This blog was originally posted in August 2014. John has added a quick update on Palash and his family at the end of this post.
We met Palash, Dawa and their family through Lutheran Social Services in November of 2014. They came to the US after having lived in a Nepali refugee camp for over 20 years. Their son Gopal was born there and Dawa had only seen life outside the camp for 1 year. They spoke no English and had no idea what I meant when I told them (demonstrated to them) that the winters in Sioux Falls would be very cold!!!
The family is of Bhutanese descent but had been relocated, for several reasons, as refugees to neighboring Nepal. With little physical resources but big hearts the family arrived to Sioux Falls in November and started their new life here as Americans.
As a family we had no idea what spending time with our new friends from Bhutan/Nepal would mean. We had never done this before but we were excited to welcome our new friends to our country. Many questions remained but we quickly jumped in and started to get to know them.
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.
This blog was originally posted on July 30, 2014
A few months ago I was talking to an acquaintance who owns several rental properties in town. He mentioned to me that one of his homes was open and that he was fielding phone calls from those interested in renting his property. I asked him how it was going and if he had received many calls. His response was something like this:
“Yes, I have had lots of calls. However many of them are from people who hardly speak English… so I really only have a few potential clients.”
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.
In When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert writes, “Development is not done to people or for people, but with people.” He talks a lot about savings groups as an example of good “with” type development. Our friends John and Kate Marsden at Mustard Seeds Shared established one of our favorite savings group programs in the known universe 🙂 So we asked John to share from their experiences doing development with people in Bangladesh.
My legs were growing stiff from sitting cross legged on a mat in the shade of a mango tree. Sweat trickled down my back from the sticky heat of a South Asian summer. I was sitting in a circle with fifteen Bangladeshi village women who had been conducting their weekly savings group meeting for the last hour. They’d worked through their agenda, finishing a lesson on how to keep their family healthy and depositing their ten taka weekly savings (that’s about US 12 cents).
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.
God is at work through the church. This video tells the story of an Act of Love from a community we work with in Asia. It’s an inspiring example of how their church is being obedient to God and loving their neighbors with joy.
TCT Act of Love – House building from Reconciled World on Vimeo.
There is undeniable dissatisfaction with church among Christians around the world these days. People leave one local church for another or even stop gathering. The reasons could be worship music, length of sermon, leadership style, facilities…but I believe the underlying reason is that we misunderstand some fundamental things about the local church.
One of the truths that God used to open my eyes and affirm His call for me is the centrality of the local church. As I understand more about this truth, I learn to love and serve His church more. Let me share a few things with you.
Who owns the church?
Pastors often have a habit of saying “my church” when they talk about the congregation they pastor. Most don’t mean to imply that they own the church; but the problem is some pastors do act like owners. They are controlling and treat other members like slaves. Jesus is the one who established His church (Matthew 16:18), so He is the real owner. He loves and gave his life for her and sanctified her so that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). Does the local church we are gathering reflect the ownership of Jesus? What can we do to help others realize that Jesus is the owner?
This past month I’ve had one of those experiences where one name of God seemed to jump out at me from every direction – when I read my Bible, when our pastor talked on Sunday, when we sang worship songs, when I talked with friends, in blogs I read… sometimes 3-4 times a day…eventually I got the hint that God is wanting to show me something about Himself.
The Sovereign Lord.
I guess I have an issue with authority, control and trite, religious comments. Because I admit that I’ve actually avoided focusing on this attribute and name of God. It seems like people typically say, “God is Sovereign” when they can’t answer the question “why?” or when something bad happens. So, saying “God is Sovereign” felt like an excuse or a “disclaimer”. “God is Sovereign, so oh well” or, “He is in control, you just need more faith.” That doesn’t inspire hope, faith or trust…just resignation to God’s unknowable will and His whims to do whatever He pleases.
The church is able, anywhere and everywhere—even in the most seemingly-impossible places and circumstances!!
As I listen to Rahham’s director recall stories of life in the slums, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by all the hardship and suffering he shares. Stories of the devastation of alcoholism; widows of men taken by AIDS who are left behind with little children; unwanted baby girls; a man who was hit by a train the same night his wife gave birth to two stillborn babies; kids who barely have anything to eat; beggars who spend their lives on the streets. I take time to look into the eyes of each person in the pictures and try to feel the weight they are carrying, try to imagine what life must be like for them. All of this would be almost impossible for me to relate to, except that, living in Delhi, I see people like them day after day—people for whom life is a constant struggle. I see that they are real, that this kind of life is real.
Rahham has been reaching out to these most vulnerable communities with the message of hope. Hope that orphans, widows, scavengers, drug addicts, HIV-infected people, and the LGBTQ community are all welcome in the kingdom of God. A Hope that Christ cares for them—they are not forgotten, not excluded, not worthless and expendable. Rahham has started churches there in the slums, believing that the church is God’s chosen instrument for changing the world. Following the way Christ showed us will expose the lies that keep communities in darkness and sin. Walking in His footsteps will lead to healed, transformed, flourishing communities that in turn can bless those around.