Archive for November, 2010

Advent 1

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Advent is a futuristic event that resounds from the past and surrounds our presence. We were at the mall. I saw the sign and stopped for curiosity’s sake. “Ice Cream of the Future” so named because the astronauts eat it. I sampled the BB sized ice cream pellets kept at 30 degrees below zero. It was delectable! The ice cream and the Christmas décor piqued my future and present senses. 

We were the best kind of tired. Forty-five of us had toiled together loading a 23,000 cubic foot shipping container bound for the Ilula Orphan Program in Ilula, Tanzania. IOP is providing for over 12,000 orphans. The best kind of tired is the joy received from giving for the benefit of others. 

The Hebrew writer teaches that it was for joy Jesus endured the cross. I wonder whose joy? His joy? I doubt that it was a joyful experience for him. It was for the benefit of others that Jesus endured the cross. I suspect rather then, it was for our joy. Whenever we exert ourselves for the benefit of others the presence of Christ saturates us. When the orphanage receives the container loaded with supplies and gifts, the presence of Christ will saturate and overflow the senses of the entire village. 

It’s been called Africa’s biggest humanitarian crisis. Fatima Usman has seen two of her children die from hunger and another from cholera. Her remaining 4 month-old child is getting help from a clinic. But her body is not producing enough milk for him.

Advent means God “coming to” us. It’s a futuristic event that piques our senses through messages of the past and occurrences of the present. As we make preparations for the Feast of Christmas, God’s presence will invade our senses. How can your Advent preparations make a difference for others?

The Global Village

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

If all people of the world lived in a global village of 100 people, 14 would live affluently, 11 would live comfortably, 35 would have at least their basic human needs met. The remaining 40 would struggle for existence. Those in extreme poverty sell their own scarce resources to their affluent neighbors in exchange for basic necessities.

The village is facing two major crises. The first is ecological as the environment suffers from the surge of technological advances. Depletion of soil, pollution of rivers and lakes, and deforestation become barriers for the agrarian poor villagers to provide for their families. The poorest of the poor are on the verge of hunger, which is the second major crisis.

The poorest 40 do not have enough to eat. Many suffer from malnutrition and none can afford basic health care. The 22 extremely poor plan for one meal a day and often only eat four times a week. Some of them are too poor to stay alive. They have pleaded to the rich affluent for assistance. They have been sent to the world’s money doctor. The main prescription has been budgetary belt tightening for patients much too poor to own belts. Riots and coups have led to social chaos and economic distress.

Even though it takes large amounts of grain to produce meat, the comfortably affluent eat increasingly large amounts of meat. The impoverished 40 sell their livestock and other produce to their rich neighbors to purchase a few beans and some rice. Most of the village’s hunger problems are due to the affluent lifestyle of their rich neighbors.

The 35 people living between the poor and the affluent are the relatively poor. They have succeeded in finding low paying jobs in sweat shops, live in sub-standard housing, some with running water, and a few have working latrines. Their income level exceeds $2.00 per day. However, they still do not have access to quality health care or education. Occasionally, these villagers splurge and eat unhealthy fast food.

The affluent 14 recognize the problems and set up procedures to help their unfortunate neighbors. They have enacted a plan to eliminate poverty in the village, yet their elaborate security systems and necessities of life make it difficult to set aside fifteen cents out of every one-hundred dollars earned for development aid.

To an outside observer, such a situation may seem strange. But this is life in the Global Village.

 

Why is poverty a global problem? How can you help eliminate poverty?

Thanksgiving – - Hunger & Poverty

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

When I visited the Congo a few years ago a mother asked me, through an interpreter, about my family and if my children get enough to eat. I assured her that my family is abundantly blessed. They have medical care, a comfortable home, elaborate electronic games, and an abundance of food to eat. I then asked about her family. I’ll never forget the pain on her face as she responded, “We plan to eat one meal a day and three days of the week we do not eat.” How can those of us who live in the midst of abundance respond to that statement? 

When the media brings us news stories and photos of people facing immediate suffering, the world community acts swiftly to alleviate the crises. However, when the news cameras fade away to some other more fascinating story, the sad faces of the suffering elude the public’s eye and the magnitude of problems begins to escalate. The documentaries often do not show us the faces of the estimated 40 million people around the world who die from hunger, unclean water, or malnutrition related illnesses each year.

 In September 2000 world leaders came together at United Nations Headquarters in New York and committed their nations to a new global partnership to reduce poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter – - while promoting gender equality, health, education and environmental sustainability. They set a deadline of 2015 to reach these targets that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals.

 From world news and reports, it seems that we will not attain the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by the deadline not to mention any of the other Millennium Goals. One of the reasons for the failure is that the western world has not heard the cry of the needy. The real aspect of hunger and poverty in the Developing World, fails to seize the imagination of the western nations.

 The hunger that catches the attention of our western culture is countered by myriads of free food banks, churches and social organizations with elaborate benevolent plans to meet the needs of the poor, and compassionate groups sharing food and planning benefits to support struggling neighbors and friends. Our culture stockpiles local food banks in November and prepares special shopping sprees in December to assure that the western poor have food and toys during the holiday season. Rich social organizations, churches with huge benevolent budgets, and wealthy neighbors are non-existent in the poor nations of the Developing World.

 Jesus taught about the poor in Mark 14:7. “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish;” Jesus’ response to those who scolded Mary indicates that responses to grace in worship will result in providing for the poor.

 How does your spirit respond to the fact that people die from lack of food and clean water?

 The challenge: Give an equal amount to defeat world hunger as you spend on your Thanksgiving meal?

November – Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Among the special happenings in November we observe All Saints Day, Election Day, Veteran’s Day, National Bible Week, and Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  When I was a youngster it was Christmas.  Easter easily passed up Christmas early in my Christian life.  It seems to me, that among all the special days on our calendar, a day set aside to give thanks to our loving compassionate God surpasses them all.  For these days of November the posts on this blog will focus on our Thanksgiving celebration.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches we will consider those things for which we are most thankful.  We will hear again the faith stories of Pilgrims and wonder at their resilience and benevolent relations with the Native Americans.  We will recall historical lessons about Thanksgiving becoming a national holiday.  We will express thanks for freedoms, abundant harvests, and countless blessings for family and faith.

Those of you who cherish Bible stories will like this pleasant little story abourt Zacchaeus.  Luke 19 includes the account of a small insignificant looking tax collector who climbed a tree so he could see Jesus.  As a result, Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house, restored his self respect, and announced that salvation had come to his soul.

The story has it that when Zacchaeus was an old man he still dwelt in Jericho.  Every morning at sunrise he went out for a walk and came back with a calm happy composure, regardless of his mood when he left.  After his morning walk he was ready to begin his day’s work with kindness and joy. 

His wife wondered where he went on those walks, but he never spoke to her about the matter.  So being curious, the way wives are, she followed him one morning.  He went straight to the tree from which he had first seen Jesus.  Taking a large urn to a nearby spring, he filled it with water, carried it to the tree, and poured it around the roots.  He pulled up all the weeds around the tree.  Then he loked up among the branches where he sat that day when he first met Jesus.  A new light of peace and contentment came into his eyes.  He turned away with a smile of gratitude and returned ready to do his daily work. 

Zacchaeus knew the importance of keeping the spirit of that unusual experience alive, and to do so he tried to keep the tree alive.  So it is with us.  We never forget the difference God has made in our lives through the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus.

Expressing Thanksgiving for the gift of grace and forgiveness renews our faith and sustains a spirit of renewal.