Thursday, August 29, 2013

Emigrants, Legal or Illegal

An Advocacy group reminded me today to support their Emigration Reform ... "Stand With the Dream!" That is a hot political potato but that does not keep people from having an opinion. 
I once was part of that 6% of the world’s population enjoying celebrity status for owning the biggest, best, and most cars. We drove on the best highways; we burned the cheapest gas. I remember 19-cents a gallon Sinclair gas.

 We had the most telephones! The best gadgetry! We were the biggest, sweetest slice of Apple Pie on the hemisphere … until everybody wanted to be one of “us”.

 Although midway through my eighth decade, and I do not remember ever living without emigrants. Our neighbors were Dutch, German, Polynesian, Yiddish, even First Americans; I didn’t mention Spanish ‘cause I didn’t know any back then.

 We only recognize immigrants now because we want to rid ourselves of THEM; if they’re immigrants, they must be illegals … they all are. This political football gets kicked all directions these days … AND if we could just get rid of all the illegals, things would be okay!

 I wonder! That’s like going to church where everybody is a charter member-- a homesteader—and we reject any membership applications from candidates unable to qualify as second generation Christians. NO n-e-w members, unless you come in through the right channel.

 Harry Sanford was a friendly neighbor. I walked past his house every school day, en route to Indiana Avenue School in South Haven, MI. He was just another black guy, until I discovered his Polynesian roots. I could not deny the beauty of his two daughters, a little older than me--two of the most beautiful females I ever met.

 In my adolescence, the Zwars’ came to our church after escaping Hitler’s horrors. White Europeans: they attended our white church. We were pleased … until we were horrified because they kept their old country custom of brewing beer in their basement. I have no idea how that turned out, except we were teetotalers.

 Ewald Wolfram was a beloved and outstanding church leader. One of my favorite preachers, he was a fellow student, and a near neighbor when growing up. In time, I  discovered his East Prussian roots and how his family and others escaped to America, accompanied by their Church of God faith and fervor.

When Ewald died the victim of a horrendous highway death, the Grim Reaper stole a friend from me and left many of my friends impoverished. This emigrant, with his prissy, precise manners, his degree of formality; his whole character marked him as different from our informalities. But, I smile remembering his Prussian demeanor; frankly, I miss it; he was a beloved friend and peer, legal or illegal!

Luz, pronounced “Loose”, became my friend in 1964--one of numerous Hispanic friends in my adult years. Luz and I have a mutual friend with a crazier name—Vasilis, one of my most cherished friends today. Vasilis, better known as Bill, “emigrated “to America. With a western education, enjoying the American dream, so to speak; he has spent his life working at making this a better world.

I accuse him of mixing his Greek and English sentence structures – typical of foreigners that can’t speak the language! And, I encounter them increasingly … Nabil, from Beirut; Suwan, owner-operator of a favorite Chinese Buffet; Michelle, a bank teller whose husband became a police dispatcher following their escape from Vietnam.

One day I sat down to eat and visited with two young men that literally swam out of China, to get here. Another day while walking, I talked to two men cleaning the parking lot of a downtown church. They were Indonesian and they were immigrants, BUT WE WERE FAMILY - Christians now congregating at First Baptist Church.

Social intercourse remains impossible, without encountering these aliens. They’re everywhere! You find them even in the most unusual places. Then, there’s the political rhetoric, pro’s and con’s of America’s problem with illegals and immigrants , legal or illegal.

My life would be impoverished today without their enrichment—including illegals! Thus my concern: which is less about their legality and more about our attitude. We have issues of the heart that need to grow beyond legal and illegal:

(1) What is your attitude toward “foreigners”; or, toward people different from you? Although the Pilgrims were fleeing religious bondage, they were also foreign invaders. White America was created as a nation of slavers; they tolerated savagery, and sometimes genocide.

(2) How do you view them? With fear? Do you look through them without seeing their humanity? Are they merely jobs threat? They’re non-Christians—heathen...? So is hedonistic, self-serving democratic American humanism.

(3) Can you even conceive of “them” deserving the same breaks you got in life? Can you view THEM not as “different, not as Muslims, not as terrorists, not as ex cons, not as illegals”, and see them as people wanting the same chance at life you had, people hungry to see the truth of God’s Good-news love revealed, even as you were?
Does this make me “liberal”! A dreamer?  I am hard-nosed realist enough, as a man of faith, to believe God meant what he said when he expressed great concern for foreigners and aliens. Moses instructed ancient Israel to love the aliens in their midst (Deuteronomy 10:19): treat them as if they were citizens (Leviticus 19:34). The Bible’s bluntness startled me when re-read that word in Deuteronomy. The purpose of such treatment was so ”they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God (Deut. 31:12).

Sending home all illegal aliens will not eliminate "our problem," but it does accent the spiritual nature of our problem. God’s Apostle to the Gentiles (non-Christians) said it this way: SO FROM NOW ON, WE REGARD NO ONE FROM A WORLDLY POINT OF VIEW … THEREFORE, IF ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, HE IS A NEW CREATION …” (2 Cor. 5:16-17 NIV).

From Warner’s World, this is
reminding you that when you walk with God you view people as HE views them,
not as the world views them . . .
legal or illegal.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Some Thoughts on Camp Meeting

Dr. Bill Jones addressed the Church of God in Michigan in our August online “Action” paper, after a summer of family gatherings and Camp Meeting at Charlevoix and St. Louis, and being guest preacher at Payne, Ohio. He had scheduling problems with Warner Camp and sent Demetrius Booker in his place and I was delighted to see my friend Demetrius, even if he is Afro-American rather than Greek as his name might suggest (love you bro!).
Bill recalled that camp meetings “were a major form of evangelism and spiritual training for our fledgling movement,” which is no longer true. American culture has changed and we Americans have changed, as has the role of Camp Meetings. Whereas early camp meetings drew thousands from communities across America, most attenders today are devoutly loyal, but as one who has attended camp meetings for 85 years, today’s version is more family tradition and vacation than evangelistic.

He wondered if Camp Meetings are like Sunday night services ... something that had its time but its time has passed. Whatever the case, we need to dialogue his question as to “…what is the purpose of Camp Meetings today?”

I would be the first to admit that few people use camp meeting for leadership training, or Christian Education, or Missionary Education anymore. As a child I was thrilled beyond measure when exposed to Warren and Frances Edmondson, raising funds to go abroad. Warren was killed following that camp but Frances married Bob Clark and they spent a lifetime in Missionary Service. Now, the feature service on Missionary Day at Warner Camp can scarcely draw 50-75 people, and that mostly Christian Women’s Connection.

Most camps I know have scaled back to a family vacation, a purpose I neither minimize nor want neglected, but that is not our primary focus as people of God. Bill wrote after attending Charlevoix, St. Louis, and Payne, Ohio. Add Demetrius Booker being at Warner camp and I have to say “We can’t be more historical than this, if our purpose is teaching history and maintaining a museum.” Bill had a scheduling conflict, but he did send Demetrius, one of very few blacks attending Warner this year, and I didn’t see many more at St. Louis—we were pretty colorless, if I do say so (a whole other story)!
Bill observed that almost everything we do at camp meeting, we can do equally well-or-better at home or elsewhere. He also said what I know to be true, “Every Camp Meeting I attended this summer was tight on finances and wondering how it could generate more support.” … Does that suggest that we are already concentrating our funds to where, as Bill days, “… money flows to vision and ministry.”?
SO, what might our Camp Meetings think about in the years ahead? Bill suggested that we “focus on the value of God’s people from all across the state getting together to "network and discuss with people of common mind, and allow great ideas to be hatched" and build ties that bind us together. Good as far as it goes . . . !
Here in Michigan, I would like to see our several Camp Boards cooperate together, coordinate  programming and events, and refocus their mission so as to be of more value to the local church and more in harmony with our primary reason for existence. I resonated with this paragraph: “Second, focus on the community where the Camp Meeting is being held. Campers can band together to do service projects, feed the hungry, and love the children of the community. If there is a local Church of God near the Camp Ground, do it in the name of that church that can continue ministry when the Camp Meeting is over. What if a Camp Meeting held a community health clinic, or did a concert for the youth of the community, or provided a neighborhood party with food and games for those in the area? Somehow, we ought to think about how we can reach, serve and love those who are not at our Camp Meeting."

One thing I know: If Camp Meetings remain “a party for the saved,” they will die! If they are as of much value as some of us contend, then we should invest enough money and programming into them to develop them as the viable Retreat and Educational centers they could be. If not, we should divest ourselves of the financial drain and turn to more productive measures. This will sound extreme to some, but I have invested my blood, sweat, and tears in church camps across this nation, and I am reevaluating my own commitment and values, having attended my first camp meeting at Grand Junction in 1927-28, not sure which, but a babe in arms.     

 Our CM Boards are limping along as best they can, with totally inadequate resources. The house at Grand Junction that was the home of D. S. Warner is badly deteriorated after we restored it in 1992 to the best of our financial ability. NOW, if repaired, it will be, at best, a restored farm house, a onetime historic relic that was a pretty nice Queen Anne style home occupied by D. S. Warner. BUT, we disgrace him and our message by our limp-along efforts, so I took it upon myself in annual business session in 2012 to make the motion empowering the Trustee Board to restore if able  or destroy and build a fitting facility commensurate with the needs of our camping program—as a memorial. DO WHAT THEY NEED TO DO!

This monologue is not a neatly defined plan for future camp meetings, but I hope it will illustrate our need to think on what Bill said and even open up dialogue-and-action enabling us to return to being the people of God Peter described by I Peter 2:9people of clear origin (responded to God), of unique character (a royal priesthood), with a focused purpose (declare his praises, meaning more than just fellowshipping together). 

As Gerald Nevitt once wrote:  “A new vision of what the church is to be and do in our world must begin with an understanding of who we are. Although every Christian may not fully understand, it is critically important that each church havea firm conviction regarding his identity” (GOD’S PEOPLE ON MISSION THROUGH MINISTRY/29/1995).

Personal thoughts from Warner’s World ...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fulfilling the Promise

I met a young friend at the recent Global Gathering in June; her name is Emily Clark. I’ve known Emily through her family at Warner Camp for quite a few years now – long enough for Emily to work as a teen in the Camp Dining Hall for Susan Stace and my wife, long enough for me to baptize Emily although she belonged to Tom Tufts flock at Kalamazoo Westwood, long enough for Emily to matriculate from Anderson University and now hold a Bachelor of Divinity from the School of Theology + receive her CPE for Clinical Pastoral Education, and now long enough for Emily to begin finding her way into church ministry.

Emily is a committed Christian. She has achieved an excellent education!  Emily is competent to go wherever she is called, but she has chosen a place that captured my fancy back in 1985 when I drove to South Dakota and spent one week as the person in charge of our Mission at Wounded Knee; the real Mission Agent at that time was away at the national gathering of Native American Mission leaders. That gave me a learning experience I never forgot. It taught me much I did not know before—especially just how little I really knew about our First American culture. I married an Oklahoman with considerable Cherokee in her. Her father travelled the Trail of Tears from NC to AR as a boy and later served as an interpreter in the Indian Court, but this was a new education for me, and I discovered just how much I did not know.

In Anderson, I learned of Emily’s passion for Wounded Knee and her intention of “Fulfilling the Promise.” This became my chance to give Emily a small boost by sharing her dream with YOU. The Lakota people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota have long lived under the shadow of broken promises; I went there not really believing that. The United States government offered the tribe treaties promising that they could keep their land, their language, and their traditional way of life; unfortunately the government broke these promises. This betrayal left the Lakota unable to thrive as they once had on the prairie and resulted in a new way of life in which these people struggled to survive. The effects of that betrayal are still evident in the difficulties of daily life on Pine Ridge. Shannon County, home to most  of Pine Ridge, is one of the poorest counties in America—80% of the population lives below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is around 85%. The rate of teen suicide on the reservation is 150% higher than off the reservation. The high school dropout rate is 70%. The life expectancy for the reservation is 48 for men and 52 for women.

In the midst of this dark reality, the Wounded Knee Church of God on Pine Ridge stands as a testimony to a different kind of promise—not the promise of government treaties, but the promise of God’s kingdom (It is the “only” church mission utilizing Native American architecture). Theirs is a promise that the hope of the gospel means life can be brighter in Pine Ridge. Pastor Stanley Hollow Horn believes that Wounded Knee Church of God can make these promises a reality for his hurting community; however, he knows he cannot do it alone. He shared his dream with the good folk at Germantown, Ohio and they have LAUNCHED AN EXCITING NEW PROJECT AT WOUNDED KNEE CALLED “THE PLACE OF PROMISE.”

The Place of Promise will be a community center located on the church property. Here, the community can come together in healthy ways. Children can play a game of basketball, women can exercise, and youth can learn new skills.  This facility will provide accessible offices for the church, serve as an outlet for ministry and outreach, and, most importantly, stand as a symbol to the promise of hope for Pine Ridge. Here, the broken promises plaguing the reservation for over a century will fade away and people can experience the tangible, eternal promises of God.

ANYONE wishing to help FULFILL THE PROMISE please contact the First Church of God in Germantown, Ohio at 937-855-6907 for more information. OR, VISIT

Here is where Emily comes in (I didn’t forget her). SHE WILL BE AVAILABLE TO SPEAK, BEGINNING IN SEPEMBER--TO YOUR CHURCH-- YOUR SMALL GROUP--OR BUSINESS. When I baptized this happy, freckle-faced little red-headed girl from Kalamazoo into the waters of Lester Lake that long ago, I had no idea where following Christ was going to lead her. Since that time she has spent time at Wounded Knee and has plans for investing some of the most significant time of her young life at Pine Ridge Reservation and there she will give loving service.

You can contact Emily at emily.clark05@gmail or call her at 269-312-0837. Project leaders are looking for people willing to make a five-year financial commitment of some kind, to help make this promise a sustained reality. The Place of Promise (pictured at the top of the page) is a dream quickly becoming a physical reality, but in order to stand against darkness we depend on the light that comes from the whole community of God.

From Warner’s World, this is asking you who can to  support Emily in this vey worthwhile project. I thank you; Emily thanks you, and the project leaders at Germantown thank you . . . :-)