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In Gaza, but thinking of Juneau

Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2010

We drove down a rutted path north of Gaza City to a make-shift camp, a shanty town really, occupied by 40 victims of the 2009 war. I was nervous. We had just left a Hamas checkpoint. I knew we were now near the Israel/Gaza border and getting close to the 500-meter free-fire zone set up by the Israelis to protect against militant rocket fire. I could see an Israeli drone overhead, no doubt tracking our vehicle. My wife, Dona, was, characteristically, focused on the people we were to visit, and was oblivious of my nervousness.

The family we visited were farmers whose home and livestock had been destroyed in the war. They now lived in makeshift shelters of wood and sheet metal with dirt, often mud, floors and no electricity or running water. They had lived in these conditions for over a year. A Christian relief organization had done what it could for this family; providing basic food and medical care for the patriarch who had been injured when their home was destroyed. They were grateful but obviously needed so much more. With 80 percent of Gaza unemployed and an indefinite blockade in effect their future is bleak.

While in Gaza I thought about the fundamentals we all must have - food, clean water, clothing, shelter, the dignity of work. I thought about the (almost) universal feeling that those of us that "have" ought to help those that "have not." This has been quite evident in the recent response to Haiti. This "sense of ought-ness," a term used by the Christian writer C.S. Lewis, speaks of a basic consciousness that the world is not as it should be and we should do something to help set it right. Lewis believed this sense of ought-ness could not be understood as a virtue that evolved over time. After all, using our own resources to help those that cannot possibly ever help us in return could place us or our progeny in peril. If this consciousness evolved, it evolved counter to the survival of the fittest.

To Lewis, this sense of ought-ness is God-given, and is evidence for God. For the Christian, who is regularly exposed to the teachings of Jesus, this ought-ness becomes a major driver.

As I write this column now from the West Bank, my thoughts turn to Juneau. I'm grateful for the generosity of Juneauites, their sense of community, and the competency of the many fine social service agencies who seek to encourage and support our Juneau neighbors in need.

I'm particularly grateful (a little shameless promotion here!) for Love In the Name of Christ (INC). Love INC is a coalition of 24 Juneau churches that pool and leverage their resources and partner with social organizations to support our Juneau neighbors in need. Through this network of committed churches, Love INC mobilizes hundreds of volunteers and turns each dollar invested into seven dollars in goods and services for Juneau's vulnerable. Love INC allows church people, in the words of one pastor, "To be who we say we are in Christ." We may not hit the mark for everyone but we plug along, doing what we can. Why? Because those of us that "have" feel we ought to for those that "have not."

• David Eley is a member of the board of directors for Love INC Juneau. For information on their work visit www.loveincjuneau.org .



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