Dangerous Love

I’m reading Dangerous Love by Ray Norman.
Norman was national director for World Vision in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania where he worked with his wife Helene.

His book looks at the challenges and cost of mission work, where Christian witness requires the casting aside of a lot of “western” preconceptions.

As well-educated and comparatively wealthy foreigners, we easily succumb to the notion that we are somehow higher in the pecking order, that our important objectives and busy schedules should take precedence because “we know best”. And too often our image among the poor is tainted, and our actions reflect a sense of entitlement and thinly veiled arrogance (in spite of our good intentions…

… In much of the world outside of Europe and north America, people are less achievement-oriented and place significantly higher value on relationships. On days after an unexpectedly long exchange with farmers, I might glance at my watch and mumble something to the effect that there was still much I had not accomplished that day. I would often hear words such as, ‘Yes, but those things can always get done tomorrow. At least today we have done the important thing and gotten to know each other better.’

During his tenure in Mauretania, an act of extreme violence against Norman and his daughter Hannah challenged the family’s resolve to continue the work they felt called to do. They were also made aware of inadequacies in the way fellow believers reacted to them in the aftermath of that violent incident.

It seemed that even our own pastor in France, a man who, along with his spouse, had been a source of support and encouragement to us over the years, seemed to strufggle with how to respond to us. He had been informed of what had happened, and once we arrived in Calais we expected to hear from him or his wife but never did. I eventually called him on our third or fourth day there. He told me that he’d heard our news, and he listened quietly as I chatted. But it seemed our situation was beyond him…

Eventually, the healing process began when the family chose to return to their work in Mauretania, and the greatest help came from those intended to be the recipients of the Norman’s ministry work. A clear example of this came from the women of Arafat, a nearby poverty stricken township, who invited Helene Norman to their community.

We understand because we too are women. And we want you to know that we are here to walk with you, to support and encourage you in this experience in which you have suffered deeply. So please know, Madame Norman, that we have brought you here among us to let you know you are not alone on this journey. We are here with you.


Ray Norman reflects on this as his wife tells him the full story:

I stood there in stunned silence , and between her sobs, she began to explain in halting words how the women of Arafat had provided for her, in her deepest time of need, what no friend or gathering among her many Christian acquaintances across three continents (Africa, Europe, or America) had been able, or had the insight to provide. How in the most unlikely of places, she had found common ground with those who suffer, and how God had touched her heart and demonstrated his promise of faithfulness in a remote land through ‘the least of these’ (Matt. 25:40)




3 thoughts on “Dangerous Love

  1. The gospel is more about humanity, to include unexpected suffering, than abundance or wealth (at this time), or certainly than ego over others. I appreciated reading this. My oldest son and I were talking about human interaction earlier today. [In fact, I didn’t intend to do this, when I started typing, but it has occurred to me to ask for prayer for my sons because their dad seems incapable of modeling humanity. You wouldn’t know it from meeting him, he has a narcissistic personality that has learned how to take in strangers (and always remain shallow). My sons are better and more caring than he is, but there is something missing in family gatherings. There is too much conflict (what their father models best, based on nothing), not enough warmth and humanity. They care about each other but… I’m not sure I can explain it.]

  2. My sons’ father grew up in a family that frequently divided up, one parent and one son against the other son and parent. I don’t know why they were like that. (I also don’t know how the two parents each rationalized picking a favorite son.) But the dad went to seminary before as well as after retiring from the military (had other science-based degrees with which he served). His own dad before had taught at least Sunday School (but had drinking issues, while again the dad — the one in the middle, the one with formal religious training — is a complete teetotaler other than a sip of wine ceremonially here and there). The son of the son plays at religion if it serves him.

    I don’t know that this makes westerners worse at Christianity, though. It’s just exasperating and disappointing when people who seem like they should be able to aim higher spiritually don’t seem to get it. In more dire situations, people who aren’t attacking other people are just glad if they aren’t being attacked at any given time and busy with surviving attack if someone is attacking them. People who are surviving are usually not as picky, or hopeful, at least outwardly about finer matters. It’s sad if people who aren’t in an environment that seems so on the edge of life don’t apply energies to elevation of their families (and not neglect that when doing other visible things).

  3. As an afterthought: I could probably put an asterisk on “why” and note that there are favorites in the bible. So why not.

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