Seeing is believing

Isn't it amazing that our generation can see things that few, if any, of our predecessors saw? It was a thought that struck me yesterday on my journey to Dallas as I glanced out the window of the plane at 38,000 feet.  And I was privileged, nay blessed, to look down on the most amazing scenery. It was Greenland, apparently so named by the Viking Eric the Red because the deceitful old dog wanted to encourage settlers to his new land and he hadn't managed to persuade too many people to join him in his former domain of conquest, Iceland. Poor old pillager. Lonely and cold.  He was probably feeling a little blue.

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Never before have the masses been able to look down from the heavens, from behind the clouds and here was I with an unblemished view of Greenland’s glaciers and snow covered mountains. No one before the 20th Century was aware of this view, this wonder, this reminder of Majesty. The feet of my grandparents generation never left the ground. Three of my own grandparents were born before Orville and Wilber made aviation history in 1903 and here was I, and millions of others, able to skip around the world and, just as an added bonus, see things that have been hidden since the beginning of time. What an awesome privilege. I was then struck by a more somber, reflective, thought.  Do you ever get those? It’s like a pause button has been hit and you look at ‘life’ going on around you and you wonder……….Of the 300 or so people on the plane how many had actually seen that view? And who cared? Most were watching plane crashing action movies on the ‘in flight’ entertainment.  Others were asleep and dribbling on the shoulder of the person next to them, who, if they were lucky wasn't a complete stranger. I wanted to shout out ‘Wake up’,  ‘Forget the ‘in flight entertainment’. Get a load of the ‘out flight stuff!’ But I just shuffled rigidly in my non expansive seat and wondered what life would be like if we all really lived it? If we made the most of every moment with a childlike enthusiasm for all things new, and colourful and beautiful and amazing. You know, actually make the most of each day as if it were our last?

As I mentioned Dallas, known for its cowboys and very long showers (let the reader of a certain age understand) is my destination. I'm going to be staying with a friend from Bible College days, Calum, a warm, friendly, single malt drinking, fiddle playing, kilt wearing sort of a guy, so I'm really looking forward to it. He’s an associate pastor of a large church here that is very supportive of International Justice Mission (IJM) who have organised the aptly named ‘Liberate’ conference which takes place in the city this coming weekend.

During the 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade between 9 and 11 million people were stolen, beaten, abused, sold and enslaved.  The Slave Trade Act of 1807 stopped that.  Slavery itself was then abolished in Britain and its colonies by the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.  It may, therefore, come as a surprised to many that on the best figures available it is estimated that there are currently 169,000 slaves in the U.K. That's the rough population of Swindon. In fact there are somewhere in the region of 45,000,000 slaves in the world, our world of privilege, international flight and global markets. Our world of car washes, nail bars, dodgy supply chains for cheap goods, internet and ‘adult’ ‘entertainment’ and brothels where girls who don't consent are used and eventually spent.

Pope Francis has talked about a ‘globalisation of indifference’, the turning of a blind eyes, not wanting to see so not bothering to look.  But it's there.  As real and as clear as Greenland. And no fine name or gloss can make it sound better than it is. It's abuse. On our watch. In our backyard. In our social and economic system. With our ‘neighbour’ as victim. It's our issue. So we can continue to watch the entertainment that life offers us or we can look up and look out and see what is really going on around us.  And we can live, we can love, we can liberate. For whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him who made them in His image and who loves them just as He loves us.

And the wonder is that as we see others liberated it liberates us. We see life differently, we see the redeemed and rescued as beautiful, awesome signs of true Majesty. And we give thanks that He called us to be different, and to do different, in this, our generation.

Do check out The Clewer Initiative's 'We see you' campaign and download  their car wash app for simple ways of making a difference. And if you want to see all we are doing at STN and get involved here then have a look at the Trust's website - stntrust.org