A Majority of One, and All
“Sometimes courage takes a majority of one,” says Lynn Johnson, a member of The Community House Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA.
I was recently inspired by her story:
My name is Lynn Johnson. As a photographer, I travel the world. Recently, I was commissioned to document an article entitled “Journey of the Apostles” appearing in the March 2012 edition of the National Geographic magazine. I traveled over six countries taking photographs along the trail the earliest apostles of the Christian faith took to spread the Good News. But when we came to modern day India I learned of an incident that changed my life. It was the story of a devastating atrocity of Hindu violence against Christians.
The Christian village of Talagumandi had been attacked. The attacks came at night — men, armed with guns, machetes, fire. First the pastors were targeted, then any christians who refused to flee for their lives. People were beaten and told they had moments to leave or die, that only conversion to Hinduism would save them. Hundred of villagers ran into the forest with nothing but their clothes and children, turning only to see their homes go up in flames. Then the blur of days without food or water — running at night, sleeping in the rain, hiding from mobs during the day. finally they arrived in the village of Koraput, where they took up residence and still reside, as squatters in a collection of abandoned buildings, surviving primarily from day-laboring.
In my travels around the world I had seen intolerance. I have documented it. But this time, I had to do something and not just walk away. We all have intolerance and prejudice within us and because we all have it it never really goes away. The fact of courage is to acknowledge that intolerance exists and we have to deal with it personally. I could no longer do nothing to combat it. I needed to some seek courage within myself to help repair in some way the damage intolerance and injustice causes. I had read somewhere courage makes all other virtues possible. It was time in my life to act courageously. I sought out my friend, Jen Saffron, a community activist and elder of the Community House Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jen listened to my story and said, “We need to go to church.” Along the way to the church she shared with me her intention. We ought to recruit our church to the struggle against intolerance and injustice In Koraput.
The primary needs of the people in Koraput are decent housing, food, and interfaith dialogue. Jen and I met with the governing session of our church and with their support we moved into action. Building a house in Koraput costs about $3000, and so acting in faith we decided to solicit contributions for $120,000. In March Jen and I will travel to the village of Koraput with the first installment of monies and with the intent to offer humanitarian aid in the name of Jesus Christ.
This kind of international connection used to be possible almost only through denominational mission programs. Distance, language, cost, and other factors required the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) structure.
Now, the speed of modern transportation, English as an international language, and the Internet allow a local congregation like Community House Church to hear a cry for ministry from across the world and to respond.
It takes courage to integrate the strengths of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission activities with the potential for serving Christ using all the 21st century means as Community House has. In mission, courage goes beyond the majority of one to the majority of us all.
Do you have a story of courage from our church life that inspires you? I welcome you to share it here.