Just one more ooey-gooey sugar-glazed donut! One last episode of Downton Abbey tonight (errr…this morning). One more time checking Facebook, just to make sure I don’t miss anything important. We know overdoing these things is not healthy, but it seems so hard to stop! For those of us thinking the word “addiction” has nothing to do with us, let’s try staying away from sugar or caffeine or TV or social media for a month.
Of course, downing six cups of coffee a day or binge-watching Breaking Bad has a different affect on our bodies, minds, and environment than consuming drugs or alcohol, but we all have idols we find hard to say “no” to. Some of us fight the siren song of sugar or Instagram likes, others, due to many different factors, battle more dangerous and destructive beasts.
I’ve just spent a month in Africa teaching the TCT program. One of the big things we look at during trainings are the beliefs that keep people locked in poverty. There are many. The South Sudanese team shared some really powerful lies that keep them in poverty, such as, “We are a baby country, so everyone should just give to us” and “We are the land of Cush that was cursed in Isaiah 18; we are cursed.” While these lies and their impact are incredibly sad, it was fun to watch the team search scripture to find the truth to counter each of those lies and recognise it isn’t what God says about them at all.
My earliest memory of being aware of refugees even existing simply involves sitting in a living room with a family I couldn’t talk to (because we didn’t speak the same language), and being served my first cup of Turkish coffee in a beautiful, tiny demitasse cup. I was about 16, and I had no idea what this family had experienced or how they had landed in a town near me. I still don’t, not specifically. But they changed my life with their hospitality, at a time when my world was very small.
Over time, God has provided more and more touch points for me with refugee families. Opportunities to help set up apartments, welcome families, and walk with them for a time. Opportunities to hear their stories and their dreams. Every time, I receive from them so much more than I give—a more complex world, a softer heart, a bigger God.
For years the church members of Tu Pi village had waited for someone to come help them. They were extremely poor—at least three months a year they had to scavenge for food. The village was a three-hour walk from the nearest road, meaning that they had little contact with anyone outside their community. The village had no school, no medical facilities, no market, no electricity, no toilets or wells. Gathering water required a two-kilometer walk. With little discipleship, the church members lived much the same way as the rest of the community— growing tobacco and rice to make rice wine. It made life bearable at least.
Then they heard a rumor that there was a program for churches that was causing communities to move out of poverty. They sent representatives to try to find someone to come and teach them the program. However, when they found the trainer, he refused to come—he was doubtful that if he left his motorbike on the side of the road for three days while he did the training that it would still be there when he got back. However, God convicted the trainer, so he agreed to go to Tu Pi and teach Module 1 of the TCT program.
Of all the different issues we could talk about as we focus on women this month, the one that keeps coming to my mind is the way we women think of ourselves and view other women. The abuse, oppression, objectification and devaluation of women is a priority topic here in India, and most of the time we think about how society in general or specifically men relate to women this way, which, of course, is extremely important. But as I was listening to stories upon stories from the Ending Gendercide team members, the idea that women work against each other kept jumping out at me.
Why is that? Why do we keep undermining each other? Why do we want others to suffer what we have suffered? Why do the different choices or success of other women make us feel threatened and less? Why do women tend to tear each other down instead of building each other up?
Poverty is complex. How we address poverty is tricky. To wildly over-simplify things, we can think of poverty in two categories:
- generational poverty—poverty that you see around much of the majority world; poverty that you are born into and never seem to get out of, and
- situational poverty—poverty that comes from an outside event, like a natural disaster or a health crisis.
The causes of each are different and so, naturally, the solutions are different. For now we will just look at the first—generational poverty.
Imagine a poor rural village in the majority world. What do you think are the best ways to help them? For years I would have said give resources and train them in the basic life skills that they are missing. Today I would argue that one of the most important things that we can do to address poverty is pray. Why? Well there are a few reasons.
Christmas is approaching. It’s a season when Christians all over the world love to share about their faith. Unfortunately, that also means that it’s a time when persecution increases.
I live in what is labelled a ‘closed’ or ‘creative access’ country. Basically that means the church here faces persecution, and while it’s definitely not as bad as it once was, it’s been a constant theme for me for the past 20 years. People are chased by the police, forced to hide or disguise themselves. People are beaten, their homes and fields are burnt, their families reject them, and they are thrown out of their villages. These are real, painful things. I know what it means to be scared, and I certainly don’t want to minimize it. Thinking back on some of my own experiences still makes me shudder. BUT, it’s not the whole story. Those snapshots are true. But I think too often we don’t tell the whole story, so we end up painting a picture of persecution that leaves God out.
Here are a few more snapshots of persecution.
One of the fun things about traveling around the world is there are numerous opportunities to celebrate the new year arriving. The Buddhist New Year falls in April, Ethiopian New Year is in September, and Jewish New Year is celebrated each autumn.This week it’s the Lunar New Year – celebrated in most of East Asia – China, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore to name a few.
In these countries, the Lunar New Year is a huge event, a time for families to get together and celebrate. Think Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one. It’s also a time when thousands of new Christians will be heading home to visit their families for the first time since becoming a Christian, and they need our prayers.
There are three things that can make going home difficult as a new Christian: