Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Rebuilding of Montserrat, 2:
Moving Towards a Breakthrough Strategy
GEM 04:12:09

“Critical mass” is the key practical concept in nuclear physics: for, when just enough Uranium-235 (or another nuclear material) is brought together in just the right configuration, a self-starting, self-sustaining reaction begins. To keep it from running away to meltdown or even an explosion, moderators are inserted into the mass, so that the process can be precisely controlled. Then, the heat and radiation given off can safely be put to good use.

Similarly, if we the people of Montserrat and the wider Caribbean are to shift to a more spontaneous, more sustainable path for national rebuilding and development, we must create and manage a critical mass to energise and sustain our own breakthrough strategy. Nehemiah (God’s re-builder, who triggered the renewal and reformation – and eventually the liberation -- of Israel after their Babylonian exile) shows us how:

--> Learning of the plight of God's people (due to the broken down walls of Jerusalem), he was concerned. So he prayed then tactfully approached a key powerbroker, one who literally trusted him with his life – for, he was the king’s cupbearer. Thus, Nehemiah obtained authorization, stable backing and necessary resources before possible opponents could mobilize to undermine or block the rebuilding effort. [Ch 1.]

--> On going to Jerusalem, he quietly surveyed the scene then called the people and their leaders together in a solemn assembly, giving them hope and a vision of the way forward. Together, they solemnly agreed to rebuild the broken-down walls. [Ch 2.]

--> He then organised the project, delegating manageable tasks to specific groups and their leaders. [Ch 3.]

--> As the project went on, challenges, opposition, threats, slanders and crises arose; but Nehemiah could safely stand on his strengths and so he handled the crises, slanders and threats firmly -- while making sure he was not distracted from the main task in hand. [Chs 4 - 6.]

--> When the wall rebuilding project was finished -- very quickly: in 52 days! -- time was set apart for celebration and worship, with the help of Ezra, a recognised and respected spiritual leader. Revival broke out. [Ch 6:15 - 7:5, 8:1- 11, & 8:13 - 9:38.]

--> The project and initial wave of revival then triggered powerful waves of national renewal, empowerment, reformation, transformation and liberation that continued for centuries. [Chs 8 - 13.]

Clearly, Nehemiah’s critical mass for breakthrough included godly leadership, sincere penitence and prayer, an achievable but challenging vision, stable backing, authorization and resources, plus the support of a broad mass of the now hopeful people. Some of these elements were quietly gathered beforehand, thus anticipating and out-maneuvering the likely opponents. But equally, there also had to be a public coming together of the people of God and their leaders to consider their situation, then to hear and catch a vision of the way forward, building a stable consensus and commitment to a clear strategic focus: let us arise and build! This focus triggered organization, mobilisation and sustained effort that was rapidly crowned with success. Thanksgiving under God then led to revival, thence reformation and transformation.

Here in Montserrat, many of the challenges we face: the ongoing volcanic crisis, the loss of much of our territory and infrastructure, de-population, fear, apathy and denial of painful reality, lack of consensus and vision, breakdown of morals, a “business as [nearly] usual” mentality, economic slowdown, etc., are astonishingly parallel to those faced by Nehemiah. So, it is logical that we should take a leaf or two out of Nehemiah’s book:

1] Godly, concerned people with access to key resources, skills and backers need to begin to pray together and seek God’s wisdom for the way forward for our community and the wider region. (I believe this is already happening, as God stirs the hearts of many latter-day Nehemiahs with a new vision.)

2] Once such a group of concerned godly people has begun to form a consensus vision and so become aware of strengths and opportunities, it is time to develop initial ideas for action, and to seek support from key potential backers.

3] Once backing has been secured, a more thorough investigation and some planning can then lead to calling together a solemn assembly of concerned, God-fearing people across the community, first of all for repentance and seeking the guidance of God, then as a forum on the future, towards making the decision to act together on one or more breakthrough projects.

4] Once such a consensus emerges, a viable critical mass exists to initiate a sustainable, strategically focused programme of action. To coordinate that action, it would be wise to create (1) an oversight/steering committee with the support of both (2) project teams and (3) an oversight body selected by the forum.

5] Then, through the recognised success of the initial cluster of projects, and through lessons learned, capacity and momentum for onward initiatives will emerge. This lays a foundation for further waves of transformation under God.

Such a strategy seems both feasible and desirable. So, if not now, then, when? If not here, then, where? If not us, then, who? So, now, let’s talk, let’s pray . . . and, through God’s leading, let’s act! AMEN

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