Reagan's precondition for any good

Earlier this week was the 100th birthday of former president Ronald Reagan.  Whether or not you believe in Reagan’s philosophy of governing by “Peace through Strength”, there was a more foundational side to lasting peace, strength, and stability Reagan believed in.  Although Reagan championed peace through strength by forming a stronger military against the Soviets, he also penned in a letter written to Monsignor Meyers on January 19, 1984, “I believe that a spiritual renewal is the necessary precondition for the accomplishment of any good if it is to be lasting and pervasive.”

Reagan understood that he was up against more than a military conflict with the Soviets.  He was battling out an oppressive ideological force as well, that of communism.  The religion of such a regime has no room for a creator God to look to.  It is atheistic.  I believe Reagan’s confidence in being able to defeat communist regimes, came from his belief in America being on a stronger moral foundation.

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A new focus

Poverty can be hidden, it can be covered, it can be pushed to the outskirts so it's not visible to the business class of a city, but it is still there. The reality of such tragedies hit me this week, and of all places here, in the capital city, in a sprawling urban metropolis, poverty can be seen at its worst. Well, in my imagination at its worst, but in the reality of things, those starving people living not two blocks from my house are the middle class of Burkina. Out in the villages, three, four hundred kilometers from Ouaga is where desperation is screaming at you everywhere you go.
Blaise's Barber Shop!  
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13 Yr. Old Prince has a Dream for Congo

Have you ever thought about what you might say if you drafted your own version of Martin Luther King Jr.’s, I Have a Dream speech? What dreams do you have? What hopes do you have for yourself and for your community?

 

Prince lives in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Four years ago, Prince, who is one of many street kids born in a war zone and living on the streets, asked my friend Esther if she could help him go to school. Now 13 years old, Prince and his classmates recently studied the life of Martin Luther King Jr. This past November, Prince stood in front of his class and recited MLKJ’s I Have a Dream speech. As he finished, his classmates applauded and Esther told him he did a great job and that he could take a seat again.

 

Prince stood there in front of the class. He hesitated for only a moment and then said, “But that was MLKJ’s dream for America. I have a dream for Congo.”

 
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Who Notices When a Homeless Person Dies?

My son, Jesse, lost a friend on Friday night.  Shaky lived in one of the parks in Santa Barbara and, as I understand it, was a bit of a legend in his community. He and his friends were together Friday evening and he decided to go to sleep before the others. In the morning, Gator, Shaky's best friend and constant companion, went to wake him but Shaky was gone.

Jesse didn't get to the park until Shaky's body had already been taken away. He was told they'll cremate him and wait to hear if there is something that someone somewhere wants done with the ashes. Jesse gathered Shaky's earthly possessions from behind the dumpster where he had been asleep and brought them to Gator and the others. There wasn't much. 

Gator had a number for a woman he believed to be Shaky's mama. He didn't want the coroner to contact her about the death so asked Jesse to please make the call. Jesse did. He found out that she was actually Shaky's grandmother and he explained to her that he had some bad news. Of course, she was very upset by it but Jesse let her know that Shaky had been well loved.
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Tragedy in Tuscon

For the past couple weeks America has been mesmerized by the senseless murders in Tucson. The question that I keep getting asked is, 'How could God allow this tragedy, especially the death of a nine year old girl, if He is good?' While there are no easy answers for this question, here is a link to a podcast of an interview I did on a radio show with David Wheaton on the subject. The Christian worldview provides the most plausible solution to suffering and evil. Enjoy!

http://thechristianworldview.com/tcwblog/archives/4426

Your Worldview!?

The children at the Shalom school are inspiring, and they have worked their magic on me. Without education their future isn't bright, or it wouldn't seem bright to us Westerners. In America it's stressed that if you don't finish high school then your future will be flipping burgers and digging ditches. Here finishing primary school is barely a goal, flipping burgers and digging ditches is a career, and anything more is a gift from god. When I get home from Burkina I plan on fund raising money for the Shalom school. I want those kids to have all the tools necessary for their education. Even though they'll most likely never have electricity, I want to fund raise enough money to spoil them in every other regard! Look around and be thankful for what you have. We are a a society privileged to the fullest. It takes coming somewhere like this, and working on a day to day basis with the people to truly be grateful. If you think you are, well think again.
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Renewed Enthusiasm!

Okay, when I first came to Africa I pledged to blog at least once a week, which obviously hasn't come true. Here's what I've prepared in the way of excuses: We didn't get internet for the first two months; I forgot which email I used to set up with blog site; I am way too busy. Obviously the later isn't true, and in reality the reason for no blog in the last month is more from apathy than anything else. Due to sudden realization that time goes by faster if you're always busy I've decided to redouble my efforts in blogging and teaching. I've added two more classes to my schedule, outside of my normal students for Heal the World. I'll be teaching one class split into two units every Sunday, one unit focusing on grammar and basic English, and the other more abstract, focused on conversation through fun activities, from debates on international topics, to playing cards, to skits. Also, every Thursday I'll be teaching our guards Emmanuel and Jean Baptiste for an hour or two. Two of the nicest guys in the world, gave them a composition notebook and a pencil last night for our first lesson! It's going to be a big project, Emmanuel will have to learn how to write, and Jean Baptiste doesn't know much French, so crossing the language barrier is a little difficult. 
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January: National Slavery Awareness Month

January is National Slavery Awareness Month. In fact, tomorrow, January 11th, is National Slavery Awareness Day. I know, I know. It's hard to believe slavery still exists today, especially in America where slavery was abolished back in Abe Lincolns day. Wiliam Wilberforce spent 26 years of his life to get the Slave Trade Act of 1807 in place abolishing England's slave trade.

Yet long after the days of the honest President and the philanthropist Willberforce, slavery or human trafficking is the second largest grossing industry in the world. National Geographic estimates there are roughly 27 million people are held captive as slaves around the world, approximately 1 million of those are living in the States. 

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DR Congo: Heaven has Come to Hell on Earth

It happened again. This time it was 33 women.  While people around the world celebrated the beginning of a new year and the hope of change in 2011, 33 women in Eastern Congo went through hell on earth as armed men took their turns raping and brutalizing their bodies, some in front of their children. Chaos erupted and sent residents of the village attacked on a running spree.

In Eastern Congo, in the surrounding areas of the city Goma, which sits along Lake Kivu on the boarder of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, rape is used as a weapon of war. This war has been raging in this area for 15 years. The result? Over 5 million violent deaths, countless rapes, a nonexistent education system and a lack of trusted, secure government officials. This is the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII.

Fortunately, Jesus is alive and on the move in the midst of the devil’s playground in Congo. Fortunately God has eyes and sees what’s taking place. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is blowing through the land and working hard to bring the Kingdom of Heaven down on top of the evil that exists.

I know this because last night I had the honor and privilege of spending some time listening to dear friends of mine, Camille* and Esther Ntoto share stories of reconciliation, surrender, forgiveness, love, unity, resilience and modern day miracles all taking place right now in this land. The Ntoto’s live in Goma and see the struggles of their own people day in and day out. The devil never takes a day off unfortunately. But neither does God and he has the last word.

I sat and listened to Esther and Camille go on and on about stories of the Kingdom come to Earth and people transformed by the Word of God and by the power of the risen Christ. I felt a host of emotions as I soaked it all in. I was saddened by the reality of life for so many in Eastern Congo it made me physically hurt. At the same time, I was in awe of hearing of the ways God’s glory is shining through the darkness. It’s a weird concept to be hurt, angry and confused knowing that other people are experiencing such pain, despair and hell at it’s worst while also knowing and believing God’s kingdom work being done regardless.

The idea that the kingdom of God has come to Earth, even now before the return of Christ, is incomprehensible to me. Sure I believe it because I see evidence of it in my life as well as in others such as with the Ntoto’s. But the significance of that is humbling, overwhelming and in the words of the rainbow guy, intense!

So tonight I’m still heartbroken and a little tore up about the pure ugliness happening to the beautiful Congolese people. And I’m also praising God for his compassion, his caring acts of mercy and restoration and for friends like Esther and Camille who live out the hope they have received in Jesus and who are witnesses to Christ in a broken place in much need of healing.

I’m stripping the academics from the kingdom of heaven and reveling in its reality tonight. I’m longing to have both feet in the kingdom opposed to one in and one out in this world in this moment. I’m believing that God has already called Congo his nation and the Congolese his people and he will continue to usher in his will, his goodness and his plans of greatness into that land.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours.
Now and for ever. Amen
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