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http://www.stufffundieslike.com/2012/08/sri-lanka-a-tale-of-two-fathers/

 

Sri Lanka: A Tale of Two Fathers

I worry.  In fact I worry almost all the time. Of course I don’t call it “worry” that because it sound weak  and needy so I call it “concern” or “caution” or “just thinking ahead” but the truth is that over the last few years I’ve let a lot of worry consume my soul. I worry about my job and the uncertainty of my future with pay cuts and layoffs as an ever-present threat in my industry. I worry about my children and how to raise them into healthy and happy and educated adults.  I worry about where we will live, how we’ll pay our bills, and a thousand other unknowns that the future hold.

Today I traveled to the brand new work being founded in the village of Mundalkaduwa and I met another man who worries about most of the same things I do. Amila is only four years older than I am and like me he has a wife and two children. He works when he can find work but sometimes there isn’t any to find. He and his wife plan and fret over how to come up with enough money for their children’s education. He wonders what his future holds and whether his life will ever improve.

There is one major difference between Amila and myself.  While I make about the median income for an American household, he worries about these things on an average wage of less than five dollars a day when he’s lucky enough to find work at all. To put that in some perspective, that means that it takes him almost six weeks to make as much money as I make on a normal day. Or put another way, I look to him like what a person who makes over two millions US dollars a year looks like to me. The disparity is staggering

 

Someone asks him through our interpreter what kind of work he does. He says he climbs the palm trees to pick coconuts. A glance as his feet shows the callouses and shaping of long hours spent clinging to the tops of swaying trees as they tower above the ground. We tell him he must be very strong to do this work and he smiles but when we ask him what other work he does when there are no coconuts he raises his hands wide. “Anything” the interpreter tells us. “He’ll do anything because he needs to feed his family.”

In the world of this kind of subsistence living there are no easy answers or quick fixes because Amila’s story can be repeated throughout this entire village and likely through surrounding villages as well. The issue is food security. Because the biggest worry of all whether or not you’ll have enough food to eat or if your family will starve. When your main focus is just getting enough rice to make it through a day there is no money to get an education or start a business or improve your life in any visible way. Until the food and clean water issues are settled, there is nothing else that matters more.

So how does child sponsorship help an family like this one? Here’s how it works:

When you give money to a sponsored child in the area we visited yesterday, those dollars are funneled into projects within the community that are selected by the community itself, and managed by community-based organizations. World Vision provides support, resources, and experience in advising these groups but they do the work themselves. This creates long-term sustainability in these projects since even after World Vision reaches the end of its project and leaves the area, the benefits continue to serve everyone.

So then the question becomes, if the money is going into community projects, then why are we talking about sponsoring individual children. The answer is quite simply that World Vision has found that connecting donors with individual children helps them see the benefits that their dollars are reaping. If you sponsored one of Amila’s children, for example, you’d receive regular updates on their schooling, their health, and what’s going on in their lives. This helps you realize the personal benefits of a broader program in a way that just wouldn’t be possible if you simply wrote a check to World Vision every month.

In the brand new Mundalama Area Development Program there is much work to be done so that parents and older siblings don’t go hungry at night so that the smallest children can eat. So that clean water is a universal expectation and not a luxury paid for with hard earned money. So that every child can go to school and dream that same kinds of great big beautiful dreams that we wish for our own children to dream.

So once again I’ll make my plea. Don’t be afraid to let you heart be open to the opportunities to help children through the child sponsorship program. At this writing I’m sitting here with tears in my own eyes as I think of the needs I have seen over the last few days and the potential to turn such profound sorrow into unimaginable rejoicing. Don’t fear to weep with me. Don’t shrink back from writing yourself into the story of a child’s life. There is such joy just ahead and I want you and I and the people of Sri Lanka to share in it together.

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Sri Lanka: Meeting A Sponsored Child

Tony Jones has been bringing his own unique perspective to this trip and blogging about it over at Patheos. Yesterday he got to meet his sponsored child and made this short video.

To learn more about how child sponsorship works, you can check out the World Vision website.

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http://www.stufffundieslike.com/2012/08/sri-lanka-beginning-at-the-end-2/

Sri Lanka: Beginning At The End

Let’s start today’s story at the end.  After all, every story has an ending place and without that goal in mind the beginning doesn’t matter much at all. A pretty smart fellow named Solomon put it this way: Better is the end of a thing than its beginning. Today we got to see the end result of something amazing and rejoicing such as I’ve rarely encountered. Here’s how it happened…

The morning began the same way the day ended with dancing and celebration.  After fifteen years and countless lives changed for the better, World Vision is closing up shop in this community because they’ve now worked themselves out of a job. Every function of leadership and change is now worked in a sustainable fashion by local people within those communities. Even today’s events were completely planned and organized by the community not the World Vision staff. To mark the occasion, a convoy of vehicles with World Vision staff, local community leaders, and a few wide-eyed American bloggers took off to visit different groups within this location and to bid them farewell.

I’m not sure I can do justice to what we saw along that trek.  The harvest is over this time of year and in this dry season the roads are mostly dry earth with hot breezes moving the palm trees and few remaining bits of greenery.  The houses we saw and the livelihoods represented would have made the poorest person I know in America look fabulously rich by comparison. Often nothing but mud walls and a few palm fronds woven into fences marked the spot where an entire family lives and works.

But something strange was afoot in these villages. Somebody apparently forgot to remind these people that the appropriate emotion for people with so few possessions or modern conveniences is abject misery. Everywhere we stopped we were greeted with smiles and tears of joy. Young girls danced in forms as old as time and women old enough to be their grandmothers danced too, clapping and laughing aloud and thanking us for honoring them by being there.  You see, to these people we are responsible for their success simply by being American because to them America is World Vision. To them our little group represented the people who helped make the radical transformation in the lives present. Children now get healthcare and education.  There is better food to eat and better farming techniques to cultivate it.  Most of all there is now hope and hope sings loudly from every smile that beams out wherever you chance to look.

We received flowers from Buddhists, traded blessings with Hindus, and ate food made by Muslims. We shared a delicious meal (eaten with our fingers in good Sri Lankan style) with teachers and children in their school building. “Look at us!” these gifts all but shouted “we were once weak but now we are strong. You gave gifts to us, now here are gifts from the labors we do.  Now we are proud to give back to you.” Although poor by American standards, this area is now completely self-sustaining needing no outside World Vision support to pay teachers, hire community leaders, and continue the work of improving lives by building healthy children, strong families, and unified communities.

But World Vision’s work is far from over in Sri Lanka. At this writing there are forty other areas in need of sponsorships and funding so that they can repeat the story of success we saw here today. The end of this work brings a new beginning as the staff relocate to a new area to begin the work anew.  With help from you this same celebration happen over and over again.

I wish you could have seen those children smile and dance.

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http://www.stufffundieslike.com/2012/08/sri-lanka-in-the-neighborhood/

 

Sri Lanka: In The Neighborhood

Tonight I knelt on stony ground and watched people walk on fire. The crowd chanted in a religious fervor that approached a fever pitch almost as hot as the coals glowing on the ground and rushed forward to meet the fire walkers with such vigor that I actually feared for my own safety as the crushing weight pressed me back against the barriers where we were standing. All I could think was that my dad was right when warned me that Pentecostals sure do get crazy sometimes.  (That last statement  is a joke and is not intended to have any basis in reality. I do that sometimes.)

All joking aside, Hindu people present took great pride showing us their devotion and sacrifice giving us seats so close we could feel the heat of the coals on our faces. We’re told that the fire walk is the culmination of a vow to their gods wherein a person promises that if something they want comes to pass that they will return that honor to the gods by literally walking through fire. Earlier in the day we saw a man walk with shoes made of nails and a woman with both cheeks pierces through with a metal rod as a sign of the same type of sacrifice in response to a vow. It made me think how petty our Christian “worship” must seem sometimes when we merely sing about how great our God is but often fail to follow through with any physical sign that we are serious. A few tears and a rockin’ guitar doth not worship make.

It would be all to easy to look the complete differences between that fire walk and the average Western church service and draw the conclusion that what Sri Lanka really needs is to clean us its theology before working on its economics. After all, to those of us who grew up in fundamentalism, the word “mission” means “church planting.” The theory goes that if you send missionaries to a foreign land and convert the heathern there, and get them tithing to a good Bible-believing church that their lives will then automatically improve. God will bless them and give them enough food to eat, better homes to live in, and (most importantly) enough money to support a full-time pastor. But even if the people stay poor, then at least they’ll be rich in spirit and if they should happen to die of hunger or disease then their eternal soul is safe and that’s what really matters. Isn’t it?

For some strange reason, however, the Scripture is full of instructions to take care of the poor – even the poor who haven’t joined your church or professed to love your God. At some point we have to ask ourselves if our charity is merely a calculated means to some religious end. What if we give some of those  children who surrounded the fire pit tonight enough to eat, a place to stay, and an education only to realize they never became a Christian as a result of our efforts? In an eternal sense was that money and time a waste? The churches we grew up in would probably say that it was. There’s no point saving the body if we lose the soul. In fact, a little suffering is good for the unsaved person. We want them physically miserable enough to look to us for spiritual answers.  A little pain is a great motivator.

If the Christian life is one of neighbor-love then does only helping those who are keen to believe as we do really love at all? When Christ identifies himself as being the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned and states very plainly that charity done to those in need is in fact done to HIM, are we then to believe that he then implicitly added “but only if they’re either believers or likely to get saved shortly after you help them.” But unfortunately we all too often are found sitting in the lawyer’s seat asking “who is my neighbor?” as if we hadn’t already heard the resulting parable and still think that we’ve found a clever way to avoid helping those who are not just like us.

Sri Lanka is a country that is majority Buddhist and Hindu. It’s also a country of great need. The mission here is focused not on conversions but on showing neighbor-love through works of charity and kindness to children of all religions and background. Food, medicine, and clothing is not bait for some gospel trap set to snag the vulnerable. World Vision helps sponsor children because our God is love. And love is not a feeling it is an action verb and it requires action to make itself reality.

Just because our God does not require that we walk on hot coals to show our love and sacrifice does not mean that He does not require outward signs of the love we claim to have for Him. Who is your neighbor? Who is mine? I’d encourage you to search your own heart and then look to the needs around you for the places where you can show that love in a real and physical way.

If you’re not sure where to begin, check out the child sponsorship program and find out about kids who at this moment need a meal more than a sermon, a friend more than a tract, and most of all need to know that somebody in this world care about them enough to be their neighbor.

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http://www.stufffundieslike.com/2012/08/sri-lanka-old-and-new/

 

Sri Lanka: Old and New

The more things change the more they stay the same. Thursday morning I woke up, took my daughter to school, made lunch, and then got on an airplane that took me on a trip halfway around the world, flying past news-worthy cities with names like Baghdad and Allepo and over the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  Thirteen hours of flying landed us in Dubai where midnight found us riding in a taxi with a driver who explained to us that in Dubai the Old Town is the section that contains all the new buildings. Soon we were sitting in the baking desert heat and eating pizza while watching a Vegas-Style fountain show blast out (among other things) the music of Thriller.  Then we went to the mall with the Starbucks and Ikea and Subway. It was all strange and exotic, yet so oddly familiar. It never ceases to amaze me what America has as its chief exports to the world.

A few hours more and another airplane and we wearily stumbled through the doors into the tropical sun of Colombo, Sri Lanka to negotiate with beggars who try to manhandle your luggage for you and then charge you for that privilege. As my nostrils were assaulted by the mixed scent of salt air, exhaust fumes, and the faint scent of decay that no tropical city is ever without the first word that popped into my head was “home.”  The looks and sounds and smells all have so evocative of the West Indian island where I grew that I immediately understood why Columbus thought he had had managed to reach the East Indies by sailing around the world. Even the insanity of the bus ride out of the city had an odd sense of rightness to it as we tried our best to abide by the Sri Lankan rule that no two cars may follow behind each other at any given time. It’s a different place in a different world but it’s still so much the same.

There are distinctions, of course. The surf of the Indian ocean roars just a few steps from our lodgings but the sand is an unfamiliar shade of brown not white or black like the coral-laden beaches of Grenada. The people here find their roots in Asia not Africa and the stream of liquid syllables that characterize the Sinhalese language are nothing like that Jamaican-style English pronouncements of my adopted homeland. Perhaps the starkest contrast of all to me is that the religion here is majority Buddhist and though I saw a few signs of Catholicism during the bus ride to the hotel there was nary a Protestant church or mission in sight.

For all the little differences, being here has sent me on a sentimental journey through my past as I sit here basking in a tropical sun (that is strangely hotter during the morning than the afternoon because of where it sits below the equator). I’m sure that by now my traveling companions have long since tired of hearing me say the words “well, where I grew up…” as I compare this island nation to one that my heart has been missing for a decade. Perhaps it’s just some trick of memory combined with jet lag that warms my soul for scenes both old and new. But I’ll take it. I’ll love every minute of it. Sri Lanka may not be home but the feeling that it could have been is never far from the edge of my senses. The Dubai cab driver had the right of it. What is new is old for me. And what is old has once again become new.

Tomorrow we’ll be out in the field and I can’t wait to start sharing with you what we see.

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http://www.stufffundieslike.com/2012/08/sri-lanka-hit-me-with-your-best-shot/

Sri Lanka: Hit Me With Your Best Shot

View of the lake at Kotamale, Sri Lanka

Today I’m getting on a plane for Sri Lanka. (Actually, I’m getting on a bus and three planes but who’s counting?) I’ll try to keep the SFL Facebook page and Twitter feed updated whenever possible on the trip to let you all know that we’re all still alive.

In the meantime, I’d like to invite you to ask whatever questions you might have about Sri Lanka, World Vision, and the Child Sponsorship program. People from our shared background tend to be as suspicious as we are generous because we’ve all seen organizations that say one thing and do another. The great news is that I’m headed to Sri Lanka as SFL’s ambassador to get the facts and see what’s really going on.

So ask me the tough questions, voice your concerns, and generally engage in the kinds of shenanigans for which we are famous. I love you all and I’m excited to bring you with me on this trip. I’m praying that it opens all of our hearts to a world of outreach that we never experienced in fundamentalism and that we’ll all be better for it.

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 An expository sermon on the Doctrine of Regeneration/New Birth from:

Twin City Bible Church | A Christ-Centered, Bible-Believing Fellowship

via Man\’s Greatest Need.

Man’s Greatest Need

April 22, 2012
Scripture Reference:
John 3:1-10
Filed Under:

One of the most famous statements by Jesus is this: “You must be born again.” This passage explains what He meant, and why being “born again” is so important.

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Christopher Peterman has been expelled today, just days before he was to graduate from BJU.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151561551900506#!/DoRightBJU

Watch his statement on video here:  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151561551900506#!/photo.php?v=10151561551900506

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Book 1, Chapter 14: In the creation of the world, and all things in it, the true God distinguished by certain marks from fictitious gods.

Section 22. Another object of this knowledge, viz., that perceiving how these things were created for our use, we may be excited to trust in God, pray to him, and love him.

The other course which has a closer relation to faith remains to be considered, viz., that while we observe how God has destined all things for our good and salvation, we at the same time feel his power and grace, both in ourselves and in the great blessings which he has bestowed upon us; thence stirring up ourselves to confidence in him, to invocation, praise, and love. Moreover, as I lately observed, the Lord himself, by the very order of creation, has demonstrated that he created all things for the sake of man. Nor is it unimportant to observe, that he divided the formation of the world into six days, though it had been in no respect more difficult to complete the whole work, in all its parts, in one moment than by a gradual progression. But he was pleased to display his providence and paternal care towards us in this, that before he formed man, he provided whatever he foresaw would be useful and salutary to him. How ungrateful, then, were it to doubt whether we are cared for by this most excellent Parent, who we see cared for us even before we were born! How impious were it to tremble in distrust, lest we should one day be abandoned in our necessity by that kindness which, antecedent to our existence, displayed itself in a complete supply of all good things! Moreover, Moses tells us that everything which the world contains is liberally placed at our disposal. This God certainly did not that he might delude us with an empty form of donation. Nothing, therefore, which concerns our safety will ever be wanting. To conclude, in one word; as often as we call God the Creator of heaven and earth, let us remember that the distribution of all the things which he created are in his hand and power, but that we are his sons, whom he has undertaken to nourish and bring up in allegiance to him, that we may expect the substance of all good from him alone, and have full hope that he will never suffer us to be in want of things necessary to salvation, so as to leave us dependent on some other source; that in everything we desire we may address our prayers to him, and, in every benefit we receive, acknowledge his hand, and give him thanks; that thus allured by his great goodness and beneficence, we may study with our whole heart to love and serve him.

This is an excellent note with which to end this series.  Glory and praise to the Sovereign Creator and loving Redeemer.

http://www.vor.org/rbdisk/html/institutes/index.html

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Book 1, Chapter 14: In the creation of the world, and all things in it, the true God distinguished by certain marks from fictitious gods.

IV. The practical use to be made of the history of the creation, Section 20 22.

Section 20. The latter part of the chapter briefly embracing the history of creation, and showing what it is of importance for us to know concerning God.

Section 21. The special object of this knowledge is to prevent us, through ingratitude or thoughtlessness, from overlooking the perfections of God. Example of this primary knowledge.

Section 20. The latter part of the chapter briefly embracing the history of creation, and showing what it is of importance for us to know concerning God.

Meanwhile, being placed in this most beautiful theatre, let us not decline to take a pious delight in the clear and manifest works of God. For, as we have elsewhere observed, though not the chief, it is, in point of order, the first evidence of faiths to remember to which side soever we turn, that all which meets the eye is the work of God, and at the same time to meditate with pious care on the end which God had in view in creating it. Wherefore, in order that we may apprehend with true faith what it is necessary to know concerning God, it is of importance to attend to the history of the creation, as briefly recorded by Moses and afterwards more copiously illustrated by pious writers, more especially by Basil and Ambrose. From this history we learn that God, by the power of his Word and his Spirit, created the heavens and the earth out of nothing; that thereafter he produced things inanimate and animate of every kind, arranging an innumerable variety of objects in admirable order, giving each kind its proper nature, office, place, and station; at the same time, as all things were liable to corruption, providing for the perpetuation of each single species, cherishing some by secret methods, and, as it were, from time to time instilling new vigour into them, and bestowing on others a power of continuing their race, so preventing it from perishing at their own death. Heaven and earth being thus most richly adorned, and copiously supplied with all things, like a large and splendid mansion gorgeously constructed and exquisitely furnished, at length man was made – man, by the beauty of his person and his many noble endowments, the most glorious specimen of the works of God. But, as I have no intention to give the history of creation in detail, it is sufficient to have again thus briefly touched on it in passing. I have already reminded my reader, that the best course for him is to derive his knowledge of the subject from Moses and others who have carefully and faithfully transmitted an account of the creation.

Section 21. The special object of this knowledge is to prevent us, through ingratitude or thoughtlessness, from overlooking the perfections of God. Example of this primary knowledge.

It is unnecessary to dwell at length on the end that should be aimed at in considering the works of God. The subject has been in a great measure explained elsewhere, and in so far as required by our present work, may now be disposed of in a few words. Undoubtedly were one to attempt to speak in due terms of the inestimable wisdom, power, justice, and goodness of God, in the formation of the world, no grace or splendour of diction could equal the greatness of the subject. Still there can be no doubt that the Lord would have us constantly occupied with such holy meditation, in order that, while we contemplate the immense treasures of wisdom and goodness exhibited in the creatures as in so many mirrors, we may not only run our eye over them with a hasty, and, as it were, evanescent glance, but dwell long upon them, seriously and faithfully turn them in our minds, and every now and then bring them to recollection. But as the present work is of a didactic nature, we cannot fittingly enter on topics which require lengthened discourse. Therefore, in order to be compendious, let the reader understand that he has a genuine apprehension of the character of God as the Creator of the world; first, if he attends to the general rule, never thoughtlessly or obliviously to overlook the glorious perfections which God displays in his creatures; and, secondly, if he makes a self application of what he sees, so as to fix it deeply on his heart. The former is exemplified when we consider how great the Architect must be who framed and ordered the multitude of the starry host so admirably, that it is impossible to imagine a more glorious sight, so stationing some, and fixing them to particular spots that they cannot move; giving a freer course to others yet setting limits to their wanderings; so tempering the movement of the whole as to measure out day and night, months, years, and seasons, and at the same time so regulating the inequality of days as to prevent every thing like confusion. The former course is, moreover, exemplified when we attend to his power in sustaining the vast mass, and guiding the swift revolutions of the heavenly bodies, &c. These few examples sufficiently explain what is meant by recognising the divine perfections in the creation of the world. Were we to attempt to go over the whole subject we should never come to a conclusion, there being as many miracles of divine power, as many striking evidences of wisdom and goodness, as there are classes of objects, nay, as there are individual objects, great or small, throughout the universe.

http://www.vor.org/rbdisk/html/institutes/index.html

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