As many of you know my time and energy have been taken up by the wonderful folks at the Gondor Ministry of Injustice. They came into our office in Minas Tirith and claimed we were breaking the law and threatened to throw us out of the country- a threat we took seriously since they had just thrown out another aid agency. My first thought was, 'Oh no Briar Bear, don't throw me in the briar patch!' Hey, do I want to spend another miserable cold winter in Gondor? Do I want to continue to beat my head against the wall that is Middle Earth? My wife and Legolas' wife began thinking of other places we could serve. Nice places. Places that had relatively clean running water and perhaps an actual economy. Of course, I also thought of the many folks who depend on us. We have three teams outside of Minas Tirith accessing the lost villages of Gondor for the first time. I was torn.
The news got worse. The Minister needed lots of money and we were going to pay it. We refused. Now, don't get me wrong. I have paid extortion before. It is the way of things, but there is a difference between understanding how a strange system works and being bullied by a thug. You can't do business with a thug and the Minister was looking quite thugish. We counter offered. We said we would do a good project for poor people in a village of his choosing. He thought that was a great idea. Yes, we could do that in addition to giving him $10,000. We said no. We began to think seriously about leaving Gondor. We began to make contingencies for the other team members. How could they stay? Could they switch to other agencies? Could they register seperately? We began looking into this. Then the Minister came down to $5000. We said no. I didn't trust this guy and I don't like being bullied.
Finaly, I had the conversation that I should have had from the beginning. I talked to the Boss.
Me- What do you want me to do?
Boss- You can go somewhere else if you want to.
Me- Yeah, but what do you want me to do?
Boss- There are lots of places you can go. Needy places.
Me- Yeah, but what do YOU want me to do.
Boss- I gave you the authority to reach the villages of Gondor.
Me- Ahh... right. So, I should stay?
Me- I take it that you want me in Gondor? Right, well you keep me here and I will stay here. I don't quit.
So, here I am. On Monday I got a call. They came down to $3000. I pushed the button and said, 'Yes, Howie I am taking the deal.' Two scriptures came to me right then. The first was Matthew 6 where Jesus says if someone takes your coat give him your cloak as well. The second where Peter asked Jesus about the Temple tax. Jesus tells Peter to pay the unjust tax by going fishing and giving the coin found in the fish's mouth. Very strange. The point I suppose is that Jesus wants us to go and make disciples. He will deal with corrupt Governments, that is not our job. We pay the authorities what they ask and we move on knowing that God Himself will provide. Really- and this is the hard thing for me- it is just pride that cries out against us losing our stuff. It's just stuff. He's got more and better. Today I went fishing and a guy gave me $3000. He told me he would be happy to be a fish. I am quite certain we underestimate how good and gracious and loving our God is. I will just say it this way, whatever you think He is, He's more. I will leave for Gondor on December 1st with my family and we look forward to seeing what our God has in store for the people of Gondor.