Parable of an Immigrant Part 4

Listen to the audio recording of this Blog post:

Parable of an Immigrant Part 4

There is not a place to which the Christian can withdraw from the world, whether it be outwardly or in the sphere of the inner life. Any attempt to escape from the world must sooner or later be paid for with a sinful surrender to the world. Dietrich Bonheoffer Ethics

Why Citizenship and Legal Residency are Important

An immediate, and historically appropriate response to the question of immigration is the reference to the development of the United States.  The colonization from the European discovery of the land in 1492 up until the present era has been largely in part to immigrants from every continent (Antarctica stilling withstanding I believe).

It is a wonderful story and so much of current “American” culture is a mix of many different ethnicities. I have been challenged while living out of the U.S. when asked what a “Typical American” is.  One time, one of our youth wanted to know what a “Typical American girl” looks like.  I really couldn’t answer, because in any given town it is tough enough, but try to picture a Southern California, beach going teen, a young girl in Detroit Michigan, Kansas City, New York City, and Miami Beach…you get the picture…it really is not possible to put your finger on the U.S. “typical” person.

This is a valid point, but often lacks a telling of the entire story.  The American Story, at least from the time of the colonization, has been, obviously a story of immigration, of people willing to count the cost and risk it all on a better life, whether for economic purposes, for religious freedom, putting a shameful past far behind, or for the glory and honor of a military campaign.  America has consistently been built on the backs of heroic, if unsung heroes, and those insatiable risk takers.

My personal desire (if I had any political pull) would be to make a clean, streamlined path to citizenship and as quickly as possible, preferable yesterday!  The pathway to citizenship brings with it definite challenges, but creates citizens who are educated in where they are calling their new home, which in turn will bring stability and ultimately blessing to the nation of the United States.

This point was taken on in Maryland, to the surprise of those pushing for a “Sanctuary State” by an unlikely group…immigrants from various ethnicities.  Below is the link to an article from the New York Times as well as some excerpts from May 2017.

Immigrants oppose making Maryland a Sanctuary State:

See Stanley Salazar from El Salvador

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/08/us/legal-immigrants-who-oppose-illegal-immigration.html

Here are a couple of excerpts from the interviews from Mr. Ma, a Chinese immigrant and Mr. Salazar from El Salvador.

From the age of 9, Mr. Ma was pushed to learn English by his mother. “Study harder,” she told him. “Score higher.” At 12, he won entry into a highly selective boarding school where he toiled for 13 hours a day.  Mr. Ma sees his whole life as a struggle to achieve his Americanness.

Today, Mr. Ma, 45, is a patent attorney, living in a stately home in Clarksville, Md., after years of study at universities in New York, Utah and Virginia and a first career as a software engineer. His wife, also a Chinese immigrant, works for the National Weather Service. Two-thirds of their daughter’s second-grade classmates have parents from China or India.

Mr. Ma (from the article) “Being in America is such a high privilege,” he said, sitting in his brightly painted kitchen. “As an immigrant I really feel it.” He added: “You cannot easily give that privilege to somebody without going through some kind of process. It’s like giving lots of gold for one dollar.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________

 Mr. Salazar (El Salvador) thinks sanctuary would be bad for Maryland. He bases this on what has already happened in Montgomery County, where he has been part of a Hispanic population boom.

The Salvadoran gang MS-13 has gained strength in the area recently, the authorities say, partly because of an influx of undocumented children arriving without their parents. The young arrivals are more susceptible to recruitment by gangs.

Mr. Salazar sees the statistics: At least 16 homicides in the county have been attributed to gangs since June 2015. About half have been linked to MS-13, including the killing of a 15-year-old girl in Gaithersburg.

“I have three daughters right now and I’m thinking about them,” Mr. Salazar said, sipping a milkshake at a Burger King in Gaithersburg. “Don’t I have the right to be afraid that this kind of stuff is increasing?”

A second interesting journey is down the Ellis Island excursion.  When you have the time, it is fascinating to listen to actual interviews from immigrants who came through Ellis Island recount their journey.  This gives such an inspiring look into the courage and challenges immigrants faced and how they were able to start their new life in the United States.  Follow the link below to listen to some of these remarkable stories archived by the National Park Service.

Stories from Ellis Island:

In the following website, the National Park Service has compiled oral and written stories of immigrants who came through Ellis Island.

https://www.nps.gov/elis/learn/historyculture/oral-histories.htm

If you don’t have a good amount of time to look, or rather listen through these archives, here is a page of excerpts:

https://www.nps.gov/elis/learn/education/classrooms/oral-histories.htm

Three examples I enjoyed were:

Birtitta Hedman Fichter from Sweden remembering starting school:

https://www.nps.gov/elis/learn/education/oral-history-ei-11.htm

I turned seven after we got here and here children were starting at the age of five in kindergarten, so at age seven they put me in the first grade, which was kind of dumb because I didn’t know the language and, I didn’t know “yes” and “no.” That’s how bad it was. I just sat there and every time the teacher even looked at me I would start to cry because I was afraid she was going to say something and I didn’t know what, what she was saying. 

William Greiner from Italy remembers the Storm during the ship passage:

https://www.nps.gov/elis/learn/education/william-remembers-the-storm.htm

The great waves would smash, the noise tremendous, and I thought we would flounder at any moment. They posted Morse Code, messages received from other ships in the ocean, sending “S.O.S. We are floundering!” and so on, “Help!” and the captain let us know that he couldn’t get out of the way. 

Charles Beller (Kalman Bilchick) from Russia remembers retaining their Jewish traditions after immigrating:

https://www.nps.gov/elis/learn/education/charles-remembers-maintaining-his-identity.htm

My father would want us to go to synagogue on the high holy days; and I always went with him. The other boys, they strayed away from the religious part of it. But I always went with him on every high holiday and the like. I went to Hebrew school. I had the rabbi come to the house for awhile.

Next week I want to tip many of the fear-based, arguments against immigration on their head with an amazing author Joseph Castleberry, discussing how the immigrant population, in contrast to being seen as a threat, could actually be the renewal that the United States needs to some of it’s social declines and alarming trends…tune in next week.

 

Parable of an Immigrant – Part 3

What do Legality, Ethics and the Media have to do with it?

You can listen to this post directly below or by clicking HERE

(In writing this series of posts, I do not intend to give the impression of being extremely educated on current immigration laws or topics…as a matter of fact, good friends who do this full time are having a hard time keeping current. As missionaries in Central America, however, one of the regions sending the largest number of youth to seek better futures across the northern border, we wanted to weigh in on the discussion and help encourage a broader picture of the situation…south of the border)

Immigrants On Line On Ellis Island.

Photo from Ellis Island, historical immigration destination for entry into the United States

We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility.  Dietrich BonheofferLetters and Papers from Prison

We are picking back up on a short series earlier this year, starting with a brief Parable of an Immigrant named Johnny or Juanito. I wanted to begin this blog post following a place of tension that we left unresolved in the last post Parable of an Immigrant, Part 2.  That tension was the question of ethics in the midst of conflicting philosophies and ideas, specifically the issue of immigration. What is “right” and what is “wrong” when the ethicality of laws is being argued on both sides vehemently, and even upper level law makers are choosing to deliberately disobey laws, and doing so publically.

I have quoted Dietrich Bonheoffer several times, and will continue to, as he is one of the most upright examples of a Christian leader I have found, who was forced to grapple with this question of legality verses the Biblical and ethical thing to do.  In one of his deepest and darkest hours, he realized that to truly obey God you have to let go of your innate desire to be right, and in serving God, you may need to let go and find yourself in that tension of possibly being dreadfully wrong…or right…and not knowing which you are…this is what it means to trust and fully serve God.   (but that is a topic for another time)

I want to start of by saying that El Salvador is a beautiful country.  You can see a panorama of our personal experience in the following VIDEO.

Why do I make the clear point about El Salvador being a BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY?  Because back in January president Donald Trump made some colorful comments about the conditions here in El Salvador, in Haiti and certain African Countries.  It should have been a comment behind closed doors, but nowadays, the private and even classified information from the White House makes it’s way around the globe at the speed of the Internet.  It was received as a slap in the face for many Salvadorans and offensive to just about everyone I know here.

This is one of the local newspapar’s (Prensa Grafica) article HERE as well as the response of protest from the Minister of Foreign Affairs HERE the following day. There were several more follow up articles, often more front and center in the paper than the local news.

This was a tasteless comment by the President, and I find it just as tasteless, that a closed door meeting, where a chief executive let his mouth fly, ended up published almost immediately in several languages and in other continents, and that there is so little discretion in how and what gets blasted, as long as it can have a political spin, or get emotions flaring, and I suppose sell newspapers, or get clicks on the webpage.

The following day, as I often do, I bought the local paper, already with a few “explanations” and “denunciations”.  However the next day, I remember flipping through the pages from the cover (skipping over any advertisements) with the buzz of that comment still ruminating.  I continued from page one, then further in, until I could find a page WITHOUT a murder, severe traffic accident or other type of travesty, basically looking for on page free from death, and I had passed page 20 before I got there.

What was failed to come out in the huge hype about this distasteful (I hope you hear my deep disdain for it) comment, was the context.  The context was referring to the desperate flight from certain countries. Having spent time in Haiti, and one African country for six months, and now 4 years in El Salvador…I have seen a very unfortunate vain of truth in that comment as off-color as it was.

It IS NOT the people, it IS NOT the natural beauty, it IS NOT that these lands aren’t wonderful places to live.

It is that because of conditions, violence, destroyed infrastructure, land that once was arable and now can’t sustain its people, that youth cannot find a way to succeed or even get a job, where often the police cannot be trusted, the government becomes inept and unable to keep up with the needs of it’s people…whatever the reason, people are fleeing in the thousands with a sense of desperation…and my trip through the newspaper that morning brought this home.  This is a very difficult place to live, and for some, to survive.

What for our family, is a wonderful place to work and a absolutely beautiful place to live, with some of the deepest relationships we have yet to make in our lives, with truly wonderful people, has become for others, their home, that no longer is safe to live in.

The immigration, and more specifically, illegal immigration issue may not affect you directly.  My guess is that, even if you think it doesn’t – it does.  For us in Central America, on the other side of the fence, it is a constant reality.

As stated at the beginning of this, and every post, I am not an expert.  I am not an outspoken opponent to border enforcement, to the wall going up, nor do I oppose immigration.  What I do oppose is passing the buck down, and allowing the “next guy” or administration to deal with it, while millions of people’s lives stay in limbo.

I do hold strong thoughts and beliefs and continue to learn more, but don’t want to use this as a platform to discuss my personal views on the minutia of the arguments; my desire is to encourage you, and me, to keep educating ourselves and be a part of the solution.  Know how to help people, offer resources, and become a resource yourself.

Just a short while ago I finished a work by ex-Secretary of State Madeline Albright, in which she detailed several “leaders gone wrong” around the world, from WWI to the present. Democratically elected leaders who consolidated power, and in a short time made the necessary arrangements: picking scapegoats, changing Constitutions, killing off the opposition, etc. and became enamored with power.  Around the world this is more common than you think.  As if economic conditions, violent crime, poverty, and religious persecution were not enough, these have combined to create a global community where tens of thousands are constantly in flux, moving from one place to another for their safety and protection, and sometimes to just seek a better life…we call them immigrants.

Our family is one of them, who got a call to an international assignment and took it.  It has been hard…rewarding, but hard.  In the past two weeks alone, I have gone to the Salvadoran Immigration office over 6 times, our attorney just as many times, and within a month, I will be back in there again.

Being an immigrant is not easy; perhaps we can find it in our hearts to help those along who have left, for one reason or another, what is familiar – for what is not.

Who knows…with a quick turn of the tables, you may be an immigrant one day yourself.

In these past 3 blog posts, we’ve raised quite a few questions so far.  In the next post I want to look at some potential solutions and positive areas that can be focused on.  Until next time…

 

Parable of an Immigrant, Part 2

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Parable of an Immigrant Part 2

You can listen to the audio HERE

In our previous post, Johnny was hit by a car while jaywalking on his way to a better school and a better life, and injured severely. This is our tale of immigration and we left his mother leaving the scene having the guilt laid on her for his demise.

Simple explanation…she was the responsible party for Johnny and she broke the law.

“Illegal Immigration is…by definition…Illegal.”

Why would so many, moral and law abiding citizens of their own countries make a blatant action that puts them at risk and is clearly and obviously wrong?

One part of the puzzle, is that it comes down to law enforcement. An un-enforced law tends to loose its’ legality over time. And this lack of enforcement of the rule of law begins in their home country and pushes many…not all, but many to seek to break another law by entering the nations to the north illegally and also at great personal risk and cost, both to the immigrant and to the extended family.

And one example that I can make comes from a grandson of one of our pastors in Usulután a rural department in the east of El Salvador. Just over a year ago, I received a Facebook message from a young man in the Dallas Texas area. As is typically the case, they have a different name then what I know them by, so always check if we have friends in common, then check the pictures to see who they are. Honestly, we visit so many churches that we know hundreds of faces, but have a tough time keeping up with everyone’s names. Add to that the common practice of using one name with family and their second name with others, and apodos, or nicknames which everyone has makes it confusing, to say the least. Often to save a few cents on calls, people will have different phones from different companies, they are getting new phone numbers, new Facebook pages, etc. and it is hard to keep up with.

But this time was very different, this was a young man that I have worked with a lot, played music with him at church services, and have worked along side his father and grandfather on several occasions over the past 4 years. He had been part of the last three of our youth camps. He was part of the leadership team of the youth group at the church. I asked myself, what is he doing in Dallas?

On my next visit to Usulután I found out why. One of his friends boarded a bus and was asked by a couple of intoxicated young men for some of his belongings. For whatever reason, he had had enough, had a hard day at school, or just didn’t want to give up his cell phone again…he said no. These youth empowered by their gang affiliations and the sense of power they have when in their “territory” took care of business at the next stop of the bus. The youth’s dead body was found that day, right in front of our Pastor’s house. A couple phone calls later, in the matter of a week, our Pastor’s son-in-law, who is now a legal resident and owns a contractor business in the Dallas area came up with the majority of the 50% cost of paying a “coyote” for his safe passage. (They normally get 3 attempts to cross on this fee).

With the conditions surrounding his migration, he has a pretty good case of getting asylum status and is currently working on this process. I had a chance to connect with him last year during a Pastor’s conference and he looks good…he was a good couple inches taller than last time I saw him and the rich Texan food has done a good job of filling his figure out some more. I brought some traditional hymnals that they can’t get in the U.S. and a couple of gifts from his mom. He is studying and working on weekends with his uncle. But, the meeting was challenging, as his family doesn’t let him go out on his own. They are very weary of any interaction outside of the family until his immigration status is secure. As I spoke with him I sensed an odd mix of sadness and gratefulness. He was not comfortable living in an unsafe canton in Usulután where any day he could lose another friend, where the laws of the street take precedence over the rule of law. But neither was he comfortable living in quarantine with his extended family in a city larger than any in his home country, where effectively he was “illegal.”

In this same canton, a year earlier, we had gone to bury his grandmother who died of natural causes. The Salvadoran tradition is to walk behind the vehicle (usually a pickup in the rural areas), which has the casket. The problem being, we needed to go the 1-kilometer from this canton to the next where the cemetery is. Most made the walk, but for her half-dozen grandsons, they can’t walk into this canton, because it is of an opposing gang. (None of these youth are actually in a gang, they just live in opposing gang territory it entirely depends on where they live). We fit 17 people in our 11-passenger van, so that they would not be seen. Out of respect for their deceased grandmother, they felt obliged to be at the burial.

In the past year, we have lost 3 youth leaders from just this one church who have immigrated because of the violence.

This post will no doubt cause some uncomfortable feelings, because it goes deep into the realm of law and ethics, and that area, at least for me, where sometimes ethics and law don’t seem to agree. I too, grew up where laws were black and white…legal and illegal…right and wrong, and for the most part, I thought it worked well. I grew up where police were good and showed up when you called them, and they were “good.” In the 1980´s in California this was almost always the case. But, we don’t have to go far in history to find that this is not always the case.

And now, under the assumption that current laws are in fact “good” we are left with the other question, of un-enforced laws. An unenforced law loses a bit of its legality. Unenforced jaywalking laws encourage jaywalking. Unenforced traffic laws encourage speeding (if you don’t believe that, come spend a week in San Salvador). Loopholes in tax laws encourage accountants to save their clients money. You get the picture.

I felt it important to lay down this personal story to explain that the above-mentioned sign oversimplifies the problem. There exists a huge gray area between black and white and millions of people currently live in the gray.

This becomes a question of ethics…not just of legality. And questions of ethics are not easy questions to answer. Here are a few examples?

  • If someone broke into your house, would you take action, what if that action was illegal?
  • At what point does “temporary emergency residency” or asylum require a path to permanency, 1 year, 5 years, 20 years?
  • What types of illegal activities warrant the removal of residency status?
  • Is offering emergency asylum to a young man like our example “the right thing to do?”

Does the Bible weigh in on these areas where ethics and law are at odds? Yes it does, here are a few examples.

Proverbs 30:8 – 9

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,

lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 6:30 – 31

People do not despise a thief if he steals
to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry,
but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold;
he will give all the goods of his house.

Other verses regarding taking advantage of the under privileged.

Exodus 21:16, Exodus 22:2 – 4, Nehemiah 5:1 – 13 (Where Nehemiah confronts those who are taking economic advantage of their Jewish brothers)

The Bible speaks very extensively about taking care of foreigners or “aliens.”

Thank you for taking time to consider…and pray for this important topic.

And maybe this week you will get an opportunity to meet, encourage and maybe pray for someone who currently lives in this gray area.

Parable of an Immigrant, Part 1

(In writing this upcoming series of posts, I do not intend to give the impression of being educated on current immigration laws or topics…as a matter of fact, good friends who do this full time are having a hard time keeping current. As missionaries in Central America, one of the regions sending the largest number of youth to seek better futures across the northern border, we wanted to weigh in on the discussion and help encourage a broader picture of the situation…south of the border)

You can listen to the audio of the blog by clicking HERE

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Johnny (Juanito) woke up like any other day. The sound of his mother asking, pleading and finally insisting that he get out of bed. This started early now that Johnny started attending the new school, as they didn’t have a vehicle, and the bus didn’t pass by their house, so they needed to walk. Johnny was still too young to walk with his friends to school, or so his mother said. Breakfast was basically the same every day, one egg, a spot of beans, some type of fresh fruit, either a half of an orange or an apple, and always…two tortillas.

As they walked out the door, almost as a second thought…Johnny’s mom grabbed his hat, “They will see you better.” Johnny never had been very comfortable with this school. Even after almost a year, he still seemed different, like an outsider. He was as smart, or smarter than many of the other kids, but he still struggled to keep up, to fit in at recess, to laugh at the right time with their jokes, to pay attention in class, to get the right answers on the tests…that seemed to come all to often.

He made this walk every day, and as every day, whenever he would complain, his mom assured him how much better this school was and why it was important to make the hour walk each day instead of going to the school that he used to, in their neighborhood.

The school in their neighborhood was different. Johnny’s 5 cousins went there. They would eat and laugh at the breaks, exchange sandwiches, joke about the crazy antics of their uncle and tell stories that only they knew the context of. They could leave class to supposedly go to the bathroom, and pass fifteen minutes in the halls talking until one of the teachers caught on and sternly called him back to the math, or language, or art class…whatever it happened to be. As with most memories, the sense of nostalgia made the memories much more vivid and even more exaggerated with each passing day, now that he was at “the new school.”

Johnny’s mom squeezed him tight, startling him out of this nostalgic day dream. She said the same things every day, “Mijo, you are the best gift God has given me…and I will always work hard to give you my best. Now do your very best at school today. Te amo mi Juanito.” She kissed him and sent him across the street to the school, now in plain view one block away. Johnny looked to the left and crossed to the middle divider, which separated the traffic from the other direction. There was a crosswalk at the next intersection about a half mile to the right, but most never crossed there, as it was way out of the way and the school was just to the left. Two kids had just run across and Johnny set off.

Just as he reached the safe ground of the middle divider, a five-foot wide finger of grass with concrete curbs on either side, he now turned his gaze to the right where the oncoming traffic now switched. Just then, a puff of wind caught his baseball cap and blew it into the street behind. Johnny instinctively spun to his right and took a step back.

It happened in a split second, which Johnny’s mom would relive in slow motion, over and over again. A car was already in the lane and surprisingly close to the middle divider. As Johnny spun to his right to catch the cap, the car clipped his right leg and shoulder, the impact left a sickening sound, a thump of soft clothing and a crack of his leg and arm, then an instantaneous second crack as he bounced off the windshield and over the car. The driver had tried to slow, but hadn’t had time to stop…and in a split second decision, sped up and veered two lanes to the right to disappear into the next street corner. It was a white car, a Ford, said one eyewitness later, another said it was a Mercury. The license plate, identity nor actual make and model were never discovered.

The next two hours were a blur for Johnny’s mom. Two cars in either direction stopped, helping slow the morning traffic, and in a sense creating a protective space for the motionless 12 year old on the street, and create enough space for her to safely cross into the median. She collapsed over him sobbing, crying “Mijo, mijo, no mueras!!!” Within two minutes a state trooper had arrived, officially taking control of the situation from the hysterical mother and the dazed onlookers now gathering on both sides of the street. He called in the situation on his radio, requesting an ambulance immediately, tagging on his cocksure assessment of the situation, not caring who overheard, “Nother one of those ignorant jaywalking hooligans…if I said it once, I said it a thosan times…gotta put that gosh darn fence up all along this blasted highway.”

It was Monday morning and the trooper had not finished his morning coffee and was in rare mood. He proceeded to explain the foolhardiness to Johnny’s mom about sending her son across the street. She nodded respectfully in tears, but didn’t hear anything he said as the ambulance arrived and began to prepare Johnny’s still unconscious body rapidly for the trip. The troopers lecture was cut short by their arrival. Johnny’s mom joined him in the ambulance as they asked her for her insurance card… “It must be at home,” she sheepishly lied. As the ambulance pulled away, the onlookers one by one returned to their day and the trooper closed his report book, opened his car door and took a drink of his coffee on the vehicle roof and cringed…it was ice cold.

In one hour the scene would be gone. In 24 hours it would be mentioned on page 13 of the local paper. In one week, Johnny’s seat would still be empty in the classroom. In a year, only Johnny’s mom would remember the horror of those two seconds that changed her life, and Johnny’s forever.

You may have gathered by this point, in this fictitious tale, this parable, that the schools are not really schools – they are countries, once one united territory, but now separated with geopolitical lines…solid lines on google maps. And the street is not a highway, it is a border, maybe constituted by the Rio Grande, or an uninhabitable desert. And the car driving by is a “coyote” or hotel or house operator, human trafficker, or any host of individuals who get their cut of the nearly $6,000 it costs for someone to make the trip from Central America to the United States.

The big question everyone wants answered, who is to blame?

  • Johnny for agreeing to make the walk every day to the new school?
  • Johnny’s mom for sending him, even compelling him to go?
  • The dozens of kids who daily cross the street?
  • The passing car for not paying attention, not stopping, not taking responsibility for the human atrocity occurring in their business?
  • The old school for not improving conditions in order to offer a better education to kids like Johnny and his cousins?
  • The state trooper for not enforcing the jaywalking laws and requiring the due penalty to avoid this slew of crossings?
  • The City Council for not taking action to put the fence up across the highway knowing that lives are daily being put at risk?
  • Perhaps even the new school that received Johnny with open arms, knowing that his address was not within the school district?

 

Which leads us to the real question. What can be done to keep more Johnnys from the same fate?

But it is against the law…!!

…we will look at that in the next post.

Convention 2017 – Washington DC

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Foursquare Convention began for me (Jared) on May 24, as one of the translators for the Global Council.  This Council is comprised of National Leaders, regional chairs (from the different geographical sections: Central America, South Pacific, North Asia…etc.), area Missionaries and other invited contributors.

This Council demonstrates one of the key values and practices of the Foursquare Church since its’ inception –  from the time that a nation is first entered by missionaries, it is to rapidly move towards releasing the Nationals from U.S. leadership to a healthy natural role in governing the work in their context, while maintaining a familial relationship with the original work.  This may seem like subtle policy conversations, but on the ground it is VITALLY IMPORTANT!  I have talked with many colleagues from other organizations whose movements can’t seem to get traction because they lack a real connection with the sending organization, yet this organization continues to make critical decisions from such a long distance away.  This move towards partnership becomes so much more effective, though it is more difficult at the onset.

The Global Council is a direct result of this shared value.  Sitting in these meetings, as a translator, I was so encouraged to hear leaders from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, South Pacific and the U.S. all come to the table and discuss the realities of ministry today, pray and vision for the future, and allocate shared resources to accomplish these goals.  WAY TO GO!!

(Top Left: Prayer for Leslie Keegle, Sri Lankan, the new chair of the Global Council.  Presidents Sergio Caceres (Argentina), Glen Burris (U.S.), Jim Scott and Paul Otremba.  The Latin America crew together for breakfast: Clockwise: Jared, Sergio (Argentina), Paul & Ulrike Otremba (Colombia), Raúl (Panamá), David (Caribbean), Juan Carlos (Dominican Republic) and Jonathan Hall (Brazil, Miami, Los Angeles..)

Washington DC during Memorial Day week is a great time to visit, beautiful weather, lots of activity and this year spending Memorial Day at Arlington Cemetery with Pastors Paul & Ainsley Harmon…a very fitting place to remember the contribution and ultimate sacrifice of so many for the freedoms that we enjoy:

And a few more photographic-scapes from Washington:

(Clockwise Below Left: Hubble space telescope, Hope Diamond 45.5 carats, Benjamin Franklin portrait, Jefferson Memorial, view across the tidal basin, “The Thinker,” Washington Monument / Center photos: entry to the metro at Dupont Circle, Leonardo da Vinci painting “Ginevra de’ Benci” National Gallery of Art)

So What…?

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A great, and full day of celebrating the Resurrection…actually here, it is a full week, “Semana Santa.”

But today is Monday…and the looming question, so what?

I taught out of 1 Corinthians 15 this Sunday, in my opinion, the best developed theology and explanation of the absolute necessity of the Resurrection of Jesus for our faith.  But I like how practical Paul is, let me summarize his two main arguments that answer the so what…if there isn’t life after death…and the final…so what if there is!?

#1 – Hey, I have been really pummeled by this Christianity thing, even attacked by animals (if that’s what you want to call it 1 Cor. 15:30, 32).  It the resurrection didn’t happen, then why do we go through all of this…why do we put ourselves in danger every day?

#2 – Hey, if there is no afterlife then LET’S PARTY!!  Paul gives us the Greek philosophy  that is the end of the conclusion when we doubt the literal – physical – resurrection of our new bodies.  (1 Cor. 15:32) If the dead aren’t raised then eat and drink (live it up) for tomorrow we die.

#3 – If we really will be risen and have one short life to prepare for it…then I am going to live for God like there is no tomorrow.

That is the So What? of the resurrection of Jesus, our faith falls apart without it, it is necessary for all that we believe, and it is what our life is founded on.  This is a literal, historical, witnessed event that has changed the course of human history.

Now how is it going to change the history of one particular human… mainly YOU?

Team Update Hope Chapel H.B.

Over the span of 10 days in February, our home church, Hope Chapel, in Huntington Beach CA, joined us for their first official ministry trip to El Salvador…and it was incredible.  Of the 713 people served by the medical clinics, there were a multitude of stories that could be retold, but I wanted to pass on two:

Police Chief Eliseo Samuel: In Santa Ana, the church had called the local police station to send officers during the clinic to secure the site (they offer this service whenever there is a need…mostly because of the large quantity of medications).  Para aprovechar…to take advantage of their time there, each of the police officers on duty came through to receive much needed medical care, many needing basic medications and services.  During the prayer time, all officers received prayer and a few received the Lord!!  The chief of this office, Eliseo Samuel is a Christian man and we felt that the Lord developed a strong connection with him and the church.  We gave him our canopy for a project for the police department and he arrived during the church service on Sunday to pick it up and greet the team one more time.  Often with the focus on the gangs and the violence, we forget those who serve the community.  As Eliseo told me, “under this uniform we are human beings.”

Ines 102 years old: On our second day in San José we had the honor of serving and praying for Ines, who was 102 years young.  Now almost completely blind and very frail, she was served in a much needed way in the very poor community of San José.  As we found with many of the visitors, when asked if they know Jesus, most say yes, but don’t have a personal relationship with Him.  This was NOT THE CASE with Ines.  As Hanya and I asked her our normal question of, “Do you know what Jesus has done for you to receive eternal life?” this very frail lady, lit up and began to declare how He had saved her and recounted the numerous blessings He had given her.  What a joy it was to serve this wonderful saint, born over a century ago!

Clockwise from Upper Left: Hanya with Ines / Pastor Paul and Justin on the prayer team / several of the patient mothers waiting / Police Chief Eliseo receives a canopy for his department / Prayer team / Wayne & Pastor Paul with officer Rolando / Theresa with intake interview / David in the pharmacy explains use of medications / Paul & Wayne test and distribute reading glasses / committed prayer team workers

 

Points of Interest from the team:

  1. Leading people to Christ – in a region where everyone has heard of Jesus, it was remarkable to see the large number (do not have an exact count) who had never made that commitment to receive salvation (Romans 10:9-10) and give their lives to Him.  It was a joy to lead so many in this commitment for the first time.
  2. 713 people received care from the team during the medical clinics.  Theresa led the intake process and Dr. Moots from the team, and a volunteer Dr. Monjaras from El Salvador met with each patient.  This included a medical consultation and/or reading glasses, prayer, prescriptions to the pharmacy, usually taking about 30 minutes, plus a wait in the line.  Nobody complained and the Salvadorans were “Very humble and kind people” as describer by our guest Doctor Moots, who has lead over 20 clinics like this.  This type of care is not common and many basic needs were met in a compassionate and loving way.
  3. Multiplying medications.  Jason recounted in our debrief meeting how the only bottle of a certain prescription that was regularly ordered by the doctor never ran out…a loaves and fishes type of miracle.
  4. Our local church members worked tirelessly.  Johanna in San José took down the names of EVERY SINGLE person (436) during the two days, and decided not to even take her lunch break until the clinic ended every day.  Our translators Justin (from our church plant) and Mario (also our driver) worked tirelessly with the prayer and medical teams.  Both churches’ volunteers embraced their community, taught the kids, cared for needs and prayed with their neighbors…basically the Kingdom of God, the church of Jesus Christ reached out and loved their neighbors in a very practical and selfless way.
  5. Health, safety and joy:  Some of our team members were warned not to come to El Salvador because of the security.  there were a couple of tired days and some colorful bug bites…but no accidents, injuries, irate patients, nothing of the “bad news” that many suggested.  In reality, on the last trip home after the fourth LONG…LONG day of re-routed traffic for closed highways, serving the multitudes in the heat, staying for a church service, and the ride home, our team was laughing and filled with joy.  I was so impressed and filled with joy by our Hope Chapel team!!
  6. As always, incredible, Spirit led ministry.  Jason, Paul Petruna, and Gail shared great devotional messages at our Bible studies, Pastors Paul and Andre preached down the power of God on our Sunday services and Vickie and Wayne shared stirring testimonies…and the prayer time was uniquely anointed as the Lord ministered through our team to our Salvadoran family.

Thank you Hope Chapel for a powerful 10 days of ministry…we can’t wait for the next visit!!