The Healing Influence of Scarcity on People Who Live with Abundance
Three things recently came together in my life, and they gave me a perspective often lost on people like me who live in the arms of abundance.
First, several weeks ago Pastor Muno of the Baptist Church in Harare, Zimbabwe, stayed with us for 4 days. The Italian Baptist Union has a partnership with the Baptist Union in Zimbabwe and supports mission projects there. As you certainly know, life in Zimbabwe is very difficult. Pastor Muno and his congregation face many challenges as they try to serve God in an impoverished and sometimes dangerous place. His congregation is trying to construct a house where Muno and his family can live. Currently they live in a public room in the church, a room with open toilets; they know that they are placing their three children at risk of contracting cholera.
Children orphaned by AIDS in Zimbabwe.
They participate in a daily feeding program offered by pastor Muno's church.
Second, on the day that Pastor Muno left to continue his travels in Italy, I left for Vietnam to teach for a week in Ho Chi Minh City. Forty-four Vietnamese pastors and I studied the New Testament together. The joie de vivre with which they live is deceptive. They live with a bare minimum of possessions; and some of them, in the past when there was less freedom and understanding of Christian faith, were imprisoned for their faith. I traveled out into the countryside to attend a wedding. On every side were indicators of subsistence-level living.
Dinner with pastors in Vietnam.
Third, as I waited at the airport to board my plane to Vietnam, Debbie called to give me the report from the car mechanic. Our eleven-year-old car had serious (read ”very costly”) engine problems. I was not pleased. I began to feel sorry for myself and even felt some sense of injustice. It was so unfair that this would happen to us, I said.
But as I made my way through the week in Vietnam and reflected on the hardships that Pastor Muno and my Vietnamese brothers and sisters face, I began to see our car problems in a different perspective. Pastor Muno and Vietnamese pastors contend with far more compelling and life-threatening issues than a car that needs engine work.
There is nothing romantic or enviable or wholesome about scarcity and danger. As my preaching professor said in class one day: “Don’t preach about the beauty of poverty to me. I grew up poor on the wrong side of the tracks. Being poor just makes everything harder.” I don’t want to sentimentalize poverty and danger. But exposure to people who live without what they really need does have a healing effect on the priorities of those of us who live with more than we need. While our car was getting repaired back in Italy, my heart was getting repaired in Vietnam.
I have been privileged to know people of deep faith and profound courage, people who continue to give of themselves when they themselves are in need of many things. These people heal the pathology of spirit that abundance so often breeds in us.
As you pray, please remember the following:
-Pastor Muno and his family
-Vietnamese pastors as they use their increasing freedom to bring the Good News of the Gospel to their land
-On Friday the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy will hold a conference on the challenges of integrating immigrant churches into the larger church family in Italy. The conference is being held in the town where 6 immigrants were murdered last year in hate crimes. Debbie will be attending the meeting.
-Give thanks that Debbie and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this month!
At this time of Thanksgiving, we want to thank those of you who support our ministry through your contributions, cards, and prayers. We are truly grateful to be encircled by such fine folks!
May God Bless You and Keep You,
Jim (along with Debbie, Ben & Luke) Email us; firstname.lastname@example.org.