Equal Partners

We were sitting in a day-long meeting with the pastor and CARE for AIDS committee of one of our partner churches. Part of our partnership agreement with churches asks them to create an oversight committee to help shape the program, engage with our clients, and create a sense of ownership of the program on behalf of the whole church.

One of the goals of our meeting was to discuss how to further engage the committee and to co-create with them ideas of how to increase a sense of partnership and ownership of the program within the church. Toward the end of the meeting, Linet, who was facilitating, asked a question that made me pause from taking notes and look up in surprise. She asked the committee, “What are some ways we can better appreciate you?”

I wondered why she was asking this... I felt like it was a perfect set-up for the pastor and the committee to ask us for money or for the committee members to ask us to pay them a sitting fee or to present to us their plans for a bigger building -- or for some other project that had nothing to do with our mission. I actually thought, “What is the point of asking this when we know exactly what they are going to say?”

I girded myself with cynicism and prepared to dismiss their ideas with inner eye rolls. I crossed my arms to make it obvious that I was NOT taking notes about what they were going to say.

What followed humbled me greatly.

After some silence, the pastor cleared his throat. He said, hesitantly, “I’m not sure how to say what I want to say, because I realize it is a big request.”

Just say it, because I already know what you’re going to ask, I thought.

“Go ahead, we want to hear what you’re thinking”, said Linet.

The pastor stood up, and quietly said, “The people in the program -- you call them clients, but we like to call them members -- become a part of our family. We have had a few cases in the past where members have died -- maybe two or three. We have taken the responsibility as their family and their church to pay for their funerals. My request would be, if we lose someone in the future, that you will help us with part of the funeral costs.”

He sat down. The cynicism in me was replaced by admiration and compassion for him and shame for my assumptions. I began taking notes.

Next to speak was Mama Naressa, the oldest member of the committee. As she stood up to speak, my cynicism returned slightly in preparation for what she might ask. She said only, “As a committee, we are in constant prayer for our members, and we have regular prayer meetings for them. We request that you pray with us, and maybe one time you can come to one of our prayer meetings.” She sat down.

My shame increased, as did my respect and admiration for this group of people.

The other two committee members had no requests; they only expressed gratitude for what our partnership has done for their church and to the community they serve.

I was reminded during this meeting that one of the greatest assets of our program is our partner churches. I was reminded again that the way we have set up our church partnerships sits us at the table equally, and for me to think of them as being in a position of receiving our help or our charity is wrong. Yes, they couldn’t have the level of impact they are having without us, but we also couldn’t have the same level of impact without them. It’s a true partnership. 

I was so embarrassed by how I reacted in that meeting. I found myself trying to justify it, thinking it was based on experience. After honestly reflecting about it, though, I think it comes down to assumptions I was making based on my perception of our relationship.

It’s natural when someone is perceived as needing our help to expect less of them. It’s easy to see them as helpless or desperate recipients of our gracious generosity. When this is happening, we risk having our attitude toward them come from a place a place of begrudging superiority. So, how do we change our perception of someone? I believe it looks like what happened during that meeting -- it starts with sitting as equals at the table, and asking questions -- even if we think we might already know the answers.


Not Forgotten

This morning's post comes to us from CARE for AIDS intern Anna Wilke.

As we read in last week’s blog, Lent is a season where we pause to remember who we are, who our God is and what He has done for us. The book of Exodus, the story of God rescuing the Israelites and delivering them to the Promised Land, offers us a metaphorical picture of what waiting and relying on the Lord for our salvation looks like. The entire story of Exodus rests on God’s promise to His people, a promise He always remembered even when it felt to them like He had forgotten, and it points to how Jesus would later save us. The Lenten season is about waiting on our Heavenly Father and remembering what He has done for us.

All too often we don’t listen to the people around us. We zone out, we start forming our response while they are talking, and we forget the needs of those around us. Because we do this, we presume our God does the same. We assume He is either not listening to or doesn’t remember our prayers, and I imagine that after hundreds of years in captivity, the Israelites felt the same way.  Through years upon years of oppression the Israelites endured hardships and cried out to God. They assumed, just like we do sometimes, that like humans, their God hadn’t heard or had forgotten their prayers. They felt unseen, unloved, and forgotten.

Thank goodness our God is not human. Our God listens to us, hears and remembers all our prayers, and offers freedom. The same God that gives freedom also gives perseverance, purpose, and peace while we are waiting. God’s ultimate will for His people was for them to be rescued and to see His promise to them fulfilled. His promise to the Israelites is His promise to us, “I will take you as my people and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7).  He is always active, always attentive, always remembering and always moving on behalf of His people. He hears and remembers. He is coming soon.

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In the orthodox church in America, many refer to the season of Lent as a season of "bright sadness". Its an intentional time in the church calendar when we enter into spiritual wilderness to work out what it means to approach Easter as a people who believe in the resurrection. 

One of my favorite ways to understand the season of Lent is through the story of the Israelites in the Old Testament. We are all likely familiar with the story of the Israelites' miraculous exodus from Egypt, their wandering years in the desert, and their eventual crossover into the promised land.  

The beauty of their journey is that it also serves as a metaphor for our individual spiritual journeys. Just as the Israelites passed through the Red Sea to escape their oppressors, we have passed through the waters of Baptism to escape the slavery of sin. And, just as the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, we take 40 days each Lenten season to fast, reflect, and create margin for ourselves to depend on spiritual food (manna) from the Lord. Easter is our spiritual promised land, and as we prepare to enter into the Easter season in just a few weeks, I encourage you to take time to read through the Israelites' journey from slavery to freedom and reflect on how it parallels with your own journey. Embrace these 40 days in the desert, and look forward, with bright sadness, to the coming of Easter. 


Looking for a resource to guide you through this season? We recommend this great resource from Biola University. 

Reckless Love

This morning's post comes from CARE for AIDS intern, Anna Wilke

We have been singing a song in church for the past several months by Cory Asbury called “Reckless Love,” it is one of the most lyrically powerful songs I have heard in a while, and I have had it on repeat all the time.  This song serves as a wonderful reminder to me and many others, of the nature of God’s love, a love that will fight for us and leave the ninety-nine to chase after one (Luke 15). When we keep this love that the Father shows us everyday in mind, we can live in freedom with joy.

My favorite, and in my opinion the most powerful, part of the song is the bridge which describes the nature of God’s reckless love for us, “There's no shadow You won't light up, Mountain You won't climb up, Coming after me. There's no wall You won't kick down, No lie You won't tear down, Coming after me.” I think these lyrics define reckless love in a Biblical sense. When I hear the word reckless I usually think of someone acting carelessly without regard for the consequences, but God’s love is not careless and thoughtless at all. His love is audacious, it is resolute, and it will do anything and pay any price to get us back. Our Father will not let anything come between Him and His children—that is reckless love.

It was reckless love that sent His one and only son to pay the price of our sin. All too often we allow concerns of the moment to cloud our comprehension of this eternal act. We lose the joy of our salvation. When we are able to remember the reckless love of our Father and view our circumstances through the lens of our resurrection, we can have the peace and confidence He freely offers us. The life of a Christian is a life of resurrection and when we are aware of what God has done for us eternally, we are filled with the confidence to face our current circumstances. Our Father has offered us a life full of joy and freedom. There is nothing we could ever do to earn or deserve the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.

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Meet John

This morning's post is an introduction from the newest CARE for AIDS team member, John Flores. Join us in giving John a warm welcome to the team! 

First of all, let me just say how honored, humbled, and excited I am to be joining the CARE for AIDS team. As I look back on the last ten years, God’s hand is evidently clear in His leading me to this opportunity and to this organization.

I grew up in Houston, TX. My childhood consisted of one focus - baseball. I played all sports, but baseball was my first love. My second love is Texas A&M Football. Here’s to hoping Jimbo Fisher can end the 79 year drought. I went on to attend Texas A&M and double majored in Economics and Political Science.

In 2007, I had the opportunity to serve on a mission trip in Kenya. This was a major turning point in my life. My experiences altered my paradigm, opened my eyes to poverty and struggle, and planted a calling on my life to do something about it. This would eventually lead me into recognizing God’s specific talents that He had given me to add value in this arena - building a team, developing relationships, casting vision, and raising money. Over the next ten years, that path would lead into overseeing development efforts in the 501c3, for-profit, and political, 501c4 markets. These experiences have led to skills learned and refined, and to a rolodex built that will help accelerate the growth of this organization.

Why CARE for AIDS is a question that I have been asked lately. My response is simply - WHY NOT? The work that God has done and is doing through the organization is phenomenal. The lives that have been changed, both physically and spiritually, over the last ten years is remarkable

What I am most excited about is that there is so much opportunity in front of us. The last ten years at CARE for AIDS have built an incredible foundation and track record of success that will allow us to catapult to the next level, both programmatically and in the area of fundraising. There is so much opportunity in front of us, and I am excited to be a part of an organization that never settles and one that keeps moving forward for Kingdom impact.

The most important part of my story is my family. Aimee and I were married in 2010. We have two daughters (7 and 4), one son (15 months), and another son due in mid-April. When we aren’t busy with ballet recitals or soccer games, I love playing golf when possible. We currently live in Johns Creek.

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