I know that most people’s reaction when seeing events in Syria, which is entering into its eighth’ year of war, is to switch off, literally by turning off the TV, or sound, or just mentally. On the other hand, we may gasp and gloat at the increasing horror of this war, when we thought that it couldn’t possibly get any worse! As Christians, we are asked to pray and continue to pray into this situation and also to give wisely and with discernment.
Last Monday’s (19.2.) Four Corners Programme http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/four-corners/NC1803H003S00… showed the present situation in Raqqa, after the horrendous American bombing raids to successfully expel ISIS, at devastating cost to the civilian population! It featured a young Australian who is trying to help the Kurdish contingent to remove booby traps, left by ISIS in such places as inside toys, under mattresses and under gravel, where people walk. These diabolical traps continue to kill and maim both civilians and soldiers, but these brave souls continue their work at the cost of their own lives. The Syrian government, aided by the Russian lucrative weapons of war machinery, and by sinister Iran, considers them rebels and terrorists and is bombing them in Eastern Ghouta!
The UN seems to have lost its original vision and is sending BILLIONS to the Assad regime, for so-called aid, which is used in dubious ways https://www.theguardian.com/…/un-pays-tens-of-millions-to-a… The world has truly gone mad! Pray therefore like madmen! And give like lunatics! I will! I promise!
Today I received a powerful lesson, using the simplest every-day example!
I am sure the following example happens to most of us. When this is used to teach us a spiritual lesson, we can be sure that the Spirit, who lives in believers (in Christ), is and has been speaking to us! What a privelege this is!
What I am talking about is the situation, when we are looking for something, anything really, expecting it to be in a certain place, and it isn’t, all the while missing the fact that it is right in front of us!
This happened to me this morning; I was looking for my cup of coffee, convinced it was in a certain place but it wasn’t. All of a sudden I realised that all that time it had been right in front of my nose! Simple, but powerful, if applied to the spiritual realm!
Take for example, (as this is a website set up primarily to help refugees) a refugee who has just landed in Italy, or Greece or Spain, originally boarding from anywhere in North Africa (most of the time Lybia). Most refugees set their sights on Germany, France etc. They are convinced that those countries will meet all their needs. So, all their efforts are applied to get to those countries. Can you see how my above example could apply to them? Are they believers in Christ? Is God limited in his provision? Could they be missing out on what God has prepared for them because of their expectations as to where the answer will come from?
This applies to every area of need.
Let’s not limit God. Instead, allow Him to prove that He cares and wants our best! Expect His provision in the most unlikely places and you won’t miss out!
As I read in Exodus 21, about God’s directions to the Israelites regarding slaves, I realize that it wasn’t and isn’t God who instituted slavery but rather, it is a fruit of the kingdom of darkness. This fruit has plagued humanity for millenia and is particularly evil! As a matter of fact, despite the general abolition of slavery a century ago, this practice has continued covertly, unhindered!
My study into present human trafficking statistics, published on this website, (https://worldwiderefugeeprayernetwork.com/2015/05/13/the-curse-of-people-smuggling-2/ reveals that it is at present one of the most lucrative trades in the world! I quote from my study, for those who want the facts, without having to look up the whole report (very worthwhile reading!):
“The value of the black market in human smuggling was estimated to be worth $35 Billion a year (conservative estimate, my comment), according to the IOM.”
Source: “It’s Time to Take Action and Save Lives of Migrants Caught in Crisis,” International Organization for Migration, Press Release, December 17, 2013.
My addition: Some comparisons; “Human trafficking creates approximately $150 billion in illegal revenue annually” Taken from ENDcrowd website. This compares favourably with … “the arms trade has been approaching US$100 billion annually.
[Source: Solutions, “The Arms Trade Treaty: Building a Path to Disarmament”, 2013]”
On the other hand, Microsoft’s income in the US is said to have been 22.07 Billion US$ (Statistica Website) and 76.4 Billion (untaxed) US$ in foreign earnings (Reuters 2015, quoted in Wikipedia).
Although a while ago since publishing my article and since the publication of these figures, they certainly would not have decreased, on the contrary! With refugee figures constantly increasing, there is a lucrative connection between people smuggling and people trafficking, and these vulnerable people often end up being trafficked, against their will!
Jesus’ words in John 10:10 (“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full…”) and John 8:36 (“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”) require to be prayed over this people group worldwide!
Let us pray for all those who have been forcefully enslaved; that they would come to know Jesus and that He would set them free! Amen.
The Anglican Church of Australia has urged the Federal Government to take another 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq, especially Christians and other minorities. The church also asked the Government, as a matter of human decency, to resettle in Australia any refugees and asylum seekers still detained on Manus Island and Nauru, and urged the Government to partner with the churches in healing and resettling the refugees. At its triennial General Synod in Maroochydore, Queensland, late last year the church affirmed the life-saving consequences of the earlier allotment of 12,000 extra places, particularly for Christians and other minorities who had been targeted by Islamic State.
The synod has urged each of Australia’s 23 dioceses to give 0.7 per cent of gross income to projects supporting sustainable development goals, and asked the Government to give 0.7 per cent of gross national income to overseas development. It also asked the Government to increase diplomatic and humanitarian efforts for Rohingya Muslims. The synod voted to oppose assisted dying, urge the government to improve palliative care resources, and to encourage Anglicans to contact their MPs.
Source: Compiled by APN from media reports
Published 23 January 2018
Allow me to present my researched observations about this issue, as well as a recently published article on an effective trial intervention amongst some Aboriginal tribal groups and the possible reasons why it seems to be so impressively successful:
I am convinced that governments tend to see financial aid mainly as a political obligation, social at best. The trouble with politics is that decisions are often made in order to “look good”: in the eyes of their voters and other perceived significant stakeholders. Decisions about where to allocate funds often are made “from the top down”, the norm in bureaucracies: from governments, to charities, to church institutions! The trouble with this type of decision making is that many important factors “known on the ground” are not taken into consideration, or worse are unknown due to lack of willingness to allow consultation to occur, especially with the leaders of these community groups. The leaders themselves need to first undergo scrutiny as to their trustworthiness, which takes considerable time, but which is necessary if taxpayers’ and donors’ money is to be used wisely and responsibly! We know that some politicians and other decision makers just don’t care- looking good is all they are concerned with! They should not be there in the first place!
As well, governments need to tick the “foreign aid box”, with aid to third world countries. All too often, that money ends up in the pocket of “fat cats” at the top of those countries, or is used to acquire weapons, instead of helping the poor and strengthening that country’s economy and infrastructure (sadly, there are many examples of this; the contested “Palestinian Territories” foreign aid contributions is one of these https://www.wsj.com/articles/where-does-all-that-aid-for-palestinians-go-1453669813).
There are several initiatives in place by various very smart benefactors, who have conducted research on the ground and within various needy communities, engaging in consultation with important stakeholders within those communities. They have proven that individual loans to enterprising individuals (very often women!) have led to a widespread improvement of social conditions within those communities. As well, because the monetary aid was in the form of an interest free LOAN, when those recipients are able to pay back the loan, their dignity is left intact, or best, increased! THIS to me is smart foreign or even domestic aid! (https://hbr.org/2010/03/microfinance-mega-impact?referral=03759&cm_vc=rr_item_page.bottom) This is just one of several ingenious ways the poor can be helped by foreign and domestic aid.
I wish governments would subcontract foreign aid to smart organisations using these type of tried and tested allocation strategies and stop the often monstrous abuse of those funds, due to lack of accountability!
Of course, not all recipients are enterprising and many require monetary support to help with daily living, for themselves and their families. Much allocated money has been squandered and worse, has been used to cause damage to recipients and others. I blame that mindless government “top down” bureaucratic machinery! Nevertheless, every now and then, some individuals within that machinery break that norm and shine as a consequence. Not only that, but whole communities are helped and start blossoming! All mainly because someone has taken the time to engage in meaningful dialogue with key people in those communities! We need more of these caliber type of people informing our government and being given decision making power!
For those who are intercessors: here is an important issue to pray for, for the sake of good stewardship, on all levels!
As some may remember from my recent travel report published on Facebook (Oct/Nov 2017), involving a conference with several groups of Christian Aboriginals, at one stage, some of the unspoken attitudes of “us whities” caused a walkout by the Aboriginal contingent. The rest of us were flabbergasted, puzzled and at a loss, until it was explained to us by those who had spent much time in their midst, that we had started to engage in “managerialism”; that much resented tendency to take over and to start to “run the show”, especially on their behalf! Thankfully, we were able to regain their trust, after our sincere apology! Better still, not only did we apologize but they too apologized to us (after being reprimanded by some of their elders who weren’t there at the time) for their anger and “rude” behaviour! That is true reconciliation! Genuine dialogue is where it’s at!
On the above topic, here is a recent example published by the Australian Prayer Network:
ALCOHOL ABUSE DROPS IN ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES UNDER WELFARE CARD
The cashless debit welfare card has led to a large drop in alcohol abuse and family violence in trial communities, according to an independent report that found community and leader support for the scheme to be rolled out nationally. The landmark final report has found the positive health and social outcomes are almost without precedent. Almost half the 2141 welfare recipients in the remote trial communities of East Kimberley in Western Australia and Ceduna, South Australia, reported significantly cutting their drinking, drug and gambling dependence. There was a significant reduction in alcohol-related family violence and a drop in arrests, assaults and flow-on impacts.
A fall in alcohol-related hospital admissions and improved welfare outcomes and caring for children was also noted. The evaluation of the federal government trial program, conducted by ORIMA research, reported that 41 per cent of drinkers said they drank alcohol less frequently, and there was a corresponding 14 percent reduction in arrests for public drunkenness. The Federal Government intends to expand the mandatory participation trials into another community. Qualitative research suggested the card had led to greater use of public facilities by families and the community feeling safer.
Almost 40% of parents and carers reported that they spent more time involved in their children’s schooling and homework, and 45% of participants in the scheme said they were now saving money. “There was a large degree of support from stakeholders and community leaders for the trial to be extended across the country because of the positive changes that had been observed, which were considered to be applicable on a broader scale,” the report said. “The evaluation findings indicate that the trial has had a considerable positive impact in both trial sites. The qualitative research found considerable evidence cited by many community leaders and stakeholders of a reduction in violence and harmful behaviours.”
The report concluded that there had been few previous initiatives that had produced such a positive impact for health and community outcomes, with the improvements increasing over time. “We are hoping it is the beginning of the turnaround,” minister for Human Services Alan Tudge said. “The card is not a panacea but it has led to a fundamental improvement in these communities. There are very few other initiatives that have had such impact. As many local leaders noted, these communities were in crisis, largely due to massive alcohol consumption paid for by the welfare dollar. I hope that we can look back in a decade’s time and say that this initiative was the beginning of the turnaround.
“A large part of the success has been the close working relationship with local leaders, who have co-designed and implemented the trial with us . They have demonstrated true leadership” (emphasis mine), Tudge said.
The cashless debit card trials were introduced in Ceduna and the East Kimberley for a period of 12 months, following escalating concerns that alcohol abuse and related violence in the largely indigenous communities had reached a “crisis” point. Under the trials, 80 per cent of all welfare payments are placed in an account accessible only through a Visa debit card that is locked from use in liquor stores and gambling venues, as well as preventing cash withdrawals.
Since the introduction of the card, alcohol-related presentations to hospitals in Ceduna had fallen by 37 per cent, leading to qualitative evidence of a fall in alcohol-related family violence. Of those who admitted to illegal substance abuse, 48 per cent reported to have been using less frequently, while 48 per cent of gamblers reported gambling less. In Ceduna and the surrounding local government areas, poker machine revenue was reported to have been down by 12 per cent, the equivalent of more than $500,000 in 12 months. The number of people reporting that the card had made life more difficult had also fallen.
Ceduna Mayor Allan Suter said the improvements to people’s lives in just 12 months had been ”stunning” and provided the best hope that a lasting solution to the social crisis was possible. “The improvement we are most proud of is in the lives of families, it has been really quite amazing,” Mr Suter said. “Kids have been missing out on food because parents were pouring money down the throats of pokies It is the most dramatic improvement I’ve seen. I’ve been involved for 14 years through council in trying a series of initiatives, some of them have given good results in the short term, but this is certainly the most significant change for the better I’ve seen.”
“The results on the ground reflect the report. We have noticed a series of dramatic improvements, most notably the decrease in the amount of alcohol and gambling, and, while its harder to measure, a significant decrease in drug use.” Mr Suter said there had also been a “huge improvement in general behaviour around town. You used to see a lot of intoxicated people and sporadic outbreaks of violence, that has dramatically decreased,” he said. “There has been a 40-50% decrease in all problem areas. But our biggest ambition was to improve the lives of families being neglected. I would like to see it expanded to other communities. I certainly hope the naysayers don’t get their way.”
Bill Shorten said Canberra should not be imposing outcomes on communities. “There’s no doubt that there’s concern in the community about the prevalence of ice and other drugs of addiction, but let’s also recognise, unless the community wants to do this cashless welfare card, it won’t work (my emphasis),” the Opposition Leader said. “The other thing I’ve got to make very clear here is that if you’re going to try and encourage people to break drugs of addiction, alcohol or other drugs of addiction, you need to make sure you’ve got the rehab facilities.”
Mining magnate Andrew Forrest, a champion of the CDC, said last week that the country would continue to suffer for years if the trials were not rolled out nationally. “Children are dying and being raped and absolutely suffering, and we are not helping them,” Mr Forrest said. “The cashless debit card needs a lot of courage from the opposition and from those in government to put up with all those who could tip the balance of power either way, who are a tiny minority.”
Source: Compiled by APN from media reports
A believing (opposed to nominal or in name only) Christian friend of mine recently suffered the devastating loss of one of her sons. It is the worst nightmare for any parent; to survive his or her own children! He contracted a rare form of cancer and, aided by possible medical mismanagement, passed away two months later!
She prayed and believed for a healing miracle…and now has to reconcile her grief, disappointment and loss of reasonable expectation (after all, we are encouraged to believe that God still heals) with the reality that no (earthly) healing occurred!
This is where a believer can go through a “dark night of the soul”, where one’s childlike faith, which is commended by Christ Himself in Matthew 18:2-4, is deeply challenged.
The question of why, although problematic, nevertheless unavoidably arises.
It is interesting and somehow comforting that Christ Himself, in His humanity, was also challenged with these issues. When faced with His imminent crucifixion and death, he wrestled with his natural, in-built human desire to avoid the humiliation, suffering and death awaiting Him. A wrestle between His own preference at that moment and the knowledge of His Father’s will. He chose the latter, after a herculean spiritual battle, where “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
As well, when hanging on the cross, no doubt in unimaginable agony, He too exclaimed with that heart wrenching question: WHY? (Psalm 22 and Matthew 27:46: “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” [which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”]).” He felt abandoned by His Father on that cross, due to taking on the sins of the world, but the Father never abandoned Him, for He had destined Him for eternal, glorious victory!
This is why Christ rightly is our only Intercessor before the throne of God (according to the Scriptures, especially described in Heb. 2:17); having fully experienced the depth of human suffering, encompassing its physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects.
Grief and loss can be devastating, as experienced by my friend and by so many. Our faith will be deeply challenged during those times. The temptation is and will be great to turn away from God, blaming Him, feeling abandoned by Him, unloved and betrayed. Many, sadly, stay stuck in that place.
Stealing our faith and distorting the true nature and heart of God has always been Satan’s greatest strategy! It began in the Garden of Eden, where that bait was swallowed: hook, line and sinker! “Did God say?…” presenting the lie of the “real” intention of God towards man.
Job, despite his understandable moaning, nevertheless never allowed himself to reject or blame God, contrary to the advice of his wife, who told him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). On the contrary: despite horrendous affliction, his declaration was “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…” (Job 13:15)
Another great declaration in times of utter devastation, was made by the prophet Habakkuk: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
Pain and suffering are part of living in an imperfect, sinful world. They are hard to bear when they touch us and they will, sooner or later. What will be our response during those times?
In the meantime, let us not shrink from it when we see it in others but prayerfully and with gentle sensitivity provide comfort and strengthening to those in the midst of it! They don’t need many words, just our heart of love and compassion.