poverty

RE-INVENT Charity: Scott Harrison #Cat10

Charitywater.org

Shared about when he was four, and found his mother had carbon monoxide poisoning. Wrecked her immune system. Allergic to the world.

He was brought up as a Christian, but became a night club promoter. At 28 in Ecuador he realised how hollow ‘success’ was. Read the Pursuit of God by AW Tozer, he hadn’t lost his faith- just lost obedience. He sold escapism for a living but it wasn’t working.

Decided to work with the poor for a year, became a photographer, on Mercy ships. (Anastasia). Contact with patients who had huge facial tumours operated on touched him deeply. Took 50,000 photos. Broken.

While he was in Africa he would see the water sources, filthy. No wonder there was so much disease!

He came back and realised that $16 could buy a cocktail or a bag of rice to feed 4. But the he realised GUILT would not motivate. Opportunity would.

A billion people – a sixth of the world, had no access to clean water. He saw 8 hour queues to wait for a hole in the ground. Saw people in Rwanda drinking mud. 80% of the diseases are traceable to that. Leeches in the water. Half of the worlds schools

40 billion work hours wasted in queues for water.

We could build wells, put in filters.

WATER CHANGES EVERYTHING.

How do you REINVENT CHARITY?

  1. Give away 100%. Opened up 2 accounts. All public money goes to the water, and fundraise separately for staff etc
  2. All transparent accounts.
  3. Create a brand.  Beautiful design to tell our story. (Cards, art, infographics, ad campaign – well done shots got put up for free). Eg shot rich people doing what the poor people do alongside each other.

Eventually got idea to give up your birthday. Ask for your age in money to give away. Drinks for Drinks night.

Give up your meals – eat rice & water for a month.

People are very imaginative – get out of their way. Gave page for them to put on their story of how they raised funds.

Catalyst attendees were then encouraged and inspired to give up their birthdays this year & sign up to say so.

 

HEART FOR HAITI

Just watched the full video I made from our recent mercy mission into Haiti with our Grow Group. Some snippets are on here.

Looking forward to being able to share a little more on Sunday at all services at Ivy Manchester, as we prepare for another big scary step of faith to help the people who need it most right now – let’s fill the Apollo!

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.

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.

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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.

Jesus has answer to knife & gang nightmare

Still going through reading the wisdom in the Bible’s book of Proverbs, on the 1st of a new month. Proverbs 1 starts with the promises of wisdom (my version especially talks about how young men need this), before describing the lure of wickedness.

Verses 10 to 14 could have come right out of the mouths of some very lost boys who featured in a disturbing documentary I watched last night; Kids, Knives, and Broken Lives. I have also been brought to tears as I’ve read about the latest boy, Ben Kinsella, stabbed to death in London. 16 years of age!

What the teenagers featured on the show said they were looking for was, “Respect.” (‘If you don’t have respect,’ said one, ‘you don’t have nothing!’). The way they get that? By imparting fear.

Dig below the surface a little though and you saw a lot of fear in them too, these kids can’t leave their own streets!

Parenting guru Steve Biddulph reports that this macho front is a classic sign of what is called under-fathering (he says the opposite extreme of the same problem is to become and remain a ‘Mummy’s boy.’). Where are young men to look for role models?

The Bible says ‘Bad company corrupts good character.” Imagine being brought up, with little or no parental discipline or love – then a gang invites you to belong. Our nation needs some David Wilkersons to rise up, find the Nicky Cruz equivalents on our doorsteps and bring them to know the Lord who loves them. Are they too far gone for that? If you think so – you MUST watch this video:

Look at wisdom’s prescription these young men need to hear; the words of a wise HEAVENLY Father:

….if bad companions tempt you,
don’t go along with them.
If they say—”Let’s go out and raise some hell.
Let’s beat up some old man, mug some old woman.
Let’s pick them clean
and get them ready for their funerals.
We’ll load up on top-quality loot.
We’ll haul it home by the truckload.
Join us for the time of your life!
With us, it’s share and share alike!”—
….don’t give them a second look;
don’t listen to them for a minute.
They’re racing to a very bad end,
hurrying to ruin everything they lay hands on.

From the Message – Proverbs 1

The trouble with manyana

I was looking at Pharaoh with the ‘we get up early on Friday because we are mighty men of God’ group this morning. We followed a study in my mate Carl Beech’s fantastic book Spadework. Turns out none of us really want to walk like that particular Egyptian. The pride and arrogance he displayed in continually saying no to God is what got him in so much trouble. You think Gordon Brown has problems this morning with the awful drubbing his party is receiving in the local elections around the country? Read the list of plagues – it could be worse!

Unlike Mugabe, at least there’ll be some contrition. No doubt we’ll be hearing from various Labour politicians today about how “…the people have sent us a clear signal that we’re going to listen to and make all the necessary changes… blah blah blah…”

I imagine Pharaoh said something very similar as his nation lurched from bad to worse. He was surrounded by ‘wise men’ who told him he was great, and it would all soon turn a corner and be okay in the end.

This isn’t about Mr Brown, Labour’s misfortunes, or politics. It’s about you and me. Ignoring God.

As God’s spokesman stepped into his palace and demanded, “let my people go,” Pharaoh forgot that all the blessings and wealth he had received which he and his people had received came from God of Israel in the first place, via Joseph (read all about it here). We too easily forget as nations and individuals that without God’s hand of protection and blessing on us, all would be curse and plague.

By the way, isn’t it interesting that many people who would never dream of thanking God when something good happens in their lives, automatically blame Him for something bad?

Much of what happened to Egypt parallels exactly the biblical warnings of the consequences of ignoring or rebelling against God’s laws, one ends up living under a curse of our own making, rather than the blessing He desires for people.

One of the most haunting parts of the account is early on, only the second plague, as frogs teem throughout the land. Pharaoh had the chance to heed the warnings of the first plague when the Nile turned to blood, to let the children of Israel go out to worship God. But his advisers stroke his ego, and he thinks of himself as a god anyway. “Who is this God of the slaves?” Why should the powerful and the rich listen to the God of the weak, the poor and the oppressed? (Is it any wonder the book of Exodus – a goldmine for liberation theologians – is specifically banned as radical revolutionary material in some oppressive states?).

I don’t know, perhaps Pharaoh had Batrachophobia, but the frogs really got to him. He begged Moses to plead with God to get rid of the frogs. He promised he would comply and change the policies so the people could go and worship. So here’s the part that grabbed me. Moses said, “Okay, when do you want this to happen? When do you want to connect with God in this way so that things will change? I’ll leave it up to you to set the time.”

(The frogs picture is from http://www.jackiemorris.co.uk)

What would you say, with frogs all over the place? You’re having a laugh! Surely you’d want them to hop it (ouch) now! Not one more slimy second would I want those amphibian atrocities in my house, in the bed, in my kitchen. Get them out!

Exodus 8:10 “Do it tomorrow,” Pharaoh said.

If there was a biblical award for the patron saint of Procrastination, it goes to this guy. He was going to go to Procrastinator’s Anonymous but they never got round to meeting.

So, where are your frogs?

What are you putting off changing today (even though you know it’s going to create a world of trouble) until tomorrow?

Actually going to that gym you paid membership for? A phone call to sort out a relationship? Someone you need to encourage? Someone you need to let go? I still need to sort my taxes out for this year. It’s the jobs I hate I never find time for. People smoke one last cigarette standing outside the cancer ward, and tomorrow they’ll give it up. When will you write the book? Take the trip? Learn the instrument/ language? Do you think you’ll get serious about finding out about God tomorrow? You’ll pray about that situation and ask God’s help with it tomorrow? Tomorrow never comes. Do it today. Carpe Diem!

The leaders of nations need to stop making promises about changes that will help the poor, break the shackles of debt, feed the hungry and set captives free – not ten or fifteen years from now when they’ll be collecting their pension and writing their memoirs, but today. Now.

What is there to stop us getting rid of the frogs today?

My dad was Irish and he told me about a conversation between a Spaniard and an Irishman where the Spanish guy was trying to teach him about the concept of manyana. “It’s a word that means you’re going to put something off until tomorrow, or maybe the day after, or a day after that…”

The Irishman said, “I don’t think we have a word to describe such a terrible state of urgency.”

Out of the jungle

I’m reading General William Booth’s classic ‘In Darkest England and the Way Out.’ (You can download it free if you follow the link). Well worth reading on its own merit – a book years ahead of its time, very influential in social policy and politics.

Booth starts by reminding his readers of Mr Stanley’s (‘Dr Livingstone I presume?’- actually he probably never said it) exploration through the Congo, the descriptions of which were being read voraciously all across Britain at the time.

Henry Morton Stanley

I just returned from speaking at a funeral and my mind went off at a tangent as it does, I was struck by certain parallels.

Stanley was describing to his readers in Victorian England what they could not perceive. ‘The Lost Continent.’ Darkest Africa. Pygmy tribes and cannibals. How could they imagine ‘forests’ (he uses the word because the word jungle hadn’t yet been coined) larger than France, where it poured rain every day and the sun rarely pierced the canopy?

Then there are the tribes Stanley encountered. They had never seen a white person before. He describes how they steadfastly refused to believe that there was, or could be, anything beyond the ‘forest’ in which they and their ancestors had roamed. How do you convince people that there is more to life than what they have seen so far? That’s the preacher’s task! As I preached at the funeral, I was pointing beyond the grave to the promise of glory. I read from Revelation 21, John the beloved’s attempts to describe his visions of that awesome reality we call heaven.

We’re living in this concrete jungle. Surrounded by what we taste, see, touch and smell. It’s easy to think this life is all there is. But our battle is not against flesh and blood, and our citizenship is in heaven, from whence we await a Saviour. He has promised that he has gone ahead of us, prepared a place for us – a real place where there will be work, rewards, relationship, perfection, glory everlasting and joy unspeakable. This world is not our home. May the Lord help us not get too attached, and as we explore through its darkness, may we point many to the only way out.