I Need you!

ebola kits screen shot

That might seem like a strange blog title, but it is true, I really do need you. This Saturday we will be assembling 250 Ebola Caregiver kits to ship to Sierra Leone. I have partnered with World Vision to help protect the men and women who have courageously chosen to deal with containing this outbreak, as well as helping people through the devastating loss of friends and family.

I really need your help in 3 areas:

1. Funding the cost for 250 kits. The cost is $30.00 per kit. On your phone, text the word “GIVE30” to: 1-855-581-1777 you can donate $30.00 safely and securely.

2. Show up and build some kits. If you are able to come to the gym at Snoqualmie Valley Alliance Church this Saturday from 10am to noon with your family and friends, we will have a great time doing something meaningful together! directions All the items will be grouped in stations ready for us to assemble and prepare for shipping. I will have some info at the bottom of this post about what is in the kit.

3. Spread the word. While Ebola is not a daily threat in the U.S, it is still a crisis in West Africa. Help me keep people informed and motivated to make a difference where they can. Feel free to share this blog post as a way to do just that!

When people in the  U.S heard the report of one or two people confirmed to have entered the States carrying the  EBOLA virus, panick ensued. In Western Africa Ebola is still spreading. In fact, there is widespread belief by WHO and CDC officials that the outbreak numbers are much higher than are being reported.

As of December 12th, 2014 there are now more cases of ebola in Sierra Leone than in Liberia or Guinea with total cases just under 18,000 globally. This is particularly alarming as there remain far fewer ebola treatment centers in Sierra Leone as compared to Liberia. This graph displays the total ebola treatment centers completed or planned in the three countries. Note the significant lack of centers in Sierra Leone. There are currently 4 centers with just 8 more planned.

ebola treatment centers

 

What is in the Kit?  Latex gloves, face masks, face shield, protective gown, biohazard waste bag, soap, disinfectant, spray bottle, Acetaminophen, oral rehydration salts, information about disease control, and a handwritten note of encouragement from your congregation

Who determined the contents of the Kit?  Combination of WHO recommendations plus input from WV health experts and World Vision Sierra Leone staff.

Who supplies the products in the Kit?  McKesson, the largest provider of healthcare products in the country, is our supplier.

How will the completed Kits get to Sierra Leone?  Completed Kits will be shipped to Sierra Leone through World Vision’s established supply chain.

In Sierra Leone, World Vision is:
  • Providing personal protective equipment for health professionals
  • Organizing awareness, prevention, and education campaigns
  • Training and coordinating burial teams

World Vision-trained staff in Sierra Leone are organizing massive awareness, prevention, and education campaigns to protect children from the disease through radio and house-to-house information sharing.

The organization is training faith leaders, other influential community authorities, and frontline community health workers to share prevention messages at the community and household levels.

Spiritual leaders, including many pastors, have been central to Ebola prevention efforts. “When so many communities face such terrible suffering, the church must be there to combat fear, stigma, isolation, and hopelessness with both love and tangible support,” said Bruno Col, World Vision communications director in West Africa.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden is now expressing concern over the rising cases in Sierra Leone and the need for quick action by major governments and others. “Speed. That’s key to ending the Ebola epidemic, otherwise, Ebola could become a permanent disease in West Africa. That’s exactly the risk we face now. That Ebola will simmer along, become endemic and be a problem for Africa and the world, for years to come,” Frieden tells NPR. “That is what I fear most.”  The biggest challenge right now is in Sierra Leone, he says, where the epidemic shows no signs of slowing down. New cases continue to rise exponentially. Last week, the country reported nearly 400 cases, or more than three times the number of cases reported by Guinea and Liberia combined. (taken from WV church response update)

World Vision is also helping through education. Working together with faith leaders to help inform people about curtailing the spread of Ebola, and helping in a sanitary and dignified way to bury those who have died from the disease.

Bodies of those who have died from Ebola carry high concentrations of the virus that can spread to others through contact. Family members and friends who follow the local practice of washing and preparing their loved ones’ bodies for burial are at high risk of contracting the disease.

With funding from the British Department for International Development (DFID), World Vision is taking a leadership role in training, equipping, and coordinating burial teams to provide burials for Ebola victims in Sierra Leone that preserve tradition, yet prevent further contamination.

World Vision leads a national consortium of organizations providing safe burials, and coordinates burial teams in six districts. When a death call comes into one of the organization’s call centers, an eight-man team responds. (taken from WV church response update)

Thanks for partnering to make a difference.

Monty

Sierra Leone: Safe and dignified burials curb Ebola from World Vision Church on Vimeo.

Ebola Response: Channels of Hope Sierra Leone from World Vision Church on Vimeo.

World Vision, Homosexuality and the Church

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I have rewritten an opening sentence to this post many times. Each time the words have found their way into the deleted folder. Truly, I am at a loss, words elude me, and you know words rarely elude me. I have read many comments made by Christians concerning World Vision’s recent decision to end discriminatory non-hiring practices against homosexuals. You can read more about the decision here.

In many ways, this is the church’s front burner issue that needs conversation. The chasm is wide and there are deep wounds, deep beliefs, and deep-seated distrust , and even hatred, that exist on both sides. The responses that I have read by Christians against World Vision angers and astounds me. That any Christian would choose to not help communities in need and withdraw their support for vulnerable children  because World Vision has chosen not to discriminate is outrageous, wrong, and definitely not Christian.

In a letter to his employees, The president of World Vision, Rich Strearns, said this:

“Each of us has his or her own views on a wide range of potentially divisive issues, and the board and I are not asking anyone to change their personal views. We are asking, rather, that you not let your differences on this issue or others distract us from our work. We are asking you to unite around our sacred and urgent mission in the world and to treat those who don’t share your exact views with respect. If we cannot love one another, how will we show Christ’s love to the world?”

In this case, whether I agree or disagree with homosexuality is not even the question. The questions are many, the issues are complex and the importance is critical, however, there are a few things I would ask those who are so ready to boycott, and disavow World Vision  consider.

1. World Vision Is Not The Church.

While WV is a Christian organization, they are not a church. They are a business that protects and empowers vulnerable children all around the world because of what Jesus Christ has done. Since World Vision is not a church, they are also not the theological stewards on all issues. If you will only buy product and support a business that is theologically correct according to your interpretation of the Scriptures, go right ahead, but I think you might need to live on a self-sustaining farm. Currently, 4.3 million children are being helped by sponsorship dollars. Should you choose to withdraw your support the reality is that you will affect the access those children will have to food, water, clothing, shelter, education and sanitation. World Vision’s purpose is not to be a Church and determine theological differences, they are: a “Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.” And guess what, there are Christians who also happen to be gay.

2. Christians Should Stand Against Discrimination, not encourage it.

It is intellectually impossible to read the Gospels and not realize that Jesus was the champion of the vulnerable, marginalized, outcast, broken, and divinely disconnected people who lived with discrimination daily. In Jesus, those who were outside of the accepted societal systems finally found a voice. They encountered someone who loved them as they were. Someone who helped them regardless of their life situation. Someone who saw value and worth in their humanity even if they didn’t fit the “norm.” I think if Christ were here he would say, “please put down your stones.”  The prophet Micah reveals the heart of God, and what kind of people He desires that we become:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:8)

Of all the peoples in the world, it should be Christians who stand for justice and mercy. This happens when we walk in humility. When Christians seek to force discrimination I truly wonder where their head and heart are. It’s one thing to disagree in a mature way, but maturity is not what I have witnessed. It is still possible to love and disagree.

3. Children’s Lives Are Literally At Stake.

I have been sponsoring kids through World Vision for about 20+ years, and I will continue to do so. I have taken trips to visit my sponsored Kids as well as spearhead projects to fund clean water systems, sanitation and education. I am currently working on taking a group back to Uganda in the near future where we have been working together with WV to make an impact on the lives of many different people.

World Vision does an incredible job and I am proud of all that they do.  Truly, they are living out what Jesus calls all Christians to live out…a life that shows love, compassion,mercy, and advocacy for everyone. So I am asking that you not withdraw your sponsored child’s support. I also don’t think Jesus would ask you to withdraw your sponsored child’s support either. There is a greater story going on, and to allow a child to suffer because of theological disagreements is ludicrous and lacks compassion.

I assure you, this decision was not easy for the leadership of WV  to make. It was not made in a vacuum and not made without much prayer. I sense that their decision reflects the organizations global purpose and also shows that they long to see discrimination abolished everywhere, even in the United States.

It’s time for a deeper dialog on this issue rather than entrenched polarization. Ultimately, when we allow religious politics to trump love, everyone loses, especially the children who are being helped in Christs’ name.

To care or not to care…

Sometimes it seems that people spend more time and energy trying to justify why they won’t or shouldn’t demonstrate compassion and love instead of simply engaging. Jesus didn’t provide us with any “opt-out” clauses…In fact, His take was more along these lines:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” ~Jesus Matt. 5:43-45

Somehow, a follower of Jesus moves beyond judgement in order to love. I have found that it is very hard to love and grace others when my mind is locked into a judgmental, black and white set of propositions. I might be right, and I might be wielding some truth, but if I employ it without love, I have missed the transformative crux of the Gospel, or as St. Paul would say:

2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”           ~Paul, 1 Cor. 13:2

But, on the other hand, I have also learned that I move towards people from the motivation of love without judgment, I am invited to share what I believe to be true and generally, it is received well.

The mindset of our culture/world is eye for an eye, you get what you deserve, look out for #1 first…but the command of Christ is to love and forgive those who are against you, you receive grace instead of what you deserve, and look out for everyone regardless of whether you like them or agree with them.

Christianity takes courage, strength, and integrity. The call to follow the Rabbi require a new way of thinking, feeling and acting…it takes a new heart as well. The good news is that God promises all of that and more as we choose follow Christ allowing His life to be lived through our own.

So, the next time we encounter an opportunity to be Jesus with skin on, let’s not look for an excuse, but rather express love in the face of brokeness.

Monty