Saturday, November 1, 2008

Crossing Borders: Considering What The Other Hand Is Doing

I want to offer an insight that my friend Jim Betscher shared with us during our recent trip to Monterrey, Mexico. Jim is an incredible guy. After visiting the Back-2-Back Ministry several times with his daughter, he was so moved by the enormity of the mission there, and so enamored with the staff and kids there, that he sold his house and moved to Monterrey to work full time. Jim has been there for over 2 years now and cannot stop himself from telling anyone who will listen how much he loves what he does.

During one of our conversations, Jim made what I thought was a stunningly astute observation about how differently the Mexican and American churches approach the plight of the poor.

First, the missionary workers in Mexico have observed that it is like pulling teeth to solicit aid from the local churches in Monterrey. The church there (in general) seems blissfully unaware of this. Either that or they are unwilling to get involved with the poor that are so obviously living among them. It is not like they are hard to see. They are everywhere. And maybe that is the problem. There are so many poor, living in such atrocious conditions, that the enormity of the problem may seem overwhelming. It is easier to just pretend it doesn't exist.

At the same time, those in the American church spend incredible resources to not only give financially to the causes of the poor in Mexico, but to travel there and get personally involved in the work themselves. Jim is amazed by the contrast. The Mexican church is unconcerned or uninvolved (as is the Mexican government, but that's another story), while the American church pours countless resources into the effort.

But, if you are an American, don't pat yourself on the back too quickly.

Jim's second observation, after having witnessed what goes on with these orphan kids for several years now, is his amazement at how the Mexican believers are completely reliant on God for everything they have and do. These are people who sometimes wake up to an empty cupboard or go to bed without any possessions but the clothes on their backs. Yet they never seem to complain. They are completely convinced that "God will provide," and He does -- repeatedly. Sometimes the provision simply comes through the compassionate service of those who support Back-2-Back, but other times the provision is nothing less than miraculous. Jim and others can tell stories that will give you chills. And they can tell you those stories over and over again.

Meanwhile, in the American church, relying on God seems to be a novel, if not disappearing idea. We are so self-sufficient, so bountifully showered with material possessions, that we forget from whom those blessings flow. And I don't mean to speak too generally because I most assuredly count myself among those who reflect this attitude. We regularly throw away food and other essential items that anyone in the Mexican communities we visited would count as blessed abundance.

So while it is commendable that we Americans are known to be so generous an example for helping others around the world, we could also use some work in remembering how blessed we really are to able to do so.

Just something for all of us to consider ...

And while you're at it, I would encourage anyone who reads this to consider helping Jim and the Back-2-Back Ministry do what they do so well. You can do so HERE!

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