“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
Harper Lee said that. I adore Ms. Lee for so many reasons, but her attitude about folks is my favorite thing about her.
I was thinking about it today, about how convenient it is to look around and take a very narrow snapshot of folks and conclude, “Yep, we’re all alike.” And, theoretically, it’s easy to broaden that and say all people, all over the globe, are the same. But I don’t live like I believe that.
I live with a highly tuned regional outlook. I’m a displaced Oklahoman turned Texan who has a hard time imagining myself living anywhere besides one of those two states, and I break out in a cold sweat if I think of living full-time in any country but the U.S.
Visiting other places, sure, I’m all over that. Moving there? Living there? Becoming a part of another place and letting it become a part of me? I wish I could say I’d do it and feel at home in another culture. But I believe in transparency and authenticity, and I wouldn’t be transparent or authentic if I didn’t say the thought of that scares me more than a little.
Man oh man, I want to have eyes that see one kind of folks. Folks.
I have a friend with those eyes. Her name is Jacklyn Vanderpool and she’s seventeen and amazing, although I think she just might be the most humble person I’ve ever met. And for that reason alone, she intrigues me.
Jacklyn Vanderpool is fearless.
She recently wrote an article for KatharosNow, an e-zine for teen girls while she was on a plane above Kete-Kratchi, Ghana. She and her family were headed into a place where children are sold into slavery by their parents for around $20. The kids are forced into labor roles that would make our skin crawl. They are beaten, raped, starved, and left to fend for themselves. Some of these kids are used to complete dangerous tasks that often end in their deaths.
The Vanderpools and their organization, Mobile Medical Disaster Relief (MMDR) go to Ghana, find these children, and work to free them. And that’s just one of their many missions. MMDR has a presence in fourteen countries, with highly focused efforts in Haiti, Mozambique, Ghana and Honduras. They see folks as folks and nothing could keep them from going and helping.
Every month of every year, they take a group of volunteers with them to feed, clothe, shelter, heal, and touch the poor throughout the world. And seventeen-year-old Jacklyn is right there, a pivotal player in this ministry, along with her parents and two older brothers. Find out how and why the Vanderpools started MMDR and why they were named as one of People Magazine’s Heroes Among Us in 2010 here. And watch Jacklyn’s oldest brother, David, describe the way Dr. and Mrs. Vanderpool raised their children to be Christ on earth here.
I finally, FINALLY, got to meet her in person last Sunday. She’s beautiful and unassuming. She listens closely and tries to understand before she speaks. She’s also pretty brilliant and wants to major in pre-med next year. Did I tell you already that she’s humble? Humble to the point of blushing when you compliment her and casting the spotlight away from herself at every opportunity. I know her brother, John Mark, who is a sophomore at Texas A&M and brings the awesome, as well. You’ll hear more about him soon, when I interview him and his roommate, Will Walker, about their new university organization called Live Beyond.
John Mark’s eyes shine when he talks about his baby sister. Yesterday, he told me, “Over the past two years, I’ve seen Jacklyn flourish. Yes, she’s extraordinarily beautiful and sweet, but what I am really proud of is her unwavering pursuit of a relationship with Christ. She’s an amazing example to her peers, and I grow more and more proud of her every time I see her.”
So what does Jacklyn want you to know?
I asked Jacklyn what it’s like to be a teenager who goes into places that have been hit by disaster or by poverty so profound it is disastrous and she said that initially her age made things more difficult. “People tended to not take me seriously,” she admitted. “But as hard as it is, I will continue because the experience I’m getting now will make things easier for me in the long run.”
Here’s what Jacklyn wants to tell you—If you don’t have the opportunity or desire to go abroad, volunteer in your communities because it’s just as necessary and important. She believes this time in life can be a training ground for the rest of your walk on earth and if you start now, you’ll have the experience and skills under your belt that you’ll always use.
Sometimes it seems like people my age are embarrassed to live out their faith or evangelize outside of their congregations. I want us all to gain confidence so that we are willing to stand out and bring others to Christ. If you see a chance to help or teach, wherever you are, take it.
The world seems small and connected when you hear Jacklyn talk about it. She isn’t intimidated by language issues because she can speak and understand with her heart. Dealing with less than ideal housing doesn’t bother her. She’s fine with long hours, a coating of sweat and dust, and smells that would gag the rest of us. And it’s because of moments like this—
Yep, folks are just folks.
Thank you, Jacklyn, Dr. and Mrs. Vanderpool, and David and John Mark, for living like you believe that.
If you’re interested in helping MMDR in a small way, take a look at this gallery of handmade items from those whose lives are being touched. Amelia is especially proud of the two scripture rolls and purse she bought. All proceeds fund continued mission efforts. They make great “gifts with a conscience.”