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‘When Hope Breaks Through’

Baptist Care SA Annual Conference, Monday 23 September 2019

 

The opening address of the Conference was given by Rev Dr Lynn Arnold AO.

The following is an extract of his presentation:

 

“The situation is hopeless. We must take the next step,” Pablo Casals.

 

Let me share a couple of conversations about hopeless situations. This is the first.

Just two days after Boxing Day in 2004, Jimmy Nadapdap, the emergency relief manager for World Vision Indonesia, arrived in Aceh, and beheld the enormous devastation that had been wrought on the city and the surrounding area. As far as he could see was destruction and death. When I arrived there a couple of weeks later, I asked Jimmy what he had felt when he saw the disaster of the tsunami, that would ultimately be credited with killing nearly a quarter of a million people. He said “I did not know what to do.”

 

I’d first met Jimmy Nadapdap in Gujarat back in 2001 in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake that had centered on Bhuj and had killed over 40,000 people there. He had been one of a team sent from Indonesia to join World Vision’s international relief response. So, he was someone who had often confronted disaster of immense proportions, and yet there he was saying that he didn’t know what to do.

 

The second conversation took place on a Friday in June, 2008. This was one of the reports which had been in the media just days before. “14 malnourished children have been hospitalised and a mother is to be charged with neglect after police raids on two Adelaide houses. Children from two families, aged from 10 months to 16 years were taken to hospital following the raids on Sunday night in Adelaide’s Northern suburbs, in a case senior police described as shocking.”

 

One year later, when the charges were laid, the Advertiser reported the enormity of the abuse that had been uncovered that day. “A strong and controlling woman accused of teasing severely malnourished children by denying them food, has been ordered to stand trial in the District Court. The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is among six adults charged with endangering the lives of five of the 21 children who lived in squalor at a Parafield Gardens housing trust property. The other adults also face charges of criminal neglect and causing serious harm. Yesterday, the Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court heard that the woman, 34, would make porridge and then tease several of the children who were so weak they were at times unable to stand.”

 

The Friday encounter was a change-over dinner for a service club of which I was a member at the time. Over predinner drinks I was chatting with a fellow member who I knew to be a committed volunteer to helping others, though sadly proclaimed himself an atheist. The climax of the conversation burst upon me when he said, “Those children can have no hope.”

 

Now, you’ve all come here to considerthe theme when hope breaks through. Yet, here am I, sharing two stories where it seemed as if hope was not about to break through.

 

This would be no time for me to walk away from the podium and believing my keynote address was finished, Graham would say, “That wasn’t quite what I expected.”

 

On the contrary, it is a moment to consider Pablo Casals’ comment, “The situation is hopeless. We must take the next step.”

 

And that was precisely what Jimmy Nadapdap had done that day in Aceh. He’d come and said, “I didn’t know what to do.” And then he went on and took the next steps. In other words, he didn’t know what to do, so he went on and did it. There was no oxymoron here, for Jimmy evinced hope in the face of hopelessness.

 

What does the word hope mean to you? Hope for the project you’re working on? Hope for the recipients of that project work? Hope for you as the active agent? These are no mere semantic questions.

 

Today at this conference, you have set yourselves the challenge of exploring just what is that hope which you are wanting to break through.

 

When Hope Breaks Through…. breaks through what? Do you have a word for this ‘what’?

 

When hope breaks through, what will your understanding of that phrase be that leads to the word that follows next?”

 

God bless you in your deliberations.

 

  

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