Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Waste Makers

Two weeks from right now, I'm on a Singapore Airlines flight to Saigon with stops in Moscow and Singapore. This will be my sixth trip working with the same brothers and sisters in Can Tho. I've watched them grow physically and spiritually during this span. I preach some and tutor in English but the truth is, I always learn more than I teach. The lessons I learn are never deliberately presented; they unfold mostly through observations of everyday life. I'm comfortable with the life I live here- it's all I know. I find when I am in Vietnam, light is shone on my long held notions and belief systems which aren't wrong necessarily but don't work in all locales. My parents taught us to be frugal by their often austere life style, based on what they observed as children in Arkansas and Michigan. They were never wasteful- NEVER. Food. Christmas wrapping paper. You name it. I've taken after them, especially after numerous trips to poor nations. You notice how blessed you are when you see those who have less or simply have nothing. Let me give you an example.

This will be my third mission with my CANON SX50 HS Camera. It's really good and I'm still not a terrific photographer but I have improved. It comes with its own charger which I love. I have to use an adapter in Asia but that's easily solvable. My first digital camera used AA batteries so I would stock up at WALMART before my trips with  five packages of DURACELLS, the best on the market in my opinion. I'm no expert taking pictures; I just click click click click because it doesn't matter with digital- you just delete what you don't like. Most days, I would take a high volume of pictures so there was a drain on my power source. As soon as the warning light lit to tell me my batteries were waning, I would take them out and throw them away. I didn't want to risk missing a memorable shot! But my habit changed one day with a request from Hai, the preacher in the congregation I work with.
"Brother Steve, can I ask you a favor?"
"Instead of throwing the batteries away, can I have them?"
"Of course. But why would you want them?"
"Even when they are running out of power, they are still stronger than the batteries we can get here."

From that point forward, all my expired batteries went to the preacher, And it stuck in my mind.

We are such a wasteful society. Instead of getting the last bit of value from products, we toss them like I did with the batteries, even though they still have utility. We tire of clothes instead of wearing them out and replace them with more which will also make us weary. We put ketchup bottles and jars of jam in the trash without finishing them completely. I think we do the same thing spiritually. We tell ourselves we lack ability and so we discard our opportunities to spread the gospel. I have a boy like that on one of my camp teams this week. He audibly says, "I'm terrible!" during every drill so he doesn't make a bona fide effort. But what can the Lord do with the little we have to offer, which I surmise is immeasurably more than we think? Just look at what Jesus told John to write to the angel of the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3:8-9:
I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
Look at that combination- little strength and yet open door. In the hands of the Lord, even our perceived shortcomings can be mighty tools for the Master. Hai knew that those DURACELLS I was discarding had a purpose, a function I was overlooking. Ephesians 3:20-21 speaks of the unimaginable that can come out of the power that is at work within us! I would guess many of us sell ourselves short when it comes to the Kingdom of Heaven. Fortunately, God isn't buying our self evaluations. Let Him use you......... and me, too. We have more of a shelf life than we know.

Applicable quote of the day:
“Thrift is poetic because it is creative; waste is unpoetic because it is waste.” 
 G.K. ChestertonWhat's Wrong with the World

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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