Thursday, January 29, 2009



We hear this cry a lot on the mission field. Sometimes it’s because someone has recognized their spiritual state and they cry out to the only God who can do something about it. But more often, and especially in the face of the recent economic crisis, it comes from people who are looking for people “help” them out of their own financial straits.

Of late, we’ve heard a great many cries for help. Desperate people in desperate situations. And since much of our work is with orphans – some now grown and on the own – they do not have the safety net of family to fall back on.

They have all made choices that have brought them to this point; many of those choices terribly unwise – not unexpected of a youth with no parents who was raised by the state. But as a result, a girl in her twenties wonders how she will feed her two year old in the months ahead. A boy, not yet 20, huddles for warmth in the local homeless shelter. And even in our village a poor family tries to figure out how to pay for their son’s chemotherapy. He has stomach cancer.

“Help!” they cry, wanting the cash they need to meet their basic needs. And those needs are all too real.

But cash is the easy way out.

How do we truly help them? For the orphan kids who are now grown, cash handouts only perpetuate the problem. They have always lived off the social welfare system. No one has ever been there to teach them how to rely on God and take responsibility for themselves. And yet we cannot sit back and allow them to starve.

Right now we are working through a process. Understanding that God has always, since the very beginning, been all about relationship, we realize that we are called to be in relationship with these. We must walk beside them, listen to them in their suffering, and hold them accountable.

For the young mother, we are striving to teach her how to be on her own and think through the things she must think through (childcare, budgets, etc) to be a responsible adult, helping her with the basics (food, firewood) along the way. But that alone is not enough. We must also teach her how to rely on God to meet her needs – which is a tall order for those of us who aren’t so good at it ourselves.

Perhaps here the teacher becomes the student.

Do we really believe God can supply all our needs? Even the needs of a poverty-stricken young mother, a homeless grown orphan, and poor village family with a son suffering from cancer? Can God truly supply even their needs?

If we truly believed it, perhaps we would spend more time in prayer about it and less time throwing cash at the problem.

Cash giving in some cases has its role – but perhaps more significant is the giving of time on our knees, time in fellowship with the suffering and time teaching those who have never had a chance to learn the basics of life – in the physical world as well as the spiritual. Perhaps more important than cash is what we give of ourselves.

And so in this spirit, I wish to ask all who read this blog to give a bit of themselves by praying for Reni the young mother who needs both childcare and a job. Pray for Arpi who needs a home and work, and the Olah family whose son Norbi suffers from stomach cancer. Pray that God would show each of them that He, himself, – not some ministry nor some person – is the one who supplies their needs, according to His riches in glory. And may this lesson be a testimony to all of us. Amen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

To Touch a Broken Girl's Heart

They all looked up at me, some in expectation, many in skepticism, perhaps all secretly hoping that this weekend would bring some peace to their wounded worlds. This past weekend was our conference for the girls of the Miskolc Children's Home. We brought them to our village -- a good two hour trip from their institutionalized home.

The walls were raised high and perhaps re-inforced when they arrived of Friday night. Many were determined not to let anyone in. And it would be naive of any of us involved in the planning or ministry to expect that a 36 hour getaway to break through walls erected by more than a decade of hurt and pain. Our ministry is not a weekend, a series of sessions, or even the bible study Russ leads every week. It has to be long-term, consistent and loving, or it is worth little. These girls have experienced affection for a moment, but have not known a love that truly endures.

And so we talked a lot about love last weekend. Yeah, we talked about boys, and what they want. We talked about ourselves and what we seek in a relationship. And the difference between the two. But if there was any message that I pray the girls took home with them, it was the message of the last session -- the message of God's love for them.

We looked at several true stories from scripture -- Leah, the ugly one who was unloved all her days; Hagar, the used; and David's daughter Tamar, raped by her own half-brother. They are harsh stories, dysfunctional families that remind us all too poigniantly of how imperfect our world is. They are stories to which these girls could relate.

We looked at Mary and Martha and wondered together why Jesus arrived too late. And we discovered what Jesus does when he sees us in our pain. Just like with Mary and Martha, he weeps for us. The God who created heaven and earth sees us in our pain and his heart breaks. And he weeps.

But he does not stop there. He also longs to bring us restoration, but he will not force it upon us. We must be willing to take him to that ugly place where we have buried all our pain. We must be willing to roll back the stone so that he can bring resurrection to the ugly rotting dead things of our lives.

I left the conference wondering if it was even worthwhile -- if any message broke through. I watched as many of the girls left with those walls still strongly barricaded. But as I look at them, perhaps I am looking at the wrong place.

Isaiah 45:22 challenges us to: "Look to Me, and be saved". Through this conference we continually directed the girls to look to Him. We strove to show them they are now alone in their suffering, and more than that, there is a God who truly finds them precious -- like treasure. And his love does not fade. It is truly Agape.

Maybe I need to stop looking for instant gratification in spiritual ministry. Instead, I need to simply look to Him. "Our difficulties, our trials, and our worries about tomorrow all vanish when we look to God," Oswald Chambers wrote in his devotional slated for this date. But other things vanish too: our arrogance, our insecurity, our need to be a "success", our need for instant gratification in our spiritual walk.

The Lord cries out, "Look to Me." Why do I look everywhere else except at Him?

I only need to lift my eyes and I am made complete in the spectacular view.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Do You Know What You are Asking?

"You don’t know what you are asking!" -- Mark 10:38 (NLT)

In Mark 10:46-52, Jesus healed a blind guy named Bartimaeus. It is a story most of us have heard from childhood. You know the story:

Jesus sees him and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“My rabbi,” the blind man answers with the obvious, “I want to see!"

On Sunday, our pastor, Bodi, who is also a medical doctor, explained exactly what would have to happen in the intricate complexities of the eye for a blind man to completely receive sight instantaneously.

First, consider how complex the eye truly is:

"The human eye is enormously complicated - a perfect and interrelated system of about 40 individual subsystems, including the retina, pupil, iris, cornea, lens and optic nerve. For instance, the retina has approximately 137 million special cells that respond to light and send messages to the brain. About 130 million of these cells look like rods and handle the black and white vision. The other seven million are cone shaped and allow us to see in color. The retina cells receive light impressions, which are translated to electric pulses and sent to the brain via the optic nerve. A special section of the brain called the visual cortex interprets the pulses to color, contrast, depth, etc., which allows us to see "pictures" of our world. Incredibly, the eye, optic nerve and visual cortex are totally separate and distinct subsystems. Yet, together, they capture, deliver and interpret up to 1.5 million pulse messages a milli-second! It would take dozens of Cray supercomputers programmed perfectly and operating together flawlessly to even get close to performing this task." (Lawrence O. Richards, It Couldn't Just Happen, Thomas Nelson 1989)

So Jesus would have to heal the man in a way that brought all these complex systems into proper order, restoring all damage. But that alone would not be enough to restore his sight. Even if the eyes were instantly healed and placed in proper working order, he would not be able to see until the brain re-learned how to interpret all those impulses, like an infant learns to see in its first few months outside the womb.

So the healing had to reach far beyond his eyes and into his brain. And it did. Instantly, everything fell into perfect working order, all damage restored AND the brain supernaturally knew how to interpret all these new signals.

When Bartimaeus cried out, "I want to see!" He did not know all that he was asking of Christ. He wasn't thinking, "Hey Jesus, could you get all those millions of cones and rods in my eyes to start working properly along with fixing the problems with the retina and optic nerve and then make sure the brain can interpret the signals so I can see." He simply wanted to see. Jesus understood the complexities of what he was asking but He did not bat an eyelash. He just did it. And Bartimeus eye's instantly beheld a world that he had previously known only by sound and touch.

However, in the scene before this (Mark10:35-40), two of Christ's disciples made a spiritual request. They wanted to be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. It is not necessarily a bad aspiration. Aspiring toward spiritual greatest on some level is a good thing, right? And Christ does not chastise them for the desire, but instead He responds with chilling sobriety, "You do not what you are asking."

Indeed there is a price to be paid for spiritual greatness, for it is not like the greatness of this world, regardless of culture. It requires humility, sacrifice, and pain. A tough journey. It was a request that involved what Christ would have to bring them through. And Christ appropriately responds, "You do not know what you are asking..."

But as I reflect on these two requests, I begin to realize that in all those requests that we so readily throw up to heaven, we rarely truly know what we are asking. Even the little things that do not seem so remarkable or miraculous, those things our Lord does not hesitate to answer, often require his workings in things far beyond what we think we are asking.

And all the more in our spiritual requests. We see only the glory and not misery and wilderness we will have to pass through to reach it. We do not know what we are asking.

Perhaps we would do well to reflect a little more on the magnitude of God's workings and what He has called us to in this life.

May we begin to grasp with sobriety what we are asking as we utter supplications to our Lord. For when we begin to understand what we are asking, we will begin to understand more of who He is.