Category: Development


This is a response to a guy’s blog from earlier in the year. It’s pretty much what I think about justice, and is heavily derived from the writings of NT Wright, Tim Keller, Frederick Buechner and the thoughts of my dear friend, Ed Springer. I still find it hard to live this. But in His gracious mercy to me, may His Spirit continue to teach me to love as He has loved.

It’s the hope of the new creation that propels us headlong into the darkest of places. Because this hope was secured by a love from which we will never be severed, the joy that springs from it is resilient. It can withstand the buffets of pain and frustration, at least in part because its source is not our own love for these people. When I burn out or feel weighed down by the brokenness of it all, it’s often because I have been looking to my own resources.

A dear friend once unpacked the beautitudes as resting on the foundation of ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’. From that posture of spiritual bankruptcy, we come to the foot of the Cross and cry for help. Not just for salvation; everything. Including the fight for justice.

When we cry to Him in anguish over the corruption of the world, I think He responds by energising us with two things:

First, the assurance that the in-breaking of His Kingdom has already begun, and there is a Day fast approaching when all things will be restored. Justice and healing are His purposes; and His purposes will prevail.

Second, the love with which to fuel the fight. Not our own limited resource we approximately call ‘love’. His love for people. And with that love flowing through us, to them, from Him, we are free to love – without fear, and without self-regard.

As Buechner says, ‘He says to follow him, to walk as he did into the world’s darkness, to throw yourself away as he threw himself away for love of the dark world.’

When you have no choice

I spent my short time in Kenya with Jock. I love this guy, so much. Check out his blog, here.

In his latest letter from the field, he wrote about Kenya again. I’m posting some excerpts from it. These words resonate with me. The clutter of choices that fills my days shrink my life down, rather that broadening it. When I’m busiest, I have no option but to finish tasks regardless of whether I’m in the mood for it. When I’m out in the bush, focusing on physically practical things, my mind is stimulated but not frenetic. When I’m caught up in things outside of myself, I feel most myself.

This isn’t the same as what Nimo is saying. At all. But it makes me realise that we live bigger lives, in the sense of displaying greater strength of character, when it’s less about preference, and more about necessity. Laziness and selfishness get less of a look in.

There are special people waiting for me in Kenya, people I love and my heart swells a little when I think of some of my meetings over the next few weeks. I wonder if hearts only break through love.

A few days later in Nairobi I am with my friend Nimo and carrying six one litre bottles of spring water the kilometre back from the supermarket to the hotel.  It is hot; the air is thick with the diesel fumes from noisy, badly maintained city buses. It is hard to talk above the noise of the traffic, trumpeting horns, and the cries from Matatu touts.  The sidewalk is uneven and the plastic supermarket bag is cutting into my fingers.

Finally we reach the hotel,  go to the open air cafe and order tea.  Nimo is a beautiful Kikuyu woman working with an NGO in Nairobi, she has coffee coloured skin,  platted braids in her hair, almond tiger bright eyes and  a laugh like a bird’s song.

It is so good to sit, to put the water down, to watch the busy street life rather than being part of it. “That was heavy” I say, opening and closing my hand to get the circulation back.

“I am glad…. “ I pause, “You know the women I have talked about  at Ndabibi?”

Nimo nods.

“They carry 20 litres three or four kilometres and often a child as well, every day, sometimes twice…….whether they feel like it, or not. I have just realised in a new way how hard that must be.”

Nimo says: “When you have no choice, you must be so strong”.

[…]

I have a feeling that my own multitude of choices often undermines my ability to be strong and to do wholeheartedly what is necessary and just and healthy and true.   So often I have the luxury to do what I feel like doing, in my sophistication my conscience has become something to “take responsibility” for.

As I think about this now, feeling like doing something is just one way of deciding what to do and how to act and actually  I may make better decisions if I didn’t  relate so closely to what I feel and instead I just do what needs to be done.  Thoughts about lilies and birds and sowing and reaping and growing and toiling and spinning all somehow adding up to some kind of encouragement to be present, or in Swahili  Hakuna matata;  “there are no worries”.

[…]

There are two fundamental questions posed by many sages. “Who am I? And how will I live?”[3] And I think who are we, what will we do? St Augustine[4] of Hippo’s definition of a community is “a multitude of rational beings united by agreeing to share the things they love”.  I am worried about what my community loves. I am worried by what I love.  I am wondering if too many times, I am giving myself too many choices about how to live and what to do.


[3] Who am I?” became a famous self enquiry and teaching given by the Hindu Saint Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi  at the beginning of the twentieth century

[4] St Augustine of Hippo In ‘The City of God’ written early 5th Century

In the parable, Jesus loved the heart of the woman who gave the little that she had. He didn’t look at the silver coins as they lay there, unimpressively. He looked at her heart. And loved it more than he who gave quantitatively more.

I write this in a deep repentance. At my disappointment with the amount my youth group raised for Japan. I genuinely think I just wanted to shift they thought about their money, by highlighting that the amount they gave over a month was the same amount they paid for pizza in a single night. And I hate that. And I genuinely am frustrated by the pervasiveness of tokenism and by how shrunk down the lives of this generation of kids has become. I am frustrated at how shrunk down my life has become. And I project that frustration onto others when I recognise in them things that I wish weren’t in me.

The way I reacted was not one of loving kindness and patience. I think I wanted to challenge them to think about the resources they have been entrusted with. But I was looking at the quantity compared to external measures. Not at their hearts. My reaction wasn’t one that considered these beautiful young people, who gave $157.00 of their own money to strangers, better than myself. It demonstrates that I consider myself better than others on the basis of how engaged they are in work for justice. It shows that I have a heart that is steeped in pride.

When does restlessness become contempt for familiarity or consistency? When does desire for reckless love become aloofness towards childlikeness? When does a longing for hearts to be transformed become something revolting that keeps me from loving people as they are? When did these thoughts of condescension and superiority slip into my stream of thinking? Damnable good deeds indeed.

Ah, me.

Praise Him who runs out to hug us when we return to Him in sorrow and tears for our stupid decisions and treatment of others and Him. Thankful that when we wander, in His great patience and kindness, He woos us back to abide in Him.

Holy Rage

Tonight, about 300 people came together to hear Shane Claiborne and a few others speak about ‘Prayer that changes the world’.

A few things that stuck:

When the disciples presented Jesus with the situation of thousands of hungry people, Jesus threw the implicit question back on the disciples. ‘You feed them!’ They bring what little resources they could muster (a few loaves of bread and a few fish), hand it over to Him, and then Jesus used that to do things that were disproportionate to their efforts. We need to put flesh on our prayers by being a people who not only ask for help, starting from a position of spiritual bankruptcy, and acknowledging that we can do nothing apart from Him – but a people who get up off our knees, and do something. Do something, muster whatever resources we can – and then present our efforts to Him, however meager, and ask Him to do something with them that is totally disproportionate to what we have done.

The best way to mobilise a community of believers to live lives of radical love is to live it out. It’s compelling, it’s fascinating – and it’s contagious. Rather than waiting for consensus to emerge in your church community about loving the marginalised and the needy, why not just start living that out with a small group?

I want to be fueled by grace, by His abounding and overflowing love, to live and love recklessly. Reckless to my own comfort and convenience and schedule and plans. I want to have an unceasing holy rage that is never OK with just sitting by and watching.

Charitable and Christian?

A while back a friend asked me about how Christians should feel about supporting charitable organisations who don’t explicitly evangelise in their aid work. This was may reply.

A few thoughts.

1. Under the Overseas Aid Gift Deduction Scheme (OAGDS), you cannot use tax deductible money for the purpose of evangelistic/missionary activities. One of the disheartening things we hear is the sledging coming from other organisations that ‘Unlike WV, we share the gospel’. Aside from the disappointing nature of such sledges, it is actually illegal to claim tax deductibility for proselytism.

This doesn’t mean that organisations who DO engage in evangelistic activities can’t be eligible for OAGDS status, but it does mean that they need to demonstrate that the activities for which they seek tax deductibility DON’T include any evangelistic components. It’d be wise if you did both to have separate funds allocated to your different activities.

2. WV actually worked quite hard with AusAID when they were reviewing this OAGDS policy to shift the language used from that which was very resistant to any Christian activity. Now AusAID recognise that Christianity is actually very important to holistic development practice – what the above ineligibility clause prevents is linking aid and development with proselytism. i.e. ‘You get the goodies if you come to church’. Which is CRITICAL.

3. In what ways isn’t WV an overtly Christian organisation? I’d challenge the girls to consider that WV are an AID AND DEVELOPMENT organisation; not a MISSION organisation. Both are important; but they are different. WV specialises in the former, and they do it well, motivated by a desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

4. Considering that WV receives donations from thousands of non-Christians, it is important to honour them, and use the money in a way that is consistent with their expectations.

5. That said, on the ground, many of the countries in which WV work (i.e. Kenya) are already overwhelmingly Christian. The Economic Empowerment Meetings I went to in the Wema ADP in rural Kenya were held in the local church, bracketed by songs of praise to God, and prayer was integral to every stage of the meetings. WV is explicitly Christian, in their conduct and in their approach. That there isn’t a concerted, coordinated Gospel ministry does by no means mean that the gospel isn’t involved; if you are a Christian, working in the slum of Kibera in Nairobi, the gospel cannot help but affect the work you do.

Most of the workers at WV are Christians. They have an inclusive employment policy. They employ mostly Christians, but say they’re looking for someone to do a job in Jakarta, where the population is overwhelmingly Muslim, they will choose a competent Muslim over an incompetent Christian, as long as the Muslim is on board with the Christian ethos of the organisation.

6. I think you need to ask your girls to reconsider their standpoint. Refer them to http://www.ausaid.gov.au/ngos/pdfs/oagds_guidelines.pdf so that they can read the eligibility requirements. I’d suggest to them that they are asking the wrong question.

I think they need to recognise that you can’t be both a large and efficient aid and development like WV AND a mission organisation, and do both tasks effectively and on the scale that WV does.

Organisations like TEAR do both – but they do so on no where near anything like the scale and impact that WV does. And different issues arise: the smaller the organisation, the greater the proportion of donations goes to admin costs, reducing the per dollar impact… etc

I’d ask them what was behind their question. Is it genuine concern? If they feel the Spirit moving their heart to do something about unreached people groups, then dig deeper into the pockets of their North Shore comfort and give generously to other organisations who do a damn good job at that (i.e. ‘Leading the Way’). It’s not an either/or. We are called to do both.

Hope some of that is helpful.

(also look at this: http://worldvision.com.au/OurWork/FaithInAction.aspx)


Hm. I think I may have been a little fired up. Haha.

But, still. The point remains.