Ordinary People

During his State of the Union address last night, President Clinton highlighted ordinary people who do great things. I must say that never has the chasm been wider between ordinary people doing great things and political leaders promising great things to every imaginable group. Well, let me tell you about one group I would have invited to sit in the gallery last night to be recognized. A few months ago, I told BreakPoint listeners about Barbara Vogel's fourth-grade class at Highline Community School in Aurora, Colorado. Last February, Mrs. Vogel brought a newspaper clipping to class about slavery in Africa—describing how Christian women and children are kidnapped by Muslim slavers and taken to northern Sudan. Mrs. Vogel's kids began to cry. "We thought slavery was over," they said. Now, a lot of adults might have read this article, thrown up their hands, and said, "There's nothing I can do about slavery in a country thousands of miles away." But these were just kids, and it didn't occur to them that there was nothing they could do. After they wiped away their tears they asked, "What are we going to do about this?" What they did was form a group called "Slavery That Oppresses People," known as the STOP campaign. They did a little homework and found out about Christian Solidarity International, a human-rights group that redeems slaves and returns them to their families. The kids began saving their allowances and selling lemonade, T-shirts, and old toys. Soon, thanks to their own efforts and some help from corporate donors, they had enough money to buy freedom for 150 slaves. They've also written more than 1,500 letters to the media, celebrities, and public officials. They even wrote to President Clinton, telling him about how they feel about slavery—and about the fact that he's done so little to stop it, or even acknowledge it. Since I first told this story on BreakPoint, stories about what Mrs. Vogel's kids are up to have spread around the world—and the response has been tremendous. A homeless man living out of his car just sent the kids his last $100. A class of handicapped children raised money through a bake sale. A truck driver tells people all over the country about these kids, collects donations, and has sent Mrs. Vogel's class hundreds of dollars. As a result, some $50,000 in donations have poured in, buying freedom for 5,060 slaves. Classrooms from Europe to South America are imitating what these fourth-graders are doing. As Christians, you and I ought to be imitating their teacher, as well. Barbara Vogel has taken her faith into the public square—in this case, a public school classroom. As she told BreakPoint, "As a public school teacher, I cannot [tell the children] what I believe, that Christ is the most important thing in my life. But that doesn't mean I can't model my faith." Modeling her faith has led to hundreds of kids taking part in what some are calling America's largest abolitionist movement since the Civil War. Some 200 years ago, the French statesman Alexis de Tocqueville said that America's volunteer spirit is its greatest strength. Well, if we want to remain strong—and if we want to be a public witness for Christ—we ought to learn a lesson from Barbara Vogel's kids. When we hear about a terrible problem like slavery, we need to ask not, "what are the politicians doing about it?" but "what are we going to do about it?"


Chuck Colson


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