Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dare to Make a Difference

by Gary Snowden

From time to time God graces us with one of those unforgettable experiences of his presence. I had one such encounter a couple of weeks ago. Our pastor, Blake McKinney, began a new Sunday morning sermon series entitled "Dare to Make a Difference" in which he challenged us to get out of our comfort zones and live a bold faith rather than maintaining the complacent, safe approach that seems to be the default mode for most of us.

As a part of that series, Blake asked me to provide him with some photos of the Tabitha Ministry that functions in the city garbage dump in Guatemala City. Churchnet has highlighted this incredible ministry in the past, including inviting Carol Bercian (its founder and director) to speak at one of our annual meetings. The Tabitha Ministry began several years ago with the goal of providing a safe, Christ-honoring environment for children who would otherwise be exposed to all kinds of hazardous and unsanitary conditions as they accompanied their parents scavenging through the refuse in the dump for something to sell, recycle, or even eat. The ministry has grown from about 30 children to around 120 and currently offers primary school education to first and second graders in addition to its preschool program. The children also receive two meals and snacks each school day. Many would go hungry if it were not for the food Tabitha supplies them. Carol has also won many of the mothers of these children to faith in Christ and engaged them in discipleship training. She also provides them with training in marketable skills such as producing handcrafts for sale.

I spent a morning compiling and gathering photos and video from various mission trip visits to the Tabitha Ministry and learned from Blake that he was proposing with the approval of the Finance Team that our church give away the entire undesignated Sunday morning offering on May 13th to the Tabitha Ministry. I went home for lunch with the faces of the children of Tabitha fresh in my mind. As I sat down after eating to read the daily Bible reading selection on my smart phone for the day, I found that one of the passages was the prayer of Hannah recorded in 1 Samuel 2. I was reading along and came to verse 8 which reads in the New Living Translation: "He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump."

I can't express the waves of emotion that swept over me as I read that verse after having just seen the pictures of so many of the children for whom the garbage dump of Guatemala City is their home. I sat and wept for several minutes as I pondered how much God loves these folks who would certainly be classified among those Jesus describes as "the least of these" to whom we're called to minister. I shared the experience with Blake, giving him permission to share the testimony and the verse in the Sunday morning message as he saw fit.

Blake preached a powerful message on living a dangerous faith, encouraging us to pray a dangerous prayer of asking God what he desired to do in our individual lives and through the ministry of the church. He then challenged the church to give a dangerous offering - giving away all of our undesignated receipts for the day to the Tabitha Ministry. Our people responded with remarkable generosity and the offering was almost $38,700. I can't wait to see how God uses it to multiply and bless the incredible work that the Tabitha Ministry is doing. I'm convinced as well that I won't forget the supernatural confirmation from the Lord through his Word of his desire to lift the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump.

You can learn more about Tabitha Ministry or Churchnet’s parternship with Guatemalan Baptists, by contacting Gary Snowden, Churchnet Missions Mobilization Team Leader, at (888) 420-2426 ext. 709 or at gsnwoden@thechurchnet.org.

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