The ‘line’ of the title is the poverty line, which currently stands at about $23,000 per year for a family of four; and the film delves into the stories of four people faced with poverty.
It is the poor that are mentioned throughout the Bible as of unique concern–these are the vulnerable and marginalized, these are the ones often oppressed and kept down by the systems in place, these are “the least of these.”
As Aaron said a few weeks ago at The District Church, “The test of true, biblical justice is how we treat the poor.”
Please take some time to watch the film and learn the stories and faces of just a few of the almost 50 million Americans living in poverty–they are our brothers and sisters, and we are called to be their keepers, to be their neighbors.
Don’t just be aware; do something, even something as simple as raising your voice.
This past year, I’ve had a front row seat–indeed, I’ve been fortunate to be in the thick of the action–as God’s been at work: in my life, in the lives of those around me, and in The District Church. Here are some examples:
God’s been at work through prayer in my small group, where we’ve prayed for jobs for four guys (including myself)–each of them is now employed; and we’ve prayed for housing for four more (including myself)–each of them now has a place to live.
God’s been at work in my small group period, where today we commissioned three new small groups out of the one I’d been leading. I felt blessed to have so many servant leaders in my group, and am so excited to see all of them stepping into what God has for them.
God’s been at work in our church, growing our small community until we’re now stretching the space we’ve been meeting in. We wanted to find a larger space but none of those options worked out, so starting on September 25, we’ll begin having two services on Sunday morning! This is such an exciting time and we believe this is a time God is calling us, to use an analogy from 2 Kings 3, to build ditches in preparation for the rain.
And most exciting of all …
Last Sunday, we commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at our church, and in his message, Aaron spoke about how “True Awakening Leads to Reform” (we’re currently doing a sermon series drawn from Habakkuk and Acts, entitled “Awaken”). He expanded on the op-ed he’d written in the Washington Post to mark the occasion, in which he’d written to the Muslim community to apologize for the ways that we as Christians had allowed our pride and prejudices to cloud our witness. And so on Sunday, as a small act of reconciliation, we took up an offering for our Muslim brothers and sisters who are suffering from the famine in the Horn of Africa–Somalia, hardest hit, is 99% Muslim. Through various other movements of the Holy Spirit, we had offers to match whatever we raised by up to 7 times. Still, we were conscious of our size–we’re only about 150–and so we were ready to be thrilled regardless of the amount raised.
I suppose I should have left this email untitled to maintain the surprise. But when all was said and done, we as a church raised almost $15,000, and with the matching donations, we were able to raise $100,000 for famine relief efforts.
This was such humbling and spine-tinglingly exciting news, such an encouragement for me as a leader of a community of such amazingly generous people, and such a reminder that God is at work, doing great things even in the face of great suffering and tragedy.
May we all (continue to) see God at work in all things.
Thousands are feared dead in the wake of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, with millions more affected and displaced. Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere, with a heartbreaking history rife with slavery, despotism, disease and disaster—in 2008, the country was hit by four hurricanes, which killed hundreds.
Please help however you are able: through prayers, through donations to charitable aid organizations, and through action. Here’s a list of organizations that are working on the ground in Haiti, including World Vision and Oxfam; and you can find more suggestions and recommendations from Sojourners readers on Sojourners’ Facebook page.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains should shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult” (Psalm 46:1-3).
Last night, I was privileged to lead hundreds of young Christians in a time of lament as part of the Poverty and Advocacy track at Urbana 2009. We came together to cry out to God on behalf of those suffering from injustice and oppression, and particularly, as part of the Human Wrong Initiative, on behalf of millions of children trapped in modern slavery: in forced prostitution, forced labor, or recruited to be child soldiers. We came together to mourn the wrong that we see in the world, following the biblical precedents of the psalmists, of the prophets, and of Jesus, in engaging with God in prayer to seek change.
My role was to prepare the way for lament: to lay the biblical foundations, to provide a framework for engaging in lament, and to encourage a safe environment in which lament could take place. The rest was up to the students and God.
And boy, did we meet with God …
One of the last points that I made was that biblical lament stirs us to action and partnership with God. In Luke 19, Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He cried, “Oh, if you only knew the things that make for peace …” And then he went and cleared the temple. My prayer for those who engaged last night is that they use that session as a launching pad to do great and mighty things in the service of the kingdom of God.
[You can find recorded webcasts of the main Urbana 09 events here.]
Last week, I celebrated Christmas with Aaron, Amy and Elijah in Huntington, WV, home of Marshall University (“We Are Marshall”) and of Amy’s family. It was great spending a few days outside of DC, and with an awesome and wonderfully welcoming family.
To boot, last week …
I got to go on a tour of the East Wing of the White House.
I got to talk with family in Australia, Hong Kong, and California.
I got to talk with friends in New Zealand, Pennsylvania, Texas, and California. (What up, iChat video conferencing?!)
I got to watch a truckload of enjoyable movies: Avatar, Invictus, The Blind Side, The Invention of Lying, and Sherlock Holmes.
This week, I’m in snowbound St Louis for Urbana 2009, InterVarsity’s triennial missions conference. I’m here with Sojourners, who are co-leading the Poverty and Advocacy track along with World Vision and International Justice Mission. It’s the first time in Urbana’s history that they’re looking at advocacy as a form of mission, and so it’s a pretty momentous occasion and an exciting development.
One of the things we’re launching this week is the Human Wrong Initiative, which is geared towards combating child slavery in all its forms: prostitution, forced labor, and child-soldiering. Of the 27 million people still in slavery today, about half are women and children.
This is how the world is today. But it is not how the world should be. Nor how the world needs to be. Join us, get involved, let your friends know. Let’s stamp out child slavery.
The other thing that’s happening (that I’m involved with) is helping Sojourners lead a night of lament for the injustice in the world; that’ll take place tomorrow (December 29th). I’ll only be speaking for a few minutes, but I’m gonna be laying the groundwork for the couple hundred students in our track to engage with God in this way, so I’d appreciate your prayers!