Help for Kenyan Girls facing FGM and FEM

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For more than half a century I’ve known Flora and Ray Tacquard. They live in Spring, Texas, a northwest Houston suburb. Ray and Flora are faithful members of Trinity Klein Lutheran Church in Spring, which has been involved for over a decade in ministry among the people of Kenya.

Kenyan Schools of Hope (KSH) is an organization that provides ministry to children from the Maasai tribe, who live in the African countries of Kenya and Tanzania. Ray chairs the KSH Board of Directors and Flora is Rescued Girls Coordinator. Here’s what they say about KSH:

Kenyan Schools of Hope believes all children should have a place to feel safe, be loved, and have the opportunity to reach their potential. We base our efforts on the great commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” to fulfill the great commission “go and make disciples.”

Though prohibited by law, it is estimated that 70% of young girls from the Maasai tribe in Kenya still undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Forced Early Marriage (FEM).   

Normally “cutting” is done under secrecy to girls 5-17 years of age in unhygienic conditions using crude instruments. Sterilization and anesthesia are seldomly used. The results of this brutality are obvious. Sometimes even death occurs. Following FGM, FEM is immediate, no matter the age of the girl. 

With no choice of when or whom she marries, young girls are sold for a dowry of cows or goats, often to an older man as his third or fourth wife. The possibility of attending school ends forever.

After offering free vision clinics among the Maasai people of Kenya for over ten years, we were approached by two Chiefs and other Kenyan leaders to build a rescue center for these vulnerable girls. The dormitory/hostel is presently housing 21 girls with more expected to be welcomed soon. The classrooms will be completed in March (that’s this month), and the school is currently open with 29 students in temporary accommodations.   

As part of the education offered at Kenyan Schools of Hope, the saving love of Jesus is paramount. In fact, the Board of Directors in Kenya named the school Osiligi Lutheran School.  Osiligi means “hope” in the language of the Maasai.

Partners in this significant mission outreach are welcome. Whether individual, church, business, or organization, the opportunity is there for you to help change the life of a girl forever.

Donations may be made at kenyanschoolsofhope.org or checks may be mailed to Kenyan Schools of Hope, 5201 Spring Cypress Rd., Spring, TX 77379. For more information, send an email to hope4kenyangirls@att.net. We pray God will touch your heart to support Kenyan Schools of Hope, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization.

I encourage you to add your support, as the Spirit of God moves you.

Donald J. Trump

Donald John Trump is the 45th President of the United States of America. As is true of most leaders, he is loved by some and hated by others. Frankly, there are times when my respect for the office enables me to live with some of his most unattractive personal and political attributes.

For example, I dislike the use of derogatory rhetoric to criticize opponents. Is it really necessary to use terms like “Crooked Hillary” (Clinton) or “Lyin’ Ted” (Cruz) or “Crazy Joe” (Biden)? Others like “Pocahontas” (Elizabeth Warren) or “Little Marco” (Rubio) or “Little Rocket Man” (Kim Jong Un) or “Low Energy Jeb” (Bush) are perhaps not quite as egregious. But necessary? Or helpful?

There are also certain narcissistic characteristics manifested in President Trump’s verbal and non-verbal actions that are unbecoming a man who occupies the highest office in the land. Narcissism is “the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s idealized self-image and attributes.” The term originated from Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. It describes someone who thinks of himself more highly than he ought. Egotistical is another descriptive term.

Other points of disagreement and dislike could be added, but these are sufficient for now.

On the other side of the coin, there have been many positive accomplishments during President Trump’s first two years in office. Surf the Internet and you’ll find long lists of such achievements. One such list identifies 289 accomplishments in 18 categories, including economic growth, jobs, business expansion, deregulation, tax cuts, health care, law and order, border security, international trade, energy, foreign policy, defense, veterans’ affairs, etc. Those achievements are obviously arguable.

In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address President Trump addressed a litany of issues, both foreign and domestic. For me and for many, one of the highlights of the one hour, 21 minute speech, interrupted by a reported tally of 102 standing ovations (mostly Republicans), was his emphasis on the sanctity of life. Here are his most pertinent and powerful statements on that topic:

  • “Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world.”
  • “To defend the dignity of every person, I am asking the Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the late-term abortion of children who can feel pain in the mother’s womb.”
  • “Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life, and let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: All children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of God.”

Whether you’re one who loves President Trump or has the opposite feeling, I hope you join me in thankfulness for the positive statements he made about life to a national and global audience.

Abortion Abomination

Last week I saw an article on Facebook titled Faith Leaders to Bless Abortion Clinic. In my opinion, it’s an abomination. Here are portions of the article, dated October 24, 2018:

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“Faith leaders” will be gathering next month for an abortion clinic blessing in Columbus, Ohio.

“Anti-abortion advocates do not have the monopoly on faith or God,” the notice from Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio reads. “Many faith leaders and people of faith hold that accessing and providing abortions are good and godly decisions.” The title of the notice? “Holy Ground: Blessing the Sacred Space of Decision.”

“During this clinic blessing, participants will gather with local faith leaders and guests to ask for God’s blessing upon Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio’s East Columbus Surgical facility, the abortion providers and staff, and all those who pass through the center,” the notice adds.

The event also will feature interfaith blessings, prayers, and testimonies about receiving and providing abortion care. The “clinic blessing will create space for progressive voices of faith to speak boldly in support of comprehensive reproductive health care, especially abortion.”

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In addition, a recent decision by the state of New York protects women’s access to abortion, even if the historic case decision Roe v. Wade is overturned.

On Jan. 22, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said: “Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion. With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body.”

Arguing against this measure, NY State Assembly Rep. Nicole Malliotakis said: “We need to be honest with the public and say that this bill does not simply codify Roe v. Wade… what this bill does is expand abortion up to birth and the third trimester.”

New York’s Catholic Bishops, led by Cardinal Timothy Nolan, said: “Our Governor and legislative leaders hail this new abortion law as progress. This is not progress. Progress will be achieved when our laws and our culture once again value and respect each unrepeatable gift of human life, from the first moment of creation to natural death.”

My comment? A newly forming embryonic fetus is a life, not just a part of its mother’s body. Upholding the sanctity of life and helping support those whose personal and financial circumstances make it difficult to carry a child to full term is a Christian responsibility.

Necessities of Life and Financial Priorities

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Before getting into this topic, here are two recently published books for your consideration:

  • How Long, O Lord, How Long? by Dale Kreienkamp (Tenth Power) — The unemployment journey
  • Life, Love, Faith, Family by Jerry Kieschnick (CPH) — Perspectives from a veteran church leader

Dale, a friend of mine, shares both practical and spiritual insights on life after losing a job. Most of you know the other author. My book is available at www.cph.org/p-32843-life-love-faith-family-perspectives-from-a-veteran-church-leader.aspx. Dale’s is at howlongolord.org. Take a look at both.

Providing the necessities of life requires paying attention to financial realities people face every day. Should I buy the Lexus or the Lamborghini? The Maserati or the Mazda? The Starbucks Toasted White Chocolate Mocha for $6.00 or the McDonald’s Peppermint Mocha for $2.00? You get the picture.

Perhaps except for the wealthiest among us, people are cost conscious, to a greater or lesser degree. But many people around the world have never even thought about decisions like those above. They are concerned about the necessities of life and can’t even begin to think about the luxuries, even if they knew they existed. In many cases that is highly doubtful.

In a recent sermon I said: Making decisions about what to eat and what to wear are first world issues. Many folks in third world countries have only one choice and it’s not made from a full cupboard or a multi-wardrobe closet. Their choice is often: “Do I beg for food on the street or go to the dump to try to fill my empty stomach?” And “Do I wear my one pair of pants and my one shirt before or after I wash them in the Ganges River?” By the way, the levels of fecal coliform bacteria from human waste in the waters of that river near Varanasi are more than 100 times the Indian government’s official limit.

The topic of necessities of life became even more vivid for me when I read an Aug. 25, 2018 article in The Wall Street Journal: Pet Insurance Not So Niche Anymore. It stated, among other things:

  • In 2017 Americans spent $17 billion on routine veterinary care for cats and dogs
  • Pet accidents or illnesses can greatly increase veterinary costs
  • The old method of repairing a dog’s torn cranial cruciate ligament (canine ACL) costs $1,200
  • Setting the bone and putting in a plate to make the knee as good as new costs $4,500
  • In the face of such rising costs, Americans spent $1 billion for pet insurance in 2017
  • These policies cover only 1% of the 94.2 million cats and 89.7 million dogs Americans own
  • With 12 million puppies and kittens being born every year, that number will explode

While it may be difficult to consider all pets a necessity of life, they are often very significant in people’s lives. For example, service dogs, comfort dogs, seeing-eye and guide dogs, owned by people who live alone, especially the elderly, are among the animals who play a very important and necessary role. Cat owners could probably articulate better than I how the feline species fills significant roles as well.

Puppies and kittens are God’s gifts to mankind. Yet spending billions to care for them in the face of worldwide poverty causes one to scratch one’s head about necessities of life and financial priorities. That’s particularly true as Christmas approaches. Especially during this season, Terry and I are acutely aware of the people and possessions God has entrusted to our care. He has blessed us with the necessities of life and many of the wants. Thanking him as good stewards is our Christian privilege.

+George Herbert Walker Bush+

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On Friday, November 30, the 41st President of the United States died at the age of 94 years, five months, and 18 days. He was born in Milton, Mass., and died at home in Houston, Tex.

At the time of his death he was the third-longest-lived vice president, and the longest-lived president in U.S. history. Since the day he died, U.S. news sources have highlighted his career and family, including wife Barbara, who passed away earlier this year; son George W. Bush, 43rd U.S. President; and son Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor. George H.W.’s personal life was accentuated by boating and parachuting activities that extended into his ninth decade.

President Bush was raised in the Episcopal Church and expressed his faith publicly in numerous ways, including his Thousand Points of Light speech, his support for prayer in public schools, and his pro-life views. His faith was also reflected in the music he chose for the arrival of his body in Washington D.C. to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. The selections played by a military band were Beautiful Savior and A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

People of all ages and physical conditions waited for hours in the Washington cold to enter the Rotunda. Memorable sights were many, including a Boy Scout standing at attention and saluting for an extended period of time; 95-year old former U.S. Senator Robert Dole, in a wheelchair, with great effort standing and saluting the casket with a crippled left hand; and numerous world famous professional sports and political figures.

Yesterday the casket was moved to Washington National Cathedral for a memorial service clearly reflecting President Bush’s Christian faith. The service featured powerful Christ centered preaching, with numerous inspirational hymns and dynamic choral presentations. It was seasoned with both serious reflections and humorous comments from family members and political personalities.

Another memorial service will be held today at 10:00 a.m. CST at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. From there his body will be transported to College Station, Tex., where he will be laid to rest at the Bush Library on the campus of Texas A & M University next to his wife Barbara and their three-year-old daughter Pauline Robinson Bush (Robin), who died of leukemia 65 years ago.

Of particular note to me this week have been the broad and non-partisan expressions of respect and even love for this man, particularly at a time of hugely partisan political division in America. It was also quite encouraging to hear again the clear expressions of his Christian faith.

The New York Times reported: His [Bush’s] longtime friend and former Secretary of State, James A. Baker III, arrived at his Houston home on Friday morning to check on him. Mr. Bush suddenly grew alert, his eyes wide open. “Where are we going, Bake?” he asked. “We’re going to heaven,” Mr. Baker answered. “That’s where I want to go,” Mr. Bush said. Barely 13 hours later, Mr. Bush was dead.

Fox News Sunday reported: Baker, who called Bush his best friend, discussed his peaceful final day. “He had a very gentle and peaceful passing,” Baker said.  “They made arrangements for all of his children to call in to in effect tell him goodbye. His son former President George W. Bush called in to say ‘Dad, I love you, I will see you on the other side’ and President Bush said ‘I love you, too’ and those were his last words. He had a very gentle and easy passing, the kind we ought to all hope we have.”

Guy Benson, Political Editor for Townhall.com, concluded: Death is an inevitability, so perhaps this is the best way to go: Saying final, loving goodbyes to everyone who matters in your life before dying at a ripe old age, after living an incredibly full and consequential life. Bush was a war hero, a Congressman from Texas, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Republican National Committee Chairman, Director of the CIA, Vice President of the United States, and President of the United States.

And I add: “George Herbert Walker Bush, rest in peace. Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Acts of Nature

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Are you as weary as I am of the seemingly never ending hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, floods, fires, droughts, and earthquakes? Enough, already!

More important than our weariness is the loss experienced by those directly or indirectly affected by these powerful and destructive acts of nature. The list includes demolished homes and businesses, damaged or destroyed property and possessions, loss of life or limb.

These events are often called “acts of God” but almost always have human or meteorological causes. I wonder about the role of the God of the universe in the manifestation of power in the forces of nature. Obviously he allows such things to happen. But does he always cause them? Such quandaries belong in the category of questions to ask the Lord someday.

To be sure, examples of God acting through nature are found in the pages of Holy Scripture, most notably the great flood, undoubtedly the single most destructive event in world history. Yet we also know, on another occasion, that the Lord’s appearance to Elijah was not in a great and mighty wind, nor in an earthquake or fire, but in “a still, small voice.” 1 Kings 19:12

What then are we to do when hurricanes named Harvey or Katrina or Michael ravage communities and ruin lives? When fires in California turn assets into ashes? When torrential rainfall in Texas converts peaceful rivers into raging floodwaters?

We say “Lord, have mercy!” We do what we can to relieve the suffering of those directly impacted. We assist with picking up whatever pieces of their lives remain. We help rebuild and replace their property and possessions. And we do our best not to become weary in doing well. Gal. 6:9

“Republicans and Ex-Crackheads”

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When Terry and I are home, after dinner we sometimes turn on the TV and look for something worth watching. This past Monday we had done the first part of that routine but not yet the second. The TV was on but we were reading and hence paying no attention to program selection.

The channel on our screen was showing the 70th Emmy Awards. I looked up from my book after a few minutes and noticed two men, apparently co-hosts. Neither looked familiar to me. I later discovered that that they appear on Saturday Night Live, which we never watch.

Here’s how CBN News summarized a portion of a dialogue between these two co-hosts: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2018/september/emmys-host-says-only-white-republicans-and-ex-crackheads-thank-jesus

Hollywood’s biggest celebrities descended on New York City Monday night for the 70th Annual Emmy Awards. The show began with the usual political banter but it took a bad turn during Michael Che’s opening monologue with co-host Colin Jost when he took a jab at conservatives and a particular racial group.

“My mother is not watching,” Che said. “She says she doesn’t like watching white award shows because you guys don’t thank Jesus enough. That’s true. The only people … the only white people that thank Jesus are Republicans and ex-crackheads.”

Later in the evening, Best Supporting Actress winner Thandie Newton continued the theme about mocking winners who thank Jesus [telling] the crowd, “I don’t even believe in God, but I’m going to thank her tonight.”

One can only imagine the media furor that would have erupted had similarly derogatory comments been made in the same venue, by the same people, about Muslims or atheists.

Welcome to the Year of our Lord 2018. In some circles the Christian church no longer occupies the position of honor and respect it has enjoyed almost since the birth of America. I wonder how many Christians have responded in protest to NBC or whoever is responsible for the Emmy awards. I would hope such responses would be multitudinous yet reasonable and responsible.

St. Peter seems to encourage such with these words: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Frankly, a spirit of gentleness and respect is not easy when communicating with individuals who say the only people who thank Jesus are “Republicans and ex-crackheads.” Know what I mean?