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Archive for February, 2017

Project 24 at Udom

The Project 24 visitors to the Lenkishon opening took a trip up Cheparia  to visit the Udom center there.  Udom has been a great success and there are 55 young people there.  You can sponsor children at one of these centers through Christ Cares for Kids Kenya at the LCMS website.

Udom has a wonderful and rather sad story behind it.  A former missionary to Africa heard about the Project 24 efforts and was very impressed that laymen were taking up this task.  He called me one day because I was listed on the brochure he had seen and gave a generous gift.  The only stipulation was that he be able to name the center.  While in Africa he had befriended a child who been considered “cursed” by his village and driven away.  The missionary and his wife took him in and basically raised him while they were in country.  They wanted to take him home when their service was over, but the country he served in would not allow it.  Till the day he died he said he would wonder about and pray for the boy he called Udom.

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Mercy is Attacked Because It is Not the Churches Task .

The argument is that the church as a corporate structure (the church you go to is registered as a corporation) has one task and that is to preach the Gospel.  Acts of mercy and care for humans (welfare) is the job of individual Christians in their daily life.

A pertinent point was made by a former President of the Missouri Synod. Writing back in the 70’s and addressing the chaos in the church as well as the chaos in the social structures around the world, Oliver Harms said, “God makes His justice be a servant. When God puts His creatures in their place even by acts of violence, then He seeks to preserve the created world as a place of reason and order and civilization. When God brings His creatures to their knees His ultimate purpose is to make them sons of grace not slaves of fear. God spares nations, and He nurtures His church because He seeks the welfare of all that He brought into being. No one portrays better the yearning of God than John the Baptist, who came to prepare the church and the world for the coming of Christ. It is from this vantage point that the church views the international strife in Indochina and the Middle East as well as the noise that occurs when God shakes the earth through quakes, tidal waves, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The church does not do enough when it simply supports the Red Cross and relief efforts for Nigeria and Pakistan. The church is not faithful if it does no more than call attention to Christ’s final return at the appropriate time in the church calendar.”[1] It is more than an implication, it is stated as a fact that God gives His gifts to the church; nurtures the church; feeds the church so that it will help supply the needs of others for their welfare ( emphasis mine).

[1] Oliver Harms,  “Repentance” and editorial  written in Concordia Theological Monthly March 1971, Vol XLII Number 3

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Mercy Is Being Attacked Again Because it is “Toxic”

One of the arguments against mercy work is that I cannot define misery.

“Whenever love meets misery, mercy is awakened.” said Wilhelm Loehe. If I cannot define misery than I must allow those who I believe are suffering to define it. Sadly that is taken away from me by the third case against mercy.[1]

Mercy exhibited especially in monetary gifts is “toxic”. “When we respond to a chronic need as though it were a crisis, we can predict toxic results: dependency, deception, disempowerment.”[2]

One of the great mercy projects is well digging because the need for fresh water is incredible in third world countries, or so I have been told. But now that the mercy well is poisoned I must assume that when a partner church or a group of Christians that we deal with asks for help in digging a well it is because they are now dependant, lying, or have had their own well digging capacity destroyed by my concern.

I believe that it was Helmut Thielicke who told a story about visiting a parishioner in his mostly bombed out home after the war. The man was thankful for God’s mercy in having enough of his house bombed out that he didn’t have to take in any refugees who had nothing. He had official sanction from whatever authority there was to be free from any need to care for his neighbors because what was left of his house was not big enough.

We now have official sanction for not doing anything, at least not anything generous and reckless and exuberant.  In a world where crisis are becoming chronic we have sanction to be left alone.  Our little piece of the world that is left to us is just enough that we don’t have to bother ourselves with “those people”.  The government will take care of it.  The Clinton Foundation will deal with it.  We can’t do anything in the church because we make it worse, and besides that money can go to preaching the Gospel. Of course I will be told that it is a matter of scale and nuance and that we are not being told to stop doing mercy, we are just being told not to spend any money on it, or build any structures, or do things that cannot be sustained.  Just don’t respond to chronic need as if it were a crisis seems to be a very common sense and useful message.  The problem with this is that Jesus would have no story about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16;19-31) if the rich man would have responded in any way, let alone as if Lazarus were in crisis.

[1] Wilhelm Löhe. Lohe on Mercy: Six Chapters for Everyone, the Seventh for the Servants of Mercy. Translated by Holger Sonntag. (St. Louis: LCMS World Relief and Human Care, 2006), p. 3-4.

[2] Robert Lupton,  “Toxic Charity”,  Harperone 2011

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Mercy is Being Attacked Again. Why? Fake Misery.

The criticism is raised that we see misery where there may not be any.  People that we think are miserable are used to their situation and really are quite happy.  My judging something as miserable does not make it so.

If I am not allowed to make a judgment about misery why would Jesus broadcast a story like that of Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) and use words like “longing”, (ἐπιθυμῶν), having a  “fixed desire” to be satisfied with crumbs from the table, but instead of that he received  “kaka” (κακά)?  Now you can translate that as you want, but the impression from Jesus and certainly from Abraham in the story is that one of the reasons that Lazarus got “evil things” was the neglect of the rich man.  Lazarus was “tossed’ on to the rich man’s front door by whoever, so that he could get help and he received kaka.

The mass migration of human beings in the world has one underlying cause – they are looking for good things.  They may want a better life in the city, education, freedom from fear, or any number of motivations but the point is they are looking for good things.  What they find in places like Kibera is crime and disease, and perhaps the death of the children they were hoping to give a better life.  If malaria, cholera and typhoid are at astronomical rates we can assume a certain level of misery.  If TB and other diseases that we used to consider gone are rampant can we assume a certain level of misery?

My issue in this case against mercy is why should I have to apologize for my concern about misery?  If I view people literally living in κακά , their children playing in it, and the diseases that bubble in it are running rampant, I have a responsibility to try and alleviate that situation whether the inhabitants feel miserable or not.  We are compelled by God’s grace to show ourselves to be “children of the highest” according to one of the old preachers in a study on Luke 6:32-42.  “The word here used for mercy designates an abiding feeling of compassion excited by the (perceived)[i] misery of another, whether friend or foe, and impelling one to eager efforts in order to bring relief”. “Your Father is merciful”

[i] The emphasis is mine.  If God is kind to the “ungrateful and evil”, why can I not show mercy and concern for those that I think might be miserable?

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Mercy Being Attacked Again. Why? Continued

Our Lord Jesus “for the joy set before Him endured the cross and despised the shame”.  Christ’s patient endurance is the great example that Christians should follow.  We may not be able to do it perfectly but if joy is “grace recognized” then Christians giving to others because Christ gave Himself for them is a source of joy.  Joy, rejoicing, grace, favor are all cognates.  If mercy projects are denigrated because they make the donor have a sense of joy, then all stewardship emphasis should be stopped now.  Anything related to the joy of giving should be expunged and we need to find a motivation for giving that will help donors feel miserable.

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The Attacks on Mercy Continue Why?

There are those who believe that doing mercy work overseas does nothing but make fat happy American Christians feel good about themselves.

“Grace removes guilt, mercy removes misery.”[1]  Out of purely divine grace God removed our guilt through the blood of Christ, and as someone said “I can’t imagine he was feeling very good about us on Good Friday”.  Mercy seems to have a different character. Mercy feels someone else’s pain and is then moved to help bear and alleviate that pain. It is seeing need and wanting to fix the need, or share in the burden.  It has nothing about the world’s idea of mercy in it.  The Christian who has received God’s grace does not react like the world does in its mercy anthem, “there is a choice we’re making; we’re saving our own lives”.[2]

Yet even if there were a motive among the myriad motives, is wanting to feel good about what we do inherently wrong?  Is having the sense that we are doing the right thing in say, how we spend our money as a witness, a bad thing?  Luther wrote, “Our property will not help us into heaven, when we fail and have to leave everything on earth, but when we make of unrighteous mammon righteous, that is, when we bring mammon from the wrong to the right use; and when we help the poor … we demonstrate our faith and witness that we are upright Christians and heirs of eternal life.”[3]

[1] Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament. Edited by Robert G. Hoerber. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989)

[2] Michael Jackson, “We Are The World”, 1985

[3] Martin Luther, “House Postil for the 9th Sunday of Trinity”.  Translated by Richard Caemmerer

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The Attacks on Mercy are Starting Again

I wrote in my report to the Synod in 2016 about Human Care and our church these words – “the churches corporate life of mercy is not a complimentary frill that can be added on or taken off depending on the exigencies of other so called “needs”.  It cannot be separated from mission because mission is born from God’s mercy to sinful man.  It is not an ornament on our life together because our life together is born out of the sacramental life given by the One Who gave His life for all,  Caring for humans in their bodily need cannot be separated from caring for their spiritual need (James 2).  The BIM is working to reemphasize the “Mercy part of ” part of our life together.”

It is starting again to be debated and stated in our circles that the church is only about the proclamation of the Gospel and that acts of mercy should be in the purview of individual Christians  and that mercy work especially overseas is bad policy and worse theology.

We hear it among Pastors that the church as a local entity is suffering from lack of participation and offerings and that we need to regroup and practice good stewardship with the funds that we have and use them only for Gospel proclamation.  My assumption is that Gospel proclamation includes that Pastors salary and roof repairs and other sundry needs.

I have said that budgets doth make cowards of us all.  To make a corporate life of mercy the subject of a budget cut shows a lack of a certain Trinitarian conception that certainly is a part of our Lutheran heritage.

The more things change the more things remain the same.  We started this blog as a “mercy” blog for a reason and I guess we have to continue.

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Project 24 Partners – Thank You/

Our Project 24 partner representatives have left for Africa to attend the Dedication of the Minnesota North and North Dakota sponsored site at Lenkishon.  I wish that everyone who has ever given a gift to Project 24 could go along and be a part of this.  We will beg for pictures and videos to share, but we need to thank all of you and ask for contined support and prayer.

There have been trials and tribulations and fighting and fears within without over the years on both side of the ocean.  Though it all we have tried to remember that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and that the churches work of mercy must go on.  I said in my report to the church at the last convention –

“The churches corporate life of mercy is not a complimentary frill that can be added on or taken off depending on the exigencies of other so called “needs”.  It cannot be separated from mission because mission is born from God’s mercy to sinful man.  It is not an ornament on our life together because our life together is born out of the sacramental life given by the One Who gave His life for all,  Caring for humans in their bodily need cannot be separated from caring for their spiritual need (James 2).  The Board for International Missions is working to reemphasize the “Mercy part of ” part of our life together.”

Project 24 is an important part of that mission.  Thank you LWML’s and congregations, individuals and Sunday Schools; all who have contributed in any way.

 

 

 

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The Project 24 Partnership – Lenkishon Completed Minnesota North and North Dakota Site

Mark Hatloy – Drayton ND, Roger Weinlaeder – Drayton ND Bob Wurl -Hankinson ND, Pastor Mably – Minn North  — Elk river Minn, Donna Blake – DogPatch  Arkansas, Pastor Reimche – Bottineau, ND will be traveling to Kenya to visit the Lenkishon  site, the joint Minnesota North and North Dakota District project.  They will be there to see the grand opening of the site, see a catechism club competition and to sit on a forum of partners that exist because of Project 24.  That will be a visit of stakeholders, managers, missionaries and supporters.  The group will leave on the 20th of February and will return March 5th.

In the meantime all of our friends out there who supported before we are asking for your support again.  Please give to Project 24 online at https://www.lcms.org/givenow/project-24-construction

They will leave on the 20th of Feb and return about the 5th of March so we pray for safe travels and a blessed trip and visit with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here is their itinerary so you can pray everyday they are there.

Tuesday, Feb. 21st – arrive in Nairobi, stay the night in Nairobi
Wednesday, Feb. 22nd – visit the ELCK head office in the morning visit the LCMS East Africa Field Office (take lunch at
the office) travel to Lenkishon in the afternoon.
Thursday Feb. 23rd – State of Project 24 Forum hosted at Lenkishon
Friday, Feb. 24th – Dedication and Special ceremony – Lenkishon
Saturday, Feb. 25th – travel from Lenkishon to Kapenguria.
Sunday, Feb. 26th – worship at Udom, visit Udom P24 site.
Monday, Feb. 27th – visit school for Udom children, travel to Kisumu.
Tuesday, Feb. 28th – visit Tumaini P24 site as well as the school where the girls attend.
Wednesday, March 1st – travel to and visit Othoro P24 site as well as the school where the boys attend, then continue to Kisii.
Thursday, March 2nd – visit Rongo P24 site as well as the school the children attend.
Friday, March 3rd – travel from Kisii to Maasai Mara.
Saturday, March 4th – all day in Maasai Mara.
Sunday, March 5th – return to Nairobi, leave to go back to the states that evening

 

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Martin Luther R+I+P – February 18th, 1546

A year before he actually died Martin Luther received a handwritten copy of a letter from an Ambassador to a King “Regarding a Horrible Sign Which Occurred in the Shameful Death of Martin Luther”.  It was full of frightening images and scenes that would make the horror writers in Hollywood jealous.  The idea was to convince folks into coming back to the Roman church because Luther had obviously gone to hell.  The problem was he was not dead.

Luther wrote with his usual aplomb –

“And I, Martinus Luther, D., do by these indentures acknowledge and testify that I have received this angry fiction concerning my death on the twenty-first day of March, and that I have read it with considerable pleasure and joy, except the blasphemous portion of the document in which this lie is attributed to the exalted majesty of God. Otherwise I felt quite tickled on my knee-cap and under my left heel at this evidence how cordially the devil and his minions, the Pope and the papists, hate me. May God turn them from the devil!”  (Dr. W. H. T. Dau, “Luther Examined and Re-examined.”  Found in CTM February 1946 No 2.)

I don’t know what being “tickled on my knee-cap and under my left heel” means.  Maybe Chris Matthews can explain that to us.  The point is Luther knew his enemies and he knew his God and he knew whom he had believed and was confident that God would keep him and bring him to life everlasting.

Just before he did die Luther repeated Psalm 31:6 four times times and said “Into your hands, I command my spirit. You have saved me, Father, you faithful God” then was silent.  He answered no questions until a couple of friends asked him if he was dying in the name of Christ and accepted all of Christ’s teachings. Luther spoke a clear “Ja” and fell asleep. Luther’s last breath was taken at 2:45 am February 18, 1546.  All witnesses say he died in peace.

I have hated those who regard useless idols; But I trust in the Lord.  I have hated those who regard useless idols;
But I trust in the Lord. Into your hands, I command my spirit. You have saved me, Father, you faithful God.”I have hated those who regard useless idols; But I trust in the Lord.  I have hated those who regard useless idols; But I trust in the Lord. 

A whole life of struggle against the idolatry of human effort in salvation had to be bolstered by a strong trust in God the Mighty Fortress and Jesus the mighty Savior.  Luther spoke his five fold confession in a house a short walk from the church in which he was baptized 63 years before.  He always fortified himself with the words, “I am baptized”.

His influence cannot be measured.  You ought to hear “A Mighty Fortress” sung in Kswahili or find his seal over a doorway in a village at the edge of the world to start to get it.   If you know nothing about him except what is written here, remember this piece of advice  – “When the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”

 

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