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Yesterday Heidi Baker spoke at a church in Stockholm not far from where I live. I wasn’t aware of her trip until it was too late, but I’m not sad since yesterday was an amazing day for me even without Heidi. Jesus showed Himself to me again just as He did when I just had become a Christian and needed a sign for His presence. It was in my house church as the brothers and sisters prayed for a very important decision I have to make, and I sobbed and praised Him for revealing Himself in this manner for the first time in nine years.
But yeah, Heidi rocks! And her ministry Iris Global have just published two beautiful videos about a recent outreach to the Mueda region in Mozambique. The first one is just mute recordings from the adventure with a powerful and touching worship song on top of it:
In the second one Heidi and Iris staff narrates what actually happened on the outreach. Wells were dug, education was supported, a deaf-mute girl was healed and people were saved. Praise the Lord! (more…)
I often debate with fellow Christians who, contrary to me, oppose migration from poor countries to rich countries, aid from rich countries to poor countries or that rich countries should take greater responsibility for the environment than poor countries by living simpler. When I argue for why I think these ideas are good, I often point to facts and statistics that for example show that poor countries receive 80 % of all refugees today, or that aid donations are less than 0.3 % of rich countries’ GDP, or that environmental pollution kill more people today than malaria and HIV. Quite often I even have to start with explaining that rich countries are rich; most xenophobic people here in Sweden think that Sweden isn’t a rich country, which of course is the opposite of what the Global Wealth Report recently stated.
However, while I believe these facts are important for the discussion, they are seldom sufficient for my adversaries to change their mind. I find over and over again that even if we can agree upon that the world is unequal and unfair, they don’t have a problem with that while I certainly do. We have different world visions, and they often tell me that I shouldn’t claim that my world vision is more Christian then theirs.
But it is.
Jesus’ ethical teaching is clear and straightforward. Do to others what you would have them do to you (Mt 7:12). That’s a universal command, meaning it applies to all human beings. We should love everyone, even our enemies, and do good to them just as the Father loves and does good to all human beings (Mt 5:43-48). (more…)
Over 3800 have died and over 100 000 people are homeless in the devastating Nepali earthquake last Saturday. Nepal is a precious nation for me personally – my church has been working there a lot – and so I quickly looked up what organizations are providing humanitarian relief. Here are some I can recommend:
Christian Aid are bringing aid relief such as water purification kits and temporary shelter through the international aid network Act Alliance. You can donate in pounds, euros and dollars.
The Mennonite Central Committee already have offices and personell in Nepal, and thankfully all are safe but they obviously have a lot to do now and need support.
World Vision is initiating a response to bring food, water, shelter, emergency health interventions and other types of aid to Nepal.
Finally, UNICEF is coordenating with other UN bodies for a massive response to make sure that especially children are safe. You can donate at their website in almost every currency there is.
Also, please pray for the people of Nepal, all the humanitarian aid workers and the Nepali church in these challenging times. God bless you!
Two weeks ago we looked at how it is mathematically impossible to spend the same money on superfluities (i.e. unnecessary stuff) and aid to the poor, and from that we concluded that statements like “You need to be rich in order to give money to the poor” or “It’s good to give money to the poor, but there’s nothing wrong with being rich” either cannot refer to the possession or consumption of superfluities, or they are simply self-contradictory.
In this blog post I want to address another argument rich people use when defending their wealth, namely that all consumption is good for the economy and in the end also beneficial for the poor; there is really no need to point out consumption of superfluities as something bad, since the money one pays eventually trickles down to the poor.
This argument is obviously rooted in secular, neoclassical economic theory and commonly defended by people on the right of the political spectrum, but often adapted and argued for by Christians. Sometimes they try to fit these ideas into the Bible, such as Paul Segerstom who has argued that the Scriptures support laissez fair capitalism, something I criticised a while ago.
Even if we would assume that some percent of the price I pay for a Lamborghini will go to the poor – perhaps the man who printed the car plate or the women producing its electronics in Chinese sweatshops – this is still less than what the poor would have get if we invested the same money into development aid.
For the last two months, a friend of mine have contacted me almost every day, asking me for money. I trust her and know that she is in genuine need, but sending money via Western Union is so costly, and I am genuinely surprised that not a single soul in Coventry, UK, is giving her the help she needs. I’m very disappointed with the British churches, they have so far failed miserably when it comes to helping a mother in need.
I got to know Denisa when she was begging on the streets of Uppsala, Sweden, where I live. Being originally from Romania as most beggars in our town, she spoke very good English. It turned out that her mother lived in Coventry and that Denisa had studied there, but when her mother ran out of money she went to Sweden to beg.
Because of her language skills she actually got a job here that lasted until summer 2014. Then she and her husband Mugurel were begging for some months before they moved to Romania for a brief period of time. Having no source of income there, they then travelled to Coventry even though they had hardly any money and no income.
Two months ago Denisa gave birth to their first child. She contacted me and said that she needed money to get a place to stay and money for food. I helped her with the rent costs and asked her to go to the Jesus Centre in Coventry, run by the Jesus Army. She went there several times, but unfortunately they hardly helped her. I’m not surprised that they couldn’t give her money or housing (which she initially hoped for) but at least I expected them to help her with food. I mean, here’s a mother with a newborn child with no source of income at all!
However, they told me from the Jesus Centre that they could only give food on Tuesdays. And when she did get food there was no baby food at all, even though they knew that she had a baby. That’s just plain ridiculous, unworthy of a social centre that bears Jesus’ holy name.
So I send her money for food, but since I’m helping a lot of other families here in Sweden I’m running out of funds myself. And I don’t get how there is nobody in Coventry that can make sure that an infant won’t starve. I’ve tried to contact other churches but there has been no sufficient response. And so Denisa is contacting me almost every day on Facebook simply writing:
“Can you help me because I do not have food”
If you live in Coventry or at least the UK and want to help Denisa somehow, just call her on 07824070060. I especially pray that my friends at the Jesus Army will understand the seriousness of this situation.
Today I’ve spent some six hours with my Romanian friends, buying them a caravan. They used to sleep in a car. Northern Europe has seen a lot of Romanian economic refugees, due to the mistreatment if the Roma minority in the country. Romas (also known as the degrading name “gypsies”) are Europe’s most discriminated ethnic minority, especially in eastern Europe.
80% of Romanian Romas are unemployed, 30% can’t read, and their life expectancy is 10 years shorter than other Romanians. They’re trapped in poverty, not getting the social security they need, and then they migrate to other European countries to beg. Here, they lack homes, education and health care. It’s a mess.
I love them so much. Most of them are Pentecostal and we pray and worship together. I see Jesus in them. They are poorer than those I met when I was in Africa two years ago. I’m obliged to help them.
God wants equality. I know that I am destined to share community of goods with several of these people. I’ve identified a few families that could stay here in Sweden and build their lives here. Others have their future in Romania or another country. One woman I got to know here in Uppsala moved to Coventry, where I helped her to get in touch with the Jesus Army.
When I help the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why people are poor, why we are rich and why children have to sleep in cold cars in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, they call me a communist and extremist. But it was my Master, Jesus, who said “blessed are you who are poor… But woe to you who are rich!” (Lk 6:20, 24). I’m following His footsteps. And He walks among, and in, the homeless Romanians on the streets of Europe.
I’ve written several times about Surprise Sithole, the South African apostle who has raised several people from the dead in the power of the Holy Spirit and that has heard the external, audible voice of God. He’s a passionate activist and aid worker, and in this video he shares how he has seen multiple multiplications of food in Malawi and Mozambique. It’s certainly some food for thought!
I wish this was a joke. The government of Norway will soon make begging illegal. Many have already pointed out how ironic this is since Norway is in the top five of richest countries in the world (in fact, if you exclude city-states from the list, that have an unfair chance of climbing the top of it, Norway is the richest country in the world). But the madness doesn’t end there. When details in the law proposal were released two days ago, it turned out that the government also wants to criminalize those who help begging people:
The scope of the law, which was originally intended to ban homeless people from begging on the street, has been extended to also criminalise those offering money or other help… Under the law, organised begging would become a crime, punishable with a prison sentence of up to one year. The same punishment would apply to those aiding beggars.
Some of you may recall that a town called Fort Lauderdale in Florida has inforced a similar law, so that 90-year-old Arnold Abbott was arrested when he was handing out food to homeless people through his organization Love Thy Neighbor. I wrote a blog post about this in November last year, reflecting on how strange it is that some reach the conclusion that helping the poor is not helping the poor, while not helping the poor is in fact helping the poor.
Just like my country Sweden, Norway has had many visitors from eastern Europe that are extremely poor and marginalised, who are begging on the streets. Most of them are Romanis, the most discriminated ethnic group in Europe. In Romania, Romanis were slaves up to 1850, and even today 80 % of Romanis in the country are unemployed, 80 % lack water, sanitation or electricity and one in seven of Romani children never attend school. 30 % cannot read or write.
One of my favourite Pentecostal saints of all times is Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922), Indian activist, evangelist and holy roller. Over a hundred years before Malala she campaigned for women’s right to education, and she was extremely active in helping the poor and discriminated. Born in a Brahmite family in what is now the state of Karnataka, she started to study in an early age and learned Sanskrit along with sacred Hinduist texts, astronomy, physiology and more. This was controversial since she lacked a penis, but her father encouraged her as she learned more and more about society, religion and activism.
In 1883 she went to England and taught Sanskrit at an Anglican monastery in Wantage. There she was saved. “I realized,” she later wrote, “after reading the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, that Christ was truly the Divine Saviour he claimed to be, and no one but He could transform and uplift the downtrodden women of India.”
As she returned to her home country, she bought a piece of land outside Pune and started a Christian social community for young widows called Mukti, Sanskrit for Liberation. She also helped people who were orphaned, disabled or homeless, and when a famine hit India in 1896, Ramabai rescued over a thousand people and brought many if them to the Mukti mission.
Praise God for Heidi and Rolland Baker! These wonderful missionaries in Mozambique are so passionate about the love of the Father, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, and their missionary organization Iris Global has experienced glorious revival for the last 20 years. Their Christmas greeting above was published a few days after Christmas (probably because of the amazingly beautiful editing) but who cares about that when the video is a masterpiece when it comes to inspiration, passion and faith?
Heidi shares how 2014 has been a challenge for Iris because of the horrible floods in Mozambique, but she is amazed by how God used countless radical disciples to serve, encourage and relieve the suffering population and bring the Gospel of hope and life. As I’ve written before on this blog, Iris experiences amazing miracles like the blind seeing and the deaf hearing while helping the poor and vulnerable with good, serious development assistance.
Since I’m a monthly donor to Iris I also got a physical Christmas greeting from the Bakers, this postcard with a nice worship CD. The reason they send their supporters worship music is so that their love for Jesus may increase, they say. I love it. They’re just great. God bless them!
I got some horrible news for you. Because of lack of funding from UN member countries, the World Food Programme has suspended their food voucher scheme to 1.7 million Syrian refugees. WFP has warned for this risk for several months, without getting a sufficient reaction. Now, there’s no money left. The consequences for the refugees and the countries that host them will obviously be disastrous.
The sad thing is that the problem is not that costs turnes to be higher than expected, but that donor countries simply has ont given what they have promised to give. WFP is urgently calling on donors to live up to what they have committed: (more…)
Earlier this year, Iris Global in Mozambique reported about the devestating floods that struck Mozambique, leaving hundreds of thousands of poor people in big need. Iris has been working hard ever since to rebuild homes and helping local communities develop, while they are also praying for the sick, preaching the Gospel and even raising the dead. Recently, they publiched a video showing the movement’s leader Heidi Baker buying a bed for a widow called Louisa, whose house has been destroyed in the floods:
You rarely find someone who says that s/he is against justice, but you do find a lot of different definitions of justice. Here are five definitions of economic justice, together with my comments on which is the best from a Christian perspective:
1. Same for All
This is the idea that in a just and equal world, everybody has the exact same amount of money. There are hints towards this perspective in Lk 3:11 and 2 Cor. 8:13-15. However, this definition has received a lot of criticism simply because different people have different needs – people in poor countries without social safety nets need more money than people in rich countries, for example. This why not so many actually agree with this definition, even if we who try to promote equality are often accused of this while we really mean definition no. 2:
2. According to our needs
This is how the early church viewed economic justice: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:44-45) We can also see this in Ex. 16 where the people collect heavenly bread every day, and since the greedy are unable to store up a lot for themselves, everyone are able to collect what their family needs for that particular day. The socialist motto “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is based on the same line of thinking, but it was a biblical idea long before Marx was even born.
My blog series God vs Wealth has been quite popular, partly because it’s a bit controverisal, partly because I think many share my ideas about economic equality. In a world where the richer get richer while the poor are dying, many Christians realize that Jesus was critical towards the rich and modeled something that would both abolish poverty and wealth, since the two are dependent upon each other. I have returned to this topic several times on this blog, and a couple of weeks ago I got the idea that I perhaps should collect these texts in one volume. Today, I can present to you my first e-book ever: God vs Inequality!
You can download the whole book as a PDF right here: God vs Inequality. It contains all ten parts in the God vs Wealth series, as well as its sequal God vs Poverty and several other texts published on this blog like Should Christians Wear “Formal” in Church?, It’s Time for All Christians to Become Vegetarians and Seven Reasons Why Inequality Sucks. Everything is illustrated by some beautiful photos I captured when I was in South Africa last year (or, to be honest, random stuff I’ve taken from Google Images) and put into an amazing layout by my dear friend Andreas Lundström.
Feel free to spread the document on, print it out and copy-and-paste, I claim no copyright. If you want it in iBook-format, which is what Andreas used to create it with, just send me an e-mail to micael.grenholm(a)gmail.com. If you discover some typos or have general comments about the content, feel free to comment below.
My church has a small house group in an area of our town that is experiencing some problems: many are poor, kids hang around in gangs and from time to time there is a riot when the youth destroy people’s cars in protest. We want to reach out to the people in this area and love to invite new people to our group. We especially love to connect with Muslims and share what Jesus has done for us with them.
Two months ago a Romanian family moved nextdoors. I have known this family for years and it ess actually I who helped them get the apartment. They are Roma and has been suffering from discrimination both in Romania and in Sweden. For a long time they were forced to beg on the streets, but the father, Christi, really try to get a job. By the grace of God, he has learned fluent Swedish with hardly any education.
We invited them to our house group. The children have an endless amount of energy, but finally we managed to read the Bible. We read through the Gospel according to Luke, and we had now come to chapter 6. I started to read in Swedish, and Christi continued in Romanian:
Looking at his disciples, Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26)