Thursday, February 25, 2010


Can careful messaging turn skeptics into advocates to bring about fair immigration reform?

I traveled out of state on Tuesday to participate, with 12 other faith leaders from across the country, in media advocacy training on immigration reform.  It is an intensive, hands-on, four-day workshop on media messaging for the sake of addressing the challenge of finding a way for more than 12 millions illegal immigrants to become tax-paying citizens.

It's interesting that the language I prefer to use regarding the immigration challenge that our nation faces is theological and ethical.  I want to use "welcoming the stranger in our midst," "caring for the alien among us," "being a neighbor," "doing justice," etc.  I don't want to use the term "illegal immigrants," but "undocumented workers" or "people who came to our country without proper documents."

But this language and approach is not winning the hearts and minds of most Americans, who take a much harder, jaded view of illegal immigrants.  People have ambivalent feelings about folks who are in our country without documentation, or who have stayed after their visas expired.  The mood of the majority of Americans right now is not at all favorable toward them.  Finding the language and approach that speaks to our common interests and values in regard to the future of 12 million illegal immigrants is critical.

This four-day workshop explores this challenge.  Can careful messaging in the news media and in conversations with people effectively turn detractors and skeptics into favorable voters and advocates to resolve an immigration situation that has spiraled out of control and leaves many people--American citizens as well as illegal immigrants--vulnerable and angry?  I hope the answer is yes.

Gotta get to class. More later.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Might the cross Haiti bears become a source of hope for us all?

I spoke in a church yesterday, relating the following story.

I met Mondale Perkins Oscar when I traveled to Haiti a few weeks ago.  Mondale grew up as a sponsored child through International Child Care Ministries (ICCM) of the Free Methodist Church.  He now serves as Field Coordinator for ICCM in Haiti, with responsibility for 53 schools, over 8,900 sponsored children and 20 staff members.  Mondale is in his early thirties.  He lost everything in the earthquake and now lives in a tent.  His immediate family is safe, but a brother-in-law perished in the quake; other family members were injured.  This week, he sent the following remarkable, insightful e-mail.

“What a wonderful God we serve!

“As you heard, my nation had 3 days fasting.  Today [Sunday, February 14] was the last day.  If you could be here to see the desire of the Haitian people seeking God’s presence…I know that God has something to do with my brothers and sisters in Haiti.

“Before Jesus comes back, there will be a great revival, and we have the feeling this will happen in Haiti first.  Haitian people must be united in one Spirit.  There will be a New Haiti soon.  God will do what is impossible for man.

“Now, it is the time for one to accept the other whoever he is and whatever he possesses.  Those people considered as poor, and those they consider as rich--right now, there is no one rich and no one poor.  Everybody is sleeping outdoors together. We have learned to share even our tent, small as it is.  There is no place for selfishness, and of course in that condition, we cannot be selfish.

“Haitian people have learned a good lesson of life.  There are still wicked and criminals.  For those, only God can change their heart.  Many people have come to Christ, some emotionally, others truly.  One way or another, God has been glorified.  We praise Him!”

Could it be the cross that has been thrust upon these people becomes for them an instrument of coming to grips with one another as neighbors, as people sharing a common life, a common hope, a common purpose, a common invitation and, through them, a light to us all?
In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.  Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."  

--Ernest Hemingway
In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.


What one does outside the temple is worship

Thinking this morning of a statement on the Hebrew word hesed by Bishop McKenna:

"The Hebrew word hesed, meaning ‘compassion,’ means coming to the rescue of the poor, the outcast, the alien, the slave, the powerless, hearing the cries of those in misery, giving love that is faithful, sustaining, enduring. . . . This urgent command shoots right to the heart of every individual and to the community.  What one does outside the temple is worship, and nothing done inside the temple can undo or change that attitude or practice."

"What one does outside the temple is worship."

All over the world today, worshipers will gather.  Most of the energy of church clergy and lay leadership over the week will have been directed toward having a well-managed, inspiring, memorable, entertaining time together.  I hope all have a great time that brings folks together in songs of praise and makes the Word of God clear.  I also hope it becomes clear that what happens in the cult ("The term cult identifies a pattern of ritual behavior in connection with specific objects, within a framework of spatial and temporal coordinates. Ritual behavior would include but not necessarily be limited to prayer, sacrifice, votive offerings, competitions, processions and construction of monuments. Some degree of recurrence in place and repetition over time of ritual action is necessary for cult to be enacted, to be practiced") is not the center of worship, is not the apex of Christian practice, is not even the primary means of grace.

God forbid that any pastor or local church leader think that what happens on Sunday morning is either the most important thing that happens in the life of a local faith community or somehow the act of worship.

"What one does outside the temple is worship."

I used to repeat the phrase "We gather to worship; we depart to serve."  I liked it because it represented the importance of doing something useful coming out of worship.  But I now realize it's just not a valid statement.  Worship doesn't end with the benediction and recessional.  It doesn't conclude when we walk out the door.  Worship is a life.

Worship is a life.  Specifically, it is a life of hesed--reflecting God's compassion and seeing God's presence in all we encounter 24/7.

This morning, as I thought of Bishop McKenna's statement on hesed,  I also remembered the words of a Don Francisco song that struck me enough when I was in college to stick with me all these years:
"...I don't care if your sacrifice of praise
is loud enough to raise the dead.
The thing I need to ask you,
is have you done the things I said?
Do  you love your wife?
For her and for your children
are you laying down your life?
What about the others?
Are you living as a servant
to your sisters and your brothers?
Do you make the poor man beg you for a bone?
Do the widow and the orphan stand alone?"

"What one does outside the temple is worship."

Jesus seemed to get that.  Jesus seemed to reflect that in what he did, what he taught, how he lived.  It seems that Jesus' very intentional journey toward Jerusalem to die included this recognition and was somehow tied up with it.  As Jesus' follower, it seems like I should consider that very carefully as I prepare to go to "worship" today.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


What if this were an American city?  But it's Copenhagen, city of cyclists

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Today included a visit with the parents of Free Methodist missionary Jeanne Acheson-Munos, who was killed in the collapse of a building during the Haitian earthquake on January 12.  Her parents, R.B. and Dolly, are 92.  R. B. served as my pastor when I moved to Indianapolis in 1976 and he officiated our wedding.  I've visited with this precious couple several times in the weeks since the quake, serving as a liaison for the Free Methodist Church.

How does one handle losing a daughter who was so committed to Jesus and to her sense of calling to the Haitian people?  They are handling it with grace.  They knew they had an exceptional daughter, one who, the last time she saw them, said she really didn't care if she ever came back to the United States and that she wanted to die and be buried in Haiti.  They are proud of Jeanne.  They wonder why her life was taken.  But they also have a faith that leaves it in God's hands.

I think of Jeanne's deep commitment to end child slavery in Haiti, to stop the use of restaveks.  She was outspoken in confronting the church and individuals in order to free and defend children forced into household servitude.  The passion she carried for this was remarkable. Now her voice and passion is not there.  Who will lift up their cause?

I think of Jeanne's life and death and the experience of R.B. and Dolly.  I'm grateful for her life and witness.  I'm grateful for being witness to the responses of her elderly parents to this tragedy.  And I'm thankful that both she and they attached their lives in faith to Jesus, whom the Bible says laid down his life for them, for us, for all.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


"Nothing in our hands we bring. Simply to Thy cross we cling."

So prayed my New Testament and Spiritual Formation professor Morris Weigelt as he knelt at the altar in the church sanctuary each pre-dawn Sunday morning.  He taught me in seminary and then I served as his pastor.  He was still teaching me.

"Nothing in our hands we bring. Simply to Thy cross we cling."

Not sure where Morris picked up this prayer.  It feels almost like a breath prayer in the Hesychast tradition.  Breathing in as "nothing in our hands we bring" is formed in one's mind, then breathing out with "simply to Thy cross we cling."  Repeat.  Again.  Again.  Make it a "prayer without ceasing."

"Nothing in our hands we bring.  Simply to Thy cross we cling."

Theologically, I readily accept the phrase.  Good Biblical theology, it is.  Read Romans.  Can't refute it.  But I still want to take exception, argue with it, rationalize.  Nothing? Nothing we bring? Nothing?

"Nothing in our hands we bring.  Simply to Thy cross we cling."

History, secular and sacred, is replete with stuff folks have brought.  To appease the gods.  To win divine favor.  To improve the crops.  To receive a blessing.  To gain abundance.  To get a promise of protection.  To gain earthly power.  To prevent punishment.  To prove our worthiness.  To validate our holiness.  To secure eternal life.

"Nothing in our hands we bring.  Simply to Thy cross we cling."

This doesn't reduce us to nothings or invalidate good things we do. God forbid that we should consider ourselves anything less than uniquely created and infinitely valued.  God forbid that we should ever not do the good we know to do. This aside, it's just that we all come before God on equal footing. No one has an edge or ever will. No one can claim favor or curry it.

"Nothing in our hands we bring.  Simply to Thy cross we cling."

Well, there is this one thing.  It's not the thing we bring.  It's the thing to which we cling.  It's the thing we reach for, that we hold on to, that buoys us on unstable ground, in uncertain times, through many dangers, toils and snares.

"Simply to Thy cross we cling."

Cling to the cross which Jesus took up for our sakes. The cross on which Jesus suffered for sins not his own.  The cross on which he carried our sorrows.  The cross through which he identified most completely with the injustices, shame, sin and guilt we bear.  The cross from which he refused to come down.

"Simply to Thy cross we cling."

Clinging, we find our footing surprisingly firm.  Cleaving, we stand taller than we ever could on our own.  Staying, we discover strength to reach out with the same love that saves us.

"Simply to Thy cross we cling."

Simply. Profoundly.

"Nothing in our hands we bring.  Simply to Thy cross we cling."

Morris Weigelt's voice echoes in my mind as I pray this prayer.  His voice, his life, his way of reflecting that very faith, that very reality.  And I'm grateful.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


A few observations as I begin to attempt a 40-day spiritual journey.  Can I stay focused that long?

So, I confessed in my last post that I have some ambivalence about observing or practicing Lent.  Whatever my misgivings or hesitations, I'm in.  I intend to walk this 40-day journey.

This morning, I posted on Twitter and Facebook: "So Lent begins. 40 days. Ignore it. Play along. Or take the opportunity for extended, gut-wrenching focus on who we follow, why, where, how."  Proud of getting all that in 140 characters.  Ha!  I like the 140-character challenge.  Wordsmiths and word lovers would!

The bigger challenge for me, of course, is staying focused on ANYTHING for 40 straight days. I'd prefer to feign ADD during Lent, just to excuse my occasional lapses.  Seriously, I'm not good at this sort of discipline.  I dabble, explore, find a gem, and move on.

One reason is I really haven't found a resource or practice that directly grabs me and holds my focus.  Many have been helpful, but none have captivated me.  That's an excuse, but it's happened in the past.  Just sayin.'

So, starting with this post, I'll try to record this year's 40-day journey.  I journal enough; maybe this is the place to stay focused, keep accountable.  Check me.  If I don't post, e-mail me ( and remind me.

Another reason I lose focus mid-Lenten journey is our annual family excursion/vacation to Breckenridge, Colorado.  I get out there and on a Rockie Mountain high and the way of the cross is just eclipsed.  Is there a way to enjoy a vacation and snowboard myself silly and keep Lent?  Gotta try.

I didn't go to an Ash Wednesday service this morning.  I did meet with my group of friends around the table at Unleavened Bread Cafe at 30th & Central and it was rich fellowship as we discussed local homeless issues related to the book we're reading, When Helping Hurts.  I noticed one of our table members was marked with ashes on his forehead and I was a bit jealous.  Not likely I'll get marked this year.  One of the homeless neighbors at our table is also a bicycle advocate and he told me about an adventure bicycle lecture at the library tonight and I made a commitment to meet him there.

I had breakfast but I haven't had lunch even though it's nearly 3:00 pm and I'm hungry.  That doesn't count as fasting, though.  And I have no clue about what I might forgo for 40 days.  I have too many lunch meetings to fast lunch.  I go without breakfast too often for that to be called a fast.  Some form of media, maybe?  Some kind of food?  I hope to bicycle as much as possible through Lent (fast from usual automobile/fossil fuel addiction), but we've got 6 inches of snow on the ground right now.  I'll think about this.

O God, still my rambling and refute my excusing.
I am afraid I will once again start and not follow-through on this thing.
But even with my self-doubt and past falterings, I begin again.
I do so knowing you know me and are with me.
Somehow, through this extended intention, contrived as it may seem to me,
I ask you to shape me more into your image and put me to serving in your Spirit
And deepen my conviction and confidence in you and your way
For your glory.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I "do Lent," but not without serious reservations and a search for breakthrough

NOT QUITE "AT HOME." Even though observing Ash Wednesday (February 17) and Lent have become normal within our free church community, I still feel not quite at home in them. I feel the same way with most formal liturgy, including the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper and Baptism, along with the Christian calendar.  I have felt this odd mix of emotions on Ash Wednesdays even as I’ve marked each kneeling congregant with ashes in the sign of the cross.

WHAT MY HEAD TELLS ME. Everything within my formal theological training tells me that well-patterned liturgy, the Sacraments, and the Christian calendar are valid and useful. These are time-tested ways many branches of the church worship and instruct. They also offer a countering alternative to the world's sense of time, material, value, and meaning. I can--and do--argue for the caring and careful use of good liturgy. Certainly, it is much better than much of what has passed for "the freedom of the Spirit" in our free church tradition. Lectionary-guided Bible preaching and teaching through the Christian seasons--and exploring creative possibilities within these--is a growth point for me. Regarding these, I feel like I am just scratching the surface.

WHAT MY UPBRINGING TELLS ME. But there is also a part of me that is uncomfortable with so much to-do about days and seasons, markings and symbols, readings and recitations. Perhaps it is because I was brought up in a free church that gave supreme credence to firebrand preaching, extemporaneous prayers, long altar calls, and impromptu testimonies.  These routine expressions of worship linger in my psyche.  I have come to terms with abuses of some of them.  I value some impacts of this upbringing.  It infused me with a directness and earnestness in personal faith. It opened up an uninhibited emotional connection between Word and worshiper. It fostered a readiness to respond to an unexplored or forgotten aspect or application of the Word of God. It encouraged decisive responses--sometimes leading to courageous action or more reflective discipleship.

HUNG UP ON THE LORD'S SUPPER. The disparagement of all formal liturgy and the reduction of the Sacraments to merely outward signs was also a hallmark of my upbringing. That is a bit more difficult to unpack. So thorough was the preaching about the Lord's Supper as a mere memorial--completely unrelated to the saving, grace-bearing acts of God in Jesus Christ--that conceiving of it as a means of grace is still a stretch for me. I now know most of the layers and aspects of meaning of the Sacraments from various church traditions. And I insist that the Lord's Supper be more readily accessible and frequent within our worship (it was offered two or three times a year in my youth). Still, I sometimes get the feeling that almost everyone to whom I am serving the Lord's Supper has more comprehension of it and is receiving more apparent benefit from this mystery than me. At moments, I break through this ambivalence, but I have not yet sustained an emotional/spiritual breakthrough regarding this.

WHAT MY HEART TELLS ME. So, I enter Lent with a commitment to the journey, but more as a resident alien than an indigenous participant. I admire the traditions, observe the days, lead through the weeks, celebrate the occasions. I do so with appreciation, respect, and reverence. I hope to gain insight and grow in grace with each disciplined action and experience. But as I do so, I also guard my heart, hedging that there is a directness and communion with God, the church, and with those to whom God's love reaches out that surpasses any symbol, sign, day, season, or celebration.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Two kinds of learning, both valuable, during and since seminary

I studied to exegete Scriptures
To parse Greek verbs
And comprehend the historic sitz em leben.

I live in exegesis of communities
To perceive neighborhood nuances
And understand the spirit of these times.

I trained to perceive divine vision
To cultivate prophetic imagination
And stand up to proclaim.

I live in articulation of that vision
To cultivate the Kingdom
And speak the truth in love.

I learned the disciplines of pastoral care
To map the terrain of the soul
And discern the heart.

I live in reflection of shepherding
To travel soul-shaping terrain
And guard my heart.

I studied the history of Christianity
To appreciate church antiquity
And apprehend its cycles.

I live in a dynamic chapter of the story
To influence the present generation
And fulfill my calling.

I learned how to advance my denomination
To accentuate its unique subtleties
And increase its market share.

I live as an expatriate of that denomination
To celebrate the church without walls
And draw the circle ever wider.

I learned to be a student of theology
To study the ways of God
And plumb the mysteries divine.

I live as a student of life
To reflect God's active presence
And bear tangible mercy and grace.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.


I was all of 14 years old when I became a bus ministry evangelist. The experience was insightful.

BACK WHEN. When I was fourteen, I became a bus evangelist. Actually, I rode the church bus almost every Sunday morning with the old driver Homer Hathaway from the time I was seven years old until I realized it was not at all cool to do so. Homer, who had only three fingers on one hand because he had blown the others off with fireworks when he was a kid, let me stand at the front of the bus as it lurched up and down the hilly Parkersburg, West Virginia streets. Apparently he wasn't much wiser in his old age. I would brace myself for chugging accelerations one way and brace for the sudden braking the other. At every stop, I pulled the lever that opened and closed the doors for church-going passengers.

ALL ABOARD. Our old 65-passenger Chevy bus served the usual Sunday riders for years, mostly families that didn't have vehicles and Sunday School kids whose parents must not have cared about God or church. The bus would pull up to the church half full. But then my preacher dad and our Children's Pastor George Branch went to a Bus Ministry Conference in Hammond, Indiana and brought back all the enthusiasm and strategies that would bring unchurched people to salvation via buses. And soon, used Ford and GMC buses were added--and two VW vans to boot.

COUNTERING THE BAPTISTS. "Bus ministry" became big stuff in evangelical churches in the early 1970s. Some churches amassed large fleets of sharply painted buses that crisscrossed the city picking up children and families, mostly from the poorer neighborhoods. If Parkersburg First Church of the Nazarene was not going to lose out to those aggressive Baptists, we needed to get in on bus ministry. And we did--big time.

PACK A BUS. George Branch led the Bus Ministry. I loved George Branch, whose enthusiasm and humor won the hearts of children. And, somehow, George talked me and Billy Fisher--my best friend who had just turned sixteen and had bought a white 1969 Plymouth Satellite for $525--into being "bus captains" for one of the VW vans. Being a "bus captain" meant you did everything you could to fill up a bus with as many people as possible each Sunday. We were to fill up the VW as many times as possible. To do that, Billy and I spent Saturday mornings calling on "prospects."

SATURDAY CALLING. So, here is a fourteen- and sixteen-year old pulling up to a house at 10:00 on Saturday morning and, in all earnestness, trying to urge groggy residents to ride our VW church van on Sunday. Looking back, I think people must've obliged just to humor us. Our "prospects" were friends or relatives of people who rode the van already, or somebody whose child had attended Vacation Bible School once upon a time, or some other odd contact. We also visited our "regular riders" and spent a few minutes with them being earnest about life, God, salvation, and church. And, after a hard morning of prodding each other to be the first to talk at the next house, Billy and I would head for a lunch of burgers.

RIDING SHOTGUN. On Sunday morning Billy and I would alternate trips riding shotgun with Walter, the VW van driver. We'd go knock on the door if the VW's nasal "beep-beep" horn didn't bring a response at each address. We'd pass out the promised riders' prize of the day--bubble gum, key chains, Matchbox cars, flowers, whatever. We'd chat with riders about everything under the sun until the van pulled up to the church door. And we'd hope that, somehow, Sunday School or the sermon would bring our riders to salvation.

FEAR AND COURAGE. Billy and I were bus captains for about a year. Seventeen took Billy in the direction of motocross racing on Saturdays and fifteen drove my self-righteous zeal into some other pursuit. We got out of our responsibility somehow without too much guilt (not an easy thing to do--to turn in your ministry badge at age fifteen). I hadn’t recollected that experience fully until now. I recall the combination of fear and courage, uncertainty and necessity, hesitancy and go-for-broke daring that would wash over me on those Saturday mornings as we approached people we barely knew or did not know at all with something we thought we knew they needed.

WHAT IS "NORMAL?" If this story sounds weird or odd now, it seemed completely normal to me at the time. As I understood it then, this was the sort of thing anyone who took Jesus seriously would do. This was one way one's life was lived as a "witness," as in "you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth." Looking back, I understand that it was more unusual than I imagined at the time, even the stuff of a ghetto culture.

RUINED FOR CHEAPLY-PROCLAIMED SALVATION. Looking back from where I stand now, I also think those experiences of spending time in the dwellings of extremely poor and dysfunctional families, listening their difficult stories and wondering how the Good News as I understood it syllogistically would make a difference, ruined me for accepting cheaply-proclaimed salvation and set the trajectory of my life to explore ways in which the message of the Bible connects with the poorest of the poor.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I pulled a Warren Bennis book off the shelf and gained insight from notes from an earlier reading

WARREN BENNIS. I took Warren Bennis' book On Becoming A Leader (Addison Wesley, 1989) off my bookshelf last week and began to read back through the many underlined sentences, trigger words, and quotations. I like a lot of what Bennis writes. The following excerpts speak to the challenge of knowing the world as well as one knows oneself.

BEYOND THE WAY THINGS ARE. Bennis describes "maintenance learning" (acquisition of fixed outlooks, methods and rules to respond to known and recurring situations) and "shock learning" (learning that occurs when events overwhelm people). Both forms of learning, he concludes, "are less than learning than they are accepting conventional wisdom. It is merely accepting what you are told is the way things are. You forget there is a self that must be listened to."

INNOVATIVE LEARNING. "Anyone who relies on maintenance and shock learning is bound to be more reactor than actor in his or her own life." By contrast, Bennis notes that "innovative learning" is based on a few but important principles: "Anticipation: being active and imaginative rather than passive and habitual; Learning by listening to others; and Participation: shaping events, rather than being shaped by them."

A LIVELY DIALOGUE. "In innovative learning one must not only recognize existing contexts, but be capable of imagining future contexts." Innovative learning is "a dialogue that begins with curiosity and is fueled by knowledge, leading to understanding. It is inclusive, unlimited, and unending, knowing and dynamic. It allows us to change the way things are. Through it we become free to express ourselves rather than endlessly trying to prove ourselves."

OUTLOOK. Bennis wraps up his observations on "knowing the world" by saying "Learning means
  • LOOKING BACK at your childhood and adolescence and using what happened to you then to enable you to make things happen now, so that you become the master of your own life rather than its servant.
  • CONSCIOUSLY SEEKING the kinds of experiences in the present that will improve and enlarge you.
  • TAKING RISKS as a matter of course, with the knowledge that failure is as vital as it is inevitable.
  • SEEING THE FUTURE -- yours and the world's --as an opportunity to do all those things you have not done and those things that need to be done, rather than as a trial or a test.

I might argue with Bennis on a number fronts, particularly his presumptuousness about "shaping events rather than being shaped by them." A little humility might help, Warren. But Bennis spurs me on to be a student of life for life, to put it all on the line, to keep listening, to keep growing. And, of course, to keep looking forward.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Not the headline I'd give it, but this is my Letter to the Editor published today in the Indianapolis Star

The perspective conveyed in The Star ("Frustrations grow in Haiti," Feb. 3) belies a larger picture of what is occurring in Port-au-Prince. In spite of frustrations with relief distributed by international aid organizations and a decapitated government, I witnessed gracious and hopeful acts among Haitians.

I just returned from a week in Port-au-Prince where I served with a relief and response team of the Free Methodist Church. We delivered water filters, established a well-drilling team and assessed damages at 16 schools supported by International Child Care Ministries. We also moved forward the excavation of a collapsed building where Indianapolis missionary Rev. Jeanne Acheson-Munos was killed in the Jan. 12 quake. 

I have seen people swinging sledgehammers at mountains of concrete, steel and rebar. I have seen residents sweeping away the debris. I have seen neighbors share the little food they have with one another. I have seen outdoor markets bustling with exchange of goods. I have witnessed Haitians, still shocked and fear-filled, walk into buildings, sit down at desks and work.

On Sunday, I watched hundreds of Haitians walking through rubble to gather for public worship -- an expression of unshakable faith in a completely shakable world. The earthquake may well have revealed and resurrected the resilient and hopeful soul of Haiti's people.

John Hay Jr.
In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.


Friday's snow brings a dawn of deep powder across Central Indiana

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Friday, February 5, 2010


A prayer of grateful recognition of God's daily presence

O God,

I have a desire to be connected to you,
not in merely official or superficial ways.
And as long as I have been praying,
attempting to converse with you
and living in relationship to you,
I have felt or sensed that connection.
I have never felt denied or ignored,
or perceived my efforts were illusory.

That I am conscious of you,
and that this consciousness is both
comforting and agitating,
deepening and transcending,
knowing and mysterious,
is, to me, reason enough to
continue to pray and live
in light of your grace.

That I recognize and am graced by this connection
does not mean I grasp or understand it,
or that I begin to comprehend you.
But because you are there,
and because I sense you are with me,
I approach life as a sacred journey
on which I am being graciously led,
in which I have much to learn,
and perhaps as much to share.


In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


These few photos don't tell the whole story, but something of what I observed in Port-au-Prince last week

Haitians are taking sledge hammers to mountains of concrete, steel and rebar.  They are picking up and sweeping away the debris.  Aid organizations are employing many in the relief and recovery effort.

At their request, I trained ICCM staff to assemble Sawyer water filters.  Using 5-gallon buckets, the filters clean 5-gallons of water in 20 minutes--enough for a family for a day.  We delivered 200 filters ($50 per) and have 1000 more to send.  The ICCM staff is sharing these in the refugee camps, where clean water is a critical issue.

Indianapolis missionary the Rev. Jeanne Acheson-Munos perished in the collapse of the Friends Of Haiti Organization building where she and her husband, Jack Munos, lived. Her body remains there until the building can be excavated.  Jeanne was beloved to the neighborhood.  Someone paid tribute with this graffiti in Creole:  "Farewell, Pastor Jeanne. May you rest in peace.  We will never forget you."

The Santo ICCM School in Port-au-Prince had a brand-new second and third floor in 2008. It was a model facility.  But it was no match for the 7.0 quake on January 12.  Three students died and more were injured in this collapse.

The amazing thing to me is that these boys can smile 17 days after the quake crumbled their world.  The mood is changing in Port-au-Prince. Shock and bewilderment is yielding to acceptance and readiness to rebuild out of the brokenness.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Monday, February 1, 2010


I was not around for its previous worsts, but I what I see today holds promise for its best yet

I have seen Haiti at its worst--at least in this century.

I was not around when this island’s original inhabitants were slaughtered by sword and died of European-borne diseases against which their bodies were defenseless.

I was not around when this land became a major port of slave trading—a point of bargain, exchange, and auction of human beings shipped like cattle from Africa. 

I was not around for those many generations when European capitalists oppressed, exploited and dehumanized this African-heritage people.

I was not around when the first independent African-heritage nation’s leaders squandered its initial promise and reduced its people to subsistence living.

But I am around to see the worst today.  I have seen a nation’s structures toppled--from its presidential palace to a thousand rural homes.  I have seen its people living in refugee camps in the shadow of what were their homes.  I have smelled death emanating from the rubble of pancaked buildings.  I have seen its people standing in long lines for a little food.

I believe I have also seen Haiti at its best.

I have seen people swinging sledge hammers at mountains of rock-hard concrete.  I have seen residents sweeping away debris.  I have seen neighbors share the little food they have with one another.  I have witnessed Haitians, still fear-filled, walk into buildings, sit down at desks and working.  I have listened to heart-cries of grief mixed with voiced hopes for a new Haiti.

If the earthquake devastated an already-distressed people, it may well have revealed and resurrected something of its resilient and hopeful soul.

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.