It’s Overwhelming

As we approach lunchtime on Friday, I’m feeling a bit.. overwhelmed. It seems like the world is just on a negative path, and we are getting overloaded with deep painful news. Two of the top news articles on my morning news countdown this morning was the situation in Afghanistan and in Haiti.

Just to pick a random starting point, in Haiti, as you know, there has been recent political unrest due to the assassination of the President of Haiti. A week ago, there was a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the country, killing over 2000 people and leaving an untold number homeless. If that wasn’t enough, there was a tropical storm this week, that hit the island. The need is just indescribable.

“Many accounts that we’re hearing in the Les Cayes area is that almost half of the city is destroyed,” he said. “So we have many homes that are down, many people are, right now, don’t know where their loved ones are. So it’s a state of somewhat chaos and trying just to figure out what to do next.”

Brad Johnson, President, Mission of Hope

On the other side of the world, everyone will have heard about what is going on in Afghanistan. For some time now, thanks to a more secular leadership, Christians and other minority groups (although facing localized persecution) have been tolerated. With the overthrow of the secular government, the Taliban is expected to institute Shariah law.

Under Shariah law, the apostate must be put to death. Apostasy is so loosely defined as to cover anything considered by far right religious leaders as “heresy” or blasphemy, which is pretty much any declaration other than Sunni theology. This means pretty much any religious minority is a target. These blasphemy laws have been used against ethnic minorities to undertake ethnic cleansing as well.

This is an urgent issue in Afghanistan. The Taliban have spoken of tolerance (out of the great grace of their lovely hearts, they will allow girls to go to school!). But uncontrovertible reports make it clear that this is just honeyed words and will not translate to any type of actual tolerance.

How can we remain unmoved by this! We are surrounded by such deep need, it is easy to curl up and just focus inwardly on our comfortable life. But this is the time to be engaging in prayer and action to help those in need. Our lives are meant to be in service to others.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

I sometimes feel overwhelmed and at a loss for what I can do to change the world especially when the need is halfway around the world. We’ve spoken before about financial support to meet the need, and physically volunteering and providing for those needs, but I also wanted to remind us of one thing.

We may not be able to change the situation in Afghanistan, but that situation exists because evil men have influenced others to their cause. There is a parallel though. We each of us, have our own spheres of influence. It is too easy to stop doing anything, because nothing that we do will have global impact.

But we each can have an impact to our own little spheres of influence – at our workplaces, at restaurants and cafes, schools, wherever we interact with others. If we inject kindness into our interactions, even where we deserve something better (think when a server messes up your order), I believe those things will resonate. It resonates through our sphere of influence into those around us.

If there is a critical mass of people doing what is right (and what is right is what is right, regardless of your background!), then we can create a pocket of goodness to counter the evil in this world.

I encourage you to seed the world with kindness today. Check your tongue of harsh words, speak life, encouragement and strength to those around you. Give up what you deserve, and take up the burdens of others today. Before the end of the day do something kind to someone around you. Continue that daily and I truly believe we can make an impact on this cruel world.

Also, here are some links for financial support for these two areas!

AG World Missions Afghanistan (this relief work is not limited to Christians but to all in need!) :

Mission of Hope Haiti (check the immediate needs section) :

The Plight of the Stranger

Another Fasting Friday is upon us, and another opportunity to consider the suffering in the world, and how we can have an impact.

Today, I’d like us to consider the stranger, the migrant, those seeking safety and peace. Immigration (particularly illegal immigration) has become a hot topic, with diverging opinions. There is no value in us wading into that debate. Regardless of political views, we can’t deny the real, human impact. We can’t deny the suffering.

So I ask that we set aside our differences on the topic and focus on empathy. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes today, understanding the motivation of a father or mother escaping danger and crushing poverty, hoping for a better life for their children. Remember the biblical injunction on the topic :

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:19

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me

Matthew 25:35

We forget so easily that we (or our fathers) we once also sojourners. That is why the Statue of liberty has an extract of a sonnet by Emma Lazarus

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazarus

It’s worth a reading of the Atlantic article to get a sense for the intent behind the words of this sonnet. In any reading, it is clear that America and American values were built on hospitality for the stranger. And indeed, this value is not limited to America. Faith communities have long emphasized the need for hospitality to the stranger, and to the vulnerable.

I grew up in the Middle East before we moved to the US. My grandfather was one of the early Indian nationals to come to Qatar (and that too, on a dhow as I understand it!) And I must be honest, the Middle East has changed from how my grandfather described it. Money and affluence has had a corrosive effect on the society. Once a deeply hospitable culture, where providing for the stranger was a requirement, it has now become a cesspool of arrogance and inhumanity. Money is indeed the root of all evil.

I see the same attitudes taking hold in my adopted home of America, and that saddens me. The same attitudes now are prevalent across the globe. Rising nationalism across the globe, in places like Australia and Europe is powering a wave of rhetoric and violence against immigrants, already a vulnerable group of people.

How should we choose to respond?

With all the rhetoric around immigration (illegal or otherwise), lets take some time to consider the plight of those that leave difficult circumstances in search of a better life. There are numerous videos that document the plight of the refugee, across different migrant routes. There is the European route through the Mediterranean, as well as the American route through the Darien gap. The common thread is both are dangerous, due to the geography as well as the human predators on the way.

Seeing pregnant women and children complete this journey cannot but impact you. While we live in stability and even excess, there are those dreaming of 3 square meals a day, and future for their children.

I’ve highlighted the American immigration route, but many videos document the human tragedy in migration routes in Europe as well.

The never ending journey

The journey of the migrant never ends, not even once they reach the shores of their destination. Often what waits for them is refugee camps or immigration detention centers, where sexual violence, hunger and humiliation await. The dangers here are well documented. Even the NiH has a paper on it (here). A quick google search will demonstrate the extreme prevalence of sexual violence committed by guards. The very people intended to protect the refugee and migrant!

Once the refugee and immigrant make it into the country, they are beset by difficulties in adjusting to life in their new country. Culture shock, economic shock (keep in mind they have no credit in their new countries), language barriers, educational barriers. The life of a migrant is to go from one precarious position to another.

What can we do?

There is no easy answer to the global issues around illegal immigration. Instead of getting mired in the political debate, we can provide for the immigrant. Many cities and communities are looking for host families for newly settled immigrants, you can teach English to those that have recently arrived, you can support charities that work in this space.

So let us take our lunch hour to pray over those right now who are in danger and in pain, seeking safety and refuge. Let us put our hand to good work and consider how we can have an impact to our brothers and sisters (and remember that they are indeed our brothers and sisters).

If you have any connections to organizations who work in this space, please reach out. I’d love to include them in our resource list.

There, but for the grace of God, go I

Photo by Yogendra Singh on Unsplash

Friends, thanks for joining me this Friday as we consider our impact on this world. Today, I wanted us to consider our “brotherhood” with those that suffer.

There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford

John Bradford (Sixteenth Century)

This was a quote from John Bradford on seeing a group of prisoners being led to execution. I believe this was spoken out of good intention, paraphrasing Paul’s view of the mercy and grace of God that led to his salvation. This quote has also become quite common in our vernacular.

However, this phrase is now used in a manner completely at odds with the original intent. As with all things, this has become a self-involved statement (both within communities of faith, and without). And that is not to name and shame anyone, it is simply our human failing. To explain what I mean, let me recount a story about my own children.

We pray with our kids before bed, and often I suggest that they pray for those who are less fortunate. I tell them of kids from back home who may not have a roof over their heads or parents to provide. The intent is to instill a value of service, and of wanting to have a real impact in the world around us.

However, one night, my children interpreted this as “Thank you God that we have so much nice stuff, more than the children who have to eat from the trash” (I paraphrase). It really shocked me for a second, and of course I set them straight.

How we lose our way

It is a normal human response to subvert the need to be grateful for our blessings (which ought to motivate us to use those blessings in serving of others), into a Pharasaic view of our own exceptionalism. Part of this is a need for validation, part is a survival instinct. We believe that we can’t really impact the problem so othering the problem is a way to protect ourselves.

But the truth is we are not exceptional. The intent of the quote is quite the opposite! That we could have been those less fortunate (through the gateway of a few bad decision or poverty or a myriad of other factors), and that we ought show compassion.

We subvert that need to show compassion to others into a glorification of ourselves, and we completely misuse the blessings we have been given. But for the circumstances we were born into, the education we have had, we would have also been “unfortunate”.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God,”

2 Cor 1 : 3-4

The elderly and vulnerable

In that spirit, I saw this video, and it reminded me of the plight of the elderly and abandoned. In a lot of countries around the world where population growth is in decline, cultural mores are being set on their heads. The concept of filial responsibility is being abandoned. I see it in Asia, and here as well. We will see a greater need in the coming decades to support and care for those who are vulnerable / abandoned.

"I barely feel anything any more": Hong Kong's homeless people who spend their nights at McDonald's branches have been forced out onto the city's streets.

Posted by South China Morning Post on Monday 27 July 2020

In this spirit, let’s spend some time meditating on how we can be a blessing to the most vulnerable. Let’s consider the elderly in our own communities and around the world who are being abandoned in their time of need.

I’d like to highlight a work that is being done in South India called Gilgal Ashwasa Bhavan. This is an organization that houses and takes care of those that are elderly, and those that have been abandoned by society because of disability or other needs. Third world societies particularly are affected by this issue. Families don’t have economic cushions to take care of those that are in need of time and care.

My grandfather was involved in the founding of this organization, so I have a close connection to them. Please prayerfully consider learning about and supporting them, or any organization in your community or abroad that provides resources for the destitute.

“There, but for the Grace of God, go I”

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

Good morning, and welcome to another Fasting Friday. If you are in my timezone, you’re probably starting to feel the hunger pangs of the missed breakfast. Hang in there, and let’s take some time to focus on something outside of ourselves.

This week, I wanted to focus on the brotherhood, our shared connections. I’m just as guilty as the next person of thinking of the world in terms of me and mine and they and theirs. It’s what is variously called “othering” or “dehumanizing”. This is insidious, because by doing so, we remove empathy from the equation. If we dehumanize another person, we can justify a lot, and we can ignore their suffering because they are “they” rather than “we”.

In this context, I read about the instability in Haiti. It’s easy for us to read, raise eyebrows, make a comment and browse on. But let’s pause and consider the human realities that this news presents. The president was assassinated. How, where and why, I leave to the news sources. I’m just encouraging us to consider the human impact of this sort of situation. Watch the video below to understand the context of the current political situation in Haiti.

Vice news (includes a short interview with the recently assassinated President Jovenel)

Too many times leadership is not concerned for the pain and suffering felt by the people under their leadership and seem to get away with it. Wicked men propagate wickedness, wicked men crave power and enforce their tyranny on the weak. Whether individual leaders are wicked or not is not for us to discuss.

What is of concern to us is the many that are suffering in Haiti. Haiti has had a long and difficult history. After being one of the only slave led rebellions to achieve freedom and nationhood, Haiti has long been mired in political unrest with one dictator after another, endemic corruption, subject to natural disasters and rife with poverty. It is truly a remarkable contrast when you realize that Haiti is one side of the island and the Dominican Republic on the other side of the island. The economic and political differences could not be more stark. The DR is generally stable and relatively prosperous.

But the people of Haiti suffer. I had the blessing of being part of a mission trip to Haiti (which resulted in me naming my first child Evangeline). It was an incredible experience and I appreciate the philosophy behind the organization I went with. They believed that the “outsider” was not there to “rescue” the Haitians, rather that their role was to empower the Haitian people to effect change on their own. They would have us go out to a village and build buildings, paint houses and run medical and humanitarian clinics, but these were delivered through local leaders, so as to establish the local leaders. The intent was to eliminate Instagram missionaries and to encourage real change.

We had the good fortune to meet an amazing group of Haitians as we volunteered at the orphanage and at the local communities. In spite of their difficulties and circumstances, they remained joyful and musical. In a real way, it helped us to connect to them and realize that at the core, we are all the same. A Haitian child suffering is as painful to the heart of God as an American child suffering. We are all made in His image.

Every time you read of another natural disaster impacting Haiti, remember that this is affecting a brother and a sister. Every time you read another glib or breathless news headline, dig deeper and pray over the people that will be impacted by those news.

In terms of what can we do, allow me to introduce the team that I joined on my trip to Haiti. The organization is called Mission of Hope, Haiti. They are a genuine group of people that are looking to effect change through empowering the people of Haiti rather than just throwing money or resources at the problem (which frankly, in a place like Haiti with endemic corruption would never get to the people in need). They believe in engaging with people with a heart of service around the world to come and serve, not to be seen or to take pictures.

Pray over Haiti and the Haitian people today. May God move your heart to have an impact in this world!

I would also ask you to consider supporting Mission of Hope today. Financial support is always a great way to start making an impact (you can give at But also please consider how we can physically “put our hands to good work”, and plan a trip for you and your community to Haiti once things calm down to help build something that will have eternal value.

Thank you, and God Bless!

Today is the day and Now is the time

Welcome to week 2 of Fasting Fridays. It has been a struggle to figure out when and where to post these articles. Forgive me while I’m finding my feet on this effort.

Today I’ve been thinking about procrastination. We all know there are things we ought to do to make an impact on the world around us, but the pressures of life mean that we put it off for another day, another week and another month. I get caught up in my own troubles and find I have little mind-space left over to think about the troubles of others.

But in a real sense, that is what we are here for. The impact that we have on the world is really the impact that we have on other people. And the key is empathy, to feel the pain of our brothers and sisters.

That is the core of Fasting Fridays. To empathize with those around us. But now, having empathy for those that are hungry or weak, what do we do with that energy?

Too many times, the answer is that we leave it at empathy. We don’t take the next action because it feels too heavy, it feels we can’t defeat this great monster with an army of 1 so we don’t even try. The thing is though, just one person taking an action is more like the first rocks rolling in an avalanche. The people you touch, the people you impact will continue to impact others until there is a great avalanche that nothing can withstand.

That brings me to the concept of action. Early in my entrepreneurial journey, I learned the lesson of imperfect action, the idea that even if an action is not perfect in its execution, any action (however tenuous) towards your goal starts you on a path to that final desired outcome. You are unlikely to have a perfect idea that is going to address world hunger tomorrow. But if you wait for that perfect idea, tomorrow may never come.

“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many good things stored up, enough for many years; rest and relax, eat, drink and be merry’. But God said to him ‘You fool! This very night, your soul is required of you, and now who will own the things you have prepared’”

Luke 12 : 19-20

There is no point in storing up riches for ourselves beyond what is reasonable for us to live. There is no point in leaving for tomorrow what we ought to do today. There is no point to living without impact thinking you will do it some day (when my kids have gone to college, when I’m married, when, I’m older, whatever the excuse is). Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. There is not one that knows when we will die.

So take action. Take a small action. Maybe for now, just donate to a cause. I’m planning to start a list of organizations that are doing good work. But don’t stop there. Keep advancing, giving money is only a first step. Put your hands to good work, continue the journey to living an authentic life full of purpose.

I leave you (those of you walking a faith journey) with this video of John Piper from earlier days. It is his famous “Seashells” speech. It is said that a whole generation of young people dedicated their lives to impact from hearing this one speech. May it have an impact on your heart.

God Bless!