Monday, July 26, 2010

Meet Emily Blake

Perhaps one of the most difficult things we encounter as we think about those in poverty around the globe, comes when we try to fully comprehend the actual scope of the need.

There may be a twinge of pain in our hearts when we hear that 25,000 children under the age of 5 die each day from preventable circumstances, but there is admittedly something that gets lost as our minds try to understand what this tragedy really means. This is a reality I seem to return to again and again.

Perhaps the Internet has truly made our world seem that much smaller, but even so, do we even think of these forgotten souls as our neighbors who God loves? Can we really be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who live an ocean and world away? Matthew 5:13-15 assures us, that as followers of Christ, we are indeed equipped to be salt and light in a world that so desperately needs it.

I would like to introduce you to the true story of a young woman who took these verses to heart, and who God used in an incredible way to save the lives of mom's and babies in a tiny Kenyan village. At age 12, Emily Blake was inspired to raise $40,000 to start and sustain a Child Survival Program in Embu, Kenya. Her story is truly remarkable and was the primary inspiration for our own family's commitment to raise funds for Mbulu, Tanzania. This link will take you to a PDF version of Compassion's Fall 2009 magazine. By turning to page 6 you can read her story which is titled, To Africa With Open Arms.

Though this is Emily's story, this is also a wonderful tale of hope for the mothers and children of Embu that allows us to witness the miracle of lives that are touched and changed when one is simply willing to obey.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

First Fruits or Bruised Bananas?

When it comes to giving-of time, of thoughts, of resources, of money-where do my priorities lie? What captivates my imagination and attention and where have I devoted my affections? These are questions I have found myself asking more and more over the past year, and maybe you have as well.

Though we might be quick to think that this surge in personal inventory is the outgrowth of a slowing economy, I would hope that it runs much deeper and personal than that. Perhaps God is working in my life and yours to draw our hearts closer to Him in the realization that our hope, our joy, and our fulfillment will never be found by treating His kingdom as if it requires a monthly supplement on par with a car or mortgage payment.

How many times do we check off the tithing "box" before moving on to the next obligation? I do more often than I'd like to admit. Do I seek out opportunities to give and do I even realize that having that opportunity is a privilege that the majority of this world's citizens will probably never realize? Am I giving God the first and the very best that He's entrusted into my care for His glory?

My wife Julie, who blogs about our adoption journey, captures the essence of what having this opportunity truly means in her most recent posting. Her words both blessed and convicted me to continue to seek our Lord's face and to continually look to give back what was rightfully His in the first place. I invite you to read along here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Call to Arms

If I saw the world the way Jesus does, would it change my heart towards those I can so easily ignore? Would I fully realize that there are millions who I am destined to worship alongside of in eternity who do not look, speak, or act like me? Would I grasp the scope of a battle that is being waged for the hearts and souls of men, women, and children, and then would I be willing to run towards the fight, and not away from it?

These are the hard questions I am facing right now, and as I submit to the One who died for my salvation, I begin to understand that I don't own the right to look away from those that He loves.

Yesterday, I came across a photo compilation on the website that is simply titled, "Postcards From Hell." As the site says, the editors have spent the past five years using a battery of indicators to rank the most failed nations of the world. Among the sixty that are compiled here you will find the names of states that are both familiar and vague, and though this is by no means a comprehensive list of the world's struggling countries, the sheer scope of it is frankly overwhelming.

Why am I going there? I wondered this myself as I clicked through photo after photo. Read through the descriptions and you'll see a pattern that goes far beyond the tragedy that is suffered through drought, famine, or natural disasters. You don't have to look too long to see a global landscape that is riddled with paranoid ruthless dictators, pirates, drug runners, warlords, and hoards of religious zealots driven by doctrine that is fueled by carnage and bloodshed. This list could go on, but at the heart of it we can easily begin to understand that something is at work here that goes beyond what our eyes can see.

Suddenly Paul's words come alive as he tells us that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph. 6:12)

Sin's curse is at the heart of each of these stories, and though we have the luxury of turning away from them, Paul implores us no to, saying that the Lord's "intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:10-11)

As followers of Christ we are called to put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:10) and declare his glory to the nations (Mark 13:10).

What can we do? Though these pictures might indeed personify images of hell on earth, we are assured that there is a heaven and that God's grace extends to these nations as well as those that didn't make the list.

I would ask that you would join with me as I pray for two of these countries each day, covering the whole list in a month's time and asking that the light of God's word would spread through each nation. Beyond that, I would encourage anyone who is willing to pray that prayer to then ask God to show them what He would have them do to advance His kingdom in the midst of these dark places. I don't know what this will ultimately mean for each person, but in our obedience we can be assured of a truth that will never pass away.

Romans 8:31-39
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Home of Hope

I am nearly at a loss for words as I submit this next post. Last night my wife forwarded me a link to a blog posting by an American lawyer who now makes her living doing humanitarian work in Rwanda. I am compelled to share it with you now as she vividly describes her visit to the Home of Hope Orphanage where, God willing, we will be adopting our son. Perhaps it is because we are on this journey, that I felt and still feel so absolutely gutted at the story of these tiny little souls in need of a simple touch. I would like to think that it’s much more than that. Perhaps in reading this, we would be moved beyond mere sentiment or emotion to cry out to God in submission to Him and whatever he might have us to do for His kingdom in response.

Though this singular story is about Rwanda, I know that scenes like this are being played out this very hour in places like Tanzania, India, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and just about every other corner of the Third World that we can imagine…anywhere else but here.

Here we fret over shrinking 401k’s, growing deficits, border security, the redistribution of wealth, and the great mirage that our fortunes will rise or fall depending upon the outcome of a November election. Here we worship at the throne of the 24-hour news channels and then tune in by the millions to watch a paper “king” tell the free world where he plans to bounce a basketball next season.

It seems embarrassingly understated to simply call this an outrage, but I suppose that’s the best description I’ve got. Outrage only goes so far, and trying to grasp the scope of this ongoing tragedy only reveals how small and helpless we actually are.

Maybe that’s right where we need to begin, weeping in repentance and submission at the feet of Jesus. As you read this it is my hope that you will pray with me, not only for these little ones in Rwanda and the babies we are seeking to save in Tanzania, but that you will join with me in prayer as we submit ourselves to the Lord’s call as Jesus commanded in Luke Chapter 2 when he said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

What is God calling you to do? This is a question I am asking Him myself. May we seek this answer with all of our hearts and may we then have the courage to do it without looking back. Not even once.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Countdown is On!

Well, much has happened in the past few weeks since we launched the campaign to raise funds for the Anslay Church of God Child Survival Program, and I'm pleased to say that the initial numbers have begun to roll in.

As of July 7th, the number of one-time gifts and monthly commitments have combined for a total of 9 sponsorships, leaving 114 remaining needed sponsorships before the project is fully funded. We are so grateful to those who have contributed and would encourage others to prayerfully consider playing a vital part of this ministry.

We have some great things in store as we seek to take the message of the Anslay CSP to churches, Rotary Clubs, and Bible Study groups throughout our community. We are even planning a massive garage sale soon for those of you who live in the Dayton, Ohio area. I will be talking much more about this in the near future, but in the mean time I'd like to ask for your continued support.

How can you help? Though we continue to ask for financial gifts and sponsorships, this project begins and ends with prayer. I am feeling this burden more and more with each day and am reminded of Psalm 127:1 which says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain."

Perhaps you've already given or are even unable to give at this time. No matter where you find yourself, we would ask you to pray for the families in Mbulu. We serve a sovereign God who is not short on resources, and so we trust that He holds the lives of these precious mom's and babies in the palm of His hand. Together, our prayers can and will make a difference in the lives of people a continent away.

Lastly, we would ask if you would be willing to share the news about the Anslay Church of God CSP website, as well as this blog with a friend, family member or colleague, or by linking both to your Facebook or MySpace accounts. Word of mouth is extremely valuable!

In the mean time, I want to thank all of you for your continued prayers and gifts. Stay tuned... More great news is on the way!