Discovering our “New Vision”

By Chip Zimmer, VP of Global Ministries

I enjoy receiving e-mails. A regular part of my work is responding to people who have met God through something Peacemaker Ministries has produced. Their notes are always fresh and charming. Here – misspellings, mis-punctuations and all – is one of my recent favorites:

“By gods grace we conducted our evening seminar on April 4, 2014 at Lutheran Church Veliyannoor Kerala india, It was a blessing for the people.

“In that meeting we introduced your 7 A’s of confession. The people appreciated it. Rev Rooban paras conducted the class and our patron Rev.a.J.Joseph lead the interaction session.In this session we divided people in to small groups and congregation members shared with pastors their problems.People were moved by the 7A understanding ,they said it is a new vision they got through it.”

I love this letter. You can sense the excitement and gratitude in his voice as he struggles to communicate in English what he experienced among the members of his congregation, the “understanding” of confession that has led to a “new vision.” What may not be so obvious is just how difficult it is for people who come from more traditional backgrounds in Asia, Africa and elsewhere, to accept responsibility for their sins and confess to those they have wronged.

In much of the world, preserving personal honor and avoiding shame are critical social dynamics. This goes by many names – “saving face,” “preserving harmony,” even “machismo” come to mind. They are all descriptors given to respecting individual dignity and maintaining relationships. In many societies, truth speaking, directness, and individual accountability matter less than respecting others and promoting social cohesion.

Jesus lived in a culture, the Middle East, which then as now is driven by such values. Honor, status and rank matter. In such settings, admitting fault, asking for forgiveness, and committing to repentance and change are all viewed as shameful. And what brings shame and dishonor is, typically, avoided. A Lebanese friend of mine put it this way: “Shame and honor have trained our community to build masks. According to our culture, confession, humility, and submission, are all signs of weakness.”

Yet, into this mindset, Jesus taught that the meek would inherit the earth, that asking for forgiveness is to be a normative practice, and that honor accrues to the least and the lowliest. If you want to be first, you must become last and a “servant” of all. No wonder he stirred up controversy.

Jesus is no less controversial today. What he taught regularly confronts each of us in those places where we are least comfortable, wherever we may live. The good news for us is that Jesus’ death and resurrection not only deal with our guilt. They also deal with our shame. Incredible as it may seem, we are honored children of the high king, prodigals who have been welcomed home.

Reading about believers in far-off Kerala who are learning to embrace personal responsibility and confess sins raises a question each of us should ask: Where have I become complacent, allowing dominant social norms to dictate how I live out my faith? What “new vision” is God showing to me?

It is a question worth considering as we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection.

This article originally appeared in our April edition of Reconciled. If you’d like to receive Reconciled, subscribe here

International Update: Running the Race Together in 2014

By Chip Zimmer, VP of International Ministry

Every heart longs for peace. And from the beginning, our mission—as Christians and as peacemakers—has been to respond to this longing by guiding people toward the only source of real peace. As Jesus himself tells us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

This message resonates globally. In one recent 30-day period, there were more than 11,000 visits to the Peacemaker website from outside the U.S., nearly 40 percent of total visits. People logged on from an astonishing 187 countries and territories, a number that has only grown since I first started following it several years ago.

It still surprises me that so many people, from so many different Christian traditions, are interested in what a small outfit like ours has to offer. I’ve come to realize that it is not Peacemaker Ministries they are after, but the hope of real, lasting, peace that grabs attention. Any ability we have to connect only reflects our commitment to Christ and to his priorities.

Peacemaking is all about real people, of course, not numbers. I’m reminded of this daily. On the walls of my office are photos of some of the men and women who have become peacemaking colleagues, as well as nametags I’ve brought home from the dozens of peacemaking events around the world they have put together. I’m reminded of their dedication and commitment each time I glance up from my computer. Here are a few…

  • Rev. Chul Lee in Korea, who co-founded Korean Peacemaker Ministries and continues to serve as Chairman of the Board. Chul has been capably assisted by Sam, Brian and Shahny.
  • Dr. Val, an American veterinarian serving in northeast Uganda whom God is using to bring peacemaking to warring clans, with the help of “wise men” from supporting churches back home. To date, more than 20,000 people have been settled in peace villages.
  • Carlos and Nina, Peruvian friends and colleagues, who have served their communities and their churches in Peru and throughout Latin America, as well as in the U.S., where Nina now teaches.
  • Bruce, Elenne, Li Ai and their amazing partners who founded PeaceWise in Australia and continue to expand and develop a vibrant national ministry down under.
  • Bishop Ef, head of the Philippines Council of Evangelical Churches, and the ministry of Peacemakers Philippines that he, Maloi, and other talented Filipinos are putting together.
  • Misgana, Hana, Dawit and their many colleagues who, as part of the Ethiopian Christian Lawyers Fellowship, are creating the Shalom Center for Peace and Reconciliation in Addis Ababa. A remarkably capable and dedicated group.
  • Bishop Mouneer, whose vision for peacemaking and reconciliation in Egypt and beyond is inspiring others to join together in building real unity.

There are thousands more we have connected with over the years, most of whom I will never meet. They labor as pastors and lay people, often in small communities where their main connection with Peacemaker Ministries is an electronic one. Their enthusiasm for peacemaking is inspiring. They are reminders that although we often dream grand plans, God builds his kingdom one at a time. Each person matters.

In a very real way, you and I are being knit together into a global peacemaking family, like the cloud of witnesses Hebrews 12 describes, scattered around the world, yet connected by our common Lord. As we run the run the race in 2014, let’s do so remembering that we are not alone and that each one plays an important role in pointing to Jesus, the source of real peace.

A Time for Peace or War?

by Ken Sande, Founder of Peacemaker Ministries

The following article was first written by Ken in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and recently revised, in light of the debate regarding Syria.  While the geography has changed from the U.S. to the Middle East, many of the issues and peacemaking principles remain the same.

The recent use of poison gas in the Syrian civil war has heightened global concern for this increasingly deadly conflict and triggered many challenging questions. Chief among these questions is, “How should we respond to these violent acts?”

This question is especially challenging for those who follow Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Teachings on peacemaking are difficult to apply in the shadow of a war that has killed over 100,000 people, 1,400 of whom died in clouds of poison gas. As a result of these deaths, President Barack Obama is seeking Congressional and international support for military intervention. Other U.S. and global leaders are calling for restraint and continued diplomatic negotiations.

So, is this a time for peacemaking or a time for war? The answer can be both.

But how can both paths be right, especially when they seem to go in opposite directions? Both can be right, because God himself has assigned different paths to different people.

The Bible teaches that God has delegated some of his authority to civil governments and assigned them the responsibility of promoting justice, protecting their people from aggressors, and punishing those who do wrong (see Isa. 1:17; Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). This is a heavy responsibility, especially when it involves the exercise of lethal force—but without this restraint, evil would run rampant and innocent people would suffer. Thus there are times when those who lead and protect a nation can and must walk the path of war.

Whether this is such a time, I am not qualified to say. But since our leaders are publicly contemplating such action, they certainly need our earnest prayers.

But even as we pray for our civil and military leaders as they contemplate or pursue military action, we are often called by God to walk a different path as individuals. Just a few verses before God describes the government’s right to wield the sword in Romans 13, he describes the individual Christian’s responsibility to be a peacemaker:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn…. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:14-15, 17-21).

This passage echoes Jesus’ earlier teaching on how individuals should respond to those who wrong them: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36).

Most Christians think that these are fine and noble concepts … until someone actually hates us, curses us, and mistreats us. Then these words seem naïve and simplistic. But it is precisely at times when much wrong has been done that these words take on their greatest power and offer their greatest benefit. Here are some practical ways that you can put these commands into practice in your personal life, regardless of what world leaders decide to do in Syria.

  • Mourn with those who mourn. All of us should grieve deeply with those who have lost loved ones, have been personally harmed by these attacks, or are distraught over the trouble and destruction they are facing (Rom. 12:15). In doing so, we Christians should share not only our tears and words of comfort, but also our time, energy, and material resources to minister to others and help rebuild their lives. We should also pray that these events would make all of us more compassionate for people throughout the world who suffer such violence.
  • Pray for our leaders. Our President and a multitude of other civil and military leaders will be making difficult decisions in the days ahead, many of which will either save or end lives. They carry an agonizing burden. Therefore, we should pray for our leaders every day, asking God to give them humility, wisdom, discernment, courage, and strength, so that they will act wisely, promote justice, protect the innocent, and restore peace as quickly as possible (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  • Remember God’s mercy to you. All true peacemaking springs from what Jesus Christ did on the cross to reconcile a fallen world to a holy God (Rom. 5:1-8). We cannot truly love or do good to those who do wrong until we see that God has done exactly that with us. When we recognize our own sin, acknowledge the eternal judgment we deserve, and stand amazed at his offer of mercy and forgiveness, then and only then can we respond lovingly to acts of violence and do the hard, unnatural work of peacemaking.
  • Fight against anger and vengeance. In the face of acts of evil, it is natural for us to be filled with anger. Sometimes that anger is appropriate and will move us to do all we can to stop such evil. But at other times our anger is contaminated with sin. As the psalmist realized, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you” (Ps. 73: 21-22). To counter these feelings, whether in yourself or those around you, read the rest of Psalm 73, which reminds us that God will eventually avenge all wrongs, and remember Jesus’ promise that his final judgment is more severe than anything a worldly army can impose (see Luke 12:5).
  • Pray for those who have done wrong. Praying for those who do wrong is not easy. Even when we get past our feelings of hatred and judgment, we struggle to know what to pray. Should we follow David’s example and pray for justice to come upon them (Ps. 28:4), or should we follow Jesus’ example and ask God to forgive them (Luke 23:34)? As we remember our own need for God’s mercy, I believe we must do both. We can pray, “Lord, display your love for justice and prevent further acts like this by bringing the people involved in these acts to account in this life for what they have done. At the same time, Father, display your love for mercy and magnify the glory of the gospel by bringing these men to repentance and faith in Christ, so that whatever temporal judgment they face at the hands of men, they might experience the eternal forgiveness that you purchased for us by the infinitely precious blood of Christ.”
  • Stand up for the persecuted. Some of the pent-up confusion and frustration in our country is being vented toward innocent people of Middle-Eastern descent. Christians should be the first ones to stand up for the oppressed (Ex. 22:21; Isa. 1:17). In addition to preventing individual acts of hatred that would echo the violence of the Syrian conflict, your loving intervention could open the door to share the gospel with people whose faith has been shaken and whose hearts have been opened.
  • Make peace with those around you. Although you and I do not murder others with a gun or hand grenade, all too often we kill others in our hearts. As Jesus warned, “You have heard it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says, ‘You fool,’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matt. 5:21-22). The violence in the Middle East could encourage a harvest of peace and reconciliation if each of us were inspired to fight the cancer of sin and estrangement in our own country on a personal level, seeking genuine reconciliation with a spouse, child, parent, friend, co-worker, or anyone else we may have offended. (For practical guidance on how to resolve personal, church, business, or legal conflicts, see the many resources at www.Peacemaker.net.)
  • Study and teach peacemaking. World violence is challenging many people to ask questions about how to deal with conflict. The time is ripe to wrestle with practical issues of confession, confrontation, justice, forgiveness, restitution, and reconciliation. Please do not let this incredible “teachable moment” pass you by. Dig into God’s Word and see what he has to say about these life-changing matters, and then teach others what you are learning about peacemaking (1 Pet. 3:15-16). Engage your children, talk with your friends, start conversations at work, lead a Sunday school class at church. Now is the time to learn and to teach!
  • Share the gospel of peace. Above all else, seize every opportunity to be an ambassador of reconciliation by pointing people to the Prince of Peace (2 Cor. 5:16-21). Death is increasingly real to many people in the world, and questions about evil and judgment abound. People who would have brushed the gospel aside not long ago may be open and interested in talking about eternal matters. The fields are truly “white unto harvest,” and there can be no greater peacemaking than to help others to be reconciled to their God.

Terrible violence is erupting in front of our eyes, not only in Syria but throughout the world, sometimes on our own streets and in our own homes. By God’s grace, however, we need not be overcome by this evil. Rather we can overcome evil with good.

Now is the time to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ as we never have before. Even as our national leaders contemplate how to carry out their heavy responsibilities of promoting justice, securing peace, and protecting innocent people from harm, let’s seize every opportunity to share the love of Christ and promote personal peace and reconciliation. In doing so, we can redeem these dreadful times and fulfill one of the most wonderful promises ever given, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.”

Ken Sande is an attorney, the author of The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Baker Books, 3rd Ed. 2003), Peacemaking for Families (Tyndale, 2002), and founder of Peacemaker Ministries (www.Peacemaker.net), an international ministry committed to equipping and assisting Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically. He now serves as the president of Relational Wisdom 360 (www.rw360.org).

This article in its entirety may be photocopied, re-transmitted by electronic mail, or reproduced in newsletters, on the World Wide Web, or in other print media, provided that such copying, re-transmission, or other use is not for profit or other commercial purpose. Any distribution or use of this article must set forth the following credit line, in full, at the conclusion of the article: “© 2001 Peacemaker® Ministries, www.Peacemaker.net. Reprinted with permission.” Peacemaker Ministries may withdraw or modify this grant of permission at any time.

Prayer Request From Bishop Mouneer in Egypt

We received this email today from our friend and one of this year’s conference keynote speaker, Bishop Mouneer, asking for prayers regarding what’s going on in Egypt and we wanted to pass it along so you can be praying right along with us:

Dear Friends,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

As I write these words, our St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Suez is under heavy attack from those who support former President Mursi. They are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the church and have destroyed the car of Rev. Ehab Ayoub, the priest-in-charge of St. Saviour’s Church. I am also aware that there are attacks on other Orthodox churches in Menyia and Suhag in Upper Egypt (see attached photo), as well as a Catholic church in Suez. Some police stations are also under attack in different parts of Egypt. Please pray and ask others to pray for this inflammable situation in Egypt.

Early this morning, the police supported by the army, encouraged protestors in two different locations in Cairo, to leave safely and go home. It is worth mentioning that these protestors have been protesting for 6 weeks, blocking the roads. The people in these neighborhoods have been suffering a great deal—not only these people, but those commuting through, especially those who are going to the airport. The police created very safe passages for everyone to leave. Many protestors left and went home, however, others resisted to leave and started to attack the police. The police and army were very professional in responding to the attacks, and they used tear gas only when it was necessary. The police then discovered caches of weapons and ammunition in these sites. One area near Giza is now calm, but there is still some resistance at other sites. There are even some snipers trying to attack the police and the army. There are even some rumors that Muslim Brotherhood leaders asked the protestors in different cities to attack police stations, take weapons, and attack shops and churches.

A few hours later, violent demonstrations from Mursi supporters broke out in different cities and towns throughout Egypt. The police and army are trying to maintain safety for all people and to disperse the protestors peacefully. However, the supporters of former President Mursi have threatened that if they are dispersed from the current sites, they will move to other sites and continue to protest. They also threatened to use violence. There have been a number of fatalities and casualties from among the police as well as the protestors, but it seems that the numbers are not as high as expected for such violence. However, the supporters of former President Mursi claim that there are very high numbers of casualties. The real numbers will be known later on.

Please pray that the situation will calm down, for wisdom and tact for the police and the army, for the safety of all churches and congregations, and that all in Egypt would be safe.

May the Lord bless you!

+Mouneer

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt
with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
President Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican
Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

Worlds Apart, Yet So Much Alike… Reflections on Jordan and Mexico

By Chip Zimmer, VP of Global Ministries  (Taken from our recent edition of Reconciled) 

Viewed from afar, Jordan and Mexico couldn’t be more different. Different languages, different cultures, different ethnic and racial mixes, even different foods. Yet, Christians in both countries share a common Lord and Savior and a common need for God’s grace. They also share a common passion for reconciling differences and healing relationships, as I learned during recent trips to both countries.

jordan-walidIn May, I visited Jordan at the invitation of Walid Nimry to introduce peacemaking at a conference for leaders of the local Christian community. Walid is a businessman who shepherded the Arabic edition of The Peacemaker through translation and publication in 2007. Since then he and his wife, Lubna, have had another peacemaking project in mind – the creation of a “Peacemaking Center” for Jordanian Christians.

The dream behind the Center is to create a place where family members can work through differences and learn to practice forgiveness toward one another. I was puzzled when I first heard Walid describe their vision. Why focus on families, I wondered, when the Middle East is overrun by issues of war and peace? “Because without strong families there cannot be a strong church,” Walid told me. “And without a strong church there cannot be the opportunity for Christians to speak persuasively into the many issues that confront us here in Jordan.”

Roger and Marcy Oliver live in Puebla, Mexico, half a world away from Walid and Lubna, but they share the same passion for peacemaking and for its transformative power. For nearly a decade, Roger has shared this devotion by teaching peacemaking courses and classes at Puebla Bible Seminary, where he served for many years as Director.

rec-0713-mexico-roleplayHis enthusiasm and commitment were contagious and his students asked for more. So, he and Marcy invited me to Puebla for a 3-day Conflict Coaching and Mediation training program just last month. More than 30 graduates of Roger’s courses participated and 16 completed all three days, including the final-day role plays. It was great fun to watch our students try on mediation for the first time in their role plays and find out they were more capable than they thought.

As I engaged with brothers and sisters in Jordan and Mexico, it was clear we wrestle with many of the same things – with pride and denial, as well as the sense that conflicts with others somehow keep us from the “good life” to which we think we are entitled. In fact, Jordanian Christians may struggle with peacemaking more than most, as several people told me there are no equivalent words in Arabic for either “apology” or “forgiveness.”

Above all, I observed that Christians in both countries possessed the same underlying attitude of heart that desired to serve God and others when in conflict. My trips reminded me that whatever our language, reconciliation is at the center of the Christian calling. God is raising up people from every tongue and tribe to serve Him as peacemakers. Whether we live in Jordan, Mexico, or the United States, we are privileged to be part of what He is about.

Help Us Send People From Around the World to Our Conference…Online!

From Chip Zimmer, Vice President of Global Ministries

The Leadership at Peacemaker Ministries would like to invite you to participate in a special giving project aimed at expanding global impact. Please click on the message below to hear a 3-minute story about how you can make a world of difference by providing a scholarship for someone from outside the U.S. to virtually attend our annual conference!

Please join us in helping those around the world participate in the 2013 Peacemaker Conference via the internet. To contribute, please visit our secure donation site. When completing the donation form please designate your gift for “Online Conference Access for Internationals.

We deeply appreciate your involvement with us. Because of you this vitally important message of God-glorifying relationship reconciliation to families, churches, and communities spreads out across the U.S. and into the entire world.

With Gratitude,

Chip

The Measure of a Place

This is an article taken from our website that we thought would be a good thing to share with our blog readers. It’s a really touching testimony from Chip Zimmer. 

I was 21 years old and a recent college graduate when I traveled outside North America for the first time. In August 1970 I flew to Nepal, where I would spend two years as a Peace Corps volunteer.

My introduction to Nepalese culture had begun two months earlier during training in Davis, California, but it wasn’t until we were on our final approach into Tribhuvan Airport that I appreciated how different Nepal was from anything I’d experienced before. There, outside my window and a few hundred feet below, stood Bodnath, one of the most famous Buddhist shrines in the Kathmandu valley. I couldn’t take my eyes off the domed temple, with its superstructure of painted eyes, prayer flags, and golden crown. This definitely was not Kansas.

I’ve often found that my most intense memories of a place are linked to sights, sounds, or smells. As vivid as these are, however, such physical stimuli can be misleading. They may tell me that a place is different, but it is not until I have been granted access into the lives of people who live there that I form an appreciation for a culture’s fundamental shape, and for how its values align with or are at odds with my own or with God’s.

My friend Ted Kober discovered this on his first visit to India several years ago. Ted had been invited by church leaders to teach peacemaking in the southern part of the country. After one of the presentations, a pastor raised his hand to ask a question that went something like this:

“The parents of a young man in my church arranged for the marriage of their son, but the son refused to cooperate. Instead, he married a woman of his own choosing. As a result, our church excommunicated both the young man and his parents. The parents repented for not being able to control the behavior of their son and asked to come back into the church, but our elders refuse to reinstate them.”

The pastor looked at Ted and asked, “What should I do?”

The question stopped Ted in his tracks. Here was a matter that went to the heart of the intersection between Christianity and Indian culture, and he, an outsider with little understanding of the intricacies of local customs, was expected to provide the answer. All eyes were on him. How would he respond?

I know how I might have responded. I would have been tempted to blast away at arranged marriages–in fact, at the entire caste system. I had struggled during my years in Nepal with the whole notion of caste and everything that went with it. What could be more unfair than a system that allocates opportunities in life based on family of birth? As a North American, I am saturated with the belief that individuals should be free to choose for themselves whom they marry and that opportunities in life should be based on what you know, not on who your parents are. The chance to take a good swing at a system I found abhorrent would have been hard to resist.

Yet, at the same time, I think I would have been restrained by years of wrestling with peacemaking and the implications of Scripture–something about getting the log out of my own eye first. Where in my own culture could I point to a functional caste system in which opportunity had more to do with birth than with ability? More to the point, hadn’t I found it convenient to show favoritism, or say to someone in need, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed”? In my own way, hadn’t I lived what amounted to a caste system approach to life? Didn’t I try to control others, to manipulate their decisions to get what I wanted? I have to admit that the answer to these questions is “yes.” As I reflect on my own shortcomings, I am amazed and grateful that Christ died even for these sins of mine. I hope that this realization would have tempered any remarks I might have made.

Beyond being wise in speech, however, I also hope I would have come to the conclusion Ted reached as he stood before his audience. Ted resisted the temptation to try to answer the question and instead pointed his listeners to the one source he was sure would help. “What does the Bible say?” he asked. “Let’s take a look at the Scriptures.”

The wonderful thing about Ted’s response is that he recognized a boundary and refused to cross it. It is not always easy to defer when cast in the role of “expert,” but Ted wisely realized that, in the end, it was not his opinion that mattered, but God’s. Scripture is the standard by which all cultures should be assessed. Ted’s answer affirmed this reality and pointed his listeners toward taking a biblical approach to life’s problems, the very thing he had been teaching in his peacemaking seminar.

I have thought a lot about Ted’s experience in the years since he told me his story. It has shaped my own approach to teaching generally and working cross culturally in particular and more than once has helped me stay out of trouble. Along the way, I have developed a deep appreciation for the words of David, as recorded in Psalm 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”

I’m not 21 anymore, but I still love the thrill of visiting someplace new, of seeing new sites and meeting new people. I try to cherish every trip and every new friendship. But, I have also learned that the true measure of a place is not primarily what I see or hear or smell. The true measure of a place–whether it is your home or mine–is what lives in the hearts of its people and whether those hearts are inclined toward God.

Written by Chip Zimmer, Vice President of Global Ministries

Is Anything Too Hard For The Lord?

By Chip Zimmer, VP of Global Ministries

Jaime Munoz was one of his country’s most wanted criminals. About a year ago, a program about Jaime appeared on national television. Soon after, a neighbor recognized him and called the police. Jaime was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Claudia Christen is a Swiss missionary who teaches peacemaking to prisoners, including Jaime. She wrote to tell us this story…

I got to know Jaime in September, just after the PM conference, at one of the male prisons in the southern part of the city. He appeared as a very eager, faithful and pleasant student to me, who attended each and every class.

About a month ago, we had our class on the 3rd “G,” talking about confrontation. I don’t know why, but I felt I needed to share a testimony of a friend, who himself had been in prison for many criminal acts and who today is an amazing man of God and is teaching the Young Peacemaker to thousands of kids. With this story of my friend, I tried to encourage Jaime and the other students to fully accept God’s forgiveness and to know that God can use them regardless of their past.

I realized that something was going on in Jaime’s group and went to ask what had happened. One of the other prisoners, Carlos, started to cry and said he was experiencing a conflict with Jaime. He said that Jaime meant more to him than his own family, but that Jaime sometimes joked in a way that was painful to him.

Jaime listened with tears in his eyes and said he never intended to hurt his friend. I said, “Jaime, do you realize that Carlos is telling you that God has used you in his life? That God is using you already as one of his instruments to reach out to others, not considering where you come from. God is transforming your life. What do you think it is God wants from you?”

Tears were rolling down Jaime’s face. He recognized that although he might not have seen it as a problem, he needed to confess and recognize Carlos’ feelings and pain and apply the 7 A’s. Carlos said he had never been able to confront Jaime, but that the class had shown him he needed to do it. So, we talked again about how to confront and offer forgiveness.

A week later, when we met for the next class, they came in with radiant, smiling faces. I asked if they could tell me how it went and they told it as a testimony in front of the whole class. Carlos had been able to confront Jaime in a loving, caring way, and forgive him, and Jaime did confess to Carlos and they reconciled, granting each other forgiveness.

Jaime is a living testimony of God’s transforming power. It is incredible to see him now and hear how God has transformed his life and is using him already as a pillar of faith for other prisoners. I’m sure that God wants to use this young man as his instrument. It won’t be easy as he still has many years of prison ahead of him, but if he keeps walking closely and intimately with God, God can use him in special ways.

“Is anything too hard for the Lord,” God asks of Abraham in Genesis 18:14. The same God who caused Sarah to bear a child in her old age also transforms the hearts of sinners like Jaime and Carlos … and you and me.

We love receiving stories of God’s peacemaking work. If you have a story you would like to share, please write us at testimonies@peacemaker.net. And I’d also like to note that the support and materials we can share with people like Claudia are only possible with the generous gifts of our financial partners. I encourage you to make a gift today to help continue this incredible work of reconciliation around the world.

A Ugandan Prodigal Turns Towards Home

by Chip Zimmer, VP of Global Ministry

At some point in our lives, most of us will have a Prodigal Son experience. For Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, that time came recently when he publicly repented of his sins and the sins of the nation he has led for more than 25 years.

The Ugandan daily New Vision reports on its website that President Museveni spoke at the National Jubilee Prayers in Namboole recently. You can read all of the President’s remarkable prayer by clicking here. Some excerpts follow…

I stand here today to close the evil past and especially in the last 50 years of our national leadership history and at the threshold of a new dispensation in the life of this nation. I stand here on my own behalf and on behalf of my predecessors to repent. We ask your forgiveness…

Forgive us sins of pride, tribalism and sectarianism; sins of laziness, indifference and irresponsibility; sins of corruption and bribery that have eroded our national resources; sins of sexual immorality, drunkenness and debauchery; sins of unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred and revenge, sins of injustice, oppression and exploitation; sins of rebellion, insubordination, strife and conflict.

These sins and many others have characterized our past leadership, especially the last 50 years of our history. Lord forgive us and give us a new beginning. Give us a heart to love you, to fear you and to seek you. Take away from us all the above sins…”

And toward the close…

We want to dedicate this nation to you so that you will be our God and guide. We want Uganda to be known as a nation that fears God and as a nation whose foundations are firmly rooted in righteousness and justice to fulfill what the Bible says in Psalm 33: 12: Blessed is the nation, whose God is the Lord. A people you have chosen as your own.”

We can join President Museveni and the people of Uganda in making his prayer our own, not only for Uganda, but for every land, including ours, that has strayed from the Lord. The hard work of repentance remains to be done, as one Ugandan church leader noted. Yet, all of us can thank God for the awakening he has brought to the President and for the example he has set for leaders everywhere.

What Forgiveness Can Do

There’s a very inspirational post by Mark Fox over at TakeYourVitaminZ. You should go and read the whole thing, but I’ve included the into here:

When Stakwell Yurenimo, a Samburu in northern Kenya, did well on his eighthgrade exams, the Kenyan government informed him that he had qualified to go to a high school that they would choose. They also chose his roommate, a young man named Paul, who was a member of the enemy tribe, the Turkana. Stakwell determined in his mind that there was no way he would room with a Turkana. In fact, part of his culture demanded that in order to be respected as a man, he needed to kill a Turkana.

Stakwell poured water on Paul’s bed every night, so that his roommate was forced to sleep somewhere else. Paul did not react in anger, but slept on the ground without complaint. This went on for several months. Meanwhile, there was friction on the soccer field as well. Stakwell was an excellent midfielder. Paul was the team’s star forward, a striker with considerable skill. But the team kept losing because Stakwell would not pass the ball to his roommate. The coach finally confronted Stakwell, who told the coach that there was nothing he could do. “You will just have to put one of us on another team,” he said. That’s what the coach did, and the first time the two teams played each other, Stakwell threw himself into Paul, trying his best to kill him. He broke Paul’s leg and knocked out several teeth. Because it was an intentional penalty, Stakwell was expelled from school and sent home a hero to his fellow Samburu tribesmen for injuring a hated Turkana. He did not care about being expelled, but then the school told Stakwell that he would have to repay Paul for all of his medical expenses. Stakwell, a Samburu shepherd, faced an insurmountable debt. That’s when his life changed.

Paul came to Stakwell offering forgiveness. He did not want to be paid back. Paul explained that all the time his roommate was persecuting him, he did not retaliate, “not because I am weak, but because I am a Christian. When you were pouring water on my bed and forcing me to sleep on the ground, I was praying for you,” Paul said.

Read the rest.