Did you know that at one time in history salt was one of the greatest commodities in trade? You’ve probably heard the phrase “worth your salt,” which means to be worth your pay. Did you know the word “salary” actually comes from the Latin word for salt because it was occasionally used for payment in Roman times? What about light? Talk to someone who sat through the recent hurricanes without power while the wind was tearing at their house, and they’ll give you a good picture of how valuable and elusive light is when there is no electricity.
Jesus taught that we should be salt and light, two things that were extremely cherished and necessary in ancient times. The disciples clearly understood the value of those things, but salt and light are cheap and easy now. Unfortunately, when we think of being salt and light we are not often considering something so treasured and useful, but rather thinking in our own modern uses of these things. I think the true Christian church should be sacrificial in offering value and practicality to our communities.
Brazil is in a dreadful economic crisis caused by many politicians who are terribly corrupt. Some estimates put the amount stolen from public coffers in the last three years as high as 20 billion USD (with a “B”). Our city of Cubatão is a blue-collar factory town and we have definitely felt the ripples. Currently in Brazil, roughly 15% of working- aged people are unemployed. That number is significantly higher here. The hospital in town has shut down for over a year and the public schools are regularly on strike. As a church we need to address the situation, but our resources are limited. Plus, a handout looks nice and can ease our guilt, but doesn’t really help anyone long-term. We have been asking God to show us ways that we can make a difference in our community.
Recently a great opportunity sort of fell into our lap. A local nonprofit that helps chemical dependents and their families, found themselves with no funding or place to hold their group meetings. City Hall could no longer pay the psychologists and the public building where they met had fallen into disrepair, was condemned, and with no plans for restoration. Through some of our church members who had found help in this organization we learned of their plight and saw an opportunity to help. As a church, we officially extended the invitation for them to use our facilities for their meetings. It has been a joy to see the number of people walking in our doors that normally would not. They have held events which have completely packed the church to the point of people lining up outside the windows in order to see. At the same time it has been sobering to see how many peoples’ lives have been affected by chemical addictions, including some of our own.
Please pray with us to find more ways to bridge the gap with this group, and for them to take the next step to connect with our church activities.
We are also preparing to offer seminars on personal finance management, staying out of debt and how to best “tighten the belt” in difficult times. We feel this is a more “teach how to fish” approach instead of just “giving a fish.”
We see another opportunity with children in the community. Almost all children’s activities (sports, music, dance, drama), things that schools in the States offer for free, are expensive here. As a result many kids are not physically active and have very little structure, discipline and social interaction. As a church we will soon offer free karate lessons twice a week for the children of our community, taught by a black belt from our church. There are many more possibilities along this line too!
A local worship band, made up of people from different churches, had no place to practice and asked about using our facilities, so we let them… also for free.
In a culture where you are taught to take advantage of every situation for personal gain, some people find it odd that we do these things for free. They assume we must have an ulterior motive; or we’re just plain gullible. I am happy, however, to be misunderstood by some if it means that others might see the countercultural, sacrificial Jesus in us, and find the ultimate free gift that changes eternity for a lost soul.