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WHAT DOES THIS MOTHER WANT?

MOTHER’S DAY IS QUICKLY APPROACHING. What better gift can you give than to sponsor a child for the mom(s) in your life?

Please help us meet our goal of 250 children sponsored for Mother’s Day!

What does this mother want most for Mother’s Day?

WaitingHope1

Hope for Her Child
In South Asia, Dalits are considered the lowest class of people. They face intense persecution and hatred. Dalit mothers watch as their children:

  • Become beggars or daily wage laborers.
  • Grow up without any hope for an education.
  • Receive beatings from their employers.
  • Live without adequate food or proper clothing.

WaitingHopeAll the while, they know that they, as mothers, can do nothing to change their children’s fate. They are “untouchable.” But today, you can touch them with the love of Christ.

A Mother’s Desperate Longing
Gayana was only 20 when her husband died, leaving her and their young son, Vikranta, alone in the world. Gayana despaired as she wondered how she would provide for Vikranta. She was no longer welcome at her in-laws home, and her elderly parents were unable to support her. Having nowhere else to go, Gayana moved in with one of her sisters. She was so distressed over her situation that she stopped eating and sank into a deep depression. Then a neighbor told her about a nearby Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope center, a place that offered help to poor children. Gayana visited the center and shared her desperate story with the director. To Gayana’s great joy and relief, Vikranta was enrolled in Bridge of Hope immediately.

Bridge of Hope Has the Answer
Bridge of Hope provided Vikranta with everything he needed to attend and thrive at school. Although Gayana found work as a daily wage laborer, she earns only about a dollar a day. Without Bridge of Hope, she would never have been able to provide her son with the education he’s receiving. Gayana is happy and grateful that her son has been given a chance — a chance that many Asian mothers only dream of their children having.

Thousands Ready to Receive Joy
20,000 children are still waiting to enroll in a Bridge of Hope center. All they’re waiting for is a sponsor. All they are waiting for is you. For just $35 a month, you can provide a mother with the hope she’s longing for. Her child will receive:

  • A daily nutritious meal.
  • The message of Jesus’ love.
  • A quality education.
  • A better life than she had.

LookingLove GoToSchool1 GoToSchool BOH_Boys


To find out how you can sponsor a child today, visit www.gfa.org/bridge.


MothersDay

This Mother’s Day, sponsor a child in your mother’s honor, and bring hope to mothers who have no hope. Visit www.gfa.org/bridge to find out more.




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FROM PRAISE TO SLAVERY TO PRAISE

NADISH was just like any other nine-year-old boy who didn’t take his schoolwork seriously. After his father died from cancer, Nadish was enrolled in a Bridge of Hope center in India, being loved by the staff there and given an education. One day, however, his mother scolded him for not devoting enough effort to school.

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Nadish Sabharwal, before his abduction, in his official Bridge of Hope profile photo from 2007.

Not sure what else to do, Nadish ran away from home and found himself living in a large city railway station in India. There he met an elderly man who befriended him and took Nadish to his home village.

Forced into slavery, Nadish spent the next two years living as a prisoner and cleaning up animal waste all day. Every day after finishing his work, Nadish was locked in a room near the animals he cleaned up after and was given very little food to eat.

His mother grieved deeply.

She had already lost her husband to cancer, and now she had also lost one of her sons. Praise God that the Bridge of Hope center prayed diligently for little Nadish.

Nadish found hope in possible escape.

And then two years after Nadish was captured, a new boy was placed in the same room, and the landlord forgot to lock the door. Thirteen days after Nadish’s 12th birthday, he and his roommate escaped. Running to the nearest police station, the boys testified against their captor.

Back home and healing.

Nadish is now back home with his family, and participating in Bridge of Hope again. Please pray for Nadish. He is struggling mentally as a result of his lengthy captivity and ill treatment. Pray that he will be able to concentrate on his studies and catch up from what he missed.

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Nadish and his mother Gopika, just a few days after his escape.


There are many more like Nadish

In India alone there are reports of 45,000 children missing each year.¹  This is a sad reality that children throughout South Asia face every day.

They go missing for many reasons.

Some are abducted by strangers and placed into forced labor, like Nadish. Others are trafficked and exploited in the sex trade. Still others are sold to families to work as domestic help. Some 44 million orphans and runaways are living on the streets, not aware of the danger that awaits them.²

India is not the only place

  • India has close to 13 million children younger than 15 in its workforce — more than any other country in the world. Some estimate the real number is closer to 100 million.3 That’s five times the population of the state of New York.
  • In Thailand, almost 1 out of every 10 children between the ages 10 and 14 are working rather than going to school.4
  • In Bangladesh, an estimated 27 percent of children ages 10-14 are working in a variety of hazardous occupations.5
  • In Sri Lanka, one of the most physically punishing forms of child labor is the fishing industry, which keeps the children in slave-like conditions and far from the public eye.6
  • UNICEF estimates that 4,500 children from Bangladesh are trafficked to Pakistan each year. Thousands more are sent to India and the Middle East.


How can we stop this?

Gospel for Asia is working among South Asia’s most endangered children. Click HERE to help an abandoned child. Go HERE if you’d like to sponsor a child in the Bridge of Hope Program.


Delhi Street Children’s Home

You can give toward rescuing children on the streets, teaching them about Jesus and His love and reuniting them with their families.

You can give toward rescuing children on the streets, teaching them about Jesus and His love and reuniting them with their families.


Bridge of Hope

You can sponsor a child in Asia and provide an education, the love of Christ, clean clothes, food and medical care.

You can sponsor a child in Asia and provide an education, the love of Christ, clean clothes, food and medical care.

 

Prayer

  • Pray for children to be rescued, reunited and accepted back into their families.
  • Pray for the physical needs of the children. Most do not get enough to eat, and the physical labor they are forced to do can cripple their bodies. Pray for the Lord to provide for them and protect them from harm.
  • Pray for the girls — and boys — forced to work in the sex trade. Ask the Lord to bring the brothel owners’ and customers’ misdeeds into the light and for the love of Jesus to permeate those dark places.
  • Pray for a radical attitude shift in South Asian society so citizens of these countries will demand an end to the exploitation of children.




Notes
1 National Human Rights Commission, http://nhrc.nic.in/
2 ChildLine India, www.childlineindia.org.in
3 ChildLine India, www.childlineindia.org.in
4 U.S. Department of Labor, International Labor Affairs report.
5 U.S. Department of Labor report.
6 U.S. Department of Labor, International Labor Affairs report.




cursed-to-live-forever


RAJI OPENED HER EYES WITH DISAPPOINTMENT as the dark reality set in: Somehow she had survived her latest suicide attempt — and her family would never forgive her for it.

She had made many attempts on her life before. Like a cat with nine lives, though, Raji always managed to raise her mutilated body from the grave. With this latest failure, her family would only despise her more, but what could she do when even death wouldn’t take her?

Girl Grows Up in Poverty

Danger had followed Raji since childhood. Her father, Ednit, had a nice job in the military, but when he came home every night, he and Raji’s mother would drink and fight.

Listening to the drunken arguments, Raji and her five siblings could be happy only for the fact that when Ednit screamed at their mother, he wasn’t screaming at them. The alcohol was costly, however, and soon the family fell into desperate poverty.

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After the sixth grade, Raji dropped out of school to support her family and found work at construction sites. After each day of toil, she came home to her father’s abuse, and as the years went by she could only dream of escape.

Marriage was the most likely route: Her new husband might be kind and her in-laws loving.

But when the time came to arrange a marriage, Raji’s father had none of these things in mind. Soon she was forced to marry a man who was anything but her savior.

Marriage Leads to Greater Oppression

The abuse Raji received from her husband drove her to attempt suicide.

THE ABUSE RAJI RECEIVED FROM HER HUSBAND DROVE HER TO ATTEMPT SUICIDE.

It was as if Ednit had sought for his daughter the worst version of himself.

Like Ednit, Aadesh drank often and his physical abuse was even more brutal. He tormented Raji for no apparent reason, and his family did nothing to stop him because they hated Raji just as much. It soon became clear that the new bride had stepped from misery into torture.

Then one day, she made a decision. Without thinking twice, she doused herself in gasoline and set herself on fire.

Like many desperate young women who light themselves on fire, Raji hoped her death would be instantaneous, but she quickly discovered the horrible truth.

As the flames ripped across her body, Raji couldn’t help screaming in pain. Her terrified neighbors ran to her house and put out the fire, but devastating damage was already done. The woman writhing on the ground was disfigured beyond recognition. And her in-laws’ hatred for her only intensified.

Hated by Family after Failed Suicide Attempt

After the fire, Raji’s life was even worse than the one she’d tried to escape.

WHEN BURNING HERSELF FAILED, RAJI DIDN'T QUIT ON SUICIDE – BUT NOTHING WORKED.

WHEN BURNING HERSELF FAILED, RAJI DIDN’T QUIT ON SUICIDE — BUT NOTHING WORKED.

Throughout her painful recovery, her family demonstrated no sympathy or remorse at the way they had treated her.

They felt justified in their animosity.

Isolated from any form of love, Raji grew more desperate. Between her family’s scorn and her self-doubt, she heard a rough voice whisper in her ear, “Commit suicide and finish yourself.”

She tried to obey the voice once, twice — as many times as she could. Whether by the neighbors or bad planning, she was always thwarted as completely as on the day of the fire.

With each failed attempt on her life, her situation became more hopeless, as if she’d been condemned to live forever. And as long as she lived, Raji was certain, misery would follow.

But one day, one of Raji’s neighbors showed her a strategy she hadn’t tried before.

Finally, a Friend

The neighbor told Raji about Jesus, who loved everyone so greatly that He died for their sins. Raji could see for herself in a film the local pastor was going to show in the village.

The pastor explained even more that night about Jesus, and as Raji watched the movie, she could see the goodness of this Man.

As she watched the crucifixion, she realized how deeply Jesus loved her. And after a lifetime of pain, she was eager to embrace Him.

Soon after Raji chose to follow Christ, she began attending prayer meetings and Bible studies. To her surprise, Aadesh not only encouraged her — he went with her, and listened with an open heart!

With a new joy that seemed incomprehensible, Raji began sharing the Good News with her sister-in-law. Within a week, she, too, decided to follow Jesus. Suddenly, Raji’s worst enemies had become dear friends.

Now the trio regularly attends church together, Raji’s home is filled with harmony, and the life she used to dread has become a sweet gift.

“My burden is rolled away,” she says, “and I feel peace in my heart.”


You can bring peace to lives of turmoil by showing them Jesus’ love on film.

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JESUS’ LOVE WAS CLEAR TO RAJI AS SHE WATCHED HIS LIFE PLAY OUT ON THE SCREEN.




World Leprosy Day

DO YOU KNOW ANYONE WITH HANSEN’S DISEASE? I don’t either.

RT12_04867Hansen’s disease — also known as leprosy — is one of the world’s oldest maladies. Leprosy is a bacterial disease that attacks the nervous system, particularly the nerves of the hands, feet and face. As the body absorbs cartilage into its system, victims of the disease slowly lose their fingers, toes and even limbs. While leprosy has been eradicated in the west, it is still active and greatly feared across Asia because of the disfigurement it can cause, the social stigma it carries, and because it can be transmitted through close contact with a patient.

There are tens of thousands of people suffering from leprosy in more than 1,000 leper colonies throughout South Asia. The social stigma is devastating, perhaps even worse than the disease itself. However, leprosy can be totally cured without permanent damage if medical help is sought immediately. Unfortunately, in remote places and among the poor, diagnosis and treatment often come too late. And sadly, only those among the cured who have no visible deformity will be able to integrate back into society. All others will have to live in leper colonies — alone or with their families — for the rest of their lives.

RT12_05736In the midst of this hopelessness, the light of Jesus Christ is breaking through, bringing hope to those who have been brushed aside by society. Please pray for Gospel for Asia’s leprosy ministry, that many suffering from this terrible disease would embrace the Savior, who is reaching out to them in love. GFA-supported missionaries in the leper colonies show Christ’s love by cleaning wounds and changing bandages, by giving medical care, by making special shoes to protect the people’s feet, by helping with household chores, by providing food, but most importantly by telling the people of and showing Christ’s love for them.

Recently a group of students traveled to Asia and visited a leprosy colony. Click the photo below to watch and share Ashley’s powerful story (but HD seems to short it out).


Here are some other Gospel For Asia resources:

http://www.gfa.org/pray/world-leprosy-day/
http://www.gfa.org/cs/leprosy-ministry/


Here are some web resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leprosy_in_India
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002323/
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs101/en/index.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leprosy 

 

Thank you for sharing the plight of these unseen, yet precious people! 

  

Empower Women with the Ability to Read


The Facts

Millions of South Asian women are illiterate. More than half the women in Bangladesh cannot read at all. In India alone, there are an estimated 242 million women who are unable to read—that’s about half the adult women in the country.

Teaching women to read and write opens doors of opportunity and gives them the joy of being able to study God’s Word for themselves. These women are eager to learn; they just need a teacher and a few simple materials.

By Learning to Read – They Stand Firm

But now, through Gospel for Asia’s Women’s Literacy Program, the written world is opening up for the first time. Women learn by reading the Bible, which is the foundational text for the classes, so they gain a knowledge of Scripture even before they’ve completed the course.

Pastors’ wives and women missionaries serve as teachers, so students have the opportunity to grow spiritually under their mentors. The ability to read and understand for themselves also gives these women the confidence to refuse unfair contracts, whether they’re from loan officers or abusive employers.

Many women in GFA-supported churches struggle because they cannot read God’s Word. Help them know the Lord more by giving to Gospel for Asia’s Women’s Literacy Program.

More than one in three women in Asia are illiterate—and the statistic holds true for women in Gospel for Asia-supported churches. Their inability to read leaves them vulnerable to those wanting to take advantage of their ignorance, and without reading the Bible, it’s a challenge to deepen their knowledge of their Savior.

YOU Can Make a Difference!

Illiterate women in Asia face great difficulties. They fail to keep their children safe because they can’t read warning labels. Debt piles up because they can’t understand the bad contracts they sign. They’re cheated in the marketplace because they can’t do basic math. Even if they want to read, there is no way to learn.

With your help, women in Asia can learn to read and will be equipped to tackle life’s hurdles. Click on the link below to find out how you can change someone’s life forever.

More than 250 million women in Asia are illiterate

I Need a Drink

Drinking Hole

FOR MANY IN ASIA – AND AROUND THE WORLD – SAFE, CLEAN WATER IS HARD TO COME BY. Confined to stagnant ponds, filthy rivers and rusty wells, people struggle daily with water-borne illnesses. They don’t know much about hygiene, and they have no idea what’s causing their premature deaths. We can help them!

2.2 million people in developing countries, most of them children, die every year from diseases associated with inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene and a lack of safe drinking water.

Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from water-related illnesses.

• In the past 10 years, diarrhea has killed more children than all the people lost to armed conflict since World War II.

Wait, that bears repeating …

In the past 10 years, diarrhea has killed more children than all the people lost to armed conflict since World War II!

Communal Well

• Despite the size of the problem, we have made little progress against it.  There were only 181 million fewer people living without safe drinking water in rural settings in 2004 (899 million) vs. 1990 (1.08 billion)*1.

• Fifty percent of people on earth lack adequate sanitation. Another way to look at it: Nearly half of the world’s population fails to receive the level of water services available 2,000 years ago to the citizens of ancient Rome!

Water-related illnesses are the leading cause of human sickness and death on the planet.

STATISTICS, STATISTICS, STATISTICS and more statistics! If you haven’t allowed these facts to touch you and move you, then these statistics are useless numbers, pointless facts and a futile attempt to grab your heart to the point where you experience a visceral reaction, and respond.

How should we respond to this overwhelming need? What can we realistically do that will help make a difference in people’s lives?

Freely, you’ve been given …

For starters, you can go HERE to learn more about the issue and see just how easy it is to personally help solve the problem. This is a HUGE issue, however, and it needs many solutions. There is no one way to fix it, and it will take many people many years to turn the tide.

We in the west rarely think about the clean water that we enjoy so freely. It hardly ever hits us that we are very, very privileged to be able to turn on the tap and drink what comes out, or stand under a warm stream of fresh water in our shower for 20-30 minutes, or flush our toilets an extra time or two (just to make sure), or grab our garden hose whenever we want and wash the car(s), or water the lawn or flowers or bird bath.

This reminds me of a trip I took to Haiti in 1986 with a group of guys, where we worked up in a mountain village to help build an addition to a schoolhouse. There was no water available for showers or bathing, except for a scarce amount to wash our faces at night. We were doing hard labor in 90-100 degree temps, so you know we were sweaty and stinky. It got to the point where we finally just fit in with our Haitian friends, because we didn’t smell like soap or deodorant anymore. We smelled like, well … us! One of my friends (you know who you are, Chuck) was really moved by the lack of water, and what the local people suffered as a result. He vowed he would never again take clean, fresh, hot water for granted, and I’ll bet a day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t thank God for his water.

Jesus Wells

There may be no way to truly understand the suffering of people with little clean water, without going to some of these places and experiencing it for ourselves. But how many of us can do that? Very few, I imagine. What we can do, though, is educate our minds and hope that some of that education sinks down into our hearts, where God can then use it. Then we can get involved with initiatives like Gospel for Asia’s Jesus Wells and http://blueplanetnetwork.org/. We can at least do that, can’t we?

This article is not meant as a guilt trip, but merely a reminder that we who have plenty DO have a responsibility to care for those who have very little. The least we can do is send money to an organization like Gospel for Asia, who then sends 100% of your gift to work in the field. I don’t believe you can get a better return on what God has blessed you with. Now it’s up to you.

“But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

I John 3:17

What is Compassion?




Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

COMPASSION SHOULD ALWAYS DRIVE US TO DO SOMETHING, because God’s love can’t flow through us unless we ACT. How do you spread God’s compassion on a daily basis? First, we have to assume that the people in our lives are there because God has placed them there. And He has placed us with them. We don’t need to look far afield for a “ministry” or for opportunities to love others. Let’s face it – there are people in need in ALL of our lives, whether they’re family members, co-workers, students or friends. I believe that these are the ones to whom God has called us first.

Farther away – all over the world – there is tremendous need, but how do we meet that need? How can I possibly minister to someone who has been left homeless because a flood washed away her village? How can I put clothes on the back of a young man who’s all alone in a refugee camp? How can I feed starving children in a famine-ravaged country? How can I reach across the miles, through impenetrable barriers, over mountains and valleys and political walls?

How can I?

How CAN’T I?

God has provided many ways, and here’s just one. Remember that 100% of your gift to Gospel for Asia goes to the field, which means that you CAN cross all barriers – you just might have to do it through someone else. Please read about GFA’s slum ministry, then pray how God’s compassion can best flow out from you.

Gospel for Asia’s Slum Ministry

Rapidly growing slums, with millions of people living in extreme poverty and struggling for survival, are a huge problem for South Asia’s major cities. Up to 25 percent of the population of these urban areas live in slums. Thousands arrive daily from rural areas in search of jobs and a better life, only to become trapped in desperation and hopelessness.

Open sewage, polluted water, lack of health care, illiteracy, superstition and diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDS are just some of the threats all around them. Every day is a new battle to somehow find a job — or keep the one they have — as laborer, porter, sweeper or house servant. If that’s not possible, they must resort to begging, scavenging or prostitution to be able to eat. If they get too sick or too old to work, there is no social agency to help them survive. No wonder many slum dwellers drown their fears and sorrows in alcohol.

But wherever the love of Christ is shared, people find new hope and a future in the Lord Jesus Christ.


Gospel for Asia’s ministry to the slums began in 1999, with outreach to four major Indian cities. Today, our missionary teams serve in thousands of slum neighborhoods, bringing hope in a two-fold manner — through the message of Jesus’ redemption and through living out His sacrificial love. They conduct free medical clinics and teach basic hygiene and preventive health measures. They provide literacy classes for adults, conduct tutoring classes for children and hold weekly Sunday schools. They have planted hundreds of churches, and thousands have heard the Gospel.

GFA also has a Bible college in Mumbai (Bombay) designed to train future missionaries for slum ministry all across the Indian Subcontinent. In addition to the study of God’s Word, classroom training consists of practical instruction in the various aspects of slum ministry. The obstacles are many, but our gracious heavenly Father has great plans for the poor: “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom …?” (James 2:5).

Our slum ministry is different from other outreaches because we deal with masses of desperate people who have no means whatsoever to better their situation or escape their surroundings. It takes tremendous self-sacrifice and patience on the part of our native missionaries to work among them, win their trust and lead them to Jesus. It also entails meeting urgent and often unique needs.

It’s incredible to encounter believers from our slum fellowships.


It’s incredible to encounter believers from our slum fellowships. You can easily see by the sparkle in their eyes and the joy on their faces that Jesus has brought light and hope into their lives. And their testimonies tell of the love and power of God that set them free from bondage and sin, and even healed many from sickness. Most of all, through the Lord Jesus Christ, they are now part of the family of God and have become our brothers and sisters.

We want to continue taking Christ’s message of hope to millions who are outcasts of society and invite them to become sons and daughters of the living God.

Please prayerfully consider how God might use you to reach the millions of slum dwellers of Asia. Your prayers and gifts can transform thousands of lives, both now and for all eternity.

If you’d like to meet someone who lives out the compassion of Christ every day in the slums of India, go here: http://www.gfa.org/videos/real-life-hero/



NO LONGER A SLUMDOG

Please take a moment – look into the lives of these precious children. Then ask God how you can help.

This month’s mission is going to take us all on a journey to a place most of us would never want to go – the slums and Dalit villages of Asia. We are going to meet some children and hear their life stories. And it won’t cost you a cent.

Please order – then read – K.P. Yohannan’s FREE book No Longer a Slumdog. Go to www.gfa.org/book to order your free copy. You can also visit www.nolongeraslumdog to watch the video stories that accompany those in the book. These resources will take you into a world you may never have heard of, but one that is more real than these “slumdogs” would like. They live it every day.

Here’s a short excerpt from the story of a boy named Nadish, who was abducted and sold into forced labor:

“He would lock me in a small room with the animals. Days turned into weeks, and my stomach would growl. He never gave me enough to eat,” said Nadish. “Weeks turned into months, and my body would ache. The work was hard, and there was never enough time to rest. Months turned into years, and I began to think that this would never end.”

But through a miraculous event, Nadish found his way back into the loving embrace of his mother. Dr. K.P. Yohannan’s newest book, No Longer a Slumdog, unveils the true-life accounts of many of South Asia’s children, like Nadish. The message hits hard. He speaks of “winds of change” and a powerful move of God.

The children’s stories tell of going from a life of heartache and poverty to finding joy, laughter and a bright future. Despite the affliction these children face, Yohannan shows us there’s opportunity for change as many find new life in God‘s redeeming love.


No Longer a Slumdog inspires faith that a better tomorrow is truly possible. Order your FREE copy today, and allow God to take you into a world where pain, hunger, slavery and hopelessness abound. This is where Jesus walks every day, and brings hope to forgotten people.

Now click on the book to order your free copy of No Longer a Slumdog, and discover a world that YOU can step into and make an incredible difference in these children’s lives.



REPAIR THE CHURCH, WHICH IS IN RUINS


St. Francis, Pray for Us

by Shane Claiborne 10-03-2011 02:17 pm

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Photo by Cathleen Falsani


Today (Oct. 4) Christians around the world celebrate the life of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the bright lights of the church and one of the most venerated religious figures in history.

The life and witness of Francis is as relevant to the world we live in today as it was 900 years ago. He was one of the first critics of capitalism, one of the earliest Christian environmentalists, a sassy reformer of the church, and one of the classic conscientious objectors to war.

Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, born into a society where the gap between rich and the poor was increasingly unacceptable. It was an age of religious crusades, where Christians and Muslims were killing each other in the name of God. Sound familiar?

Francis did something simple and wonderful. He read the gospel where Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor,” “consider the lilies and the sparrows and do not worry about tomorrow,” “Love your enemies” — and he decided to live as if Jesus meant the stuff he said.

Francis turned his back on the materialism and militarism of his world, and said yes to Jesus.

One of the quotes attributed to Francis is a simple and poignant critique of our world, just as it was to his: “The more stuff we have the more clubs we need to protect it.” It does make you wonder if he’d be on Wall Street protesting today.

With a childlike innocence, Francis literally stripped off his clothing and walked out of Assisi butt-naked to live like the lilies and the sparrows (and to become the patron saint for the flower children). He lived close to the earth, and like Jesus became a friend of the birds and creatures, whom he fondly called “brother” and “sister.” In light of that, many Christians brought their pets to church yesterday for a special all-pets-allowed service, an annual tribute to Francis. And many a bird-bath dons his iconic image.

But it’s easy to turn our best movements into monuments. His life was a powerful critique of the demons of his day, which are very similar to the demons of ours.

One of my favorite stories of Francis was when he decided to meet with the Muslim sultan during the Fifth Crusade. It was a tumultuous time. War had become a necessity and a habit, and was baptized by much of the church. Francis was sent off as a soldier, but he could not reconcile the violence of war with the grace of Christ. So he got off his warhorse, and put down the sword.

Francis pleaded with the military commander, Cardinal Pelagius, to end the fighting. Pelagius refused. Instead, Pelagius broke off all diplomatic relations with the sultan of Egypt, Malik al-Kamil. The sultan in turn decreed that anyone who brought him the head of a Christian would be rewarded with a Byzantine gold piece.

Francis, however, pursued his vision in steadfast faith, surmounting all dangers in a journey to see the sultan. He traveled through fierce fighting in Syria and inevitably was met by soldiers of the sultan’s army, who beat him savagely and put him in chains, dragging him before the sultan himself. Francis spoke to the sultan of God’s love and grace. The sultan listened intensely and was so moved that he offered Francis gifts and money. Our saint of course had no desire for the money, but he gladly accepted one gift — an ivory horn used in the Muslim call to prayer. He took it back with him and used it to summon his own community for prayer. Both Francis and the sultan were transformed by that encounter.

In an age of religious extremists, Francis offers us an alternative. We have seen religious extremists of all stripes — Jewish, Muslim, Christian — distort the best that our faiths have to offer and hijack the headlines with stories of hatred.  We’ve seen Christian extremists burn the Quran, blow up abortion clinics, bless bombs, baptize Wall Street, and hold signs that say “God hates fags.” But Francis invites us to become extremists for grace, extremists for love.

Although the Church is prone to forget his witness or to make a monument of his movement, there is a whole world remembering his radical witness today. We celebrate his critique of an economy that left masses of people in poverty so that a handful of people can live as they wish. We rejoice in his love for the earth as we work to end the ravaging of our world. We remember his witness that there is a better way to bring peace than with a sword. And we remember the whisper he heard from God, “Repair the church, which is in ruins.”

Let us do a little something today as a tribute to old Francis. Maybe we can get rid of some of our stuff or spend some time with a homeless person. Maybe we can laugh at advertisements today that try to convince us that happiness can be purchased. Maybe we can hang out in the woods and spend some time with the lilies and sparrows. Maybe we can take an “enemy” out for dinner.

These are the words of the famous prayer of Francis. May they inspire us to become better people and to build a better world:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”


portrait_claiborneShane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President.




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