By Samantha Bender
One of my favorite moments in the entire Christmas story comes just after angels illuminate the night sky, singing praises, and generally being terrifying as shepherds watch from below. After this miraculous (but arguably insane) fanfare, the shepherds look at each other and say, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.”
They just go.
They go despite the fact that they know almost nothing about the situation. They go despite the fact that they have nothing to bring but dirty sheep. They go despite the fact that they are understandably petrified. They go despite the fact that they should be the last people to witness the birth of a king.
They just go.
I believe that 90% of advocacy—making a difference in the areas of the world that are hurting—is the simple choice to keep showing up. It’s as simple and as difficult as saying, “Let’s go to Bethlehem,” over and over again.
In 2010 I worked with World Vision ACT:s (now known as World Vision Students) as an intern. At that time, one of our main focuses was passing the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). This bill is a solid and comprehensive piece of legislation focused on ending human trafficking via prevention through education, protection of victims, and persecution of traffickers. But by the time I walked through the doors of World Vision’s DC office, the fight for the TVPRA had already been hard fought, drawn out – yet not won. The bill needed momentum or it would die.
A few weeks after I started my internship we held a “Call-In Day” for the bill at the University of Delaware. This day was essentially eight hours of Jesse Eaves and me sitting in front of a MacBook (with copious amounts of coffee) telling the story of the TVPRA to whoever tuned into our live stream. We pleaded with students over the internet and in person to call their representatives and urge them to take a stand for the basic human right of freedom.
That day I saw hundreds of students just like me, who thought their voice had no power, make a difference. In those eight hours, we had hundreds of calls pour into D.C. offices. Despite knowing nothing more than that their heart broke for this issue, we had hundreds of shepherds raise their voices for those in need. It didn’t matter their background, or finances, or GPA, all that mattered was that their hearts beat for change, and they chose to do something about it. Minds were changed that day, politicians were swayed, and a movement was building.
But the fight didn’t end there. It would continue on for years before the TVPRA finally passed. More call-in days, more pleas for help, more asking people to do things they didn’t feel ready to do. Over the next few years hundreds and hundreds of students would choose to show up despite how inadequate or unprepared they may have felt – and it made all the difference. Shepherds who choose to simply show up change the world.
In this season of advent, do not be tricked into believing you have nothing to offer a hurting world; that because of X or Y or Z you cannot bring light or change. God’s redemptive plan does, and has always, relied on shepherds. It’s a beautiful orchestration built on the belief that as long as you are willing to say, “let’s just go,” you can be used to heal, restore, and love, the darkest parts of this world.
So keep going. Keep showing up. Keep steadfast in the knowledge that the God of the universe can and will use you to change the world – as long as you’re willing to make the trek to Bethlehem.
Don’t miss out on the rest of our Advent series. You can catch up here.
Samantha Bender currently lives in Oklahoma City but hails from the farmlands and cornfields of Pennsylvania. She spent almost 2 years interning with World Vision (despite not looking good in orange) before completing her Masters of Higher Education at Geneva College. She’s a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, good coffee, and pretending she’s seen super artsy movies that she hasn’t to impress people at parties.
Photo: © 2013 World Vision/ photo by Laura Reinhardt