Monday, March 26, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 report, 36: On building houses . . . and on creating an "army" of worms and ants

As we think about initiating truly sustainable and practical "mission to and from the Caribbean" projects in communities across our region and beyond, we first of all must put our priorities right. For, as Haggai warned the people of God in his generation -- on why their apparent prosperity seemed so brittle and futile:
HAG 1:2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "These people say, `The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built.'"

HAG 1:3 Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4 "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?"

HAG 1:5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."

HAG 1:7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the LORD. 9 "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the LORD Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands."
That sounds a little close for comfort in today's Caribbean!

Maybe, there is more to our region's economic woes than meets the matrerialist's eye, then? So, too, we can see the searing force of the song of ascents sung by the returning exiles, in Psalm 127:1, which (ironically, given what Haggai had to warn more or less the self same returned exiles some years later!) begins:
PS 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.
Of course, we have glossed over a major gap: an individual or family often has enough resources to build a house or start up a business, but (with extremely rare exceptions) no one individual or family can [re-]build a Temple.

That gap is what this post adresses.

As, the vital issue is: how can we mobilise such a critical mass of the community of God's people across our region, as can begin to fulfill our potential?

A book just in -- thanks to the kind gift of a certain brother over in Florida; God bless him, his family and a certain highly favoured cat! -- brings forward a crucial idea from the Back to Jerusalem movement of the Chinese church: an army of worms. In their words:
Sometimes it seems as if a lot of mission effort consists of "elephant" plans -- huge and grandiose strategies . . . But it is easy for border guards to detect an elephant . . . . [W]e believe God wants to send an army of insects and crawling creatures . . . We don't have a lot of money or any grandiopse plans. But we are an army of little ants, worms and termites who know how to work underground, because that is how we have learned to work in China . . . . little worms and ants can go anywhere . . . [Hathaway, Yun, Yongze, & Wang, Back to Jerusalem (Carlisle, UK: Piquant, 2003), pp. 90 - 92.]
This -- as the authors take time to point out -- is all in line with an astute biblical observation by Agur:
PR 30:24 "Four things on earth are small,
yet they are extremely wise:

PR 30:25 Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer;

PR 30:26 coneys are creatures of little power,
yet they make their home in the crags;

PR 30:27 locusts have no king,
yet they advance together in ranks;

PR 30:28 a lizard can be caught with the hand,
yet it is found in kings' palaces.
In short, the joint combination of a great many tiny efforts has a cumulative effect that can be astonishing. This of course is exactly what happened with Nehemiah when he mobilised the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem: what had lain in ruins probably for generations, was rebuilt in fifty-two days [Neh. 6:15.]

So, we can see a challenge: a heavily persecuted, largely underground Chinese church with far fewer per capita resources than we have here in the Caribbean is seriously targetting mobilising, sending and supporting at least 100,000 workers as a missions force, i.e. as a tithe of their full-time workers. Can we even begin to come close to thinking like that? Can we actually develop a self-sustaining, practically achievable strategy that would yield similar results, relative to our own scale as a region and to our huge strategic potential?

I am confident that we can do just that.

For, just as a thought experiment, let's do what Physicists call a Fermi calculation based on educated guesstimates that may tell us a bit about the possibilities we can unleash.

Say that we can have 1 in every 100 Christians as a full-time worker, and that we target tithing that number to the mission fields beyond our region. Counting just the claimed eight million or so evangelicals across the region, that would give us 72,000 full-time workers in our region, and 8,000 mobilised for the mission fields of the 10/40 window and elsewhere. In army terms, that's nine or so "divisions" at home, and an expeditionary "division." [But as Paul more than proved in Acts, a well supported "platoon" of say 20 - 40 can be more than enough to be a very effective missions force in any given tartegtted region or community! Maybe, even a "squad" -- or, thinking in Cavalry, tanker or air unit terms, a "squadron" -- of 5 - 12; which is in fact about the scale of Paul's missionary teams. (Of course, we aren't out to shoot people, just to love them. Love is far, far cheaper -- and in the end, more effective, too -- than war.)]

How could we fund such a division-strength global "expeditionary force" of missionary workers?

Per capita incomes are of order US$ 2,000 - 5,000 across most of our region, so the "evangelical regional product" in our region is maybe of order US$ 10 billions. One percent of that is US$ 100 millions, and a tithe of that would give an annual potential regional missions budget of US$ 10 millions. With reasonable matching funds from partners across the world, that could go a long way towards supporting serious intiaitives with both people and money. (And, with a shared vision, we probably would be far more generous than that.)

In short, an "army" of Caribbean "missionary ants and worms" -- ever notice how we hear folk sayings about suicidally uncooperative "crabs in a barrel" but never any such sayings about ants in a barrel? -- can do a lot more than we think.

Next time, let us begin to explore how we can begin. END

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