Sunday, March 27, 2011


On a long car journey while traveling for Spring Break, I’m listening to Three Cups of Tea by and about Greg Mortenson. He stumbled across an impoverished village in Pakistan inhabited by an ancient minority people group and decided to build them a school. Mortenson was not wealthy by any means but eventually stumbles across some donors to help him, and instead of building one school he ends up building dozens and funding little microbusiness support projects that primarily benefit women.

Here’s a guy who is not a Christian-- he seems pretty universalist-- but who, without hesitation or reservation, goes to meet the needs of total strangers. He ends up being adopted by a community of tribes, seeing his work blessed by supreme Shiia clerics in Iran, protected from a fatwa against him, and released from being kidnapped by Taliban fighters due to the purity of his cause. He changed lives, particularly those of women and girls, very dramatically and quickly in one of the harshest, most un-friendly places to Americans in the world.

He reminds me of a kid who came and spoke to our Sunday school class a couple weeks ago. He just went to Kenya on a whim. He settled in a remote mountain village teaching in a school, the only white person some had ever seen. In a few months time, he ended up being instrumental in getting supplies and more government support to that school. He loved on the kids and took them places they’d never been and bought the whole village pairs of shoes--something they’d never had before--changing their lives forever.

These people weren’t trained missionaries, nor were they sent by anybody. They just went.

If Mortenson had been a Christian, or more precisely a Southern Baptist, how would his story have been different? First, he would have had to be screened and approved by a body of people who don’t know him. Next, he would have to develop a strategy. Then he would have had to spend a long time raising both financial and prayer/moral support. Then he would have had to live in the country learning language for at least a year before beginning any major project. Then he’d have to deal with the skepticism of the locals who say “Where does his money come from? Why is he here?” Then just as he was getting a project going, he’d have had to go back to the U.S. for a year on stateside assignment (furlough). At the very first fatwa, he’d probably be evacuated never to return. I could think of some other things to make the list longer and more complicated...

There was a woman on 60 Minutes tonight who has devoted her life to helping children who have been mutilated by disasters and wars. Here’s her organization. She was at a low point in her life, was read a story about a badly mutilated Bosnian child, and has worked tirelessly ever since. She basically has begged, borrowed, and pleaded with people to provide medical help to kids who badly need it. She clearly believes in a loving God, but I doubt she would pass as an evangelical Christian. Yet, she’s been a greater ambassador for the idea of a loving God than most missionaries I know. Bringing kids (and their families) in for medical treatment is so outside-the-box for most churches and missions agencies; it just doesn’t happen.

I’m also reminded of four SBU students who spent their Spring Break trying to encourage microbusiness on an impoverished Sioux reservation in South Dakota. Two students took a road trip out there a while back, stumbled across this reservation, and decided to do something about it. They cold-called Lowes and Wal-Mart for money and supplies and were quickly given support by the companies. (I don’t know the details of their trip just yet, and may be off on some of the above) They just did it.

Mortenson is fond of saying “when your heart speaks, take good notes.”

We have good precedent for taking some well-counseled, measured thought before doing something big (Luke 14:28-30). But if you read the context around those verses, you see the reason the cost is measured is because it’s larger than what just about anyone is willing to pay. Our plans and strategies that are designed to insure success end up delaying it or preventing it altogether. In the end we have to just do it. Just try something.

All this will be on my mind.

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