In a political year that has seen virus go from viral to pandemic, with jobless rates soaring and clashes taking to the streets, good news is usually buried several layers down in news feeds, usually even beneath the updates on your fave shows and stars. Let me elevate a good news story for you, evidence that goodness in humans is alive and well.
Short recap: in February, CF broke new ground and added to the bridge between Israel and India by taking a team of US+ India pastors to visit the South of Israel, specifically, Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center, AICAT (Arava International Center for Agricultural Training), also visiting farm production and Jerusalem/Judea. You’ll hear more about these joint projects as plans and outreach are forming! A couple of past blogs and newsletters have shared from this adventure (I hope you're a subscriber ;)
Once back from this important journey, literally within days, the world’s doors began to close and life went stationary on what some of us call “the C word” out of the fatigue of its impact. I also wearied of hearing phrases like "in these unprecedented times...during these uncertain times..." but loved the congenial look of newscasters from their own homes. This has been an equalizer of sorts.
But as we struggled through overwhelmed click-lists and delivery methods on steroids for "contactless delivery," we sadly also watched the caustic banter of political rhetoric and saw more flesh out on social media than regular news could even contain. Many leaders elevated the flag and country to remind us of ourselves, my personal favorite being my friend Perry Black's Mother's Day playing of Ray Charles singing "America the Beautiful." Best. Version. Ever. My daddy raised me on Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, and Ray Charles, not necessarily in that order.
Meanwhile, many others bashed America unabashedly, and the level of hostility made me think I was reliving the '60s. I've heard Hollywood stars bash before and say they will leave the country if their man isn't elected, and honestly I wish at times they just would...leave that is, if they think it's really so bad. In fact, I will take it a step further and say it should be required in Civics class to visit a selection of foreign countries to really get a feel for what's out there, and I don't mean the tourist destinations.
The infrastructures of our counties are strong here in Beautiful Arkansas (as our College & Career leader San called it...his mother moved him to Arkansas from the Philippines, a life change he greatly valued). No doubt the benefits of infrastructure also prevalent in many other states where you can amply find curb-and-gutter and other amenities. Yet all this is a far cry from the districts where Pastor Dass and fellow pastors serve. In rural South India with little more than 24-hour warning, roads and markets closed, public transportation to the larger cities ceased, and thousands upon thousands of day laborers were instantly out of work without pay, without employment insurance or government assistance or stimuli of any kind. For most, there was no hope for any telemedicine and if you had no cash on hand for things, there were no options. You can imagine during the season of such uncertainty how frightening it all felt. The grinding halt had a different feel than much of what we felt.
But through good stewardship of his present funds, Dass immediately negotiated for food and some minor construction projects to keep some of his community working for pay. As some of my e-letters described to CF partners and friends, Dass & Ruth shared their rupees to fill bags of rice and distribute small toiletry items to over 85 families in their community. They kept church doors propped open in the early mornings to make room for prayer, with distancing marked off and participants picking up their family’s groceries. Some believers of other religious persuasions sat and watched, eventually moved to say that a “real” evidence of faith was in action.
Since those stressful days of the spring, goodness extended into summer. Partners and friends stepped up and shared resources such that 25 pastors have been blessed, leaders in two other districts have received sustenance for their communities, and Dass’ community is supplied with groceries for families into early August. Let me be clear. Through the goodness of God and humans, an entire community has been fed for four+ months with no government assistance.
While “pinching pennies” also applies to rupees, Dass and his resourceful contractor inched along with construction on the grounds of the training center. The lecture hall is well underway as is a classroom, and please look for the picture below of the dining hall that resembles the inside structure of a large tent. This was their tribute to Abraham’s Well, a beautiful Jewish National Fund center in Beersheva in Israel’s south. You remember Abraham, right? Our first missional father who made covenant with the One True God, Who is faithful still to this family and friendship... this is a site forged at the crossroads of the Water Route and the Spice Route, uniting the Far East with Israel all those generations ago. It is still a moving place to visit. Abraham was at that well to tell his story, and today, so are we as we see it multiplied out in the nations.
The good news in this story is that goodness is alive and well. The descendants of the God-breathed creature that was formed in dust and fashioned by divine hands, still see what dominion and “conquering” can look like without damaging someone. Humans can conquer separateness, isolation, differences, lack, and beyond.
In gardens lost, we find ways to replenish and bless. Even in the simplicity of the relationships we share, we conquer. One pastor that Dass that has stayed in contact with (a man in Chennai who tested positive for Covid and has had to go through quarantine without what we would consider all the necessities) shared with him one day, "the isolation is killing me more than the virus." We can relate. As I press on in my doctoral studies, I read a rabbi's commentary that has stayed with me: Worry about why you are needed, not about your needs.
So I leave you with memorable words from the great King David, a grand summary acrostic that praises God and is often used in daily prayers of the Jews. I've adopted this process for the beauty and truth of these words about a Good King's Kingdom of Goodness. A daily soak in that will do a body good. May my life and mouth declare the same, and may God's people live with such open hearts and hands.
"Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness...The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them food in due season, You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living things...the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth...He will hear their cry and save them..." - Psalm 145, Selected Verses