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Jesus’ Economy

  • What is a Soul Worth?

    by Kriselle Dawson

    What value do you place on a human life? Can you even name a price? Since Jesus died to save each one, then aren’t all of infinite worth?

    It was a cool, wet evening in Lae, Papua New Guinea. I was relaxing at home with my husband when my cell phone began to ring. Answering the phone, I listened carefully as my guard told me in broken English that his little girl (my namesake baby, Kriselle) was very sick and had fainted. Given the wet weather and the risks of driving at night around Lae, I asked him hesitantly if he wanted us to drive as close as we could to where he lived and take the little girl to the hospital, or whether he would prefer to watch her through the night and take her to the hospital in the morning if necessary. He assured me that he thought it would be okay to wait until morning, and we hung up.

    The next morning as I was washing the breakfast dishes, my neighbor came rushing into my kitchen. He informed me that our guard and his wife were at my house, and that baby Kriselle had died in the night. My heart sank and a million thoughts raced through my mind. I should have done more. I should have insisted we take her to the hospital last night. Why on earth did I let a bit of rain and fear deter me?

    Fortunately, there was a happy ending to this story. I sorrowfully accompanied my neighbor outside to greet my guard and his wife. Strangely enough, the child in his arms looked just about the right age to be baby Kriselle. Yes, she was sick and needed medical attention, but she most certainly was not dead yet.

    It seemed there was a misunderstanding. In Tok Pisin (the common trade language in Papua New Guinea, which has more than 850 languages) the word “dai” (pronounced “die”), refers to unconsciousness, but the phrase “dai pinis,” refers to death. My neighbor had simply failed to differentiate between the temporary and permanent forms of “dai.”

    But this incident did cause me to think seriously about the value I place on a human life, and how I determine and express that value. It also made me realize the vast difference between my system and God’s system of determining human worth. God sent his Son Jesus in the form of a human baby to rescue the volatile and ungrateful bunch that we are. The delivery of Jesus in a stable was risky—just think of the potential for infection. And then while still tiny, he was at risk of being slaughtered by a maniacal king. And in the prime of his life, he was tortured and murdered by the very same people he came to save. Jesus held nothing back in his mission to save lost humanity.

    “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:4–8 ESV).

    How can we apply Jesus’ approach and value system to our own situations? What kind of risks (personal, financial, or other) are we prepared to take in order to contribute to God’s work?

    I challenge you to hold nothing back. Put it all on the line. Every soul is of infinite worth and the rewards are literally out of this world!

    Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus' Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

  • Lessons from the Solomon Islands and a Poor Widow

    By Kriselle Dawson

    I have never had a more humbling experience than nine years ago when I visited the Solomon Islands for ten days. We were to spend our mornings renovating classrooms for a private school on the remote island of Kolombangara. I was on the painting committee. Each afternoon we would travel either on foot or by boat to a different village where we would present the gospel (in Pidgin) through song, drama, a puppet show, object lesson, sermonette, and short health talk.

    Before we embarked on our journey we were advised by the coordinators of the trip to buy a small toy or gift to have on hand in case someone gave us a gift—as the appropriate response was to give something in return. Some went out and bought $2 packs of ten clip-on koalas, a cheap and invariably Australian souvenir. I went out and bought two hideously gaudy and colorful stuffed children’s toys. And off we went on our journey.

    Our first stop was Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. It was here that I got my first glimpse of how stingy I was. I don't remember much of our time in Honiara, but I do remember a fabulous spread of fresh tropical fruits, and our first gift exchange. With their incredibly small means, the locals had purchased for each member of our group a printed Solomon Islands “lava lava” (sarong) and t-shirt, and had made each of us a beautiful frangipani lei. Then, out came our tiny, cheap, and altogether useless clip-on koalas and stuffed toys to give in return. I hope I never forget the lesson I learned that day on generosity from my impoverished Solomon Islander friends.

    A Lesson from an Impoverished Widow 

    It had been a tough few years. First, her husband had died. Then, the drought and famine had come. She could no longer provide for herself and her son. She had been rationing the last of their resources for weeks, yet still there was no rain. They were growing weaker and sicker. She knew that the last little cake she baked would be the final meal for her little family, and then she and her son would die. 

    As she gathered sticks for the fire over which she would cook her last meal, a disheveled but well-fed looking stranger approached her. “Please may I have a little water to drink?” asked the man. As she moved to oblige his request he asked yet one more thing: “Please may I also have a little bread to eat?”

    She turned around in horror. A million thoughts raced through her mind. How could she possibly give to this stranger what was to be her son's final meal before he died? How could she face her son, knowing that his belly was rumbling, and his cheeks were so hollow and pale? Yet Middle Eastern hospitality dictated that she oblige her guest’s request. In her anguish she stammered, “As Yahweh your God lives, I don't have a cake, but a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug. Behold I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and bake it for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” There, she had said it, her desperation and abject poverty laid bare.

    The man responded, “Don't be afraid. Go and do as you have said, but first bake a little cake for me. Yahweh, the God of Israel, has assured me that the jar of flour and jar of oil shall not run out until he sends rain on the earth again.” The widow of Zarepath stepped out in faith, heeded Elijah’s words, and her faith and generosity were rewarded. She and her son lived.

    (The story of the widow of Zarepath is found in 1 Kings 17:7–24)

    What the Bible Says About Generosity

    There are many biblical passages that talk about generosity—here are just a few of them;

    “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).

    “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).

    “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:24–25).

    I pray that you too will learn the blessing of giving abundantly.

    All Bible references are in ESV

    Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus' Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

  • Prayer Unlocks the Power of Imagination

    by John D. Barry

    Imagination is a gift from above. It is imagination that gives us the power to see a slum as a city with paved streets. It is imagination that allows us to see our world as it is meant to be. And it is prayer that unlocks the power of imagination.

    The biblical dreamers—like Daniel and John the Evangelist—saw their world not as it was, but as it could be. Daniel’s God-given ability to see beyond the present moment—and God’s faithfulness to answer his prayers—resulted in a king writing to “all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth … ‘I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:25–26). Prayer changes hearts, even the hearts of powerful kings. With the power of prayer, our great God is made known around the world.

    Daniel shared his message about his God subtly, mainly through his actions (at least in the beginning of his ministry). By comparison, John the Evangelist shared his message loudly, through writing. Both acts are necessary in our work for God.

    John the Evangelist envisioned a better world—where all would be made new by Christ (Revelation 21). John’s message has inspired thousands upon thousands. It is prayer that made John available to receive such a splendid message.

    Prayer enables us to imagine our world renewed. Prayer helps us see God’s vision for the world: we see what isn’t yet, but should be.

    Imagining a better future for the world can (and should) only happen through prayer. As the leader of Jesus’ Economy, which is dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world, it is my job to envision a better world. With developing world leaders, we at Jesus’ Economy envision what could be (rather than what is). Imagination coupled with prayer should drive this entire process (and really the entire process of our lives).

    Right now, I’m imagining renewal in Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world, where few have heard the name of Jesus. Jesus’ Economy is raising funds to renew hope, hearts, and homes in Bihar. We plan to empower 40 women through microloans, drill 18 water wells, train and send out 18 indigenous church planters, and establish a medical clinic for the impoverished. (You can see how we’re doing this here.) But this process, like many things God calls us to, requires diligence and trust; it requires prayer. This is just one example of how God is calling me to dream with him; how is he calling you?

    I am sure that you have something (or someone) you’re praying for. As you’re asking the Lord to answer your prayer—living in the in-between of the prayer and the answer—remember its value. Not all investments pay off, but the investment of prayer always does. So although it may feel bleak now, it won’t always be.

    Let’s pray together for God’s kingdom to come and for the Lord’s will to be done (Matt 6:7–15). Let’s pray for God’s kingdom to be present in our lives and the lives of people all around the world. Let’s especially pray for that in Bihar, India, and among all the impoverished places of the world.

    Let’s place our hope in Christ. And let’s imagine the world as Christ sees it—acting upon his dreams of a better world.

    John D. Barry is the volunteer CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.

  • Charity, Micro-Finance, and the Bible

    by Kriselle Dawson

    The workers were hot, dusty, and tired. It had been an exhausting and productive morning gathering the barley harvest. The workers were only now taking a break in the shade to enjoy some refreshment. The landowner came by to visit with his employees, and after greeting them, he inquired about a foreign young woman he noticed working in his field.

    The servant in charge explained that she was the young daughter-in-law of Naomi, who had returned to Israel with her. Ruth had spent the entire morning gathering grain in the sweltering sun, so her and Naomi would not starve.

    This entire situation is contextualized by the law of the land in Ruth’s lifetime: In Leviticus 23:22, the Lord instructs the Israelites not to harvest right into the corners of their fields, nor to gather the grain leftover after a harvest. Instead, the extra was to be a provision for the poor. Ruth knew that the landowner, Boaz, would honor the law and welcome her and let her glean after him.

    Boaz rewarded Ruth's diligence by instructing her to remain with his work crew, partake of their water, and even told his workers to leave extra grain for her to gather as they harvested. This might not have been micro-financing, but it was Boaz giving the impoverished a helping hand to rise above their circumstances.

    My Experience Helping Those Who Multiply the Effort

    While I was serving in Papua New Guinea, I was alarmed by one of my guard’s approach to money. He was in so much debt that he found it awfully difficult to pay back the money he owed—so difficult that he could hardly survive on his remaining funds until the next payday. Meanwhile, other guards were making a profit by “selling” a large portion of their paycheck to vulnerable guards—requiring the money in full plus 30% interest returned next payday (two weeks). The loans were small and the terms ridiculous, but our guard was just getting himself deeper and deeper into trouble. In fact, on one occasion he showed up late to work unrecognizable because of a severe beating he had been given. He claimed that strangers had assaulted him in the street, but his story didn't add up, and the other guards all acted strangely.

    I decided to do two things to help our guard get out of strife. First, we offered him short-term loans with no interest, hoping it would help keep his debts from spiraling out of control. Second, I bought him a manual sewing machine, some fabric, and notions land, and then proceeded to teach him to sew. After all, he spent his days or nights sitting under my house with nothing better to do, and I figured his wife could sell the garments made at the market. They could use the profits to replenish the consumables and save or spend the remainder. He turned out to be a quick and careful learner and quickly turned out a couple garments. Unfortunately, that was where the business venture died. He continued to get himself into awful debts, and eventually got himself fired for theft.

    By contrast, my Haus meri (maid) was much more savvy when it came to money and survival. (It was expected by the society that I have a maid.) Each time we went on furlough, I would give her the money she would ordinarily have earned weekly as one lump sum. If my guard had been given such money, it would have been spent quick as a flash, but my Haus meri would invest it. Each time she would go to the main market in town and buy peanuts in bulk. She would then take them home and sell them little by little at the small market close to her home. This way her money was not only rationed during the time we were away, but also earned her a profit.

    Opening Our Hands to the Impoverished

    Providing micro-finance to the impoverished will never be easy, but it certainly gives those who use money wisely the opportunity to rise above their circumstances. When we are blessed with the things that sustain our lives, we should open our hands to the world—letting the impoverished come behind us and gather what they need.

    The same Law that Boaz held to also says:

    “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be” (Deuteronomy 15:7–8 ESV).

    The story of Ruth as related above comes from Ruth 1–2.

    Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus' Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

  • About Jesus’ Economy

    Articles provided by Jesus' Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. In each community Jesus' Economy serves, they offer church grants, microloans, and meet basic needs. To fund life transformation, Jesus' Economy provides an online fair trade shop.