Letting God Rock Your World.

This is a guest post by my friend Ann Zuccardy. As you will see, Ann is a new Christian who recently went on her first mission trip. I have great respect for Ann and appreciate her honesty about the struggle such a trip entailed. One thing I love about Ann and her journey with Christ is that it is truly provocative. She is living the kind of life that would provoke the “why” question and thus open the door to a conversation about Jesus.

She is the founder of AZ Communications, a blogger, and TEDx presenter on living with a brain injury as well as adjunct faculty at Champlain University in Vermont where she teaches a course titled, Writing for the Web.

Ann’s Blog     Ann’ TEDx Talk

Enjoy,

Dan

Haiti

I’ve been to third world countries and I’ve seen real poverty. I taught in inner city schools in New Orleans. I’ve worked as a doula helping women give birth and I’ve worked in hospice care supporting dying patients and their families. As both a mother and a person with experience caring for others, I’m unflappable when I’m urinated or vomited on. When the opportunity arose through my church to go to Haiti on a medical mission trip, I eagerly signed up, cool and calm, confident that nothing I saw there would shake me. I should mention that I am a newbie Christian. Yep. I’m a “baby” at the age of 51, having only started following Jesus just over a year ago.

Haiti, the Future, and You

At some point the attention of the world will move away from Haiti. It will happen for any number of reasons and probably a combination of them all; disaster fatigue on our parts, some new item will hit the news and replace Haiti, the drama of rescues will subside, the slow work of rebuilding is just not compelling news, or simply we want to get back to our own lives. However, the pain of the people there, the work needed to restore lives, and the opportunity to show the love of Christ will continue for years, maybe decades, to come. With estimates of 200,000 dead this approaches one hundred times as many dead as 9/11 or Katrina. The physical devastation makes Katrina and Hurricane Andrew look manageable.

So how does the Body of Christ respond once the media attention has died and the initial disaster relief is over? Let’s consider what a provocative Christian response would be and make a decision now to do just that. In order to help Haiti in a positive way it will be important that rebuilding happens in cooperation with local Haitians. The world could come in and rebuild everything and leave Haiti with all new infrastructure but no sense of self-worth as a people or ownership of their lives. We would simply be continuing what has become a “welfare-dependent state” that is forced to look to the rest of the world for its sustenance. What needs to happen is for Christians to connect with other Christians in Haiti and come along side them, working together to rebuild their country and their lives in ways that allow them to own the process and the results. We need to go as servants not as the answer people who will solve all the problems.

So where do we start? First we need to look to those groups who are already connected in Haiti that are helping Haitian Churches impact their communities. Through those groups we can come alongside our brothers and sisters who live there, know the community, know the needs, and will carry on the work of Christ when no foreigners are around. We need to help those locals be seen as the ones doing the real work and we are serving them. Groups like Churches Helping Churches, New Missions, and IsleGo are already doing this. They are helping local Haitian Churches make an impact for Jesus. The best thing we can do is commit to help them do that.

Second, we need to have followers of Jesus from all over the world connect to organizations like this and then go to Haiti. They don’t need you there today. There are plenty of first responders and other trained disaster relief people getting there. In fact there is a backlog of people trying to get on the island. But what about four or five months from now? Would you be willing to forgo your plans for a two-week summer vacation and instead go to Haiti for two weeks and serve? Would you be willing to commit to that for the summer of 2010, 2011, and even 2012? That is provocative. That is Christ-like serving.

Third, would you be willing to ask others, even people who are not following Christ to join you on such a mission? Yes even those who do not follow Jesus can be used by Jesus for his glory. Not only that, but Jesus has a way of bringing people into a relationship with himself by first getting them to server others in just such situations. I saw a family of four go on a trip to rebuild homes in Mississippi with a dozen other Christ-followers. On that trip the entire family came to Christ because of the love they saw demonstrated and because Jesus used that trip to break down their walls.

This is certainly one of the greatest disasters in the Western Hemisphere in some time. But it is also one of the greatest opportunities we have had to demonstrate what it means to “Love Jesus With All Our Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength and to Love Our Neighbor as Ourselves”. That is what being a Provocative Christian is all about.

Haiti, The Devil, and Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson is quoted as saying that the earthquake in Haiti is God’s punishment for a deal that nation made with the Devil in 1804. Robertson claims that the pact was made so that the Haitian people would be able to defeat the French who held them in slavery. CNN article on Robertson Normally I would not deal with this subject and disagree so openly with another Christian. However in this case, there is a theology behind such an outrageous statement that must be addressed. The statement is that God is punishing an entire nation for an evil committed 200 years ago. Without even dealing with whether or not such a pact was ever made we need to deal with the theology of punishment that Robertson seems to buy into so often. Remember he also said that Katrina was God’s punishment on New Orleans for its sins and that Virginia Beach was saved from a hurricane because he prayed for it to go elsewhere. (I wonder how the people who live in the towns where that hurricane eventually struck feel about that prayer) The net result being that God spared Virginia Beach because of the prayers of the righteous and destroyed Haiti and New Orleans because of the sins of the wicked.

At first glance it is easy for many to buy into a theology of destruction and mass punishment from God. You can point to Sodom and Gomorrah as an example. But here is the difference. Prior to the destruction of those wicked places, God had a conversation with Abraham. The result of the conversation was that there were less than five people in those two towns who were not guilty of grievous sin and God insured the safety of those people. He was not going to destroy the just with the unjust when he punished someone for their sins.

During Jesus’ day there were a great many people who held to the theology of destruction as punishment that Robertson pronounces so often. The idea was simple. If something bad happened to you it was because you were a bad person and had done something to deserve it. Jesus shot down that theology as strongly as possible. In Luke 13 he deals with this issue:

1Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

People had the idea that the Galileans who Pilate killed and the people who had a building fall on them must have deserved it because they were very bad people. Jesus says that they were no worse than anyone else. They were no more guilty than anyone else in Jerusalem. The implication being that all of us are guilty of sin and all of us, not just Haitians, or people from New Orleans, have sinned and could face the consequences. Earthquakes happen because we live in a world that is spiritually fallen. Tragedies strike because of sin, but it is most often the general condition of sin and not some specific national or group sin that brings the hurricane or tornado. A tower fell on a bunch of people in Jerusalem because in a sinful world, towers do that sort of thing from time to time. They don’t fall only on “bad” people. When they fall on people, “good” people and “bad” people can all get killed. But of course we need to remember that because of sin we are all “bad” people. That was Jesus’ point. Those people were no worse than anyone else who did not have a tower fall on them.

In a passage in Matthew 5 designed to help us learn how to respond to our enemies Jesus says this: 43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust and the sun to rise on them as well. What Jesus is saying is that God makes good things happen to everyone, even your enemy, so love them and care for them as God does. The flip side is that God also allows tragedy to strike the just and the unjust. Why is another question for another time. But the point being, everyone faces good times and hard times in life and when those times are faced by a massive group of people it has little to deal with specific sins or 200-year-old deals with the Devil. It has to do with a world that is fallen in general.

We live in a fallen world. Earthquakes happen in such a world. Buildings collapse on people in such a world. Our response is not to be one of smug self-righteousness that says “those people deserved the earthquake” or “those people deserved to have the tower fall on them”. Rather, our response is to love such people as we would want to be loved. So if you lived in Haiti how would you want to be loved? You could have someone say, “Too bad, your ancestors brought this on you with a deal with the devil” or you could have someone pray for you, provide shelter, food, medicine, and Christ-like love for you. I think it is clear what Jesus would do.

As one final thought, I wonder, which of those two people will you listen to when they say you need to surrender your life to follow Jesus?