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God's Greatest Act of Empathy

Chidren in Cox Bazar, photo by Daniel White

BY SHAWN PLUMMER

Jesus’ incarnation was the greatest act of empathy the world has ever witnessed. To set aside all his privilege to come down and experience life in our shoes was such an incredible act of love—it blows me away every time.

Today, the needs around us seem extraordinary. Our world is facing an epidemic of crises. There’s so much doomsday talk that it’s hard to find a situation or a conversation where the focus is on unity, finding solutions together, or even love for one another.

I’m guilty of this, too.

For years I’ve worked in and around crises and seemingly hopeless situations of human suffering. And it’s taken a personal toll. This winter I came to realize that I’ve been experiencing “compassion fatigue”. To deal with the overwhelming realities of human suffering I encountered in the communities we serve I unintentionally closed the door to my heart and learned to focus on systems and logistics rather than people. As a result, I’ve been sitting on the fence a lot, lacking the will to emotionally engage or intervene. But recently, I felt convicted about this.

Food for the Hungry (FH) Canada is blessed with such committed partners and individuals like you that faithfully walk with and bring hope to our global neighbours living in the margins. Your willingness to empathetically engage with our partnered communities is an incredible act of love that emulates the incarnation of Jesus to me. Thank you for your faithful witness!

In November I travelled to Bangladesh to visit our partnered communities. While there, our team took a one day trip to Cox's Bazar, the world’s largest refugee settlement sheltering around 800,000 Rohingya refugees who escaped genocide in Myanmar. I’ve visited many camps around the world, but this particular experience totally blindsided me.

We had the privilege of sitting with a family and listening to their heart-rending story.

I mourned for the mother as she shared how she woke one night to her village burning down around her. She only had minutes to pack what belongings she could for her family and flee into the jungle. She persevered through a brutal 17-day trek with her family in tow. At the end of their gruelling hike was a dangerous boat ride that led to a makeshift refugee camp. What this mother and her children endured —the emotional rollercoaster, the horror of violence, the insecurity of being stateless with so many unknowns—I couldn’t handle it.


Cox's Bazar is home to over 700,000 Rohingya refugees.

Listening to and feeling her emotions hit me like never before, and God broke my heart that day. My empathy was reawakened.

I wonder, have you ever had an experience like that? Where God cut through your barriers and went straight to your heart?


Perhaps, like me, you've struggled with the overwhelming nature of the needs in your community or in the world at large. If so, I pray this Christmas will be for you a special encounter with the God of the universe who stepped down into our reality to live our human experience.

I pray we each personally experience Jesus—our God’s greatest act of empathy—in a new and transforming way. May he empower us by his love to incarnate his compassion and not grow weary of doing good.

It fills me with hope and joy to know we are on this journey together!

Merry Christmas!





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