18 November 2013

How one family's crisis of faith strengthened mine

Recently I read a news story about a man and how he and his family left the church they had attended all their life and have found happiness in another denomination. It was a respectful and well written article in which this man and his wife told about things that happened that caused them to look elsewhere for a spiritual home. The article quoted the man as saying, “Before I was working for my salvation - today I am working because I'm grateful for my salvation."  I'm saddened that he had this misunderstanding and felt, in his former church, that he needed to be "working for his salvation". This made me wonder how many other Christians are misguided like this. How many others do the things asked at church because they feel like they have to check the boxes on the list or they won't be with God or their families forever? I asked myself do I do these "works" i.e.-  baptism, partake of the sacrament,  attend Sunday services, help out in teaching a class or organizing an activity or give service  (service given because it is asked of me or because I saw an need and quietly stepped in)  because I feel a need to “work for my salvation” or because “I rejoice in my salvation”.

I think it is easy to fall into the trap of “working for your salvation”. It’s one more thing to add to the never ending to-do list:
                Wash the dishes
                Read the scriptures
                Fold the laundry
                Say a prayer
                Visit my neighbor
And soon we are checking the boxes, feeling guilty when we miss the mark, and start equating in paying tithing with paying taxes and attending Sunday services is ranked with getting the grocery shopping done.

It is important that we give service, that we study the word of God, that we say our prayers, that we gather to worship with others, but no matter how long your spiritual to-do list is you can’t work for your salvation. No amount of work or perfectness or lists with little checked off boxes will earn your way into Heaven - just faith and repentance and love.

So, I serve and work and worship in Christ’s church because I rejoice in my  salvation, because I "stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me", because I  know that  "my redeemer lives" and He does so for me. I know that whatever "work" I do in whatever way for His other children is just a bonus to the gifts I've already received from Him.

11 November 2013

Homes - Heroes - Hope

Men and women, youth and retirees, help to rebuild homes through Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS). 

VOLUNTEERS have been working tirelessly to rebuild homes on Staten Island that were damaged or destroyed by hurricane Sandy. Volunteers will rotate in and out as their time allows committing to work for a week or more. Heading the project up will be a local leader who makes sure the there is consistency and order to the work being done. Also, the volunteers, especially those who live out of the area, will take time to visit local landmarks. In the case of the Staten Island crew they took and evening and visited the 9/11 National Memorial and the Empire State Building.   

Husband and wife working together.
In Bastrop, TX the place of one of Texas' largest wildfires MDS rebuilt nine homes. Building homes does more than give a family a much needed temporal abode it gives a family HOPE. “One common factor in all of those homes was the hope of the clients. All had been working and waiting for over a year to reach home. Some had just about expended all of their resources and given up, but some hope remained. It was up to the MDS volunteers to rebuild that hope.” 

A finished home in Texas
Braithwaite, LA flooded when hurricane Isaac came ashore, hit against the reinforced levies around New Orleans and sent the water rushing over the Plaquemiene Parish levees flooding the town of Braithwaite. Volunteers (living in a temporary RV camp) scraped, sanded, mudded, and painted their way into repairing homes in this community. In exchange the grateful individuals took the volunteers on tours of New Orleans, set up a fresh shrimp feast, and encouraged them to pick bags full of citrus fruit from their orchards to take back home to family. I know the volunteers do this work out the desire and need to serve their fellow man, but I can’t help but think of the long term satisfaction and reward they get from the friends they make.

Braithwaite, LA
MDS has over eleven projects  going on in both the U.S. and Canada. One thing that amazes me is the care and dedication this organization gives to an area long after the news cameras have left and the rest of the world has forgotten the disaster. MDS has not forgotten these communities no matter how small or how far off the map they may be. One example of a far off the map is the work being done in Circle, Alaska. A hundred homes were destroyed in this tiny community and I don’t recall ever hearing about the ice dam that caused the thawing river to flood, but MDS is there working hard and fast to put up simple home that have been shipped to Circle in kit form.

The most recent project MDS is taking on is Colorado. As of mid-October a clean-up team was on the ground. As additional plans for clean-up are made and volunteer needs are known, the MDS website will be updated.

You can find more information about Mennonite Disaster Services at their web site /http://mds.mennonite.net/home/.  There is a place to make monetary donation as well as a place to sign up to help. Who knows maybe your upcoming vacation will be to lend a hand to someone in need, make new friends, and explore the wonders of a new place.

Responding – Rebuilding – Restoring

Faithful Hands, Open Heart video