The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly known as Zaire) might be the poorest country in the world. It’s a place of both abundant natural resources and abject misery. Located in the heart of Africa, the DRC is surrounded by ten other nations, including Angola, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, and Rwanda. Africa’s second-largest country (by land area), it’s home to 80 million people.
The DRC should be a prosperous nation, with its flowing rivers (and their ability to generate hydroelectric power), fertile soil, and rich mineral resources. It is not.
You’d never know it now, but when I first met Pete, almost 40 years ago, he was a shy, introverted nerd. Really. Oh, he was sweet and kind, and smart and fun, but he seemed unsure of himself, and a tad socially awkward. Much later I happened to see a bumper sticker that summed him up quite nicely:
(He was an engineering major, but you get the idea.)
Death and destruction never take a holiday. Intense persecution in the Middle East. Famine and war. Tsunamis, tornados and hurricanes. And now a disastrous earthquake in Nepal—there are always horrific circumstances that break our hearts and motivate us to help. So we should. God blesses us so that we can bless others.
Within hours of the first news reports out of Kathmandu, my inbox was flooded with pleas for donations. Relief ministries, friends, and friends of friends all told stories of suffering and begged for aid.
Last month, I mentioned that I’m signed up to go on a mission trip to Swaziland, in southern Africa. I explained that our church has partnered with Swazi believers to create a care center in a country struggling to provide for tens of thousands of AIDS orphans. Rather than build orphanages and remove the children from their communities, the goal is to provide enough support for them and their caretakers to thrive. (You might want to re-read my post on this successful strategy.)
A third partner in this endeavor is a wonderful ministry called Children’s Hope Chest. Several years ago, I recommended a book written by the CEO of this organization, Tom Davis. Scared: a Novel on the Edge of the World puts forth in fictional form the true story of many African children. Read this book, and you’ll understand a major reason why I’m going on this trip.
“You can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving.” One of our pastors mentioned it again last Sunday, “God can’t direct you if you aren’t already moving.” We’ve all heard this admonition so many times. We assume it’s true. Isn’t it in the Bible somewhere?
Our culture has a thing about keeping busy. If we aren’t doing something every minute of every day, we worry that we’re wasting our lives. We aren’t being significant. We aren’t making a difference. And of course, everybody wants their lives to count for something that matters.
I bet you can immediately think of at least one Christian leader who is either raising lots of eyebrows or has made a wreck of their ministry. I fact, I bet you can think of several.
They may have started out strong in their faith, building the kingdom, aiming for heaven. But as they gained fame and followers and the pressure began to mount, they veered off course. Sadly, they then either fall into sin or heresy, or both. They end up in the headlines and the church takes another bad rap.
Since my sweetie, Pete, works in full-time ministry, we’ve watched this trail of destruction with holy fear. We take seriously warnings such as in Galatians 6:1—“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (italics mine).
I was sitting in church Sunday while one of our pastor was welcoming visitors. As happens every week, he invited anyone new to come to the visitor reception held after each service. The projectionist lit up the “glowing orb” over one pair of doors, highlighted the exit one could take to find snacks, a meet-and-greet with several pastors, and this week’s free gift (is there any other kind?). But what struck me was that the sign projected over the door didn’t just say “Guests.” It said “Guest Central.”
We seem to have a habit of giving special names to everything our church does. Instead of mere announcements, we have the “NLC3.” We don’t just have a Christmas program, we have “Wonderland.” And last year, we didn’t just have a weekly prayer meeting, we experienced “Revival Town.”