by Melodie Davis
for release August 4, 2000
Getting Beyond Whining
How is it that we are so spoiled that we feel completely stranded when we are temporarily carless? If the computer goes down, I go aaggh! I can't do anything!
We had four employed family members this summer and only (!) three cars so each day began with major car juggling. It was difficult for me to think through the logistics for more than one day at a time for our respective commutes and errands.
One day as one of the girls drove home from work past our city's "Motor Mile" with all the car dealers, she said, "It sure is hard to drive past all those car dealerships and know that I won't have enough money for a car of my own for at least another year." (And she's not interested in just a clunker.)
Welcome to suffering, North American style.
That night, ironically, I went to a program at our church on Ethiopia. One of the speakers asked, "Before you got into your car to drive to church tonight, how many of you thanked God for the opportunity?" Zero hands went up, and the speaker reminded us that for Christians in Ethiopia, that would have just come naturally. They would have expressed gratitude for a vehicle, sought safety and protection in driving, and voiced gratitude for the opportunity to go to church. If you recall, for many years, the church was "underground" in Ethiopia with no freedom of religion, and persecution of those caught practicing their faith.
In Africa and other parts of what we sometimes call the "third" world, the church is growing while in the "west" we speak of a post-Christian world. About 11 years ago, our local region of churches started a partnership with a region of churches in Ethiopia. It was purposely set up with a region of approximately equal size so the "partnership" could be interdependent and reciprocal. Each region had about 20,000 church members.
Well guess what. Eleven years later, the "sister" region in Ethiopia now has 300,000 church members, and our local region remains at 20,000 members. I think the direction of mission effort needs to increase in the direction of east to west (send more Ethiopian Christians to witness and be the church in North America. I say send more because of course there are already some people doing just that.)
Some of the growth is built-in (and I'm not just talking babies-although they probably keep more of their young people in the church, too.) We were told that in the particular churches we were relating to, part of the membership requirements include a series of classes over two years, and demonstrated evidence that you have witnessed to your faith by your life and verbal sharing. Therefore, as part of the "entrance" requirements, one participates in spreading the faith. A pretty sound growth strategy.
As part of leadership training for women in Ethiopia, two North American women were invited to present workshops for women leaders; one segment was to be on "Women in the Bible." They thought they would start the workshop by finding out what the participants already knew about the topic. They asked, "What are your favorite women in the Bible."
The Ethiopian women could have gone on all day about biblical women they had studied and admired. Some of these Ethiopian sisters had walked for hours to reach the training event. One woman had ridden a horse for two days to get there. Many of them were from villages where getting up at dawn to go gather firewood, and carry water were a part of each day's tasks, where success is measured by whether or not you are able to put food on the table that day.
So it is not just my daughter who is spoiled when she feels "persecuted" in driving by a car lot without enough money to buy one of her own. It is me when I fret about a computer that is running a little slower than usual. It is all of us when we whine about a vacation dampened by rain, when we are just now beginning to pay what most of the rest of the world has always had to pay for gas. It is my kids buying new school supplies when we already have 100 assorted pencils and pens in the house, slightly used notebooks, and folders that were used last year.
What to do besides hang our heads in guilty shame? Be thankful! Start every day with a long prayer of gratitude, and end each day the same. Reuse things that you can and recycle the rest. Get along for one more year with the old car, with one car too few, with the dining room/living room/bathroom that is uncomfortably small.
What are your ideas for cutting back, living with less? Send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 800 words; end material = 105 words
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