Why did my husband let his pregnant wife go on a two-week cruise with her mother? Why did I select a 660-page tome to read by the pool on days at sea instead of my usual romance novels? And, why did my dad vanish into the jungles of Laos on December 26, 1971?
Some questions don’t have good answers. And sometimes the seasons of life change on a nearly imperceptible breeze, like the one that began transforming my naiveté into greater sophistication.
This gentle wind floated in over such a great period of time that its breath went unnoticed until long afterward. It began as mere whispers when the classification of my father as missing in action (MIA), the reading of a classic book, and a Caribbean cruise collided. Isolated, each incident seemed absurd, but together they changed me.
Pondering the Preposterous
Perhaps watching 591 POWs come home on the nightly news just weeks before embarking partially explains my decision to pack Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn’s book, The Gulag Archipelago. The horrors of the Hanoi Hilton were too close to home, yet maybe a distant place in a distant time would reveal how my dad could survive if he’d been captured.
On a more conscious level, the complicated treatise on man’s inhumanity to man might be a good conversation starter. Even more, the book would hint to fellow passengers that I was smart enough to understand it. Regardless of the reasoning, while basking in the sun by the ship’s pool, I received far more than a tan. Though I couldn’t comprehend all of Solzhenitsyn’s observations, some of his insights sank deep inside my soul.
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts…It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person (Solzhenitsyn, pub. 1973).
And when Royal Caribbean’s Nordic Prince visited her final port of call, I discovered firsthand how Solzhenitsyn’s impressions corresponded to reality.
Face-to-Face with Injustice
Steaming heat and the stench of extreme poverty smothered my mom and me as we walked down the gangway in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Appalling filth and goats wandering on dirt streets juxtaposed with the ship’s luxury made me wonder if the hordes of Haitians clamoring for attention might soon erupt into violence.
George, our protector/tour guide, led us to the ostentatious National Palace. Flower-strewn wrought-iron fences celebrated the presence of Haiti’s 21-year-old president-for-life, Jean-Claude (AKA Baby Doc) Duvalier. Mentioning the brutal and corrupt régime of his father, Papa Doc, George said it remained to be seen if the country would be better off with the son. Baby Doc could choose evil and continue the atrocities, or he could constrict it and usher in an era of good.
Joining the throng of tourists headed into the cramped marketplace stalls squelched further discussion. Switching my focus to intricately hand-carved mahogany, I bargained with shopkeepers to buy their statues for a mere pittance.
The Absurd Takes on Meaning and Purpose
An increasing awareness of human nature began wafting into my conscience. From Southeast Asia to the former Soviet Union to Haiti to America, human beings have a choice—to act on the evil within or constrain it.
During the cruise, I contributed to injustice by acting out of a desire to gratify myself. Ignoring the plight of fellow human beings in desperate need, I purchased their goods for the least amount possible.
Yet my Creator provided a remedy for this sorry state. Just as I was in my naiveté—self-absorbed, greedy, and occasionally demonstrating a complete lack of compassion—He began drawing me toward Himself, showing me the depths of my sin and how much I needed a Savior. The more I got to know Jesus, the more He made sense of the nonsensical.
We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:28–30
Over time, the absurdities wove together for good. My dad remained MIA. If captured, he likely suffered unspeakable cruelty. Images of Haiti remained vivid in my heart and mind—the poverty, orphans, and human rights violations occurring while rich, pleasure-seeking tourists walked among them.
Solzhenitsyn’s insights remained in my soul. As I came to know a just God and started being conformed to His image, these sensitivities combined, making me care deeply about the way human beings treat one another.
Upon discovering that modern-day slavery takes place right in my own neighborhood, I became actively engaged in the fight against injustice, first at the local level then beyond. The identification of seven global challenges—poverty, orphans, human rights violations, ideology, relationships, Christ’s missional challenge and celebration—by Transform World captured my ingenuity as a Transform LA board member. Realizing that the first five challenges contribute to human trafficking and the remaining two provide the solution, I began blogging and speaking on behalf of this movement.
Personal transformation through Jesus led me to a sophisticated understanding that works toward a more just society. By encouraging Christians from every sphere of society to get involved, the Body of Christ becomes a catalyst for constricting evils such as extreme poverty, detrimental ideologies, and human rights violations. Facing these challenges together and working toward solutions blesses my life with riches far more satisfying than any Caribbean cruise. And for that, I’m forever grateful.