Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Monday, July 30, 2007

Still rolling

Well, the van is still rolling anyhow. And one of the buses managed the trip to and from Wallace yesterday. Along with the promotion we ran, that meant we had at least 45 children come via the bus (not counting adults who rode). We really need two reasonably reliable buses, preferably three, along with a good van, if we're going to see the ministry continue to grow.

And then someone points out, if we bring in many more, we'll need to find someplace to put them -- several of the Sunday School classes are practically at capacity, and they had to set up extra chairs for children's church yesterday. But hey, these are good problems, right? Having so many people who want to come you're not sure how to get them all there, and then having so many here, we're trying to find room for them all.

Funny thing is, adult attendance has been down a little the last couple of weeks. The Lord continues giving fruit to our soul-winning efforts, though; we saw six professions of faith this past week.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

When will it be me?

Let me go on the record here as saying that I fully support the war on terror. I also support our troops remaining in Iraq until the democratically-elected government (which has requested we remain) is able to sustain itself in the face of minority insurgents within its country and foreign terrorists oozing through its borders to help them. I'll try to get into the reasons I think it would be monumentally unintelligent to pull immediately out of Iraq some other time.

But there has been a side effect of this war on terror that greatly concerns me. A little tool that has been developed to help fight that war. I've mentioned it before, and I've said I'm not sure what we're doing there is moral. (Any worse than what our enemies have done and are willing to do? Absolutely not! But we don't want to sink to their level, or anywhere close to it -- that's why they're the bad guys and we're the good guys. At least, I hope we are.)

But I have another reason to oppose the long-term incarcerations at Guantanamo Bay. Has anyone caught what is happening there? The government or military can slap a label on a person, then without presenting proof that the person is guilty of any crime, or even guilty of being associated with that label, can lock them up and keep them for as long as they want.

There are two enormous dangers of this, dangers that have manifested themselves throughout history. The first is that the label, or its definition, can change at any time, once the precedent has been set that the government can do whatever it wants with people after it slaps a label on them. Right now, the label is "terrorist." But what happens if the label gets changed to "religious extremist"? Or "Fundamentalist"? Conversely, what happens if the label gets changed to "Anti-Christian extremist"? Or "Anti-American" (the most dangerous of all, I suspect)? And what exactly do any of those things mean? Apparently, whatever the government wants them to mean. Guantanamo Bay was set up to house "terrorists." You would think that means people who have been actively involved in an act of terror, or conspired to commit one. But by the government's own admission, hardly any of the people there (if any) have actually taken any terrorist action of any sort, much less one against our country. Not only that, but they don't necessarily have evidence that the people even belong to a terrorist organization. Some of them, the government knows full-well have no connection to any real terrorist organization. They simply had some reason to slap that label on the person, and they get to pick the label and pick what it means. So if the government doesn't like you, for any reason, they can slap the label "terrorist" on you and lock you away without ever showing evidence for why they did it, without ever allowing you to face your accusers, and without ever letting you speak for yourself. And they can keep you forever.

Once you give the government a power, that power will be exercised by whoever is in office. Powers you give today, trusting they will be used responsibly by people you helped put in office, will be used tomorrow by people you loathe and who may well hate you and what you stand for. Has any protection been put in place that indefinite incarceration without presentation of evidence or opportunity for trial will only be used on those who are labeled "terrorists"? And is there some way to force that label to always mean the same thing? Or do all of us who don't at any given time agree with the majority of voters, or whoever is in office, on some major issue have to live afraid that the powers granted to our government will be used against us?

The second immense danger is that people will use it to hurt personal enemies. This happens eventually in every police state I know of (and no, I don't think we live in one -- those who claim we are should try visiting one sometime, and maybe making publicly there the claims they make here. I'm terribly sad to think they might not survive to make it back here and report on the similarities.) A person will have an enemy or rival and know that if a particular label gets applied to that person, he will be removed, perhaps permanently. And since there's no trial, no standard of proof, not even a presentation of evidence, all a person must do is report his rival with enough information to cast suspicion on him. How much do you trust your neighbors? You know how rumors get around about people. How about your co-workers? Your business rivals? Do you really think they've all got the scruples not to make a quiet phone call to cast a little suspicion on you?

Honestly, I think we're a long way from that. I'm sure that, especially here in the United States, an accusation of terrorism would be researched pretty carefully to see if it's substantiated. A false accuser would probably find himself very unpopular, and possibly in a lot of trouble. But that long way can shrink fast. And if we let our government have the right to lock people up indefinitely on the mere suspicion of their involvement with someone who might have done something -- we're taking a big step in that direction.

I am no prophet in the Biblical sense. But I've read some history. And I know what happens when a government has the power to take action against any group of dissidents, without concern for legal restraints. That power eventually gets used against those who won't conform to the state. And historically, that power has been used against conservative Christians. Since the days of Rome, continuing through the so-called dark ages in Catholic-dominated Europe, in Hitler's Germany, and into modern days with Soviet Russia and communist China, not to mention in every seriously Islamic state in history, those who believe like I do about the Bible, Jesus Christ, and salvation have had the power of the state exercised against us in terrible ways.

I am afraid to give the government a power which will almost certainly be used against me or others like me. And if you don't see eye-to-eye with at least 51% of the American voters on every major issue and have the courage not to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those you can't see eye-to-eye with, you'd better be a little nervous too about letting the government lock up indefinitely whoever it wants without trial and without evidence. How long before it's me? How long before it's you?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Liberty Hall win

In other, less-significant news, my latest story in the Liberty Hall flash challenges notched a win (my second in a row, though the entries came six weeks apart -- there hasn't been much time for writing lately). Both stories featured members of a fictional, future group of mercenary soldiers called the Escadrille. At some point, I guess I should start editing and sending these stories around.

Missionaries often have cool backstories

It's an important feature in a major character in fiction -- the story of how they got to be who and where they are now, whether it's all detailed in the book you're reading or not. It's true of real people, too. Just because they just entered our lives yesterday doesn't mean they popped into existence right before that. With fictional characters, the author's flights of fancy can produce dramatic backstories. With real people, the mundane is perhaps more normal. But I'm finding with our missionaries that mundane may not apply.

At least, that's been the case with our last two. Brother Karl Sapp, missionary to North Pole, Alaska, started college to study thermonuclear physics, and was apparently a standout student before changing gears and going into full-time ministry. He can still wax rhapsodic about subnuclear physics, though, and his sheer intellectual prowess shows quickly when he starts slinging around Japanese (which he learned swiftly as a missionary there before going to his current polar position).

This week, we had the Scott Cornoyer family at the church. To our surprise, both he and his wife over-lapped our time at Pensacola Christian College. He was in the community training at the naval air station there in Pensacola, while she was a student and on staff at the college for our first couple years there. He ended up spending some 14 years in the Navy, flying over 400 combat reconaissance missions and garnering some cool stories. After that, he worked for the Secretary of Defense and for a civilian contractor, also in the intel business. Meanwhile, he and his wife have been acruing six children, with the oldest having just turned nine. They are now on their way to start a much-needed church just a few miles from the Washington D.C. beltway. He expects that his high-flying background in the Navy, Department of Defense, and civilian contracting will open doors to him, as he goes to a place characterized by intellect, education, affluence, cynicism, and corruption.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Still kickin'

Well, actually, it's been considerably too hot lately to do much unnecessary activity. But I could kick if I wanted to. Really, I could.

I am now approved to go to the prison and leave without the assistance of a judge or a very long delay. It strikes me that if you don't want to go to prison, yet they want you there, they make it very, very easy to end up inside. But if you actually want to go into the prison (without involving some sort of legal unpleasantness), it's a ridiculous process. But I now have all the paperwork filed, have been told that it's a very bad idea to rape the inmates or let them rape each other, and been orientated -- so now, I just have to wait until next month for the new list of approved people to come out so I can go assist in the prison ministry.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Busy? Pshaw!

Okay, remember what I said about being busy as the new head pastor? Ain't changed. I was horrified to stop in here and realize that it's been nearly a week since I last posted anything. This post will be very random, I think.

Let's see. Shortly after that last post, a 95-year-old woman from the church passed away. We had her funeral on Monday. I don't know if I've ever seen so much family at a funeral; apparently her bloodlines are both prolific and long-lived. It was an easy funeral; I think all of the immediate family are professing Christians, and there is no doubt in anyone's mind where that lady is now.

By way of a rant, I'm really getting fed up with trying to get high-speed internet at the church. The dialup we're using right now is utterly inadequate. But Time-Warner wants $1500-2000 just to install their service (apparently they would have to burrow under the parking lot to get to the power box), and then another $80/month (when I wouldn't be using it for anything more than I already do from my home office). The local telephone company (AT&T or Bellsouth, depending on who bought out who this week) says on both websites that DSL service is not available at that location (this in spite of the fact that probably fewer than a half-dozen doors down, the Gibbs have it in their house). Satellite not only costs hundreds to install, but will also want high monthly rates. Argh.

On the upside, we continue to see people making professions of faith at an astonishing rate. We are up close to 50 now in fewer days than that, I believe. There are some young men in the church who have become really enthusiastic about it, and the Lord seems to be working. I just hope that those who have made professions won't fall by the wayside, but will make decisions to live for Christ.

We're also working to procure a decent van for the church. Speaking of which, I need to get some more info (among a small page-long list of other things to do). Back to work!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Boss chairs don't get sat in enough


I've been the head pastor here at Bible Baptist Church for most of a week now, and it feels like a mere decade. It's been good, but man, it's been busy.

We just finished a revival with Ron Williams of the Hephzibah House (a home for troubled girls) in Indiana. He holds some unique viewpoints, even a few I don't think I agree with, at least not completely. But he's remarkably intelligent and is a passionate and gifted speaker. He spoke powerfully in every service, and we saw many decisions made. He spoke on the subject of the family, and some of what he said re-enforced things I've said in my Sunday School series on the same subject, while others paved the way for difficult things I have yet to say.

In other news, fully seven people made professions of faith during visitation last night -- praise the Lord!

I got called to the hospital last night after I got back from visitation; we thought a 95-year-old lady in the church was about to pass away, but she pulled through and seems to be doing better today.

The church van has holes in at least two tires (one being the spare); I was hoping they would hold up until we could buy a new van, but now I'm trying to figure that out. And the bus we had in for brake work turns out to probably have a cracked head gasket. *sighs* I'm off to check into the repair on that.

Not doing too much sitting in the boss's chair twiddling my thumbs, that's for sure!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

First wedding

Saturday, the day before I officially became head pastor of Bible Baptist Church, I got to officiate my first wedding. The couple has been a delight to work with -- he, originally from Zacatecas, Mexico, was saved through the jail ministry, and left behind a life of drugs, drinking, and violence to become one of the most faithful and energetic servants of the Lord in the church. She, raised in a sheltered home here in NC, is the church's pianist.

The wedding was simple and brief, with the longest part being a (still rather short) salvation message for the benefit of his unsaved family (he requested this especially). As weddings go, it ,may have been the easiest I'll ever perform.

There was still some confusion, though -- entirely my fault. See, these little things called marriage licenses are really important, apparently. And, here in NC at least, they give the couple not one, but two. And the pastor and both witnesses have to sign both of them. (Apparently, a photocopy just won't cut it for Vital Records or the Register of Deeds.) Well, with all the picture taking and whatnot, when I had the witnesses sign, I only had them sign the top copy! So that left me Sunday and Monday scrambling to find the witnesses again and have them sign the bottom copy. Fortunately, both of them chose witnesses that live relatively locally -- it could have been a lot worse!

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