Today’s edition of The Oklahoman newspaper featured an article about Whiz Kids Oklahoma, which is a non-profit, faith-based tutoring and mentoring program for at-risk elementary schoolchildren. Ashley Greer, a Whiz Kids teacher liaison in OKC, said this about the program: “To the core of it, it’s all about the kids. I think there’s programs that get caught up in money or caught up in testing and all these things, but Whiz Kids is all about the kids. It’s about caring for these kids and swooping them up and just helping them and loving them and pushing them forward.”
The congregation I serve, Alameda Church of Christ, has been involved in the Whiz Kids program for many years. Every Monday, a group of dedicated volunteers leaves our parking lot in one of our church vans and travels from Norman to Oklahoma City to teach kids to read, to inspire them to dream, and to show them the love of Christ. Recently, this group of volunteers started a tutoring program at our church on Wednesday nights to serve our immediate community since Whiz Kids is not currently in Norman. The response has been amazing. We even have schools calling us to see if we will partner with their students and parents. Since we are located in a poorer section of Norman, our dream is to give the precious children in our community the important skill of reading so that they can advance in school and achieve their own dreams someday.
And all of this – Whiz Kids and Alameda’s tutoring program – is motivated by a desire to do the work of Christ in this world.
The success of these programs represents what I see from Christians every day. While others entertain themselves with debate, Christians all over the world are hard at work solving the problems of the world, one person and ministry at a time – a point that was made by columnist Nicholas Kristoff in today’s edition of The New York Times. Writing about a medical missionary he recently met, Dr. Stephen Foster who runs a rural hospital in Angola, Kristoff said the following:
“Today, among urban Americans and Europeans, ‘evangelical Christian’ is sometimes a synonym for ‘rube.’ In liberal circles, evangelicals constitute one of the few groups that it’s safe to mock openly. Yet the liberal caricature of evangelicals is incomplete and unfair. I have little in common, politically or theologically, with evangelicals or, while I’m at it, conservative Roman Catholics. But I’ve been truly awed by those I’ve seen in so many remote places, combating illiteracy and warlords, famine and disease, humbly struggling to do the Lord’s work as they see it, and it is offensive to see good people derided.
I must say that a disproportionate share of the aid workers I’ve met in the wildest places over the years, long after anyone sensible had evacuated, have been evangelicals, nuns or priests. Likewise, religious Americans donate more of their incomes to charity, and volunteer more hours, than the nonreligious, according to polls. In the United States and abroad, the safety net of soup kitchens, food pantries and women’s shelters depends heavily on religious donations and volunteers.
The next time you hear someone at a cocktail party mock evangelicals, think of Dr. Foster and those like him. These are folks who don’t so much proclaim the gospel as live it. They deserve better.”
People like Dr. Foster, and there are many, don’t do what they do to be praised in newspapers, win the accolades of their peers, or become rich and famous. They serve out of a sense of calling that is embedded in the Christian faith. But, every now and then it’s nice to have someone of Kristoff’s public standing point out the reality of what Christians are doing rather than focus on the caricature of Christianity that has been drawn by society.
As minister of 20+ years, I am fully aware that some Christians live as hypocrites and some do and say things that are contrary to the gospel of Christ which invites scorn and ridicule. Every religion and worldview has this same problem. And people tend to choose to judge a religion or worldview by its worst “adherents” and moments instead of its best.
So today, as I performed by daily consumption of the news, it was nice to see some in the media highlighting the best of Christianity.
It also reminded me of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
And of what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:12, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”