To Love Is To Act

Steve Gumaer, President of Partners Relief & Development (PRAD)

Mountains, tall trees, the sunset over broad desert landscapes, a painting by Klimt, even a beautiful sculpture, all inspire me. A perfect sentence that turns my mind inward, then out and around an issue in a book is a wonder to me. A smoothly executed move climbing steep rock, the turns made descending a steep couloir on skis, and the silence felt while paddling on a mountain lake with no wind are other forms of this sublime thing. My wife when she smiles and my daughters when they stand their ground in fierce goodness are yet other angles on what my soul screams: beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

It may be my age. I’m 51. I’ve worked with refugees and displaced people for nearly 30 years. Through the different seasons of life I’ve felt the pull to originality, independence, and characteristics like fearlessness. But now, the thing that sets my soul on fire is beauty.

My work with refugees and displaced people has formed how people know me and even altered my sense of identity. My work has been my passion. But finally I realize that what shapes my soul is not context. War, violence, and deprivation provoke a sense of injustice and motivate me to work for restorative change; but the deeper driver is the incredible fact of peoples tenacity to thrive, to make the best out of what meager provision and resources are left to them, and to speckle the hard and terrible times with laughter and even joy.

Beauty is magnified when it grows out of the war-torn Nineveh desert; it is enhanced when it appears in remote hiding places in Karen State, and it is more arresting when it smiles broad goodness in moments, even years, of terrible crisis. Its audacious. In the face of overwhelming violence and oppression, how can people be so courageous, so daringly wonderful, and so incredibly sacrificial? I’m finding answers to my deepest questions of faith by observing a loving father teaching his son to make a toy of bamboo and rubber bands, not by reading yet another book on theology.

The refugees and displaced families our team serves are not cast in a victim mold. Though victimized, the majority of those I have met are strong, resilient, loving, and self sacrificing. They fall in love on the run; through dangerous times they build a life, a family, and exploit what possibilities exist not merely to survive, but to live a full and joyous life. Do you want to know what it means when we say To Love Is To Act? Observe any displaced or refugee community. Do you wish to see beauty? Observe the poor with curious and hopeful eyes.

The collection of news and stories you hold has been assembled by a dedicated team to give you an inside look at what doing something beautiful looks like in Myanmar and other conflict zones. I’m proud to contribute to a work so congruous to what Partners Relief & Development is all about. We went to the battlefield to give, to help the displaced and poor stand against seemingly insurmountable odds. What we gained is a priceless gift. We have learned beauty, learned to pray, and are attempting to live it out.

Steve Gumear

Partners Relief and Development