Thursday, October 10, 2013

Children of God

There is something very powerful about looking at the face of a child. In their eyes, we often see beauty, joy, and wonder. And if we take time to look just a little bit closer, we will recognize the handiwork of that beauty, joy, and wonder.

Found on the opening pages of the Bible, we discover in Genesis 1 that human beings are made in the image of God. The United Methodist Social Principles affirm this account of creation and speak to its implications: We believe in the "inestimable worth of each individual," and that "all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God." Such value given to human beings by God, and recognized by The United Methodist Church shapes how we view persons and how we treat them. 

In United Methodist circles, many persons go one step further and affirm persons as being children of God. However, Scripture, as well as our own teachings are somewhat ambiguous whether this title, and this identity is available for all persons, or reserved for only baptized persons or Christians.

I believe every human being is a child of God, and that creation affirms this status. Through God giving us life, and creating us in God's own image, the question of who we are, is answered by knowing whose we are. The answer to that question is: we belong to God. The greatest affirmation of this for me came through the arrival of my own child. She is not a child of the devil, she is not the child of a stranger; she is my wife and I's child, and she is God's child.

Even though God has claimed us as God's own, affirming this reality for ourselves and living into it, is something that takes time, God's grace, and our initiative. Through the guiding of the Holy Spirit we are invited to claim God as our eternal parent, to trust in God's Son as our Savior, and to become sons and daughters of God. And regardless of where we find ourselves (or others) on this faith journey, God's seal upon our lives remains. Our identity as a child of God does not erase the mistakes we make and the sins we commit, but it does trump them.

When looking at the face of a child, we seem to be more able to see the image of God in them, as well as understand what things in their life might be causing brokenness within them. But if we look at the face of a perpetrator, an unpopular politician, or ruthless dictator, we may struggle to affirm that he or she is a child of God. In the midst of the Syrian crisis, recognizing President Bashar Assad as a child of God is counter-intuitive and even scandalous for many people, yet he is a child of God. President Assad has worth and value, and he is loved by God. When we remember this truth, when we remember that childhood face (Bashar is on the left) I suspect we will be much closer to loving him in the way that God loves him.

To provide financial support to the refugee ministry, please visit:


After escaping the October blizzard of 2013, I was finally able to cross the state of South Dakota and catch the first of three flights to Amman, Jordan. When I landed, I traveled by taxi to Mafraq as the sun set. My whole body was ready for sleep, but an opportunity to do what I came here to do, was available.

Pastor Nour, the man leading his congregation and outside groups in loving their refugee neighbors, asked me,

"Would you like to go with the group to do a home visit?"

As quickly as my sleep deprived mind could respond, I eagerly said yes. Soon I joined the students from Bethlehem Bible College, and we went and visited a home where three Syrian families were living together.

Once inside the home, we sat on thin mattresses and conversed with each other. The moment that hit me hardest occurred as we listened to two teenage boys share with us that their father had been arrested and was in jail. He was not able to flee the country with his family.

My heart sank as my mind recalled the numerous reports of Syrian prisoners being beat and tortured. Was their father still alive? How much abuse had he endured? Would this family ever be reunited? The statistics on arrests were no longer numbers in an article; 

this was a real family torn apart by war. 

On a large scale leve, there is very little any persons can do to make these types of situations better. We cannot undo the past and we cannot fix the present, but we can be there for people, and we can stand with people. Egab, the church member who accompanied us, shared with the families our reason for being there: to listen, to be present, and to share God's love.

And as insignificant as solidarity can seem in the midst of a horrific humanitarian disaster, it is a powerful light piercing through the darkness of the Syrian crisis. 

To provide financial support to the refugee ministry, please visit:

Called by God

The young girl in the picture above could be my daughter, my precious little one. Knowing that it could be my family caught in the horrors of war, and having spent time experiencing the beauty of Syria's land, history, and people, my heart aches and my soul weeps for God's children in Syria. But God has also been convicting my heart--to seek peace, to love as Christ loves, and to step out in faith.

As this deadly and complicated conflict continues to wreak havoc on human lives, I can't help but feel like we've barely scratched the surface of creatively and effectively responding. What if walking toward the injured one on the side of the Jericho road was the best place to start? On Monday, October 7th, I will be traveling to Mafraq, Jordan to participate in a week of refugee ministry. I will be linking up with a group of students from Bethlehem Bible College, led by Pastor, Dean, and UMC Missionary, Alex Awad. We will be working with Pastor Nour Sahawneh and the people of his congregation to deliver relief supplies, listen to people's stories, and pray with families.

I am not entirely sure what all is going to come about from this experience, but I am hopeful that God will use it for good. In the last few days I have been overwhelmed by the courage and conviction of other persons who have traveled across the ocean before me. God is at work interweaving our lives, and connecting us with people in Jordan. The seeds of hope, peace, and love--emerging from the ashes, are glorious.  

I would greatly appreciate your assistance in helping me raise funds to support the refugee ministries of the Alliance Church in Mafraq. Your financial support will help provide food, cooking supplies, bedding, clothes, education, and safe gathering spaces. All funds raised will go directly to the the church. Please also pray for me, the Syrian people, the Christians in Mafraq, my family, and my church family.

If you would like to mail a donation, or have your donation considered a charitable contribution, please designate your gift to Refugee Ministry and mail to:

Grace United Methodist Church
PO Box 265
Piedmont, SD 57769

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior 

Hillsong United

To provide financial support to the refugee ministry, please visit: