Columnists > Voices

Beyond ear tickling

Readers respond to articles in these pages with action

Issue: "Iraq: Unity in adversity," Feb. 12, 2005

I've often said that there was nothing more rewarding to me as a journalist than to have someone pick up something I've written and then respond appreciatively by saying very simply, "I didn't know that!"

But in the last few days, I've found something much better. It is to have someone read something we publish in WORLD-and then to respond by actually doing something concrete about it. Twice in the last two weeks, I've been startled and sobered by such responses.

The first response is ever so simple-but moving. Scott Brinkerhoff, a good friend and a schoolteacher for the last 28 years, had already decided to explore what he might do for Africa's burgeoning population of orphans. "I've been behind in my reading of WORLD," he confessed to me last week, saying he had just read through the Dec. 25 issue. But an article in that issue may well redirect his life. It was the story of the Agathos Foundation of Everett, Wash., which has taken on the assignment of funding and staffing hundreds of small farms in South Africa to serve as homes to the widows and orphans of AIDS. However poky my friend may have been in his reading, he is not dilly-dallying now. Already he is filling out paperwork for an initial three- to six-month term with Agathos. Thousands of WORLD readers learned something through that article about Agathos Foundation. One reader did something.

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The second response came after I wrote here three weeks ago about the desirability of matching individual local churches here in the United States with local congregations in the Indian Ocean area so devastated by the late December tsunami. I suggested that aid directed through such hook-ups would have built-in integrity, giving donors a special sense that their gifts would actually reach their targets. And I referenced Evangelism Explosion Inc. in Florida as an organization that already was working closely with several hundred congregations from a variety of denominational backgrounds in that area of Indonesia. (I know there are dozens of other fine Christian organizations that might serve the same role. But John Sorensen of EE and I had talked about how easy it would be for his team to do a little of this matching, and I thought it was a good place to start the experiment.)

So even though I included the wrong phone number for Evangelism Explosion's home office, enough of you followed through so that now more than two dozen local churches here are in the process of being matched with two dozen churches in some of the hardest-hit areas. We intend to check back from time to time with these folks, and then report back to you on how the pairing has gone and what good comes from it. For now, it's rewarding to know that there were that many doers of the word, and not readers only.

Gratifying as those two examples of follow-through are, there's another that I'm even more eager to hear about. Gene Edward Veith wrote in our Jan. 29 issue about the terrifying theme that fills so many current rock and rap songs-a theme that one writer has called the "music of abandonment," where writers complain compulsively "about broken homes and families, and especially absent fathers." So, I couldn't help thinking, wouldn't it be wonderful to hear from some WORLD reader, some fellow somewhere who was discouraged with his own marriage and on the verge of walking out on his own children-but who was convicted after reading Mr. Veith's account and resolved on the spot never to give any of his sons or daughters reason to write lyrics about his perfidy and betrayal. Now that, I thought, would be a journalistic accomplishment.

Christians talk about sins of omission and sins of commission. I pray that the accounts you read in WORLD's pages from week to week will challenge you not just to see new opportunities for practical service that you haven't been involved in before, but to take the steps necessary to get your hands dirty. And I hope you'll be warned along the way about pitfalls to avoid-and that then you will actually walk around those pitfalls instead of just resolving to do the right thing sometime in the future.

A handful of stories like that every year, and I would need no other journalistic reward.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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