shelter. Their lives matter and so do their destinies. From the very start of House of Grace we have told every girl that we would pay for any school in Thailand they can get into. We knew from the beginning that if we started down that road it was going to be an expensive proposition. We also knew that simply feeding them and keeping them safe through their teen years and only to turn them out in the streets was not a plan we could live with. We wanted to motivate them to make their lives matter and it worked. Boy, did it work.
Following a tearful goodbye after a week at House of Grace, the visiting Americans and I headed down to Bangkok for a dinner with a dozen or so alumni. If my American friends were not already convinced of the success of House of Grace, these bright, successful young women certainly did the job. One works in the HR department of a substantial company. Another has just returned from studying and working in Japan. Fluent in Japanese, she is now preparing to return to Japan and open her own spa. She has even arranged financing. A third works in the travel industry, another is a teacher and one is a new mother, married to an extremely successful business man. She brought her baby, of course, and we were all duly impressed. Perhaps, the "star" of the little dinner party is an attorney who works for an international law firm in Bangkok. That very day she had been named lead counsel on a huge multi-million dollar lawsuit for an American tractor company. She was absolutely beaming with excitement and pride, but frankly, no less than I.
Among the nearly four hundred alumni of House of Grace there are two other attorneys, business-women, teachers, nurses and even a missionary to China. We do not yet have a doctor, but that will come, and at Global Servants, we know we’ll be on the hook for medical school. That is not to complain. Nothing will make us happier and, as He always has, God will provide.
One of the alumni said, "Without House of Grace, none of my life today would have happened. I was an orphan child in a mountain village. My mother and father were dead. What was my hope? Now look at my life."
Amen. Her life, like all lives, like all destinies, mattered.