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13 posts from November 2006

November 30, 2006

56% of South Africa's Teens Dead Before 60

Words cannot express the burden I feel for Africa. Specifically, the young people, the infants, and the innocent who will die from a disease that is preventable and treatable. One day, I am convinced that when I stand before God I will be asked the question, "What did you do to help the children of Africa?"

Today another report was release on what is happening in the country of South Africa. These reports typically state what can be 'proven' but aren't typically reality. In other words, the situation is much worse than they admit. Why? Well, you can't test everyone for HIV, you can only get a 'sample' of the population. Children are rarely tested - even the ones who are in Christian-based programs. Having been to an HIV clinic myself, I know there are many days when people come in to be tested and 100% of them are infected. The people will even tell you it is much worse than what's being reported.

This report states that 15 year olds have a 56% chance of dying before 60. In the region of Kwa-Zulu Natal, where our group was, the life expectancy was down to 43. This is an area where millions of people live, so there's plenty of healthy people to off-set the statistic.

The cure for HIV? The health minister said, and I quote, "praised garlic, lemons and the African potato as remedies for HIV while disparaging the benefits of antiretroviral medicines." Are you kidding me? You can read the article by clicking HERE.

The good news, the great news, is that we received our first round of profiles for the children in Swaziland today - over 350! It's just the beginning. For those 350 kids, God willing, their life will never be the same because God's people are busy doing something to make a difference in their life. By the way the dates for the next trip are set: March 2-12. Do you want to come? :)

November 29, 2006

Where Is Home?

Tonight, the low is supposed to be -4. I'm sitting in front of a bright orange, raging fire. I'm looking at our beautiful Christmas tree peppered with hundreds of white, twinkling lights and dozens of ornaments we've gathered throughout the years. It's funny how many of those ornaments have incredible memories of our first Christmas together, the arrival of each new child, and holiday laughter. Great memories, indeed.

But my mind is also on what the orphans of the world are dealing with on this night. Many of them have few memories of laughter and good times, many of them are hungry, scared and alone. Where is home for them? All of them deserve a home that is safe and to be surrounded by people who love them. That's what they deserve, but not what they get.

I just received an email today with news from Swaziland, Africa. We have just began to partner with Pastor Walter who takes care of 8 orphan care points feeding over 500 children. A few days ago, he was walking on the road and hit by a car. He has a broken leg and a dislocated shoulder, but should be fine. We've also just found out that the children haven't had any food since he's been gone.  I wonder how they are surviving? What are they doing to get food? What does their home life look like tonight? God, help there to be more Pastor Walters and help orphans find a true home.

November 27, 2006

Prayer for the Poor

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

November 26, 2006

The Daily Office

The Christmas season is always a great time to re-examine my life. This December I'm making a commitment to follow a 'rhythmic' pattern of prayer. Especially, since this area is a struggle for me! Here's the morning prayer to start for today. If you enjoy this, click on this link for a great guide to The Daily Office.

As the sun does daily rise,
  Brightening all the morning skies,
  So to You with one accord
  Lift we up our hearts, O God.

 

Day by day provide us food,
  For from You come all things good;
  Strength unto our souls afford
  From Your living bread, O God.

 

Be our guard in sin and strife;
  Be the leader of our life;
  Lest from You we stray abroad,
  Stay our wayward feet, O God.

 

Quickened by the Spirit's grace
  All Your holy will to trace
  While we daily search Your Word,
  Wisdom true impart, O God.

November 22, 2006

The Most Dangerous Place for a Newborn

Can you guess? You got it...Africa. According to a new report that is out, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most dangerous region in the world for a baby to be born -- with 1.16 million babies dying each year in the first 28 days of life. Want to know what makes this even more tragic? It's preventable. We can do what it takes to stop this loss of innocent life.

Also in the report came this conclusion: up to 800,000 babies a year could be saved if 90 percent of women and babies received feasible, low-cost health interventions.

Read the full report by clicking Here.

November 20, 2006

What are you Thankful for?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and the reflections of a good friend of mine named Lisa Samson, I want to slow down and remember what I'm thankful for. How about you? This Thanksgiving season I am thankful for:

1. My wife and my wonderful children.

2. Starbucks coffee first thing in the morning.

3. Snow in the winter.

4. Being a daddy.

5. A job that I love.

November 16, 2006

New Book - Project RED: Africa

A few weeks I posted the first half of the introduction to the new book on Africa. This book has to be completed and to the publisher by January 1, 2007 and will release September 2007. Here's the second half to the intro:


"I'll take this even further. The Christian church is in a state of emergency. Like the priest and Levite of Jesus' parable, we have passed the beaten man on the road – to busy or to "holy" to involve ourselves in lending a helping hand. Instead, it’s the Samaritans – the celebrities, rock stars, comedians, and actors who have stopped to pick up the dying man and nursed him back to health.

Africa is on fire. But until we stop arguing about how it started and who should be saved first, thousands more children are orphaned each day. Thousands more will die. As you read this book, you are just a short plane ride away from a world where 8-year-old girls prostitute themselves for a loaf of bread. For every hour that you read this book, another 1,000 children will die.

The true state of emergency lies within the church--it lies within us. It’s our problem. We cannot leave Africa's children lying by the side of the road, dying, as we pass on our way by. The only Gospel I believe in is the one that offers a cup of cold water in Jesus name. The only Gospel worth living for is the one that incarnates love. The only Gospel worth giving my life for is the one that elevates the needs of others above the needs of our own.

Perhaps we're afraid. Perhaps we don't have enough information. Perhaps we're just lazy. Whatever the rationale, we’ve run out of time. It’s time to get up and do something.

Red is also the color of revolution. And that's exactly what the church will need if we are going to respond with Christ's love. That, I'm afraid, is our only option. A revolution of the heart, mind, and checkbook. All of our resources are demanded. Otherwise, I believe, history will judge the church harshly saying 'They cared more about banning gay marriage than about the 33,000 children who died each day from extreme poverty.' That's not my church. I hope it's not yours either.

The hope is that we can make a difference. We can change the world. When our inaction becomes action, our indifference shifts to making a difference, and when our apathy is exchanged for compassion – the world will change and so will we. It just takes a movement in the right direction.

Welcome to your first step.

The Revolution is here."

November 15, 2006

Scriptures on Caring for the Orphan

Today, I wanted to post some scriptures to meditate on. It tells some of the story of why orphans are so important to God and why we are supposed to care for them.

  1. God calls Himself the Father of the fatherless.

·        Psalm 68:5, “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.”

  1. God considers spiritual service the purest when His people are taking care of orphans.  (and)  A religion that does not care for orphans is no religion at all.

·        James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

  1. God’s people are commanded to care for orphans.  To see an orphan afflicted, and to turn a deaf ear, is sin, even rebellion.

·        Exodus 22:22, “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.”

·        Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

·        Isaiah 1:23, “Your rulers are rebellious, and companions of thieves; everyone loves bribes, and follows after rewards.  They do not defend the fatherless.”

  1. We can be the hands and love of Christ Himself by providing practical care.

·        Deuteronomy 10:18, “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”

·        Psalm 10:14, “But You, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.  The victim commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.”

·        Matthew 18:5, “Whoever receives a child in My name, receives Me.”

·        Matthew 25: 45, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these, you did it unto Me.”

  1. Orphans are to be taken care of with the same honor and provision as a Pastor or Priest.

·        Deuteronomy 14:28-30, “The Levite (priest), because he has not portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

  1. A portion of all that we possess is sacred and belongs to the orphan.

·        Deuteronomy 26:12-14, “You shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments.”

November 13, 2006

How Do You Care for an Orphan?

When you think of caring for orphans, what comes to mind? What does it mean to provide Justice to the orphan? Is it simply to provide food and clothing? What about just visiting them to say hello and tell them God loves them? What is care?

I firmly believe the answer is found in Psalm 68:5-6, "A Father to the fatherless...is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families." To care for the orphan means to provide as much of a sense of family as possible.

Think of caring for orphans in these terms: How can we provide as much of the same kind of care to them as we would our own children? Well, you would provide a sense of family. And this is a long=-term goal, not a short-term one. It's not quick and fast, it's for a lifetime. Of course a part of this care would be food, clothing, and shelter. But you would also add education, safety, and hope for a better future. They would also need counseling, medical care, and most important, discipleship. That's why Children's HopeChest believes in holistic care for orphans in 5 areas: Educational, Spiritual, Physical, Medical/Dental, and Emotional.

Family is a reality for these kids through our Family Centers. Hope is provided through all that Ministry Centers offer. For a safe place to live, that comes from the Independent Living Programs. The end-goal is to see orphans who had no hope become leaders in their communities. They will be the doctors, lawyers, judges, politicians, and entrepreneurs of their day!

Our challenge as a community of people who care about the needs of orphans is to design and get behind programs that provide a sense of family for kids who have never had one. It takes work and our programs need to be well planned. But these kids are worth it and we need to do everything in our power to give them justice. God has plans for them, to give them "a hope and a future." So should we!

November 12, 2006

What Really Matters in Life?

Have you ever stopped to think about what things we are doing in life that really matter? I'm talking about the things that make a difference now, and in eternity. Take a moment to think about what you do on a daily and weekly basis. What things are just taking up empty space? What things really don't matter in God's Kingdom? What things are just causing strife, stress and frustration?

There are things that matter to God more than others. What would happen if we made a few adjustments in our lives? What if, week to week, we made sure the things that mattered most to God were consistently a part of our lives? Caring for the orphan, the widow and the stranger are at the TOP of God's priority. Maybe we would live with more meaning and fulfillment. Perhaps we wouldn't be so stressed and incomplete. The truth is that God's promise to us is that if we take care of the weak and marginalized, every thing we touch will be blessed. Take a look at Deuteronomy 24 for a full explanation of this.

In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus reveals to us what is most important in His kingdom. We don't have to wonder or guess, He tells us what matters most in this life and in eternity: "Then the King will say to those on his right (those who lived their lives for the things that mattered to God), 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'  "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' \

This week, reach out to the least of these. Give a drink of water, take some groceries to a single mom, make a gift to a ministry that's helping orphans. Whatever you do, do something. Do something for the least of these, the future is in their eyes!