For 100 days in 1994, the world abandoned Rwanda as the country’s majority tribe, Hutu, attempted to exterminate the minority tribe, Tutsi. In the midst of the chaos God protected a Tutsi man who has forgiven his enemies and launched a ministry to orphans and widows, http://www.ermrwanda.org. Last evening, Nancy and I went to an event where this humble and amazing man, Emanuel, spoke.
At one point during his presentation he paused and asked us, “Is it good to feed people who are starving on the street?” As you would expect, almost everyone in the audience nodded affirmingly. Emanuel continued, “Feeding people on Rwanda’s streets is hurting them more than it is helping them.”
He went on to explain why free food is a bad idea in Rwanda. Briefly, when food is available on the street, people leave their struggling attempts to recreate family structures and go to the street to get food. Without the availability of free food, people use their own ingenuity to survive. Intuitively, they know that they need supportive social structures, that is, families, to survive. However, creating a family out of a group of widows and orphans is extremely difficult. So, when free food is available it is easier to abandon the attempt to create a family and stand in line for food. When the feeding program ends, the people who were being served are actually worse off than they were before it started. Now they need to start over with building a sustainable social structure.
Providing free food sabotages the process of building a sustainable solution to the deep problems that plague the Rwandan people.
Emanuel’s solution is to teach the widows and orphans how to create families. (For similar reasons to his opposition to feeding programs, he is also opposed to orphanages.) His ministry wants to help orphans and widows start and grow profitable businesses. This is where Anda Leadership comes into the picture. We are exploring how we can work with Emanuel to train Rwandan’s to launch and grow businesses.
Would you like to help? Send me an email and let me know. We have a window of opportunity to help build a nation!
Yesterday, my daughter Allison and I joined 54,000 other runners and walkers in a 12 kilometer race here in Spokane called Bloomsday. This is the second year we ran in this event. Today, as we were comparing our results and celebrating the progress we made since last year, Allison said something that rings with significance.
As Allison evaluated her performance and compared this year’s race with last year’s she noted a significant difference. Last year we stuck together throughout the race. I am a faster runner than she is, so she pushed herself to keep up with me. That is until the end of the race when she sprinted the last several hundred yards in a last gasp attempt to beat me. Of course, when I saw her take off, I too sprinted and managed to remain in front at the finish line. Both of us pushed ourselves because of the example of the other person. We gained inspiration from each other which improved both of us.
This year, we did not try to stay together. We got separated at the start line and did not see each other until after the finish line.
As Allison processed how she could have performed better this year, she said, “If I could have seen you, I would have run faster.” I immediately knew what she meant. The same was true for me. If I had been running with her, I would have sprinted to the finish line. Instead, I simply maintained my pace through the end of the race. If I had been running with Allison, sprinting at the end of the race, I would certainly have finished in the top ten for my age instead of 12th. Ninth and 12th place were only separated by a few seconds.
Jesus instructs us to watch him. In life, we have the opportunity to look at his perfection. When we do, we become inspired to perform at the highest level possible. Like at the end of yesterday’s race, I tend to settle for status quo. However, if I look at Jesus, I will remain inspired and my performance will continually improve.
Most American presidents have regularly issued national day of prayer proclamations. Following in this tradition, President Obama proclaimed May 3, 2012 as a National Day of Prayer. I wonder what God thinks of America’s National Day of Prayer? I wonder what he thinks of where I place my affections?
This week I have been reading through the Old Testament book of 1 Kings. In chapter 12 it is recorded that the ten tribes in the north rebelled against Solomon’s son and David’s grandson, Rehoboam, because of his heavy handed, authoritarian leadership. Rehoboam demanded more from the people than they could or were willing to give. The people revolted. God said that the revolt was his doing. He punished the House of David because of Solomon’s idolatry. Even after God’s punishment, Judah, the tribe loyal to Rehoboam, continued in its idolatry. This continued to greatly displeased God.
At the same time, the newly launched northern kingdom of Israel also engaged in idolatry. King Jeroboam set up idols for the people to worship so they would not have to travel into Judah’s territory to worship God in Jerusalem. Israel’s idolatry also greatly displeased God.
The Lord God refuses to share his glory with anyone or anything. When people put their love and trust in anything other than God, they steal from God. Honoring someone or something else, robs God of the honor he deserves.
I have used this week of the National Day of Prayer to evaluate what I honor. Do I honor God above everything else? Am I stealing his glory by loving and trusting someone/something else? It is clear in 1 Kings and throughout Scripture that the consequences of idolatry are devastating.
I have received so much from God, I want to faithfully love, serve, and honor him in return.
Twenty-six years ago yesterday, my daughter Allison was born. At that time our family was part of a small intentional community in Northwest Pasadena, California. Our community lived in a large 80-some year old Victorian house. We shared space, meals, chores, joys, and sorrows. Many of us intended to live and minister overseas and we knew that one of our most difficult challenges was going to be getting along with our colleagues. The purpose of our community was to learn how to live and communicate while living in a relationally intense situation.
Allison is a lovely and lovable adult, but she was a challenging baby. There were days when we were both at the end of our ropes.
Fortunately, at that time we had an young African man living in our community house. Otu was the oldest of a large family and he knew how to care for a discontented baby. When Allison was inconsolable by Nancy and me, Otu would take over. He held her over his head, her tummy in his large palm as he rocked her and repeatedly sang in his native language, “Ki ki kaa di. Ki ki kaa di.” That never failed to calm her.
One of the benefits of living in community is the availability of skills, knowledge, and giftings of the members. To this day I am grateful for Otu and the rest of the people who helped our family get started.
Initially we planned to celebrate the wedding of one of my daughters this past weekend in Seattle. However, a couple months ago the wedding was canceled. Since several family members and friends had already purchased air tickets, we decided to switch the occasion to a birthday celebration. The fickle Seattle weather cooperated and we enjoyed visiting Pike’s Place Market, eating at Via Tribunali, riding the Bremerton ferry, attending the one year anniversary of a dynamic new church, and just hanging out together. We created a pile of happy memories.
The sadness of the canceled wedding was graciously redeemed, but as we moved through the weekend I wondered what lesson we should learn from the circumstances that preceded the adjusted celebration.
The statement I heard most was, “It is better to cancel a wedding than to enter marriage without confidence that it is the right thing to do.”
One of the purposes of the engagement period is to test the relationship between the partners. After two people express their intention to get married, the dynamics of the relationship change. It is only after the marriage commitment is announced that people fully begin to imagine what it will be like to be married to their intended spouse. It is acceptable to back out of a marriage commitment before the wedding and it is better to do so than to proceed and confront irreconcilable differences after the wedding.
I have told my daughters that they are free to back out of their marriage commitment up to the point when they are walking down the isle. After that, their marriage is a permanent contract that is not easily broken. Avoiding a mistake is far less costly than a repairing a mistake.