Category Archives: Social Issues

I’m Sorry I’m a Christian

This caught my eye today. Be warned, there are a couple f-bombs.

My Heart Is Torn For Haiti

I just heard about what happened yesterday in Haiti. From what I have read, this disaster will be felt for years. Tens of thousands of people were physically crushed and the rest maybe even more so psychologically. It seems as though everything in the capital was destroyed. Schools, government buildings, houses, shops, everything, in a matter of seconds. My mind can’t comprehend the trauma this would create in a community. No matter how many pictures I see or what words I read, I will never be able to understand. I want to be there. Not because I want to experience pain or be a hero (I wouldn’t even know how to help people in a feasible way). I want to be there because they are humans, they are suffering, and they are crying out for help. It is in times like these that God moves more visibly to my eyes.

So what can we do? Nothing seems like enough. Can we actually help or are we helpless to aid? We can be a part of the healing process. We can do little things. And for followers of the one who fed thousands with a handful, that is an encouraging thing. We can send a $10 donation to Red Cross’ relief effort by texting HAITI to 90999. And we can ask God to multiply our gift. We can ask God to comfort those stuck in this mess. And perhaps most importantly, we can keep this issue on our hearts. Like I said earlier, this issue is not going to fade quickly. It will fester and when it does, somewhere down the road, we can be ready to help. One example of this is adoption. This earthquake has created multitudes of new orphans. This is one of many problems that will arise. For now, talk to God, donate money, do what you can do to help your neighbors from Haiti.

Saying Goodbye to Mexico (For Now)

I’m back from another amazing trip  to a foreign country. This time it was Mexico and despite it’s extremely close proximity, it was my first time there. Going into a trip like this, I try not to have many expectations. I try to be prepared to engage in a new culture but that is about it. I just ride the wave that God’s pushing.

We went to Rocky Point and let me tell you it is kind of a sad place. It’s a city saturated with awesome ideas that were never able to come to fruition. It is riddled with skyrises that have done nothing but rust for the last couple of years. Apparently, when the American economy stepped in sinking sand, we all stopped traveling down to the rocky point that was fantastically popular only a few months before. Because of that, all of the people, who came up from other parts of Mexico to get an easy job in construction, brought their poverty with them.

With that as a backdrop, God did some really great things on this trip. The reason we went was to build a house for a family but the purpose of the trip was far more expansive. Originally, we were to build a single house for a certain family but because another church group was there at the same time as us, we constructed a double-wide home for another family. The two-and-a-half days of construction were filled with hard work, futbol (and football) with the kids, and an incredible cross-cultural fellowship with our Mexican neighbors. It was an amazing experience to work alongside dozens of Mexicans who deeply care for their neighbors as Jesus commanded. There was a very distinct sense of hope and joy and an incredible ability to communicate silently through that. The construction ended with a dedication and expression of gratitude that was awe-inspiring and tear-jerking.

God is doing some crazy things through our facilitating organization, One Mission. They are empowering the people to be able to provide for their needs by using their tools and working alongside them. Plus, they enable Americans to be a part of it, thus knitting the two cultures together. The Body of Christ as it should be. An amazing thing.

Once we were done with the house, we were able to visit a family for whom another New Valley group had built a house about a month ago. The family had added on to the house, converting it from a single to a double. They had completely furnished it and considered themselves wonderfully blessed. They new they had so much and have committed their lives to giving. “To whom much is given, much shall be required.” Seeing this, I had two thoughts. 1: It’s really cool to see what has happened because a group was able to come down and build this family a house. They have capitalized so well. 2: If he knows much is required of him because he was given a house that’s not even as big as my parents bedroom, then how much more is required of me?

The last morning, we had a debrief time on the beach in which we all shared highs and lows. The lows were admittedly trivial and sometimes humorous. Among the highs were building alongside the Mexicans, playing with the kids, seeing the other house, communicating through the language barrier, and experiencing the beauty that can only be found in simple places.

I am so thankful that I was allowed to go on this trip. As is His way, our Father accomplished mind-blowing things while we were there. And He hasn’t stopped since we left. He continues to work yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Changing Course

Why Social Justice Is Popular in the West Today:
1.  We all long for a better place in this broken world.
2.  The world’s problems are no longer hidden from our view.
3.  Our wealth has not brought us satisfaction.  
4.  We want to play a part in the global village.
5.  We think we have the answers to the worlds problems.

Why Our Efforts are Severely Misguided:
1.  We have an incorrect definition of poverty.
2.  Assisting others feeds our own ego.
3.  Helping the less fortunate feeds our “God-complex”.  “I’m here to save you.  I have the answers to your problems.”
4.  We think we can “quick fix” the worlds problems through championing catch all statistics with financial commitments. (As if lack of money is the only real hurdle)
5.  We look down upon the poor as inferior.  We have stripped from them their voice, dignity, and worth.
6.  Our answers are more in the form of quick handouts and relief work, rather than an investment in relationships over time with genuine holistic programs to implement change.
7.  We view these problem one sided.  It’s a spiritual or material issue.  Give them your religion or give them your money.  We don’t see the complexity of their issue. 

A lot of the thoughts I have are not mine at all. They are ideas from other people that I put my own spin on. This post is no exception. The two columns above are from Luke Parrott’s blog. Most of the things he writes about are also things that I think about. So when I saw his post, I knew I wanted to write about the same thing because it’s a big deal.

Organizations like Toms and campaigns like (red) and One are awesome and for sure they have their place in the social justice world but they cannot be the only front or even the main front. They do their jobs well enough (to get people excited about helping others and to aid with big picture problems) but they also create a false sense of finality. For example, people, perhaps more subcontiously than contiously, think that once they’ve bought a pair of Toms that they’ve “done their part” in helping others.

Big organizations and campaigns like these have a way of stripping away the dignity of the people they’re serving. It’s hard to see the people behind the problem. They seem somehow below us when we’re helping from so far away.

We think we can quick-fix the worlds problems. We take away the complexities of the issues. We want to donate a million pairs of crocs to kids in Rwanda but what we don’t realize is that that would more detrimental than helpful. What would that mean for the local economy? The street venders who sell shoes? What will happen when the shoes are gone and the kids no longer have callous’ on their feet and cannot walk the same paths they could before without hurting themselves? The point is that there are things that need to be thought through. Social justice is a complex thing.

There are a lot of problems in this world that need to be solved but more importantly there are a lot of people who need someone to care about them. Perhaps the most effective thing to do is to go, as followers of Jesus, to these different communities around the world and simply live and share life with the people there. Serve them, find out about their lives, be their friend, see them as human beings, love them unconditionally.

If the big social justice problems of this world are going to be solved, it’s going to happen with a holistic approach. One that cares just as much about the people affected by the problem as it does about eradicating the problem. It’s got to be about the people. Not the problem. Not us. 

The answer the world’s problems is Jesus. I believe that wholeheartedly. He came into our world to serve and as His followers we should figure out the best, most effective way to do the same.

what’s our role in the Solution?

A couple of days ago, I woke up to a wonderful dream. I was sitting on a street corner with some old friends and we were talking about the problems in our world and what our role was in the solutions to those problems. It was a great discussion. Sadly, that’s all I remember. No details. No divine revelations from God. Just a good conversation.

Even though I can’t remember anything specific from the conversation, I can’t help but think about it. For a couple days now, it’s been taking priority my mind. There are so many problems with our world. At K-CO, we talked about what breaks our hearts and how those things propel us to move and shake. At one point, we split up into groups. Each group talked about a different issue that broke their heart. Conversations centered around things like Genocide, Poverty related issues like lack of Clean Water and Malnutrition, Medical issues like Malaria and AID’s, Sex Traffiking and the Objectification of Women, Abortion and Divorce, Depression, and many other issues that span the globe.

I wish I could have been a part of each group. My heart breaks for all of the issues. These are the things that break my heart. The things that make me move.

I don’t think any grand ideas or bold revelations came out of those conversations. But they were good conversations to have. To get people to think about the problems and what they can do to help. My generation is a pretty cool one. We care about a lot of issues. We are not prepared to sit by as people hurt. We may not be quite ready to change the world but we’re talking about it. We’re moving towards it. We want to get there and we’re working at it. We want to change the world for the better. We want to be a part of something bigger. Something Godly. Something good. We want to help people.

hands

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Muslims, Christians, and Jesus

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In preparation for my trip to Morocco, I’ve received a lot of reading material regarding Muslims and overseas work and stuff like that. I haven’t really read much of it but I did read a book that is not on the “required reading” list by Carl Medearis called Muslims, Christians, and Jesus. The Medearis’ are family friends and Carl and my Dad are pretty close. Though I’ve never actually met Carl, I feel like I know him farely well because I’ve listened to him talk numerous times. The Medearis’ lived in Beirut, Lebanon for twelve years trying to follow Jesus, all the while collecting many incredible stories.

Carl is one of the most intriguing story tellers I’ve ever listened to. I’ve heard his stories over and over again and they haven’t gotten old yet. He is all about trying to follow Jesus. Carl is not the smartest or coolest person I’ve ever seen but it doesn’t matter because with him it’s all about Jesus. Everything is about Jesus. Jesus is the answer, not the cliche.

Carl is a refreshing breeze on top of everything that is wrong with the religion of Christianity. Instead of reading biblical texts, he tells stories from his own life that illuminate truth. Instead of trying to convert people to another religion, he builds relationships focused on Jesus and lets God do what He does. Instead of defending his faith with sound theological answers, he speaks to the heart.

The book is kind of an introductory course into the world of Islam. Living in the Middle-East for twelve years has given Carl incredible insight into the religion of Islam and the people it includes. Instead of highlighting the differences between Christianity and Islam, he focuses on the things the two have in common. Namely Jesus (surprise right?) Muslims believe that Jesus (Isa) was a prophet of God (Allah) and that he was sinless, righteous, rose from the dead, was aided by the Holy Spirit, was God’s preferred messenger, was near to God, was blessed, performed miracles, had the title Christ, and is God’s word. God gave Jesus the New Testament, in which is guidance and light. God taught Jesus the Bible and wisdom. All of that is in the Qur’an. WOW!!!

So with all that in mind, why would a Christian (“little Christ”, someone who follows Jesus of Nazareth) skip right to the end of the story when talking to a Muslim (“one who is submitted to God”, someone who respects Jesus very much but does not believe He is God). Why not just talk about Jesus’ life and His teachings and build a relationship on that.

While this book definitely focuses on relationships between Muslims and Christians, it has a message that all Christians need to hear no matter who they have relationships with. Take a time out from the religion of Christianity and discover who Jesus really was and really is. You might be surprised at what you find but you won’t be dissapointed. I don’t think that was the lone message or even the main message of the book but it’s what I remember. If you have the chance, definitely check it out for yourself.

last year as a kamper…

wow!!! i just spent two weeks in bayfield, colorado, having the time of my life. this was my last year as a kamper at k-colorado and it could not have been any better. i had by far the best cabin of guys i’ve ever had in my five years as a kamper there. the twelve of us (10 kampers, 2 counselors) hit it off pretty quickly. coming from all over the country, we bonded incredibly. throughout the term, we were able to open up the deepest parts of our hearts to one another. we shared everything from our stuff to our struggles. we became brothers. we became close… real… true… friends. we had each other’s back. we loved and deeply cared for each other. it was an amazing community. a great family. along the way, we had many great adventures. every kamper chooses three specialties that they get to do thoughout the term. i picked rock climbing, lake fun & sun, and institute. during the three days of climbing, we bouldered at turtle lake and top-roped at x-rock and in cascades which is one of the more beautiful places on this planet. the wheather was pretty horrible (or awesome depending how you look at it) at the lake. it was extremely windy, ghastly cold, and the waves became whitecaps. i did some jetskiing, mostly with my buddy caleb. it was a fun time. most of the time was spent sitting around on the dock or in a boat ride listening to explosions in the sky. it was pretty chill. it was also a great time to just slow down and experience God’s beauty around the lake. the last specialty i chose, institute, is very unique to k-colorado. it consists of teaching from andy braner or luke parrot about worldview, apoligetics, religions, origins, sex, dating, culture, media, humanitarian issues, global crisis’, community, discpleship, and many more things. the part that i did was mainly focused on discipleship as well as the global community and issues that it faces, and we actually went out into the local community and did some service work. we talked about what breaks your heart? the things that make you get up and move. the things that make you pound the the table in rage. the things that make you cry out. we talked about poverty, genocide, sex traffiking. we talked about what we can do about these things. actually, i, along with some guys from my cabin, are in the process of creating a company that can help out with some of this stuff. more on that later.the last day, we (about 60-80 of us) went to nearby durango and cleaned up some mountain biking trails. it was a really cool thing to be a part of. all of these kids taking a whole day to clean up a trail that they will probably never use when they could be doing some crazy activity instead. it was just really cool. about every other night, we had parties and they were off the hizzy!!! the first one was the 90’s party. we all dressed up in jorts and sweaters and flat-billed caps and lame mustaches. it was quite the spectacle. very funny. we went to a gameshow called double dare and got slimed. then we went and danced to every kind of music imaginable. it was so fun and crazy. the next party was the best. it was the goldrush party. every year at k-co, their is a western party. the name changes but the party is exactly the same. we all dress up in our best cowboy and hicktown garb and then we have a barn dance. we eat steak with our hands, learn about five or six dance steps and then head to the barn. every guy is strongly encouraged to dance with a different girl every dance. it is a great way to meet people and to get everyone involved and feeling special. once the song ends, the guy spins the girl, says thanks for the dance and then walks to the outskirts of the crowd and picks another girl who isn’t dancing. they then dance and talk and have a grande ol’ time. it’s a staple of k-co and for good reason. the third party was the masquerade. we made silly masks, watched a hard fought duel, and listened to phantom of the opera music. it was actually really fun despite the non-manly aura of the situation. the dance wasn’t just opera music. we had some good stuff playing. the last party was perhaps the most epic. it was the pirates vs. ninjas party. we played some huge warball games and raved the night away. it was fun and tiring. we also had a guys and girls night. the girls probably watched a movie and ate chocolate and cuddled up in blankets. we, the men of the camp, had commando night. each cabin paired with another cabin (8 with 1, 7 with 2, etc…) and then preceeded to embark on the biggest mission of our lives. we had to deliver our glowsticks to strategically placed commandos around the camp. we waded through chest deep freazing cold water, trekked through a freezing stream for hundreds of yards, and ran for our lives as paintballs went whizzing over our heads. once we completed our objective in record time, we learned that the counselors had betrayed us and were now hiding in the woods with our glowsticks. we had to find them and bring them back. it was one epic night of running, darkness, stealth, teamwork, encouragement, bravery, and mud. so good. we also had something called k-life which happened on the non party nights. we had worship music. by the way, i have never experienced a place that can even begin to compare to worshipping through song at k-co. there is nothing ornately special about it. it is just real. it’s usually just a guitar and maybe a lap drum. but the voices are amazing. not great, just special. anyways, their would be a speaker everytime. the most meaningful talk for me and my cabin was that of nate friend. he just opened up to us. earlier that day, he got slight pneumonia while saving a neighbor’s boat at the dock. so he said right up front that he wasn’t able to prepare as much as he’d have hoped for the talk but he was just gonna let God speak through him. boy did God speak that night! nate spoke about how his mother had struggled with depression and suicide for a very long time and through some very intimate stories nate just opened up. he let us see who he was and what was really going on in his life. i will never forget that night. that night, jack, one of my cabinmates, opened up with us about the sorrow and fear and pain in his own life and that’s what sparked our unity and brotherhood. from then on, everynight, we just opened ourselves up for each other to see. that is how life is supposed to be lived. every morning, we took some time and walked with God, literally. we just walked around and talked with Him in the midst of His beautiful creation. it was the greatest way to start off the day. we culminated the term with the annual ultimate frisbee tournament. my cabin’s first game was one for the ages. we came back from 4 – 0 to beat the oldest cabin 5 – 4 in overtime. it was great. sadly, we lost our next game. after the tournament ended, the parents came and we did the whole closing ceremonies thing. it was kind of weird knowing that it was my last time experiencing all of that as a kamper (because my school gets out so insanely late, i cannot be a kamper first term next year because i have to graduate). it would’ve been downright sad but i know my time with this camp is far from over. next year kanakuk colorado becomes camp kivu (kivu is a lake in rwanda and literally means big). it will basically be the same with some stuff added on. the reason it is changing is because andy, the director, has a more global and expansive vision for the camping experience than what is offered under the umbrella of kanakuk. he is looking into music camps and surfing camps in the u.s. as well as many international camps. there will be many facets to the new ministry and i am extremely excited for the change. next summer i hope to work at camp kivu doing whatever they need me to do. i cannot say enough about the community and family that is in this place. during the two week term, God united people from arizona to missouri to cairo, egypt into one big family of believers. it is how life is supposed to be lived.