On Rivers Wide and Deep.

Remember last week when I said I’d given up on coincidence? If there is no God, or he’s unconcerned with me, why am I reading books like Jeff Goins’ Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life and Jen Hatmaker’s Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, days before landing in Africa?

Please.

So here I am, laying over in London enjoying a latte and scone, and Hatmaker says this:

How can I be socially responsible if I’m unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the world? (You probably do too: Make $35,000 a year? Top 4%. $50,000? Top 1 percent) Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We’re tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more. What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can’t manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount? Fifty thousand times that amount? It says we have too much and it’s ruining us.

Ostensibly, short term missions are about spreading the gospel by addressing physical needs in developing nations, but I’m starting to think that’s about half of it. What if it’s God’s way of yelling at sleepy-headed, obese-with-blessing Americans like me, saying:

“Wake up little sister and disperse all that brilliant, amazing crap gathering dust in your brain and house. I put it there for a reason, get busy.”

Upper Yosemite Fall and Merced River on Swingi...

So I predict in about 13 hours an earthquake is going to level my tidy, little house, shifting my ground in ways I can’t predict, making this whole Africa endeavor a lot more about me than I care to admit.

But it’s ok because I tried every other way of making my life matter and I came up short. I’ve laid myself so bare to this experience, I can’t even pray without weeping, and I’m still in London.

What a freak.

See Jesus will wreck your life if you let him, but I know from experience now, that he leaves behind a wide river of living water, running deep and still through the center of our lives. It’s an achingly beautiful place you never want to leave, like the Merced River out of Yosemite, and on the days I choose to follow him, I don’t have to.

And that’s what I want every day.

What do you want? Are you still struggling with the how?

 

Weightlifting for Christians

Yesterday I heard a story about a young lady who is spending the summer teaching desperately poor kids in Uganda.

One of her tasks is to sharpen 100 or so pencils every day for the kids, but the school doesn’t have a pencil sharpener. So she does it by hand with a dull razor blade, a task that’s proving so arduous she has blisters from it.

A pencil sharpener.

IMG_0363-2I’m leaving in three weeks to work in a Zambian bush village, in a school with 150 children. They show up each day hungry and sit on the floor to do their schoolwork, presumably with loaner pencils. One pastor, his wife and three other women feed all these children, educate them and love them, but the need is always deeper than the resource pool.

So it is wonderful that our team is coming to help with plumbing and construction and infection and yes we will bring more soccer balls and pencils, but sometimes the best gift you can give someone is the freedom to decide what they need most, like electricity and rice.

Cash does that. So I’m raising more.

This money is not going to rescue them, they rely on Jesus for that. What it will do is lift some weight. Maybe for a time it will give these five people a breather, maybe give them courage to go back to what seems like endless, impossible work.

Because, for as difficult as it is, they love it. This job, these children, it is what they were made to do. How lucky are they to know that?

Will you help us fund food or electricity or projects in Chongwe Zambia? Will you help us bless this Pastor who has two kids of his own and 150 more counting on him.

You can mail a tax-deductible contribution with The Jasper Project in the subject line to SCRUBS Medical Mission PO Box 8772 Tyler, Texas 75711.

Thanks friends.

How Do I Defend An Orphan?

Before the industrial revolution, the average income per person in the wealthiest nations was only about four times higher than that of the poorest nations. Today, the average American lives on $90+ per day and 2.6 billion people, 40% of the world, live on less than $2.

That data came from When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, which I’m reading because I have the chance to go to Zambia this summer, and I’m scared of my very white, very rich, very good intentions.

But I’m more scared of doing nothing.

Right now in Chongwe, Zambia there are four women and one man running a school/orphanage in the bush, with jacked up plumbing and 100 variously malnourished kids – and they do it for free. Tim and Holly from Scrubs Medical Mission came to cowboy church looking for a few contractors, plumbers and farmers to go help. I’ll go in a heartbeat, but I’m learning to ask God about these things before running out for typhoid shots.

Here’s what the Bible says about orphans:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27

Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:17

Whoever receives a child in My name, receives Me. Matthew 18:5

If anyone has material possession and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? IJohn 3:17

If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday. Isaiah 58:10

Authors Steve Corbett and Dr. Brian Fikkert put it this way: “If God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments were to have a concern for the poor during eras of relative economic equality, what are we to conclude about God’s desire for the North American church today?”

But we have to be smart because we know development solutions formulated in a rectory in Cleveland, don’t always translate in Africa, but that hardly relieves us from the duty. The God I say I believe commands me take care of the widow, the poor, the immigrant and the orphan, just like he commanded the Nation of Israel. They failed at it too.

Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves, do what it says. James 1:22

So I’m praying and surrendering my assumptions and educating myself about these June 2010 002exact people, in this exact location, so I don’t hurt them with my ignorance. God knows I’m ignorant, obese with blessing and unequal to the task, but he also knows I can build simple irrigation systems in arid places.

Maybe I can help.

I don’t know if I’m going yet. I’ll keep you posted.