| || |
I came across a poster a few years ago that once again reminded me how amazing God is. When people struggle with doubt or personal failure, there is a great fear that God cannot or will not work through them to make a difference. But a quick look in the Bible at some of the people God used will take away those fears. Here's what the poster said:
Do You Seriously Think God Can't Use You?
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Does “hope” seem like a “churchy” word to you? I have to admit that sometimes it does to me, and like you, I may have wondered what difference are we each able to make just sponsoring a child. It's not hard to remember that Jesus held up little children as being “the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” He was clear on the value of a child. I have always loved children and invested in them personally and professionally, but really had never gotten on the “bandwagon” of sponsoring a child in a Third World country - until now!
Recently our pastoral staff read an article regarding research that was done to look at the effects of child sponsorship. The results were astounding. Dr. Bryan Wydick, at the University of San Francisco, a leading economist, set out to research the effects of child sponsorship. His results were recently published in the Journal of Political Economy, which for economists is like the New England journal of medicine for medical research, the “gold standard” of published research for the field. What he and his graduate students found is truly amazing and I want to share a few quotes from this article.
Property causes children to have very low self-esteem, low aspirations. The big difference that sponsorship makes is that it expands children's views about their own possibilities. Many of these children don't think they are capable of much. We (Sponsorship) help them realize they are each given special gifts from God to benefit their communities and we try to help them develop aspirations for their future.
The patient nurturing of self-worth, self-expectations, dreams, and aspirations may be a critical part of helping children escape poverty.
The study also found that, Sponsorship makes children 27 to 40% more likely to complete secondary school, and 50 to 80% more likely to complete the University education.
Sponsored children become teachers as adults instead of remaining jobless for working in menial agricultural labor… they are more likely to grow up to become community leaders and church leaders.
(Bruce Wydick, “Want to Change the World? Sponsor a Child”. Christianity Today. June 14, 2013.)
I would always agree that we should care, because Jesus said that we should, but how interesting that this research comes to our attention just as we at FCC are entering into a child sponsorship opportunity of unprecedented proportions.
Sunday, April 26th each of us will be given our first opportunity to sponsor a child. We are being invited to enter into a partnership the Covenant Church has initiated with World Vision, the leading arm of humanitarian response in the mission region that we as a Covenant Church have served in for the last 78 years - The northwest region of The Democratic Republic of Congo. This remote area, only accessible by boat or plane, is ranked at the bottom of the list of areas in a world with the greatest need. The DRC is ranked 187 out of 187 on the Human Index of the neediest places in the world. The DRC is at the bottom of the list because of the lack of basic medical care, lack of basic education, lack of access to clean water, excessive malnutrition and lack of sanitation. A shocking 1 in 5 children will die before the age of 5 in Congo, most of preventable diseases, and the life expectancy there is only 48 years old. We have an opportunity to do something, not everything, but something! I believe that is what God is inviting us to do. On Sunday, April 26th you will have an opportunity to choose a child that you would like to sponsor for $40 per month. Join me in personally asking God to select a child for you so that you can join Him in making a difference by bringing hope to these desperate children, who He so dearly loves. I have seen some of the work that is being done and I can bear witness that God is bringing hope to our brothers and sister in the DRC.
PS. Check out Pastor Nancy's sermon on 4/19/15 to find out more about the plight that children in the DRC face and what the Covenant Church and World Vision have already done in the area to bring hope.
Living this life for God requires hope because we can't see every part of creation being redeemed in our present reality. In Romans 8:22-25 we have a passage that describes the present brokenness in our world and the hope that we have of future redemption in Christ. It says that our longing for Jesus’ healing is seen in all of creation (nature) as if it were groaning in pain for the relief of suffering. It also describes how we humans are groaning inwardly longing for God’s healing of our personal lives and the redemption of our bodies one day. We need God’s hope to help us hold on while we live for him in the midst of a hurting and shattered world. Then, the next verse goes on to say something surprising….
...God is praying for us!
Yes. That’s exactly what it says. Not only is he praying for us, but this passage says that he intercedes for us with groanings or sighs that cannot even be uttered in words! Read Romans 8:26 below:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
The Holy Spirit, God, our Comforter, is interceding for us, praying for us, encouraging us, wishing our well being, crying out for us, groaning and sighing in hope for our redemption.
He does this because He knows that we need help in our weaknesses, our limitations, our sin, and our mortality.
He does this because He knows that we need encouragement to continue living our Christian life in the midst of our doubts, our fears and our struggles.
He does this because He knows that we are longing for our ultimate healing and our resurrection from the dead at the last day.
He does this because God is not unaffected by our challenges in life. God is actually more personally affected than we are, because He is our Creator and his love for us is greater than you or I can ever imagine.
So, if you’ve ever wanted someone to pray for you (and we should still ask this of our Christian brothers and sisters), you can always know first and foremost, that God is already praying for you now. Let his prayers for you be heard today by meditating on his word, seeking his truth and letting his grace speak into your life today. Amen.
FCC Mission Board Chair
We here at FCC Oakland are working together with Covenant Kids Congo/World vision to bring hope for a bright future to our Congolese sisters and brothers. Our hope compels us to walk alongside our Congolese sisters and brothers to help keep their children healthy, educated and ready to reach for the opportunities for a brighter future. We do this by promoting sustainable communities that will change the lives of thousands.
The Covenant denomination has been in the Congo since 1937, we have a strong history there. On October 1, 2012 the Covenant Church entered into a partnership with World Vision to provide hope to the Congolese people and communities through the sponsorship of 10,000 children. To date upward towards 80% of that goal has been reached. We here at FCC Oakland will have the opportunity to keep building on that number through our Hope Sundays, April 26th, May 3rd and May 10th .
In 1 Corinthians 4:2 it says “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful”. So won’t you please join your Missions Board, Leadership Team, Women’s Missionary Circle and many of your fellow congregants in supporting our Congolese family in one and/or all of these ways:
Pray: for the people of the Congo
Hope: gather information at our Hope Sunday information table
Act: sponsor a child (help a community)
We as a domination have a strong foundational history in the Congo, we are now presently continuing that legacy in a holistic and comprehensive way that will have a direct and long lasting impact for the future of the communities the DR Congo. May you seek God’s will for you in this endeavor.
Our pastoral staff publish a weekly article here.