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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Should Churches Accept Government Handouts?

The church is not a "business" intended to receive government support.
Gary Oyer of Hesston, Kansas, had a letter published in the Mennonite World Review recently that questioned congregations and conferences applying for benefits like those provided in the current Paycheck Protection Program. Technically, the PPP offers a loan through the government's Small Business Administration, but one that is to be forgiven if a business or organization retains its employees over a required period of time.

I understand the temptation to have some extra funds on hand for people on a church's payroll, but like Oyer, my first thought was that this is not free money, but something we are adding to the already staggering national debt that our children and grandchildren will be burdened with forever.  Oyer also makes the point that "The government will soon complain about the enormous government deficit and use that as an excuse to cut education, health and social budgets."

Even more important, the more we come to depend on government benefits the more our prophetic voice is in danger of becoming muted out of a fear we may jeopardize our privileged position. Already we have the benefit of having to pay no local property or other taxes on billions of dollars of prime real estate held by congregations. And pastors enjoy enormous tax benefits by being able to claim up to 40% of their incomes as a housing allowance, which can cover things like mortgage interest (even though already counted as a deductible item!), utilities, home repair and improvements, and even cleaning supplies.

How does any of this square with our conviction, as Anabaptists, that the church should be free of state control and support?

Oyer's letter closes with a quote from the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, "In times of suffering the church depends on the Spirit's presence and power, rather than on the power or benevolence of government, for its preservation and mission."

Maybe at the very least our churches should commit to paying back what we have borrowed as soon as we are able. Also, congregations could make a hefty contribution to local governments for the fire and other protections they enjoy, and pastors could contribute every bit of their personal tax savings to charity.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Very First Birthday And Today's Pentecost Celebration

This is a sign of God's second great act of creation.
In the majestic "hymn of creation" found in Genesis 1, God's Spirit hovers over the primal waters and calls out new life on the planet we call home. Six parallel stanzas describe God fashioning a bountiful earth with an amazing array of beloved creatures, culminating in Adam and Eve being formed in "God's image."

God blesses the pair and charges them with the responsibility to take care of all that has been created, and to manage it well on the Creator's behalf.

Genesis 2 gives some additional details, stating that God formed the first human (adamah, Hebrew for dust) from organic material from the earth, shaped it into human form, then breathed into it the breath of God's Spirit (ruach, Hebrew for wind or breath). Human life begins.

Fast forward to Acts 2, in the New Testament. Here God's Spirit is again at work, this time as a roaring "wind" (spirit) bringing a newly formed body of people to life. So we celebrate Pentecost today as a second mighty work of creation in which God's heaven comes down to earth to enflame and energize the followers of Jesus, a group of twelve young, novice disciples that had grown to a community of 120.

This small body is commissioned by Jesus to faithfully carry on the mission he began, which was, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, to "announce good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, liberation for those who are oppressed, and to announce the year of Jubilee."  Jesus had told them to prayerfully wait in Jerusalem until the promised "breath" of God's Spirit would come and a transformed new humanity would come into being.

This is the beginning of what was to become a worldwide movement, millions of people who are still in need of much transformation even today, but this was the dramatic beginning of the Kingdom of God movement on earth we call the church.

It is not insignificant that the Festival of Pentecost, or Feast of Weeks, is a Jewish celebration of both the giving of the Law and a harvest celebration. The first fruits of God's harvest on this day included a diverse group of people from many languages and nations from all over the then known world.

May this same Spirit of Pentecost breathe on us with gale force today.

Monday, May 25, 2020

What's In A Name? Some I've Found Intriguing

We are all fascinated by our names.
An icebreaker I've often used is one in which each person in a group introduces themselves by their first, middle and last name, then shares one or more interesting thing about their name. Examples may include who they were named after, whether they liked or disliked their name (and why), and whether they had any nicknames.

I have the dubious distinction of having no middle name, not unusual for someone from an Amish family, but something I've often had to explain when filling out an official form. In my community it was customary for sons to use the first letter of their father's first name (mine was Ben) as their middle initial, which would have made me Harvey B. Yoder. But unlike my two brothers, I chose not to use a middle initial or name.

Meanwhile, here are some interesting things I've learned about some of the names in my family:

Yoder, an Americanized variation of Jöder (the German "J" is pronounced like our "Y"), is derived from Theodore, or Theodorus, the patron saint of the part of Switzerland most of my ancestors are from.  Theodorus was a well known fifth century Catholic bishop in Westphalia, who according to one source was also an early missionary. Joderhügel (Yoder Hill) was one of numerous landmarks bearing his name, and as surnames came into more common use, many chose their location as a part of their name or title, as in Jacob von (from) Jöder.

Nisly, my mother's maiden name, is an Anglicized form of Nüsli, which refers to a small nut tree or "Nussbaum." Kniss is a related name, as are Nissley, Knicely and many other variants. Our Nisly is the only spelling of its kind, which means I'm probably related to every other Nisly on earth.

Miller is my paternal grandmother Elizabeth's maiden name. She died giving birth to her fourth child when my father was only three years old. Hers is an example of one of many surnames indicating an occupation.

Troyer, my maternal grandmother Fannie's maiden name, also relates to an occupation. Among her ancestors are David and Veronica Dreher, who appear more than once on both sides of my ancestral chart, and whose next generation of descendants adopted the anglicized "Troyer" as their surname. A "dreyer" is a "turner," one who works with a lathe, likely in making wood furniture. I have a number of local friends with the surname Turner.

Fannie was the name chosen for one of my older sisters in honor of her grandmother Fannie. To avoid confusion she was the only one of my siblings given a middle name, Mae. My sister never liked the name "Fannie" and insisted everyone call her Fannie Mae. Later in life I informed her that Fannie is a derivative of Veronica, the name of the ancestor mentioned in the former paragraph. In German, a "V" is pronounced like an "F" (as in Volkswagen, "folks-vagen," or "people's car"), so Veronicas were often nicknamed "Vreni" (Frennie) or "Fannie".

Harvey is not the name I would have chosen, but who gets to choose? I was named after one of my father's half brothers, Uncle Harv, who never lived in our community. He was a strict Old Order Amish who didn't approve of my parents' more progressive(?) ways. Then there's the 6-foot 3 1/2-inch pooka by that name in Mary Chase's well known play, and more recently, an infamous Harvey Weinstein, and a terrible and destructive Hurricane Harvey. But there are also lots of good folks named Harvey as well.

I hope I can be remembered as one of those!

Here are link to two other posts on my unusuala  family of origin:
https://harvyoder.blogspot.com/2014/07/my-name-is-harvey-yoder-nisly-troyer.html
https://harvyoder.blogspot.com/2014/05/grandfather-daniel-j-yoder-man-of.html

Friday, May 22, 2020

HARD TIME VIRGINIA Vol. 5, No. 3 (an occasional newsletter for prisoners)

Parole Board Gets Pushback On Parole Grants
A recent AP article stated that dozens of violent offenders were among those recently released. It also reported an outcry from prosecutors and some family members of victims who said they were not notified as required by law.
     Most of those released had already served decades of time behind bars.
    Tonya Chapman, the new chair of the Board, stated in an email, "The Parole Board, already inclined to grant parole prior to the pandemic, felt that expediting certain cases was appropriate due to the age of the offender and underlying health conditions, and the board was confident that their release was compatible with public safety." There have been at least five COVID-related deaths in Virginia prisons.
    There were 36 total grants for February 2020, four Board review grants, four geriatric grants, and 28 regular parole grants, all men.
    In March there were a surprising 95 grants, twelve of which were geriatric. Of these all but one were male. This represents half the number released in all of 2019, but there are still over 1,400 more prisoners behind bars under the old-law (sentenced before 1995).
    (April numbers will be added here when they become available)

An ACC Prisoner Appeals For Parole Release
There are many men here at Augusta Correctional Center who, like myself, are "parole eligible lifer's" under the old law, people who have been before the Virginia Parole Board numerous times and who have exceptional prison records demonstrating model citizenship. Some of us are now well into our geriatric stages of life, aged men living in the single cell community pod who work in essential job assignments like maintenance and population/staff laundry services while maintaining positive behavior adjustments and interacting positively with the staff, offender population and needs and services to this facility. 
     We are men deserving of a second chance with respect to the time served in punishment for our crimes, men who have been incarcerated for 25-40+ years. None of us have character traits that would disqualify us from being productive returning citizens in society on parole or from being anyone's good next door neighbor upon release. We have undertaken positive steps to prepare and transform our lives for reentry through spiritual, vocational, educational and treatment programming to enhance the quality of our lives and to correct our past failures and poor decisions, regardless of our guilt or innocence. 
     I speak not just for myself but collectively from all of us. "We are not the worst of the worst" and we deserve a fair and positive opportunity to be reunited with our families, our loved ones and our community, just as others have who have recently been granted release by the parole board.
     The past cannot be changed, but many of us with a dark past have demonstrated a genuinely changed life and are capable of creating a bright and hopeful present and future.
- a geriatric inmate at ACC

HARD TIME Editor's Letter to the Daily News-Record
Editor, DNR:
     These three prolific Bible authors, Lawgiver/Liberator Moses, King/Psalmist David, and Apostle/Missionary Paul have one thing in common. Each was guilty of one or more capital crimes that today could be deserving of imprisonment for life.
    But as people of faith we believe God is all about redemption rather than retribution for those who demonstrate genuine repentance. We believe wrongdoers, including ourselves, can be transformed from being the "worst of the worst” to becoming "the best of the best" by God's amazing grace and with the help of other good people.
    It was philosophers like Immanuel Kant who promoted the idea of retributive justice over the redemptive justice of Jesus and the prophets. And it is that rationalist, retributive mindset that still governs our policy toward those found guilty of crimes.
    Should our DOC should be renamed the Department of Punishment rather than the Department of Corrections?
- Harvey Yoder, Rockingham, VA

Buckingham Prisoner Logs Activities During Pandemic
Sunday, April 26, 7:25 p.m. An ambulance pulled up to our prison's rear entrance. Two men wearing PPE's rolled an inmate with a face mask and orange jumpsuit to the ambulance. At 8:20 the ambulance left, followed by a VADOC van.
Monday April 27, 5:16 p.m. Another ambulance picks up an inmate in a wheelchair.
Tuesday, April 28. Meals have been skimpy since our lock down. Our laundry, which is usually turned in on Sunday, was picked up today. 
Saturday, May 2, 11 p.m. A VADOC van came to our rear entrance sally port to pick up another  inmate in a wheelchair.
Sunday, May 3,  3 p.m. Another ambulance picked up an inmate with an oxygen tank and in a wheelchair.
Tuesday, May 5. We are now being fed in our cells. Ice is brought to us once or twice a day.
Wednesday, May 6.  Approximately 13 white 4-door trucks with camper shells, some with trailers, along with three full-size white vans, arrived in the back parking lot. Before entering the facility, men and women dressed in sand colored outfits put on white paper chemical suits with full face masks, respirators and rubber gloves. They went pod to pod inserting long wooden cotton swabs deep inside each inmate's nostril. It was not a pleasant experience. The woman who did mine was nice and professional and did it quickly. Then apologized. She made me feel human. Hopefully, staff will be tested too. They have set up a huge tent in the back parking lot and a red canopy beside the outside sally port gate. I saw at least 51 people come inside our facility to take test samples.
Thursday, May 7. A local ambulance picked up an elderly looking inmate in a wheel chair who was put on a gurney and left the facility at around 5:05 pm.
Friday, May 8. Another inmate was pushed in a wheelchair to the sally port and was taken away in a SUV at 10:20 am.
Friday, May 8. Yet another inmate in a wheelchair is taken in white van at around 8:15 pm.
Saturday, May 9. A VADOC van picked up an inmate at approximately 6:50 am.
Saturday, May 9. Two inmates who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus were moved to a housing unit set aside to isolate such cases. One of them had been told on April 1 that he had been granted parole but was still here over a month later.
Sunday, May 10. Another ambulance arrived at around 10:40 am and an inmate in a wheel chair with an oxygen tank was escorted to the vehicle.
Monday, May 11, 5:03 p.m. A correctional officer brought an inmate in a wheelchair to the personal property room to prepare him with waist chain, handcuffs and leg shackles for transportation. 
Wednesday, May 12. Between 4 and 5 p.m. the men in my pod were finally allowed outside for recreation. We are still not being permitted to report to work.
Thursday, May 14, 3:20 p.m. An inmate walked to an ambulance in the sally port with lights flashing. They left the facility at 4:07 pm with a white correctional van following. 
- A Virginia State Prisoner

Dillwyn Advocate Laments Her Son's Treatment 
On April 6 a Correctional Officer making her rounds at Dillwyn Correctional Center was not wearing her mask as required by CDC guidelines.  When prisoners asked her to put her mask on she refused, telling them she hoped they "all got it." Some 20-25 men filed complaints against her.  The next day, as administrator of the Dillwyn Correctional Center Facebook page, I posted the story of the CO refusing to wear her mask.  On April 8, as a part of a story on "Prisoners File Lawsuit over COVID 19" that appeared on Channel 12 Richmond, the reporter mentioned the CO at Dillwyn who had refused to wear her mask.  The warden later apologized for the incident.
     On April 10, I received a phone call from the VADOC and was asked to change the name of the Facebook page from "Dillwyn Correctional Center" to "Advocates for Dillwyn Correctional Center."  I agreed and made the change.  On April 22 my son reported being ill, was shown to have a fever and was moved to building 7 at Dillwyn, one set up to receive around 40 quarantined patients. He was tested for COVID-19 and was notified a week later that he was infected.  
      During the weekend of May 2-3, inmates in building 1 and 3 protested the lack of proper COVID-19 care at Dillwyn.  Those in Building 1 went on a two-day hunger strike because they were not being served on disposal dishes as specified by the CDC.  Building 3 was receiving the overflow of COVID 19 patients that could no longer go into building 7.  The VADOC website was reporting that Dillwyn was now showing over 200 COVID positive inmates.  COs tried to place additional cots into building 3 to increase the numbers from 67 to 90 patients.  The inmates protested by barricading the doors.  The situation was finally defused when the assistant warden told them that no more sick inmates would be put into building 3.  They were shorthanded this weekend as many COs had called in sick.       
     On the evening of May 4 our son, who had been quarantined in building 7 since April 22, was transferred with five others from Dillwyn, a Level 2 facility, to Sussex 2, a dangerous Level 4 facility. Dillwyn did not confirm that he was no longer COVID-19 positive, nor did they allow him to complete his two weeks of quarantine.  He was the only one taken from building 7, which had not been involved in the protests of May 2-3. None of the men were given a charge or told the reason for their transfer. But since I, his mother, am the administrator for the "Advocates for Dillwyn Correctional Center" Facebook Page where many relatives had voiced their concerns, this made the transfer appear to be retaliatory.               
     At any rate, our son had to repeat two more weeks of quarantine at Sussex 2, and we are waiting the results of his second COVID test.  Courteney Stuart of Channel 19 CBS News in Charlottesville has done three television interviews about the transfer and Sandy Hausman did one for Virginia Public Radio.  
     Pray with us that he will be returned to a level 2 facility when his 2 weeks of quarantine are completed      
 - A concerned mother. 

Anxious Parent Asks, “Will This Cycle Ever Be Broken?”
My son’s legal battles started at a young age and seem to go on forever.
     It all began when he was 12 and I discovered he was experimenting with marijuana. I was devastated, alarmed, worried; all the things most parents feel in this situation. I wanted to take action right away. I looked into rehab facilities, counseling, and wilderness programs, looking for any assistance I could get. Unfortunately, I met resistance from both my son and his father.  Hoping to get primary custody so that I could try to deal with the issue, I looked to the court to assist. However, since my son was 13, the judge deemed he had the right to choose where he wanted to live. My son chose to live with his dad, where he could do basically what he wanted, and I became the “bad” parent who wanted help for my son.
     Because of this, I was basically cut off from his life. Needless to say, things did not improve. His criminal activity branched out to stealing in order to buy marijuana. He had several stints in juvenile facilities. I was frantic to get help before he became 18, but the only “help” received was punitive in nature. I hoped that the juvenile facilities would provide counseling but that was lacking as well.  
     It all came to a head during my son’s senior year when I was driving home and passed my son’s high school. I noticed a commotion in the parking lot and saw my son’s car surrounded by police cars. It turns out he was caught with marijuana and stolen goods in his vehicle. He was expelled from school and went directly to jail. While in jail, just a few days after his 18th birthday, the police did a drug bust at his father’s house and found marijuana plants growing. Even though he was incarcerated at the time, only my son got charged and his troubles continued to mount.
     As an adult, he now faced more serious charges, and as a result agreed to a plea deal that stated he would do 2 years of probation in lieu of 7 years in jail. Needless to say, since he had now been smoking weed from the age of 12, staying clean for his random drug tests turned out to be impossible for him.  Therefore, he decided to violate probation, thinking he was going to jail either way. Because of that he became a felon, and over the years his charges and troubles grew to the point where he had many felonies, all stemming from his initial marijuana charge.
     My son is a talented wood carver and is highly intelligent, in spite of his poor decisions as a young man. He even earned his GED, and has never committed crimes with hard drugs, nor any violent crimes. But his charges snowballed from marijuana to probation violation to eluding police, so he is now in jail. In some states his marijuana use would not even be a crime. As a parent, I feel that the criminal justice system has failed. Yes, there is no doubt that my son broke the law and deserves to be punished, but there were absolutely no rehabilitative services even recommended along the way. Everything that occurred was punitive.
     It makes me sad to think of how many other individuals may be sitting in jail like my son, who could also be productive citizens in society. It seems like such a waste for individuals with minor drug charges or probation violations to be in jail wasting time, money, and their very lives! And as parents we wait, wondering if the legal system will ever change and whether this cycle can ever be broken for our sons and daughters.  
- another concerned mother

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Much Of The Bible Authored By Former Felons

Is this by accident, or does it demonstrate how the God of the
Bible is all about redemption and restoration?
The Torah, the first five holy books of the Hebrew Bible, are often referred to as the books of Moses, the lawgiver and liberator revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Yet Moses was once clearly guilty of the capital murder of an Egyptian citizen, and according to the Bible account, lived in exile for forty years in order to escape prosecution.

King David is both the most prolific writer of the Psalms and the most beloved and respected of all of Israel's rulers. Yet he was once guilty of voyeurism, rape and of a conspiracy to cover up his misdeeds by arranging for the murder his victim's husband. His prayer of bitter lament and confession is one of the most well known and most quoted of all the Psalms.

The apostle Paul was once complicit in the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, then went on to engage in a terrorist operation bent on persecuting all who chose to become followers of the rabbi Jesus. He is described as "going from house, dragging off men and women and putting them into prison," before his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, where he was plotting to do more of the same. Yet nearly half of the 27 books of the New Testament are attributed to this dramatically transformed missionary.

Is all of this simply happenstance, or is it because the Bible, from cover to cover, is all about redemption? And is about demonstrating that whatever our past history, anyone can become reborn and lead a totally new and transformed life?

Here's a letter to the editor of the Daily News-Record I recently submitted:

One thing these prolific Bible authors, Lawgiver/Emancipator Moses, King/Psalmist David, and Apostle/Missionary Paul have in common is that each was guilty of one or more capital crimes that today could be deserving of imprisonment for life. 

Yet as people of faith we believe God is all about redemption rather than retribution for those who demonstrate genuine repentance. We believe wrongdoers, including ourselves, can be transformed from being the "worst of the worst” to becoming "the best of the best" by God's amazing grace and with the help of other good people. 

It was philosophers like Immanuel Kant who promoted the idea of retributive justice over the redemptive justice of Jesus and the prophets. And it is that rationalist, retributive mindset that still governs our policy toward those found guilty of crimes. 

Maybe our DOC should be renamed the Department of Punishment rather than the Department of Corrections.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

New Russian Cathedral Highlights Stalin, Putin

This is among the world's tallest Russian Orthodox churches.
According to the UK's Guardian, the new Russian Cathedral dedicated May 9 features mosaics celebrating the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany as well as the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Included are images of Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Putin and numerous other Russian military and political figures.

Named the Resurrection of Christ Cathedral, it is a massive monument to Russian armed might located in the military's Patriot Park just outside of Moscow.

One cannot help wondering what happens to the integrity of the Christian faith when the official patriarchs of that faith bless and elevate politicians and generals associated with bloody military campaigns. And when the resurrection of Christ is conflated with the conquest of Crimea, an act that Ukraine and many its allies around the world consider a war crime. Or when icons of revered saints are portrayed alongside with some of the most ruthless politicians and generals imaginable.

A 2019 Founders Day Parade in front of the Cadet Chapel.
In our country, the Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado is an example of a similar blending of religious piety with military might. It consists of 17 spires 150 feet high and was built at a cost of $3.5 million. Many other costly furnishings were provided by members of Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist organizations, each of which have a separate meeting area on one of three stories of the cathedral.

The largest (upper level) sanctuary is for Protestants, seats 1200 people and, ironically, displays a 49 foot aluminum cross. The ends of its walnut and mahogany pews are sculpted to resemble early World War I propellers, and the backs of the pews are capped by a strip of aluminum like that of the edge of the wing of a fighter jet aircraft.

In some respect the Air Force may appear to be the more polished and least brutal of our military branches, less associated with images of hand to hand, grenade and artillery  fighting in bloody trenches. But in reality, the terror wrought by highly sophisticated drones and fighter jets has raised the level of military brutality to entirely new levels.

The first major arial bombing of civilians was in Guernica, a town in northern Spain, in its 1936-1939 Civil War. The world responded with moral outrage when Nazi Germany and Fascist Italian planes, at the request of the Spanish Nationalists, dropped artillery on its largely unarmed population. Pablo Picasso's 1937 portrayal of the first indiscriminate attack of this kind featured flames, screaming women and dismembered and mutilated animals and humans in the most powerful anti-war painting of all time.

Little did anyone dream then that less than a decade later Allied planes would be engaging in saturation bombing of whole cities and use nuclear bombs to incinerate civilians wholesale in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Sadly, neither the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Cathedral nor Russia's Resurrection of Christ Cathedral will include any mosaic decrying that kind of genocide.

Pablo Picasso's Guernica.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

SOS: Choosing Poverty, Choosing Life

Desperate Rohingya refugees from Myanmar crowd into
Bangladesh, already home to over a million newcomers.
"God, please help the poor get rich and the rich get poor, so they know what it feels like. And then, God, let everyone switch back to medium and let everyone have the same amount of food and money."
                       
- Ben Zimmerly Jantzi, age 7

Mennonite Central Committee was formed a hundred years ago to raise money to alleviate the suffering of Mennonites in famine- and war-ravaged Ukraine. Over a three year period, the new organization raised $1.3 million in food aid and purchased 50 Fordson tractors and plows to replace draft horses that had been destroyed or confiscated during the recent war. Adjusting for inflation that would represent over $33 million worth of relief aid.

A century later, people all over the world are suffering the effects of similar and even worse kinds of famines, along with persecutions, locust plagues, floods and the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic. And among the populations most affected are an unprecedented number of refugees around the world.

In all, an estimated 265 million people may face starvation this year, twice the number experiencing severe food shortages just a year ago. We face needs so overwhelming that mere freewill offerings, even generous ones, will never be sufficient to address the problem.  Even if Christians and other people of goodwill around the world were to give an entire tithe of their incomes in response it would scarcely be enough, given the fact that nearly one in 100 people around the world have been forced into homelessness through war, famine or some natural disaster.

So young Ben Jantzi (above) got it right. The only response that will make a real difference is for the world's rich to become substantially poorer, in an all out effort to help the the world's desperately poor to become even reasonably well off.

Clearly this is what Jesus did. He literally gave up heaven’s wealth to become an impoverished Palestinian peasant. He voluntarily became a homeless refugee, and devoted his life to healing, feeding and bringing good news to those in need.

We can argue over whether God is asking us to do the same, but we can’t deny that this what our Lord did.

This should trouble us. Are servants to be better off than their Master?

Some of us have been an active part of the annual Virginia Relief Sale’s SOS (Sharing Our Surplus) Campaign, which aims to raise substantial cash, check, and credit card donations for refugee relief. But in spite of the money raised, around a tenth of total Relief Sale income over the past three years, we still may find ourselves offering crumbs from our table rather than actually inviting the impoverished around the world to join us at our well laden table.

In Jesus’s upside-down kingdom, the more we divest of our own wealth and invest in the well-being of others the more truly well-off we become. Conversely, the more we indulge in our own convenience and comfort, the poorer we become.

Jesus may not be asking us to divest ourselves of wealth used in the production of essential goods and services. In fact, some may be entrusted with the stewardship of farms, factories or other business enterprises worth millions. But what Jesus is asking us all to re-invest is the wealth we have accumulated in consumer goods and stored in our growing savings accounts—the kind of wealth subject to loss by theft, economic downturns and depreciation.

So in light of the specter of untold suffering and death around the world, let’s join the ranks of those who willingly become poorer in perishable consumer wealth--instead of our becoming ever more “rich in things and poor in soul.”

God will bless us immeasurably, and the hungry and homeless will be eternally grateful.