Sunday, May 22, 2011

When the devil's about to capsize your boat

Pray for THIS Bishop. I am really in a battle to keep my head above the waters of hope – much less faith. I have prayed, cajoled, strategized, and even pleaded, but still no answer from the God I’ve put on front, here in a land where so many question His very existence.

People look to us for comfort, for strength; not realizing that we face struggles every day, too … just like them. Here in China I’ve been the poster child for “Jehovah-jireh” for nearly six years – for helping them to see in my own difficulties how God will part the troubled waters for us. It’s what we preachers do.

We talk a good game, but I can assure you that all of us have those private moments where we wonder if God is really there – really listening to us, or even concerned about us. The disciples had Jesus right in the boat with them, and yet even to them – men who could talk to Him about their problems, face to face – it seemed as if He was oblivious to the tragedy that was confronting them. What chance does a West Side Negro from Detroit have in a place like this, when it looks like the devil is about to capsize his boat?

So let me get to the point. I’ve been trying to get home for over a month, now. at the end of last semester my university made a decision to eliminate all but two foreign teaching positions in the English Department. I’ve managed, with a little help from friends to stay afloat, these five months – even complying with the visa requirement to go out of the Mainland, every 30 days; and forking up the $400 USD in visa fees for renewal. But the money has run out – as has my Chinese friends’ ability to bolster me up. I am literally down to my last $75, and under pressure to move out of the apartment where I’ve been boarding.

Anticipating this day, I started last month to ask for help from acquaintances in America – but to this day, no answer. More to the point, no answer from the few people whom I’ve even felt comfortable enough to ask for help: family, friends, and fellow-laborers in the Cross. I’ve left subtle hints on Facebook; and even asked some people directly, in emails – still no answer.

The one person who said they thought they might be able to get me home VANISHED two weeks ago – not available by phone, not answering emails, hasn’t logged in to Facebook. In the past week I’ve reached out to 3 people whom I’ve never met – on two different continents – still no answer.

And I’ve been in God’s face, asking Him to give me just a glimpse of His plan to get me out of this mess, and bring me home. I’ve spent my whole life as a wanderer, and have never been what anyone could call “homesick,” but right about now I don’t care where my feet land, as long as it’s on American soil!

In Detroit, I could just go to a shelter and ride it out. I did that once before, and a whole world of doors opened up for me: I got hired at Ford; I met my good friend, the late Bishop Jack Wallace; I found a house to rent on terms I could afford; an old beater of a car; and I managed – as a single parent – to get my son as far through high school as he chose to go.

But this is China, and I’m a sojourner here. There are no shelters for me.

Growing up my step-father enjoined us from asking for so much as a glass of water from anyone. In his view, asking for anything – no matter how insignificant – was tantamount to begging. As a young man in the Nation of Islam, it was a slogan we learned, “Do for self.” In the end, I’ve spent a lifetime being totally averse to asking anyone … for anything. So for me to open up to my peers, and even relative and total strangers, and ask for help took all the strength I could muster.

At the end of the day, what I actually needed was not cash, or even a ticket; but SkyMiles. A ticket home on Delta costs 70,000 SkyMiles. I have just over 57,000. So MOST of the people I emailed, I asked them to gift (or lend) me any SkyMiles they could spare, to help me make up the deficit.

But still no answer.

I wrote my brother, a few days ago:

“You remember the old Chinese laundry slogan: "no tickee, no washee?"

“I mean whether I'm in China or in the States, I have to meet recurring expenses for meds. And here I have the added recurring expense of having to go out of the country every 30 days.

Those are not options.

“So whether He keeps me in China or provides a way home, GOD has GOT to provide me with an income ... IMMEDIATELY, or I'm in real trouble!”

Last week I finally saw Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns.” In one scene Brenda tells Miss Ruby she’s tried to pray but nothing happens. Miss Ruby tells her, “That just means you’re about to get a breakthrough.”

Maybe I’m about to get a breakthrough.

Perhaps my brother was right in his response, perhaps the lack of communicating is folks’ way of saying they are “tapped out,” themselves; or perhaps God is just trying to say, “Wait a minute …”; or that He hasn’t finished working out the details on where I will live and work. Or maybe He’s telling me there’s still things He wants me to do here.

For as hard as I’ve prayed about this thing, maybe it’s time to just be quiet and listen for what God is trying to tell me. Whatever the case, I’m gonna be in real trouble unless He puts something on the plate, REAL soon!

What can YOU do? Read on ...

When the devil's about to capsize your boat -- pt 2

There’s one more part to this diatribe.

Everybody who responded to me that they had some obstacle that made it impossible to help – even a little – was unanimous in assuring me to just have faith; and everything will be all right. This goes back to the thing I wrote in the second paragraph above.

Everything's gonna be all right. We say that – preachers do – even sing it; but in a world of realities, we now that it’s at least possible that things WON’T be all right.

For years I’ve wanted to preach or at least write an exposition on James 2:26. We love the codicil, “faith without works is dead;” but everybody I’ve ever heard cite this passage ONLY talks about that. It’s such a pervasive thing that I believe it has led to a warped understanding of what James was talking about when he said “works.”

As a former Jehovah’s witness, I have indulged in an apologia against what we call “works-based Salvation;” on the premise that “works” is a code word for good behavior. But if we look at the passage in context – beginning at, say, verse 12; maybe we come away with a different viewpoint.

I like verses 14 - 16, because they nail James’ intent, I think.
New King James Version:

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

New Living Translation – straight as an arrow to the heart of the matter:

Dear brothers and sisters, what's the use of saying you have faith if you don't prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can't save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well" -- but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

James is saying, it’s USELESS to pat a brother on the back and wish him well, and then drive away in your Benz to gorge yourself at P. F. Chang’s. James is saying, God doesn’t want you to wish your brother well, and hope he gets the stuff he needs, God wants you to give him some of yours!

I’m stranded, 7,000 miles from my homeland, with barely enough for a night’s stay at a hotel. While I appreciate anyone’s prayers, what I need is a plane ticket.

I have nearly 2,000 friends on Facebook. Were it not for the aversion to asking people for anything, I’d post a note on my wall asking for 75 cents from each of them – a dollar to be on the safe side. (Actually, if I knew who to call on to handle the influx in an expedient manner, I might do it anyway; but since the only person who’s even answering me right now is in South Africa …)


I’m still gonna be in real trouble unless God puts something on the plate, REAL soon!

I've been trying for the past six weeks to find a way to help get home. (read on, below)

Talking to my brother, a moment ago, he suggested something I hadn't thought of:

You could help me get home by making an offering through my PayPal account: become a Covenant Partner for $10, $25, $100, or you tell me how much.

I realize that times are tough, and so something as large as a whole plane ticket might be out of the question; but with almost 2,000 Facebook friends, you could help me get home for the price of a Happy Meal. C'mon, friends and family, help me keep MY boat from capsizing!
If you'd consider it, email me offline at Keep My Boat Afloat, and I will email you the PayPal method; as well as a small "thank you" gift.

Ask your friends if they'll help
I haven't tried this, yet, so I don't know how well it will work, but let's see!