When Christians Play Well with Others

I’ve got two articles elsewhere today. They carry the same title, but they’re a bit different. One is an OpEd in the Minneapolis StarTribune:

It may have been the jet lag, but a couple of articles in the Sept. 1 Star Tribune rubbed me the wrong way.

After 30 hours of planes, layovers and passport control lines, I’d returned home from Sri Lanka to see headlines and photos of Christians happily worshipping outdoors (“Summer in the Cities: Heavens above“) and Muslim worshippers being suspiciously watched and photographed by their neighbors (“Cities tread warily on holy ground“).

I am a Christian — a Christian theologian, not to put too fine a point on it — so I’m generally sympathetic to my coreligionists. But here’s what was striking: the Lutherans of Burnsville have been worshipping outdoors, unmolested, for four decades. Meanwhile, the Muslims of Bloomington, only seven months in, are under duress because they’re causing traffic problems in the neighborhood.

I visited Sri Lanka, the tropical island that hangs like an earring off the southern tip of India, at the invitation of World Vision. A Christian development and relief organization, World Vision is best known for its child-sponsorship program, and that’s what I was there to see.

The other is an article at Relevant Magazine:

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When Your Mother Immolates Herself

Simras and Fathima (photo by Lindsey Minerva/(c) World Vision)

I have a guest post up at Jesus Creed:

As she continued to speak, I watched the face of our Tamil interpreter drop, then the face of our Singhala interpreter do the same. Then came the translation: “Simras’s mother lit herself on fire when she discovered her husband with another woman. She lived for fourteen days in the hospital, then she died. Simras does not know this story.”

At this point our World Vision staffer looked stunned. Mundalama is a new Area Development Project for World Vision, just six months old. They’re just now registering children for sponsorship. And when he’d visited Simras’s house a couple weeks prior, the family had neglected to tell him the circumstances of Simras’s mother’s death. He was just as shocked as we were.

Read the rest at Jesus Creed.

Read all of my posts from Sri Lanka, and consider sponsoring a child as well.

Two Birthdays in One Week

Last night, we celebrated the 8th birthday of my son, Aidan. He’s a great kid, and he was full of smiles and laughs as we shared pizza and cake and he got a remote control car and a DIY Root Beer kit as gifts.

One week ago, yesterday, I celebrated the 8th birthday of Afra, my World Vision sponsor child. When I first met Afra, she was quiet, shy, and didn’t crack a smile. When our group showed up at her house a few hours later with cake, balloons, and gifts, we saw her beautiful smile for the first time. Thanks to Lindsey Minerva, I now have a few photos of that party to share with you. She even rubbed some cake in my face:

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The Work, It (Never) Ends

The children of Willuwa say goodbye to World Vision.

One of the criticisms of development work — that is, when money from the US funds projects in needy places like Sri Lanka — is that it creates a “culture of dependency.” Not unlike the knock on welfare and food stamps, the theory goes that foreign money will only teach the lesson that there’s always more coming, thus there’s no reason to learn a trade, plant a field, or otherwise provide for your family.

As progressive as I am on many issues, I actually agree with this criticism. It worries me, both in the States and in the Third World, that we send money to places that need it, but little else. We don’t spend the time teaching the skills needed to make an entire economy more sustainable.

So it was really intriguing to me that on this trip to Sri Lanka, we witnessed World Vision’s last day in a village. It seems — and this was news to me — that WV has a 15-year limit on how long it will work in an Area Development Project (ADP). Thus, from day one in an area, the staff is challenged to partner with local organizations, to teach skills, and to prepare for the hand-off a decade-and-a-half hence.

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