- A very long time ago, I was caught speeding on a late Sunday night. I was traveling on a deserted state highway in rural Georgia. I was in a hurry to reach home and to go to bed. Being stopped for speeding, I suspected I would have to pay a fine. But paying a bigger than expected fine, was not what I hated the most. I hated the half hour drive to the county seat in the opposite direction that I was traveling, in order to pay that fine. I was really upset and I arrived home over two hours later than I expected. It was a double penalty. In the Gospel According to Luke, chapter 19, verses 1-10, Zacchaeus self-imposes a double penalty upon himself. The scripture reads as follows. "He Jesus, entered Jericho and was passing through it. "A man that was named Zacchaeus, "he was a chief tax collector and was rich. "He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on the account "of the crowds, he could not, "because he was short in stature. "So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, "because we was going to pass that way. "When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "'Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay "'at your house today', and he hurried down "and was happy to welcome him." All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He is going to be the guest of one who is a sinner". Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions Lord I will give to the poor. "If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back "four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come "to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. "For the son of man's come to seek out "and to save the lost." In Congo, the rural poor may live through a triple penalty every day with their drinking water. Some girls and women have to walk over 30 minutes to get water for their family. And the trip for the water is down a steep hill to the water source, and back up the hill with 40 pounds of water on their head. And finally, the water may be contaminated with fecal bacteria known as E. coli, which causes sickness or even death. They are playing Russian roulette two or three times a day. As a minimum, water sources should be periodically tested to determine the level of contamination. Congo Helping Hands provides training and supplies to help village health officials to perform water quality testing. We need your donation to support this vital program.
- One of my favorite podcasts is How I Built This, by Guy Raz. The program is about how modern-day entrepreneurs that started companies such as Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Dippin' Dots, Zappos, Airbnb, Yelp, just to name a few. I've listened to about a hundred of the 179 episodes. At the close of each episode, Guy Raz asks a now-successful entrepreneur how much would he contribute his success to hard work or his knowledge or skill and how much to luck? I have never heard anyone give themself more than half of the credit for his successful company. I believe that a person or nation, who gives itself too much credit, runs the risk of trusting themselves too much and sadly, having contempt for others. In the Gospel According to Luke, chapter 18, versus 9-14 tells the parable of two men praying. He, Jesus, also told this parable to someone who trusted in themself and that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt. Two men went up to a temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying this. "God, I thank you that I am not like the others. "Thieves, rogues, adulterers, and even a tax collector. "I have fasted twice a week, I've given a tenth "of all my income." But the tax collector, standing far away, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other. For all who have exalted themselves will be humbled. But all who have humbled themselves, will be exalted. I attribute the failure of Congo to the luck of an abundance of natural resources. But others attribute their failure to corruption, ignorance, poor governance, and et cetera. In the early 2000's, the Presbyterian Church of Congo produced a document entitled "Our Riches Have Made Us Poor". Please pray that Congo's resources are used to benefit its poor citizens.
- Today, we easily tell someone to, "Google it." They know that we mean for them to search for it online. Back in the day we used to say, "Go Xerox it." That meant for someone to make a copy of a paper document. Those are examples of name brands, of proper nouns used as verbs. I'm trying to start my own new verb for a proper noun. It's "Congo". Many of my friends ask me, "How's it going in the Congo?" My favorite response is, "Congo is being Congo." They look at me with puzzled look. "Congo" means to me something that requires patience, perseverance, persistence, faith and prayer, when most of us believe that it should not be a big deal. In Luke, Chapter 18, verses one through eight, is a story of something gone Congo. It reads as follows: Then Jesus told a parable about the need for prayer always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city, "there was a judge who neither feared God, "nor had respect for the people. "In that city there was a widow, "who kept coming to him, saying, ""Grant me justice against my opponent." "For a while he refused, "but later he said to himself, ""Though I have no fear of God ""and no respect for anyone, ""yet, because the widow keeps bothering me, ""I will grant her justice, ""so that she may not wear me down by continually coming." And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. "And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones "who cry to Him day and night? "Will He delay long in helping them? "I tell you, he quickly granted justice to them. "And yet, when the Son of Man comes, he will find faith on earth?" Here is my latest example of Congo being Congo. When I went to the Congo last August, I planned to drill with a newly-acquired and rebuilt drilling rig during the month of September 9th. But, here's the full plan. Pick up the rig in South Africa, drive it back to Congo. This is a short version of a very long story. After a repair transfer differential, delays at the Congo border, backed up trucks on bad roads, and now a strange noise in the engine, the end of this story is not yet here. Again, Congo means to me something that requires patience, perseverance, faith and prayer, when most of us believe it should not be a big deal. Please pray that the drilling rig arrives soon. And, in Congo, this means having faith. You have patience. You have perseverance. You have persistence and you believe in the power of prayer. Please pray for Congo Helping Hand.
Most Congolese learning to speak English tell me that it's hard to learn English, but I quickly tell them that I think English is easier than most foreign languages, like Spanish, French, or German. I tell them that our nouns are not neuter, feminine or masculine. Therefore, we have only one article, which is 'the'. Whereas in Spanish, you have five articles dependent upon the gender and plurality of the noun. and in French and German, you have three articles each. For example, in Germany you would say 'der Apfel', meaning the apple which is masculine, 'das haus', which is the house which is neuter, and 'die Schule', meaning the school which is feminine. I'm not going to embarrass myself with my poor French, but I must agree that English is difficult because we use the word as a noun, and the same word as a verb, for example, the word 'report' is both a noun and a verb, we can say report, meaning a document, as in a book report, and we can say report, meaning to present yourself formally, as in, "Report to the principal's office." The title of my Congo Minute for Mission today is the minority report back. Not just because the minority report is the name of the 2002 movie, which starred Tom Cruise. I'm reminded of the title to this movie from the story of the ten lepers' encounter with Jesus, In the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 17, verses 11 through 19. Only one of the ten lepers reported back to Jesus. Starting in verse 15, then one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Then Jesus says, "Were there not ten that were made clean? but others, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well." The Majority, the nine other lepers did not report back to Jesus that they, too, have been made clean and healed. The one leper, which was a foreigner, reported back to Jesus to thank him. This illustrates how Jesus cared for the marginalized. These were ten untouchables and ostracized lepers, and at least one of them was doubly marginalized. He was an un-lovingly Samaritan, a foreigner and a minority. The Congo is filled with doubly marginalized people. They are the under educated women, and girls who are treated like second-class citizens, in a male dominated country. Also, they are the sick, without money or access to quality healthcare. And this week I was reminded of the plight of pygmies in the Congo. This ethnic group of people are probably triple marginalized. One: they are a short stature, Congolese of less than 4 feet 11 inches. Second: these rain forest dwellers and gatherers hunters, live without access to healthcare or education. And lastly, these people are victims of violence such as genocide, modern-day slavery, ethnic conflict and a systematic discrimination. Please pray for our Congolese churches as they minister to the needs of these marginalized people, especially the pygmy. Congo Helping Hands will be exploring with our Congolese partner the ways that we can help these marginalized groups. We thank you for your donations of school supplies for the elementary students. The need is great and you still have a chance to make a difference.
Why did I choose to go to college? Was it for my future financial well-being? For me, I was not motivated by the prospect of being rich or poor. I didn't realize that there was this great chasm in earning power between a college educated person versus a high school graduate. Today it's well advertised that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics pay gap between those with a four year degree and those with a high school degree is at a record high. Those with a four year college degree can earn a median weekly salary of $1,137 whereas an employee with a high school degree earn an average of $678. But I hope that a college education was a bridge to a more comfortable working environment. I grew up in the heart of the Citrus Belt in central Florida where my teenage years my weekends and part-time jobs was spent as a day laborer in citrus groves. Mostly I picked oranges when they were in season and I tended to citrus groves before and after the season. Also, during the early summer months, I worked in the watermelon fields, and I worked in the peach orchards of South Carolina during the late summer months before school started again. All these jobs were hard and strenuous work. It had to be done in all weather conditions whether it was hot, cold, rainy, or sunny. Therefore, I wanted and longed for a better working condition. One of the most useful benefits I gained was the ability to sleep under any condition. Today that ability is great on my transatlantic flights from the U.S. to Europe or South America. Or from Europe and South America to Africa. Those working conditions served as a daily reminder to the hard work to finish my college degree. Anytime I felt alone or depressed when studying I remembered the hard working conditions and thought about the weather forecast for today. My desire for a comfortable working environment is similar to the chasm in the story of the rich man and the poor man name Lazarus, described by Jesus in the gospel Luke, Chapters 16, Verses 19 through 31. Verses 25 and 26 reads as follows, "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things and Lazarus, received bad things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'" In the Congo, I see many great chasms beyond the obvious chasm between the rich and the poor. There is an access to water chasm. Over fifty-percent of the population of the Congo do not have access to safe drinking water. But in a rural area, this water chasm is much greater. Only about three out of ten rural Congolese have access to safe drinking water. Unsafe drinking water kills thousands of Congolese children each year. As a result, unsafe drinking water is the leading cause of death of children under the age of five years old. Congo Helping Hands have restarted a water well drilling program. We improve the water well drilling operations with the purchase of a more capable and efficient truck mounted drilling rig. As the result, we will be able to complete more wells in 2020. We believe water wells will not only improve the health of children and adults, and save the lives of the most vulnerable, but water wells will bring safe water sources closer to the village population. Therefore, girls will have more time to attend school, and to reduce their education chasm between girls and boys. Also, women will have more time to devote to income generation activities, which will reduce the chasm between the rich and the poor. Please consider donating to Congo Helping Hands water well drilling operations.
Summer is over, and officially fall season started last week. Also, all elementary school students are getting into the school routine of going to bed early, and all parents are getting into monitoring their children's homework, because before you can say, "One, two, three," the first grading period will be ending. As parents, we want to see our children do their best, and we do our best to provide them with everything, and whatever will make them successful. We work in our own ways, just as hard as our children in school, and we buy all of the necessary, and sometimes the not necessary things, that we can afford, all for our children. In Congo, I see parents making the same efforts we do in the States, but it is not the same, especially in the Central Kasai Province. Until this year, children's education was not a right, or free to all children. Congolese parents had to pay school fees of about $10 a month per child. That does not sound like much, until you realize that a parent may make only $50 a month from a job, that is, if they can find a job. Also, this is the first year, since the violence in the Kasai has ended. But listen, according to Luke chapter 17, verses nine and 10. Jesus talks about the servant duties, and relates it to the master/slave relationship. He said, "Do you thank the slave "for doing what was commanded? "So you also, when you have done "what you have been ordered to do, "say, 'we are worthless slaves, "'we have done only what we ought to have done.'" I think this applies to the parent/child relationship too. But what happens when we can't provide for our children, as necessary? Someone or some entity has to fill the shoes of the parent, in support of that child. This year, Congo Helping Hands have stepped up to support those children in need. We are providing some essential school notebooks and pens, to elementary school students, working with our local partners in Kwango, we have identified 12 schools in the poorest areas to support. When I saw the video of the children saying, "Thank you Mr. Jeff, thank you Mr. Woody, "and thank you Mr. Jim," I remembered Jesus' words personally to me in this way. The children thanked me for doing what Jesus had commanded me, and when I have done all that Jesus have ordered me to do, then I will say, "Jesus, I am Your humble servant, "I have done only what I ought to have done in Your name." School fees may have been eliminated, but school supplies are still a parent's responsibility. Those parent needs your help. Please consider making a donation to support these children in need of school supplies.