Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021
Reflection by John Jeffries
Over my 33 years at CBM, Jesus’ challenge to love my neighbour as myself was never far from my mind.
This is especially so with the way Jesus brilliantly contextualises this challenge in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Here Jesus expands our view of who is our neighbour.
Through CBM, our neighbours become people with a disabilities living in the hardest countries of the world. Truly the poorest of the poor. And, as if life were not already tough enough for the people we want to help, their needs are ratcheted up to a new level at times of natural disaster.
I starkly recall hundreds of people with disabilities who were in the path of the slowly descending lava from the volcano near our program in South Asia.
I also recall the courage of our surgeon, Dr Joe, who stayed at his operating table while he could see – and feel the heat from – the lava inevitably creeping closer to his hospital.
Dr Joe kept operating to the very last minute before he was evacuated. And the next day, with tears in his eyes, he met the supply plane CBM had urgently flown in, packed with life-saving emergency supplies that were the key to us moving people with a disability to safety and continuing our medical program.
Dr Joe is just one example of the kind of resilient and committed people, organisations and communities that CBM partners with to prepare, respond to and recover from natural disasters.
In any natural disaster, people with a disability will usually be at the back of the queue for any aid that arrives. Yet they are usually the ones with the greatest need.
People with disabilities can also find themselves excluded from preparing community plans for natural disasters because others in the community do not see them as having the abilities to contribute. This often leaves people with disabilities vulnerable and at risk of being left behind.
The exclusion of people with disabilities in natural disasters, and the subsequent hardship they face because of this, challenge us to think about who our neighbour is and whether we are living out Jesus’ proclamation in the greatest commandment.
For me, the people we helped and the lives we saved during natural disasters were the neighbours we are called to love. They just happened to live in another country.
John served as the CEO of CBM Australia from 1992 to 2015. In 2014 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to the community, particularly people with a disability.
John currently serves as a coach and mentor to church leaders. He also works one–on–one with leaders of not-for-profits to coach and mentor CEOs and their senior staff.
Today’s invitation is to… share a note or text message of hope and encouragement with one of your neighbours.
Respond as a church this week by… carrying out a prayer walk around the local neighbourhood, listening to God for opportunities to share hope.
Read more stories and reflections in our Prepared to Hope series.