Welcome to the 7th week of my "Weekend Gratitude" series! What am I grateful about from this weekend? Well, besides the little things like getting housework and home school lesson planning done, the big thing is...
I am very grateful that I attended the Saturday evening session of the Synergy conference here in Orlando with my 21 year old daughter Julia. Synergy was founded by author and speaker Carolyn Custis James, whose books When Life and Beliefs Collide and The Gospel of Ruth I had been reading lately. Mrs. James has a real heart for women to become active in ministry and outreach around the globe. While she was writing her most recent book, her husband told her about a best-selling book by journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. (Kristof and WuDunn are the first married couple to win a joint Pulitzer prize for covering the Tienanmen Square uprising in Beijing. WuDunn is Chinese-American, and has masters degrees from Yale and Princeton.) Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is a heart wrenching read about women around the world who suffer gender based injustice such as trafficking, children being forced to marry and bear children before they are physically mature, fistulas, female mutilation, bride burnings, honor killings, sexual exploitation, denial of basic health care, lack of education, and poverty. More than that, it is a call for change, and a plea for help from the first world countries.
Deeply affected by the Kristof/WuDunn book, Carolyn James named her own book Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women. This new book was released this weekend at the conference, and I've read a few chapters so far. I also checked out Half the Sky from the library and read the whole thing in two evenings ~~ WOW! That's quite some heavy stuff!
Anyway, back to the Synergy conference... Sheryl WuDunn was slated to speak Saturday night, so Julia and I drove down there for just that session. We saw a few familiar faces among the 450 attendees, mostly people from our own church who work for Campus Crusade, the organization which co-sponsored Synergy. Ms. WuDunn did not identify herself as a Christian believer, although she could very well be one. Either way, I don't agree with some of her conclusions. However, I am grateful for her in-depth research into the problems, and for her passion for empowering women worldwide to overcome oppression and be the solution instead of the problem. As an extra treat at the end, during the Question and Answer session, the venerable Vonette Bright (wife of the late Campus Crusade founder Bill Bright) rose to offer a few words of encouragement and offer Ms. WuDunn a booklet about Jesus, explaining that as an adult she had heard the Christian message and realized the true change comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. What a sweet and tender moment! I am grateful for the legacy of Bill and Vonette Bright and their decades of service to Jesus Christ.
As I think back on Saturday evening's message, I am thinking about what Synergy really means. Basically synergy is cooperating, working together to accomplish a larger purpose. I took a picture of a chandelier hanging above us that night, one made up of dozens -- maybe even hundreds -- of small but bright lights, radiant in their togetherness. I looked around the room and saw the potential in all of the women and men gathered there that night, most of whom (like Julia and me) had already served overseas at some point in time. This was echoed on Sunday morning at church when in his sermon on Jonah 3, Mike Tilley reminded us that "revival" is not just an old-fashioned camp meeting with sawdust on the floor, but little drops of water flowing down the mountains, converging into streams which flow together into rivers and turn into a mighty flood. In other words, each person seeks God's fullness of life in the heart, and then does his or her own unique part, along with others doing their parts, to change the world. Can I hear an "AMEN!" in the house? I am grateful that, though I am only one person, my life counts. As the old poem says:
Or to rephrase this, "Thus the little people, humble though they be, make a huge impact on earth for eternity!" What is your part? Who is your partner in the work? Think about it!
I think about my own small part in impacting the Third World. Many years ago, I started corresponding with Headson Makazinga, a pastor and church planter in Malawi who oversees dozens of churches in his country and neighboring Mozambique. Since then, we've regularly sent him money for Bibles, hymnals, orphan care, and conferences. We have also put together care packages of small items such as reading glasses, office supplies, tea, vitamins, Christian books, etc. Then we began producing Chichewa language Bible tracts that he wrote. We've printed and shipped thousands of copies to him. But there are always needs there, and we can't do it alone. I know that he desperately needs a bicycle since he walks everywhere and he is an older man not in the best of health. (He was even in the hospital recently.) Parts of a note I received from him just this morning:
Shalom to you and greetings with rich love from Malawi in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ the soon coming King. I hope you are doing well in Him. In Malawi we are doing well spiritually and physically. The Lord is good. Only we have the problem of rain since it came once on 6th December 2010 and on that time of course we planted. The badness is from the time we planted there is no rain and all of our crops have been dried and we don't have harvest this year. Now this is the third time of hunger situation, to say the truth it is a very big problem than the two years past. We are going to depend in the hands of God. He is the owner of everything.... The work of God is going very well, as today I have been here at Mphonde for two days meeting and then I have to go back home and we are planning to have EASTER CONFERENCE. The conference will start on 22nd April 2011 and finish on 25th afternoon time. Therefore, I would like to ask you my beloved sister to join hands with us and pray for this conference and also I would ask the good wishers whom you know if they can be touched and concerned to assist us with a small gift that we can have something to buy food for the conference, I will appreciate if it will be possible. As all of our brothers and sisters from Mozambique and all of our churches in Malawi will come together and there there is the need of more food. And people are in need of aid. Pass over my love regards to the brothers and sisters to the church where you are attending and it is my prayer that God should open the hearts of those who had the hearts of ministering in other countries such as Africa (Malawi) and it is our desire to have that kind of people to come and encourage our congregations... With your love heart I have hope that you will try your best to send someone to us.
How about it folks? Would any of you like to join with us in reaching out to Malawi, either with financial gifts or by going for a visit? Let me know! You can read more about him here What in the World Is This? and here Out of Africa (A Letter from Headson Makazinga). I am grateful for the work that Headson Makazinga and other faithful native pastors are doing in the Third World.
On a local level, I am finding myself equipped again by Synergy. I spotted a booth where they were giving away free copies of the movie Magdalena, which was produced by the folks at Jesus Film Project, a ministry of Campus Crusade. Magdalena was originally filmed as a ministry to women in the Middle East, as a means to show them how much Jesus cared about women and their problems. It has been translated into dozens of languages! I've decided to host a Magdalena movie night for the women in my neighborhood, and I'm partnering with my friend Debora, who goes to my church, is a member of our Communitas home group, and knows many women in my neighborhood since she used to live just two blocks away from me. (Our mutual friend Denise, who is also in our church and Communitas group, was working the Magdalena booth at Synergy.) My daughter Mary is also going to come and help. Mary was mentioning to me that Wycliffe Bible Translators, where she works as a writer, is involved in Third World practical socio-economic service through teaching literacy and basic health skills in the communities where they translate Scriptures. Mary said she thinks Wycliffe president Bob Creson also attended Synergy. I am grateful for the creative work of ministries like Wycliffe and Campus Crusade who have such a heart for multi-faceted global ministry to body and soul.
I leave you with three short video clips. If they don't appear (such as if you are reading this via e-mail, Google Reader, or Facebook) visit the original blog post on-line here: Weekend Gratitude for Synergy and Little Bits Working Together
There is much more I could say about this weekend, but I'll leave it at that! Let this be a motivation to think about what you can do to make this world a better place. Lift your voice! It's the year of Jubilee!
I am grateful (in advance) for what you are going to do!