Sunday, October 18, 2009

What to Wear When Awarded $5,000


But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts,he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:25, ESV)

When my girlfriend, Jody, called me to verify my contact information in the spring of 2009, I laughed at her. "Where should I have them contact you when you win the prize?", she probed matter-of-factly. You see, little did I know that Jody was responding to God's repeated prompting to nominate SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES for the WORLD MAGAZINE/American Bible Society's Hope Award for Effective Compassion. Because of her faithful response, SNAPPIN' was one of nine organizations, chosen out of hundreds nationwide, to be interviewed for a special article series run in in conjunction with the award. Subsequently, the ministry received the humbling honor of becoming one of the three finalists who were flown to Arlington, Texas to be recognized at a banquet, receiving a $5,000 check towards furthering the work of the ministry.

While the trip to Texas was exciting, it all felt so surreal to me. While I appreciated Jody's willingness to nominate us, there was no way I thought we would receive such recognition. After all, there are countless worthy ministries across the nation doing the hard work of loving people in Jesus' name. Organizations, I thought, far worthier than SNAPPIN' to be applauded. After all, we're small and officed in a virtually unheard of suburban community. Once again, God proved that His thoughts are not my thoughts!

In Texas, prior to the 5:30 PM reception and dinner, three concurrent workshops were held, each with one speaker from WORLD and one speaker from ABS. While all three had appealing topics, I felt that the one entitled "Bringing Hope to the Poor through Righteous Justice" was most fitting with the ministry work we are doing. I wanted to learn more, and the speakers did not disappoint. Founder of Winning Our World (WOW JAMS), Stephen Tavani, shared the broader vision of loving people to Christ by sharing what his ministry is doing throughout the country. Going to the most shattered neighborhoods in America, WOW imparts hope by meeting people's practical needs (food, rocking neglected children, haircuts, family portraits, and much more). While they are meeting these needs, they also share the Good News through fun activities (music, pie launching, allowing kids to dress up as what they want to be when they grow up & taking home a photo of themselves in those dress-ups, etc). Lives experience real and lasting transformation through these loving acts of kindness. This gives more impact to Tavani's admonition to move from being mere hearers of the Word to actual doers of the Word. (James 1:22) "The time for talk is over. It's time to move into action."

Equally riveting was Marvin Olasky, Editor-In-Chief of WORLD and provost at The King's College in NYC. He clearly contrasted the difference between what the world currently terms "social justice" with what the Lord defines as true justice. He unmasked the pervasive cultural lie that all truths are equal by sharing how implausible that belief really is. He revealed how insufficient government is at dispensing this type of justice through a generic framework. Olasky shared what God commands His church to demonstrate in the wider world around us.

As if listening to the wisdom of these two men weren't enough, a lasting impression was left by the reception and dinner to follow. Attendees were able to view table displays from the three finalists chosen for the Hope Award and personally speak to the ministry leaders. What a fabulous exchange took place during the reception as people shared their own stories, satisfied their curiosities and reported to one another the variety of ways God is working! The post-dinner program further included wise insights from gentlemen like Simon Barnes, Executive Vice President of the American Bible Society, and Nickolas Eicher, Publisher of WORLD discussing their efforts not only to share the Good News, but to leave a lasting legacy of hope to a hurting and confused world.

A panel discussion featuring all of the workshop presenters had high impact as well. David Kinnaman, President & Strategic Leader of The Barna Group truly set the tone for the forum when he shared that statistically, divorce rates, alcoholism and abuse amongst Christians is no different than in the rest of the world. The subsequent questions and answers wrestled with how to impact those around us for the good and create positive change, especially within the believing community. Powerful comments like, "share stories like Jesus did, " "start with examining yourself, " "both sons in the story of the prodigal were sinful," and "share the good report," all spurred the audience on to a transformed life that demonstrates the difference that being a disciple of Christ makes. The entire event left the willing soul ready to leap into action.

I began preparing for this once-in-a-lifetime event by wondering what to wear. I left it, motivated, knowing resolutely what to wear! What do you wear when you are awarded $5,000? Put on a teachable spirit, accompanied by listening ears, a heart that loves, eyes that see, and a willingness to serve. If you do, your apparel will help you depart as a person who will never quite be the same again.

*Podcasts of the workshops from the Hope Awards will be made available via podcast the first week of November at www.worldmag.com.

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