Price of a life.
Oscar Romero was Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador. He had the courage to stand up against the injustice of the El Salvador government.
He died for his courage.
In March 1980, as he was presiding over the Eucharist, a gunman burst into his church and shot him dead in a spray of bullets.
This story is well-known. A movie was even made about his life and death.
He was not the last to die at the hands of unknown hitmen in El Salvador.
But this month there were new, sickening revelations.
The United Nations appointed an aptly named Truth Commission. It reported on March 15.
The death of Archbishop Romero was organised by Roberto d’Aubuisson, the founder of the ruling right wing political party, ARENA.
The personal bodyguards of d’Aubuisson drove the hitman to the church. D’Aubuisson, who died last year of cancer, paid the hitman $400.
For such a life.
For once, as I read this in a news report this week, and even as I reflected on it later, I could not find the right words to express my horror at the equation.
Romero = $400.
Never has it seemed so clear to me that the values of the Kingdom of God are so at odds with the values of the world.
Travel and Me.
I cancelled a trip on Monday. It was a trip I had been planning for some time. In May I was due to go to India with Ken Tracey to experience something of our ADP work.
But I cancelled it. Tina suggested I think about it. And I did.
There were other more important priorities.
I am often faced with this decision. And I know I’m not alone.
Many World Vision colleagues have pressures placed on them to travel. If I said Yes to every invitation I get from interstate or overseas, I would be travelling at least three-quarters of my life. We have to respond to those pressures with responsibility.
There are two reasons (the first more important):
1. Travel takes us away from our families.
2. Travel takes us away from the office.
Each person’s family situation is different. So I don’t think it is helpful to set hard and fast rules about how much time one should spend at home compared with work.
Some families, especially those with many young children, need their mum or dad around more. For me, I find that travel which occupies around 30% of my life is enough. More than this, and the balance is wrong for me.
For more than ten years now, I have been travelling from 25-30% of my life. Everyone else must, in thoughtful discussion with their partner, find their own right balance. More or less.
But this simple rule-of-thumb is not nearly enough.
I compensate for absence with presence. Presents too.
I take almost no evening engagements. And I try to not work too much in the evenings. I like TV and so does my family. Sometimes I read my e-mail for half an hour, often I make it wait.
I also organise my reading and writing work into a single block which I do, at home, once a week. When Tina tells you “Philip is working at home,” you can be sure this is true.
But it means I can do family things too. I interrupted this Trellis to pick up Richard from Kinder.
We have found this works reasonably well for us. Others have found it helpful to make up their missed weekends in a deliberate days-in-lieu arrangement. This is also a good idea.
And, even when I am away, I try to stay in touch.
During this next week I shall be going to Israel with overnight stops in Rome. Italian phone bills are expensive (even if they are not written in Lire). But not nearly as expensive as dysfunctional families.
So I call regularly. Not always by voice, since Judy is happy to read my diary notes. In many places in the world I can fax these direct from my laptop. It takes only a minute or two to send an A4 fax. And you can say quite a lot of I love you’s on one A4 sheet.
I know that some commercial companies have very strict rules about phoning home. Once a week or less! And then only to say “Hi, I’m sick. ‘Bye.”
At World Vision we value people. I need to be in touch with my wife daily to feel that I am honouring that core value.
It is not nearly as important, but being away from the office can be a bad thing too.
Fortunately, modern communication allows us to take our office with us. I can even read e-mails overseas (although I think it’s not yet cheap enough).
But one’s physical presence in the office is different from one’s electronic presence.
That is why, when I am in the office, I spend all my time with people. If I am slow to read my e-mail it is because I am meeting with someone. Closely followed by a meeting with someone else.
This is deliberate. It’s one way of making sure that I give maximum attention to the relationships of our work.
In the end, it is relationships that matter.
Whether they be the relationships between people at the office which enable us to work effectively, or whether they be the critical relationships between spouses, or parents and children.
Each of us who faces the balancing act between family, work and travel must accept the responsibility to work hard at getting it right.
And each of us, attempting this balancing act, needs to be vulnerable to the concern of others. We have a ministry to one another in this area. Let us not be shy to exercise it with sensitivity and compassion.