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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Merry Christmas

 
I baked yummy American style cakes for the Christmas party and they ate them all up.  I'm back for another personal update. My last one was after 6th months of being here, and I was having a tuff time. Now we've been here a year. And for me, Lori, things are much better. Conversations are flowing. We've made many good friends. We are helping with a church plant. The kids are involved in activities and ministry and inviting friends over. (Sigh) I am definately in a better place now. God brought me though, and I'm not saying life is easier now, but I am saying that I'm enjoying it more!
Oliver and Zeke have been taking Tennis lessons this whole year, and I started taking an early moring class everday, for the workout, and for anyone that knows me, I need regular excersize. So even that is so nice.
I've also gown fond of the visiting culture here. One must not wait for an invitation to someones house. Because inviting someone creates a lot of work. So they would prefere just pop in visits. That way if they don't have anything to serve, it's because they didn't know I was coming instead of that they didn't have the means to get something. If that makes sense. Anyway, I make visits to mainly the people in our blind assotiation. And I've been practicing reading Umbundo Bible passages by reading at our weekly blind association food distribution. So I have hopes of learning that difficult language in the coming year.
Anyway, here are two pictures from the Boa Vista Team Christmas party. First my handsome men and me, and next is the whole staff.


 
Next are picture from our blind association party. Finding donations from some stores and mainly churches and also from Boa Vista, we were able to give each person on our list, a large sack of goods to cook with and some clothes. This young man in the following picture is not on our list, but he came to read a Christmas devotion in brail for us. What an amazing man. He was able to attend and comlete his first year of, I guess it's our equivelent of college. And is looking for funds to return for another year. He is the one person we know that reads brail. We are so proud of him.
 
 
Below is a group of women called Project Ana, these women are always donating time and money to spread the Love of God. The were able to come up with many of our donations for the party.

 
Distributing sacks


A good friend of mine, Elvira, carring her very heavy sack on her head while being led by a guide. 

 
And finally are some pictures of a dinner party that I hosted, and I'm happy to say that having people over, has become a joy of mine, and I can also understand the conversations!! Yeay! One family we know from church and the other is the other is the only Angolan Opthalmologist in Benguela.
 
 

 
Anyway, thank you all for you prayers. And you can continue praying for John, his health has not been 100%, and it's taking a tole on him. So as we enter into a wonderful 4 week trip back to the States, we hope that he will regain his strength and be renewed for more hard work. We will be in Texas for Christmas and Nebraska for New Years, and stopping for a very short visit to our church in Somerville, Mass. Please contact me for a visit at loriclements@juno.com if I'm going to be in your city.
Below is our churches Nativity Scene.
God Bless you all and Merry Christmas!
 
With Love From Angola,
Lori


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Spiritual Blindness


During the course of this year we have spent a lot of time discussing our efforts to cure physical blindness. As terrible as the physical suffering is here from needless blindness there is a far more serious condition that afflicts Angolans and Americans alike—spiritual blindness.
Blind man being led by a young girl

I like Jesus’ perspective on spiritual blindness in His sermon on the mount as recorded in Matthew 6:19-23

19Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!


As an eye doctor I must say that for the longest time I didn’t get the connection between verses 19-21 and 22-23. Why was Jesus being so hard on blind people? Didn’t they have enough problems without Jesus saying they were full of darkness?
I’d like to analyze Jesus’ words. A blind person is physically in darkness and as such will be unable to navigate their physical surroundings without specialized training or guidance. You have heard the expression about people groping around in the darkness; well this is precisely Jesus' point. Pretty terrifying. In fact, surveys show, fear of blindness ranked up there with fear of death.
As terrible as physical blindness is Jesus goes on further to talk about the light within being dark and bringing a kind of internal darkness to be feared more than physical blindness.
So what is this light within that Jesus talks about?

I think the light Jesus is referring to is what we call your worldview, or how you perceive and relate to the world around you. A type of vision that guides every aspect of your life. Your worldview guides you as you make small decisions about where to spend your free time, what movies to watch, books to read. And especially it guides large decisions, such as where to live, employment, relationships, and resource management.
So you can see that if your inner vision, or spiritual sight, is blind you really are in bad shape for your life. You will be groping about in the darkness about all of life’s decisions, big and small. This is truly tragic.
Jesus is providing us in this passage with examples of inner lights or worldviews.

“Do not store up treasure in the world” he says. This is not an indictment against persons with a bank savings account or personal property. As missionaries we rely on the fact that God has blessed some of his people with resources and they are faithful with that and support His work around the globe.
Treasure is something different than simple currency. It is something that you value highly above other things in your life. For one it could be a bank account or stock portfolio, or house, others it could be personal beauty, reputation, prestige or success.
But when you place these temporary things at the center of your life it will blind you. The belief that material things will bring you security, happiness or fulfillment is the inner darkness, or spiritual blindness. Running after these things will leave you blind for all decisions in life. That’s not to say some good things may not happen to you if you are living as such, every once in a while even a blind squirrel finds a nut. But on the whole, for all big important decisions you will be without direction. Groping in the dark. Feeling that you are lost and without hope, particularly when one of these treasures is taken from you.

In stark contrast to this, Jesus presents a better way; to store up treasures in heaven. This is the cure for spiritual blindness. With our treasure in Heaven we will make decisions with all the guidance God can provide and navigate through this life in the way it was truly meant to be lived.
And this starts by having a life transforming relationship with Jesus that transforms every aspect of your life. Because faith in Jesus not only provides eternal security, but also provides the vision or worldview necessary to live the human life as it was intended.
When Jesus says that we are storing up treasures in heaven He is not suggesting that we are merely stockpiling for the great beyond, a type of life insurance policy that is only collectable on death. Yes, it is true, there is an eternity to be spent with our Creator in Heaven, this is something to be desired. But, this treasure is available now, in this life.  In the form of God’s sovereign provision, fruits of the spirit, the Holy Spirit Himself.
So how do we go about storing up treasures in heaven and curing spiritual blindness? I believe Jesus provides us with clear directions on how to ensure that we are living with the proper worldview. It is recorded in the book of Mark 12:30-31 as the greatest commandment

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

According to Dallas Willard we ought to “Invest your life in what God is doing, this treasure cannot be lost. Devote ourselves to the good of other people, all of whom God cares for deeply. Do your part to bring the love of Jesus to your world, wherever that may be.” In doing so, you can be assured that your inner light will be as bright as the heavens and will help bring light to the darkness of those suffering from spiritual blindness.

My good friend Dr Steve Collins in Angola tells this story of an elderly woman who he had performed a surgery on and frankly, it didn’t go very well, and she remained blind after the surgery. Dr Steve was very concerned about this and was apologizing profusely to the woman. She could tell that he was upset about this and said. “Doctor, you don’t need to worry about me. You see, I have a friend and His name is Jesus, do you know him? He tells me that everything is going to be ok and we can trust him”.  This is the type of attitude that we can have only when our worldview is aligned with the kingdom of heaven. The world may crash around us, but we are secure in His hands.

At Boa Vista I’m faced with physical blindness every day. Some I can cure. Many I cannot. However, for every person who is sitting in my exam chair I can offer hope. While it is certainly sad when a person loses their physical vision, we can offer them something of much greater value, hope in Jesus Christ. Saving knowledge of a life transforming relationship that will strip away the darkness from inside of their soul and replace it with the brilliance that is Jesus.

 

As you enter this Christmas season make sure that you are celebrating it with a clear spiritual vision.

 

God Bless you

John