One of the great foilers of good intentions is "overwhelm-paralysis." The engulfing wave of global suffering can immobilize the most ardent leader. Gary Haugen, in Good News About Injustice, writes, "We feel like deer frozen by headlights . . . Instead of energizing us for action, the overwhelming injustice in our world actually makes us feel numb."
All of us, at one time or other, find ourselves here. When we do, it helps to learn from trailblazers who are forging ahead. One guiding light is Dr. Viji Cammauf - founder of Little Flock Children's Homes, an organization aspiring to reach orphans and widows worldwide.
Viji's overwhelm-paralysis hit after watching Bandit Queen. The film depicts the true story of a child-bride who endured savage abuse. For three days, Viji wept in despair. Until finally, she got up and asked herself, "What am I going to do about it?" At the time, she was minister of missions at First Covenant Church in Oakland, California. Her position provided a platform to rally like-minded supporters, and in 2005, Little Flock Children's Homes broke ground in Kondamangalam, India. To date, 10 cottages to house 100 children have been built. A dining hall, guest facility, and community center with library and computer lab are on the horizon. From impasse to action, Viji shares her insights:
1. Start Small. Taking a cue from one of her own role models, Amy Carmichael, Viji focuses on the importance of one child at a time. "When you hear about the millions that are homeless or orphaned, it seems like an overwhelming number that you cannot do anything about," says Viji. "But, if you start with one, that makes a big difference in the life of that one child."
It certainly makes a difference for Little Flock residents Kuosalya and her siblings Gayathri and Sanjay, who were otherwise destined for the streets after their mother's premature death. It is of profound significance for 11-year-old Kochila, who bears permanent reminders of the scorching scissors her mother pressed against her face.
2. Rely on God's Power. Early on, Viji learned human effort is not enough to change the world. As an idealistic teenager, she joined Gandhi's Freedom Fighters on a month-long journey across her native country. They marched through villages preaching social justice and met with prominent politicians.
Yet, even as a young pre-Christian, Viji says, "I realized we could not change India through the teachings of a human being. We needed something Higher than a human being. As marvelous as Gandhi and his teachings were, they were not working." Viji's confidence rests in knowing God's vibrant power is at work on our behalf.
3. Persevere. It is easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged by senseless obstacles to ministry endeavors. For over a year, Little Flock has waited for a permit to build a dining hall. The funding is there, but not the elusive government signature. When faced with such challenges, Viji says, "You keep moving in the direction God has given you. You don't give up. If God has given you promises, hold on to that, and persevere."
Leaders like Viji remind us that meaningful action begins with transforming our despair into imaginative solutions. It begins with the question, "What am I going to do about it?" Then, with finding the courage to take that first small step. What about you? When have you felt overwhelmed? What enables you to move from impasse to action?