Today I have a guest blogger: Titus Benton. Titus grew up around the Rolla area in neaby Salem, MO and graduated from Salem High School. He then enrolled at St. Louis Christian College, graduated, and has been serving in Ministry for these past 15 years. He was one of two youth ministers at First Christian Church, our church when we lived in Florissant and Titus was our oldest’s small group bible study leader. Titus did his best in reassuring the teens in our family that moving to Rolla wouldn’t be such a bad thing, that Rolla was a nice town, full of nice people, and he even knew of a church for us to visit, Greentree Christian. Titus is now serving as a youth minister with Current Christian Church in Katy, TX.
About a year ago, he and his wife decided to downsize, to sell their newer, larger home for a smaller one in order to free up money in their budget and be able to give more funds to missions and missionary efforts that are happening around the world; missionary efforts that focus on the list from Matthew 25: 35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” I was honored when he asked to be a guest blogger on my blog in order to help get the word out about The 25 Group, the not for profit missions supporting effort that he and his wife have begun in this new year. If you are interested, you can follow this link to learn more about The 25 Group. Now, on to Titus’s guest post!
Your list is probably different. Mine goes like this:
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, 1998…maybe 1997. Funny how you forget what year it was but never lose the sight of the family’s face when your group handed over the keys to their new house. Previously they lived in a pallet/cardboard shack. Their bathroom was a hole in the ground with some curtains for privacy. It was the first time I ever saw extreme poverty. I layered stucco until “stucco” was an expletive in my vocabulary. It was hard work, but I didn’t walk away from that construction site the same person. What I’d experienced was not okay.
Adelaide Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, 1999. It was the first time I ever worked in the inner city. The kids were dirty. When gunfire rang out down the block, I cowered in fear while they kept playing. Old news to them. Their homes were larger than the kids in Mexico but their lives were no more hopeful. I pushed them on the swings and gave them piggy back rides until my muscles ached. Then I got in my car and drove back to the suburbs. What I’d experienced was not okay.
Inner City, Washington D.C., 2002. More piggy back rides. More dirty kids. VBS. DeWayne and DeJean. Government-funded housing. Welfare culture. Would the kids I was carrying on my back make it out alive? Would they land in jail like many of their fathers? Would they pedal dope or the Gospel? I got in a van and drove back to the midwest and didn’t have answers to any of my questions. Still don’t. Not okay.
Santiago, Dominican Republic, 2005. “The Hole” is not the name of a neighborhood I’d want to live in. Hundreds of families do–in the midst of garbage and sewage and animals that they compete with for food. “The Fly” was not a hole of garbage but a mountain of it–constantly smoldering. I thought of the Greek word used for “hell” in the New Testament. These people were living in hell. The daily dumped contents of nearby cities was their livelihood. I flew back to the states and bought a bacon cheeseburger at the Miami Airport. It mixed with the taste of smoke and dirt in my mouth and I couldn’t finish it. I pondered the things I’d seen and on a Sunday morning after days of resistance I sat on my couch and I cried. It was a loud cry. I don’t know if I was crying for the people I had met or for myself. My spoiled rotten self. Things were not okay.
Mexico City, Mexico, 2010. More poverty. More hopelessness. Kids dumped in garbage cans, rescued by missionaries and given a home. Plenty of kids not rescued–living on the streets begging for money. Human beings owned by other human beings, pimped out for profit. More dirt, more smoke, more stupid systems and obstacles and red tape and frustration. More not okay.
India, 2013. The one-legged boy tapping on our window, begging for change. The persecuted pastors being beaten for preaching. The girl found in a plastic bag on the side of the road. The children dancing and singing as a welcome to the white people. The stench of the train, the glassiness of the eyes, the stories of children being rescued from red light districts. I got on a jet and flew twenty-something hours back to America. I realized the hook that was constant in all my experiences was the same: Things Are Not Okay.
Your list may be different in specifics, but the conclusion our lists lead us to is universally the same. There are things in this world that are not okay. There are people bought and sold as commodities. There are children starving to death. There are women widowed because their husbands dared to preach the Gospel. There are places where water is laced with sewage but the people drink it anyway because its wet and they have nothing else. There are cardboard shacks and diseases and glassy eyes and gunshots and hopelessness.
There are also a growing number of people who think that is not okay.
I am one of them, and I suspect you are too. After returning from India and my wife from the Dominican Republic my wife and I started a nonprofit organization that will buy food and drill wells and provide shelter and help sick people and welcome strangers and do all the other stuff Jesus says to do in Matthew 25. It’s called The 25 Group.
Because what we do for the least of these we do for Him.
Because there’s plenty in this world that is not okay.
Because Jesus doesn’t think that stuff is okay, either. That’s why He told us to take care of those people–with food and water and the truth about who He is.
Join us as we seek to leverage the wealth of the American church–the bacon cheeseburgers and the jets and the cars and the houses and the coffees and the mobile devices and the concert tickets and the designer labels and the whatevers–to fund global Kingdom work. There’s a village in India with no school, church building, clean water well, or community gather spot. We’re funding a space that will serve all those needs. There’s a community in the Dominican Republic with an unfunded feeding center and there are in fact ten feeding centers in the country that are supplied vitamins year round–one meal a day, six days a week–by a ministry there. We’re going to fund the feeding center and the vitamins for all. The total cost is a little over $53,000 for both projects. We plan to visit each location someday, money in hand, look them in the eyes and say:
“It’s going to be okay.”
And it will be.
Titus also writes an excellent blog, located at TitusLive.com and one can also follow him in Twitter and Instagram @ TitusLive