Sunday, January 30, 2011

Building a Bridge of Trust

It can be difficult to comprehend the needs of the poor, or to understand how a simple gift can make an impact in a world where the only thing that seems to grow is the number of those whose lives are plunged into poverty.

Do you ever feel as though your simple monetary gift is akin to spitting in the ocean? Well, you aren't alone, but in a sea of sadness, there are true rafts of hope that go beyond the mere provision of food, clothing, or medicine.

What makes the Child Survival Program so unique and special is the way that it cares for growing families by building trust with caregivers and new mothers, one relationship at a time. I could try to say more but I think this story is best told from the perspective of those who work to save lives and share God's love on the front lines.

Compassion International's blog recently posted a first-hand account of how care is administered to new mom's and caregivers at CSP's around the world. I'd encourage you to read the posting here. It is truly inspiring.

If you're interested in giving to the Anslay Church of God Child Survival Program, please click here to read more and make your contribution. We're getting closer to full funding, but we desperately need your help to move forward!!

You're gift will save lives now and very likely for generations to come!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

God Doesn’t Need This Blog

I wrestled with the title of this entry.

This is partially because of this statement’s self-evidence, but also because of its potential to reveal the self-serving nature of the author. There may be few things more loathsome than displays of personal vanity housed beneath a nauseating veneer of false humility. I’m sad to say I have plenty of it to spread around, and it’s easy in a medium such as this to paint a picture of myself, and my family in the most favorable light possible.

Though this may be natural, it is vital to come to terms with the fact that though pride is pervasive in this life, God is gracious enough to reveal it to His children and draw them back to Him. This is eloquently stated in John 1:16 which reads, “And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” My pastor recently pointed out from this passage that God’s holiness is a grace, but His forgiveness of our unholiness is a grace in unto itself. We are right to refer to it as amazing, yet I can’t help but think that this is somehow the mother of all understatements.

I have thought about all that the Lord has done since we began this journey. Who is it that led Compassion International to a dot on the map in Tanzania? Who led us to then one day pick up the phone to ask if there was a place in Africa where we could help raise funds to start a Child Survival Program? Who is it that prompts and leads your heart to give so that others living a world away might live and hear the name of the only one who can truly save them? The identity of that person certainly doesn’t belong, to you, me, or any Christian organization. It seems absurd to point this out yet I am appalled when I think of how many times I find myself taking some type of credit that was never mine to begin with.

No, it is essential to be simply reminded of what David wrote in Psalm 24:1-2, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.”

The God we serve is the same who preserved and promoted Joseph, rained down fire from heaven at the prayer of the prophet Elijah, steadied the hand of David to kill Goliath, saved Daniel from the treachery of men and the mouths of lions, raised Lazarus from the dead, rescued Peter from the hands of Herod Agrippa, saved the Apostle Paul from shipwreck and venomous snakebite, fed the 5,000 and then walked on the water, and then ultimately raised His own Son from the dead, conquering the curse of sin forever.

The list goes on and on. How often do we make God a prisoner of our own expectations and attempt to seat ourselves in His rightful place? Too many times to count, I’m afraid. Still His grace alone sustains and lovingly guides us, and as He uses you and me to glorify Himself while He provides for His children, I lack adequate words when I think about these tremendous gifts.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Child Survival Program Goes on Tour!

When my wife and I first felt convicted to reach out to Compassion International to ask about raising funds to start a Child Survival Program, we never could have imagined the amount of support we would receive from the members of Compassion’s staff. With their ongoing prayers and encouragement, obstacles have become opportunities, and no idea has ever been too big.

Kirk Winter has been my main contact from the beginning and he and his administrative assistant, Chenelle Palmer have gone above and beyond the call since this project was launched.

Last week Kirk e-mailed to ask if Julie and I would like to attend an upcoming Mercy Me concert on February 10, in Dayton, Ohio. Our response was a resounding yes, but since we knew about the band’s enthusiastic support of Compassion Kirk and I began to wonder if there might be an opportunity to promote the Child Survival Program during their visit to Ohio.
Kirk contacted Compassion’s representative for the band’s upcoming tour and learned they will be exclusively promoting Child Sponsorship from the stage. However, she was excited to hear about our efforts and wanted to help. As an alternative, she offered us the opportunity to supply Anslay Church of God Child Survival Program packets at every stop on the band’s upcoming Rock & Worship Roadshow Tour. The 25-city tour kicks off this coming Friday, January 28, in Cape Gerardeau, Missouri.

Space will be made for the Anslay CSP at the Compassion booth for every show, giving people the chance to sponsor and support the ongoing needs of mothers and babies in Mbulu, Tanzania. It is an extraordinary opportunity since this annual tour has drawn more than 350,000 people since it started in 2009. We are relying on the efforts of Compassion volunteers throughout the country to share the CSP story, but most of all we trust and hope in the power of the Holy Spirit to break the hearts of those attending to release families from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Please join with us in praying for everyone who might visit or work at the Compassion booth as this tour crosses the nation. I would also encourage you to check out the tour’s website and consider attending yourself and maybe even bring some friends. For only $10 a ticket you’ll get to see a whole line up of acts that includes Jars of Clay, Thousand Foot Krutch, Matt Maher and The Afters!

I’ll keep you posted with updates as we learn of our progress along the way, and we’d welcome any photos you might want to share if you’re able to attend a show. E-mail them to us and we’ll post them to the blog! We only need somewhere between 70-80 sponsorships to fully fund the Anslay CSP. Our prayer is that God might use this to help us reach that goal.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The (Re)solution for a Wandering Heart

Well, now that we’re nearly two weeks into the New Year I’m curious to know how your resolutions are coming along. Perhaps, if you’re like me your only resolution is to stop resolving altogether, but I suppose an approach like that ultimately requires an additional resolution to stop making illogical promises to yourself. Maybe I should just simply resolve to blog more frequently.

The fact is that we are all seeking to add meaning or value to our lives no matter what date happens to be approaching on the calendar. We may occasionally take stock of our lives, and based upon what we see, decide to eat healthier, save more for our kid’s education, or get to the gym more often. Whether we are disciplined enough to meet our individual goals doesn’t mean that the pursuit ever stops even if your new elliptical machine slowly morphs into an extra place to hang your clothes.

Time is the great equalizer, and with its passage we receive a clear understanding of where our dearest and truest commitments lie. What is it that gets us out of bed in the morning or compels us to stay up late into the night? What drives us to scrape in order to save every penny or borrow to spend into oblivion? What person, object, or lifestyle, captivates our imagination and becomes the perceived ideal for our personal peace and satisfaction? Make no doubt about it, our hearts are continually resolved to run swiftly towards significance, even if our heads may not consciously perceive it.

Though God has placed eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11) we are often prone to spend our lives in hopeless quests that offer no eternal return on investment (Isaiah 53:6). I am haunted by the first verses of II Timothy 3 which say that in the last days people will own a form of godliness but suffer from a faith that ultimately lacks power because it chooses selfishness and pleasure over the Lordship of Christ.

In the light of scripture, Jesus asks each one of us as he repeatedly asked Peter in John 21, “Do you love me?”

God’s grace alone saves us (Ephesians 2:8) and continues to welcome our wandering hearts back to Him, but what do we give in return? My prayer is that it is nothing less than a total surrender of our will in submission to the only One who can provide for our otherwise insatiable hunger and thirst.

In that surrender, I would challenge each of us to look beyond the worlds we’ve constructed to carry the light of God’s love into the places where its rays are scarcely shining. Today in Mbulu, Tanzania there are young mothers-to-be who have not heard the name of Jesus, and there are little ones who may not see another year of life on this earth, unless someone obeys the Lord’s call to act on their behalf.