Thursday, September 27, 2012

Absolute Futility...

I read through Ecclesiastes in devotions this morning. The wise King Solomon uses this book to examine the meaning to life. He begins by declaring everything as, "absolute futility." (Ecclesiastes 1:2) He then goes on to explore multiple ways that he has sought to find meaning in life with all leading to the same conclusion: "For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind."

He then turns his thoughts to God and investing in life and begins to come up with a semblance of meaning. In the end (and this is my favorite part of the book), he concludes by saying...

"When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Sometimes I feel that all we do at helping people physically and spiritually is "futile" as King Solomon points out. Its not that their lives and needs are not worthy of our attention. It is also not that we don't make a difference in thousands of communities and tens of thousand families through our work with BGR. It's just that the magnitude of needs seems to be so enormous that any and all of our attempts to make a difference are little more than a drop in a bucket.

I remember hearing a story once about Mother Teresa. As a person watched her go from one dying person to another, holding their hands, praying for them and speaking a word of comfort, they finally exclaimed to her, "How can you do this every day. How can you continue to minister to those sick and dying. The needs are overwhelming. Don't you know that what you're doing is just a drop in a bucket?" To which Mother Teresa reportedly answered, "Yes. But it is a drop that would be sorely missed if it wasn't there."

In the face of futility, a world sick and dying, I choose to add my drop in the bucket. It may not be much compared to the world in need and it may not be much in comparison with other people's drops, but it is a drop that I believe would be sorely missed if it wasn't there.

I vow not to become weary in well-doing. I choose to believe that what we do, individually and corporately, to help those in need, whether physical or spiritual, is really casting our bread upon the waters. It will swell, grow and multiply and eventually come back home on a wave.

When it's all said and done? I will fear God and keep His commandments because it is for humanity and I know that God will, in His own time, bring every act to judgment.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

If (Fill in the Blank) Were a Country...

Bear with me. I'm going play a game. I going to play "If _________ were a country..." How I'm going to do this is fill in the blank with some odd but thought provoking subjects...

* If poverty was a country, it would by far be the largest country in the world. Over 40% of the world lives in either moderate or absolute poverty. That would be a population of 2.8 billion. The two largest countries in the world today (China and India) combined wouldn't even reach that number. I wonder who they would elect as president?

* If absolute poverty was a country, it would be one of the top three largest countries in the world. It would have about 1.1 billion people. Absolute poverty is defined as people who live on less than one US dollar per day. I wonder if some dictator would even want to take it over?

* If hunger were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world at 900 million. It would almost make up three times the population of the USA. I wonder if it were country, would it be as invisible to the rest of the world as it is today?

* If refugees and internally displaced persons were a country, it would be much smaller. Only about 80 million and would rank around #15 in population in the world. Imagine 80 million people living in UN tents depending 100% on handouts for their daily existence.

* If HIV/AIDS was a country, it would have only (sic) 35 million people. Of course that wouldn't count the 15 million orphans left behind by parents who have died of this horrible disease. I guess the only reason this country is not growing quickly is that the death rate is so high.

* If people without adequate access to water were a country, it would make up about one out of every 7 persons alive on the earth today. Thirsty, anyone?

*And finally, if 50% of the wealth and consumption of goods of the world were a country, it would strangely look like the United States which is actually only 4% of the world's population.

I don't know what it is to live in the country of poverty or hunger. I have not had to flee my home and country. I have good health and easy access to drinking water. And I am a one of those 4% who consume 50% of the world's resources.

I wonder what, if anything, all of this means...

LIfe as a Refugee...

The Old Testament teaches us that to take in the stranger and wanderer in the land is an act that honors God. The New Testament teaches that when we take in the stranger (e.g. one needing shelter) we do it as if we are doing it to Jesus.

Refugees are people who cannot go home. Maybe it is because of a natural disaster like drought or famine. Or it could be from man-made disasters like wars and armed conflicts. In many cases it is a mixture of these and many more. Whatever the cause, people have fled their homes and home countries seeking food, shelter, safety, etc.

The UN today estimates there are somewhere between 35 and 40 million refugees. This does not count the group known as internally displaces persons (IDPS) who are displaced but still in their home countries. Maybe upwards to 70 to 80 million people in the world who, for lack of a better descriptor, cannot go home.

Today heard about and saw from a distance 32,000 people in one camp. Tents crowded together. Several hundred families for one toilet/bath facilities. Eating the same food every day. They are grateful but also miserable. They want to go home.

We also visited a few of the 3,000 families who are not in the camp. Same town but they are residing in the homes of locals, renting barns, sheds, shops, anything, to get their family out of the elements. Again grateful for what help they are getting but also lacking in basic necessities. They want good lives for their families. They want to go home. But they can't.

Worse. Winter is coming and winter is harsh in this desert country. There is a grave need for blankets, clothing and fuel for heating the hovels and tents that these people now call home. There is an urgency to winterize their dwellings as well.

We should all be moved at their plight. For one, the Bible commands us to be moved to action. But we should also be moved because we share a kinship. Aren't we also strangers, refugees if you will, here in this world? Aren't we citizens of a newer, better country? Aren't we all just dwelling in temporary tents?

Lord, may I see the struggle of my brother refugee and may I be moved to be Your hands and Your feet to help take them in.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pray for Syria...

I am writing from the Middle East today. I am here meeting with partners talking, praying and strategizing how to help with the on-going crisis in Syria. I am hearing stories from those who are ministering first hand to refugees and internally displaced persons from Syria.

There are now an estimated 2.5 million affected people. A half million Syrians have fled their country and are living in surrounding areas. They are not being welcomed with open arms but suspicion and in some cases harsh reactions from host governments.

To date, our organization Baptist Global Response (BGR) has helped with almost a quarter million dollars in relief and development aid. Most of this has gone for food and needed household items of the refugees. It's a drop in the bucket but one that is making a difference for thousands of families.

Here's the bad news. The situation of people in need is continuing to worsen. The numbers of refugees and displaced persons is growing daily. The ability of our partners to minister and help them is being stretched to the limits. On top of this, winter is quickly approaching and those living in temporary shelters will be in need of better housing, heating fuel and of course, food and supplies.

In spite of all the needs here, there is still little knowledge and response from our fellow believers in the United States. You see Syria on the news. You read about it in papers and on websites. However, very few people really get involved with helping Syria. Why is this? Maybe we don't know even where Syria is? Maybe we have a negative perception of Syria and countries in this part of the world? Whatever the reason, we as Americans have turned our backs on these millions in need.

I'm going to ask you to do something. Relax. I am not going to ask you to give (even though we could use the donations). I am going to ask you to pray.

Pray for Syria. Pray that peace will come. Pray also that God would touch those who are in need. Pray for our partners who are unselfishly risking their lives and their sanity (at times) to continue to respond.

Thank you for your heart for helping people in need who really can't help themselves...Like these precious people fleeing their homes and homeland in Syria... 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How Much is Enough?...

We have now lived in the USA for over two years since working 20+ years overseas. This is the longest that we have been back in our home country since our first children, Daniel and Sarah, were born. It has been nice even though a large part of our hearts are still back in Asia where we spent most of our time.

One of the things that pulls on us is having to settle into and deal with the American way of life. We aren't complaining. This is a wonderful place. But the pull towards the standard of living, having things and still needing more things, is still a struggle for us. We now own a house (or a "mortgage" as I like to say), multiple vehicles (because there is no really good way to do public transportation in this great country), and lots of "stuff" to go in that house we are living in. But a nagging question (and I hope it always remains a nagging question) is, "how much is enough?"

This morning, I read again the heart-stirring verses in Psalm 16:5-6. In Israel, when it came time for the tribes to inherit the promised land, the areas were allotted to each tribe at God's direction. Every tribe received their land inheritance complete with borders based upon their size and need. However, the priestly tribe, the Levites, received no apportioned area of land due to the fact God was to be their portion.

If I'm an average Israelite, my inheritance would be land (this speaks to my heart language since I am an agriculturist). However, if I'm of the tribe of Levi, I don't get land but I get a chance to be totally dependent on God. Hmmm....

The spiritual part of me wants to say that I want to be the devout Levite getting God as my portion. The practical (and American, western-culture side of me) says that I really would rather have the land. After all, I was always taught that you can't go wrong investing in land (Palmer family ethos). "Land" as my inheritance or God Himself?...

Could I really say, from my heart, the same as King David...

"Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance." (Psalm 16:5-6)

How much is enough? Shouldn't God be enough for all of us?


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hunger Looms in 2013...

I read an interesting article in CNN the other day that talks about the looming hunger crisis for 2013. Due to global aberrations in weather, crop failures are reported in just about every major area of the world. We have seen that in the US this summer with soaring, record temperatures and below average rainfall especially in our major food producing states. In encourage you to read the article which can be found at:

As I think about this coming hunger issue, I also can't help but think about the pre-exisiting hunger problems that the world faces today...

* The continued drought and hunger issues of North Africa, particularly the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions. Over 20 million people facing food insecurity right now.

* The hundreds of thousands of refugees coming out of Syria, North Africa, and Central Asia due to armed conflicts. Add to this the thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who can't flee.

* The chronic undernourishment affecting 1 out of every 7 persons in the world today. That's about 1 billion people who live day to day not knowing where they're next meal might be coming from (if it comes at all).

People who know me know that I am not some sort of doomsday prophet. However, I do marvel that all this increase in hunger is coming at a time when those of us who have the resources to help are tired and overtaxed and a bit burned out with compassion fatigue. It seems that we're bombarded by needs of the world everywhere we turn. It can lead to paralysis, ignoring the problems, or worse, apathy.

Here's some relief. Southern Baptists have a historical "dollar in, dollar out" fund that addresses world hunger needs. Eighty percent is used overseas and twenty percent here in the US. It funds critical projects that address both acute and chronic hunger needs. And none of the funds are taken out by the administrating bodies for home office/administration costs.

So, if you only have a dollar or a hundred dollars to do something with about world hunger, I would highly recommend giving through the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund (SBWHF).

You can learn more about the SBWHF by visiting the website:

If you're interested in stories that show how we address hunger issues, I encourage you to visit our BGR website at:

Hunger looms. What can we do? More importantly, what will we do?