Lost in Translation: Dirty Money

Checking translated Scripture is full of surprises. You can be sailing along, verse after verse, with only short pauses to clarify the meaning. Then all of a sudden you run into a concept that takes the better part of an hour to get right. That happened in Luke 16:9. Jesus’ parable in the preceding verses may be his most difficult to understand, and I will not attempt to discuss it now, but here is what tripped up the translators:

And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. (Luke 16:9, NASB)

The Nuasué and Numala translation teams, which are two distinct languages among the 270 languages spoken in Cameroon,  translated most of the verse correctly but not the phrase underlined above. It came out reading something like “your money of deceit of this world.” The problem: their translations sounded like Jesus wanted his followers either to earn money by deceit or to use it in deceitful ways.

“Put your hand in your pocket and pull out a piece of money,” I suggested. We do not know who has handled that money or how it has been used—possibly even to pay for some evil deed. However, we came by the money honestly and use it for good purposes even though, as one French translation puts it, the money is “stained by the unrighteousness of the world.”

The translators understood the intent but still could not come up with a translation that would not be interpreted as an endorsement of deceitful dealings. One person suggested just saying “the money of this world,” since readers of the Bible usually recognize “this world” as referring to a system in rebellion against God. But Jesus deliberately used the word “unrighteous” to describe the money, so we assume that it is important for understanding his meaning. This seems to be one of the “worst case scenarios” Jesus often used to make a point. We recently saw one of these in Luke 11:13: “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father…” Similarly, in Luke 16:9, Jesus shows that the sin-stained money of this world can be used for godly purposes.

Now the translators were convinced that “unrighteous” needed to stay.  But how? After much discussion, they decided in their languages “soiled money,” if associated with “this world,” would communicate the idea.  So they translated it as “your soiled money of this world.” It took awhile to get there, but in the end, we all gained a better understanding of one of Jesus’ harder sayings.

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Letter from the Editor

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

In February I had the opportunity to partake in a trip to Israel and Palestine with members of BelPres and members of Overlake Christian Church. I spent eight days with the group learning from our Israeli guide, Eldad, and from our Palestinian guide, Hussam. For many of the group, it was their first trip to the Holy Land. It might as well have been mine for all I realized I did not know or was blind to the last time I went.

Our trip was unique. We did not go to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, but rather to engage with the Israeli narrative and the Palestinian narrative on the ground level. As part of this experience, we had daily opportunities to meet with Israelis and Palestinians who take various positions on the land and the future of a state in the region. We shared lunch and dinner with people who opened their homes and hearts to us.

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Culture Shift

Meeting someone who is transformed from addiction is a humbling experience. It may be because, in our daily lives, we don’t recognize that we are all in recovery. I have never been in recovery from addiction, but I have a number of friends who are in the journey to sobriety, whether from alcohol or other stronger drugs. They have been kind enough to share their tales of depression, anger, suicidal thoughts, and helplessness, to name a few, with me. Although their stories are what some may perceive as extreme, it’s not really any different than my addiction to sin. The one thing that I know is common in addictive behavior is that we build a lifestyle or adopt a culture that perpetuates and justifies our behavior.

Recently Dr. Scott Dudley suggested the book The Celtic Way of Evangelism. Within the book, there is a section referring to studies done by William L. White. White refers to addiction as a culture we become a part of. We speak the language, we learn the rituals, we surround ourselves with other addicts and so on. Reading over White’s studies, I asked myself, “Is this cultural immersion much different than how we either hide or justify our sin? If going to the strip club with buddies at work is a normal occurrence, are we not going to protect that culture to continue the high? If overspending beyond our limits is filling a void, are we really going to surround ourselves with people who are trying to talk sense to us, or do we go where our money can be spent without question?” (more…)

God’s Rescue Mission

The news frequently shows people doing heroic things, and afterward the hero often claims he or she was only doing what anyone would do: they knew someone was in the burning house, they saw a person drowning and dove in, they stood up to the bully. They were on a rescue mission, and there was nothing that would stop them from doing what was right to save a fellow human being.

God wants to rescue humanity. God has started a rescue mission to the world. It began with Creation, continued with the covenants with Abraham and Moses, and was completed through Jesus Christ. But although the ultimate rescue has been accomplished, God wants us to participate in it. And that’s where grace comes in.

Grace is in the gap between what should be and what is. It is the thing that draws us across the chasm of our sinful nature and into the joy of being in the presence of the pure and holy God. It is that which allows us not only to have a relationship with God, face-to-face, but which builds us up when we are low. Grace is the thing that makes it possible for us to join God to rescue the world.  (more…)

A Grace That Conquers Grief

Modern discoveries in medical and nutritional science continue to offer my generation new strategies for living healthier and longer lives. “Anti-aging” and “longevity” are popular slogans. Statistics show that since 1985, the number of centenarians in the U.S. has increased by a staggering 65%. People are now living longer. That’s a trend we desire to embrace, yet sooner or later, our life as we know it on this earth will end. Each year, we mourn the loss of people we know and love whose time has come to depart. But when the one we’ve lost is our spouse, the impact of grief can be devastating.

For 30 years I was happily married to Steve, my best friend and husband. He was a handsome, athletic, and intelligent man with a great sense of humor. We lived a productive life full of happy memories. Our dream was to spend the latter years of our life working together. The plan was to make that happen on Steve’s sixtieth birthday. Unfortunately, that plan was abruptly interrupted. (more…)

Grief, Joy, and Cupcakes

About two years ago, someone mentioned to me that a fellow BelPres Preschool mom needed help baking birthday treats for students at Eastside Academy (EA). I love to bake and have always found it to be a relaxing outlet for stress, so I jumped at the chance to serve in this capacity. It was fun to receive the emails outlining the favorite treats of each birthday girl or boy; this got me baking outside my usual go-to recipes and gave me a chance to experiment. My kids were pretty excited to taste-test the treats too!

Six months into this adventure, late one Thursday night, I was working on frosting four-dozen bright and colorful Sour Patch Kid cupcakes. Suddenly my phone started ringing, and when I looked at the clock and saw it was after midnight, I quickly set down the icing bag and answered the call. It became one of those life-changing moments: I got the news that my father had passed away that evening. In shock, I called my husband downstairs to tell him the news, then I picked up the icing bag and with shaking hands continued to decorate the cupcakes. “What are you doing? You do not need to do that right now!” he exclaimed. “Yes, I do.” I completed the cupcakes, and the next morning after almost no sleep and in a daze, I dropped them off at EA. (more…)

Just So Happens

Pasha was one of the NICU nurses who cared for our baby boy, Noah, much of the time he was at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She may have known him better than we did. Day after day, we literally had to leave our fragile, precious, heart-of-our-heart baby boy in the hands of others, trusting they were caring for him the best ways they knew how. It was the most terrified I have ever been in my entire life times a billion.

Pasha “just happened” to be on shift the day we found out Noah did indeed have an incurable, fatal condition called ACD (Alveolar Capillary Dysplasia) that we had feared all along. I remember the doctor ushering my husband, John, and me into a little room that morning with another doctor and Nurse Pasha where he gently and straight-forwardly told us the news:

“Noah will not survive. It’s time to say good-bye.” (more…)

The Lifer Volunteer

My husband and I are one lucky couple. We are expecting our eleventh grandchild in April, and the oldest is just six. You can imagine how our calendar is filling up. We had the pleasure this past Christmas of attending one of our grandson’s pre-school events, and it did not disappoint. There were the wavers, the sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs little ladies, and my personal favorite, the “I forgot my line” guy.

But surprisingly, the star of the show was not on the stage, but three rows up from my vantage point. He wasn’t hard to miss. I’m guessing that he was about 30, but he may as well have been three. He was wearing oversized bold yellow headphones. I’m not sure why. Maybe he had troubling outbursts, and the noise was a bother. Maybe there was soothing music playing in his ears. A graying, older mother was on his right, along with a man who was certainly his father, a man leaning in with his arm lovingly draped around him. You could make up whatever story you wanted. Mine went something like this: (more…)

Fostering Love to Change Lives

Olive Crest, a BelPres supported ministry, helps families in crisis providing emergency and long-term shelter and care for abused, vulnerable and neglected children. Here is one of the ways Olive Crest changes lives.

Over the last 18 years, Rozan Haynes has welcomed 43 children into her home. That’s not a misprint. Forty-three boys and girls have called her “Mom” and have been shaped into successful, productive adults through her loving care.  She says, “Some of them came to me when they were 3 or 4 years old, and stayed with me until they finished high school. So really, I raised them.”

Rozan recently “retired” from taking more at-risk kids and was honored by Olive Crest. “I’m just on cloud nine because of the love they showed me,” she says. “What a wonderful way to retire.” From the moment you meet her, it’s easy to see that Rozan is a special person. She exudes joy, enthusiasm, and love for God and children. It was her faith that first led her to Olive Crest. “I’d do it all again if I could,” she says.

“When you love God, you’re just naturally going to love His children.”

An accomplished writer with many Gospel songs and short stories to her credit, Rozan says, “When you’re caring for children, you’re writing their story. You’re taking away pain and writing in joy. Taking away anger and writing in happiness.” She explains the children who spent time in her care had been abused, abandoned, and neglected. “They had seen so many things children ought not to see. I told them, ‘I know you won’t forget your past, but you can set it aside, turn the page, and start writing a new story for your life.’”

“These Kids Needed Compassion”

Yes, there were some difficult times along the way. “There were some children I didn’t think I could handle at first.” One banged his head against the wall. Another cut himself. One 4-year-old threatened a little girl with a plastic knife, modeling his father’s anger and aggression. “These kids needed compassion . . . Someone who cared enough to listen, so that’s what I did. I always let them know, ‘no matter what you do, I’m not going anywhere, and neither are you. We’re going to see this thing through.’ And that’s what we did.”

She adds, “I have to tell you, Olive Crest gave me the best support I could have asked for. They were always just a phone call away.” Even though Rozan’s kids have grown up, she stays in touch with them. One young man is fulfilling his dream of serving in the Air Force. Another is a successful insurance broker. One just became a home owner. “I’m so proud of them,” she says.

“Who Could Ask for More?”

Her eyes light up when she thinks about a young man named Shad, who came to see her after hearing that she had undergone knee surgery. “I was trying to sit up and talk to him,” she recalls, “but he said, ‘Mom, I know you’re hurting. You need to be in bed.’ ” So he took me into my bedroom and tucked me into bed. Then he sat in a chair and talked to me for a long time.” She was deeply touched by this act of tenderness from a young man who was once troubled, angry, and lost.

“I’ve had people tell me that they don’t know why I did what I did, that they couldn’t do it,” she says. “But being a foster mom has given me so many wonderful things. Just to see a child who felt that nobody wanted him to begin to blossom and grow and to find his place in the world; who could ask for more?”

 

Joy in the midst of grief

By Jean McAllister

Alexis Ruhumuriza, the dynamic young pastor of Belpres’  “new worshiping community” called New Hope Revival Church, lost his mother last week. After suffering a stroke, she was being transported in a litter carried on the shoulders of four men for an anticipated two-day journey to an airplane. She was to be flown out of the Congo to Rwanda for medical help. But she never reached the plane; her suffering was mercifully brief.

It is the cultural norm in Africa that when a death occurs, all family members, friends, and the entire community, come to the home of the bereaved person to bring comfort and practical help. When I arrived at Alexis’ home, several people were there, and many more came during my brief stay. Alexis himself greeted me with his customary cheerfulness, though a bit quieter than usual. But it was evident he was not overwhelmed by his grief. I asked him to help me understand how the culture of visiting contributed to his wellbeing and peace.

Alexis told me that from the moment his mom (called Sifa) died, the steady flow of visitors had not ceased, day and night. People came that first night simply to be by his side in vigil, to pray and be present with him. Visitors came with food and drink, as well as with the practical help of childcare and household chores, such as cooking meals for the family.  As the constant stream of friends continues, Alexis is helped by being able to share details about his mom—how she died, what he most remembered and loved about her—and in turn, they share their own stories of loss and grief. In doing so, they find their own pain easing. Sharing in this way is a mutual comfort, which builds up the community in faith and hope.

Following his mom’s passing, Alexis did not plan to preach on this Sunday—I was scheduled to do that—but he decided the Holy Spirit was telling him he had a powerful message to bring, springing from this true and joyful awareness of God’s presence and power in the midst of his grief. He told me he must be a role model for the congregation. They know him and what he is suffering, so they can be helped substantially in their own ongoing pain and grief still unresolved from their losses during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda as they witness this servant of God proclaiming the power of faith in every trial.

I hope we can all be encouraged by this testimony of faith and hope from our new Belpres member.

If you would like to hear Alexis preach, you are welcome to worship with the New Hope Revival Church during their Sunday Service at 11am, UC-106.

Winter Blessings at Congregations for the Homeless (CFH)

As the winter season comes to an end, I have reflected on the work we have done to address homelessness in our community and see that so much good has been accomplished this past year.  In 2016, we saw hundreds of individuals leave homelessness and enter a permanent stable housing.  Many men found meaningful jobs helping them connect to a new sense of purpose and meaning for their lives.  We witnessed broken relationships find healing, life, and love.  Men have reconnected to estranged family members, to children they have not had contact with for years, to old friends, and to themselves in new and healthy ways.

As I ponder all the successes of helping men move from life on the streets to independence over the last year, you come to mind.  The great success that Congregations for the Homeless has had would not be possible without all you do.  The partnership with your congregation enables profound transformation in the lives of the men we serve.  It is the acceptance, compassion, and love that your congregation’s volunteers bring by building authentic relationships with the men that is key in the life-changing work we do.

I am so thankful for all you do to make our community a place where everyone is welcome and valued.  I am deeply thankful for the passion and love you bring to those who are marginalized and hurting.  Thank you for being you and for your continued partnership with CFH in the life-giving work we do on the Eastside.  You are deeply valued by CFH and the men who you have profoundly impacted.  I hope you are deeply blessed in 2017.

Are We Inherently Good? Not So Much.

I have been writing a series about Islam to help us understand our Muslim neighbors better.  The topic of this blog comes from an email I received from a BelPres member.

A few weeks ago, he was walking through his neighborhood when he met someone from the local Mosque.  They had a nice conversation together and the gentleman from the local Mosque invited the BelPres member to join him for prayers on Fridays. Afterwards, the church member was curious about the way this new acquaintance spoke about the inherent goodness that is in everyone.  This idea came up a few times while they were talking.  He went along with it at first but when his new acquaintance brought it up a second time, the church member realized he might be on to something.  That is when he emailed me.  Do Muslims and Christians believe people are inherently good?

Muhammad taught, so most Muslims believe, that human beings are created good. Muhammad said people are born innocent and pure but we need some help so we can stay that way.  The Quran, Bible, and Torah (Muslims believe the Quran is the only true word of God) are all intended to provide divine guidance so that human beings can stay pure. In Islam, there is no such thing as a sin nature so people (like Adam and Eve) sin because they forget God’s guidance or they have a weak moment.   Therefore, people are inherently good.

Most Christians believe the exact opposite.  In Romans 5, Paul tells us sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and death came because of sin.  Grace and forgiveness come through Jesus.  The Bible tells us sin has altered our human nature so we cannot not sin – I realize that is a double negative, but it is true.  The point is, we cannot help ourselves.  There are many examples; some even involve you and me. In Romans 7, just two chapters later, Paul himself admits to being a slave to sin because he ends up doing the bad things he knows he should not do instead of doing the good things he knows he should do.  He is a mess.  At that point, Paul cries out “Who will save me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ!”

Recognizing we have a sin nature helps us understand our need for someone who can rescue us.  Someone who will pay the price for our sin.  Someone who has the authority to really forgive us.  Someone who can change, transform and make us whole and new people.  His name is Jesus!  The Christian faith is built on the foundation of God’s marvelous love and grace, specifically shown to us in Jesus.

Islam is built on the practice of submission to God (Muslim = one who submits). Practicing Muslims are deeply devoted people. The five pillars of Islam: professing there is no other God but God and Muhammad is His messenger, prayer, giving, fasting and making a once in a lifetime trip to Mecca, are the ways a Muslim demonstrates their submission. It is a religion focused on works .  A Muslim practices these pillars so they can live as the inherently pure and innocent people they believe God created them to be.  Then God will reward them with heaven.  The problem with any works based religion is that you cannot ever really know if God forgives you when you mess up and you are never certain you have been good enough or done enough to get to heaven.

This brings me back to the email from our church member and the issue of what Christians can say to Muslims if this subject comes up.   My suggestion is to listen, ask questions and when asked, share what you believe. I find that exercising the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control) is the best approach.  You might even invite them to read some passages from the Bible with you and compare the verse from the Bible with passages from the Quran.  Many Christians want to debate theology with a Muslim but that approach really does not work. The fruits of the spirit are what are winning Muslims to Christ these days, particularly the sacrificial love and grace shown through Jesus’ followers.

What Bible verses speak to you about your need for a Savior and the forgiveness you have in Jesus?  What has Jesus done for you? Build some friendships.  Engage some conversations.  Enjoy the Adventure!