Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Simple Question...Dignity Preserved

In the tenth chapter of the book of Mark, one of my favorite stories of all time can be found. It is the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus).

Jesus is passing through Jericho His last time. He is going to Jerusalem to be crucified. He has been trying to tell His disciples along the way what is about to happen but they are pretty clueless. The disciples are going along with Him and crowds have thronged around Him all in anticipation of a coronation for the Messiah when they reach Jerusalem. But Jesus knows what faces Him is not a coronation but a cross.

As they are leaving Jericho, a blind man is sitting beside the roadway where they pass. Perhaps he has heard about the miracle worker who heals the lame and raises the dead named Jesus. And then he hears that it is Jesus and His entourage that is actually passing by. He begins to call in eager anticipation...

"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

The crowds, including the disciples I would think, try to quieten him. They said, "Don't bother the teacher. He's too busy for you. He's going to Jerusalem on urgent business. But the blind man, the son of Timaeus, even cried louder, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

And then two short words that show the compassion of Christ...

"Jesus stopped.."

With everything going on. With the road to Jerusalem ahead as well as the shadow of the cross, Jesus stopped. On the eve of the greatest event in human history that would require every ounce of Jesus' resolve, he stopped and cared for a person in need.

Not only did He stop, but he did not immediately rush to a conclusion based on what was obvious. He stopped and then He asked a question...

"What would you want Me to do for you?"

Perhaps the disciples around Jesus were taken aback by the question. "Isn't it obvious what this man needs? He's been blind from birth." Yet the Savior of the world, the second part of the triune God-head, the co-author of everything, took time to stop and ask, "What would you want Me to do for you?"

Dignity. Jesus not only was stopping to help but also stopping to give dignity. With a simple question, He gives the right to the person in greatest need to state what is on their heart. Bartimaeus could have asked for anything: wealth, fame, fortune. Jesus gave him the dignity to be able to ask.

Bartimaeus simply asked, "Master Teacher, I want to receive my sight..."

In a world of great need, sometimes I rush to meet that need before stopping and really trying to understand the person or community who has that need. I can think of a million things that will solve other peoples' problems without really taking time to ask if they have a problem. Were I to be more like Jesus who stopped and saw the person and gave that person in need a chance to speak for themselves, I think I would be a better minister of the true gospel.

"What would you have me do for you?" gives the hearer the right and the dignity to share their heart. May we ask this questions continually as we go and may we have God's ears to listen to what people tell us.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A New Orphan is Cared For...

BGR partners with a number of folks around the world. One is Tabitha Ministries in South Africa which has an orphanage for HIV/AIDS orphans as well as community based projects with orphan headed households. We have helped to provide food and nutrition needs as well as help for education, support for community based projects, etc. Many of they children they care for are HIV positive. This is by no fault of their own, just the fact their parents were.

Here is a report of a new arrival to Tabitha....

"On Monday, we had a new arrival.  She is the dearest little girl and she is
the first of 4 babies that are headed our way.  Her name is Khetiwe and she
is a big girl.  She weighed 4 kg today so she is a little "heifer lump".  I
have attached a precious picture of our bundle of joy.

I wish to express my deepest gratitude to you and Global Response for the
BGR money and know that it is a result of your hard work and your constant
support of Tabitha that has made it possible.  I am going to be sending a
formal letter with a receipt in the next day or two to make it official."

Praise the Lord for those who care for the orphans of the world! Thank you for supporting BGR who helps support others like Tabitha Ministries!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wine to Water?...

A BGR partner shares this update:

The southern region of our state is on a plateau, which is mostly covered by jungle.  The area is populated with strongly independent tribes who make their living hunting and gathering from the forest.  There is very little cultivation.  Water sources are creeks and rivers, and there are few wells, because on the plateau area, the water table is too low for a bore well to reach and produce water.  But an open well can be used instead as a source of clean water, if enough water is available for that.  In our well project from BGR, we decided to sink an open well to provide water for believers and the surrounding village. 

As always everyone is invited to take water from the well.  The well diggers came and began to dig the well by hand (pick and shovel, basically).  There are no machines available for this.  The open well must be about three feet in diameter and is dug in cylindrical fashion down until water is reached.  The well went deeper and deeper,until the person digging began to suffer from lack of oxygen. They brought him up with a crane and he was OK, but they decided to break the work into small shifts in order to avoid the stress, and the well went deeper and deeper with no water coming. 

Our local partner was feeling so bad about the worker who was overcome, with still no sign water was going to be found.  People will still have to go miles to get dirty river water.  She cried out to theLord for water to come to the well and bless the village.  The diggersreached a large rock, and when they pulled it up, water gushed into the well so fast they had to make a quick exit!  They told our local partner to go get buckets from the village and she ran to do that, so they could finish the well with a concrete casing.  Now clean water is available to the village without going long distances!

One woman was coming to get water from the well, and no one knew she was using the water to make liquor.  The problem was the liquor was tasting like water.  Her friends kept saying, “This is not liquor. It is water.”  So she came to our local partner and asked why she couldn’t make liquor from the water.  Our local partner told her that when she prayed to the Lord for the water in the well, she asked that the whole village would be blessed by the water.  Because of that, shesaid, God would not allow the water to be used making liquor because liquor is a curse.  She explained to the woman about God’s love and the abundant life he offers, and now the woman and her family know the truth!

I've heard the story of water to wine by Jesus, but this is a great "wine to water" story! :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Best Place to Be...

This week, I returned from a trip to Afghanistan. I was visiting with BGR partners, doing some training and looking at human needs projects as well as potential project areas. Many people were lifting me up as I went and I kept getting a lot of little notes and messages asking, "is it safe over there?" or "are you safe?"

I look back over the years and realize all the places that I and my family have been and how many of them have not been very "safe" from the world's standard. Yet as I reflect on those places, I have come to understand that while they were "unsafe" by many standards, they were the best place to be. Why? Because they were the places that God had directed me (and my family) to be at that particular time.

Following God's will is not necessarily "safe" from a physical perspective. I have heard some of our best friends say that we were always protected from harm because we were in the center of God's will. Well, I'm not sure that is true (the "safe" part). 

Being obedient to God is not always equated with physically safety but being where God wants you to be is always the best place to be. I can think of friends from our past who were exactly where God wanted them to be and they lost their lives. While we grieve their loss, we can fully say that they were being obedient to their King and thus couldn't have been in a better place. 

I am reminded of the story from the Narnia books when one of the children is walking along the beach with Aslan the Lion. Another one of the children asks a friend regarding Aslan and their sibling, "Is He (Aslan the Lion) safe?" to which the person responds, "No, Aslan is a wild Lion. He is not safe, but He is good." (My paraphrase)

I propose, then, that the best place that any of us could ever be would be to be wherever it is that God leads us to be. Wherever He leads, that is where we should go. He might take us around the world or across the street. And we cannot be sure that where He takes us will be "safe" or not. But we can be assured that wherever He takes us will be good. 

In Matthew 28, after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, we find the disciples probably not feeling too safe or sure about anything. It had to be a confusing time. Despair in that their Master had been crucified yet a pregnant hope in the fact that they had witnessed Him resurrected. And in the midst of this time, the Bible tells us that...

"The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. And when they say Jesus, the worshipped Him..." (Matt 28:16-17) The story then goes on as Jesus gives them their purpose and marching orders to make disciples of all nations. 

The best place to be? Wherever Jesus directs us to go. Is it the safest? Not necessarily but it will be good because we serve the Good Shepherd and He knows His sheep.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Coming Home...

As I write today, I am in a Central Asian country on a trip for BGR. I am having the privilege of viewing some great hunger projects as well as training some of our local partners. 

On the flight in a few days ago, I had an interesting experience. It was of course a rather long time traveling to get here from the USA and I was a bit sleepy and in a daze as our plane started its initial descent into the country. 

Sitting in front of me was an elderly mother and her her middle aged daughter. They were obviously coming home to their country after an extended time out. Even though I couldn't understand them (because of language differences), I could see that they were nervous and even a bit anxious as the plane started to land. 

We were arriving at the break of dawn so it was hard to see out of the plane's window through the glare of the rising sun. But as we began to lower, the landscape below began to come into sight. 

What we saw was the country laid out below us: Arid, barren, treeless, desert and mountainous. Dust was swirling, the mountains were devoid of any vegetation and there were initially a few small buildings (what I would describe as hovels) in our view. In my eye, pretty desolate and bleak.

But I noticed that the anxiousness I detected earlier in the older woman and her daughter in front of me began to turn into excitement, even giddiness! As they saw what I considered a depressing site, they began to laugh and cry and, as best as possible while strapped into a landing airplane, jump up and down with anticipation. They began almost shouting and weeping - obvious shouts of joy, even though I could not understand them.

Then I thought. They are coming home and it must have been many, many years since they had been there. They were delighted and overwhelmed with joy to see their homeland once again. 

While I looked out and saw nothingness, they saw home. Where I saw barren mountains and desert, they saw a beloved place. Truthfully, I could not imagine why anyone would be excited to see what I was seeing. But then again, it wasn't my home.

I wonder if you and I are looking forward to that day with the same expectation and anticipation as these two ladies - to the day when we finally get to our final home? I wonder if we are really looking for that city that is a new creation, whose designer and builder is the Lord of all creation? I wonder if we will laugh, weep and even cry as it comes into our sight just like these two women? 

Sometimes, I get fooled into thinking that this life is the best that God has to offer. In reality, there will be nothing like our going home.