|Worker from Iraq|
From "SHARING" #008, June 1997
The test of generosity is not how much you give when
you have plenty,
I'm not sure why I wrote those words a month or so ago, but they've been sitting on my desk staring at me ever since I did. The natural "worldly" response when things get tight is to pull in the reins on generosity. But, it is not the spiritual, or even the true simplicity, response. Jesus also implies a different philosophy for his followers when he holds up the contribution of a poor widow as being greater than that of the Pharisees since her few pennies was all she had, while theirs came from abundance (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4). It is also related to the Parable of the Sower when he explains how "the worries about this life ..... crowd in and choke the message" (Mark 4:13-20, Matthew 13:18-23, Luke 8:11-15). Faith and hoarding just do not go together. But it's an easy "line" to lose perspective on under the guise of "good planning" or "economy."
A while back an Iraqi Christian, who had left Iraq to
avoid persecution under Sadam, came to the Center. He had seen the Sharing
in Christ sign on the side of the building. Over the weeks he used
the phone to seek employment, but his English isn't the best, so opportunities
weren't exactly busting loose all over. Things were strained with his family,
and his finances were tight. In Iran he had been a business owner but his
assets remained behind, no longer worth anything with Iran being cut off
from the rest of the world and the currency devalued. After speaking with
him one day, on which he seemed particularly depressed, I felt God whisper
to me, "you give him some work." Now, to truly appreciate my first reaction
you would have to know what little resources I operate on around here,
and how small a balance is usually in the checkbook (less than two fishes
and a few loaves I assure you). But, if I really believe what I say I believe,
then it all belongs to God, so if He wants to use it all up in a few hours
(even using all the balance) of employment for someone? Pfft, go for
it! Well, those of you who have ever doubted God's wisdom know how it turned
out. After four days of work, the yard, trees, and shrubs around the Center
never looked better. Work, by the way, that I had been complaining to God
about trying to fit in with all that I had still to do. The bills got paid
on time. And the fellow who did the work? Well, he worked hard, for a low
hourly wage (in spite of having been a businessman in his previous country),
and when I wrote the small check (for all that was left in the checkbook)
he smiled. "God provides," he said.
(My poem "Who Can Say they Have Arrived" was included as a part of this newsletter)
The following information is quoted from the April 22, 1997 Awake magazine of the Jehovahís Witness organization. "The number of people worldwide who now live in absolute poverty -- defined as earning less than $370 per year -- is about 1.3 billion, almost a fourth of the worldís population. Most live in the developing world. Typically, these people lack access to sufficient food, safe water, health care, adequate shelter, education, and employment. In most cases, they are undervalued in the societies in which they live and are powerless to change their circumstances. According to the United Nations Development Programme, the number of people living in absolute poverty is increasing by nearly 25 million each year." Sort of boggles the mind that that could be the case as we look around ourselves.
A member of the poetís circle sent me this quote from the Book of Mormon. "And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they. And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you." And from another section of those same writings, "And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself this misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just -- But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?" Of course, American arrogance says, nope, we did it ourselves. But truth is still truth.
This same member included another quote by Rulon Wells. "If I were to be asked what it is that arouses in men and women the greatest amount of energy, and that causes all this activity that we see in the world, my answer would be, it is money. Men and women are struggling after the riches of the world. They will work from early morn until late at night, they will wear out their bodies, in trying to obtain money. Not only will they do that, but they will lie, they will cheat, they will steal, and they will [even] kill for money! It is the desire for riches that is calling out the greatest amount of energy from men and women in the world today."
What does all this say to me? Itís clear that things are out of balance. Consequences always follow.
I ran across an article in my Sharing file which I cut from the Lansing State Journal back in 1995. It was from Cal Thomasí column. "Both liberals and conservatives want the quick fix. Liberals turn to government to repair all social ills, allowing those who claim concern for the poor to escape their responsibility by appealing to the state. Conservatives also increasingly turn to government, believing that all social ills, from abortion to bad language, can be fixed by legislation and having the "right" president in office. ..... It is easier to persuade ourselves that the government should restore our lost virtue, rather than make the effort required to live a virtuous life so that others might do likewise. The power of a changed life is greater than the power of the state."
So whatís the point? How does all of this relate together? I think the common thread is personal responsibility. Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. And, for those of us who refer to ourselves as Christian, I believe God expects just that. I suggest that He is not so concerned with the responsibility of the church as He is with each of us individually. When you and I take seriously the need to share, to care, to tolerate, to forgive, and to help it is then that societies will change. And when each Christian accepts that personal challenge in their everyday life, then the Church will have done something. For it is the people, every individual included, who are the real Church. Effective change hardly ever flows from the top down, but comes from the bottom up. From everyday people. People taking individual responsibility to care, and to respond. And that, by the way, is an inside out process.
"Only 7 percent to 15 percent of volunteer activity done through churches serves those in the community outside the church walls" (Source: The Lutheran magazine, June 1997)
"But whoever has the worldís goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 1 John 3:17
OK, I guess thatís enough of that. So, whatís happening around the Center? A lot of work thatís what. Well, even though I feel like thereís a "to do" pile everywhere I turn, thatís probably not what you had in mind to hear. However, the library has been fully moved to the middle area next to the prayer room. Since the back room, which used to house the library, was not leased, I got permission, and felt lead to set up a classroom/meeting room there. Actually, I suppose technically the process was reverse. I sort of did the work first as I was lead, and then asked permission. Sometimes God can be kind of pushy about things, and you just hope your work wasnít all in vain. But, anyhow, it turned out quite nice. If you get a chance stop and see. No, no, not those of you in Utah, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Texas, Missouri, or New York. Itís nice, but not worth that kind of drive, take my word for it.
Notice how cleverly I slipped in how many different states there are members of the poetís circle in?
Anyway, the Centerís looking pretty good. Iíve had some new visitors recently who have had some very positive comments. In fact, of late, thereís been a feel of energy as if God is about to open a door. Iím cautious, since I tend to jump out in front of the cart at such times, but itís neat to have that sense.
(I related the history of the poetís circle in
this newsletter but it can be found on the tpcM page,
What else? Iíve had a list of phone numbers in my notes for some time now. They belong to the various "sponsor a child" organizations.
Donna and I only have experience with the two on the left (WV & CCF). And yes, it is aggravating when youíre already supporting monthly to have them solicit for more. But, talk about individual responsibility. Making a difference one person to another.
Cut an article out of the Lansing State Journal about two weeks ago (actually I cut out two, but Iím getting tired so you wonít get to see the other one). "Invisible predator kills fish" is certainly a catchy title. Got my attention. The key issue here for me was how our indifference to pollution sets things up.
(The State Journal article has not been reproduced here.)
Well, here is a couple more numbers
Another organization whose approach I like is one that helps developing peoples become self-sufficient:
Why do I share these with you? I was talking with a tpc member a while back about budgeting. When I suggested that the first 10% of all income should be set aside to share, she kind of got her dander up, and said, "oh right, and give it to some church, huh?" My response, "no, give it wherever you want that you can see Godís work being performed." You donít have to be religious to discover the benefits of sharing. You donít have to be a churchgoer to make a difference. God will meet you out in the field.
Boy, itís almost midnight (July 2). For now Iím still using the computer at the church I attend, but thatís a whole other story. I actually did start this newsletter over two weeks ago.
One last note. This one on the related business side of things. The last Wednesday of the month at 7:30pm Iíve started a Solutions/Enrich meeting to get some communication going for those involved. Although they were contacted directly I want you to know that anyone is welcome who is interested.