Friday, December 10, 2010

Worth Remembering

The meaning of Christmas took on an entirely new meaning for me two decades ago. It was in the very last row of a church where I raised my hand with all eyes closed and heads bowed. Years later, at the same church, I shared a story by Ruth Seamands (a missionary to India) for a special Christmas message. Perhaps you will agree that it is worth remembering.

It was Christmas Eve in Korea. An expectant mother walked through the snow to the home of a missionary friend where she knew she could find help. A short way down the road from the mission house was a deep gully spanned by a bridge. As the young woman stumbled forward, birth pains overcame her. She realized she could go no farther. She crawled under the bridge. There alone between the trestles she gave birth to a baby boy. She had nothing with her except the heavy padded clothes she was wearing. One by one she removed the pieces of her clothing and wrapped them around her tiny son around and around, like a cumbersome cocoon. Then, finding a discarded piece of burlap, she pulled it over herself, and lay exhausted beside her baby.

The next morning the missionary drove across the bridge in her Jeep to take a Christmas basket to a Korean family. On the way back, as she neared the bridge, the Jeep sputtered and ran out of gas. Getting out of the Jeep she started to walk across the bridge, and heard a faint cry beneath her. She crawled under the bridge to investigate. There she found the tiny baby, warm but hungry, and the young mother frozen to death. The missionary took the baby home and cared for him. As the boy grew, he often asked his adopted mother to tell him the story of how she had found him. On Christmas Day, on his 12th birthday, he asked the missionary to take him to his mother's grave.

Once there he asked her to wait a distance away while he went to pray. The boy stood beside the grave with a bowed head, weeping. Then he began to disrobe. As the astonished missionary watched, the boy took off his warm clothing, piece by piece, and laid it on his mother's grave. Surely he won't take off all his clothing, the missionary thought. He'll freeze! But the boy stripped himself of everything, putting all his warm clothing on the grave. He knelt naked and shivering in the snow. As the missionary went to him to help him dress again, she heard him cry out to the mother he never knew:  "Were you colder than this for me, my mother?" And he wept bitterly.

When Christ came, he stripped himself of every royal garment and entered into our world of cold indifference. He clothed each of us with forgiveness, mercy and hope. And then He died of a broken heart. What broke His heart? Surely, it was the long history of men making slaves of other men. It was centuries of cruelty, hurt and suffering.  It was the cry of millions of orphans and the sight of starving children that He could hear and see in the years to come. He knew that we would forget Him. Not His name, or His message. Rather, we would forget that we are called to be different. Different like Him. 

Different like Him is giving, going and grieving for the least of these. To be honest, the way that we spend our time, talents and treasures looks like depraved indifference sometimes. Watch the video below. Then ask yourself  "what have I done to help the least of these?". The question is worth remembering as Christmas approaches. 

This video can be seen in a larger format on A Child's Hope Int'l .

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Justice in the Morning

There are many things that I do not understand. I struggle to understand why bad things happen to good people. Or why good things happen to bad people.  Or equally perplexing, why so many Christians appear disconnected from biblical truth and action.

For most of us, we live in adequate if not very comfortable homes. We have ample food, clean water, clothing and “toys” of all kinds. We seldom think about where our next meal will come from or how we will get a cool glass of water. Being born in the right latitude and longitude has a lot to do with it. Yet for more than 40% of the world who were born in the “wrong” latitude and longitude, they do worry about food or even a drop of clean water.

Vulnerable children suffer the most when hungry and thirsty. It often leads to a slow and painful death.  And it is one of those perverse evil things that I cannot explain away with an easy answer.

Injustice will force some of these children to be sold into slavery, to beg and grovel on the streets, to dig into dumps looking for maggot laced scraps, to give away their sacred bodies for something to drink. Hunger, thirst , sexual trafficking, child slavery and child abandonment are all examples of injustice. And all for just being born at the wrong time or in the wrong latitude and longitude.

There is an Old Testament passage that is a stark reminder of the responsibility we (the Church) have to help correct injustice. Not once a year at Thanksgiving when the pangs of compassion stab us in the heart. Or when our church leaders happen to mention the needs of orphans and widows. From this verse it looks pretty clear that it is to be a daily event.

Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed...     Jeremiah 21:12

Orphans are robbed daily of a family that loves and protects them. Children in foster care are robbed daily of a stable, secure, risk free permanent home. Thirsty children are robbed daily of clean, life saving water. Hungry children are robbed daily of nutritious food that will help their small bodies grow. Young children are robbed daily of their innocence. HIV children are robbed daily of their health by a lack of medicine.

As a result, millions of children are robbed every day all over the world.  

We are called to administer justice. To help correct what is wrong. It should happen before our day gets filled up with other priorities. In case you are asking, I am guilty as charged.

Even so, have you heard a message at your church lately on administering justice on behalf of these children? As a deacon, elder, teacher, preacher, pastor have you ever led by example what your church is called to do?

A small minority of you have.

If the majority of us were brutally honest, we would say that we haven’t.

Each of us can change the life of an enslaved, trafficked, fatherless, orphan, hungry or thirsty child. For some of us, it will require a change in attitude. For others, a change in our spending habits. How many flat screen TVs do we really “need” in our homes? Or jeweled bracelets, rings or necklaces? Or shiny Escalades? We don't need those things, we want them. Vulnerable children need water, they need food. There is a difference.
Justice in the morning is not something that we think about that often. Should be though. The rest of the verse is pretty clear what will happen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Do You Have H1N1?

The suffering in Haiti has taken on a new and tragic dimension with the earthquake today. The devastation may end the dream of an idyllic tourist spot for Americans.

A few years ago, tour guides were waiting with bony, undersized horses to carry investors to one of Haiti's most historic sites, the Citadel. They hoped that American money would recreate Haiti into the Caribbean's next vacation hotspot.

However, soaring food costs in April 2008 led to violent street protests that killed many and injured hundreds. U.S. State Department travel warnings grew more serious. Tourism in Haiti seems like an odd dream in a place where 1 child in 5 will die from hunger, disease and the effects of severe malnutrition.

Haiti wants the tourism success of their island neighbor, the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic shares the same rocky island in the Atlantic and they bring in more than $3.5 billion in revenues and millions of visitors to sprawling resorts and designer golf courses every year. Do these tourists know (or care) that countless children on this island must eat parasite laced mud cookies to stop the pain of hunger?

Thousands of American Christians go to the Dominican Republic and splurge on food, drink and jewelry for themselves while children starve all over the island. Help me understand how that is possible?

How can we justify that level of indifference, and perhaps even greed? How can we spend so lavishly on ourselves so close to extreme human suffering?

Perhaps the problem is that we have been infected by an increasingly more complex strain of the H1N1 virus. As a result, our ability to see the world as Christ sees the world has been impaired. It is a vision problem that also affects our head, our heart and our hands.

The virus affects our ability to discern truth from fiction . We do not consider ourselves wealthy or rich and therefore excuse ourselves from having any responsibility to help others. The truth is this: American Christians are rich beyond measure compared to the world. Filthy rich. All we have to do is stop and think about what we do have and not what we do not have.

H1N1 is serious (H1N1 stands for Here and Now for Number 1). Rather than wait for our eternal reward, we want it here and now. Rather than use our head, heart and hands to help those with far less, we justify (this is why the disease is so diabolical) spending more on ourselves. We are trading our future inheritance on trinkets and cheap souvenirs of the better life.

But you rich people are in for trouble. You have already had an easy life! (Luke 6:24)

H1N1 not only inhibits Christians from living like Christ but it spreads and hurts others. It hurts the poor as we pass them by. And it infects the world as they learn that Christians are really not much that different than they are. So why should they become like us?

I want to be clear on this. Christians should go to the Dominican Republic. They should go to Haiti. They should go to Africa. They should go throughout the world. They should spend money to help local mission groups. They should invest in micro business enterprises that help the poor get a leg up. They should buy merchandise from a single mother there who is learning to sew. And they should stoop down and feed a child from their abundance.

Taking a cruise to the Dominican Republic? Going to Bermuda? Cancun or anyplace else? Before you go, get inoculated against H1N1. How?

Read the Gospels. Then swallow what the Book says and let the Truth come out the pores of your skin.

Want to know if the inoculation worked? Here is a simple test. See if you can walk by the large screen flat panel TVs at Costco and not stop or twitch with rationalizing that purchase. How long is the key.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In Case You Missed It

In case you missed it…

The U.S. budget deficit for 2009 is a record $1.42 trillion.

The deficit rose 212% in just one year and it will get worse if the insane healthcare albatross that is circling around Washington lands as the law of the land.

We now have a $12 trillion national debt and the interest on that debt is about $1 billion a day.

China lent the U.S. $1 trillion to help us pay our bills and they are concerned about our ability to pay it back.

As the reports get worse each day , I learned something.

I can control this mountain of debt about as much as I can control time itself.

In case you missed it...

  • We didn’t create Time, we can only exist within it
  • We can’t make more Time, because we are not the Creator
  • We can’t control Time, we can only determine how to use it

The Apostle Paul offers good advice on Time when he said:

Act like people with good sense and not like fools. These are evil times, so make every minute count. Don't be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do. Ephesians 5:15-17

It's worth saying again:

  • These are evil times, so make every minute count.
  • Find out what the Lord wants you to do.

No doubt these are evil times that we live in. As such, the Church has a compelling mission to make every minute count AND to make every dollar count. On Sunday, were people asked if they were ready to meet the King? If not this week, was that message proclaimed last week? Is every dollar spent for Kingdom purposes? Or are there funds sitting in money bags waiting?

What does the Lord want you to do to redeem the time? To live out the Gospel in your relationship to others? To serve others sacrificially? Did you know

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you James 1:27

Seems like the Lord wants us to care for the least of these first and then work on shunning the evil things that can pollute our lives, second.

What does the Lord want you to do to care for the 143 million orphans in the world today?

If these orphans stood shoulder to shoulder, they would form a line of children that would go around the 7,600 mile perimeter of U.S. four times. Four times. Children without families in a line that is 30,000 miles long. As it says, find out what the Lord wants you to do.

In case you missed it, He is coming back.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Cost of an Orange

This week (3) 40’ containers of Kids Against Hunger food finally made it to Matsapha, Swaziland. This represents over 840,000 high protein meals packed over many months by volunteers. The value of the food that went across the Atlantic was over $210,000. The shipping was another $30,000+. Sounds like a lot of food and a lot of money. But is it?

Let’s answer the first part of the question. The mission groups on the ground are feeding 2700 children each day at over 30 care points where orphans and children at risk gather for help. Adventure in Missions (AIM) and Children’s Hope Chest (CHC) do not have enough food for all of the care points they serve. They are turning children away that come for help. 800,000 meals is not very much after all, is it? It will be gone within months and less if they feed more children which they want to do.

Now let’s answer the second part of the question. 67% of the people of Swaziland live on about 45¢ a day – that 45¢ must pay for everything from food, to shelter, to clothes, to healthcare , etc. A few years ago, studies showed that nearly 40% of the population had HIV/AIDs. Because of HIV/AIDs, it is expected that the orphan population will exceed 10% of the total population. Many households are run by teenagers and pre-teens caring for younger siblings.

Orphans have no way to earn money. When parents die, children may be taken by relatives, neighbors and others who may have less than honorable motives. Girls are prized for many reasons. The boys may end up on the street or in a orphanage if one can be found. Young girls will trade their bodies for food. In one story which made their local news, a seven year old girl who was starving gave her body to an older man for one orange and one loaf of bread. Sexual oppression of children is horrific and sadly it happens all the time. Christ is the answer and the Church is the messenger - but does the Church know that?

In my thinking, $240,000 for containers of food is a bargain. It will save some from starvation and it may save some young girls, created in the image of God, from trading themselves for an orange and a loaf of bread just so that they can stay alive.

Many of us believe that we are not actively involved in “oppressing” the poor or the orphan. After all, we care for them, don’t we? Do we? Do I? I really struggle with this. In reality, if I am not part of the solution, than I am part of the problem. If you are not part of the solution, than you my friend are part of the problem as well.

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him (Proverbs 14:31)

Begin today to be a part of the solution. Give sacrificially to the work of those in Swaziland (AIM and CHC). Give sacrificially to the work of Kids Against Hunger here so we can send more food quickly. But don't stop there. Take it to the next level.

Bring an orange or a loaf of bread to your elders, your deacons, your missions pastor or your benevolence committee. Tell them that a seven year old girl traded her young body for sex because she was hungry and this is what she got in return. A small amount of food and most likely HIV/AIDs.

Then ask if there are any church funds that have not been spent yet. Any funds at all. Worship funds, mission funds, building funds, vision goals funds, doesn’t matter. Ask them to spend it on saving lives now and not later. Ask them for their commitment to do more this year and in the church budget next year. And then pray with them that the Lord would multiply those funds.