Sunday, March 29, 2009

Change a Heart, Change a Nation


A favorite slogan during any election campaign, change is a word we dread as much as desire. We long for change to make things better. We fear change will make things worse. And too often, even when we get the change we've fought for, whether geographical, political, economic, or social, we find ourselves disappointed. Why? Because though our circumstances may be changed, we ourselves are still the same and so are those around us.

Which is why we find ourselves so disappointed when billions are poured into places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, only to see the continuation of violence and hate and cruelty. You see, change that truly transforms society comes through changed hearts, not circumstances. And hearts change when they are restored to personal relationship with their Creator and heavenly Father through the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

When God promised restoration to an idolatrous, wicked Israel, He described it this way: "I will give you a new heart . . . I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26). When enough individual hearts change from hate to love, cruelty to kindness, greed to selflessness, their society will never be the same.

These thoughts come to mind as I have been putting together the most recent issue of our ministry magazine. One article comes from the Congo. If you've followed events of recent years there, the violence and chaos make Afghanistan and Somalia seem like Paradise. Africa’s second largest country after Sudan, roughly one-quarter the size of the United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, is one of the most naturally wealthy regions on Earth with rubber, diamonds, gold, oil and numerous other mineral reserves.
As memorialized in the Joseph Conrad classic 'Heart of Darkness', human greed and brutality has kept its people among the planet's poorest from the days of slave raids and a colonial era characterized by forced labor and horrific working conditions to the vicious dictators and rebel fighting of its independence era. All-out civil war in recent years has resulted in more than five million dead. News headlines are a constant succession of atrocities, 'boy soldiers' now a dictionary entry. Most foreign ministry and aid organizations have been forced out of the country. Christian hospitals, printing presses, church buildings and schools were largely destroyed.
But though buildings will burn, a changed heart is unstoppable. In the midst of horror and darkness, Congolese Christians are still holding high the light of Christ's love and hope. Which brings me to that article I was editing. A friend, the subject of the article, spent many years in DRC with our ministry organization before having to leave for health reasons. A few months ago she received a letter from Congolese churches she'd worked with, asking for 15,000 sets of teaching material covering the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ--in Bengala and Swahili!
It seemed a tall order. How to get it published, much less into a country where travel was still almost at a stand-still. But God began to open doors. A Kenyan Christian publishing house took on the project. $10,000 were donated for printing costs. An African ministry that uses 4-wheel-drive vehicles to carry aid and the Good News to more inaccessible regions of Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and DRC agreed to transport the materials for no cost.

It gives me goose-bumps to think that right now those 15,000 series on the life of Christ are flowing into the Congo. Children and adults are learning of a God who loved them so much He left the splendor of heaven to walk the dusty streets of a war-torn world. To set an example of how to love each other and forgive enemies. To give His own life on a cross to take our sins on Himself and pay the price for our redemption and restoration to our Creator.
If those children and adults will but listen, it just might do more to change the Congo than all the guns and U.N. peacekeepers and aid packages. And so I pause to pray for the impact of those small, simply-printed green volumes--and a people crying out for a hope of change.

Change a heart, change a nation.

1 comment:

  1. Jeannette,
    Your comments about change is right on target. All during our presidential campaigns no one suggested that change should come from within, from a changed heart for the LORD. Thank you for pointing out that most important missing link.

    I confess I often forget about the sufferings of people in other countries, and thank you for reminding me to pray for them, as well.

    God bless,
    Janet Rockey