February 7, 2010: “Beyond Borders!”

Posted on : Feb 4th, 2010 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Welcome to

LifeServe 2010

Whose lives are different because of you?

Breaking News:   “Ten Members of Central Valley Baptist Church, from Boise, Idaho, arrested for attempted kidnapping and child trafficking of Haitian children.”

This week we’ve certainly seen how NOT TO DO international Christian Mission and Service!  I have to say I’m not surprised by this story, and I hope and pray this truly was motivated by “good intentions.”

If you haven’t followed the story, in short, a group of 10 members of Central Valley Baptist Church of Boise, Idaho, were arrested Feb. 2, by the Haitian government, on charges of attempted kidnapping and child trafficking of Haitian children.  The group from this church was detained at the border of Haiti while trying to enter the Dominican Republic with 33 children, many of whom turned out not to be orphans.  According to a story in the LA Times (February 3, 2010 p. A8):

Before the earthquake, two members of the church started a charity in hopes of building an orphanage in the Dominican Republic for Haitian children.  (After the earthquake,) they asked the church missions program to help them get to (Haiti) as soon as possible.  The congregation responded.

Members of Central Valley Church have traveled on overseas missions before.  “This was kind of a no-brainer,” said Pastor Clint Henry.  “Let’s go and be part of changing kids’ lives.”

On Tuesday (Feb 2), the head of SOS Children’s Village – which is now sheltering the children – said that the youths, while in the church groups care, “weren’t well dressed, they were dehydrated.  They needed medical assistance.”  I don’t know all the facts, CEO Heather Paul said, but if they were good intentions, they’ve certainly gone awry.”

I sure hope this church group did not intend to “traffic children” but there is clearly something that has not come out in this story.  I do know that the conservative side of Christianity has been fueling the fires accusing the people of Haiti of being pagan with stories about some Haitians’ practice of Voodoo.  Pat Robertson, as he is so skilled at doing, started this fire the day of the earthquake when he said “God caused the earthquake because the Haitians have made a pact with the devil.”  I would not be the least bit surprised if ultimately it comes out that this humanitarian mission was also fueled by the desire to “save these children” from more than the effects of the earthquake.

This story illustrates for us the some of the challenges in engaging in cross-cultural mission and service.  During the 19th and first half of the 20th century, almost all Christian Churches “sent missionaries abroad to save the souls” of non-Christians and provide humanitarian service.  Some churches and religious traditions still do this.  In fact just a few weeks ago a friend of mine was telling me how her mother’s church had just sent a medical team to a developing country to provide medical, dental and optical care for the impoverished native peoples.   However, before the people had the opportunity to be seen by a medical professional, they had to listen to a gospel “salvation message.”  Through a webcast, the sponsoring church was celebrating daily the number of persons who “received Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior.”

Today in the Presbyterian Church and specifically here at West Hollywood Church, we work within a different model of serving.  It is the model of partnership.  Partnership begins by affirming equality.  Partnership honors and values diversity and recognizes that “all are equally loved. All of us are of equal value.   And all of us have gifts to give and share with one another.”

Three of our members, David Gana, Elizabeth Kesner and Randy Tullis have just returned from a week of partnership-building with our Presbytery’s mission partners in La Goyena, Nicaragua.  They are filled with excitement and joy – abounding in the Holy Spirit – about their experience and the ways that we as a congregation and our Presbytery can partner with one another in serving and making a difference in everyone’s lives (both the people of LaGoyena and ours).   This Sunday they are going to share with us what they have learned from our sisters and brothers in La Goyena and how we can work together to make all of our lives more full in both faith, love and service.  As you will hear, we are working with C.E.P.A.D. (Consejo de Igelsias Evangelicas Pro Alianza Denominacional – the Nicaraguan Council of Protestant Churches).  By working with experienced native church leaders, we not only learn about native peoples and their cultural and spiritual customs and traditions, we hope and pray they will help us “not make the mistakes that our good intentions sometimes lead to.”

Serving others is one of the greatest gifts we have been given.  But as the events of this past week have shown, we have to be careful and sensitive in our assumptions, actions and serving.  This Sunday’s scriptures are both wonderful lessons we can learn about serving and living “beyond borders.”

In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul teaches us that we are no longer aliens or foreign visitors; we are fellow-citizens with the holy people of God and part of God’s household (one family).

In this Sunday’s Gospel, A Syro-Phoenician woman (Gentile) makes Jesus change his mind and widen his grace.  This story speaks to the problem that many times exists in mission partnerships: “We help you, the unfortunate poor people who need help,” instead of “We help one another, both learning from one another, both receiving something in the partnership.” Jesus learned from this woman, causing him to grow and become more inclusive in his ministry.  We pray the same for ourselves as we learn how to make a difference as we serve others beyond our borders!

Blessings,

Dan

This Sunday’s Scriptures:

Ephesians 2: 11-22

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, reminds us that we are no longer aliens or foreign visitors; we are fellow-citizens with the holy people of God and part of God’s household (one family).

Bear in mind that at one time the men among you who were Gentiles physically – called “the Uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the Circumcised,” all because of a minor operation – had no part in Christ and were excluded from the community of Israel.  You were strangers to the Covenant and its promise; you were without hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For Christ is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart.  In his own flesh, Christ abolished the Law, with its commands and ordinances, in order to make the two into one new person, thus establishing peace and reconciling us all to God in one body though the cross, which put to death the enmity between us.  Christ came and “announced the Good News of peace to you who were far away, and to those who were near”; for through Christ, we all have access in one Sprit to our God.

This means that you are strangers and aliens no longer.  No, you are included in God’s holy people and are members of the household of God, which is build on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus as the capstone.  In Christ the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in our God; in Christ you are being built into this temple, to become a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Mark 7: 24-30

A Syro-Phoenician woman makes Jesus change his mind and widen his grace.  This story speaks to the problem that many times exists in mission partnerships: “we help you, the unfortunate poor people who need help,” instead of “we help one another, both learning from one another, both receiving something in the partnership.” Jesus learned from this woman, causing him to grow and become more inclusive in his ministry.

Jesus left Gennesaret and went to the territory of Tyre and Sidon.  There he went into a certain house and wanted no one to recognize him, but he could not pass unrecognized.

A woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.  She approached Jesus and fell at his feet.  The woman, who was Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, begged Jesus to expel the demon from her daughter.  Jesus told her, “Let the children of the household satisfy themselves at table first.  It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “Yes, Rabbi, but even the dogs under the table eat the family’s scraps.”

Then Jesus said to her, “For saying this, you may go home happy; the demon has left your daughter.”  When she got home, she found her daughter in bed and the demon gone.