Today (12/31/11) is the last day to make a 2011 contribution to a non-profit organization. Beyond our regular giving, Barie and I like to make some end-of-year gifts to ministries that we believe in and want to support. I thought it might be instructive to share with you where our end-of-year giving went this year as you consider making a final gift of 2011:
1- Our local church, HCBC-RR. We give regularly every month to support the work of our church, but we also wanted to give first to our church at year-end. We believe so deeply in the work of our congregation (and our association) and the impact God is having through our movement that we want to support it financially. I would encourage you to give to your local church first at the end of the year.
2- International Justice Mission. We love the work of Gary Haugen and his team at IJM. They work around the world to help the oppressed find justice and freedom. Their team includes investigators and legal professionals who work tirelessly to defend those who have no defense. Their labor is not just their passion -it is their ministry to the Lord. An investment in their work is part of praying for God’s justice to be established on the earth.
3- Voice of the Martyrs. The ministry of VOM exists to support the persecuted church around the world and to mobilize/educate the rest of the Christian church to intercede for our brothers & sisters in chains. VOM has several great ways to give to persecuted Christians around the world – from care packages for families to Bible literature for kids to legal/practical support for those facing opposition.
4- Samaritan’s Purse. Our kids really enjoy going through the SP Christmas catalog and seeing how our generosity as a family will help someone around the world in need. This year, our kids chose to give to help build a church for those who were suffering for their faith (maybe our underground church service impacted their thinking). This ministry helps those in need while keeping their focus on sharing Christ with every person.
5- Redeemer City to City. This is a new one on our list this year. Tim Keller’s ministry (both in writing and speaking) has impacted my preaching and philosophy of ministry so much over the last several years. His church in NY has a similar passion for church-planting that our association has in Austin. Redeemer City to City in the next step in their work help gospel-centered churches get started in urban areas all over the world. I personally believe in this ministry and was excited to make a small gift to support them this year.
6- Compassion. Our family supports a child monthly through Compassion International. At Christmas time, they encourage sponsors to make a one-time gift so that the kids who are sponsored are able to receive a Christmas gift from the organization delivering the care. It is our joy to do this. Considering how much we spend on Christmas gifts for our children, this is nothing. But it makes a big impact.
There you go. These are the ministries we supported this year. How about you? Where did God lead you to give in 2011? Why do those ministries mean so much to you? I’d love to hear from you-
I entered Starbucks on Tuesday morning at 7:00am to order my drink and meet with a leader in our church. While I waited, I walked over to the stacks of newspapers to the left of the counter and had the wind knocked out of me by this picture of a starving child laying outside a hospital in Somalia. The picture covered a majority of Tuesday’s NY Times front page and was accompanied by an article describing the horrifying situation that is leading to the starvation of so many children. I’ve seen many pictures of starving children in my life, but this one grabbed my heart. In his crumbled frame, I saw my own son and wondered, what would I do if I couldn’t feed my kids? What if this child was mine? What if he was yours?
First, some context. The Horn of Africa is already one of the world’s most impoverished and poorly governed areas. On top of that, the region is experiencing its worst drought in 60 years. This means that a population that regularly has a hard time finding enough to eat is now facing devastating famine. Add to that a militant Islamic terrorist group called Shabab in charge of southern Somalia and you get the picture above. International aid and relief agencies have the resources to get in and help those in need and yet, the Islamic group won’t allow them to enter because they represent “imperialistic Western cultures.” So heartbreaking.
Second, some help. What do we do in response to this crisis (and all the other ones in the world)? When I see pictures like the ones above, I wonder if I should just quit my job and go to work for World Vision. Am I in the wrong field? And yet when I stop thinking with my emotions and start thinking with my brain, I realize that World Vision is already there. The love and compassion of the people of Jesus is deep and funds some of the largest relief agencies in the world. In fact, World Vision noted on their website recently that they had already received enough funding to fund their 24 month relief plan in Japan following the earthquake. They are now asking for support for famine relief in the Horn of Africa. You should give to their fund – they do great work. But more food and money is not the final solution – the food is there but can’t get in. We are confronted with the greatest challenge to feeding the poor and helping the impoverished – unjust leaders and corrupt governments. Does this mean all hope is lost? No.
Third, our hope. The Scripture says that all of creation groans as it waits for redemption. We groan together as we feel the weight of this broken world and the terrible suffering we inflict on each other. How does a situation like this get put right? I only see two ways that leave me with hope. One, the gospel spreads to the hearts of people everywhere and they repent and are filled with the Spirit of God and actually serve those they lead rather than use them. This is why I am in gospel-ministry and believe in missions. The only way the countries of this world will change is when the people who lead them are truly converted. Two, Jesus comes back and makes everything right. These two options are not in opposition to each other – they are sequential to each other. The gospel will spread and Jesus will return. My hope today is built on the power of the gospel to change the lives of people so that they actually care about suffering in this world. And my ultimate hope is that Jesus will come. He will feed every mouth and bind every wound and comfort every broken heart.
Until that day, we preach and we serve and we give and we love. With our whole hearts. And we wait.
Revelation 22:17 – Both the Spirit and the church say, “Come!”
I’m sure all of you have been watching the coverage of the natural disaster in Japan and praying for the people who are suffering in its wake. Our church family has a connection to this event through two of our members – Kyle and Naomi Napier. Naomi is originally from Japan and still has family living all over the northeast corner of Japan (close to the location of the earthquake and the tsunami). All of her family survived the quake and have been accounted for. Her husband, Kyle, put together a great visual aide on Google Maps that helps to see where the destruction occurred and where Naomi’s family live. This helped put a real human-element on the story for me – family members of someone I know personally. Keep praying for Naomi’s family and all those who are trying to put the pieces together in the wake of such devastation. Some of have asked how they can help those suffering in Japan. Besides the major Christian relief agencies (like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse), Kyle sent over two recommendations. I thought I would pass his thoughts along:
Some missionaries from my church in Houston are in Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. They’re also friends of ours and we’ve visited them a couple times. They informed us of a couple Christian organizations that people may contribute to for aid to the earthquake victims in Japan.
- The Sendai Earhtquake Relief Fund by OMF International (http://www.omf.org) – Project number L60500
- Some years ago a missionary set up an organization called CRASH (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope), which is a network designed to facilitate Christian relief work in Japan and around the world. CRASH is endorsed by the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA) and works in cooperation with the Disaster Relief Commission of the Japan Evangelical Association (JEA). You may want to visit their website at http://crashjapan.com.
We had an awesome day yesterday at church as we looked at the question of what it means for a local community of Christ-followers to celebrate the value of every human life. The Christian tradition stands on the theological foundation of the imago dei (image of God) to declare that every person has worth and value because every person is made in God’s image. We teach our preschool kids that “God made me,” but many times as adults we have not given time to thinking through the implications of this powerful doctrine. Yesterday at church, we talked about three organizations that we partner with who are demonstrating the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ through their care of the most vulnerable around us. If you missed the message (which included all three interviews), you can catch it on our website this week. Here’s who we talked to…
Caring for the unborn (by loving on expecting moms):
Agape Pregnancy Resource Center
Many of you took a baby-bottle from their table on Sunday (we are collecting change in them to help fund their amazing work in downtown Round Rock). They are due on Father’s Day.
Caring for the orphan (through foster-care & adoption):
Arrow Family Ministries
Arrow does their orientation to the foster and adoption process on the first Tuesday of each month at their Round Rock offices. The next orientation is June 1st!
We announced Sunday that we were launching our own fund with a great ministry called ABBA Fund, which helps prospective adoptive families get loans to cover adoption costs. We are also participating in a marathon in October (called Chosen: Marathon For Adoption). We had 30 runners sign up on Sunday!
Caring for the poor (through international sponsorship):
Compassion is a wonderful international agency that works in over 25 countries. Barie and I have sponsored a Compassion child for 10 years, and we were excited to see many families pick up packets on Sunday.
I am blessed to lead a congregation of people who are so giving. Thanks for everyone who helped out on this special Sunday!
Wow! This book is a tremendous read. Same Kind of Different As Me recounts the true story of two men whose lives become connected in a most unlikely way. One is a white, rich art-dealer from Ft. Worth (Ron) , and the other is a black homeless man who grew up in the cotton fields of Louisiana (Denver). They connect at a homeless shelter in Ft. Worth after Ron’s wife, Debbie, feels the call from God to work at the Union Gospel Mission in downtown Ft. Worth. Neither man’s life would ever be the same.
The chapters rotate point of view between Ron and Denver, giving the story a quick pace and the reader insight into the two men’s different worldviews. I appreciate the honesty and transparency of both throughout the book as they share the triumphs celebrated and scars endured on their different journeys.
The book reads so much like fiction that many times I had the thought in the back of my mind that there is no way these events occurred in this way. I guess the ever-increasing reports of forgery and plagiarism in the publishing industry makes me suspicious of everyone’s claims these days (so sad – check out the latest account here). But, the flip side is that this is simply a very well-written book about actual events. I am thankful to God for having read this book because it reminds me about God’s heart for all people, rich and poor, and our tendency to judge people quickly before we ever get to know their story. Everyone has a story – maybe we just need to spend more time listening so we can see what God is up to in the lives of those we meet.
Thanks, Ron and Denver, for reminding me to open my eyes to all that God is doing in each person’s life. May God give each of us a heart of compassion and love for others.