|February - April 2015, Issue 79|
|Looking forward - 2015 | 2015 Trips | 2014 Financial Report | Prayer Power|
Listening to a news program recently, I suddenly realized that many of the stories I hear and read assume victimhood for people in difficulty. As Thomas Sowell put it, the liberal orthodoxy is that the problem is “the external environment, not the internal environment”1. People are “trapped by low-wage jobs,” for example. The general history of immigrants to America illustrates that they were not, and are not “stuck” with initial jobs. They worked hard, saved and did whatever was necessary so that their children would get a better education, and not need to take low-wage jobs. My mother shoveled coal to help Dad (whose grandfather was an immigrant) get a college education, and he paid half of my college fees.
The solutions for victims seem to cluster around other people to fix life--give a higher hourly wage, redistribute wealth, or start a program. Even a missionary wrote that it wasn’t “fair” that income to him was lower than income to other missionaries, so that his supporters would fix that. Many rights have emerged—to inexpensive housing, affordable medical care, and so on, regardless of the ability to pay. These rights would be unimaginable to citizens in Uganda, India and S. Sudan. I hear no justification for the “right,” presumed to be self-evident. Since our culture has largely abandoned biblical absolutes, humans have ascribed value, rather than the intrinsic value of being in God’s image. But ascribed values change with gender, age and government.
Good government and the church are instruments used by God to care for the truly needy and to preserve justice. Now over half of Americans receive government benefits2, sometimes disincentivizing recipients and giving opportunity for destructive behavior3. Government, institutions, and programs must perform or people march. No institution runs as advertised, because we’re sinners—a suppressed concept, because we have morality by consensus. Trust in government assumes government has money, but with 18 trillion dollars of debt4, the USA does not. It just prints money, borrows money, and acts wealthy.
Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." (Jer 17:5-8 ESV).
Some Chinese intellectuals believe that America’s Judeo-Christian values are behind America’s prosperity5. Evangelical Protestant mission work in many nations resulted in higher national economic development6, illustrating the fruitfulness of knowing God. Christ has immediately transformed the inner environments of tens of millions, as well as their outer environments over time. God owns everything and shows in the book of Proverbs how to prosper. Why run to government, programs and people to deliver us?
1 Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Race, ISBN 9780465058723, p. 88-89.
3 Sowell, p. 127.
6 Robert Woodberry, “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” American Political Science Review, May 2012, p. 267.
2014 ended with sightings of God’s early and immediate grace. In mid-November we discovered mold in our basement crawl space and in the air ducts. Mold remediation was costly, including sealing off the crawl space and installing a commercial dehumidifier. I don’t remember my sinuses feeling this clear. God provided the funds in advance, partly through being able to catch up salary in December. Overall, giving to RMNI was up 17 percent in 2014 over 2013, more in line with earlier years.
Remediation required emptying the crawl space--our substitute garage. Even crawling was difficult, for all the stuff. On cold December 17th, I worked from 9:30 AM to 10:30 PM not only removing stuff, but determining where to put it—under the deck, into a rental facility, or to be thrown or given away. A special mask was needed, so Judy couldn’t help. A few days earlier a man who knew the Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer related how Schaeffer would stop at a moment’s notice and pray aloud for wisdom. For Schaeffer, “true spirituality” was moment-by-moment obedience to the Lord. Looking at a tray of miscellaneous hardware I prayed, Lord what I do with this? Immediately I knew. Countless times that call and response were repeated during 13 hours. God was in the moment.
That’s a model looking toward 2015. The RMNI Board is planning ahead and seeking God’s guidance, and I keep asking the question given in the 1980s by my friend Esther Spieth, What’s the most important thing to do right now?
A friend with whom I pray restrains mirth when I ask him to pray to wrap up the African American missionary survey, since I’ve asked that for years. To date associates and I have located just over 200 cross-cultural missionaries actively serving on a field sometime during the last two years--twice the number that I was able to locate by 1998. About a third of the 200 serve within the USA, so the difference is actually not so great. Crawford Loritts estimated in 1987 that there were less than 300 in major parachurch groups or mission agencies, which still seems to be the case. There are 45 million Blacks in the USA. Hopefully the survey will conclude in 2015.
RMNI Board members serve for three years. We just welcomed five directors, four of whom are in their 30s and 40s. I have no plans to stop doing what I’m doing, but am praying for a successor for the executive director position, since I can only serve during my generation. The Board has wisdom, and seeks the Lord.
At this time two friends and co-workers in inner-city ministry (one is RMNI treasurer) and I plan to travel to S. Sudan in April. A third team member is a physician who has been to S. Sudan several times—another huge gift of God. There is interest in the August India trip. Friends are still trying to get clearance for my Indian visa.
Ministry at the Westside remains challenging, partly because friends have moved away. None regret leaving. One, who frequently rode his bike to the next drug customer, rolled down his car window on Broad Street to greet me as we drove. I called him immediately. He now installs cabinets, is starting to attend church, and lives two doors away from Harry, who also left. Fletcher, a former gangster, is now assistant pastor at Piney Woods Missionary Baptist Church, and was ordained Jan. 24. I was an examiner, and was gratified to hear his pastor praise his zeal and leadership. He consistently brings men from the street to church, and is an excellent teacher. He also moved from the Westside.
Our website had over 30,000 unique visitors in 2014—not a few trying to exploit us. The 37 PowerPoint presentations on the site were viewed over 11,500 times within the past year, according to SlideShare (www.slideshare.net/RMNI/presentations ). I plan to update the most popular one, Global Mission Trends.
We remain grateful for your help in 2014! With tens of thousands of ministries in America, your gifts are deeply appreciated and humbling. We try to be careful in disbursing funds and to keep in step with the Spirit. If you would like a detailed summary of 2014 ministry activities, please email or call. Full financial disclosure is available upon request (except donor identity, of course).
Full financial disclosure is available upon request (except donor identity).
The Reconciliation Report is a publication of
Reconciliation Ministries Network, Inc.
Jim Sutherland, PhD, Director