Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Leave Home?

Our mission team is again preparing to leave for Big Creek, Kentucky and Patti and I have announced our plans to travel to Liberia in January with the Farmer to Farmer mission team from our East Ohio Conference.  But both of these things raise questions with some people.  I haven’t heard it said out loud here at Trinity, but in other churches I have heard the questions, “Why should we leave home?”  “Why should we help people outside of our community?” And, “Why would we ever go to another country to help people there?” 

These questions used to make me a little angry because the answers seemed so obvious to me, but I grew to understand that these questions usually grow out of a fundamental misunderstanding, or lack of understanding, of several key scriptures.

In Mark 16:15, after his resurrection, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  Jesus didn’t say that his followers ought to preach to the people they knew, but to preach to everyone in all of God’s creation.  Likewise, when Jesus told his followers to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, he never specified any one location, but intended for them to understand that they were to care for the poor, wherever they could find them.  

In fact, the very last thing that Jesus said to his disciples, only seconds before he ascended  into heaven were these words recorded in Acts 1:8:  “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” In this context, Jerusalem is home, Judea is the local neighborhood, Samaria represents the foreigners next door or nearby, and the “ends of the earth” is just what it sounds like.  As disciples of Jesus Christ, our instructions have never been to focus only on the evangelization of our local neighborhood, but to reach out, in the name of Jesus, to everyone, everywhere.

There is yet another good reason to do the kind of things that we are doing.  In Acts 24:17, Paul testifies to Governor Felix that “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.”  While Paul had been planting churches in Asia, the people back “at home” in Jerusalem were enduring hard times.  And so, the mission churches took up offerings to help the people of Jerusalem as a way of caring for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and as a way to “share in their suffering.” 

Many of the people that we reach during our mission trips are fellow believers and by our gifts, and through our presence, we encourage them with the knowledge that God cares for them, that God cares about their hardship, that that they are not alone, and that someone cares enough to “share in their suffering.”

I know that there are sometimes other questions as well, such as, “Why don’t they help themselves, and, “Why don’t they leave and go someplace better?”  And the simple answer is that they can’t.  Mobility is a luxury that comes with a higher standard of living.  When things go bad in our American cities, the middle class can leave and buy homes in the suburbs, but the poor are stuck because they can’t afford to move, let alone look for work out of town, or out of state.  In much the same way, the people in the hills of Kentucky were once much better off.  When coal was king, it was easy to get a well-paying job, but when the coal ran out and the mines closed, it became difficult to make enough money just to live, let alone leave.  Many of their children go to school and leave, but that option is nearly impossible for many.

Similarly, the nation of Liberia is still pulling itself out of decades of civil war.  The war there lasted for so long that nearly everything we take for granted was destroyed.  After the war, roads were barely passable, there was no running water, no electricity, no telephones and even mail was not likely to get through.  Nearly every permanent building had been destroyed.  You may have heard the phrase, “bombed into the stone age.”  The civil war in Liberia quite literally reduced the people to living like the people of the stone-age, or the people of the Old Testament.  Farming had to be done entirely by hand.  Schools were closed for so long that the most well educated person in the village might have only a fourth grade education, and so they become the school teacher.  Less than a dozen doctors, in the entire nation of Liberia, have been to medical school.  There were no machines of any kind. No one had a job of any sort except to find a way to stay alive.

This is why our church has build hospitals and schools in Liberia.  And this is why our Farmer to Farmer mission began restoring tractors that we would consider to be “too small to be useful,” or even “antiques.”  Volunteers for Farmer to Farmer rebuilt and restored these old tractors and shipped them to Liberia where the church uses them to plant a field to help feed the people of the congregation and earn a small income.  We have also built a sewing center and shipped over several old treadle sewing machines (remember there is no electricity) so that local women can also make crafts and earn a little money for their families.

By doing these (and other) things, both in Kentucky and in Liberia, we are able to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ and do things for them that they could never do for themselves.  By doing these things we also encourage them, and help them to witness to the people around them about the good news of Jesus Christ.

But most importantly, by doing these things we are answering the call of Jesus Christ to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

That is why we leave home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Important Update on Bridges Out of Poverty

I spoke with Dr. Ken Price about registration this week.  As I had hoped, he and the other trainers will be bringing a few extra books with them.  This means that we will be able to accommodate a small number of registrations "at the door."  If you think you would like to come, but still haven't officially registered, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can order food.

Click here to go to the Facebook Event Page

We are surrounded by people struggling just to get by. Often the culture that they live in is radiacally different than the one that most of us understand.

Bridges out of Poverty is for anyone, businesses, schools, service providers, social agencies, churches an others whose daily work connects them to people, families, and children, who live in poverty.

Join us as we explore the causes of poverty and it's hidden rules as well as the impact that poverty has on our nation, our community, and every one of us.

Join us we we begin to understand poverty better so that we can take steps toward creating sustainable communities.

Join us as we learn strategies for building prosperous and healthy communities.

Join us as we learn how to really help, and not just apply temorary band-aids to a deep and systemic problem.

Bridges out of Poverty is a starting point where we can develop accurate mental models of poverty, the middle class, and wealth.

*Registration deadline is August 10, 2016 and is limited to the first 50 participants

**Cost is $25 which includes the Bridges Out of Poverty text, Lunch, and refreshments.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Upcoming Opportunities

Hi everyone!

This month, on August 27th we all have the opportunity to learn more about our neighbors who are struggling to make a life.  I hope that many of you will take advantage of the opportunity to join us at the Bridges Out of Poverty workshop.  If you were at church while I was away, you had a chance to meet Dr. Ken Price.  He is a dear friend, and is passionate about Jesus Christ, the mission of the church, and our need to reach out to the least and the lost.

I know that anyone who is interested in missions, or who meets with the Program Committee, the Trustees, Finance, Perry Helping Perry, or anyone who is a part of Trinity’s mission in our neighborhood and the Perry community will benefit from the information offered at this workshop.

Next month, Trinity Church will once again send a group to The Joy Center in Big Creek, Kentucky for a
week long work project.  Six members of our Trinity family have already told me that they are going or that they want to go and we have room for at least twice that many.  I will be contacting other churches and inviting their members to go along so if any of you are still interested, please let me know as soon as possible so we don’t give your “spot” to someone else. 

While we are in Kentucky we will be involved, as we were last year, with doing some small projects around the Joy Center itself, but also one larger construction project for a local person.  There are two different projects that we are considering and as soon as we know more about the people who are going with us, we will see which project best matches our skills and abilities.

Please consider joining our team.  We had a great time together last year and we not only did a lot of work, but we learned a lot about each other and grew together as fellow believers in Jesus Christ.  If you aren’t able to go with us, please consider making an offering to help defray the cost of our trip.  The official cost of the trip will be $350 per person plus the cost of fuel for the trip and our food for the week (which is not provided by the Joy Center).  Some of the people who will travel with us can afford to pay their own way, but some can’t.  Your contributions make it possible for them to go.  Thanks so much for all of your love and support.


Pastor John

***************IMPORTANT UPDATE**************

During our discussions with The Joy Center, in order to make it possible for more people to participate, we have negotiated a MUCH lower cost.  The official cost is now $10 per person, per night, plus our cost of food, gasoline, and materials for the project.