Archives for the month of: August, 2015

Dikembe Mutombo is a big man. Not just in physical statue but in reputation and influence. He is a retired professional basketball player that stands 7 feet 2 inches tall. But his humanitarian efforts cause him to stand much taller.

Mutombo wears a size 22 shoe but he hMutombo 1as left much larger footprints through his determined efforts to provide health care for the people of his native  Democratic republic of Congo.

Dikembe played 18 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award four times and was an eight-time NBA All Star. He is commonly called the one of  the greatest shot blockers of all time, surpassed in the NBA only by Hakeem Olajuwon. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this year.

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If you don’t know Dikembe Mutombo, you don’t know much about professional basketball in the United States. If you know him, you are well aware that his trademark is a “finger wag” after blocking a shot. Today that finger wag is used in the face of life threatening diseases like malaria.

Outside basketball Mutombo has become known for his humanitarian work. He paid for uniforms and expenses for the Congo women’s basketball team during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. He is a spokesman for the international relief agency, CARE, and a long time supporter of Special Olympics.

Mutombo contributed $15 million to fulfill a lifelong dream in 2007 by opening the doors to the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center. This is the first hospital that has been built in the capitol city of Democratic Republic of Congo. The 300-bed hospital will provide health care to people in Kinshasa where Mutombo was born. The hospital was named BiambaMarieMutomboHospital, for his late mother, who died of a stroke in 1997 at age 64.

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Mutombo continues to work to eradicate childhood diseases like malaria that prevent one in five children in the sub-Sahara Africa from reaching age 5.

Last Thursday night Mutombo attended a gathering of folks in downtown Atlanta who are engaged in the fight to eradicate malaria. I stood beside a giant- not because of his physical statue but because of his passion to improve the lives of others.

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“It is a lesson of life,” Mutombo said. “We all are here for a purpose. My purpose is to make a difference to society, not just by being a good human being, but to contribute to lives. I’m changing lives and the living condition of my people.”

Jesus said he came so that people could live life to the fullest (John 10:10 CEB). “Abundant life” (KJV). The Message translates those words to indicate that his purpose was to provide “real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

I think that includes quality of life during our time on Earth as well as eternal life in the hereafter and I am glad for people like Mutombo who give themselves as co-workers with Christ to that end.

Jamie Jenkins

Charity 2

As the wipers cleared the rain from my windshield I saw a woman with a small boy in tow. They did not have an umbrella or anything to keep them dry in this summer downpour. They probably lived in one of the many apartments along this street near my house. I suspected that they heading for the bus stop which was a couple blocks away. The rain was so heavy that they would be soaked before they got to the shelter.

I wanted to help but I did not know how.

Although my motive would have been pure, you just don’t stop on the street and offer people a ride. Even when the weather is bad.

Since I drive an electric vehicle (EV) most of the time, I don’t have to get gasoline for my car. But the hotdogs at the QT are the best- and they are inexpensive. So I occasionally stop in and get a hotdog loaded with ketchup, mustard, onions, sauerkraut.

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One day recently as I got out of my car to go inside to prepare my “nutritious” and cheap meal, a young man standing nearby asked if I had any spare change. Should I give him money? Should I offer to buy him some food? Should I ignore him? I wanted to help but I was not sure of what to do.

During the years I served as pastor of a local church there were many occasions when persons would stop by the church or my house (everybody seemed to know where the Methodist minister lived) in need of financial assistance. The stories were all too similar. Their grandparent or parent had died and they were traveling to the funeral when they had car trouble that took all their money. They needed money for gas, food, or lodging. Often there were small children in the car.

I always wanted to help but I was not always sure what to do.

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Every time I am approached by someone seeking assistance (handout) I am conflicted. I want to help but frequently I feel like I am being scammed. Even when I sense that the need is legitimate I am not sure what will really help and what will simply encourage irresponsibility. If I “help,” I am troubled with whether I did right or not. If I refuse the request for assistance, I wonder if this is one of the times when I failed to be compassionate.

I don’t think I will ever get past the dilemma described above. There will always be situations when I just won’t know what to do. I will continue to struggle to be caring but not an “easy mark.” I will be a sucker on some occasions and I will probably be a stingy Grinch at other times. I am reconciled to that reality.

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However, I have found a way to be compassionate,  generous, and responsible with the resources God has entrusted to me. I give to the church that nurtures me because I know it is a good investment in the health and well being of many people locally and globally. I also give to organizations and causes that really meet the needs of humans beings and have proven to be trustworthy and wise in the way they use the funds provided to them.

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When I see homes being built for families that otherwise could never afford one, I know that Habitat for Humanity is a good choice for my donations. Knowing what Compassion International does in places of extreme poverty around the world, I feel comfortable providing support through them. I have seen the good work and gladly support Action Ministries Atlanta as they seek to lead people out of poverty by providing hunger relief and educational opportunities to our metro area neighbors in need. Honduras Outreach, Inc. has transformed lives in rural Honduras and now in Nicaragua.

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Since I am a United Methodist, I support many of the agencies and ministries of the United Methodist Church that have proven themselves to be effective in serving the needs of people.  The United Methodist Children’s Home in Decatur has been serving children and their families since 1871. Murphy Harpst Children’s Center in Cedartown provides a safe and nurturing environment where severely abused and neglected children can heal and thrive. I have seen the benefits of Wesley Woods Senior Living as it has been a leader in helping people age with grace. I am heavily involved with Imagine No Malaria, a denominational initiative determined to eliminate death and suffering from malaria. These are just some of the places I am willing to give because I know I am really helping others.

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There are times when I want to be helpful but I do not know what to do. But there are other times when I know exactly what to do. And I am trying to do it!

Jamie Jenkins

God's Love 2

The church sign proclaimed, “God’s Love is Unconditional, This Sunday, 10:45.”

I wondered about other times. Were there certain conditions that had to be met for God to love you except on this particular day and time? Did you have to meet certain qualifications on Monday or Friday for God to love you?

Should John 3:16 have an asterisk indicating the day and hour that everlasting life was available to those who believed  in God’s only Son?

Seriously, I understand that the church sign was announcing the sermon title and the time of the worship service. At least I hope that is what was happening. But in reality I think most everyone (maybe everyone) who believes in the God of the Bible and in Jesus Christ has moments that they are not sure that God loves them.

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There is the tendency to think that we have to measure up to some standard in order for God to love us. It is hard to accept that God loves us unconditionally. No strings attached. No minimum requirements. Regardless of how you behave.

There is nothing that you can do that will keep God from loving you. Period!

And there is nothing that you can do or nothing that you have done that disqualifies you for God’s love.

Peter was one of Jesus’ followers but after Jesus was arrested, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus- not once but three times. Jesus was subsequently put to death but came back to life after three days. A short time later, Jesus met his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  He and Peter met face to face and Jesus allowed Peter to declare his love for him three times. Then he restored Peter as one of his disciples and commissioned him for new work.

God's Love 4So, you ask, “God will love me no matter what I do?” Yes.” Then why should I even attempt to ‘be good’?” Good question.

There is a song I learned as a child with simple but powerful words:

Jesus loves me this I know

For the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to Him belong.

They are weak but he is strong.

 

 

There is another verse that is not always sung but contains an important truth.

Jesus loves me when I’m good,

When I do the things I should.God's Love 3

Jesus loves me when I’m bad,

Though it makes him very sad.

 

Thank you God for loving us. Help us to love you and live for you!

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

In today’s world it is certainly an advantage if you can communicate in more than one language.

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My grandchildren (ages 9 and 12) are bilingual. They were born in Tokyo and lived there until 18 months ago. Consequently their first language is Japanese although they are very fluent in English. A couple of years ago my grandson said he wanted to learn Chinese. When asked why he replied, “When Mom and Dad don’t want us to know what they are saying, they speak in Chinese.” There are many reasons for wanting to be fluent in more than one language.

In a couple of weeks those grandchildren and their parents are moving to Spain to live for at least a year. Their English and Japanese, or the parents limited Chinese, will not be of much value to them in this new country, especially when the children enter Spain’s public schools. They will quickly learn that the ability to speak and understand Spanish would be a definite advantage.

I took three years of Spanish in high school many years ago. Recently my wife and I participated in two 10-week Spanish classes. I know a little about conjugation of verbs and recognize a lot of words and phrases but I cannot communicate very well in Spanish. The primary reason- I don’t use the language in my daily life. Most of what I learned a long time ago has been lost due to the failure to use it on a regular basis.

Of course words are not the only way to communicate. Language is not always verbal. A smile can speak volumes. An embrace or a thumbs-up can be very affirming. Listening attentively to another person’s expressions of grief, frustration, anger, or dreams can be therapeutic.

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As a matter of fact, words sometimes are the least effective means of communication. They are often perceived as being empty and meaningless, and sometimes they actually are. The effort to verbalize may in fact obstruct communication.

It has been said that actions speak louder than words. Of course, deeds don’t actually create sound but they can clearly demonstrate understanding, caring, and compassionate in ways that words alone cannot. The Apostle Paul said, “If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal” (I Corinthians 13:1, Common English Bible).

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St. Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” There is a lack of evidence that indicates that he never actually said that. However, in his instructions on how the Franciscans should practice their preaching, he said, “All the Friars … should preach by their deeds.” Essentially he is saying make sure your deeds match your words.

 

Of all the languages we might learn and “speak”, perhaps the language of love is the most important. It always includes words and actions.

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Jamie Jenkins