May 11, 2006

The Real Scoop

Even though the General Conference office is located less than 15 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., the area in which the church’s world headquarters is located is remarkably full of wildlife. Deer, fox, raccoons, squirrels, and a host of other critters compete for space in the undeveloped areas among the shopping centers and housing developments that punctuate the landscape.
This part of the mid-Atlantic region must also be a flyway for the Canada geese that travel north to south during the winter and spring. On the property owned by the General Conference is a flood-control pond that is called “home” by a fair number of geese on their sojourn from here to there.
For some, the geese are a welcome reminder that this area hasn’t yet been completely conquered by greedy developers. But for others, the calling cards left by the geese on the General Conference parking lot (read goose doo-doo) are more than just an inconvenience; they’re annoyed by it. Some employees have wondered whether the virus that carries bird flu couldn’t be carried into the building on the soles of our shoes, or on the wheels of the rolling attachés many people use to carry their lunches, laptops, and mobile telecommunications systems.
1513 page5At a few meetings in which the subject has been brought up, people have demanded solutions, only to be reminded that most Adventists are noncombatants. And even if they weren’t, it’s against the law to hunt geese (or otherwise harass them) at the intersection of Old Columbia Pike and Randolph Road.
At the conclusion of a recent meeting at which the subject was raised, I suggested to Howard Karst, director of In-house Operations at the General Conference, that he give anyone who complains about the problem a picker-upper. At the very least, I told him, it would stop their incessant whining. At most, it would minimize the problem of having to watch our steps as we walk from our cars into the building.
Frankly, my idea has as much of a chance of being implemented as a snowball’s chance in . . . well, you know. That’s because most of us would rather talk about a problem than try to solve it. And heaven forbid that possible solutions would require any personal effort on our part!

You’d think that a prophetic movement such as ours would be a little more proactive when it comes to dealing with society’s problems. I’m talking about illiteracy, substance abuse, poverty, sexual promiscuity, violence. In His first public statement (according to the Gospel of Luke), Jesus quoted this prophecy from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19). Jesus’ ministry was a ministry of action, not just proclamation. He didn’t run away from challenges; He engaged them. He preached with power and authority because His actions reinforced His words.
There are, thankfully, Adventists who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty, and be part of the solutions to society’s problems. Their creative ministries take them to communities where people often live without hope. These followers of Christ learn people’s names, identify their needs, and minister in Christ’s name with no prospect of earthly reward or recognition. The problems that arouse their indignation go way beyond dodging goose droppings in the parking lot on their way to work.
Given the choice, we’d all prefer to live and work in neighborhoods far removed from the problems of this fallen world. I suppose that’s why many of our church’s administrative offices (conference and union conference) migrate farther from major population centers and closer to rural areas, where they often look like country clubs, with their manicured lawns and beautiful landscaping.
But most of the people who need to hear the gospel are far removed from that reality (if that’s reality). We can try to escape society’s problems by isolating ourselves from them. But that wasn’t Christ’s way. And it’s hardly a worthy approach for those who call Him “Lord.”