Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lessons From a Flood

Nearly a week ago a torrential rainstorm hit a large part of Illinois including the Chicago area. In less than twenty-four hours the western suburbs of Chicago were hit with about seven inches of rainfall. That much rain in that short period of time has to go somewhere. Some of it went into my house for the day.

Having spent some portion of my career over the past seven years involved in disaster recovery, I'm not unfamiliar with the damage flood waters can do. In 2005 I spent time in New Orleans with teams of folks clearing out houses that had been filled to the roof with water. It makes six inches seem like a picnic. But when the six inches of water is in your home it's no picnic. It is an interesting experience, however, to sit on the side of the 'victim' of a disaster instead of the disaster responder.

As we begin the process of cleaning up, filing insurance claims, replacing ruined stuff and putting things back in order, I'm struck with how similar this process is to restoring charity. I've written many posts (though few recently) about how our charitable efforts have devastated communities around the world. It's way past time to fix that. Here are a few lessons I've learned from the flood.

  • Water is a good thing in proper proportion and when delivered in a controlled fashion.
  • Uncontrolled water can't be stopped and makes a mess of everything because it goes everywhere.
  • Water doesn't go away until the source is cut off and recedes.
  • Once water does go away it leaves a mess behind that must be dealt with or worse problems develop (rot, mold, mildew, disease, etc.).
  • Some things can be salvaged but some things are forever ruined and must be thrown away.
  • Clean-up can be done by an individual but bringing in a team makes the work much more bearable.
  • Fixing some of the damage requires experts with training and experience.
  • Closing off the damaged space and letting it dry out on its own is never an acceptable strategy.
Now go back to the list above replacing the word 'water' with the word 'money'. We have created an incredible mess with the flood of money and stuff we've poured into developing countries. We have a mess to clean-up and, just like flood recovery, we can't wait around to get started!

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

From Rejection to Renewal

I don't know why this particular topic caught me today. Perhaps it was the YouVersion verse of the day, John 3:16-17 that triggered it. John 3:16 is the most quoted and familiar Bible passage ever. That's my opinion since I didn't look up any statistics to back it up. It is also incredibly inclusive. So why is it that the church that has promoted this verse is so often exclusive?

I'm not the only one asking that question. Years ago a friend of mine who had been through a traumatic marriage relationship with an abusive man finally broke free by divorcing him. The next time she went back to her hometown to visit family an usher at the church where she grew up deftly cut her out of the line for Holy Communion and escorted her back to her seat. The reason given by the pastor was that her divorce had disqualified her from receiving the sacrament.

I heard that story over twenty years ago but it still sticks with me. Stories like that haunt me because there are far too many of them being told by far too many people. Somehow the church that represents God who loved the world so much that he gave the life of his only son to restore relationship with all of us is better known for rejecting people than accepting them. Perhaps this is an insidious Satanic subterfuge rendering the church irrelevant in our culture. But that doesn't mean we have to stand for it.

If we who are passionate followers of Jesus Christ have any hope of impacting the world for His sake then we must find a new way to express ourselves. Traditional church isn't cutting it...and hasn't been for a very long time. Our churches are aging, shrinking and dieing. Yet interest in all things spiritual is exploding. The younger generations start from an assumption that the Christian church is irrelevant and work from there.

Those who are successfully escaping this perception are the ones who have left the church building and begun engaging the world live and in person. Faith in action is winsome. Putting no limits on who you will serve or how you will serve is compelling. Living out Christ's call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, house the homeless and care for widows and orphans is unassailable. When we leave our churches and start worshiping God with our whole bodies, resources and energies a new day dawns for the Body of Christ. That is the Church. And that Church is being renewed yet again as God raises us from death to life.

Monday, April 01, 2013


I've been away from the blogosphere for a few days. Some might think it was because of Holy Week and Easter but that wasn't the case. I actually had several projects that kept me away from the computer. One of those was a road trip to visit the folks at Destiny Rescue in Northern Indiana. I love meeting people who are passionate about putting the Gospel to work. Peter and Barbie Everett are just such people. Peter, a native of Australia, and Barbie, who grew up in Indiana, left Australia after living there together nineteen years to come here and open the U.S. office of Destiny Rescue.

Destiny Rescue is an international mission dedicated to rescuing people from slavery. In particular they are doing great work in Thailand and Cambodia rescuing young girls from the sex slave trade. My partners and I are planning to partner with Destiny Rescue in a project that will provide more work for the girls who are rescued so that they can continue to produce an income for their families. You can learn more about this awesome ministry by clicking on Destiny Rescue anywhere in this post.

Peter and Barbie uprooted teenage children from their home in Australia, lived with relatives for a time and have done the very hard work of launching a non-profit here. They inspire me with their passion to see people rescued from slavery at a time when there are more people in slavery than at any other time in human history. By God's grace I hope that we can advance their cause and increase the support for their work. It's good to get out of the office and spend time with others who are dedicated to seeing the love of Jesus change the world.

To make change happen, though, we must be willing to take risks, uproot our families, move half way around the world, be open to new relationships and work really hard. Or we can sit in our churches at Christmas and Easter celebrating a baby and a risen Lord without letting that really have much impact on our day-to-day lives...while complaining about what a mess the world is in and wondering why nobody's doing anything about it. Those are our choices. Personally, I'm inspired by the choice Peter and Barbie made four years ago and it was a privilege to spend time with them last week.