Saturday, June 23, 2007

Henri Nouwen on the poor...

"After teaching at elite universities and writing sixteen books, Nouwen had a resume to die for - which was the problem, exactly. The pressing schedule and relentless competition were suffocating his own spiritual life. He made a couple of six-month retreats at an abbey in upstate New York, then withdrew to South America, scouting a possible role for himself as a missionary in the developing world. In Peru he lived in a slum in northern Lima, a parish of 100,000 people. The family he stayed with had few possessions, but Nouwen felt their lvoe through the children who crawled all over him, giggling, squirming, playing games with the strange priest who spoke their language like a child. The children literally hugged life back into him, he would later say. He discovered a paradox, that the poor and oppressed have a more profound sense of God's love than Westerners who live materially privileged lives.

'How little do we really know the power of physical touch,' wrote Nouwen during his sojourn in Peru. He had just visited an orphanage where the children, starved for affection, fought for the privilege of touching him.

These boys and girls only wanted one thing: to be touched, hugged, stroked, and caressed. Probably most adults have the same needs but no longer have the innocence and unselfconsciousness to express them. Sometimes I see humanity as a sea of people starving for affection, tenderness, care, love, acceptance, forgiveness, and gentleness. Everyone seems to cry: 'Please love me.'

Living in the homes of the poor, Nouwen learned that we minister to the needy not only to take Jesus to them but also to find Jesus within them. Jesus said 'Blessed are the poor,' not 'Blessed are those who care for the poor.' By living among them, Nouwen received that blessing and began to recover from the damage caused by stress..."

Excerpt from the book Soul Survivor, by Philip Yancey

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