On the wall above our bed is a simple wooden crucifix made in Rwanda after the genocide there. It was given to us by Arne Bergstrom, vice president for International Ministries at World Relief, who coordinates WR's response to disasters human and natural. In the time we've known each other (Wendy and I attend the same church as Arne and his wife Marie and are members of the same small group, which has met weekly for more than six years), Arne's work has taken him all over the world—to Albania, where the tiny evangelical Christian minority showed Christlike love to Muslim refugees from Kosovo; to Turkey, after a devastating earthquake, where he visited a Christian convert who lived with her children in a shipping container; to Sierra Leone, where the brutal civil war has left countless young men and women mutilated, their hands or feet or both cut off.
It's one thing to read about such suffering in the paper, to see it on the TV news; it's something else to hear about it from a friend who has been there. The effect is to make the experience more real: no longer abstract Horror, hypothetical Evil, nor the stylized, cynical bleakness of so many journalistic accounts. And in that reality, along with the suffering and despair, there is always hope.
Wherever he is, in the western suburbs of Chicago or halfway around the globe, Arne runs, 50 miles a week and more. I think for him running is a spiritual discipline as well as a physical one. But to do justice to what he has witnessed, to cry out in pain and confusion and praise, Arne picks up his guitar and starts to play. He may sing a Dylan tune, or a contemporary hymn, or a song he's written himself. He's accumulated enough of the latter to release a CD, his first: Benediction. ...1
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