The question often arises, “Why does Rooftop 519 chose to help children only outside of the U.S.?” There are several layers to the answer, but before I dig into the solution, let me start with our Core Purpose. “To glorify God through healing people and transforming communities”. As we have defined in our Messaging and Branding Guidelines, the Core Purpose is the “axis for why we exist.”
At that center of existence, we don’t care more about one life than the next. Nobody ever asks the question, “Why do you heal just children?” I don’t believe any person or organization has the moral high ground to choose one life over another based on subjective reactions to a feeling of ethics. Our mission focuses what we do and why we do it. Ours is “Healing the sickest kids in the world in the name of Christ.”
The mission becomes less subjective as we define our terms. One of the things we identified early on is that the vast majority of “sickest” kids exist outside of the U.S. Birth defect that are exhibited by teenagers in developing nations are, by in large, nonexistent among U.S. citizens (and even non-citizens residing in the U.S.). Any child born in any hospital in the U.S. who needs critical care is guaranteed, regardless of a family’s ability to pay, access to that care. While there are some exceptions for very complicated illnesses or injuries, children in the U.S. still have very good access overall to health care.
Some examples of this include Tuberculosis of the spine and Noma. Both diseases are rampant throughout Africa and parts of Asia. Estimates of children who are infected with these horrific and easily treatable illnesses run into the hundreds of thousands. Children in the U.S. may, on rare occasion, have a traumatic injury that would cause similar suffering – say from a boating or automobile accident, for example. The difference for a child in Michigan versus Nigeria is that when the Nigerian child’s body slowly disintegrates, either bones being warped and contorted or flesh being eaten by bacteria, there is no 911. I have heard stories of family members who will drown their own children because there is no hope for their disease. This is simply unthinkable among Northern Americans.
I live in one of the most pristine and affluent cities in all of the United States. La Quinta is a beautiful city, dubbed the “Gem of the Desert” in Southern California. Home to many retired executives and professionals, we are all privileged to walk down beautiful sidewalks, visit excellent libraries and have many wonderful amenities. Those amenities include access to emergency services. My son recently dislocated his kneecap. Save two minor wrist fractures, this was his first serious injury in his 13 years. Within seconds of his mishap, I realized what he had done and I asked a friend call 911. No more than 90 seconds passed until the professionals were on-site. Within several minutes he was at the hospital, comforted by some narcotics and met by doctors who eagerly relocated the wayward bone.
I try to imagine walking out of the coffee shop I visit in Old Town La Quinta and seeing a 13 year old child sitting on the curb, begging for food, but possibly unable to eat anything that was given to him because most of his lips and cheeks are gone. In his case, flesh-eating bacteria have consumed the muscles that contract to allow him to close his mandible. His body had fought off the infection, but not before it had stripped him of the ability to even hold water in his mouth.
Another thing about my city is that we probably have the greatest number of plastic surgeons per capita in the world. A block from where this hypothetical young teenager sits is an office where customers pour in and out to have their lips puckered and their brows hoisted. These surgeons have the ability to spend 90 minutes with a scalpel and some thread, maybe a little glue, and build him a face.
If that boy really came to La Quinta, I have no doubt that he would be healed. Rooftop 519 brings kids like this to the U.S. so we can all be a part of their pain, and more importantly, their healing. This is the core of what Christ would want us to do. What most of us have done, myself included, is that we have distracted ourselves from the pain of others because we don’t know that child. We cannot see him on our street. We do not experience his brokenness. He exists, and I am compelled because of the cause of Christ, to get him and show him to you. I am asking for you to help. Pray for him. Pay for a plane ticket or donate your vacation miles. Invite him into your home. Connect him with a doctor you know. Get your church to share the gospel with him and send him home to his family with a deep understanding of the compassion of Christ.