Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Orphans


World Orphans Day is observed on the second Monday of November.  The purpose of World Orphan’s Day is to facilitate public awareness of social issues surrounding orphans and displaced children’s social issues, and to engage community support for the causes.


Here are some facts about orphans.

1. It would take 80,000 orphanages with 500 children each to house all the orphans in Sub Sahara Africa left behind by the pandemic of AIDS.

2. Over 60 million orphans go to bed hungry every night.

3. 143 million children are suffering from malnutrition, and 400 thousand of those will die this year.

4. HIV and AIDS is devastating global communities, and millions are facing the horror of war and abuse EVERY day.

5. Nearly 144 million children across the world are orphans.

6. Every 2 seconds, another child becomes an orphan.

7. 6,000 children are orphaned by AIDS every day. That is a newly orphaned child every 14 seconds.

8. Malnutrition plays a part in more than half of all child deaths worldwide. Every year, malnutrition is associated with the deaths of five million children under the age of five.


In our comfy little corner of America it is hard for us to realize what these facts really tell us. Why should I as a Christian worry about these problems that have been brought on by the sinful behavior of others? Are orphans any of my concern?

God’s word tells us in James 1:27 “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us”.

How can we help? Pray! Pray specifically for those organizations whose mission it is to help the orphans. Trust God to impress upon your heart what you might do or give.

Take, for instance, George Müller, who was born in Prussia in 1805. He didn't care about anything other than pursuing his own pleasures. His future looked bleak, but God was working in George’s life. In 1825, he became a Christian and changed from a drunken con man to a humble man who depended on God for everything.

In 1832 he became the pastor of a Brethren congregation in Bristol, England. Bristol would be the center of his ministry for the next sixty-six years. As his work among the poor in Bristol grew, Mueller saw the need for an orphanage. He read the scripture in Psalms 68:5 that says “God is a father of the fatherless”. He believed that if God was truly the father to orphans, all he had to do was to make himself available to care for the orphans and God would supply every need. So that’s what he did.


As God increased his faith Mr. Mueller built homes and cared for more and more children. The orphanage he operated had five mammoth buildings, and over the years took care of the needs of over 10,000 orphans. At his death, he was caring for over 2,000 children everyday!

Mr. Mueller never told anyone of his needs for his orphanage, his church, or his own personal needs. During his ministry he took in the equivalent of 250 million dollars for the support of the orphanages without ever asking for a dime.

Do you think that God cares about the orphans? What has he asked us as Christians to do about it? The Bible tells us in Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Rebuke the oppressor. Help the orphans. Stand up for the rights of widows.”


I think that the Bible makes it clear that we as Christians have a duty to help. We need to take the focus off of ourselves and become more concerned for all of those who need our help like the 143 million children who are suffering from malnutrition. A child under the age of 5 dies every 3 seconds from neglect, starvation, or exposure. That is 30 thousand every day, 11 million every year.

With the economic downturn here in America a lot of Christians, myself included, expend a lot of emotional energy worrying about conditions and how they will affect us. We need to take our focus off of ourselves and focus on the task that God has given those of us who have more than enough to sustain us.

1 John 3:17 tells us “If anyone has enough money to live well, and sees someone in need and refuses to help—how can God's love be in that person?

Is God’s love in you? We certainly don’t want to hear the words that Jesus spoke in Matthew 25:45,46 “I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing to help me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

My friend Richie Owens has written a song that addresses this issue






Somewhere In Time
By Richie Owens

A newborn baby cries as
Tears filled his mother’s eyes
Her joy is eclipsed by her fear as
Men on drugs with guns and knives
Run up and down the streets outside
And there’s no future for this baby here

Somewhere a child is safely playing
Somewhere there’s plenty all the time
Somewhere life is pure and perfect
She cries why can’t that somewhere be mine

Are we not called to lend a hand
Glad to do all we can
To save the drowning in the sea of life

We cannot win this world by might
By corporate power or legal fight
But by His spirit reaching out
And turning on the light

Somewhere a little girl is hurting
Somewhere a mans crossed the line
Somewhere hopes and dreams are shattered
And we need to find somewhere in time

We claim to love Jesus
Live our lives at his feet
While he scours the dump
In search of something to eat

Somewhere there’s no help or guidance
Somewhere no one sees the signs
Somewhere lifes just too busy
And we need to find somewhere in time.


ABC Wednesday is a fun way to see blogs from around the world

Monday, October 13, 2014

Nicolas N. Scott Eulogy


Eric Scott delivered this Eulogy at Nick Scott's memorial service. He graciously gave me permission to post it to my blog. Whether you knew Nick or not, Eric's eulogy is powerful and really made me think about the way I view people. Please take a few moments and read his words.




Eulogy for Nicolas N. Scott
by Eric Scott
Ph.D student in Computer Science
George Mason University

The last few years of Nick’s life were hard. Certainly harder than anything I've been through. There is no way to sugar coat it: as a homeless man in Oklahoma City, Nick suffered a lot. At Nick’s age, he should have been looking forward to an open-ended vista of possibilities. The American Dream, with all its hopes and promises, should have been tantalizing him with its optimism. And on his good days, Nick did dream of future success the way a young person should. He dreamt of getting his G.E.D. and going back to school, of making enough money to pay back everyone he had ever hurt, and of becoming a lawyer and helping people in situations like his.

But most days, Nicolas was trapped in a sense of futility. Robert Frost described an old man in a similar position in one of his poems, “The Death of the Hired Man.” Young as he was, it could easily have been Nick, Nick who lived as an illegal immigrant in his own country, barely eking out a living as a hired hand. Frost writes of him:

So concerned for other folk,
And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope,
So now and never any different.

If there’s one thing that I've consistently heard from Nick’s friends and acquaintances over the years, it was that he was truly concerned for other folk. Nick did many things that he regretted, some things as innocent as stealing food to survive, and some things less easy to forgive. I don’t know what it’s like to be locked in the cycle of hopelessness that so many people living in poverty experience from day to day. I’m told that money loses value when there is never enough of it. There is a certain logic to irresponsibility in situations where human flourishing is rare and precious.

But people never lost value for Nick. Nick was a passionate believer in compassion and empathy. Nick stood in judgment over himself for his failures to do justice to people and their experiences. And he stood in judgment over me, over society and criminal justice, and over the church. The one person I never heard him criticize was his late mother, Tilly Scott, who for Nick embodied a complete and unconditional regard for the well-being of her son.

Nick went back and forth on his religious beliefs. Life on the street doesn't afford much luxury for debating academic arguments about God and theology. He didn't know what he believed, but he read his Bible regularly, and Nick seemed to genuinely feel that Christ was often more present in the homeless shelters and jail cells of Oklahoma City than in its churches. He tried many times to explain to me his belief that there is good in everyone, a source of dignity even in what most of us would consider broken and violent souls. Nick knew convicted murderers that he believed were among the most profound representatives of Christ-like compassion that you could find.

A few weeks ago the minister at my church in Virginia delivered a message on forgiveness, and challenged everyone in our congregation to forgive one person that week, and to ask forgiveness from someone. Things were tense between Nick and I at the time. He’d told some fibs while trying to get my family to help him with rent money, and I was feeling pretty stern. It was a busy week for me, and I procrastinated on my homework, but finally I told Nick that I forgave him, and that supporting him was what was most important to us. He died that evening.

Because of my minister’s challenge, I have the comfort of knowing that Nick’s last words to me were of gratitude. That week, his family had chosen to love him unconditionally. He told me that it meant a lot, and that he would try to do better toward us.


But what I failed to do, and what I wish I could do now, is ask Nick’s forgiveness. Not just for the times I wasn't there to help him. I want Nick’s forgiveness for being slow to learn how to see the dignity in every human being. It is always far easier to judge the homeless than to help them, even with family. On Nick’s behalf, I challenge all of us, myself included, to see the Christ in those in need. We have to go beyond feeling sorry for others, and build relationships that allow us to truly understand them. Nick is no longer here for us to learn to love, but his belief in love is something we can carry on now that he is gone.
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The ABC Wednesday Meme is a fun way to see some great blogs.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nick Scott Memorial


Today my wife and I along with my parents drove to Oklahoma City to attend Nick Scott's memorial service.  I was asked to read the obituary. I was honored to be able to do so.


Nicolas Neal Scott (born Nicolas Aweyo), aged 23, of Oklahoma City died October 1, 2014 in Oklahoma City of homicide.

He was born June 23, 1991 near Homa Bay, Kenya. His mother died in childbirth and he was adopted by Neal and Tillie Scott two weeks later. His early childhood was spent in Morogoro, Tanzania where his parents were missionaries. Then the family returned to the United States, residing in Texas, Tennessee, and New Mexico before settling near Hodgen, Oklahoma'

Nick was home schooled for his first 6 years and then completed seventh and eighth grades in Hodgen, Oklahoma. He attended high school in Heavener, Oklahoma and was active in football and basketball. After high school he worked at a series of odd jobs but ran into difficulties when his citizenship papers were misplaced. Repeated attempts at replacing them were lost in red tape and his frequent moves.

He spent most of his adult life in Oklahoma but was homeless for the last several years. Basketball remained a passion throughout his life. Nick was a quiet young man until you got to know him well. Then a sense of humor and deep compassion came through that endeared him to his friends.

I first met Nick as an eight year old boy named Nicky. He was a quiet boy who couldn't sit still. Over the next few years I got to know him in my Sabbath School Class and in Pathfinders. By the time he was twelve he was almost as tall as I was.


Nick loved Pathfinder camping trips. We always knew to take extra food when Nick was along, especially an extra container of sour cream.

Nick was scheduled to go to the Faith on Fire Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Over 33,000 Pathfinders from over 100 countries attended. Shortly before the Camporee he injured his foot and was afraid that he would miss out, but he was able to go with a special boot. He had a great time at the Camporee and never complained even though we had to do lots of walking, (our campsite was almost a mile from the main events hangars), on his sore foot. I'm very glad that he was able to be a part of the Faith on Fire Camporee.


Nick is survived by his father, Neal Scott and wife, Lucy of Harrah, Oklahoma, two brothers, Steve and wife Vivian of Illinois and Tom and wife Jo Ann of Wisconsin, a sister, Marci, of California, and nieces and nephews. His mother, Tillie, preceded him in death in 2011.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Golden Rule


One of the best known sayings of Christianity is the Golden Rule; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In Matthew 7:12, Jesus actually said, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Most Christians really believe this. They would not only agree that it’s correct to treat others right, but also believe in showing deference or respect or kindness.

But there’s one area of life where it seems that Christians forget the Golden Rule, and that’s politics.  I’m amazed by how many Christians become completely uncivil when it comes to discussing politics. In everything else they are polite but once they start talking about politics or politicians they become vicious.  It seems that they forget that the Bible says in Romans 12:10, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”


Many devout Christians become mean, critical, and bitter when they talk about politics. Insults, name-calling, bitterness, and slander are the order of the day.  They don’t seem to remember that the Jesus they claim to worship said to “love your enemies”.

I think that social media is partly to blame.  People post things on the internet they might never say.  I don’t believe that Christians shouldn't have opinions on politics or that they shouldn't express them.   I’m very grateful that I live in a country where free speech is a basic human right.  I’m happy that there are Christians who care about their country, and that some involve themselves in the political process.

But does it have to be so full of hate?  It is all right for a Christian to express an opinion on politics such as, “I think X is a poor President, Senator, Congresswoman, Candidate.”  A Christian has a right to feel that way. But we have all seen some Christians cross the line from opinion to attack, insult, and slander.  Much of it is hateful and malicious.


Look at the Facebook posts of some Christians. When they talk or re-post, ask yourself if it’s possible they've ever read Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be with grace.”

In Matthew 12:34 Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” We as Christians can’t escape the reality that our words (or Facebook and Twitter posts) reveal our true character.   “For by your words,” Jesus said, “you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37) I have never read in the Bible where Jesus said, “But when it comes to politics and politicians, feel free to be as mean, vile and ugly as you want.”


When Christians say/post/share ugly words, thoughts or pictures about people on the other side to support their political position they are talking about people that Jesus loves, people that Jesus died for.  There is a real person behind those words.  When someone says that all of any group is/says/does/thinks/behaves/believes/hates/loves/etc., they are saying that about real people, not just ideologies, not just platforms, not just issues, not just politicians.

I’m sure that there is a way for Christians to engage in the political process and political discussions while still manifesting the Spirit of Jesus.  If Christians consistently showed the Spirit of Jesus in their political discussions instead of being mean or harsh it would be a powerful witness.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Remembering Nick


Last week I received news that was a shock to me.  One of the boys that I had in my youth class at church a number of years ago had been shot to death in Oklahoma City.  He was just 23 years old.

Around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, police were called out to the apartment complex on NW 25th and Penn on a shots fired call with a man down.  On arrival Nick Scott was discovered in the courtyard of an apartment complex.

A neighbor told police that they heard 5 or 6 shots. "I ran outside, everyone says Nick, it's Nick! He's dead, he's dead!" the neighbor said.

Oklahoma City Police report that an arrest has been made in the shooting death of Nicolas Scott.  Sam Neal, 45, was taken into custody Thursday afternoon.

As the realization of what had happened sank in I was very upset.  I had been very close to Nick and his family.


Nick's family moved to our area and started attending the Mena Seventh-Day Adventist Church in 1999.  As the youth leader and the Pathfinder Club leader I got to know Nick and his sister Marci.  His parents had been missionaries in Africa and had adopted him there. When they retired, they moved back to the U.S. You can read more of the story of Nick's parents on my blog post written when Nick's mom, Tillie Scott, passed away in February 2011.

Nick enjoyed being a member of the Mena Wildcats Pathfinder Club. Pathfinders is a church based, co-ed, scouting type organization. Twice a year we would go on campouts, and Nick loved to go. He was a friendly boy and always made lots of friends. Every five years Pathfinders hold an International Camporee.  Nick was scheduled to go to the Faith on Fire Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Over 33,000 Pathfinders from over 100 countries attended.  Shortly before the Camporee he injured his foot and was afraid that he would miss out, but he was able to go with a special boot.


He had a great time at the Camporee and never complained even though we had to do lots of walking, (our campsite was almost a mile from the main events hangars), on his sore foot.  I'm very glad that he was able to be a part of  the Faith on Fire Camporee.




In 2004 Nick was a part of a mission trip that our church made to San Pedro Belize.  While we were in Belize we helped start the construction of the New Horizon SDA Chapel.  We spent a lot of time at the New Horizon School that was next to the construction site.  Nick was happy to be a part of the project, and carried lots of cement blocks to those who were laying block.  He loved the ocean.  This is one of my favorite photos of him taken while were were in Belize.


I am so saddened by this senseless loss of life.  I know that I will never forget Nick.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bears


We recently purchased the movie, "Bears".  My grand daughters really enjoyed the movie, and so did I.  In the movie a grizzly bear mother named Sky gives birth to two cubs named Amber and Scout in her den on a mountain slope. When April comes the bears leave the den. When they reach the lush valley below, the cubs meet the other bears, some of which pose a threat to the cubs.


When summer comes, so does the yearly salmon run. Dozens of bears gather along salmon streams on the coast to get the best of the run before it ends. After the bear family fills themselves on the salmon, they head back to into the mountains as winter approaches to their den to sleep through the harsh cold winter.

The bear cubs are very cute and the scenery is spectacular.  When I learned that the movie was filmed in Katmai National Park in Alaska, I started reading about the park which spans over four million acres of remote, wild, and spectacular country in southern Alaska.  As I was reading I came across the story of Pemby.


Early last July, rangers in the park observed that a yearling bear cub appeared to have been abandoned by his mother.  They named the cub Pemby.  Without his mother, the cub’s chances of survival were slim, but the rangers could only watch as nature took its course.


Over the next few weeks, Pemby remained mostly out of sight, perched in a tree near the river where his mother had left him. But just a few weeks later, in late July, park officials saw something that intrigued them. A visitor had snapped a few photos of a mother bear with two cubs taken in another region of the park. Rangers recognized Pemby immediately, but were surprised to see that he was in the company of a different mother bear, known as Holly, along with her own young cub.


Mother bears accepting outside cubs into their family units is almost unheard of, so the rangers were justifiably dubious about what the images suggested.  In the first week of September, Pemby was seen yet again with Holly and her biological cub, and their manner seemed to show without a doubt that the mother bear had come to consider the orphan one of her own. Holly has been seen sharing food with the youngster, sleeping by his side and nuzzling him just as his real mother might have.

The rangers have since concluded that a rare case of adoption had indeed occurred, even if the reasons why are virtually impossible to explain.



The orphan Pemby is an orphan no longer. He has been born again. He is now Holly's cub.

The Bible tells us that we can be born again.  We find this truth in John 3:1-3;  There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus was as religious as anyone in Jerusalem, but he needed a complete conversion, a new birth.  Being born again is not what we do. Being born again is when we quit trying and begin trusting Jesus who died our death on Calvary's cross in order to give us, in our death's place, His life.


What jobs do you give newborns? Why don’t we give them jobs? We don’t ask them to work, we love them, feed them, take care of them. We will in time give the jobs to do, but only after we have watched them grow, as we have taught them.  That is what Jesus is talking about when he says that we must be born again.

Listen to this story found in Luke 18:15-17; Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”


To become a part of God’s Kingdom you must be born again.  You must receive God’s kingdom as an infant.  Babies don’t have preconceived ideas.  They don’t think that they know it all and can run their own lives.

Our first birth gives us many treasures: a family name, a genetic inheritance, nationality, ethnicity. Birth determines or influences every aspect of our lives—whether we are tall or short, smart or not so smart, rich or poor, musical or can't carry a tune, color blind or sensitive to colors.

When we are born again, none of this changes. We have the same family of origin, the same finances. We can still sing . . . or not. We still take pride in our ethnic or national heritage. These elements of our identity that flow from our birth are treasures. Being born again does not erase them. Being born again puts them in their proper place. All of these identities become subordinate to our supreme identity as children of God.


Because we have been born again we recognize all of the rest of God's children as our brothers and sisters.  They are part of our family. We are part of their family. We see them as the dearly-loved children of God.  We will not do anything to disparage our brothers and sisters.

Similarly, when we have theological disputes, those who have been born again see the people with “differing” views as dearly loved children of God. The status my opponents enjoy as children of God imposes on me the obligation to show them respect. To listen carefully to their arguments.

Being born again imposes obligations. We have joined a new family and this new family has a distinctive culture.  1 Peter 3:8 tells us, "Live in harmony with one another.  Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble".


One of the fascinating aspects of the bear cub story is the interaction of the cubs. According to rangers, the aggressive behavior of old male bears begins very early. Male cubs fight. They don't share. But in Holly's household they do. Holly's natural-born cub and Pemby have been observed sharing fish together. It appears that the generosity of Mama Bear has created a new kind of bear culture.

In the same way, Jesus has modeled and taught a new way of being human. As born again Christians, people adopted into the family of God, we are called to mimic God in forming a new kind of human community, a community where people show to one another the same grace we have received from God.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Newborn


Last Wednesday I was blessed to be able to meet my newest granddaughter shortly after she was born.  She immediately had me wrapped around her tiny little finger.  I was only able to be there for a few short hours before I had to make the long drive back home.



 

My wife stayed with my son and daughter-in-law for a few days and was there when they went home from the hospital.





Everyone was excited when the new baby arrived home.




 I drove back on the weekend to see my granddaughter, (and to pick up my wife).  I was able to spend quite a little time getting to know her, even holding her during the night when she wasn't sleeping.  As we drove home I was thinking about when I would be able to hold that precious little girl again.