Monday, March 16, 2020

Left to Tell - Forgiveness for the Rwandan Genocide

Review of Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza 
This is a great book that I highly recommend.

Immaculee Ilibagiza survived the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. She was raised in a devout Catholic home. Her parents were educators. As she grew up, she became aware of the hostility between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. This hostility had been aggravated by the Belgian colonials who played the tribes against each other to help maintain control. The 1994 genocide erupted when the Hutu president was killed in a plane crash. Tutsis who had been displaced from Rwanda after a civil war in the 1950s began a war in order to return. The Hutu government advocated the mass murder of any Tutsis that could be found. Over one million were killed. Immaculee’s family were all killed except for a brother who was studying outside of the country. Many people were hacked to death by machetes provided by the government. Immaculee was taken in by a protestant pastor along with some other women. He hid them in a small bathroom in his house. They remained there 91 days where Immaculee devoted herself to constant prayer. Bands of Hutus came looking for them on a regular basis. Eventually the women escaped to United Nation peacekeepers. The Tutsis took over the Rwandan government, and Immaculee was able to seek refuge in the United States. When she finally confronted the man who had killed her parents, she realized the only way forward was through forgiveness. Immaculee believed that the Hutu killers had been overcome by some kind of evil. In the end the entire country adopted a policy of forgiveness to all who were sorry for what they had done. Immaculee is married, has two children, and now lives in the United States. 

Your Kindle Notes For:
Left to Tell
Immaculee Ilibagiza and Steve Erwin | Location: 107

More Than One Million Murdered | Location: 179
A number of very good, informative books have been published recently exploring in detail the politics and mechanics of the 1994 genocide in which, according to Rwandan government estimates, more than one million people were murdered in roughly 100 days.

Names Changed | Location: 182
However, I have changed most of the names of others who appear in the book to protect the identity of the survivors and to avoid perpetuating the cycle of hatred.

Pain | Location: 194
Their voices clawed at my flesh. I felt as if I were lying on a bed of burning coals, like I’d been set on fire. A sweeping wind of pain engulfed my body; a thousand invisible needles ripped into me. I never dreamed that fear could cause such agonizing physical anguish.

91 Days | Location: 205
I believe that God had spared my life, but I’d learn during the 91 days I spent trembling in fear with seven others in a closet-sized bathroom that being spared is much different from being saved … and this lesson forever changed me. It is a lesson that, in the midst of mass murder, taught me how to love those who hated and hunted me—and how to forgive those who slaughtered my family. My name is Immaculée Ilibagiza. This is the story of how I discovered God during one of history’s bloodiest holocausts.

Eternal Spring | Page: 3
And the weather is so pleasant year-round that the German settlers who arrived in the late 1800s christened her “the land of eternal spring.”

House | Page: 4
I was born in the western Rwandan province of Kibuye, in the village of Mataba. Our house was perched on a hilltop overlooking Lake Kivu, which seemed to stretch out forever below us.

Farm | Page: 4
The beans she prepared for our breakfast were grown in our family fields, which Mom tended every morning while the rest of us were still sleeping. She checked the crops and would then distribute tools to the day laborers and make sure that our cows and other animals were fed and watered. And then, after finishing the morning chores and getting us off to class, Mom would walk down the road to start her full-time teaching job at the local primary school.

Education for Poverty | Page: 5
Both of my parents were teachers, and adamant believers that the only defense against poverty and hunger was a good education.
Note: Very Important! I can't agree more!

Father | Page: 5
He was eventually appointed chief administrator for all of the Catholic schools in our district.

Devout Roman Catholics | Page: 6
My parents were devout Roman Catholics and passed on their beliefs to us. Mass was mandatory on Sundays, as were evening prayers with the family at home. I loved praying, going to church, and everything else to do with God. I especially loved the Virgin Mary, believing that she was my second mom, watching out for me from heaven.

Scholarships | Page: 7
He also set up a scholarship fund for poorer kids by establishing one of Rwanda’s few coffee cooperatives, allowing a dozen coffee growers to plant on his land rent free if they promised to donate a little of their profits to the fund. The program was so successful that he was able to use some of the money to build a community center, a soccer field for teens, and a new roof for the school.

Hospitality | Page: 8
Dad invited people into the house at all hours and would discuss their problems until they found a solution. He was a good diplomat and always made people feel as if they’d resolved their own difficulties.

Devotion | Page: 9
After he finished eating, Dad would make us all kneel down in the living room and recite our evening prayers.

Three Tribes | Page: 14
But our parents didn’t teach us about our own history. We didn’t know that Rwanda was made up of three tribes: a Hutu majority; a Tutsi minority; and a very small number of Twa, a pygmy-like tribe of forest dwellers. We weren’t taught that the German colonialists, and the Belgian ones that followed, converted Rwanda’s existing social structure—a monarchy that under a Tutsi king had provided Rwanda with centuries of peace and harmony—into a discriminatory, race-based class system. The Belgians favored the minority Tutsi aristocracy and promoted its status as the ruling class; therefore, Tutsis were ensured a better education to better manage the country and generate greater profits for the Belgian overlords. The Belgians introduced an ethnic identity card to more easily distinguish the two tribes, deepening the rift they’d created between Hutu and Tutsi. Those reckless blunders created a lingering resentment among Hutus that helped lay the groundwork for genocide.

First Hutu Revolt | Page: 15
When the Tutsis called for greater independence, the Belgians turned against them and, in 1959, encouraged a bloody Hutu revolt, which overthrew the monarchy. More than 100,000 Tutsis were murdered in vengeance killings over the next few years. By the time Belgium pulled out of Rwanda in 1962, a Hutu government was firmly in place, and Tutsis had become second-class citizens, facing persecution, violence, and death at the hands of Hutu extremists.

Not Prejudiced | Page: 16
They were not prejudiced; rather, they believed that evil drove people to do evil things regardless of tribe or race. Mom and Dad ignored the social and political reality they lived in, and instead taught that everyone was born equal. They didn’t want their children growing up feeling paranoid or inferior because they were born Tutsi.

Prejudice | Page: 16
Dad spoke to my teacher the next day, but he didn’t tell me what they discussed or what my tribe was, as he’d said he would. I didn’t find that out until the following week, when Buhoro held tribal roll call again. My father must have shamed him, because he spoke to me in a much sweeter voice when he summoned me to his desk before roll call. “Immaculée, stand up when I call out ‘Tutsi.’” I smiled as I walked back to my seat, thinking, So I’m a Tutsi. Good! I had no idea what a Tutsi was, but I was proud to be one anyway.

Differences Between Tutsis and Hutus | Page: 17
The differences between Tutsis and Hutus were more difficult to spot: Tutsis were supposed to be taller, lighter-skinned, and have narrower noses; while Hutus were shorter, darker, and broad-nosed. But that really wasn’t true because Hutus and Tutsis had been marrying each other for centuries, so our gene pools were intermingled. Hutus and Tutsis spoke the same language—Kinyarwanda—and shared the same history. We had virtually the same culture: We sang the same songs, farmed the same land, attended the same churches, and worshiped the same God. We lived in the same villages, on the same streets, and often in the same houses.

Ethnic Balance | Page: 18
How was I to know that my ambitions were just a silly girl’s dream? I didn’t know that those weekly roll calls served a sinister purpose: to segregate Tutsi children as part of a master plan of discrimination known as the “ethnic balance.”

Ethnic Balance | Page: 18
Because Rwanda’s population was roughly 85 percent Hutu, 14 percent Tutsi, and 1 percent Twa, most jobs and school placements went to Hutus.

Cows | Page: 19
It turns out that my father had left before sunrise to sell two of our cows so that he could send me to a private high school. Cows are status symbols in Rwandan culture and extremely valuable—selling one was extravagant; selling two was an invitation to financial ruin.

Unfriendlies | Page: 21
Clementine was right about the unfriendly faces. It was difficult to venture beyond the campus walls—whenever I did, I felt the eyes of the local people on me and heard them muttering “Tutsi” in a menacing tone. The priests and nuns who ran the school made sure that the students and local residents never attended the same Mass at the local church. We were issued strict orders forbidding us to leave school grounds without a staff escort.

Prayer | Page: 22
Damascene was true to his word and visited me once a month. We’d sit together on the grass and talk for hours. He always had good advice for me, especially when it came to studying. “Pray, Immaculée. Pray before you do your homework and whenever you’re preparing for a test or exam. Then study as hard as you can.” I did as he said, praying especially hard before math exams, and I continued to excel in school.

RPF | Page: 24
I knew about the Rwandese Patriotic Front, or RPF, and I knew that the people in it weren’t fighting simply to topple the Hutu government; they wanted to live in a country that was free and equal. Most of the RPF soldiers—the rebels—were Tutsi exiles or the children of Tutsi exiles. Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis had fled Rwanda during the troubles of 1959 and 1973, as well as the many other times that Hutu extremists had gone on Tutsi killing sprees. They’d gone into exile to save their lives and those of their families. Mr. Gahigi called the rebels “foreigners” because most of them grew up in neighboring countries such as Uganda and Zaire—but that was only because President Habyarimana enforced a policy banning exiles from ever returning to Rwanda. He’d created a Tutsi diaspora, and entire generations of Rwandan Tutsis had grown up without once setting foot in their homeland.

Prayer | Page: 32
My favorite roles were the religious ones, and once I even got to portray my favorite saint, the Virgin Mary. And I always made time to pray. More and more I found that devotion and meditation balanced me and helped me focus. I attended church several times a week and formed a prayer group with my girlfriends.

Hutu Boyfrind | Page: 33
We started dating, and over the next couple of years became quite serious about each other. John was Hutu, but it was never an issue. My father was more concerned that John was a Protestant and the son of a minister.

Bedroom Chapel | Page: 42
My bedroom was like my own little chapel. With my Bible and statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary on my night table, it was a place where I connected with God and my own spiritual energies. I knelt by my bed and looked at the statues, saying a prayer to God to protect my family from danger.

The Beginning | Page: 44
It was the morning of April 7, 1994. We didn’t know it yet, but the genocide had begun.

Scapular | Page: 51
After the attack, I went to my bedroom to get my scapular, a kind of cloth necklace that Catholics wear. The scapular is very precious to me because it’s blessed with the Virgin Mary’s promise that “whosoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.” I bought it when I moved away to university, believing that if anything happened to me, my scapular would speed my journey to heaven.

Rosary | Page: 78
I clutched my rosary as though it were a lifeline to God. In my mind and heart I cried out to Him for help: Yes, I am nothing, but You are forgiving. I am human and I am weak, but please, God, give me Your forgiveness. Forgive my trespasses … and please send these killers away before they find us!

Never Pray Too Much | Page: 79
To me, those seven hours had passed in what seemed like a few minutes, yet I was utterly drained. In all my years of praying, I’d never focused so completely on God, or been so keenly aware of the presence of darkness. I’d seen evil in the eyes of the killers, and had felt evil all around me while the house was being searched. And I’d listened to the dark voice, letting it convince me that we were about to be slaughtered. Every time I succumbed to my fear and believed the lies of that poisonous whispering, I felt as though the skin were being peeled from my scalp. It was only by focusing on God’s positive energy that I was able to pull myself through that first visit by the killers. My father had always said that you could never pray too much … now I could see that he was right.

Survival | Page: 80
I realized that my battle to survive this war would have to be fought inside of me. Everything strong and good in me—my faith, hope, and courage—was vulnerable to the dark energy. If I lost my faith, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to survive. I could rely only on God to help me fight.

Prayer | Page: 85
Even a few minutes not spent in prayer or contemplation of God became an invitation for Satan to stab me with his double-edged knife of doubt and self-pity. Prayer became my armor, and I wrapped it tightly around my heart.

Corner of My Heart | Page: 95
I found a place in the bathroom to call my own: a small corner of my heart. I retreated there as soon as I awoke, and stayed there until I slept. It was my sacred garden, where I spoke with God, meditated on His words, and nurtured my spiritual self.

It Starts in the Heart | Page: 144
“The genocide is happening in people’s hearts, Jean Paul,” I said. “The killers are good people, but right now evil has a hold on their hearts.”

All Dead | Page: 147
“They are all dead. Everything I loved in this world has been taken away. I’m putting my life in your hands, Jesus … keep your promise and take care of me. I will keep my promise—I will be your faithful daughter.”

Family | Page: 147
I closed my eyes and pictured the faces of my family, and I prayed that God would keep them close and warm.

Brother Dies | Page: 154
Instead of negotiating or begging for mercy, he challenged them to kill him. “Go ahead,” he said. “What are you waiting for? Today is my day to go to God. I can feel Him all around us. He is watching, waiting to take me home. Go ahead—finish your work and send me to paradise. I pity you for killing people like it’s some kind of child’s game. Murder is no game: If you offend God, you will pay for your fun. The blood of the innocent people you cut down will follow you to your reckoning. But I am praying for you … I pray that you see the evil you’re doing and ask for God’s forgiveness before it’s too late.”

Tempted to Revenge | Page: 158
The captain offered me the perfect revenge: trained and well-armed soldiers who would kill at my command. All I had to do was whisper a name and I could avenge my family … and the families of the thousands of corpses rotting in the street. His offer came from his heart, but I could hear the devil in his voice. He was tempting me with promises of murder, when all I wanted was peace. I slipped my hand into my pocket and wrapped my fingers around my father’s rosary. “Thank you for offering to—”

God’s Forgiveness | Page: 159
There would certainly be even more bitterness after the killing stopped, bitterness that could easily erupt into more violence. Only God’s Divine forgiveness could stop that from happening now. I could see that whatever path God put me on, helping others to forgive would be a big part of my life’s work.

God’s Forgiveness | Page: 173
“If they kill me, God, I ask You to forgive them. Their hearts have been corrupted by hatred, and they don’t know why they want to hurt me.

Recovery | Page: 179
How many years—how many generations—would it take before Rwanda could recover from such horror? How long for our wounded hearts to heal, for our hardened hearts to soften? Too long for me, I decided. Looking into that soldier’s eyes, I realized that I was going to have to leave Rwanda.

A Place to Pray | Page: 184
Aloise’s house was too noisy for me to meditate. Believe it or not, I actually longed for the days in the pastor’s bathroom, when I could talk to God for hours without interruption. I remembered the joy and peace He filled my heart with during those long stretches of silent prayer, along with the mental clarity I enjoyed afterward.

Keyboard | Page: 189
I memorized every function of every button on the computer, and then I drew an exact replica of the keyboard on a piece of cardboard. I spent three days working on the computer, and stayed up three entire nights practicing, typing on my hand-drawn keyboard.

Proof of Prayer | Page: 190
I was living proof of the power of prayer and positive thinking, which really are almost the same thing. God is the source of all positive energy, and prayer is the best way to tap in to His power.

Never Alone | Page: 190
God had brought me a long way from the bathroom, and He’d walked with me every step of the way: saving me from the killers; filling my heart with forgiveness; helping me learn English; delivering me to safety; providing me with friendship, shelter, and food; and finally, introducing me to Mr. Mehu and my dream job. No matter what I’d been through in the past several months, God had never left my side; I’d never been alone.

Refugees Return | Page: 190
More than a million Tutsi refugees from the 1959 and 1973 genocides were returning to Rwanda from around the world, bringing children, grandchildren, and all manner of new cultural heritage and strange languages with them. They were changing the sound and look of the country. A million exiles returned, which was also the same number of Tutsis murdered in the genocide—a number beyond my comprehension.

Animals | Page: 196
I went straight to bed when we arrived at the camp without talking to anyone. My soul was at war with itself. I’d struggled so hard to forgive but now felt duped for having done so; I had no clemency left in me. Seeing my home in ruins and visiting the lonely, forgotten graves of my loved ones had choked the life out of my forgiving spirit. When my neighbors whispered the stories of my family’s sadistic murders in my ear, the feelings of hatred that I thought I’d banished from my soul sprang violently from the depths of my being with renewed vigor. My heart hungered for revenge, and I raged inside myself. Those bloody animals! They are animals, animals, animals!

Evil Thoughts | Page: 196
I rolled out of bed and got down on my knees. “Forgive my evil thoughts, God,” I prayed. “Please … as You always have, take this pain from me and cleanse my heart. Fill me with the power of Your love and forgiveness. Those who did these horrible things are still Your children, so let me help them, and help me to forgive them. Oh, God, help me to love them.”

They Hurt Themselves | Page: 197
The people who’d hurt my family had hurt themselves even more, and they deserved my pity. There was no doubt that they had to be punished for their crimes against humanity and against God.

The Murderer | Page: 203
His name was Felicien, and he was a successful Hutu businessman whose children I’d played with in primary school. He’d been a tall, handsome man who always wore expensive suits and had impeccable manners. I shivered, remembering that it had been his voice I’d heard calling out my name when the killers searched for me at the pastor’s. Felicien had hunted me.

The Murderer | Page: 204
I wept at the sight of his suffering. Felicien had let the devil enter his heart, and the evil had ruined his life like a cancer in his soul. He was now the victim of his victims, destined to live in torment and regret. I was overwhelmed with pity for the man. 
Felicien was sobbing. I could feel his shame. He looked up at me for only a moment, but our eyes met. I reached out, touched his hands lightly, and quietly said what I’d come to say. “I forgive you.” 
I answered him with the truth: “Forgiveness is all I have to offer.”

Marriage | Page: 205
So, as I’d learned to do whenever faced with a problem or challenge, I called on God. If I wanted a marriage made in heaven, what better matchmaker could there be?

Marriage | Page: 205
The Bible tells us that if we ask, we shall receive, and that’s exactly what I did: I asked God to bring me the man of my dreams. I didn’t want to cheat myself—I wanted to be very clear on the kind of person God should send me. So I sat down with a piece of paper and sketched the face of the person I wanted to marry, and then I listed his height and other physical features. I asked for a man of strong character, who had a warm personality; who was kind, loving, and tender; who had a sense of humor and strong morals; who loved me for who I was; who enjoyed children as much as I did; and, above all, who loved God.

Marriage | Page: 205
I did include one caveat: Because I loved the rosary and the Virgin Mary so much, and so many other aspects of Catholicism were important to me, I told God that He had better send a Catholic. I wanted to make sure that there would be no tension in my marriage because of religion, and that my husband worshiped God in the same way I did.

Forgiveness | Page: 205
This is the same power that I feel propelling me forward into the next phase of my life. God saved my soul and spared my life for a reason: He left me to tell my story to others and show as many people as possible the healing power of His love and forgiveness.

Forgiving the Killers | Page: 205
Similarly, a genocide survivor whose family had been murdered called me from Rwanda not long ago, crying over the phone and asking me to explain the steps I’d taken to forgive the killers. “I thought you were crazy to forgive them, Immaculée—that you were letting them off the hook. But the pain and bitterness I’ve been carrying in my heart for 11 years is about to kill me. I’ve been so miserable for so long that I don’t have the energy to live anymore. But I keep hearing people talk about how you forgave your family’s killers and moved on with your life … that you’re happy and have a husband, children, and a career! I need to learn how to let go of my hatred, too. I need to live again.”

Family Worship | Page: 205
My kids and I attend Mass together each week and pray together daily. I make sure they know that God is always with us, and if they ever run into trouble when I’m not around, to call on Mother Mary and Jesus for help. I make sure they perform their religious duties as Catholics, but I don’t need to force it upon them. To my great delight, they both have a natural love of prayer and have developed a rich spiritual life that often catches me unawares in pleasantly surprising ways.

Outdoor Trials | Page: 205
For years every jail and prison in the nation was jammed beyond capacity with the hundreds of thousands of Hutus who were either guilty or suspected of committing murders and other atrocities during the genocide. A long and painful process of public trials held in open-air courts in towns and villages all over Rwanda was established to speed up the potentially endless legal proceedings that otherwise could have dragged out for more than a century. The system allowed victims to directly confront the killers in their own communities and ask them whatever questions they wanted. The courts were imperfect, but they provided a forum for the perpetrators to confess their crimes and seek forgiveness and for the victims to offer forgiveness if they found it in their hearts to do so.

Government Policy of Forgiveness | Page: 205
The last of these trials was held just two years ago, but the act of forgiveness at the center of each trial has become a guiding principal of Rwandan government policy. President Paul Kagame, whose Tutsi rebel army drove the killers from our country and ended the genocide, has declared it the national duty to forgive any killer who sincerely seeks forgiveness. And while love and forgiveness must come from the heart and cannot be legislated, President Kagame’s heart is certainly in the right place. More than anything else, he wants Rwanda and Rwandans to heal and flourish, and he knows that forgiveness is the road we must travel to reach that destination.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Inn of the Eight Happinesses

If you like old movies, you might be familiar with the movie staring Ingrid
Bergman, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. It is somewhat based on the life of missionary Gladys Aylward. 

Gladys was born in 1902. She wanted to be a missionary to China, but she could find no organization to sponsor her. Small of stature and single, most thought that such a venture would be too difficult for her. Saving all her money, in 1932 she boarded a train by herself that took her across the Soviet Union on a very dangerous journey. 

Arriving in China she found another missionary by the name of Jeannie Lawson, who ran and inn called The Inn of the Eight Happinesses. It was based on the eight traditional Chinese virtues: Love, Virtue, Gentleness, Tolerance, Loyalty, Truth, Beauty and Devotion. The inn provided comfort to many Chinese travelers who were entertained by Jeannie and Gladys' Bible stories. 

After Jeannie died, Gladys carried on and became quite revered by the Chinese people. The Chinese government commissioned her to be a "foot inspector." This was part of a program to halt the practice of foot binding. Foot inspectors were very controversial, but Gladys was able to convince many to discontinue this practice. During World War II Gladys famously took one hundred orphans on a hundred mile journey to escape from the Japanese. Many of these orphans became Christians. You can read the rest of her story in Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman.

The eight Chines virtues bear some similarity to the Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5.1-12). We usually translate the first word of each beatitude with "blessed." But μακάριοι can also be translated "happy."  Everyone wants to be happy. Even the Declaration of Independence states that "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is a right given by God. But people should also recognize that God, who gives this right, also shows us how happiness is attained. It is not attained apart from Him by our own efforts. People often make the great mistake of ignoring the problem of sin. Sin is the cause of all our sorrow, suffering and death, as Paul said, "Just as through one man sin entered the world and death through sin, thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5.12). Happiness pursued in a selfish way without thanks to God or love for Him and the rest of humankind, will be devoured and destroyed by sin. 

Happiness is found through faith as Jesus said, "Blessed/Happy are those who are poor in spirit (repentant), who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who are merciful and pure in heart, etc. They shall be comforted, satisfied, be shown mercy and see God." 

Prayer: Dear God, I know that You created me and everyone else for happiness. But we lost that through sin. Forgive me for following my temptations instead of following You. They always lead me to unhappiness in the end. Thank You for sending Jesus, Your Son, to show me the way of happiness through forgiveness and obedience by faith. Help me to live humbly, thankfully, lovingly and peacefully with You and all people. Amen.

Hymns: Greet the Rising Sun, Lutheran Service Book 871
Jesus Sat with His Disciples, Lutheran Service Book 931

Video: Torchlighters - Heroes of Faith Gladys Aylward

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Hope for Suicidal Teens and for All of Us

This sermon comes in two versions: One for adults and one for children. 

A recent article in the NYT said that the suicide rate for teens has jumped by 56% from 2007-2017. That is a significant jump, and there are probably many causes. The author, a psychiatrist, urges psychotherapies and medicine. I know those can be good and can be gifts from God. But there is something else we need for the healing of body, mind and soul. We need the truth of God's word and His love for us. Condemnation is a big problem for all of us. Some of it comes from others. Sometimes we condemn ourselves. But the Bible says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8.1).

Follow God's word in this new year and always. You won't be disappointed. 

Faith and Science and Epiphany

I recently wrote a sermon for Epiphany titled:  Faith and Science  Audio

In it I asked, what do you see in this:  GODISNOWHERE?

Some might see "God is now here." Others might see "God is nowhere."

Not much more than 150 years ago the greatest scientists saw complete harmony between science and theology. Isaac Newton firmly believed in an elegant, mathematical universe.. He wrote more about the Bible than he did about science (See, The Clockwork Universe, Edward Dolnick)! But then some scientists began looking at the natural world apart from God. They consider the universe to be an elegant accident! But their theories are running into trouble, especially with the math. To make an accidental universe work, they are realizing they need infinite multi-verses and parallel universes. That is more fantastical than an elegantly created universe. And there is no natural evidence of such things (See, Our Mathematical Universe, Max Tegmark). 

The wisemen followed nature (the star) and God's word to Bethlehem to see Jesus. Faith and science are in complete harmony. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Remember the Poor / Admonish the Idle

The shooter at a recent incident in Texas became angry when he was not given cash.

We help people like this from time to time at our church. We give them food, fuel, medicine, and transportation. Thankfully most of them are not resentful or angry. But sometimes odd behavior makes you careful. Unfortunately these problems are increasing in our society as more and more turn away from God. We urge our members not to hand out cash to people that might approach them on the parking lot. Tell them to wait and talk to one of the pastors. We're used to this, and we can usually sort out those who have legitimate needs and those who don't. Paul said, "remember the poor" (Gal 2.10). But he also said, "admonish the idle" (1 Thess 5.14). As far as fellows like this one in Texas, the best prayer is still, "Deliver us from evil" (Matt 6.13).

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Darwinian Worldview and the Creation Worldview

This morning I was teaching eighth graders about the implications of the idea of evolution. I showed them this Powerpoint slide:

Sadly, there was an example of the Darwinian worldview in the news today. The father of a child born with birth defects in Toledo, Ohio posted signs about a fund raiser for his four-month-old child. But someone posted three additional signs next to his that read: "Stop asking for money. Let the baby die. It's called Darwinism. Happy Holidays." You can read more about it below.

As I said in a sermon this year: "If all we are is matter, then nothing really matters." (Text  Audio   Video

Sunday, November 17, 2019

When Helping Hurts (Review and Notes)

When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett, Brian Fikkert, John Perkins, and David Platt. 2009, 2012

This book is similar to Walking with the Poor, by Bryant Myers. Whereas the former provides abundant quotes and references for the vast amount of development work that has been attempted, When Helping Hurts..., provides more descriptions of actual programs and specific instances of good development. Both books are in complete agreement that broken relationships are the root cause of poverty. They both emphasize that restored relationships with God and with others are the keys to economic improvement. When Helping Hurts... emphasizes the problem of paternalism (doing for others what they can do for themselves) which only creates dependence. They key is helping people do what they can for themselves. Both books emphasize participatory learning and other ways to involve the people in the process of development. One of the key words here is “empowering.” We need to empower people to engage in the process of development. To me, as a pastor, that means educating and motivating. That involves a lot of things such as prayer, mentoring, challenging, accountability, etc. 

Here are some of the programs that the book mentions:

Asset Based Development & Asset Mapping: Approach development by looking first not to the needs but to the assets of the community. Look to what is good and build on that.

Participatory Learning: Involving the community in the plan for development
Family Advocates: Single mothers were matched with family advocates who worked with them to improve the situation. 

Jobs for Life: This program involves classroom training, mentors and businesses that work with poor people to get them into good jobs.

Micro Loans: Small loans to help the poor start businesses

Individual Development Accounts: This program provides matching funds to the poor to help them build savings.

Savings and Credit Associations: This is like micro loans except that the loans come from the people within the community rather than from outside donors.

Business as Missions: This program helps start for profit businesses within a poor community that will help provide jobs.

Circle of Allies: This is a mentoring program in which allies (mentors) and participants meet monthly and at other times to plan and work together for development.

Kindle Notes For:
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett, Brian Fikkert, John Perkins, and David Platt. 2009, 2012

Well-intentioned welfare programs penalized work, undermined families, and created dependence. The government hurt the very people it was trying to help. Unfortunately, the same is true for many Christian ministries today. By focusing on symptoms rather than on the underlying disease, we are often hurting the very people we are trying to help. Surprisingly, we are also hurting ourselves in the process. As followers of Jesus Christ, we simply must do better.

Diverse Sectors: Page: 14-15
Finally, no single sector can alleviate poverty on its own. Like all human beings, poor people have a range of physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. Hence, appropriate interventions for poor people include such diverse sectors as economic development, health, education, agriculture, spiritual formation, etc. 

Now, Not Yet Page: 32
Of course there is both a “now” and a “not yet” to the kingdom. The full manifestation of the kingdom will not occur until there is a new heaven and a new earth. Only then will every tear be wiped from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). But two thousand years ago, Jesus clearly stated that there is a “now” to the kingdom, saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

Come, Lord Jesus Page: 33
When she was three years old, my daughter Anna bowed her head one night and prayed, “Dear Jesus, please come back soon, because we have lots of owies, and they hurt.”

Reverend Marsh Page: 37
For all of these reasons, Reverend Marsh focused his attention and energies, not on fighting the Ku Klux Klan, but on the lack of personal piety and unbelief of some of the civil rights workers. This culminated in his writing a famous sermon, “The Sorrow of Selma,” in which he lambasted the civil rights workers, calling them “unbathed beatniks,” “immoral kooks,” and “sign-carrying degenerates” who were hypocrites for not believing in God.

What Would Jesus Do? Page: 37
In one sense, Reverend Marsh was right. Many of the civil rights protestors longed for the peace, justice, and righteousness of the kingdom, but they did not want to bend the knee to the King Himself, which is a prerequisite for enjoying the full benefits of the kingdom. In contrast, Reverend Marsh embraced King Jesus, but he did not understand the fullness of Christ’s kingdom and its implications for the injustices in his community. Both Reverend Marsh and the civil rights workers were wrong, but in different ways. Reverend Marsh sought the King without the kingdom. The civil rights workers sought the kingdom without the King. The church needs a Christ-centered, fully orbed, kingdom perspective to correctly answer the question: “What would Jesus do?”

Isaiah’s Concern for the Poor Page: 38
Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths, and convocations—I cannot bear your evil assemblies…. Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (Isa. 1:10–13, 16b–17)

Early Christians Page: 43
God’s kingdom strategy of ministering to and among the suffering was so powerful that other kings took note. In the fourth century AD, the Roman Emperor Julian tried to launch pagan charities to compete with the highly successful Christian charities that were attracting so many converts. Writing to a pagan priest, Julian complained, “The impious Galileans [i.e., the Christians] support not only their poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.”12

Avoiding the Social Gospel Movement Page: 44
As evangelicals tried to distance themselves from the social gospel movement, they ended up in large-scale retreat from the front lines of poverty alleviation. This shift away from the poor was so dramatic that church historians refer to the 1900–1930 era as the “Great Reversal” in the evangelical church’s approach to social problems.15 It is important to note that the Great Reversal preceded the rise of the welfare state in America. Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty did not occur until the 1960s, and even FDR’s relatively modest New Deal policies were not launched until the 1930s. In short, the evangelical church’s retreat from poverty alleviation was fundamentally due to shifts in theology and not—as many have asserted—to government programs that drove the church away from ministry to the poor. While the rise of government programs may have exacerbated the church’s retreat, they were not the primary cause.

Rwandan Massacre  Page: 45
Despite the fact that 80 percent of Rwandans claimed to be Christians, a bloody civil war erupted in 1994 in which the Hutu majority conducted a brutal genocide against the Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates. Over a three-month period, an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered, the vast majority of them Tutsis.

World Bank Page: 52
For example, during the initial decade following World War II, the World Bank believed the cause of poverty was primarily a lack of material resources—the last row of table 2.1—so it poured money into Europe and the Majority World. The strategy worked in the former but not in the latter. Why? The fundamental problem in the Majority World was not a lack of material resources. The World Bank misdiagnosed the disease, and it applied the wrong medicine. If We Believe the Primary Cause of Poverty Is … Then We Will Primarily Try to … 

A Lack of Knowledge Educate the Poor Oppression by Powerful People Work for Social Justice The Personal Sins of the Poor Evangelize and Disciple the Poor A Lack of Material Resources Give Material Resources to the Poor TABLE 2.1

They Don’t Deserve Our Help Page: 63
“Pastor, we are tired of trying to help these people out. We have been bringing them things for several years now, but their situation never improves. They just sit there in the same situation year in and year out. Have you ever noticed that there are no men in the apartments when we deliver the toys? The residents are all unwed mothers who just keep having babies in order to collect bigger and bigger welfare checks. They don’t deserve our help.”

Importance of Relationships Page: 73
Poverty is rooted in broken relationships, so the solution to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things into right relationship again.

Pachamama Page: 80
Although successful in increasing output, the impact on the farmers’ incomes was far less than hoped because of the farmers’ deep reverence for Pachamama, the mother earth goddess who presides over planting and harvesting.

Alisa Collins Story Page: 93
After decades of living on welfare checks, Alisa Collins suddenly started finishing her high school degree, working full-time as a kindergarten teacher, and getting up at 4:00 a.m. to wash her family’s clothes before she was due at work. What happened? Alisa’s worldview changed and the system in which she lived changed.

Rehabilitation and Development Follow Relief Page: 100
 “Rehabilitation” begins as soon as the bleeding stops; it seeks to restore people and their communities to the positive elements of their precrisis conditions. The key feature of rehabilitation is a dynamic of working with the tsunami victims as they participate in their own recovery, moving from point 2 to point 3. “Development” is a process of ongoing change that moves all the people involved—both the “helpers” and the “helped”—closer to being in right relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. In particular, as the materially poor develop, they are better able to fulfill their calling of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruits of that work. Development is not done to people or for people but with people.

Paternalism Page: 109
However, there is a good rule of thumb that is extremely useful in cutting through a lot of the complexity: Avoid Paternalism.

Labor Paternalism Page: 112
Labor paternalism occurs when we do work for people that they can do for themselves. I remember going on a spring break mission trip to Mississippi while I was in college. I will never forget the sick feeling I had as I stood on a ladder painting a house while the young, able-bodied men living in the house sat on their front porch and watched. I did so much harm that day. Yes, the house got painted, but in the process I undermined these people’s calling to be stewards of their own time and talents. It might have been better if I had stayed home for spring break, rather than to have gone and done harm.

Why Relief Is Easier Page: 114
Ironically, you will also typically find that most existing organizations in your community are focusing on providing relief. Why? There are at least three reasons. First, many service organizations have a material definition of poverty; hence, they believe that handouts of material things are the solution to that poverty. As a result, they often provide relief to people who really need development. Second, relief is easier to do than development. It is much simpler to drop food out of airplanes or to ladle soup out of bowls than it is to develop long-lasting, time-consuming relationships with poor people, which may be emotionally exhausting. Third, it is easier to get donor money for relief than for development. “We fed a thousand people today” sounds better to donors than “We hung out and

Asset Based Community Development Page: 119
For these reasons, many Christian community-development experts have discovered the benefits of using “asset-based community development” (ABCD) as they seek to foster reconciliation of people’s relationships with God, self, others, and creation. ABCD is consistent with the perspective that God has blessed every individual and community with a host of gifts, including such diverse things as land, social networks, knowledge, animals, savings, intelligence, schools, creativity, production equipment, etc. ABCD puts the emphasis on what materially poor people already have and asks them to consider from the outset, “What is right with you? What gifts has God given you that you can use to improve your life and that of your neighbors? How can the individuals and organizations in your community work together to improve your community?”

Needs Based Development Page: 120
In contrast, needs-based development focuses on what is lacking in the life of a community or a person. The assumption in this approach is that the solutions to poverty are dependent upon outside human and financial resources. Churches and ministries using a needs-based approach are often quick to provide food, clothes, shelter, and money to meet the perceived, immediate needs of low-income people, who are often viewed as “clients” or “beneficiaries” of the program. Pouring in outside resources is not sustainable and only exacerbates the feelings of helplessness and inferiority that limits low-income people from being better stewards of their God-given talents and resources. When the church or ministry stops the flow of resources, it can leave behind individuals and communities that are more disempowered than ever before.

The Rest of Grace’s Story Page: 123
Grace was clearly in need of relief. Lying in agony on the floor of her shack, she was unable to help herself and needed somebody to provide assistance to her. But was I the best person to provide such relief? Remember a key relief principle we learned in chapter 4: Respond when needs of the affected population are unmet by local people or organizations (or family members) due to their inability or unwillingness to help. I never even considered this principle when reaching into my pocket for the eight dollars to pay for the penicillin. Relief was the right intervention, but I was not the right person to offer it. I failed to consider the local assets that already existed in this slum, assets that included small amounts of money, a church, a pastor, and the social bonds of the one hundred refugees attending the small-business class. The truth is that there was more than enough time to walk back to the church, where the small-business class was still assembled, and ask the participants what they could do to help Grace. While the refugees were extremely poor, they could have mustered the eight cents per person to pay for the penicillin. In short, by providing the eight dollars, I violated the four key elements of ABCD mentioned above. Of course, handing over the money was so much easier and so much faster than asking the refugees to assist Grace; and therein resides the problem of many poverty-alleviation efforts: the North American need for speed undermines the slow process needed for lasting and effective long-run development. Why does all of this matter? Grace desperately needed relationships in the community in general and in St. Luke’s Church in particular. Her former way of life had created many enemies, and, being infected with HIV, Grace was going to need solid support structures as time wore on. In fact, Grace needed to have her poverty of community alleviated if she was going to have any chance for long-term survival. Neither Elizabeth nor I could provide this for Grace over the long haul. I was soon leaving the country, and Elizabeth did not live in this slum. Grace needed the members of the community and of St. Luke’s Church to embrace her and to consider her as one of their own. By giving the eight dollars myself, I missed an opportunity to facilitate such relationships between Grace and the local support structures that were crucial to her long-term survival. My eight dollars removed a chance for St. Luke’s to be what the Bible calls it to be: the body, bride, and fullness of Jesus Christ in this slum. I denied St. Luke’s the chance to declare the good news of the kingdom of God in word and in deed to “the least of these.” Instead of helping St. Luke’s to be “salt and light,” I joined decades of North American evangelicals in communicating that the mzungu—the powerful, rich, educated white person—was the “salt and light.”

Page: 125
Oh to have that eight dollars back. I wish I had encouraged Elizabeth to go back to St. Luke’s to ask the refugees to assist Grace. Elizabeth could have brought the pastor in as part of the problem-solving process. While they were doing this, I should have gotten in the taxi and gotten out of there as fast as possible. Why? My entire presence in this situation, given all that it means to be a mzungu, was completely debilitating of local assets, be they human, financial, social, or spiritual.

Page: 126
I am absolutely sure Elizabeth would have stepped in with her own money if she had needed to do so—and she was less of an outsider than I.
Note: But she didn't step in. She said the medicine was too expensive.

Asset Mapping  Page: 126
Made popular by John Kretzmann and John McKnight of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University, Asset Mapping has become a common approach to community development work in the United States.1 A better term for this approach might be “asset inventorying,” since the strategy primarily uses individual or group-based interviews to catalogue the assets in a particular community.
Participatory Learning Page: 128
Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) is a mind-set and an associated set of tools developed by community development workers in the Majority World during the 1990s.2 PLA uses a variety of group-based exercises to engage and energize community members in thinking about their community’s history, assets, survival strategies, and goals.

Relief Failure Page: 133
Wanting to assist a village in Colombia with its rice production, a nonprofit organization gathered the villagers into a cooperative and bought them a thresher, a motorized huller, a generator, and a tractor. Rice production boomed, and the cooperative sold the rice at the highest price the farmers had ever received. The project appeared to be a tremendous success. The nonprofit organization then left the village, but several years later one of its staff members returned to find that the cooperative had completely disbanded and that all of the equipment was broken down and rusting away in the fields. In fact, some of the equipment had never been used at all. Yet, as the staff member walked through the village, the people pleaded with him, “If [your organization] would just come help us again, we could do so much!”1

Importance of Participation Page: 134
This book has already explained a number of reasons for the slow progress in poverty alleviation, but another reason needs to be highlighted: inadequate participation of poor people in the process.

Empowered to Make Decisions  Page: 136
Thus, the goal is not just that the equipment gets used and that rice output goes up, but rather that poor people are empowered to make decisions about the best way to farm, to act upon their decisions, to evaluate the results of their decisions, and then to start the decision-making process all over again.
Note: What do we really mean by "empowered"? I think it involves education and motivation.

Family Advocates Page: 137
Instead of having a one-size-fits-all blueprint for each family, [our ministry] tries to journey alongside a single mother and her children, believing that the family’s unique strengths, history, and future goals need to be understood and appreciated. The mother meets weekly with a Family Advocate, who helps her begin to explore the areas of her family’s life that are in need of restoration. While the Family Advocate facilitates the process, each single mother participates in the process by working to envision the family’s future and setting goals and initiating the action steps necessary to achieve them. The Family Advocate is then able to help hold the mother accountable, as well as contribute to the family’s long-term plan through resource development.

Watch Out for Post-Modernism Page: 138
A word of caution is in order. Secular arguments for participation often rest on two faulty assumptions. First, given the postmodern belief that truth is relative, some argue that poor people must participate in the process because they need to construct their own reality. Who are we outsiders to impose our ideas on poor people? they say. Second, a humanist faith in the inherent goodness of human beings leads some to believe that participation, like democracy, will necessarily produce positive results. Both of these assumptions are wrong from a biblical perspective. The Bible clearly teaches that there is absolute truth and that—to the extent that we know it—we are to speak such truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Moreover, all of us, including poor people, are sinful; participation does not have the capacity to overcome the basic corruption in the human condition. Individuals and groups make bad decisions all the time! However, a participatory approach is consistent with a biblical perspective concerning poverty and its alleviation. The scriptural truths that all of us are broken and that all of us retain the image of God are affirmed by a process that solicits and values the positive contributions of everyone, both insiders and outsiders. Furthermore, the fact that participatory approaches enable the materially poor to “teach” the materially non-poor helps to overcome the inferior-superior dynamic that typically characterizes the interactions between them. As a result, the dignity of the materially poor is affirmed, and the god-complexes of the materially non-poor are dispelled.

Explosion of Short Term Missions Page: 151
There were 120,000 in 1989; 450,000 in 1998; 1,000,000 in 2003; and 2,200,000 in 2006. The numbers reflect a tsunami of epic proportions, a tidal wave of American short-term “missionaries” flooding the world. The cost? Americans spent $1.6 billion on short-term missions (STMs) in 2006 alone.1

Problem with STMs Page: 155
The core problem with STMs to poor communities is that STMs tend to reflect the perspective of “poverty as deficit,” the idea that poverty is due to the poor lacking something. North Americans often view the “something” as material resources, but a lack of knowledge or spirituality is also commonly cited.4 This conception of poverty leads to poverty-alleviation strategies in which the materially non-poor are necessarily in the position of giving the “something” to the materially poor, since the non-poor have the “something” and the poor do not have it. Chapter 2 expressed some of this dynamic in the following equation: This “poverty as deficit” perspective is especially problematic in the context of STMs, since all of the “giving” needs to get done within just two weeks!
Don’t Do What People Can Do for Themselves Page: 156
For example, after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc along parts of the Gulf Coast, tens of thousands of Christians rushed to assist. This aid took many diverse forms and in many ways it was a great testimony to the beauty of the body of Christ. One particular STM team made up of young people went to the New Orleans area very soon after Katrina hit and worked hard to clear roads and homes of debris. The same STM team returned about a year later to help with the rehabilitation of some of the damaged homes. By this time the residents were returning to the area. The STM team was asked to work on restoring the house owned by a family that included several young adult males. While the STM team worked hard every day tearing out Sheetrock, carpeting, and more, the young men living in the house sat back and watched the STM team all day long. The first trip was an appropriate STM response, applying relief in a context in which it was needed. But the second STM trip, while well intentioned, was an incorrect response. The homeowner’s family had the capacity to participate in the renovation of its house but was unwilling to do so. It would have been better for the STM team to go back to the local ministry and ask to be reassigned to work on another house whose owners were open to helping with their own recovery.

Jobs for Life Page: 176
Advance Memphis is one of 130 affiliates of the nationwide Jobs for Life network, which mobilizes churches and Christian ministries to help poor people find and keep jobs.

Jobs for Life Page: 176
1. Classroom training for poor people that emphasizes the development of “soft skills” from a biblical perspective. Soft skills are general, nontechnical abilities such as a solid work ethic, the ability to function in a team, and strong communication skills. In contrast, “hard skills” include the technical knowledge needed for specific jobs; for example, an auto mechanic needs to know how an engine operates. JFL develops soft skills using a biblically based curriculum that addresses such issues as career planning, the inherent value of work, good attitudes, personal integrity, respect for authority, conflict resolution, responsibility, punctuality, appropriate dress, etc. 2. Mentors, called “champions,” provide support and encouragement to JFL participants, helping them to overcome obstacles that hinder their ability to complete the class, to get a job, or to cope with life. While one-on-one mentoring is possible, mentoring teams from churches are likely to be able to sustain relationships over longer periods of time, as the mentoring process can be overwhelming. 3. Businesses covenant to provide interviews, job opportunities, and supportive work environments to JFL graduates. This represents a tremendous opportunity for Christian businesspeople to serve the kingdom by helping poor people to get a fresh start on fulfilling their God-given callings. Ideally, employers will be in contact with the mentors so that they can work together to nurture the JFL graduate through the ups and downs of the job.

Micro Loans Page: 178
Isaac, an African American in his late twenties, drives up to Title Brokers in a rusting minivan that needs a new muffler. In exchange for handing over his car title and a set of keys for the repo man, Isaac receives a check for $600. At the end of the month, he will owe $750, which amounts to an annual percentage rate (APR) of 300 percent. Should he fail to repay within ninety days, he will owe $1,172, reflecting an APR of 381 percent. “If I wasn’t in such a desperate situation, I wouldn’t come back. I’m embarrassed to be here because these guys rip people off. This is [money] I should be investing for my children.”17 Isaac’s story is becoming all too common. Poor neighborhoods are teeming with mortgage brokers, rent-to-own stores, payday and tax refund lenders, pawnshops, and car title loan dealers, all of which charge very high interest rates, often burying people in a cycle of debt. For example, a two-week loan of two to three hundred dollars from payday lenders charges interest averaging more than 400 percent APR, and the majority of payday borrowers have to roll over their loans multiple times, incurring additional fees in the process. The average payday borrower spends $800 to repay a $325 loan.18 Many poor people do not understand the terms of the loans from these sources, leaving them open to abuse from unscrupulous lenders, many of whom engage in outright fraud. Indeed, research has found that a lack of financial education significantly contributes to people’s falling prey to such schemes.19

Individual Development Accounts Page: 180
Veralisa was struggling to get off welfare and to support herself and her two children by making jewelry. But her income for the year totaled less than six thousand dollars, and then she received the heartbreaking news that she had developed cancer, possibly as a result of the harsh chemicals she was using in her jewelry business. A government agency referred Veralisa to Covenant Community Capital, a faith-based organization in Houston, Texas, that helps low-income, working families to escape the cycle of poverty by building money management skills and by helping them to acquire assets that grow in value over time. Veralisa enrolled in Covenant Community Capital’s Individual Development Account (IDA) Program, which rewards the monthly savings of working-poor families by providing a two-to-one savings match. Veralisa earned her match by saving some of her hard-earned dollars and by attending personal finance education and home-buyer preparation classes that were a required part of the IDA program.

The Grameen Bank Micro Finance / Micro Loans Page: 185
In 1976, a virtually unknown economics professor was visiting a village in rural Bangladesh during a devastating famine. There he encountered Sufiya, a very poor woman who was struggling to support her family by weaving bamboo stools. Sufiya was trapped. She needed to borrow twenty-two cents per day to buy materials, but banks would not lend to her because she did not have acceptable collateral and her desired loan size was too small. As a result, Sufiya was forced to borrow from loan sharks, whose exorbitant rates of interest left her with only two cents of profit at the end of a twelve-hour workday. Sufiya’s neighbors expressed similar frustration, facing interest rates ranging from 10 percent per week (520 percent per year) to 10 percent per day (3,650 percent) per year. The professor reached into his pocket and lent Sufiya and forty-one of her neighbors a total of twenty-seven dollars. To the amazement of observers, the loans were fully repaid on time.1 Contrary to the received wisdom, it was possible to lend money to very poor people and get it paid back! Thirty-five years later, that economics professor, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, is a Nobel laureate, and the Grameen Bank, which he established to provide credit to the poorest people of Bangladesh, has 7.58 million poor borrowers and has lent $7.4 billion since its inception in 1976. More than 98 percent of Grameen’s loans have been repaid, meaning that Grameen’s money can be lent and re-lent
 Page: 186
to poor people over and over again!2 Moreover, Dr. Yunus’s work has spawned the global microfinance (MF) movement, which aims to reach 175 million of the world’s poorest families with loans and other financial services (e.g., savings and insurance) by the end of 2015.3 Indeed, MF, which is sometimes also referred to as “microenterprise development,” has become one of the premier strategies for bringing economic empowerment to poor people in the Majority World.

Problems with Micro Loans Page: 186
A few months later, John took a two-week trip to Uganda to help the churches there to put together a business plan for a MF program. John left them with a check for twenty thousand dollars to start making loans. Six months later, all of the money had been lent out. Twelve months later, almost none of the money had been paid back, and the churches in Uganda were now asking Grace for more money to replenish their MF program. The black hole was bigger than ever before. Although there may be some exceptions in particular contexts, Grace Fellowship’s experience is very common. Many churches, missionaries, and ministries from North America have been trying to use MF as part of their global outreach. Unfortunately, they usually find that emulating the Grameen Bank is far more difficult than they imagined. Loans are often not repaid, putting a drain on ministry budgets and causing some programs to collapse entirely. Everybody gets hurt in the process: the North American churches, ministries, and missionaries; the partner churches and ministries in the Majority World; and—most important—the poor themselves.
 Page: 190
What makes MFIs like the Grameen Bank work? There are many technical issues, but a key feature of their success is that the MFI, like any bank, must convince borrowers that it will exist over the long haul. If borrowers do not believe the MFI will be there tomorrow, they will not worry about repaying their loans today, as the MFI will not be around to penalize them for not repaying. And if borrowers do not repay their loans, the MFI will go broke.

Savings and Credit Associations Page: 193
The Savings and Credit Association (SCA) associated with God’s Compassion Church dispensed a total of forty-one relatively low-interest loans, enjoying a 100 percent repayment rate. Moreover, the interest paid on the loans enabled the SCA members to earn dividends on their savings that averaged 50 percent in annual terms.
 Page: 193
A SCA is a very simple credit union in which poor people save and lend their own money to one another. Each member contributes an agreed-upon savings amount to the group’s fund at a weekly meeting. The SCA members decide how much of the group’s fund to lend, to whom it will be lent, and the terms of the loans. At the end of a predetermined length of time, usually six to twelve months, each member’s savings are returned along with dividends they have earned from the interest charged on loans. It is microfinance without outside managers or money!

Business As Missions Page: 197
A related intervention that has gained renewed popularity in the past decade is called business as missions (BAM). BAM finds its roots in the ministries of Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla, who used tent making as a means of supporting their missionary work. Today, BAM takes on many forms, but its defining feature is that the missionary owns and operates a legitimate, for-profit business that he or she uses as a vehicle for ministry.17 In contrast, the other interventions described in this chapter, the Provider, Promotion, Partnership, and Complementary Training Models, all focus on helping poor people to own and operate their own microenterprises.

Lack of Sustainability Page: 206
One of them spoke up. “Dan, we love you, but something has to change. We have been writing checks to pay for short-term teams for years, but the people in those African villages are just as poor as they were before we started going over there. We have dug wells, built latrines, handed out used clothing, and donated to their new church building, but they just keep asking us to send more teams and more money for more projects. If anything, they seem more dependent on us than ever before. This is bad stewardship of the money we are donating to this church. Something has to change! We’ve had enough.”

Volunteers Who Can Get Close to the Poor Page: 210
But reality often falls far short of the ideal. Typically, the biggest challenge that ministries face is an insufficient number of people who are willing to invest the time and energy that it takes to walk through time with a needy individual or family. Finding armies of people to volunteer one Saturday per year to paint dilapidated houses is easy. Finding people to love the people, day in and day out, who live in those houses is extremely difficult.

Circle of Allies Page: 211
There are a number of approaches and helpful resources on mentoring,3 but Diane’s story illustrates the power of the circles of support model that is gaining momentum across North America.4 A circle consists of two to five volunteers—called “circle allies”—who come alongside one materially poor family or individual—called the “circle participant” or the “circle leader.” The “allies” are people who are willing to use their time, talents, social and professional networks, and possibly financial resources to help the family or individual to escape material poverty. The “participant” (sometimes called the “leader”) commits to use the circle to move forward toward a more positive future, including overcoming the shame and social isolation that is at the root of much of material poverty.