mountains beyond mountains


I am in the middle of reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder (a literary journalist I L-O-V-E). It is the story of Harvard educated Dr. Paul Farmer, a man dedicated to bringing decent healthcare to the world’s poorest of the poor in Haiti. In this excerpt, Kidder relates Farmer’s thoughts on faith:

“The fact than any sort of religious faith was so disdained at Harvard and so important to the poor–not just in Haiti but elsewhere, too–made me even more convinced that faith must be something good…”

In the peasant phrase, an unnecessary death was a “stupid death,” and he was seeing a lot of those.

“Surely someone is witnessing this horror show?” he’d say to himself. “I know it sounds shallow, the opiate thing, needing to believe, palliating pain, but it didn’t feel shallow. It was more profound than other sentiments I’d known, and I was taken with the idea that in an ostensibly godless world that worshipped money and power or, more seductively, a sense of personal efficacy and advancement, like at Duke and Harvard, there was still a place to look for God, and that was in the suffering of the poor. You want to talk crucifixion? I’ll show you crucifixion…”

A place to look for God. In the poor. The world’s forgottens and castoffs. Those living in ruins.

Something about this rings so true for me, and yet something else shines forth as well. Looking for God, searching for something holy and spiritual in this material world, doesn’t have to go further than visiting my neighbor.

First of all, there are those right here in my city, my neighbors, who are in great need, and there are steps I can take to lend a hand. The first baby step, the easiest, and somehow the hardest thing to do, is to just say hello.

Second of all, I am blessed enough to live in a neighborhood with other believers, and all I have to do is walk down the street to hear them speak the voice of my Lord.

I am finding that walking in his Spirit doesn’t have to be some ethereal, metaphorical kind of thing. Just take a walk down the street. Say hello. See where he leads you.

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2 Responses to mountains beyond mountains

  1. JD says:

    Excellent quote. I have been planing to read “Mountains beyond Mountains” for years, ever since I spent a summer in Haiti, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Thus my knowledge of Paul Farmer is limited to second hand.

    But based on my understanding of Farmer’s outlook, I wouldn’t say he actually found Christ among the poor. I believe he is still quite an unbeliever (am I right on this?) I think some of the saddest lost people are those who have found the joy of helping others (God’s work) but not God Himself. I have heard that Farmer is rather critical of Christian missionaries in Haiti because they don’t do enough to alleviate the suffering of the poor. (Based on my time there I may be tempted to agree on that point) A non-believer like Farmer out there doing God’s work, should shame us Christians into action. I think if we were throughout the world acting like Christ, he would have not just concluded religion is “something good” but that it is something that he too needs.

    -Jonathan

    PS: Congratulations to you and Mike on your wedding.

  2. Jasmin says:

    You should definitely pick it up. It’s great so far.

    No, Farmer wasn’t claiming that he personally found Christ Haiti. But even though he didn’t, I was finding a picture of Christ in him. Does that make sense? or sound heretical? 🙂

    I completely agree that if more Chrisitans acted and responded out of Love throughout the world, that perhaps more people would be drawn to our Lord. If we could show them the person of Christ, and not religion…who knows what might result?

    I’m optimistic.

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