Friday, May 15, 2015

Noble: The Life of Christina Noble & her ministry to the children of Vietnam

You can tell a story is real, when circumstances tend to go from bad to worse.  Terrible things happen, and we turn our eyes to heaven and ask God: Are you still there?  Do you still care?  How could you let this happen? 

Yet you can also tell a true story, a real story, when God shows up at the most unexpected moments, at the darkest moments, to make his presence known, and bring good out of evil.  

It was interesting in the case of Christina Noble, that she found herself in terrible circumstances, yet God used those moments to bring about revolutionary changes in the world.  

In the film Noble the story is told of the life of Christina Noble.  I was asked to write about the film and offered a special screening to view it before it's release.  My first reaction was similar to most: "I don't have time."  I had been working full time, I was trying desperately to finish up my last two classes before traveling to Virginia to participate in graduation at Liberty University.  Yet a still small voice seemed to hint occasionally, to take another look.

Much is the same when it comes to the plight of the poor, the lost, the homeless, and the starving in parts of the world like India, China, North Korea, and Vietnam.  "It's a tragedy, but I don't have time."  Just recently, and quite late, I managed to allot some time to watch the movie Noble.  

I was shocked, amazed, horrified, and inspired to the point of sobbing by the end.  And I'm a guy, I don't cry easily.  The story touched my heart in a very real way.  The plight and life of Christina Noble was powerfully captured.  It jumped right off the screen into my heart.  Why?  It managed to portray the struggle of life in a very real way.  

Noble was a child of hope, and joy, singing before crowds in taverns.  Yet after her mother's death, she was separated from her family and sent to an orphanage.  Christina Noble was later reunited with her father.  And then he vanishes.  It had that quality of random brutality.  When at moments in her life she desperately needed a cup of water to her lips, she was given a brick to the face instead.  Life is often like that.  

It's not like a movie, where the bad guys are defeated whilst the hero manages to create an elaborate situation where he keeps his honor, offers the enemies mercy, yet in the end defeats them.  No.  Life is ugly, and scary at times.  We're held down and violated, mistreated and lost.  We lose our dignity, and the bad guys often win.  Things go from bad to worse, and Christina is left time and again, facing the altar of God broken, asking: Are you really there?

We as humans have a certain romanticism about life.  Yet in reality, life is at times brutal and random.  The Word says the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). And how much more so for the forgotten children?  How much more so for the children of the streets of 3rd world countries?  

My God, my God, how Noble is needed today.  We in the west so often turn a blind eye to the suffering of the faceless.  We can't see them, we blind ourselves to their suffering, and we harden our hearts to their struggle.  After watching Noble it was much more real to me, the struggle of the homeless and lost.  Rape, violence, sex trafficking, assault, kidnapping, are all daily realities for so many.  

Everett Swanson, founder of Compassion International shared some of his story for one of my class lectures in Christian Counseling for Children 302 (at Liberty University).  He told how children in these countries are targeted, because they have no defender.  Children are weak, fragile, and easily snatched up and forced to do terrible things.  They are naive to the world.  They are the easiest target.  It horrifies us, but children are certainly easy targets.  

And how much more so unborn children in the womb?  And truly truly, they have been targeted in our society, to genocidal effect.  53 million people dead.  Real people.  The tragedy is unspeakable.  The heart cries for mercy from such organized madness.  And God hears, truly truly, God hears.

The story of Christina Noble vividly portrayed in this movie is the message we all need to see.  Christina Noble had nothing.  She had no money, she had none of the right friends.  She had been through trauma, rape, homelessness.  She had been abandoned by her father, and lost touch with her brothers and sisters.  She had been mistreated by nuns, those who should have cared for her and protected her.  

What more to say, enough, leave her alone, let her be for just a moment?  Just give her a chance, please?  Anyone might say, she went through enough, now let her rest.  But Christina Noble knew there was something wrong with the world.  And she heard the call of God.  In a dream she saw the chaos of Vietnam.  And she answered the call and went, with nothing.  

We often feel so powerless as Christians.  What can we do to change all this madness?  So we simply let it go, and keep moving forward in life.  Who could blame us?  But the story of Noble challenges us to step out in faith.  It challenges us to take a stand.  It challenges us to awaken that sense of valor buried within, that image of God within, and calls for us to be valiant, brave, noble, in this mysterious drama they call life.  When by all appearances there is no hope to change anything, one act of faith can change everything.  

I mean statistically, a broke woman shows up to Vietnam to help children.  Not special, not different, just a Christian woman who wants to help.  What are her chances of starting orphanages that today serve over 700,000?  The chances are impossible.  Yet God does the impossible.  One woman was willing, and God worked through her.  Now not just 1 child, or 10, or 100 have a home, but 700,000 have a home, and someone to care for them.  

We as Christians can't see how it can be done today, with all the corruption, the chaos, the immorality, and western man's retreat from God.  We're discouraged.  But we don't need to be.  Time and again, God takes someone who by themselves could change nothing.  Not a deity, not a superhuman, just a regular person like you or me.  And they believe.  They try it, and then it starts to fail, it looks like it's not working at all.  Then at the last moment.. when all hope has faded, God blesses it.  

Everett Swanson was just a young man, not privileged or powerful.  Just an average guy, and he decided he would do something for the children.  Today his organization Compassion International serves millions of children in 3rd world countries.  K.P. Yohannan was a young man living in Asia doing missionary work.  He wanted to send missionaries to the cities of India.  He wanted to build bridges of hope to children in India.  Today his organization Gospel for Asia serves hundreds of thousands.  William Booth wanted to serve the truly lost, the most destitute, the ones Jesus loved.  He stepped out in faith, with very little, traveling around preaching.  Today the Salvation Army which he founded serves millions in 135 countries worldwide.  And Christina Noble decided she would serve the children of Vietnam no matter what.  Today her organization the Christina Noble Children's Foundation serves over 700,000.  They were not gods, they were not super men or super women. They were average, everyday people, who decided they would try to do something special.  They believed God could make oasis in the ghetto.  They believed God could make refuges of peace in mine fields.  And you know what?  They were right.  God could.  And he did. 

Life is tough.  For me it's been tough.  For Christina Noble it was often nightmarish.  There is great suffering in the world today.  That is the effect of the fall of man.  Yet that in no way changes our responsibility to God.  He remains God.  He never promises that we will be free from trouble.  He does promise to be with us in the trouble.   

As a Coldplay song played, and the credits rolled at the end of Noble I found myself sobbing terribly.  I've had a tough go at life.  Truly truly I have.  With so much brokenness and struggle, one eventually starts to wonder: Can I really do this?  Am I really going to be able to do this?  

Several times I have turned to heaven, as Noble did, and said, "Lord, I don't think I can do this."  The true story of Christina Noble reminded me, that though one may lose their family, live on the streets, be abused, kidnapped, raped, and abandoned... it can be done.  She did it.  She survived it.  She regained her strength.  Christina Noble was vindicated in the end.  At many moments it seemed it was over for her.  But it wasn't.  So today I'm reminded, by her story, that I may solemnly look toward heaven and say: "Lord, you're with me and I can do this.  I can change the world, because you're with me.  We can do it.  We can do it together.  Amen."  

 Please consider sponsoring a child at the Christina Noble Children's Foundation website. Click here.  Also consider viewing the award winning movie Noble, currently in theaters in select areas.

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