Saturday, February 23, 2013

Can YOU Dig It?

An airstrip here in Mibu is something that the people here have dreamt of for many years now. About a year ago, the Mibu people decided they wanted to set out to finish the airstrip project they'd started so many years ago. The length of the airstrip was cleared, we measured it out, checked to see if the little strip of land allocated to the project has the appropriate length and grade and laid out the centerline. From there a map was made depicting areas that needed to be dug down and areas that need building up. It's a HUGE task requiring much labor. But the people want this airstrip, and to be honest, so do we.

The biggest and most obvious benefits of this airstrip for the Mibu community is a more consistent means of selling their coffee, and at a much fairer price. Currently the Mibus work all year on their coffee, only to be faced with the question after harvest of whether or not they'll even get paid. And if they do get paid, it's often not even half of what coffee is normally sold for. It's a rather hopeless situation, especially when faced with whether or not you want to hike over 11,000 kilograms of coffee on your backs, two days down the mountain! Other benefits include the possibility of selling their oranges (domestically available oranges are a rare find in this country and the Mibus have a huge harvest of them) and also increased ability to get seriously ill people to a hospital in town. There's no doubt an airstrip is a huge asset to the community. It's only a matter of actually building it. Again, it's a huge task.

Just the other day, we calculated that the people here have managed to move 300-400 tons of dirt in the last couple months! An astounding amount of work done with just 5 shovels, some bush knives, two heavy iron bars for digging out rock, and a whole lot of water. That's right... water! The Mibu people built two dams near the top of the area they're working right now. Each dam fills with around 3000 gallons of water or more. While it's filling with the runoff from the rain we get almost every day, people are digging and filling a ditch with loose dirt and stones. When full, the dammed up water is released, powerfully coursing it's ditched path down the mountain taking maybe 10-15 tons of dirt at a time and depositing it at the bottom, in a retaining wall. This method builds up areas quickly and with much less effort than manually lugging the stuff down.

While this airstrip, and the responsibility of building it, is entirely the Mibu people's, we support it as members of the community ourselves and are committed to providing some help while being sure not to overstep our bounds and making it our project. As part of this commitment Sun Valley Community Church has agreed to send a small team of people here to Mibu to work alongside the folks here in Mibu for about 10 days, helping carry out the plan that the Mibus have devised. It's a great chance to support their efforts, and also to be an encouragement to them. The details of the trip are still being ironed out. But so far it's looking like the trip is going to happen the last couple weeks of July.

While we may not be certain of all the details yet, there is one detail we are certain of... We need volunteers! We need people like you who want to invest some of their time and labor helping the community and the church in Mibu. Would you consider being a part of this team? It would be a great opportunity, say for a father and his capable son(s) to work together, or a single person, or a married couple. Whether you're younger, or older, maybe God has something here for you! It's a great chance not only to help with a real material need, but also to interact with the believers here with whom the people of Sun Valley Community Church have a long and fruitful partnership history. Can YOU dig it?

If you're even remotely interested be sure to take advantage of the chance this Sunday (tomorrow) to ask more questions about the trip. Look for Theresa Board and Lori Bastian out on the courtyard at the Sun Valley Community Church, Tempe campus sometime Sunday morning and get all your questions answered. Or if you're unable to make it Sunday morning, you can call Theresa at 480-299-8864.

(In the bigger picture, up toward the top of the hill is the double dam. Leading down from that is the ditch where excavated dirt is thrown. Toward the bottom are the retaining walls which fill with the dirt. In the other picture, a closer view of the retaining walls filling with dirt.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Polarization... Finally

It's been a long time coming. A division that is. It may not be often... maybe never... that you hear of one talking about 'division' in the church as being positive. But that's what we're doing now.

Since God's word first began to move through the people here in Mibu and other nearby groups, the church meetings, at least here at ground zero, have always consisted of a mixed group. There have always been a number of folks who wanted to remain identified with the former religious system at the same time as being identified with the truth of Jesus as seen in God's word. This former religious system is very legalistic, teaching folks all the stuff they had to do to please God. Get baptized - go to heaven. Give offerings to pay the 'pastor' (who is nowhere around until he comes to collect, by the way) - go to heaven. Do communion just right, with a special person to officiate and only the special wine and bread - go to heaven. Follow God's 10 laws of the bible - go to heaven. And if you have 2 wives, you might as well not even try cause you're going to hell... but we'll take your offerings anyway. This is a system that masks itself as Christian, but is very anti-christian, going against everything that Jesus stands for. In fact, for those in Mibu who have tried to follow God's word for what it says, much of the persecution they've experienced has come from this supposedly Christian group.

Those who identify with this group are typically found sitting on the sidelines, listening but not hearing, following what's going on but never 'in', always commentators, but never experiencers. To them, meeting with the church is just a religious thing that you do. It's tradition. Nevermind that God is actually speaking to us through his word and is interested in a real, loving relationship. Just give us a list of things to do. These people invariably complain and cause doubt and division when the church wants to follow God's lead. A fair number of these sideliners are still involved in the talk and the fear of sorcery and such.

Over the years, a couple things have become clear. One is that there is a distinct fundamental difference between them and the church. The other is that, small as this group is, they have a detrimental effect on the church's ability to grow and mature in who they really are because of Jesus.

We've always been hesitant to push separation too hard, not ignoring the need, but not forcing it to happen either. When it happened, we wanted it to be something that arose out of the conviction of the local church... not just something they were told they need to do. Well the time for that seems to have come! Recent events have polarized the two groups in such a way that after several meetings with the leaders of the church, and a little encouragement from us, it was decided that the church needs to make a decisive separation from this other religious group. They met together with and communicated to those of the other group that they're seeing the other religious system does not accord with what the Bible communicates to us, and that the two groups meeting together is harmful. Those who aren't interested in following God's word, but some other system, should meet separately and not intermingle in the church meeting. The church leaders even stood strong in this decision when recently some big-wigs of this other religious system came in on a whim and just started doing their thing. The church, kind of taken aback by the distinct difference of these peoples' teaching and by the force with which they were trying to impose it, met with their leaders and flat out told them that they were not interested in having that kind of teaching here. Standing up to the big-wigs was something the church had always been hesitant to do in the past. But it clearly was time and they stood their ground, despite being ridiculed by the religious leaders of the other group.

This is a good move and a big step for the church here. It shows a growing sense of their identity in Jesus and an awareness of the things around them that blur that identity. We would ask for your prayers that this separation would remain relatively peaceful. The church leaders have been very graceful in how they've handled discussions with these other folks, and both sides are in relative agreement that it should happen. The church leaders haven't been angry or spiteful in the discussions. Just coming from a heart of wanting what's best for everyone and maintaining the peace. Our prayer is that with the church more clearly distinguished, they'd be able to move forward in their relationship with God without quite so much of the murkiness that that other legalistic system brings. The plan is that some time in the future here foundational gospel lessons would be taught by the church especially for those from this other religious group who might begin to show an interest.