Friday, July 25, 2008

Working in the Sun, Playing the Long Game

1a When I first met 85-year-old Anastasia last May, she was sitting in the sun on a chair in her garden. Bending over, she was carefully planting beans in a narrow trench she had scratched into the earth. It was a beautiful day. Watching her as we walked up to her, I wondered if perhaps she was having difficulties with the task since she had to do it seated and so after we had chatted for a few minutes, I asked if she would like my colleague and to help her plant her garden. I figured that at the rate she was working, she would be at it all day and surely my Ukrainian co-worker and I could get the job done quickly and efficiently in no time at all.

The little Ukrainian woman smiled warmly. "No, thank you," she gently said. "But I like working in the sun." She didn't want to be robbed of the opportunity by two efficient young men.

Flash forward to yesterday and to northern Ghana. A young boy and girl's parents were recently killed because of their faith. Local Christians become aware of the need Daniel & Rebecca now face and bring it to the attention of Pastor Abraham. Because of his previous contact with The Voice of the Martyrs, he sends us an email wondering if perhaps we might be willing to take care of the pair's educational and living expenses. It will only cost about $650 annually.

We are moved by the story and the need and motivated to step in and help. But one of us, Floyd Brobbel, is wise enough to realize that it isn't always enough just to help. Because of our values as an organization, we needed to encourage the church in Ghana to remember their biblical obligation to see what they could do first to meet this need before we dashed in to save the day. Admittedly, $650 a year is insignificant to us. But the amount is not the issue. It has to do with potentially robbing the local church of the blessing of "working in the sunshine" for themselves and seeing God meet this need in their midst.

And so Floyd encouraged Pastor Abraham to see what local resources could be found to meet this local need. Far less efficient, to be sure. But our call is to be more than that. To empower and respect the persecuted church will do more than riding in like a white knight with money bags hanging from our saddle.

Helping others help themselves. That's becoming a greater focus here at The Voice of the Martyrs and is the philosophy behind our Jars of Hope program. It is not shared by many ministries. It is far easier just to hand out money. But what kind of a church do you help leave behind?

I am presently reading a recently published biography of Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald. What has struck me about this man who helped make us who we are as a nation was his ability to think long-term. He is quoted as saying, "My plan thro' life is never to give up; if I don't carry a thing this year, I will next." He described his political strategy as playing "the long game."

Faced with overwhelming need and endless opportunities to serve God's persecuted church, that is an approach that we need to adopt here at The Voice of the Martyrs. We need to play the long game, thinking though the potential and probable long-term consequences of our programs and projects before we engage in them; seeking to serve in a way that truly serves in the long run.

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