justice

Michael Frost at New Thing Gathering #exponential – Aslan on the move!

Michael Frost at New Thing Gathering #exponential

sentralized-michael-frost

 

Only one Australian has ever won the Nobel prize for literature; Patrick White
A brutal, critical hater of the church
in his biography he wrote about how he was with his gay partner of 40 years when he went out on the farm to feed his dogs,

He fell on his backside, covered in mud and dogfood he heard a voice say ‘who the hell do you think you are?’

He thought God was speaking to him.

So he went to church next week with his partner

He went to the Anglican Church and sat at the back, where the Rector was telling people off for entering the jelly bean counting contest and being gamblers.
‘I realised whatever faith I had needed to be a private matter’

And too many churches are putting people like that off or telling them off
Rather than being with them.
Being their friends I
And saying ‘that God who was taking to you, he’s my friend and he wants to be yours too.’

Canada – Another couple of Christians decided to pray for their neighbours every Tuesday night
They moved in and prayed

One night theres a knock at the door
A Muslim knocked on the door
‘Tonight Jesus came and said in a dream go and ask Nigel what I want you to do to help Single mums’

Thailand
A friend was sitting in a cafe
A Buddhist monk approached him
‘I had a vision of Jesus Christ he told me to be here and Paul would tell me what to do.’
He led him to Christ
And He has in turn led 12 other Buddhist monks who follow Jesus.

God is at work
Something is up
God is working beyond the church because we are not sending people out and equipping them
So he says ‘I shall reign wherever I choose even if my people won’t be there’

We need people willing to nice out of the Christian bubble to where he’s already working, in the pubs and among the poor

We Christians have nothing to fear!
Why ?
God is on the move
Cf Aslan on the move.
It’s happening in the nations now, the thaw is happening now!
We are being set free from the frozen place.
God is about raising up an army.
God is winning!
There’s pain and suffering
But those days are numbered
And all heaven is breaking loose !
Get involved!

Don’t escape from reality or look to blame and scapegoat for the problems in the world
It comes from a heart of fear

Churches shouldn’t be fearful places
We should be the most engaged
And involved

Jesus was our scapegoat
We don’t need to blame anyone for your problems
You’re set free
Sent into the world
Not called into an escape pod

God is directing history to its true end
It’s our honour to be part of it.

Debra Green @debrajgreen Work, Rest and Pray. 2 Sam 7 Building The House

David was the second king of Israel his reign – 1010 to 1002 BC A righteous king, but not perfect.

2 Sam 7:1-16
David has built himself a great house, satisfied and at peace at last, with material provided by the King of Tyre.
But then he looks at ark in its tent and starts to think, ‘What about God?! His house?’
I think he had a good motive for this, he wanted to bless God. He wanted God to feel at home. Nathan says yes.
But then he prays.
Prophets have to pray not just say!
And God reveals that it’s a good plan, but ‘I am going to build YOU a house, David!’ His vision becomes a REvision. He revises it.
Plans are not a bad thing. But we need to Work, Rest and Pray! We need to take our plan and pray it through.
Do not go with your plan.
It’s good to write down our list.
To honour God and reflect something of his glory by building the best. To take inspiration from other people.
Study. Be diligent.

And submit your plan to him.

And wait to hear from God. He may want to do something far better!

A divine appointment is better than what is in your diary.

Our best intentions? His are better!
Work
God has a plan to blow your mind.

God says ‘and I will give you rest.’ Bring your heart to God today, it’s not too late. Rest. Rest is not the opposite to work- it’s just putting ourselves in his will.

Pray!
God has a bigger plan and he will give you more than you expect. He will take what you offer him He will bless the house (vs 27)

Unless The Lord builds the house, the Labourers labour in vain

Matty Hawthorne – What’s the point of church

These notes from Matty’s talk at our new gathering at Ivy Sharston form our discussion notes for this week’s grow groups

Church is about people with a purpose
It’s not about a building

Discuss:
Why do people HATE church?

One of the worst things Christians have done is make God boring

One Internet thread Matty found described
Christians as the most judgemental people

Read James 2:14-20

Maybe it’s not about being more relevant but more real.

We talk as if we have the monopoly on love – but the world wouldn’t agree.

We talk as if we have the monopoly on generosity.

People love to do good works and give.
We should encourage and recognise that.

Read Matt 5:14-16

What does ‘shine’ mean to you?
The message version says be generous with your lives.

It’s not (just) about the money!

Discuss
What makes a church a church?

The Bible word ‘oikos’ we translate in the Bible as household is really a gathering of community, extended family. Is your grow group an oikos?

What matters? 3 things

Love one another
Get the message of Jesus out there
Depending on God’s Spirit

Matty’s definition of church – a group of people gathered around Jesus, worshipping, Discipling and missioning.

Do you agree? What’s he missing? Anything?

We know Worshipping isn’t (just) singing.
So why do we call singing in church !a time of worship ‘ instead of a time of singing. Shouldn’t we just call it singing? Discuss.

Pray for your GG
Pray for every Ivy gathering – especially the new one at Sharston
Pray for every church, large and small, in our city – wherever and however they meet: that our lights shine in generosity and servanthood.

@AlanHirsch – ReOrganise at #NWNLC12

Alan lives very near Azusa Street, where the Holy Spirit came up many very marginalised people, which went on to be a movement that changed the world. Jesus is the friend of the outcast and the sinners!

What practices stop the people of God being the people of God? Christianity got into China from Europe, and there were 2 million Christians, until Mao Tse Tung obliterated it. How? Threw out the leaders etc. Except for peasant people who were forced to rediscover themselves.

Compare that phenomenon with that of the early church. We have to ask, what am I doing that God has to take people like us out – to get what he wants done, done?

Don’t create systems that create dependences.

Go with the flow of what God wants done in us. He has what it takes. And he has given us agency!

We need to receive the gift of repentance, be immediately forgiven – then change our behaviours.

Rodney Stark & Roger Fink described how Methodism in the USA grew like mad, then plateaued – then dropped off a cliff.

It started with the Methodist circuit riders blazing trails. Radical pioneers.

Then they took them out and got them to study Latin, Greek and Hebrew, domesticated them.

And have been in decline ever since.

If it takes seven years to train in CofE as a leader – you have over-complicated it.

Our methodology is blocking us.

In China, 65% of the leaders are women. What does that tell us? 2 million to hundreds of millions in a very short space of time.

If I was the devil and I wanted to take the church out, I’d create an elite two -tier system with cleros (calling) being to clergy – rather than ALL God’s people being called. Yes, believe in leadership, but don’t take all the leadership on.

If you want to destroy a movement – don’t make it easily reproducible. The genius of Al Quaeda is that is so diverse – (I think there’s references to this in Starfish & Spider?).

Someone asks – ‘how do you make a case for the ordination of women?’

Well – what about making a case for ordination at ALL first off. It came out of Rome not the NT. It doesn’t honour Jesus to suppress anyone. Our practices are our problems.

The ‘Back to Jerusalem’ movement have this slogan: ‘Every believer is a church planter, every church is a church planting church.’ We all contain ecclesia

So even if there’s only ONE believer left, he or she carries the seed to reproduce the whole movement. God got the whole universe going in a particular way. In every seed there’s a tree and in very tree there’s a forest – there’s POTENTIAL, contained. A spark has the potential for a fire.

This is how God sees us.

We need to see our churches like this.

The potential is HUGE!

It’s amazing what God can do with us. So a leader’s job is to bring EVERYONE into the game.

When we have thought of church planting, we have thought we have to extract people from the domains of everyday life. How about we rather plant church IN the domains of society, and let it break out in the arts and media and government.

Someone ask, ‘How do we control that?’

Trust God. He is able to lead!

God is not simply God of the church, but of all we are. We locate God in our structure (which is just one way to manifest His presence).

The best way to learn chess? Take the Queen out. Then you learn how to use all the other pieces.

Are we over-relying on the Sunday services? Even very good ones with great teaching.

To see how effective your sermons are, next week – ask, ‘What did I preach about three weeks ago?’

What if we put all that effort into disciple-making instead?

It takes time at the front end, but it’s the way of multiplication.

We believe in ‘the priesthood of all believers,’ but it’s largely a doctrine not a practice. As long as you’re wearing a collar it speaks louder than your words. You’re representing the institution. It’s very hard to get a person to understand something when their salary depends on not understanding it.

Look afresh at Ephesians, written as a general letter to a group of ordinary people, in various churches. This applies to everyone!  It’s Paul’s fundamental ecclesiology. Barth Jr called it ‘the constititional document of the church.’ And it was NOT written to leaders. This is for everyone.

Eph 4:1-6 UNITY (applies not just to early church but all time)

Eph 4:7-11

Grace was given to EACH ONE OF US.. (literally us all). Give = aorist indicative, very strong and applies to all 5.

To become… APEST – apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers..

So, ‘I wonder what I am?’

He’s given APEST – to build the church. To get us to Maturity.

It’s Jesus’ intention that we find our place in this framework.

Vs 12 – 16 applies to the church of all time, too – you have to torture the obvious meaning of the chapter to say the preceding verses don’t!

Why did we code out the Apostles and Prophets and Evangelists?

How many times in the Bible do you hear the word Pastor? ONCE – here.

Apostles. gets used 80+ times.

Teachers – we get told by James ‘not many of you should be!’

But isn’t it dangerous to release the APE?

Well the Shepherds and Teachers who have run the church so far have historically hurt people over doctrine a lot. Inquisition etc.

This is not a leadership text, it’s a ministry text.

Apostle = missio, sent. people who feel God pushing them out into the future, they’re boundary people. Could be Petrine (in system) or Pauline (outside system).

Prophets – sensitive to God, hear him, see him, speak for Him. Irritate everyone as result. They feel deeply for the poor.

Evangelists – recruiters to the cause, people buy in because of them.

Shepherds – Bring love and community.

Teachers - Bring wisdom and understanding. No sense of urgency. Systematic.

You need ALL FIVE to change the world.

These 5 are of course in the creation order – you see such people in all kids of organisations, but he’s given it to the redemption order.

Ministries are started by the generative (APE) – and sustained by the operative (ST – maintainers).

The problems are when the APES are exiled, and the STs take over. Every movement in decline takes this model.

Jesus has given us (the church) FIVEFOLD ministry so we might MATURE!

Jesus is all 5. We are meant to be His body. How else can we represent HIM in the world? You can’t run an organisation on having a HR department.

If you want a missional movement you have to have missional ministry to go with it.

A Tale of Three Kings – leadership recommended read for 2012!

‘God has a university. It’s a small school. Few enroll, even fewer graduate. Very few indeed.God has this school because he does not have broken men. Instead He has several types of men. He has men who claim to be God’s authority…and aren’t; men who claim to be broken…and aren’t. And men who are God’s authority, but who are mad and unbroken. And he has regretfully, a spectroscopic mixture of everything in between. All of these He has in abundance; but broken men, hardly at all.

In God’s sacred school of submission and brokenness, why are there so few students? Because all who are in this school must suffer pain. And as you might guess, it is often the unbroken ruler (whom God sovereignly picks) who metes out the pain. David was once a student in this school, and Saul was God’s chosen way to crush David.

GENE EDWARDS, ‘A Tale of Three Kings.’

I followed a link from somewhere (maybe I heard Andy Stanley reference it?) and ended up downloading this amazing little book to my Kindle. It seems to be well known in the USA but perhaps less so here? It’s a gem. I read a lot of books this year but this one and Andrew Murray’s Absolute Surrender seem to have been the ones God really picked out for me.

If you’re a leader, or a follower – it’s a must read. If you’ve ever been hurt by people in church, especially by leaders, (people like me), read this – and pray for us, and do it better than us.

Written as a cautionary tale, the narrative style keeps on fooling one into recognising a bad guy- then seeing that it’s not him, or her, maybe it’s you!

The character studies of the ‘Three Kings’ are…

1) King David – the anointed and broken. He learned as the forgotten shepherd boy that he didn’t have to be top dog. God ‘went door to door in Israel’ looking for someone like that, who He could use, because he could trust him. But there was more breaking that needed to be done to him. He had to learn true submission. This took place through…

2) King Saul – the anointed unbroken. Gifted, charismatic, a ‘born leader.’ But he threw spears at people. As I read this I naturally thought of this leader and that I’d worked with. Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of how many times I’ve tried to pin people to the wall! ‘Kings claim the right to throw spears…‘ We do so to protect ourselves/ our position/ the truth as we see it etc. Problem? It turns you into a mad king. One can be simultaneously anointed and a mad king!

David had the opportunity to learn humility and brokenness in the school of pain under that mad king. How? By not throwing the spears back.

If you throw spears back, you’ll prove…”You are courageous. You stand for the right…You will not stand for injustice or unfair treatment. You are tough and can’t be pushed around. You are defender of the faith, keeper of the flame, detector of all heresy…all these attributes combine to prove that you are also a candidate for kingship… the Lord’s anointed. After the order of King Saul.”

But if you choose to be like David you’ll learn to dodge the spears instead. He stuck it out as long as he could; not moving on till God moved him on. If he’d not done this, he would have ended up as King Saul II! But in doing so ‘God cut king Saul out of HIS heart.’

And notice when David did leave, he didn’t try to take anyone with him. He didn’t split the kingdom. He left alone.

I think of two good friends who have confided in me similar stories of taking a ministry he took on, only to find the predecessor who invited them to the post, then refused to leave – until he had lined his own nest and badmouthed the new ‘incumbent.’ What do you do? They didn’t pick up spears, they didn’t defend themselves, and as a result they did not become Sauls but Davids, men I’m privileged to call friends. They will look back at those painful times and see that they were in ‘God’s small school’ – and did not fail the test. Now they’re prepared for greater things in the Kingdom.

The difficulty is you can’t judge whether anyone else is a Saul or a David. You can just decide for yourself, “I shall not practice the ways that cause kings to grow mad. I will not throw spears, nor will I allow hatred to grow in my heart.I will not avenge. I will not destroy the Lord’s anointed.”

Making that choice makes you a vessel God can use.

3) King Absalom. 

So much to chew over in this particular character deserves a post all of its own – I’ll get back to you!

The problem of evil

Preparing for a short talk tonight as part of our course for people with questions about God, tonight’s the big question. Theodicy. A posh way of saying, “Justifying the existence of God in the face of evil and suffering in the world.”

On February 15 1947 Glenn Chambers boarded a plane bound for Quito, Ecuador to begin his ministry in missionary broadcasting. He never arrived. In a horrible moment, the plane carrying Chambers crashed into a mountain peak and spiralled downward. Later it was learned that before leaving the Miami airport, Chambers wanted to write his mother a letter. All he could find for stationery was a page of advertising on which was written the single word “WHY?” Around that word he hastily scribbled a final note. After Chambers’s mother learned of her son’s death, his letter arrived. She opened the envelope, took out the paper, and unfolded it. Staring her in the face was the question- “WHY?”

That is the big question: people are asking it all the time. Today my city mourns the senseless death of another 16 year old boy in some awful pub shooting.

Some of the people who are asking why are Christians who puzzle over the question of the existence of a good God side by side with evil and suffering as a consequence of it. They’re standing by a hospital bed somewhere right now praying, ‘Why God? Why did this happen?’

Other people are genuinely asking the question because tragedy and pain, but they don’t have such a clear faith but tend to articulate it in less reverent tones, ‘God- if you’re there at all- why don’t you do something to help?’

And there are those groups of people who use the question as an atheist bombshell against belief in God. A man called Pierre Bayle coined the phrase ‘the argument from evil,’ as a philosophical stumper; that if there really were an all-loving, all powerful God, surely he would destroy evil. Since evil is not destroyed, God must not exist.’

For some people, the creation of a world where even one child dries in pain can never be justified in the light of a loving God’s existence. The equation “God = good + omnipotent [yet] evil exists” just can’t add up. They see it as inconsistent and positively irrational, so they justify unbelief.

Dr. Billy Graham once famously declared, “I know my own heart and its deceitful power. I know that outside of the restraining grace of God, there is no evil act I could not commit within thirty minutes of leaving the platform.”

We bewail the evils of world terrorism, global greed, environmental destruction- rightly so. But what about the evil resident in our own hearts?

The film Nuremberg, is about the infamous trials of former Nazi leaders by the International Military Tribunal. In one powerful scene, Nazi defendant Hans Frank is attempting to explain his actions to an Army psychologist.

Frank explains, “I tried to resign as Governor General of Poland. I did not approve of the persecution of the Jews. Anyone reading my diaries, they will know what was in my heart. They will understand that such things I wrote about Jews, the orders I signed, they were not sincere.”

“I believe you, Frank…. yet, you did do those things. How do you explain it? I don’t mean legally; I’m not a lawyer or a judge. I mean how do you explain it to yourself?”

“I don’t know,” replies Frank. “It’s as though I am two people: the Hans Frank you see here, and Hans Frank the Nazi leader. I wonder how the other Frank could do such things. This Frank looks at that Frank and says, ‘You’re a terrible man.’”

“And what does that Frank say back?”

Frank, appearing to plead for understanding, replies, “He says, ‘I just wanted to keep my job.‘”

Nobody would justify such atrocity, while recalling the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

It’s a strong word isn’t it? Evil. Some will read it and say, “Speak for yourself, I’m a good person.” If I were the standard of goodness then you’re probably entitled to say that, but what if the standard is the holiness of God? A God who commands our love and obedience, and self-sacrificial love for our neighbour? A God who has put himself on record as declaring that if you or I break just one commandment once, it’s as though we’ve broken them all!

People are now rightly angry at the debacle of MPs troughing at expenses and ripping off the tax payer. The revelations continue each day. Outraged letters bemoan their lack of example.

For a prank, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote to several of his friends the note, “All is discovered! Flee while you can!” All but one left the country.

Despite all this, we can know a God who passionately loves us, forgives and restores us. Do you know him? A God who went to a cross himself to pay the price for every wrong or shameful thing we’ve ever done, thought or said. Do you know him? A God who knows us at our worst loves us better than any human being ever loved us. The only God who can give us strength to resist temptation, deception, fear and guilt. Do you know him?

Someone said, “Jesus didn’t come to rub sin in, he came to rub it out!”

He doesn’t wait to condemn you. He wants to love you. Just like so many ordinary people in our city of Manchester who are discovering these truths, I invite you. Come and know him.

Good and ready?

In Titus 3:1, the apostle Paul says to remind people to be ready to do what ever is good.

Are you ready yet?

Be ready every day, throughout all your day to do good. We’re about to start our ’40 Days of Community’ and all the small groups in the church are going to do some really good things – together – in our community. Exciting times!

This was John Wesley’s rule of life, his motto.

“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can!”

Do whatever good you can whenever you can. Just after that in Titus 3 v14 it says that Jesus’ followers must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they do not live unproductive lives.

What have you spent today doing? God is saying “Don’t waste your life! Don’t squander your one and only life by missing the opportunities God gives you to do good!”

I just spent the afternoon with Ian Hamilton, Director of Compassion UK. What a great guy! Tireless, energetic, uncomplaining in his work for the poor. That organisation is doing so much good around the world, that will echo in eternity.

These days if God wants to touch and bring love into somebody’s life, He will do it through your life or mine. Mother Teresa used to say “We are the hands and feet of Jesus”.

What can you do today? Are you ready to do good?

Albert Schweitzer once said “keep your eyes open for the little tasks – because it is the little kind tasks that are important to Jesus Christ.”

That’s what God wants to get done through you.The goal isn’t just that we avoid doing bad, but that we become people who are devoted to doing good, who live lives so full of doing good, so filled up with the kindness of Christ, so filled with the love of the Holy Spirit flowing through us – that we would one day reach the highest levels of kindness. Because our pattern isn’t even Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer, our bar’s set higher… it’s to be like Jesus Christ.

It’s God’s dream, desire and destiny for you and for me to be people that do good in the world.  So that people see that and through that see Him.  Ephesians2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Why do good? – because it is your destiny, it is God’s plan.

Where do you do good? – wherever He puts you.

How do you do good? however the Holy Spirit tells you.

When? – why wait?

You can do what you can do

Jesus was having dinner when a woman came in and poured perfume all over his head; made from spikenard which was incredibly costly – it only grows in the foothills of the Himalayas. Some people complained this act of worship was a waste; what could have been done for the poor with all that money?!
Jesus’ reply is very interesting, not just for his unqualified commendation of the woman (She did a lovely thing!), but he says

“The poor you will always have with you…”

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That could be seen as dismissive and uncaring, a justification for not getting involved with a world of need; where women today spend so much on perfume in our stores and others in poverty have to spend 40 million hours a year on the task of getting clean water. But let Jesus finish his sentence -

and you can help them any time you want.

Isn’t that a liberating truth? The poor are with us, in our cities nearby and in nations everywhere. You can help them any time you want.  Sponsor a child, feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the prisoner - and you’re doing it to Jesus who takes on ‘the disguise of the poor’ as Mother Teresa said. There’s plenty of poor people with you. Follow any of the links there and it’ll take you to an idea! You can help them any time you want.

You can make a difference for people who are being trafficked, asylum seekers, victims of natural disaster or genocide or the debt-bound.

Do you want to today?

‘She did what she could’

Jesus said.

Don’t do what you can’t. Do what you can.

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Jesus thinks that’s a beautiful thing.

A new kind of economic recovery

I’m not an unconditional fan of much of his theology (and yes I have read his books, listened to him speak live and  his podcasts), but I’m very inspired and challenged by this article on the Sojourners site just posted by Brian McLaren follow link for fuller article).

For many people, economic recovery means “getting back to where we were a few months or years ago.” That means recovering our consumptive, greedy, unrestrained, undisciplined, irresponsible, and ecologically and socially unsustainable way of life.

I’d like to suggest another kind of recovery … drawing from the world of addiction. When an addict gets into recovery, he doesn’t want to go back and recover the “high” he had before, or even to recover the conditions he had before he began using drugs and alcohol. Instead, he wants to move forward to a new way of life — a wiser way of life that takes into account his experience of addiction. He realizes that his addiction to drugs was a symptom of other deeper issues and diseases in his life … unresolved pain or anger, the need to anesthetize painful emotions, lack of creativity in finding ways to feel happy and alive, unaddressed relational and spiritual deficits, lack of self-awareness, and so on.

So … maybe we can sabotage our addictive tendencies by letting the word “recovery” have a meaning that wakes us up rather than drugs us into the comfortable, dreamy, half-awareness in which we have lived for too long.

Great stuff! However the coverage of supposedly repentant bankers being quizzed about their performance, integrity and financial propriety (by – ahem – MPs) makes me seriously wonder how likely such a recovery of priorities in our culture actually is. Click here to see how much these guys earned for doing such a grand job for us all.

OUKBS-UK-BRITAIN-BANKS-HEARING

A Father’s Choice

Kids saved from the eye of a hurricane

Kids saved from the eye of a hurricane

I’m finally in a position (phew! a little time) to start to roll out some of my thoughts and feelings following the recent visit with friends to the Compassion projects in Haiti. It was a week that felt like a month. I’m doing something of a stream of consciousness rather than a day by day recap.

Short summary? (People generally don’t know about Haiti and ask if it was nice). I told a friend “Haiti is hell on earth, with heaven breaking in.”

The poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Home to 9 million people. 40% live in the cities, 80% below the poverty line. Read that again before it just washes over you, think of the implications for those fellow children of God. Mums and Dads who love their kids the same as I love mine.

54% of the people in Haiti live in what the UN describe as ‘Abject Poverty,’- less than $2 a day. There’s not even any credit to crunch there.

I think I have seen worse poverty on previous mission trip in India in the wake of the tsunami, but  that’s because our hosts from Compassion were wise enough to shield us from the very worst places – slums where gangs rule with fear and machine guns. A UN peacekeeping force is now in charge of Haiti’s security, guns, sandbags and blue helmets galore in all urban areas.  No planes are allowed to say overnight at the airport in Port Au Prince in case they’re hijacked.

Everywhere we travelled we had three armed guards. Overkill? No. One Compassion worker was kidnapped with his 8 year old daughter last year.  They’d kill him to show they were serious and leave his wife to raise a ransom for the girl, so he made the decision to roll out of the moving car – leaving her with the captors, so he could raise the funds for her release. It worked, but the decision to leave her so haunted him that  he had a breakdown and had to move out of the country.

How’s that for a father’s choice?

The photo above was taken as in Gonaives we filmed some short clips for You Tube (I’ll post the links when they’re up) to appeal for you to sponsor a child through Compassion. If you do already, you probably have no idea how important that is as I’ll detail in a future post. If you can’t wait to do it – click here, but please email me or comment so I know and can pray and thank God for your decision.

That day we’d travelled hours to this, the second largest city in Haiti, worst hit by the most recent hurricanes in September last year. 800,000 were affected across the country but 85% of this city was totally deluged by seven to eight metres of flooding. I heard at the time news reports of corpses from the morgue floating along next to fresh dead bodies so that the true number of fatalities was uncertain. It’s the kind of story I couldn’t get my head around at the time. But when you see the devastation still so apparent, and hear the stories of how the flood affected real people;  how Compassion saved so many lives it’s heaven vs hell, again.

Ashley, a pastor at the church we visited who also works for Compassion,  told how he’d received a call from his brother to warn him too late that the floods were coming. The family lived on the roof for three days and nights without food or water, watching neighbours floating past dead, until another deluge overwhelmed them. His wife couldn’t swim. Our interpreter began to cry as Ashley told of putting his five kids in an overturned fridge, with his wife who couldn’t swim hanging on too – they all floated along until they were, thankfully, rescued.

Another man in checked trousers stood up in the church (all Compassion’s work is done through the local church) to tell how grateful he was for us coming to visit him. He also had no time to prepare for the hurricane, living in a three room single storey tiny house. He was with his 13 year old daughter when the floods hit and had to survive a week without food. He only survived because Compassion relief had brought food and helped rehouse him after he lost everything. The house was swept away and he hung onto a tree branch with his wife.

Others danced and sang and gave us presents as they told how Compassion gave many people money for recapitalisation of businesses, or vouchers to repair 0r rebuild their houses. I thought it was just about child sponsorship, but they do so much more! They distributed seed, though the top soil has gone and the harvest looks to be very sparse this year. Hundreds had come to greet us, all had received food packages within 2 days. I felt a phony because they made us feel like VIPs. I was just there a day, Ashley had chosen to remain, though the hurricanes will probably be back next year.

Mister checked trousers had sat down, but we asked him, “How is your daughter now?”

“She’s dead.” It took him three days to find his other two girls. He’d come to say thanks, not for sympathy.

We heard of another man had two children, one under each arm. When the water came over his head he had to make a choice as to which to let go, so he could swim with one.

Such stories show how desperate this world can be for the poor. As a Pastor myself my heart moved, I couldn’t just sit there. The Holy Spirit was moving so strongly in this place of tears and pain and thanksgiving. I stood – but what to say?

“Some will say, ‘Where was God when the hurricane hit?’ They will shake a fist at heaven. Or we can open our hand to God. That’s the choice we make.”

I talked with them of God’s love, that he was present in every piece of help given through in Compassion’s work as so many of them had, praising through their grief. Many women wept as I prayed for those who had died and those were were left, and read from Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

I told them that God knew their names, and all their stories, and God knows the ones they loved and could see no more.

But later that day as we drove away and I reflected, and realised that our Father God knows even more than that. He knows the Father’s choice, because He let go of his only Son at the cross – to take hold of and save you and me.