Friday, September 30, 2016

GFA DAY 20: When God Sends a Sewing Machine

       I have been volunteering with a family of refugees who were recently resettled in my area.  One day one of the older kids asked me about a sewing machine.  He said his mother knew how to sew. I wondered where he had got the idea that they needed a sewing machine, and thought to myself that they must have seen one while walking around in a store,  and that was what had prompted the question.  I wasn't able to do anything about it at the time, and the question didn't come up again, and then suddenly, the Mom started talking about sewing.  Another volunteer had an extra sewing machine, so she donated it, and brings her own machine with her and the two women sew and talk…a great way to learn another language by the way is by practicing while you are doing something you like doing. For this lovely refugee lady, her love of sewing has also led to a job.

       All that to say that we all have those days when we don't know what to do or how to manage, and some people worry each day about how they are going to survive.  And even in those difficult situations, we can be sure of God's promises.  We can be sure that God answers prayers--sometimes in ways that we don't expect.

       Lalita is a widow in an Asian country. She lives in an area that often sees widows as symbols of bad luck--why else would her husband have died. It's bad enough to be widowed when you're advanced in age, and have adult children who can look out for you; but what do you do when you're young, and your children haven't even reached their teenage years?

       That's the position in which Lalita found herself. Widowed, with two small children. She worked hard to provide for them, but often there wasn't enough to feed them. Lalita would cry out to God, would beg God for help. And finally it came, in an unexpected way. Gospel for Asia has resources to do some things that go far beyond offering a handout: they do their best to also offer a hand up. As Lalita told a relative who pastors a GFA sponsored church about her situation and her prayers, the     Pastor told her not to worry, her needs would be met.

        People like you donate to GFA and some of those donations are used to purchase sewing machines. For just  $85.00 someone like Lalita gets a sewing machine. With that machine she is able to work, to earn a living, to buy food and clothes for her children, and just as importantly pay the tuition so they can attend school. As we have learned in the US, education goes a long way in helping to break a cycle of poverty.  You can watch Lalita's story here and see how you can help offer that hand up that so many people so desperately need. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

GFA Day 19: Helping Children Find Hope

       There’s something about a hungry child that causes people to stop and think, to worry, to consider what they might do to help; or to put on blinders and rush past so they don’t have to deal with the situation. In this country, people want to help children, but because that gets tricky unless both parents, (or at least the custodial parent, with minimal interference from the no-custodial one) ) are in agreement, we often can’t. How many mini-infomercials do you see asking you to send $19.00 a month, just pennies a day, to support a child? Yet quite frequently I see those heartbreaking ads dealing with the living conditions of military veterans, along with a plea to pledge money to help provide them with food, shelter, and medical care. I get upset when I see one of those ads asking for $15.00 a month to help veterans, and a few minutes later there is a plea for $19.00 month to keep abandoned dogs and cats out of kill shelters, and prevent animal abuse. Don’t hear what I’m not saying, I like animals, I don’t want to see them abused, and someone needs to be a voice for them, but we don’t offer vets in this country the same consideration that we might a stray cat, that has yet another litter of kittens every couple of months. And children are often lower on the scale than that.
       We see ads for neglected children in other countries, but children in this country are generally taken care of. There are programs through the schools to ensure that they get food, medical care, and school supplies; and even in parts of the country a warm coat for winter. But in other parts of the world, well, it’s just a little bit different. I’ve written about it before. Parents working long hours to earn enough to give each member of the family a tiny portion of what they need to fill their stomachs, and that leaves nothing for clothes, for hygiene items, school supplies, or so many of the things that growing children need. The dung covered street is their playground, and for toys, well they don’t exist. A rock, a stick, a can are the ‘toys’ that many child have.
        And today I want to focus on children in the Dalit class in Asia. These 'untouchables' for the most part have no hope. They have never seen hope, never experienced it, and rarely even understand what it is. That is until now. There are nearly 75,000 children enrolled in Gospel for Asia's children's ministry 'Bridge of Hope' programs. That's 75,000 children who are taught about Jesus. That's 75,000 children who have access to education, health, nutrition, friends, a safe place, and above all 75,000 children learning that Jesus loves them, and because of that love, knowing that they do have hope.
        Having recently visited one of the 'slum' areas in India, I can assure you that many of the children there are poorly fed, dressed poorly, and for whom education, medical attention, and a healthy diet are not even on the radar screen. This picture shows what happy, well fed children look like. 

     As you pray today, tomorrow and the next day, please remember to pray for the children in the Bridge of Hope program, pray for their spiritual and physical needs, pray that through them that their family members would also come to a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  And as you pray, ask God to soften hearts so that through regular giving, this program could expand and another 75,000 or 150,000 or more children could find Hope.  Interested in knowing more about the Bridge of Hope programs? Check out this page: check this link

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

An Unlikely Champion

I was invited to write this blog post in advance of the opening of a new Disney film 'The Queen of Katwe". This is the story of Phiona Mutesi who overcame incredible odds to become an international heroine, an ordinary hero, an unlikely champion. She serves as an inspiration to many young women around the world. Her story involves a church and a chess game, and someone who was willing to take the time to teach her the game, but more importantly to believe in herself. She started competing in tournaments and eventually became an international champion. She lives in Katwe, a slum in Uganda, proving that champions come from the most unlikely places. The movie opens on Friday, Sept 30. View the featurette here.

My challenge was to write about an ordinary hero, an unlikely champion: someone who has overcome extraordinary odds. The biggest problem was picking the right person. It could be Sara, my wife, who left her home in Spain to come with me to wherever the Air Force might decide to send me, she learned English and now has a Master's degree and teaches English as a Second Language. It could be Hannah, who came years ago to this country as a refugee from Nigeria, and has become a citizen, completed a college degree, and is gainfully employed. Oh, she has also raised two children, mostly as a single mom; those children are both college students and making their mother proud. Or maybe it's Lina, who came to Ogden years ago as a refugee from the Congo... a refugee who was also a single mom with several children. She also has adapted to being here, and now serves with a refugee resettlement agency as a case manager for about 75 newly arrived refugees coming to Ogden.
And it's one of these refugees that i want to write about. I asked him to give me some information and for permission to write about him. Janvier came to Ogden Utah, just a few months ago and, because he had studied English while his family lived in a camp in Rwanda, is now enrolled at a local university, in the LEAP program (Learning English for Academic Purposes. He is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who spent years 11 years in that camp. Did I mention that he is very smart? He scored so well on the national advancement exam that all students take to be able to continue their education after elementary school that he was invited to apply for a scholarship; he was one of 5 students out of 200 from the Refugee camp who was awarded that scholarship, and sent to study at a private boarding school.

Obviously there were adjustments to make when they got to the camp. We go to camp on vacation, or for a church camp or space camp, or a hunting camp, but we go because we want to, we go to enjoy ourselves, we go to learn. As I write this I'm at a Camp - a Christian Camp and Conference Center. I’m here for a conference-- Monday to Wednesday, where I have already learned a lot from the speakers that have been paid to instruct, educate, entertain and edify us.  But that wasn't the case for Janvier.  His country was a war zone, his family had the choice whether or not to leave, but it wasn't much of a choice, staying was a much worse alternative than leaving everything behind and heading to a place where there was at least a modicum of hope.  

At least in the camp there was food, not much, and it only arrived once a month, or when the United Nations could get it there. The family lived in tents, and things we take for granted, like education and medical care weren't always available. Most refugees hope to be able to return home, to the land of their birth, but when the war continues for years, decades, and even generations, that hope gradually fades, and when the notification comes that you have been selected for resettlement to yet another country, that hope typically disappears. 

 In Janvier's case they were in the camp, waiting, for news, 11 years of knowing they were in the camp for an indefinite period of time, always hoping that it wouldn't be much longer before they received news that one day soon they would be moving to a better place, to a better life. Even after they were told that they were being processed for a move to the US, they weren't told where until almost a month before they actually got on a plane.  As Janvier describes that waiting process, he told me that he likes to read and so he was reading all that he could find about the 50 different states. He liked what he read about Utah, and was pleased when he heard that he and his family would be coming to Utah, (there's snow in the mountains, but he may not be quite so happy with it when it comes to the valley).

Janvier speaks English, but his parents, his siblings, his nephew don't; their heart language is Kinyarwanda, and they also speak Kiswahili. As the English speaker in the family, he gets to translate, he gets to help the family, and often he helps other Congolese refugee families. Having studied other languages, I know what a challenge it can be to learn a new language, the grammar, the vocabulary, the slang, and worst of all understanding jokes.

There are a lot of things we take for granted here, but in some parts of the world, including in refugee camps, those things we take for granted are seen as luxuries. Some of those luxuries that Janvier's family is enjoying include things like TV, fans, stove with an oven, comfortable beds, and even a car (Janvier is learning to drive!) There are opportunities for education, and even employment. Working doesn't always sound like a luxury, but in the camp they didn't work. Janvier works in the restaurant at a local hotel, and 6 members of his family (12 total) are working. Refugees come to this country ready and willing to work, wanting to contribute to their new community. Within just a few months we have people with limited English employed and not needing assistance from the programs designed to give refugees a new start.

Most of us have dreams, some bigger than others, and my unlikely champion is no different. He wants to finish the LEAP program, study biomedical engineering, and then go Medical school.  I asked Janvier what his long term goals are, and he has some simple ones: 1) contribute to the community, 2) help people who suffer as he as suffered, and 3) -last and most important: serve God in any way that he can. He didn't tell me this, but I have heard from other people that he's already helping others. He visits with other families and because of his English can translate and help them through the red tape, he has also showed some of his fellow refugees how to navigate the bus system. He has translated during orientation meetings, and along with members of his family, performed at a community event.   

In the movie "The Queen of Katwe", Phiona becomes an unlikely champion because there was someone there to encourage her to believe in herself and walk with her as she overcame the obstacles that had been put in her way.  Janvier and the other newly resettled refugees in Ogden get help from Catholic Community Services (A U.N. designated Resettlement Agency), their mentor families, and the neighbors who reach out to welcome them. In some cases, there is also a church family, and that's been the case for Janvier and his family.
Leaving a war-torn country, traveling many miles on foot, then spending over a decade in a camp in a different country, and now, he has overcome the odds and is on his way to earning a degree that will allow him to serve others.  

Janvier is my candidate for "unlikely champion"! 

We all know an unlikely champion. Their struggles have been different from those of Janvier, or those of Phiona. Why not try to find a way to encourage that person in your life who has overcome extraordinary obstacles? Both of you will be better off because you take a moment to put a smile on someone’s face.

Remember “The Queen of Katwe opens Friday Sept 30 in theaters nationwide. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

GFA Challenge Day 18: Entering Filth and Fertile Ground

The other day I walked into a storage area and noticed a strange smell. Not horrible, just strange. At home last evening my wife made a comment about a strange smell. Not horrible, just strange, and not even strong enough that I could smell it.  
We shower every day, we use deodorants and antiperspirants, and as if that weren’t enough we pour on perfumes and colognes. Most houses have at least one can of air-freshener, or one of those things that gets plugged into the wall and sends out a puff of freshness every few minutes. Our cars have air fresheners, we put baking soda in the refrigerator to absorb odors; even garbage bags are especially treated to mask odors. And don’t even get me started on pet odors.
We’ve dummied down our sense of smell to the point that even natural odors are too strong, and therefore offensive.  And then there are places like Punya Basti which is described like this: Imagine living in a town where the air is full of stench, everything is covered in filth, violence is rampant, and there is no electricity or running water. Then the question is asked Now imagine choosing to live in this town in order to share the Gospel with the people there. Could you do it? Would you be able to stick it out?
We recently saw some slums in that same part of the world, and the stench was pretty disgusting. But we could escape it by traveling just a short distance, to an entirely different part of town, one that was probably, in part, designed to appeal to American tourists: no garbage, no smells, and the brief moments in slums and squalor were orchestrated to give us the sense that we had truly experienced that country.  And I ask myself would I be willing to live in the stench and squalor? Would I stay there to be able to share the gospel? I want to say ‘yes’, but often the mind is willing but the flesh is weak…I just don’t know.
And so we go back to Punya Basti. The GFA pastor there was having trouble ministering to the women, so he asked for assistance from Sisters of Compassion. Women didn’t know how to clean cooking utensils and so there was a lot of illness. Personal hygiene was poor, so there was a lot of illness. Modesty was not high on anyone’s priority list, and in an area where alcohol abuse was rampant among the men, women were often put in compromising situations.
Prisha, one of the Sisters of Compassion agreed to come to Punya Basti, an area that she had heard about, because she was willing to serve. The area had such a poor reputation that the pastor offered to have her lodge in a neighboring town so she would be safer and have more comfortable accommodations.  Prisha refused, knowing that if she were to have any ‘street cred’, she would need to be available, to be present, in the town. There were many challenges, but Prisha, and eventually 7 other Sisters became part of the village, but the transformation wasn’t that they became more like the villagers, but rather that the villagers became more like Christ.  There are over 1,000 residents of this squalid village, “Filth and Fertile Ground”, and today the majority are Christians. The women are learning healthier habits, children are going to school, and the villagers see the missionaries as members of their families.

There is still lots of work to be done in Punya Basti, and places like it. Filth exists, but in the midst of that filth is plenty of fertile ground. Could you numb your senses? Would you even be willing to try? It makes a difference.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

GFA day 17: How Far Would You Go for Clean Water

     I take clean water for granted, and face it, if you're reading this, you probably do too. I might have to walk all the way to the kitchen from the living room, but it's there and it's convenient. But people around the world don't always have that luxury. People walk miles to get water, and often it's not something we would consider drinkable. We might not even swim in it but people drink it, wash in it, and use it for cooking. 

     I've been involved in water campaigns before. I've asked people to join me, and perhaps give up soda, coffee, beer, whatever and take the money that would have spent and donate it to organizations that provide bio-filters. In fact I have a friend who has a charitable organization that allows people to go to India to install those filters. He works with local pastors to find families that could use the filter to improve their lives. While the volunteers are digging hole in which to install the filter, they also get to talk with people and share why they are there, laboring in the heat, and staying in what most Americans would consider less than desirable accommodations. (Or not if you like sleeping on a mat on the floor)

     Just so  we all understand. There is a big difference between walking all the way to the kitchen sink for a glass of water, and then those extra steps to the fridge to get some ice, and walking several miles to get drinkable water from a well. Usually it's women's work, and in some parts of Asia, women spend several hours a day walking back and forth, to and from the well, to get enough water for the daily needs of the household.

     Gospel for Asia has a program in place to educate about the dangers of dirty water, and the benefits of clean water, but all of that really means nothing if there is no clean water available. There are programs in place to provide bio-filters, but one filter, available for a fairly low price, generally provides water  for one family.  GFA is looking at big picture, and building wells. They're large, they're local and they're affordable.  A GFA Jesus well provides water  for an entire thirsty village. You can learn more, and help  HERE

     Every day close to 3.5 million people die of water related diseases. That's about 500,000 more than the population of UTAH (2.9 million in 2014).  GFA is making a difference, and you can help!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GFA Challenge day 16: DAYA's STORY

GFA CHALLENGE DAY 16: Daya’s Story   
     Maybe it hasn’t happened to you yet, but it’s happening more and more frequently in places around the world. Yes around the world, in South Asia, in Europe, in Africa, in Mexico, and even the United States (I saw it in NYC just last month, it happens here in Utah all the time).  Young children are being exploited. Yes they’re being forced into the sex trade, they’re being forced to work long hours in horrible conditions and for very little pay, but those are other blogs on other days.
      Little children are being put on display, not to ‘show off’ how cute the grandkids are, but in an attempt to tug at your heartstrings. Tug at the heart strings and loosen the purse strings. Around the world children are being exploited in this way in order to ‘earn’ money which doesn’t go to feed or shelter the child—it goes for drugs or alcohol. It goes for gambling or prostitutes, it goes toward whatever vice or perceived need the adult might have. But it works. People who would never give a beggar in the street a second glance, can’t bear to see a child in need, and so they give.

     But more and more people are stopping to ask “why are you exploiting this child?” And sadly we have become so accustomed to seeing children being exploited, that heartstrings are untouched, and purse strings remain closed. Our default position becomes one of disbelief, and instead of compassion we feel anger towards anyone who would exploit a small child.

     Exploitation is not always the case, at least not in the way you think. In Daya's case she had been exploited, but now her grandmother was taking care of her, trying to keep her safe, warm, and fed. Unfortunately Grandma needed help providing even the least minimal provisions for her granddaughter. One day someone took the time to ask "why are you exploiting this child?" The answer broke his heart.  

     Shortly thereafter Daya was enrolled in a Bridge of Hope Center where she had a lot of obstacle to overcome. Thanks to the caring staff she has grown into the remarkable young woman that God intended her to be, and today at 15  She knows Jesus as her Lord, and has escaped many of the evils that so many young girls are plagued by. 

Read her story, and see how you can help HERE

Monday, September 19, 2016

GFA Challenge Day 15: the Persecuted Church and Wrongful Imprisonment.

Thanks to improved DNA testing, we've been hearing lots of stories about people who were accused and convicted of crimes that they didn't commit, and for which they have spent years in jail. We want to cry when we hear about people who have suffered for so long because of a mistake or prejudice or lack of a convincing alibi.  And the only consolation is that if these people were railroaded, at least there was a legal system in place which ensured that resources in place at the time were used in making those decisions, (as misguided and off track as they might be)

But there are certainly places with the misguided accusations, convictions and punishments are done on purpose.  Ask Pastor Samuel, who falls into this category and whose imprisonment lasted 8 years.  It seems like an intentional mistake, which caused a family separation and more turmoil than one cares to deal with.

We claim persecution here because somebody gets offended by our cross jewelry, but in some parts of the world persecution is real. But the question is not about persecution. We all have issues and struggles, the real question is what do we do with those things for which we seem to be suffering. Pastor Samuel decided to put his trust and faith in the Lord, and that served him well during his 8 years of captivity.

The question is, how would you deal with something like that. Would you put your faith in God, your trust in the Lord.  And please, take a minute to think it through. What all might be involved? Most Christians would like to say that they would definitely trust Jesus. Some would but some might have doubts along the way.

So I'll ask again, if you were in this same kind of situation, do you think you would be able to respond with the same kind of trust as Pastor Samuel?  (and I'm not even asking you to tell me your answer, just to consider a game plan for some day when, because of  circumstances beyond your control, you might be in a similar situation

Sunday, September 18, 2016

GFA Challenge Day 14: Missing and Exploited Children

We’re had our favorite TV shows interrupted, we’ve gotten the incessant texts, and we’ve heard it on the radio: the Amber Alert that tells us that a child is missing, and usually that foul play is involved. But in some parts of Asia, missing children are a part of life. They are forced into child labor, they are used in the sex industry, and they are missing from the streets where they sit day after day begging, hoping for at least enough coins or bread so that they don’t have to go to bed hungry—again.
Worldwide 150 million children (about half the population of the United States) are estimated to be involved in Child Labor. In Asia and the Pacific, that amounts to 1in 10 children between the ages of 5 and 17.
And once again we have to deal with the fact that so many children are losing hope, rape for profit, and long hours in the sweat shop: the pain never seems to go away. And because these missing children incur expenses, they never seem to be able to escape the growing debt. They are fed, sheltered, transported to the work site, clothed, and the costs, highly inflated, means they have to work even longer hours, entertain more men, to pay back the ‘loans’.
But there is hope. Gospel for Asia, and many other agencies are working to halt this exploitation. They are working to stop the trafficking. They are working to provide safe environments for abused children to learn to escape the horrors of their pasts and to move on, through education, therapy and the love of Christ, to a better life.

The problem seems overwhelming, but there are ways to help. It starts with you, it starts with prayer, and it starts with your contributions. You can help save a child.

Friday, September 16, 2016

What's your World view? thoughts on 'One of the Few'

     Many times I request a particular book to read  and  review. Other times someone reaches out to me. When that happens I generally say 'no', but in this case I made an exception, partially because the author, Jason B. Ladd has a military background and I was interested in reading how that played into the development of his Christian worldview. And don't kid yourself, everyone has a worldview, they just may not realize that that's what guides them as they make choices: good or bad.

     So I read One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot's Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview (Boone Shepherd, 2017), and I'm glad that I said yes to this request. 
We served in different branches of the Military, but we're still comrades in arms. And many of the experiences that Jason writes about brought back memories, some good, some not so pleasant, and some downright bad.

     But like Jason, serving my country gave me the opportunity to make choices, some good and others not so much so, but all of them got me to the place where I was able to come to terms with the fact that I needed a savior, and that Savior is Jesus.  And that's where worldview comes in. Your worldview, in the simplest  terms is the personal belief system that guides every decision you make: how you spend your money, how you treat people, what kind of movies you watch, your attitudes towards sex (pre-marital, extra-marital, etc), sanctity of life, and above what you believe about God.

     When I served in the Air Force, there were times when it was hard to make wise choices.  As Ladd describes there are times when you're away from home, away from  your duty station, and  who is going to know if you drink too much and decide to have a little fun? And sometimes because of the bravado, macho image of certain career fields, it was hard to find people that would admit to having a similar worldview. Oh they are definitely there, just sometimes hard to find.  Of course if you live according to the worldview you think you have, those people with similar interests are much easier to find.

     One of the Few is broken into 3 parts. Part I is a picture of the life of a military 'brat' and as Ladd puts it, "chronicles my journey as a spiritual seeker."  Where do morals come from? How do you relate to the world around you?  Who or What is God? What happens after I die? And along the way to finding the answers to those questions is a lot of time spent seeking answers, looking at different religions, and sometimes realizing that you've been getting it wrong for a long time.  

      In Part II Jason writes about worldview, how important it is to have one that lets you filter out the lies of the world. His worldview led him to make some wise choices about sexual sin, the sanctity of marriage and the dangers of pornography.

     But he goes one step further. Part III provides the reader with a way to combat spiritual warfare. Military members get pretty good at understanding the concepts of war and peace.  Jason takes the lessons that he learned as a Marine Fighter Pilot and transfers them into the spiritual realm. As he puts it, "every believer had doubts". We learn how to engage the enemy, and our enemy is evil.

     I'm usually not a big fan of autobiographies because they tend to be full of braggadocio, Jason has done a great job of humbly recounting his faith journey, giving credit to those who have helped him along the path as he set out to find himself, and ending up finding God.

     I think that people with Military experience are more likely to identify with this book than 'civilians', but there are life lessons that all of us can certainly learn.  Are you looking for answers to life's big questions?  One of the Few just may be a good place for you to start your research.

     In the interest of disclosure, I received a copy of the book in exchange for a review.


GFA Challenge Day 13 Buildings

I worship in a church building, it’s 90 years old, and has its faults, but it’s an officially recognized church building just like many that were built in that time frame. 
  Other buildings are much more modern (and have nicer amenities) and they are also church buildings. During the summer, there are churches which meet outside – cooler and marks their presence in the community. Or maybe they do ‘church in the park’ once during the season.  In places like Guam or some places in Mexico or Hawaii, a bonus for the church is to be able to meet on the beach.

Nobody says a thing, it’s just a church being the church. People applaud their creativity, and admire their attempts to draw people in or to provide a beautiful setting for worship. And besides these churches have a church building. Maybe it’s a store front, but it has seats and an altar, and everything else needed for a church to be a church.

When my church holds an event outside, it’s considered evangelism and outreach, and nobody thinks twice. But there are churches all over Asia that don’t have a building. They meet under trees to provide shade from the sun, and some sort of shelter during the rainy season. And the Church of the First World slams these Third World churches for not really being a church.  –They don’t have an organ or piano or keyboard. Where are the hymnals, or the big monitors so people can sing along? Where are the racks for the Bibles? Where is the church? And by church we mean building. We forget that the church is the people. See how some people plan to worship 4 minute video clip but might have their plans changed during the rainy season. 

But a building, a place to meet does make a difference. In South Asia a church provides a safe and comfortable place to meet, to worship, to pray together.  Churches in the US have multi-year capital campaigns to get the money for fancy new buildings. In Asia a church building can be built for anywhere from 10-40 thousand dollars depending on size and location. But let’s say a building costs $11,000.00. That’s still a multi-year campaign for some of the poorest of the poor, but something that’s very doable with the help from others. These buildings are more than just a convenient place to meet. A church building is a center for loving fellowship and a Launchpad for reaching the community.

In many parts of the world, a church building seems like an investment that is totally out of reach, but that building serves several purposes: It helps the community see Christs’ worth. People make a sacrifice to honor Him.  People in the community (non-believers) know that there is a place they can go to seek answers or to find someone to pray with and for them. The building can be a hub for ministry activities throughout the week and so discipleship of believers is supported.And the building might not look anything like we expect. 

Would you travel, in stormy weather to meet under a tree, and perhaps have the worship service, flooded out? Probably not. Americans like to be comfortable. So do people in the poorest parts of Asia, and we have opportunities to help. donate here

Thursday, September 15, 2016

GFA challenge day 12 Persecution

                Persecution is nothing new. Paul was on the road to Damascus and had a life changing encounter with the risen Lord. Many of us have had those encounters, but Paul got an extra word of encouragement: Acts 9:15-16: "But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."  And when John has his vision, what today we call the revelation, one of the things  that Jesus notes about the church at Ephesus is that they have endured hardship for His sake (Rev 2:3).

                Even before that Jesus had been telling the disciples that life with Him wasn't going to be all things wonderful. We look at some of the places that Jesus took the disciples, and those places weren't always all that safe, but besides that there were the comments about persecution: 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Righteousness= right relationship with God -Matt 5: 10);Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me" (Jesus speaking- Matt 24:9). Or how about  John 15:18-21 where Jesus tells the disciples that they will be hated, but they hated Jesus first.  So persecution is nothing new. 

                And now a moment on my soapbox. Persecution means different things in different contexts and cultures.  In middle class America, we hear that you can't say "Merry Christmas" in big box stores, but have to say "Happy Holidays" so as not to offend anyone (NOT true by the way) and we start screaming that Christians are being persecuted. We make bad choices and say about the consequences "We all have a cross to bear."  Nowhere in either of those examples is the part about suffering for Jesus' sake, because of Jesus, or because of Jesus' Name. We just get it wrong.

                Fast forward across an Ocean and you might feel you've been in a time machine and backed up several centuries, and in many places religious persecution is real. North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan are at the top of the list of countries where people are persecuted for Jesus' name but  it happens in many other places. Despite the persecution, the threat of pain, torture, being exiled from the family and the community, or even death, the church is growing in some countries where persecution is real. In parts of Asia missionaries and GFA workers continue to press on as they proclaim the gospel to those who are lost in the darkness.  They want every person within their extended areas of influence to hear the name of Jesus, and if they should physically perish  in the process, so be it. The top ten countries are: 

                In a sense we are all linked to these brave souls, soldiers for Christ, so we should be praying for them as if our lives depended on those prayers. And perhaps they do. For more ways to pray for the persecuted church visit here

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

HILLSONG Let Hope Rise- the movie coming soon

          One of the most common complaints from the Christian Community here in Utah is about the lack of Christian events: movies, concerts, conferences, etc. SADLY, when we do have those opportunities there are often a lot of excuses keeping us from attending. A lot of us would like to see Christian movies, but they play as limited release. We would like to attend concerts, but they're too far away, or on a school night, and we would really like to attend conferences, but the dates aren't always convenient.
        Once again we have the opportunity to watch a movie. And this one even has the benefit of offering a concert.  HILLSONG--LET HOPE RISE opens in theaters  this Friday, September 16th.  It's a film about worship, and worship as only the group Hillsong knows how to do.
         Here and here are  a couple of clips about the film.You may know the group HILLSONG, or you may simply know their music.  The estimate is that about 50,000,000 people worldwide sing their songs each week. Not bad for a group that came up from nowhere.
        I can't even begin to count the number of songs, but there have been a lot since the group started 20 years ago. One of my favorites, and it's been done by many others, is How Great Is Our God. I think all of us need to remember once in a while that God is, as Tony the Tiger might say, GRRRREAT. It's so easy to get so wrapped up in our daily lives that we forget to acknowledge God, it's easy to want to take credit, it's easy to assume that God is way too busy to have time for our  problems and issues, but the thing is that God is so Great, that he does have time, that he is worthy of our praise and our worship.
         One of the great things about this song, is that it's all about God's greatness. He's great, let's tell the world, and all will see "How Great is Our God.
            Don't forget September 16th

            And once again thanks to my friends at Grace Hill Media, there are some giveaways. A couple of Movie money electronic vouchers, and a couple of Soundtracks from the movie.  But you have to comment to be eligible to win them

GFA Challenge Day 11 There is a Veil of Tears

     Sometimes a movie motivates you to do something a little out of the ordinary.  In my case 'Veil of Tears' is the movie,  and accepting the 40 day challenge to blog about GFA's suggested topics is the 'out of the ordinary'.

     I first watched Veil of Tears  trailer here a couple of years ago, and have since had a movie night at the church so that others could share the impact.  And quite an impact it made.

     It was hard to sit in a comfortable seat with popcorn and a soda and  see the abject poverty in which some people live. It was hard to see the horrible conditions in which some people live simply because they happened to be born female in the lowest caste system, and then to have their (mostly) arranged marriages seem more like slavery than a marriage. It was difficult to see women turn to prostitution to support the family and feed their children because the husband is an unemployed drunk, who takes very little interest in his family except to beat them for the least (perceived) infraction of the rules-  even those which had never been clearly stated to the people accused of breaking them.

     And how can you justify treating widows poorly simply because their husband has died? Yes in some cases the husband's family blames the widow as causing bad luck in the marriage. And since the widow is so unlucky, no one wants anything to do with her. Widows are often exiled.

     And these women, many of them Hindu, pray to their many gods, but the answer is not to be found. It doesn't matter how many flours they take to a temple, how many plates of food they put out for these gods, things never change. 

     Luckily there are people working in these impoverished areas that come with a different worldview, people who know Jesus and are in the slums for the express purpose of sharing Jesus with those whose dependence on many gods has interfered with them knowing the one true God.

     Pray about how you might help Gospel For Asia send women to help women. 

     You wouldn't want to live that way, why should someone else have to do so?

Monday, September 12, 2016

GFA Day 10: When a Baby is not a cause to celebrate- simply because shes' a girl

What do you want, a boy or a girl? “I don’t care as long as the baby is healthy”. In my circle I hear that a lot, or some variation thereof. Or maybe “We have a girl, so a boy would be nice: one of each”.
But in many parts of the world that’s not the case.         

In parts of Asia, boy babies are desired, and baby girls are often considered nothing to celebrate. In fact they may be seen as a curse. And it’s the woman’s fault. Yes even today when we know so much about ‘where babies come from’ and ‘how they are made’, women are often blamed for not having that baby boy.
But the problem goes far beyond having a son to carry on the family name or inherit the business or land. When not having a baby or having girls can be seen as a curse, then other problems arise. Abuse takes on a whole new meaning. Gender selective abortions are prevalent. Divorce rates skyrocket, and in lands where widows and divorcees are looked on with contempt instead of compassion, there are multiple opportunities for this women to be taken advantage of. They can’t find jobs, so, especially if there are daughters to be cared for, many women turn to prostitution.
And in a world of polytheism, many woman turn to all the gods they know, they pray to hundreds of gods without seeing results, but many times, because of the efforts of Gospel for Asia, there is a Christian pastor or missionary nearby who can share Jesus with these women. And many times Jesus can do what hundreds of gods and idols can’t.
Opportunities exist to help GFA share the love of God, the good news of Jesus, with people that might otherwise never know that there is hope that will rise from despair.  You can donate here to sponsor a woman missionary

And above all you can pray! Pray for the safety of GFA sponsored missionaries and pastors. Pray for opportunities for them to be able to share the Gospel. Pray for the women who hear the good news and respond. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Message of the Twelve: Hearing the Voice of the Minor Prophets by Fuhr & Yates

For so many years I’ve heard that the Bible is a collection of 66 books written by over 40 authors over a period of 1500 years. Yes we talk about the two Testaments—Old and New, and yes sometimes there is a reference to the different genres: the law, the writings, the gospels and the epistles, but something is still lacking. Even when there is a reference to the Prophets, they are quite frequently divided into two groups, The Major Prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah; or the Minor Prophets, Malachi, Haggai, Zephaniah, and others.
And when we talk about the Prophets, so often most of the information we get about them is under whose reign they served, and whether they were prophesying to the Northern or the Southern kingdom. They all have different messages, and that seems to be what most authors focus on, the differences rather than the similarities.
So I was excited that a new book about the Minor Prophets was about to be published, A book that promised to talk about some of the similarities. I was not disappointed with The Message of the Twelve: Hearing the Voice of the Minor Prophets by Richard Alan Fuhr, Jr. & Gary E. Yates (B&H Academic, 2016). In this Book, Fuhr and Yates look at the twelve individual books bearing the names of the prophets as one book. In doing so they are able to compare how they proclaim God's Word in a number of ways – but it’s still God's Word.
Part I offers background on the prophets and their times. It consists of four chapters covering a number of important concepts that are crucial to understanding the Twelve as individuals, and as a whole. The first chapter offers insight into the prophets within their historical context. This chapter contains information of the two kingdoms and on the issues with the Babylonian and Assyrian kingdoms, and the fears, the challenges, and the hopes of the exiles.
Chapter 2, The Role of the Twelve, explains the role of the prophets as God's messengers. Although this may seem to be unnecessary, there are so many people who see prophets not so much as God's messengers, but rather as seers, as people with ESP, or people with a gift for divining, or telling the future: think tarot cards or OUIJA Boards. In the preface the authors remark that this chapter offers a theological context for understanding the prophetic books. They also remark that the prophets’ role was not an innovative condemnation of Israel’s idolatry, or to bring about social justice (both things that they did) but to call people to obey the Mosaic Law and learn to love God and love others.  
Chapter 3, the Words of the Prophets, helps the modern day reader interpret the words, after all most of them are nothing like we typically hear today. How many of us would get the nuances of the condemnations of Egypt. One problem that most people have today is that we tend to look at the biblical texts through a 21st century lens, not through the lens of the chosen people several centuries before Christ.
And finally in chapter 4, the authors examine themes that are found throughout each of the twelve books. Common themes, which makes it easier to justify suggesting that the twelve books can easily be considered as one larger opus.  They point out that repentance is not often found in these books—a documentation of Israel’s unbelieving response to God. In fact one of the few examples of repentance comes not from the people of Israel of Judah, but rather from the Ninevites in response to Jonah’s preaching. Other unifying themes include “the Day of the Lord”, “the broken, and restored, covenant”, and “the promise of a New David”. There are Messianic prophecies to be found here, and an overarching theme is that God remains committed to his covenantal promises, even though the chosen people have repeatedly broken their side of the bargain. Judgement is an important part of who God is, but even more important to remember is that salvation is also a major of component of God's desire for the nations.
                Most of the remainder of the book, chapters 13-16, deals with the individual prophets. Each has a dedicated chapter which follow a similar format. First is an introduction to the book, not just a recap of the themes, and the story line of each book but something that brings it into today’s world, that makes it contemporary for today’s readers. For example, as I write this today, the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and review some notes, I see that in introducing the book of Joel, the authors comment that in the aftermath of that attack Church attendance went up considerably. Joel tells of a turning to God after a different type of national calamity: a severe locust plague. How different things would have been for Israel, how different they would be for us, if that turning to God had remained a constant. 
                Following the introduction is a section devoted to the structure of the book in which the authors break the book down for the reader. Major breaks in the writing are identified, common themes within the sections are enumerated. For example in the book of Jonah, the 2 sections are chapters 1 and 2 in which Jonah flees rather than obey God, and ends up in the belly of a fish from which the Lord delivers him. Section 2, chapters 3 & 4, details how Jonah obeys the Lord and goes to preach to the people of Nineveh…they repent and God spares them. Chiastic structures and other literary techniques are identified.
                The next section of each of these chapters is an exposition of the text. As in expository preaching, the story is recounted with explanatory details included. When terms are used metaphorically, the authors explain what they stand for in the context of the book. Hebrew terms are often defined, and explained, and throughout there are footnotes explaining how passages fit into the culture and context of the day.
                Each of the twelve chapters ends with a ‘theological message and application” For example Micah is a reminder to the covenant people that being in covenant with the Lord, involves both a blessing and an obligation. It’s not an entitlement philosophy, nor prosperity gospel. Covenant is two-sided, and in order to reap the benefits, we’re expected to fulfill our side of the bargain.
                Although it’s brief, I want to stress the importance of reading the conclusion. The authors point out how much the reader of scripture misses out on by skimming over or skipping completely these twelve books, or as they prefer, the Book of the Twelve. They write that there are four specific ways in which these twelve authors continue to bless Jesus’ church today. The Book of the Twelve enriches, challenges, informs and comforts the church. And in our tumultuous world, the church certainly needs comfort.
                Granted when entire volumes are dedicated to each of the Minor Prophets so much more can be said, but those books have been written and are available for those who need more information that was provided here. But even as more information can be provided, in most of those commentaries, the focus is on the individual books, not the entirety of the twelve books. Parallels are missed, and the reader is left thinking that there are twelve different messages relayed by twelve different prophets at twelve distinct periods in the history of Israel.
I would recommend this book as a text for a class on the Minor Prophets in Seminary, or as a resource for the pastor, Sunday school teacher, or bible study leader in preparing a class, or even a sermon series. The information provided in this book is a stark reminder that God calls His people to respond to Him, and that the church today should be seeking to join God where he is, and seeking the relationship for which God created us.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 

GFA Day 9: Touching the Untouchable. Dalits have a chance

Back in the days of the Old Testament, at least among the Israelites, anyone with leprosy, probably a generic term for skin diseases, was responsible not only for staying outside the camp, but also shouting “unclean” when nice people – those without a skin disease- might approach.  We might put people in an isolation room today if they have an infectious, contagious disease, but the hospital also provides gowns and masks so that people can approach.
That’s not the case in many parts of Asia today; there’s a Hindu caste system in effect for over 3,000 years which keeps people in bondage. Hundreds of millions of people, the Dalits, are still considered the untouchables: they are despised, viewed as sub-human and treated like dirt. In many places they are still given the lowliest of jobs, and excluded from ‘polite society’. Education is usually not an option, and they live in slums, vast tenements with others of the same caste. Granted since the time of the British Raj, the system is starting to change – slowly, but still it’s changing. But for millions and millions of people it’s too late. Yes their children may someday have opportunities, but many of the older people will never learn to read, will never leave their tenement housing, will never be able to change from something they’ve always known to something which has always been off limits.
In Jesus’ time the caste system was already being practiced, and Jesus was already teaching that even the lowest of the low deserved justice. Ten men with leprosy asked for mercy and he healed them (Luke 17:12-14). Another man with leprosy said “if you are willing, you can make me clean” Jesus touched him, and the healed him (Matt 8:1-4), Jesus sat and talked with the Samaritan woman (John 4), and he healed the daughter of the Canaanite (Syrio – Phoenician) woman (Matt 15: 21-28 or Mark 7:24-30).
The apostle James (2:2-4) would later write that the Christian community shouldn’t show favoritism.  ‘Judges with evil intent’ is how he describes those who would offer the rich man the best seat in the house, and then suggesting that a poor man could sit on the floor.
Today people from Gospel for Asia are starting to minister to the Dalits. They’re teaching adults to read and in doing so give their children an education and a future. They touch the ‘untouchables’ with the love of Christ. They establish relationships and fellowship with ‘the least of these’ (read another passage from Matthew: the parable of the sheep and the goats, Matt 25: 31-45 to put that in context). And best of all they share the message of God's salvation and redemption with a people who have always been told that nobody wants of loves them!

Today the untouchables, the Dalits, are learning what it means to be loved. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

GFA day 8. Ruth's story: 'You Should Have Been a Boy!"

A different Ruth story.  Day 8 of the 40 day challenge concerns a young woman named Ruth. There are some similarities to the biblical story—Ruth, much like Naomi, leaves her land and returns, and it was because of a famine, just not the kind of famine that the Biblical Naomi and Elimelech experienced. In scripture, Naomi leaves a legacy: she figures in the genealogy of Jesus.   Today’s Ruth is also leaving a legacy through which many people are blessed, but there’s much more to the story.
            In the US today, and in many other places there is a push to let people choose their sexual identity. Many countries have legalized same sex marriages, laws have been passed protecting members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination when it comes to employment and housing, and now the fight is on to let people use the restroom of the gender with which they identify. We have men saying ‘I don’t belong in this body, I’m really a woman’, or girls crying out, ‘I should have been a boy’.
            My heart breaks for these people, I want to help them through their pain, but I don’t believe that God makes mistakes. With today’s freedoms, young people, at the age when they are becoming sexually active or curious are making choices, which may or may not be the life choices that they should be making.  I want to be able to identify sin as sin, and as much as I might love the people involved I also want to love them enough to name that sin.
But sometimes it’s not just someone self-identifying as the opposite gender from which they were born. Sometimes someone else tries to make that call, to blame them for not being born 'right". Consider, for example, a young girl named Ruth.
Ruth’s parents live in South Asia, they live in an agrarian society, and sons are welcome additions to the family. Sons will marry and bring a dowry to the family, his wife will help care for his parents in their old age, and the sons will work the fields and carry on the family name. So imagine the disappointment when Ruth, another daughter, was born. A daughter who would marry and move to her husband’s home, a daughter who would one day require a dowry. A daughter who wouldn’t be of any help on the family farm. A daughter born after her father had sold property to make an offering to the local priest so that he would pray for a son.
Ruth grew up feeling unloved, and finally, as a young girl, had the courage to ask her father why. His response: you should have been a boy. And then her father stopped talking to her. And finally, shunned by her father, Ruth, like Naomi in the Bible, left her home, just not with a husband, and not because of a lack of food. Thanks to women missionaries she had learned about Jesus, and become a Christian. She left as part of the bride of Christ, and she left because of a different type of famine: a spiritual famine in her father’s house, and instead of a lack of food, a lack of love, a lack of joy, a lack of concern, a lack of caring. Famine drives people to look for nurture and sustenance in foreign places.
There’s a big difference between wanting to identify as the opposite sex from which you were born, and being told that you should be the opposite sex from which you were born. We can only imagine the pain and hurt that Ruth endured in this situation, but luckily she met some missionaries who shared the love of Christ with her. She left her home knowing that she was loved as a girl, and that she really shouldn’t have been a boy. That God created her as a woman, a woman who could know his love and share it with others.
And then the something happened and Ruth was called back to her home. Her father had become a Christian, and was ready to accept her as a girl. So she left her home because of a spiritual famine, and when the famine was over, she returned home. Her father greeted her with a hug instead of a kick, and after years of separation, they were reunited.

But there’s more to the story. During her time of exile she matured in her faith, and often shared the gospel with others. Today she works in a Christian school, impacting many others for Christ. The story is sad, but it has a happy ending. See for yourself here .

Women missionaries, women like Ruth and many others are doing great works for God today, but there is still a lot to be done. Please pray about how you might further God's kingdom in Asia. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

GFA 7 Our daily Bread

       I remember going to my grandmother’s house on baking day and enjoying the smell of freshly baked bread, and my dad would tell me how Gram used to bake bread a couple times a week, the surprise is that in such a large family that she only had to make it twice. But you get into a routine, and figure out something that works.

       Baking bread has gotten so much easier. Go to a department store or kitchen goods store and by a breadmaker. Get a boxed mix, through in some water, put it in the breadmaker, hit the on button (or set the timer) and you have freshly baked bread at dinner time.
       And most people, me included can’t even be bother doing that. We head to the grocery store, and buy the occasional loaf of sliced bread for sandwiches, or different kinds of bread, including Indian Naan off the discount rack.  But not everyone has that luxury. My mother-in law in Spain used to go shopping every day- or send one of her daughters to the store. Down stairs out the door and down the street, making several stops- butcher, baker, fruits and vegetable stand. Every day there was a routine for caring for the family, fix and eat breakfast, start preparing for the main meal served mid-afternoon, clean up, and perhaps make another run to the store, to make sure everything needed for supper was available

       In northern India many women still spend a large portion of their day in the kitchen. They bake a lot of ‘Chapati’ -bread, a staple of every meal, sometimes the meal. Up to three times a day they mix flour, salt, water and oil, let the dough rise, separate into small balls, roll it out, fold it, roll it again, and finally bake over a wood stove. Probably delicious, but time consuming.  One of these days I’m going to try to make Chapati, but it won’t be over a wood fire.

       In this country we’re used to all the modern time saving conveniences that offer women the opportunity to go to school, to hold down a job, to have time to take the kids to the park. It’s not that way in some parts of the world. Women spend a good portion of their days inside a small basic kitchen. Sometimes we go camping and cook over a wood fire, but that’s for fun, not out of necessity.

       We’re used to modern, we’re used to time saving, we’re used to convenience. How would you like to cook every day in a kitchen like this?

       Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Give us this day our daily bread"

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

GFA day 6 Engulfed by Shame

                As I read the story for day 6 of the GFA challenge "Engulfed by Shame", I was reminded of an old saying: 'you can't judge a book by its cover'. How often do we read a news report about a terrible crime, and as family, friends, co-workers or neighbors  are interviewed the common response is "I can't believe it", or "he was such a nice, friendly, helpful guy" or "I could never imagine her doing something like that."
              Sometimes things are not what they seem on the outside. We see a couple in church or in the supermarket, and wish that our marriages could be that perfect, until the next week when we hear that one of them has filed for divorce.  Or you laugh with the ever-smiling cashier at your favorite restaurant on Sunday and when you return on Thursday for 'date night' are stunned to hear that she took a bottle of pills and no one found her until it was too late.
                Sometimes life gets overwhelming, and one of the hardest parts of all is maintaining that look that says 'everything is all right', but it's not really all right, alright,  or even semi-okay.  We feel discouraged, hopeless and helpless, and are ashamed to let anybody know. We are simply 
                 Everyone has their own preferred way to deal with those feelings, and many of them involve poor choices: binge drinking, drug abuse, overeating (pigging out on Doritos, icecream and/or M&Ms is one of my favorites) sexual acting out, or even some criminal activity.  Unfortunately, as we keep reading in the papers suicide is also a preferred way to deal with the combination of those negative feelings, and the shame of the poor choices that are made when it seems that there's no one there.
                Face it, most of us have known someone who attempted or committed suicide. And I imagine that if you haven't been there there's no way you can know what  people are thinking or feeling as they get to the point where it seems that death is the best option. Survivors are left to imagine what they should have seen, should have said, should have done.  Sometimes we have a second chance.  And that's what happened to Saachi.
                  Saachi had the perfect life, or so it seemed, and then everything fell apart when her husband started acting differently, started beating her, wouldn’t even give her enough money to buy food for their children.  The truth finally came out that he was having an affair, he left her, she worked, and along the way made some poor choices, choices that left her engulfed in shame.
                She made a suicide attempt, a very serious one, and during her stay in the hospital, she met Jabeen, a GFA sponsored woman missionary. Because she met Jabeen and heard her story Saachi was able to make some better choices, including reconnecting with church and accepting Jesus as her savior.

                God wants all people and peoples to return to him, to come to him, but sometimes we have to be at a dark place in our lives before we're willing to hear the message.  My prayer for all who read this today is that instead of listening to the lies of Satan and of the world, you will listen to God, a loving God who loves you with a love deeper than you can imagine. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

GFA Day 5 of the Challenge These women deserve respect!

       Growing up I was often told to be a gentleman, to respect women, to never hit a girl, and many other things that were perhaps the right things but for the wrong reasons. It is right to respect women, to treat them well, and not hit them, but not because they’re the weaker sex and so need a man to take care of them. Nevertheless, some of those habits remain, and that’s a good thing. But that’s in our country and in our culture.

       In other cultures, women are often seen as 2nd or even 3rd class citizens.  Gospel for Asia shares a movie called Veil of tears (watch the trailer) that shows how women are treated in many cultures.

       Widows are shunned because they obviously bring bad luck or their husbands wouldn’t have died. Baby girls are often seen as a curse rather than a blessing, after all a boy will become a man who cares for his parents, but a girl gets married and cares for her husband’s parents in their old age.

       In many communities comprised of the lowest classes, drug and alcohol abuse is rampant among the men, so if they are able to find work and make a little money it often goes to feeding their habits rather than feeding the family. The women are left to do the best they can –with whatever it takes. Because they often have do violate their moral code to provide for their hungry children, men lose respect for them, and they are treated even worse.

       In many parts of Asia, the poorest communities are filled with women who have no hope. And then they meet Jesus, but it’s often difficult to introduce their husbands to the Savior. Pray for these women, who do  the best they can with such limited resources. Pray that through the grace of God the men of their communities will start seeing them as children of God and learn to treat them with the love, respect and honor that they deserve. After all, their daddy is the King, so each of these women is a princess. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Thoughts on 'Voiceless" being the voice for those who can't speak for themselves

From time to time I get invited to screen a movie before its release in order to share my opinion with anybody who will take the time to read my blog (or the twitter or FaceBook share).  Voiceless is one of those movies.

In brief, an ex-marine, shy and reserved, accepts a position as a community outreach coordinator for the church where his wife and her family have attended for quite some time.  He has a store-front at street level which he plans to turn into a boxing gym, a place where teens in the neighborhood have a place to learn self-defense in a Christian environment.  And then there is the women’s health center across the street, a place where no doubt women receive medical care and counseling, but it’s also a place where abortions are performed on a regular basis.

Suddenly community outreach involves more than boxing, it means taking on the clinic—and sometimes it seems like there is more opposition from his family, the pastor and the church then there is from supporters of the clinic.

The Synopsis provided in a press release states:
Battling his own inner-demons, Jesse (Rusty Joiner: Last Ounce Of Courage, Dodgeball, “Days of Our Lives”) encounters a young, pregnant teen overcome with grief that, after an impulsive abortion, has her family blaming Jesse for more than just her final decision. Jesse’s wife Julia (Jocelyn Cruz: Strike One, This Is Our Time) must come to terms with her own choices and decide if she can support her husband as opposition mounts against him. Comedian Paul Rodriguez also stars as Virgil with James Russo as Pastor Gil.

I have to agree with the release which also states: “VOICELESS tackles the controversial pro-life vs. pro-choice debate with conviction and compassion, and presents that the true choice is one the church must make. Necerato and Migdon have walked a fine line with making an impactful film that doesn’t alienate, but rather starts a conversation, and in fact has been praised by pro-choice viewers. 

Although the film deals with pro-choice, women’s rights, and the difficult topic of abortion on demand, there are a lot of takeaways from the film.

Jesse never planned on doing more than community outreach, he was shy, mild mannered and quiet. He didn’t like public speaking and was obviously much more at home in the boxing ring than he was in the pulpit, or the public eye. But as his battle progress he learns to trust God, and that rather than questioning where God is leading, it’s best to just follow him on that path.

            In many cases the church has become a lamp under a basket rather than the light on the hill as described in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5: 14-16)  A primary lesson from this film is that the church can and should be a force against the gates of Hell. Although others may see Christians as fanatic about some of our beliefs, we don’t have to act like fanatics, rather we need to learn to stand for what we believe, from a scriptural standpoint, to be true. Sometimes that means we’re a voice for the voiceless, we are to stand up for those who can’t speak for themselves. In this case the topic is abortion, but there are other causes to which the principles might also apply. (Refugees, clean water, human trafficking come to mind).

            We’re called to discern what God wants of us, and then to step up and be the church, even in the face of opposition. In other words we should be worrying more about what God thinks than what our fellow men think.

Voiceless is scheduled to open in theaters nation-wide on Oct 7, 2016. You don’t want to miss it. Watch the trailer here.