Posts Tagged "poverty"

Small but Mighty – Cassi Piper

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Small but Mighty – Cassi Piper

By earthly standards, it had failed. Their highly effective youth program shut down due to a building that needed too numerous repairs to count, exceedingly dwindling finances, and only 15 remaining members. Many in their shoes would have lost hope. If it were a business, the doors would have long been shuttered, its employees shifted to a new location or left on their own to find new lines of work. A not-for-profit would have thrown up its hands for lack of funding and found new ventures to try with a new target audience to help.

In an area of strife with poverty, violence and indifference, no one would have blamed them for quitting. Sure they might help a few people, but is sacrificing so much for so few really worth it? Certainly they had given enough, perhaps it was time for them to pursue their own dreams, focus on their own families, or simply move away from the heartache they faced every day.

But God had told the membership of the little Methodist Church on the corner of South Union Avenue and 44th Street that there was still work to be done. So they stayed. They prayed. And they continued to pour themselves out into the neighboring community they had grown to love. They became the local site for the county food pantry. They held weekly neighborhood feasts where everyone was welcome to share in the meal and fellowship at no cost to their families. They became a host location for a national youth organization, allowing their humble building to house hundreds of teens each summer who were impacted for God by their service to neighboring communities.

And through their obedience to God’s calling, they impacted me. Having been a member at a large (some would call “mega church”) for most of my life,  my husband and I chose to join a significantly smaller, local congregation that served the city where we lived.  We definitely went through a period of adjustment. Gone were the seemingly unlimited resources, the latest sound technology, the abundance of volunteers and gorgeous architecture. Gone too was the ability for us to just be one of the crowd, to allow others to do faith for us while we nodded our approval.

Of course there are many people who have tremendous faith in large churches and there is nothing wrong with having an abundance of resources, people or nice locations. God uses large congregations in fantastic ways. But for us, we needed to be pushed. We needed a faith community to challenge us, grow us and expect us to do the same in return. Ten years later, our small church has now become family – people we cry and laugh with. Pray with. Cheer with. Lookout for each other’s kids with.

At times however I must confess that being part of a smaller faith community with very limited finances and volunteers has its challenges. It’s hard sometimes not to compare ourselves to other congregations in the area that seem to have so much more and wonder whether we are really having an impact.

But then I remember the little Methodist Church and I am reminded and encouraged that no matter the size, God can and will use a faithful people to build His kingdom. In fact in Matthew 18:20 Jesus promises us that even where only two or three of his faithful gather in His name, He will be there. That is powerful encouragement! So take heart church. Continue to be obedient to God’s calling. Rest assured that God’s work through us is never in vain. By the world’s standards we may be small but in Christ not even the gates of Hell can stand against us. (Mathew16:18)

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Dependance Day – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Dependance Day – Pastor Matt

Jesus observes the rich and the poor putting gifts into the temple treasury.  His comments focus on a poor widow, who has given all that she has.  He takes a sharp contrast between the gifts of this woman and the gifts of those who have much.  What he says is startling.  He says that this woman has put more in than any other because it costs her so much.

For Jesus’ statement to be true, it would mean that the value of the gift is more about what it costs the giver.  In other words, any worldly value is inconsistent with heavenly value.  From Jesus’ perspective, the heavenly value of this Widow’s gift far outpaces any gift from the wealthy individuals that day.

What that means for us is simply this; poverty is the best place to find our true bearing.  Only within poverty can we see our absolute need for God.  Only within poverty do we recognize our sheer inability to control our own destinies.

In Luke 6, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kinddom of heaven.”  How can poverty lead to anything good?  In any form, poverty is like a pair of glasses that help us see what we really are … poor.  In the presence of a Holy God, what is the difference between the rich and the poor?  They are both equally in need of his grace, yet one is aware of that truth and one is not.

So who is really blessed, the widow or the wealthy?  The one who’s every fiber knows their own poverty is blessed.  The blessed one knows their dependence on God is total.


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Going to the Ends of the Earth – Cassie Buelow

Posted by on Sep 17, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Going to the Ends of the Earth – Cassie Buelow

Have you ever traveled out of the country? Just the thought of sitting on a plane for hours upon hours in anticipation of stepping onto new soil is exciting. Plane rides have really proved to be a great people watching opportunity, especially for international flights because you have people from all over the world going to or from their home countries for countless opportunities and reasons.

May 6th I got on my first ever international flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam and then from Amsterdam to Kigali, ending in Entebbe, Uganda. I was going for school as an intercultural studies major; and part of my degree is to complete a fieldwork study and internship internationally, but I too was going as I was called by God to go to the ends of the earth.

You may be curious as to how I ended up there or what I had the opportunity to do, and I’d love to share just a glimpse into my three months in Uganda: First of all, as I mentioned, I had to complete a month long field work trip and a two month internship internationally. I had the world open to where I could go, but God had a plan for me in Uganda.

My first month I got to spend my time living with a host family. When we think of host families in America we imagine a foreign student coming to learn about America in some degree and that is exactly what I was doing, without the luxuries of running water, air conditioning, my own bed and pillow, wireless internet, a cell phone, among other things.

I was living in a home consisting of a mom, brother, sister, and nephew, both grandparents, and other extended family lived in the surrounding huts. Yes, did I mention I was living in a mud (and manure) hut, with little electricity, sleeping under a mosquito net and having thousands of spiders, a few cockroaches and a rat as pet.

A typical day for me was to get up at 5:30am and go to the gardens with my host mom. We would weed beans, tomatoes, replant onions, etc. until 9am. Then we’d make our way home sometimes stopping by huts to greet people. Upon reaching home I would begin making breakfast with my host sister while doing housework like sweeping, washing dishes, or clothes. After breakfast I would do two hours of language and culture learning with my host brother. Lunch would follow and then adventures into the foot trails came next. As we traveled the foot paths we’d be welcomed into any hut we passed and I got to practice my language, learn culture, and build relationships. I would walk the trail and before you knew it I’d have anywhere from one to thirty and sometimes more children following me. I was likely the first white person that many of the children had seen. I’d make it back to my host home for a little time to relax and wash up before dinner, prayer and bed always came by 8:30pm.

That was routine Monday through Saturday, but on Sundays things were a bit different. Sunday was always seen as a day of rest. I got to “sleep in” before getting up and going to church with my host mom and host brother. I attended a catholic church with my host family and the first day was asked to introduce myself in front of the church. I decided to do so in their local language as I had learned to do that by then and I had the entire church laughing. They laughed because they were impressed I’d learned their language, but also because I guess introductions are rather important and goes a lot deeper than American introductions. After my first Sunday the church asked me to give a sermon and I agreed, however the night before I was supposed to give my sermon I got really sick and woke up Sunday morning knowing I would not be able to give my sermon.

All the while, I would get together with other students from my university and tour organizations in the area. We got to lead a group of 200 children in a Bible study at the Child Restoration Outreach.  We met hundreds of people at TASO (an HIV/AIDS organization) who struggle to live with a disease that was thought to take over Africa at one time.  We also got to do community development with Mission—Moving Mountains.  And we spent three days doing Jesus Film Ministry in Lira giving sermons and testimonies of forgiveness and God’s faithfulness, among other things.

At that the other students and my professor were headed home and I had two months ahead of me in Uganda. I had the seemingly once in a lifetime change to travel to Fort Portal Uganda to meet my sponsor child Babaritah. This was such an eye-opening experience. I was blessed in a way I never imagined to know that my small amount of money each month was going this little girl to improve her life.

Then I traveled North to Lira, then over to Gulu where I would remain for two months doing my international internship with The Recreation Project. I was blessed with the opportunity to be an intern at The Recreation Project for nine weeks. When I first looked into internships I was torn between two places, but God had a plan for me and certainly going to TRP was where he wanted me.

TRP is a young and small organization created to use recreation as a form of therapy. TRP creates obstacles and challenges that put kids in a state of fear (as they were when they were abducted by the Lords Resistance Army, or living in abusive homes, etc.) in a healthy and encouraging environment. It also allows children to be creative, develop a plan, and build trust, relationships, communication and other life skills.

Some of the highlights from my nine weeks at TRP include working with a group of women from the northern most part of Uganda who were rescued out of the sex industry. There was something about those women that was encouraging. I watched them come in quiet, without energy, and very much chained by their pasts, but after a day in the forest—where TRP exists—these women were crying in our arms, overcoming fears, and learning to communicate their emotions of fear, anger, disgust, etc. The women left our presence as new, free women.

I also got to work with a group of girls ages 7-15 from Zion Project. These girls live in a rescue home at Zion Project as they were rescued out of abusive homes. I connected with these girls on a level so unexplainable, but so real. TRP isn’t a sit down and force youth to talk about their issues kind of place, it is a place where we use recreation to provide youth with healthy coping habits. I connected with these girls on a level where we all knew we came from—somehow—the same past, but we never once spoke about it. Instead we encouraged each other and built healthy relationships for what may have been the first time for those girls.

Working with the girls from Zion project was much of a dream come true. When I realized I was called by God to do mission work I had a feeling it was supposed to be with children rescued out of abusive homes or out of the sex trade and I watched that God-given dream come true while in Gulu this summer, I was simply blessed to experience that.

Outside of those two fantastic groups I met many others as they came through the forest. I worked with CEO’s, children born in captivity, youth who are awaiting trial and countless other groups of people. It was all a growing experience and a learning opportunity for me. TRP is run by Christians, but the organization is not associated with religion or faith; still, I found many ways to communicate God’s love to the broken and traumatized people of Northern Uganda.

I too was coaching softball at a nearby primary school. This was the most exhausting part of my internship, but also a ton of fun. On an average day I had sixty to eighty youth to myself.

I had thought they would have known a little upon arriving, but I was wrong. The children didn’t even know how to choose and put on their gloves.  So I was starting from ground zero, and in nine weeks the girls came a long way and they were playing the actual game of softball before I left.

Daily, I was able to be with handfuls of children as I walked the roads of Gulu. I built relationships with the children, with the staff at The Recreation Project and with the staff that took such care of me at my guest house. I was impacted and grew in ways I never thought imaginable.

Thinking back to before I left I asked myself why I was going—and yes I was going for school and because God was calling me to go—but honestly I was going to be taught and changed by the people. In short I learned simplicity, thankfulness, forgiveness and joy to a level that Americans don’t understand totally.  So maybe that is why I went, that I could bring back those very lessons to the people of my very own culture. In our culture have more than we could possibly need and yet we lack joy and thankfulness. The people I lived among for three months have nothing and they often times don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, but they are the most joyful and thankful people I’ve ever encountered. I’d say my time in Uganda was too short. I didn’t want to leave and I’ve struggled being back in the states, but I have come to a peace knowing God will take me back when it is my time to go back and until then I will embrace every reason I am here.

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Are All Religions the Same? – Pastor Matt

Posted by on Apr 15, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Are All Religions the Same? – Pastor Matt

Are all Religions the Same?

This is a question that is raised all the time, because there are universal similarities to all religions.  In essence, all religions claim to have an answer/solution to THE big problem: evil.  Of course, there isn’t consensus to the definition of evil and thus no consensus to the answer/solution.  To illustrate, modern politicians seek to address issues like poverty, yet there is no consensus on the causes of poverty; therefore, there is no consensus on how to best approach the issue.  One wouldn’t then say all proposed solutions would solve the problem equally.  There are better ways and worse ways to address poverty.

Raising the question about the “sameness” of religions shows that there is at least a consensus about the existence of a problem.  Religions agree that there is something wrong with this world, even if they don’t agree as to what.  That only proves there is a problem.

If one concludes that all religions are the same, it would essentially minimize the meaning of all religions.  If all religions are the same they essentially are nothing and mean nothing.   It’s like playing a game of Trivial Pursuit and instead of earning wedges by answering questions correctly, you earn wedges by listening to questions being read.

If every proposed solution to end poverty garners the same results, then why propose a solution in the first place?  If we truly believed that, we would have to believe that poverty isn’t real.  But poverty is real, whether we do anything about it or not.  So, if we truly believed that all answers/solutions to the problem of evil garners the same results, then there must not be a problem of evil.  Most of us, however, know deep in our hearts that evil is real.  Responding to that evil is where it gets interesting.

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