christianity

POVERTY IS LACK OF HOPE, KENYAN NATIVE TELLS HSU AUDIENCE

IMG_1910

David Kirika, 27, tells his story of surviving poverty in Kenya as a child, thanks to Compassion International. The photo in the background is David as a child after he got into school in Africa, thanks to Compassion International. Photo by Loretta Fulton

For more information on Compassion International and Youth Arise Africa, go to the following websites:

www.compassioninternational.org

www.youthariseafrica.org

By Loretta Fulton

The message projected on the screen was bleak.

“Poverty is not a lack of material wealth; it’s lack of hope.”

The speaker behind the PowerPoint presentation was David Kirika, 27, a native of Kenya who knows all too well what poverty means. When he was 2 years old, his parents separated. He lived with his mother, who married a man who did not love David.

Within a span of 18 months, David lost his brother, mother, and stepfather to the HIV/AIDS virus.

“At this point I lost hope,” David said in a chapel presentation at Hardin-Simmons University on Oct. 10.

But that was not the end of David’s story. Now 27, David lives in Colorado Springs, where he is director of Youth Arise Africa, a nonprofit that aims to instill godly principles in the next generation of Africans through mentorship.

David was rescued from his bleak life through another nonprofit, Compassion International, whose motto is “Releasing Children From Poverty in Jesus’ Name.” He spoke on behalf of Compassion International at HSU, issuing a plea for students and faculty to sign up to sponsor a child–a child just like he was.

The transformation that David went through, thanks to being sponsored through Compassion International, was nothing short of miraculous. David was introduced at the chapel service by Grey Hoff, assistant to the president for university marketing and global engagement at Hardin-Simmons, introduced David.

“This man has the fingerprints of God in his life,” Hoff said.

David knew physical, as well as spiritual, poverty as a child. He watched children die of starvation in their mother’s lap, he witnessed people digging deeper and deeper into garbage dumps in search of food or something to sell. He knew a boy who woke up one morning next to his dead sister.

After David’s mother and stepfather died, he was taken in by grandparents. Twelve people lived in a two-room house the size of an American bedroom. On most mornings, his “breakfast” was a glass of water–that’s all he had to sustain him for the three-mile walk to school.

David went through a long period of doubting God’s love for him.

But at age 9, the miracle began to happen. He was sponsored through Compassion International by a boy a year younger than himself, Aaron Mitchell, who lived in Florida with his family. Through Compassion International, David saw his dream realized–he was going to high school.

And, for the first time in his life, he got new shoes, something that made him so happy he wanted to sleep in them. But he still didn’t connect his good fortune with the God he was doubting.

“I couldn’t understand any of this about God,” he said.

Then, a setback occurred. He didn’t score high enough on the national exam to go to high school. He was devastated but motivated to find his biological father, whom he had heard had money. His grandmother bought him a one-way bus ticket to the town where his father lived.

David found him, but also found another disappointment. His father disavowed him.

“He had replaced me with someone else,” David said.

However, a private school opened in his home town and David was able to attend. When he was in the 10th grade, the pastor at the school issued an invitation.

“If you doubt God has a plan for you,” the pastor said, “come and see me.”

David was not convinced and told the pastor he would give God one week to put in an appearance in David’s life.

“It’s now been 12 years,” he said.

He qualified for college, which was paid for by Compassion International, and now holds an honors degree in business leadership from Pan Africa Christian University in Nairobi. It felt like a movie, David said.

“Compassion gave me that opportunity,” he said.

David stays in contact with Aaron Mitchell, the boy of 8 who, with his family’s help, sponsored David through Compassion International. The final projection in David’s presentation showed Aaron with his family, all of whom are white.

“This is my sponsor family,” David said. “People say we look alike.”

CONCERT BENEFITS ABILENE HOPE HAVEN

 

 

DAVID PHELPS BENEFIT CONCERT
WHAT: David Phelps, an award-winning singer, will present a benefit concert for Abilene Hope Haven
WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 18
WHERE: Abilene Convention Center, 1100 N. Sixth St.
TICKETS: $25, $35, and $75 (VIP, includes hors d’oeuvres  and an opportunity to meet Phelps; www.abilenehopehaven.org/

By Loretta Fulton

Three months into his new job as executive director of Abilene Hope Haven, John Cooper had the rug pulled out from under him.

A federal grant that provided 70 percent of the funding for the nonprofit that provides shelter and a path to security for the homeless. Cooper and members of the board of directors got on their knees and prayed for guidance.

“We just believed God wasn’t done with Hope Haven,” Cooper said at the Sept. 27 meeting of the Abilene Association of Congregations.

JohnCooper

John Cooper

He had reason to believe. When Cooper was 15, he experienced homelessness himself, staying for a short while in a shelter. When he turned 16, his grandparents  took him in and provided a stable home. They took him to church for the first time in his life.

He understands the plight of people living at Hope Haven.

“It was only by the grace of God that I was able to escape some of those circumstances myself,” he said.

A benefit concert for Hope Haven will be held Nov. 18 at the Abilene Convention Center, featuring vocal artist David Phelps. Tickets range from $25 to $75 and may be purchased online at www.abilenehopehaven.org

Those top-end tickets include hors d’oeuvres and the opportunity to meet Phelps. Only 100 of those tickets are available, and they are popular.

“Those are going faster than the others,” Cooper said.

Proceeds will help pay for all the services provided by Abilene Hope Haven. The agency operates a 21-bed temporary housing unit on Treadaway Boulevard called Bridge 2 Home and an assistance program called Hope Housing Services.

HHS provides housing identification, financial assistance, and case management, with tailored supportive services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

The Bridge 2 Home shelter has undergone a radical change since Cooper arrived, not only in physical appearance but also in atmosphere with an emphasis on “radical hospitality.”

From his own background, Cooper knows how important atmosphere can be in a shelter. So, it’s not just a rhetorical question when he asks, “How would I want to be treated?”

The shelter has new light-colored paint with wall decorations and literal “welcome” mats. Dr. Stephen Baldridge, director of the social work program and an assistant professor of social work at Abilene Christian University, and his family live in the shelter.

Having the director living in the shelter with his family has changed the dynamic of Bridge 2 Home, Cooper said, and sent a message:

“You are our brothers and our sister,” he said, “that’s really how we’re trying to treat them.”

Cooper included a pleas in his talk. He noted that donations from churches accounts for only a small percentage of giving. Only one Bible class donates consistently.

“We’re trying to grow that awareness,” he said.

 

 

 

 

DOGS RECEIVE BLESSING FROM PRIEST IN HONOR OF SAINT FRANCIS DAY

 

 

By Loretta Fulton

Remy, a precocious shih tzu, playfully walked toward a smiling Father Adam Droll and promptly relieved himself on the priest’s black cassock.

“Are you telling me I need to do the dry cleaning?” Droll, parochial vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church gently asked, still smiling.

Remy quickly got a blessing from Droll, who repeated the blessing to all the dogs gathered in front of Suite Life Pet Resort and Spa Saturday morning. Once Droll had bless about a dozen dogs that owners brought for the special occasion, Droll blessed another 30-plus dogs who were being boarded.

The Blessing of the Animals is a rite in the Catholic Church, and many others, that is held each year in observance of the Oct. 4 Feast Day of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals.

Prior to the blessings, Droll read the rite, which began with the words, “Wonderful are all God’s works. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And all responded, “Now and forever.”

Droll gave a short homily and concluded with a prayer for all creation.

“All of God’s creation is good,” Droll said, “and we’re all on the same path toward eternity.”

‘YOU ARE GOD’S SIGNED ORIGINAL,’ LOGSDON SPEAKER ASSURES STUDENTS

By Loretta Fulton

In the beginning, God was already God.

And in all of creation, God has made only one version of each person, the speaker for this year’s Cornerstone Lecture Series at Hardin-Simmons University reminded students at a luncheon Sept. 20.

“You are God’s signed original,” said Delvin Atchison, director of the Great Commission Team for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Delvin-Atchison2 (2) (003)

Delvin Atchison

Atchison gave several lectures and held discussions with students and faculty during the lectureship held Sept. 19-21. He spoke on the theme, “God of the Amazing.”

Not only is God amazing, Atchison said at the student luncheon, he wants his people to be amazing, too. And that requires setting a goal and being tenacious enough to reach it. But getting there isn’t a solitary experience, Atchison promised.

“The God who made me fearfully and wonderfully,” Atchison said, “guides me and walks with me on my journey.”

In a question and answer session following his talk, Atchison was asked what he wanted to be when he was younger. He wanted to be an attorney, he said, but also started sensing that God was calling him to ministry when he was 12.

“I figured by the time I was grown, he’d give up,” Atchison  said, but that didn’t happen.

Far from it. Atchison is former pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Waco, where he was vice president of the Waco Ministerial Alliance. He held his first preaching position at age 16. In his job with the BGCT, Atchison considers himself “a pastor’s pastor.” With 5,400 churches in the BGCT, that’s a lot of pastors to pastor.

A student at the luncheon asked Atchison what his best advice would be for a young pastor.

“Genuinely love people,” he said, “and see God in all of them.”

Atchison earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas and a master of divinity degree from the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. He also holds an honorary doctorate of divinity degree from St. Thomas Christian College.

 

 

 

CHRISTIANS CAN ENGAGE IN CIVIL POLITICAL TALK, EVEN WITH OPPOSING VIEWS, SUMMIT TEACHERS ASSERT

File_000 (8)

Cole Bennett, standing, and Scott Self, lead a class at ACU’s Summit 2017 on “The Christian Citizen.” Photo by Loretta Fulton

By Loretta Fulton

Scott Self and Cole Bennett are about as different politically as can be.

This is by their own admission. But, they are best friends, they are united in Christ, and they talk.

“How did this happen?” Self asked.

It happened–and happens–because both men are willing to try to understand where the other is coming from. Bennett knows that Self is a man who loves Christ first, and Self knows that about his friend.

“That makes a difference in who we are,” Bennett said.

ColeBennett

Cole Bennett

Bennett is a professor in the Language and Literature Department at Abilene Christian University and Self is director of ACU’s University Access Department.

The two friends took a tag team approach to leading sessions at ACU’s Summit 2017, held Sept. 17-20. The class, taught in two parts, was titled, “The Christian Citizen: Christianity and Public Policy.”

Bennett projected a graphic on a screen from a 2013 book titled, “Three Languages of Politics” by Arnold Kling. The graphic showed three axes, with “Progressive” as the label for the first axis, “Conservative” the second, and “Libertarian” the third.

Each axis had words on each end with opposite meanings. The “Progressive” axis had  “oppressed” and “oppressor” on opposite ends, “Conservative” had “savage” and “civilized,” and “Libertarian” had “coerced” and “free” on the opposite ends of its axis.

Whenever hot button political issues arise, it’s best to be aware of when you aren’t listening to someone on a different axis.

“We need to be able to talk on all three axes,” Bennett said.

Bennett listens to a particular podcast because of the civil conversation, as opposed to the strident voices on one side or the other that are usually heard on talk shows. There is a simple reason that the conversation is civil, Bennett said.

“It’s because they move on all three axes,” he said.

ScottSelf

Scott Self

Likewise, Self and Bennett move on each other’s axis when talking about the size and role of government. It would be inappropriate, Self said, for him to say that Bennett doesn’t care for the poor just because their political views differ.

“How he does (care) is very different from how I care,” Self said.

People have the resources needed to try to understand another person’s point of view and to engage in civil discourse, the friends agreed. They are blessed with the capacity for compassion, forgiveness, joy, peace, and patience.

Bennett said that no matter what form the government takes, as a Christian he has duty to live according to the teachings of Jesus.

“I still have a responsibility to the poor,” he said, no matter how the government views assisting the poor. “I can’t ever give up my responsibility to God and my neighbor.”

‘GOD DOESN’T KNOW BOUNDARIES, JUST POSSIBILITIES,’ LECTURER REMINDS

SummitProgramCover

By Loretta Fulton

“You were a stranger in the land of Egypt.”

“You were an alien in their land.”

Why does God insist on saying that?

Because God wants his people to remember that they were aliens once and to feel empathy toward the aliens among them. He wants his people to look at those who are different and say, “Here is somebody just like me” because they share a common experience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mark Hamilton

That is a lesson from Deuteronomy that can’t be ignored, Mark Hamilton, an Abilene Christian University professor of Old Testament, said during a session at ACU’s Summit 2017, held Sept. 17-20.

Theme for Summit was “Ancient Scripture, Future Church,” based on reflections from Deuteronomy. If anyone is tempted to dismiss the Old Testament as “old,” Hamilton has a reminder–Christians are a community that inherited Deuteronomy, and other Old Testament writings, as part of their value system.

“We take these texts very seriously,” Hamilton said.

So, what does that mean for today’s Christians? Hamilton recalled that when he was a 12-year-old living in western Arkansas, Fort Chaffee became the home to 25,000 refugees from the Vietnam War, which ended April 30, 1975.

“We came face to face with the reality of immigration,” Hamilton said.

The church he and his family attended worshipped with the refugees in old World War II barracks at Fort Chaffee. As a 12-year-old faithful Christian, Hamilton said he felt an obligation to meet with the strangers, worshipping, singing, and sharing the gospel. He thought that’s the way it was supposed to be.

“And, I still think that’s just the way it’s supposed to be,” Hamilton said.

His belief jibes with the texts in Deuteronomy that he cited. The book is filled with examples of how God intends for his people to interact with the aliens among them. There is nothing vague or abstract about them, Hamilton noted.

“You don’t get to oppress people simply because you can, because they’re an outsider,” Hamilton said.

With so much migration today, churches most likely will have an opportunity to be a host to refugees or immigrants in their community. What, Hamilton asked, does it mean to be the host of migrants?

First, ask questions like, “What do you know about God?” rather than making statements like,  “Let me tell you about God.” Both the migrant and the host can learn from that kind of interaction.

The good host isn’t controlling nor does he blame migrants for the problems in his own community or country.

There is challenge, Hamilton said, but also great opportunity with so much migration in the world today. Hamilton told of a friend in Austria who attended a church that was dwindling in numbers. The church prayed for new people, new workers in the life of the church. And, just like that, an influx of Nigerians filled the pews.

“God doesn’t know boundaries,” Hamilton said, “just possibilities.”

 

‘ENCOUNTERING SCRIPTURE WITH THE CHURCH FATHERS’ ADDS DEPTH OF UNDERSTANDING TO READING THE BIBLE

 

SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN READING SCRIPTURE, COURTESY OF:

ORIGEN OF ALEXANDRIA

  1. What’s the obvious meaning?
  2. How does this impact how I live my life?
  3. How does this connect with or shape what I believe as a Christian?

JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

  1. When I imagine myself in this situation or scenario, what do I notice?
  2. What does the text say that shapes my imagination of the situation or scenario?
  3. What does the text NOT say about the situation or scenario, such that I need to fill in the gaps with my imagination?

AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

  1. How am I (or are we) the subject of this text? How are we the ones doing the things done  or saying the things said there?
  2. How am I or are we the object or addressee of this text? How might it be talking to us today?
  3. How am I or are we the topic of this text? How is it discussing me or us? How would I respond if I overheard that conversation?

Source: David Kneip, for Summit class on “Ancient-Future Reading: Encountering Scripture With the Church Fathers.”

By Loretta Fulton

Who better than the church fathers to help today’s readers get a more in-depth understanding of ancient scripture?

In an easy-to-understand and enjoyable presentation, David Kneip offered some insight into their thinking and understanding during a track on “The Ancient-Future Bible,” a part of Summit 2017 at Abilene Christian University.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

David Kneip

For those trying to take notes, Kneip, an assistant professor in ACU’s Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry, handed out a helpful “cheat sheet,” which is printed above.

It doesn’t take special skills to read and appreciate the Bible, Kneip said. It’s like “an amazing, intricate pop-up book,” he said, and as you get deeper into it, “you see more detail and more beauty.”

But, reading the scriptures like the church fathers did can add an extra layer of understanding. Like a good professor trying to go easy on his freshman class, Kneip was reassuring about plumbing the depths of the minds of the church fathers.

“They’re not all that different from us,” Kneip assured.

Take Origen of Alexandria, for example.

“He was a guy who loved the Lord a lot,”Kneip said,

Origen, who was born in 185 and died in 254, believed that the Bible, like humans, had a body, soul, and spirit. The body is that part that is detectable or touchable, the soul is the seat of moral life, and the spirit allows ascension to God.

Correspondingly, the body of the Bible is its plain meaning, which may be obvious or it might be mysterious. The soul of the Bible is the moral meaning of the text: “What does this mean for how I live my life?” The spirit of the Bible is how it connects to God. He cited Numbers 33, but with a light-hearted preface.

“That was the book where I quit when I tried to read the Bible all the way through,” Kneip joked.

But seriously, Origen believed that when the scripture says the Israelites went “up out of Egypt,” it meant more than literally going “up” from sea level. It also has a metaphorical meaning.

Likewise, Kneip said, humans go “up” when they leave vices behind in pursuit of virtue or leave behind a life of sin and death to a life in Christ. Origen invites asking questions about deeper meanings of scripture than meets the eye.

John Chrysostom, whose name literally means, “Golden Mouth,” lived from 349 to 407. He was a monk who was drafted into church leadership, eventually being appointed Archbishop of Constantinople. He didn’t read the Bible as allegory but rather tried to amplify or magnify a text, Kneip said.

Chrysostom was so taken with the story of Lazarus and the rich man, as told in Luke 16: 19-31, that he preached a series of at least seven sermons on that scripture, Kneip said.

Chrysostom asked the people of his day if they did not see the situation in the text “as if it were present,” Kneip pointed out. And that leads to the questions for today’s reader, Kneip added.

“What do I notice when I imagine this situation? Are there clues in the text that help me imagine? What silences are there in the text?”

Augustine of Hippo, who lived from 354 to 430, was extremely influential on the Western church, Kneip pointed out. He wanted believers to become “more deeply Christian” as they gathered around the Bible as a community. He invited the use of imagination in reading scripture by alternately seeing ourselves as the subject, the object, and the topic of the text.

For example, Augustine asks the question of why did Jesus quote Psalm 22, verse 1, from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

“For what other reason was this said, than that we were there?” Augustine asks. “For what other reason than that Christ’s body is the church?”