the BLOG of stuart mcdonald

Transforming Communities: An Interview with Joshua Yarbrough: Part 2
November 4, 2009, 10:15 am
Filed under: Ministry | Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday, we talked about a fundraising event for Josh Yarbrough, coming up on Saturday, November 7th, as well as Josh’s personal experiences and how he began walking down this particular path in ministry.

Now, Josh, in yesterday’s post, you mentioned that there were other experiences that also shaped your thinking in regards to community development.  Can you elaborate on that? Tell us about one of those experiences and why you feel, especially for those who are Christians, why the work of transforming communities is so important?

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JOSHUA: Like I mentioned yesterday, my experience in Belize exposed me to poverty for the first time and it had a profound impact on me.  However, even after coming to Christ it took me a little time to realize the seriousness of our responsibility as Christians to the poor and how much of Scripture is dedicated to them.  I have found that our personal experiences can cause us to discover themes in the Bible we didn’t see before.  I think that is what happened to me on a mission trip I took to Peru five years ago.

I was helping organize a church planting campaign to Peru.  We were working in a city called Tacna located in the southern tip of the country.  Just like in Belize, there were squatter settlements scattered around the outskirts of the city.  We were in one of these areas when a family approached us looking very upset about something.  Our translator told us that their mother was very old and suffering from some kind of sickness.  They had heard missionaries were in the area and pleaded with us to come and pray for God to heal her.

When we arrived at their home they welcomed us inside.  I saw a little old woman wrapped in a blanket lying on the dirt floor.  Because Tacna is in the desert these settlements had no rooftops because it almost never rained.  She was just lying in the hot sun too weak to even swat the flies away that covered her face.  The family sat her up and she began to moan in agony.  The daughter explained to her that we were missionaries and were there to pray for her.  It looked as if the left side of her face was paralyzed so I assumed she had suffered a stroke.

I visited the women every day and really wrestled with God about her situation.  I had never seen anyone suffer this terribly before.  In America we take for granted that we have healthcare and medicine to ease our pain.  She had none of these and no other choice but to lie on a dirt floor, baking in the sun, in a pain I couldn’t imagine.  I remember thinking that people shouldn’t have to live out their last days this way.  On the last day I was praying and I asked God, “why wont you heal this woman, why don’t you care about her, why wont you answer her prayers?”  Almost immediately, it was as if God said, “I did answer her prayers.  I have sent you to comfort her.”

When I returned from Peru I became much more concerned about people suffering from poverty.  I searched through the Bible and scriptures such as the Great Commandment began to take on a new meaning to me.  Loving our neighbor isn’t merely doing no harm.  Loving one’s neighbor also means protecting our neighbor, to defend them if they are weak, to speak up for them if they have no voice, to represent the powerless.  We are to work on their behalf and the Bible makes it clear that this is like loving God.  Christians that are living out their faith this way is what the world desperately needs.

Take a moment to consider that…

>> Nearly half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day
>> Human trafficking, modern day slavery, is the world’s fastest growing crime
>> 900 million people have no access to clean water
>> 75 million children have no access to education
>> One sixth of the world’s population live in slums, in dehumanizing poverty
>> 3000 children die from affects of Malaria every day
>> One third of the world’s population is illiterate
>> One person is infected with HIV every seven seconds

We could list out pages of statistics just like this.  However, the great opportunity in all of this is that these issues are highly preventable.  It is important that we not look at the problems of our world and assume that they must be accepted.  These issues can be addressed and it is up to us to do something about it.  Caring for that woman in Peru was a great thing.  However, what would be better is to help communities address problems in a holistic manner so that people have access to healthcare, clean water, education, employment, and security.  This is why community development is so important.

On Saturday, November 7th we will be discussing a global initiative that will impact hundreds of cities and communities that are suffering from problems just like these.  In order to combat our world’s biggest problems we must find a way to unleash the potential that lies within all people everywhere.  There are ways to connect people’s talents, passions, and resources with initiatives that are effectively rebuilding communities.  That is exactly what we intend to do.  Maybe we can speak more about that tomorrow.

Wow. I’m still processing some of those statistics. Absolutely incredible. So thus far we’ve learned about Josh’s experiences that shaped him and his passion for community development up until this point. Tomorrow we’re discuss where he, and we, go from here. He’ll talk about the work that he’s doing, but he’ll also talk about what we, personally, can do to get involved and impact positive change in our local communities as well as in countries the world over.

PS. If you would like more details about the event, you can check out the invitation here.


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