Thinking Out Loud

September 15, 2015

Imagine 100 Jets Crash Killing 26,000…and the Next Day it Happens Again

World Vision president Richard Stearns in the book, The Hole in Our Gospel: The Answer that Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World (Thomas Nelson, ECPA Christian Book of the Year, 2009)

Whenever a major jetliner crashes anywhere in the world, it inevitably sets off a worldwide media frenzy covering every aspect of the tragedy.  I want you to imagine for a moment that you woke up this morning to the following headline:  “One Hundred Jetliners Crash, Killing 26,500.”  Think of the pandemonium this would create across the world as heads of state, parliaments and congresses convened to grapple with the nature and causes of this tragedy.  Think about the avalanche of media coverage that it would ignite around the globe as reporters shared the shocking news and tried to communicate its implications for the world.  Air travel would no doubt grind to a halt as governments shut down airlines and panicked air travelers cancelled their trips.  The National Transportation Safety Board and perhaps the FBI, CIA, and local law enforcement  agencies and their international equivalents would mobilize investigations and dedicate whatever manpower was required to understand what happened and to prevent it from happening again.

Now imagine that the very next day, one hundred more planes crashed – and one hundred more the next, and the next, and the next.  It is unimaginable that something this terrible could ever happen.

But it did – and it does.

It happened today, and it happened yesterday.  It will happen again tomorrow.  But there was no media coverage.  No heads of state, parliaments or congresses stopped what they were doing to address the crisis and no investigations were launched.  Yet more than 26,500 children died yesterday of preventable causes related to their poverty, and it will happen again today and tomorrow and the day after that.  Almost 10 million children will be dead in the course of a year.  So why does the crash of a single plane dominate the front pages of newspapers across the world while the equivalent of one hundred planes filled with children crashing daily never reaches our ears?  And even though we now have the awareness, the access,  and the ability to stop it, why have we chosen not to?  Perhaps one reason is that these kids who are dying are not our kid; they’re somebody else’s.

pp 106-107

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August 6, 2011

Partnering With Partners

After our charity diversion two nights ago, we ended up making our Africa Drought donation to Partners International.  This is the organization I’ve mentioned a few times at Christmas, and I’ve already written here about my disdain for giving money only to have it eaten up by subsequent donation solicitations by mail.   The link above is to the Canadian office, but Partners is active in the U.S. as well.  Both Partners and Food for the Hungry in Canada are registered with the government for 1:1 matching of each donation with government funds.  And then just before I sent our modest donation, my teenage son came downstairs with a $10 bill to increase our gift.

I just feel like we had to do something.  Especially in the face of the enormity of the need. How can we not?

June 16, 2010

The Mercy Ministry Learning Curve

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:59 am

Across North America and around the world, Evangelicals, many for the first time, are learning what it means to be in service to those gripped by poverty.   Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, thrift shops, etc., were once the purview of mainline Protestant churches; but all that has changed when Evangelical churches started to put the needs of the poor on their radar.

I’ve already addressed the question, “Should we say grace before each meal?”   That’s been a rather thorny issue for the team my wife started four years ago, for reasons too complex to iterate here.   The people her group serves have already ‘served time’ when it comes to being in situations where you have to take the sermon before you get the soup.  The issue isn’t black-and-white, trust me.  If you missed that one, feel free to add a comment.

Today’s question is, “Should the team ration how much food people take when going through the line the first time?”

The problem is, on the one hand, there are times like this week where some people simply pig out, and the people at the end of the line are left with very little.  Not a happy situation.   One week a guest team from a local church came to serve the meal and they actually stood and served people and rationed out portions.

However, on the other hand, my wife views this meal as a type of community.   Her core team is convinced that there isn’t an “us and them” dichotomy and that we are all sharing a meal together as a family.   The team actually blends in; and everyone eats together with team members sitting at various tables getting to know fellow diners intimately.  It’s the classic Eastern “sharing a meal” thing.

“But wait a minute;” I argue; “Even in families there are teachable moments where you learn to share; where you learn to look out for the interests of others.”

I am always out-voted on this.   For the foreseeable future, nobody is going to be told what they can’t have, including the guy who brings his own 16-inch china dinner plate.

But the people at the back of the line are acutely aware of what they can’t have.

How do you continue the family atmosphere without authoritarian formalities and at the same time make sure everybody gets fed?

June 5, 2010

Blessed Are The Broken: Our Hope for the Future

I want to say that this picture was contrived.   I really do.  But even it is, is it that far from the truth?

I also want to believe that the various meetings advertised here are outreach events the church itself is presenting, but in all likelihood they are simply room rentals.  Does it matter, if the need is real?

I want to believe that the sermon advertised for Sunday morning will address this dichotomy, but  in all likelihood, it will consist of “heads in the clouds” platitudes.  Did anyone at the church see the contrast?

I want to wish for things to be different, but deep down, I know that the people who attend Monday to Saturday are often the same people who are seated in the pews on Sunday morning.   Or their proxies.  These are the people for whom Christ died.

Jesus can do more with broken people than he can with people who have it all together.   The addicted, the abused, the abusers, the impoverished, the homeless, the users, the people with no self image, the people dealing with temptation, the people on the brink of despair; these are all the people who can be America’s hope for the future.

The future never looked as bright as when you know you’ve reached bottom and there’s nowhere lower down you can go.    I hope it was a great sermon!

Picture is from Friends of Irony, a Cheezburger Network website.

December 28, 2009

Post #1001 – Don’t Go To Church

One of the things about Andy Stanley’s church that impresses me is a study that they did using a Fortune 500 company where they conducted interviews with people in their services who had been in attendance for five weeks or less.

Let me pause and say that this speaks huge volumes about their church when they have enough people passing through on a regular basis that it’s worthwhile to employ a company to survey those who have been there only a very, very short time.

What they found was that many of these people were already interested in “discerning next steps.”  They wanted to jump in with both feet and get involved; they wanted to get their hands dirty.   (Okay, technically, that would be jumping in with both hands.)

I was reminded of this in a church yesterday when I looked at their bulletin which runs a recurring promotional paragraph about their men’s ministry, and it talks about a couple of social events their group holds a few times each year.   I couldn’t help but think, “Okay, but what else do you do?”

I should say that this group does in fact offer some optional missiony things throughout the year — like that word?  I just made it up — but they don’t advertise them much.   I think people are looking for a cause.   I think people who haven’t even crossed the line of faith yet are spiritually savvy enough to realize that Christians, if they are going to bear that name at all, should be about changing the world.

And then, in the evening I came across the Faith In Action site.  This California-based organization partners churches with projects.   Frankly, I’m not so sure that there ought to be any church in any part of the U.S. that has to engage an outside agency to point them in the direction of need.   But what the heck, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt; there are many churches out in the American suburban hinterland that may be a tad isolated from what’s goin’ on down in the ‘hood.   Or even what the church down the block is up to, which is another partnership service Faith in Action offers.

Faith in Action will also provide you with additional promotional materials to support your project.   Banners.  T-Shirts.   Postcards.   Doorhangers.   (Ouch!  I just bit my tongue.)

They’re also promoting a Faith in Action Sunday on 10/10/10.    Nice numeric optics.   But people in the inner city, people in need of jobs, people in need of food on their table,  people in need of housing, people in need of justice, people in need of medical help, people in need of freedom from addictions, people in need of love, etc.; these people all need help NOW.    Not on 10/10/10.    It scares me to think a church could be aware of need but decide to hold back until that Sunday.    I hope instead that 10/10 is actually the day they do THE REALLY BIG PROJECT.

But I do like their T-shirts.    Don’t Go To Church, Be The Church.

Like, a big Amen to that.

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