Monday, December 15, 2008

Let Them Eat Bibles? A Christmas Without the Book of Matthew

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Picture Description: A stained glass window depicts a dove holding an olive branch in its beak.

How out of touch can an entire organization be? Is it life imitating art or art imitating life? I'll let you guess for yourself. While getting my daily dose of stupid from World Net Daily, I came across an article called "A Christmas without the Bible". I can't begin to describe how spectacularly clueless religious people can be sometimes.

A ministry organization is urging Christians in the United States and other affluent parts of the world to celebrate Christmas this year like fellow Christians around the globe – without a Bible.

"Christians in the United States should try and conduct one worship service this Christmas the way that our brothers and sisters in the Third World regularly have to worship: without any Bibles," Fred Palmerton, executive director of Christian Resources International, told Assist News Service.

"Every day, more than 122,000 people become Christian, and most of those people are in Africa, Asia and South America," Palmerton said. "They're attending churches where even the pastors have no Bibles. In our country, the church isn't growing so much. But the pile of Bibles on every Christian's bookshelf sure is."

According to the report, research from the Christian Booksellers Association and Zondervan Publishers shows the average American Christian owns nine Bibles and is looking for more.

However, such resources are luxuries in many parts of the world, where pastors have been known to drive 800 miles for the opportunity to ask for a Bible to use in their ministries.

Palmerton suggests that Christians in the U.S. would be much more aware of the hardships encountered by their overseas brethren by such an experience.

"Often, the only resource worshippers in developing countries have is their memory, or what they write down on scraps of paper after visiting a church that does have a Bible," Palmerton said.

Christian Resources International said it is launching a campaign for people with abundant resources to share with those without those benefits, with its Bare Your Bookshelf program.

The effort moves donated Bibles and books from American Christians to overseas needy.

"The resources that are desperately needed in the developing church already exist," Palmerton said. "They are gathering dust on the bookshelves of American Christians."

CRI for 50 years has been driven by volunteers and moves Bibles to English-speaking recipients in more than 180 nations. The ministry gets more than 400 requests every month from pastors and Christian workers in developing nations where the churches have no Bibles.

"Statistics are not collected on the resources available to the typical Christian church in the developing world, but the extensive first-hand reports we've collected over the past 50 years indicate that the pastor of a typical developing church as access to – at most – one copy of the Bible, often shared with other pastors, and perhaps one or two theological books," the organization reports.

"One of CRI's volunteers, Doug Burnie, regularly takes used ambulances and school buses down to Guaymas, Mexico, to donate to charities, churches, clinics, schools and so on. Before each trip, he fills the vehicles with Christian books and Bibles to distribute to Christian in need of spiritual resources," the organization said.

During a recent trip, "Doug met a pastor who was visiting from a distant Mexican city. Doug was able to bless the pastor with an 11-pound bundle of theological and spiritual works," the organization said. Burnie later in the year headed out on another trip to the same destination.

"When he got there, he found that the pastor he had blessed previously had heard of Doug's return, and had again undergone the 800-mile journey to Guaymas. Why? To ask if he could have one more book," the organization said.

Now, take a look at this satirical article from The Onion entitled, "Poverty Stricken Africans Receive Desperately Needed Bibles".

MARADI, NIGER—More than 60,000 urgently needed Bibles arrived to allay suffering throughout the famine-stricken nation of Niger Friday, in one of the largest humanitarian-relief operations ever attempted by a Christian ministry.

"Come rejoice, and feast upon the word of Our Lord, Jesus Christ," said Christina Clarkson, executive director of the Living Light Ministries of Lubbock, TX. "Those who were hungry, hunger no more, for the Word brings life."

An exuberant Clarkson said the Bible drop was the culmination of one of the largest and most aggressive grassroots fundraising drives ever undertaken by the organization, which was able to fund the mission largely through local charitable events, such as bake-offs, barbecues, and pie-eating contests.

"We absolutely would not be here today if it were not for the amazing generosity of the people back home," Clarkson said. "People everywhere opened up their hearts and checkbooks to us and said, 'Dig in.'"

Niger, ranked as the second-poorest nation on Earth, is experiencing its worst famine in more than 20 years, as a brutal drought last year was followed by a plague of crop-destroying locusts. An estimated 3.5 million of Niger's 12 million people are currently at risk of starvation.

"That's why it was so important for this mission to happen right now," said Clarkson. "So many people here are suffering. Disease, starvation, and lack of shelter are day-to-day realities in Niger. But once they hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Lord and Savior—once they really take Him into their hearts—then they will see what poor comforts are the things of this world."

Due to the tireless efforts of Clarkson and other members of the congregation, the ministry was able to provide the needy with Bibles superior to the ones they use in their own church services.

"Handcrafted, genuine leather—best money can buy," said 61-year-old missionary Don Kostic as he ran his hand along the book's ornately embossed spine. "It's like my wife back home says: Nothing is too good for people who are ready to receive the Living Word of Christ."

Although the fundraising efforts were unprecedented, congregation members said Living Light would never have succeeded had they not obtained the generous support of an array of corporate sponsors, including Applebee's and Church's Fried Chicken.

"We spent so much money just to get here," Kostic continued. "After we had all the Bibles engraved, we still had to charter the plane. When we landed in Niamey, we could barely even afford ground transportation."

Undaunted, the missionaries purchased the best vehicle they could find, which turned out to be a used bread truck. "That old thing!" recalled Kostic, laughing. "We must've scrubbed it down a hundred times. You couldn't get the smell of freshly baked, vitamin-fortified bread out of it if your life depended on it."

Reaction among Niger residents has been mixed.

Moussa Yaouli, a 35-year-old farmer, was particularly interested to learn more about the doctrine of transubstantiation, which Living Light personnel told him involved the eating of wafers. "It is said to be a big wafer. I am sure it will feed many of my children."

Though "spiritually gratified" by their work, many of the missionaries spoke about the difficulties of working in an impoverished country.

"It can be so hard being away from the comfort of our homes and our loving families," Clarkson confided. "I will admit, there have been times when I prayed, 'Lord, just help me get through this mission and get me back to Texas!' But when we rolled into town and people started running after the truck with those big smiles on their faces, I couldn't help but smile back."

Clarkson added: "And when we opened up the back of the truck and they saw that it was full of Bibles... Grown men and women wept in front of their children. That's how moved they were by the Holy Spirit. That's how I know it's all been worth it."

Clarkson said her mission will succeed in bringing the people of Niger "the spiritual sustenance they've been deprived of," despite such obstacles as the nation's 18 percent literacy rate.

"You say you're suffering. I say, let the good Lord do the suffering for you," she said. "You say you're exhibiting the deleterious effects of severe dehydration and chronic malnutrition. And I say that no matter what ails you, the Holy Bible is the best medicine there is."
Sad. Just sad. I have nothing against people in impoverished and economically disadvantaged areas receiving religious material. What I do see as problematic is when organizations use the people in these countries to get people to donate and they don't even have the decency to make sure that these people are getting their basic physical needs met.

The twenty-fifth chapter of the book of Matthew (in the Bible) tells about a time in the future when Christians will have to stand before Jesus to be judged.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Jesus is not going to ask whether we provided the poor with Bibles and religious tracts. The Bible says he's going to judge who loved God by examining what they did to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, care for the sick, and visit those who are in prison. Perhaps instead of mailing those extra Bibles to the world's poor, those who strive to be Christians should dust them off and read what it says we need to provide for those whose lack of books is the least of their problems.



Hey there Tulip!

I can't even tell you how many times I have watched ministry outreach teams make a huge deal about how many people they prayed over for two seconds... how many Bibles they passed out (without even knowing the persons could read) many tracts they handed out (to people they didn't take time to have a meaningful conversation with....

Very often an outreach report starts with....the NUMBERS...

There is no real focus on loving...on being witnesses by loving others....

This time of year, the hypocrisy reaches an all time high...

{shaking my head}


AnnMarie Kneebone said...

Profound truth.