Monday, July 30, 2007

MAHONEY HAS KAHONIES!

Your missionary to Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, Rob Schenck, reporting:

Pardon the minor vulgarity in the title of this post, but one of my closest friends and mission partners, Rev. Pat Mahoney, and two other guys I hang out with a lot (and share many deeply meaningful ministry experiences with), Troy Newman and Gary Cass, along with others, will return this week from leading an historic prayer mission to Iraq. This just may be the gutsiest missionary undertaking by anyone I know personally. My wife Cheryl would probably tell you that my sortie into Lebanon at the height of its civil war 25 years ago runs a close second, but I’m not sure. There is surely no more dangerous place on earth than Baghdad, and that’s exactly where Pat and his team of five went.

I supported Pat in his efforts, but from a safe distance of 6211 miles—staying right here in relatively secure Washington, DC! My job was to enlist prayer and badly needed financial support. You’ve probably read a couple of E-mails from me on this. Some people have asked what this or any such international activity has to do with Faith and Action. I answer this in part during my video interview with Pat. (You can view it at our website, http://www.faithandaction.org/.) But to say more, America has no bigger spiritual, moral or security problem than radical, politicized and anti-western Islamists. Being here in Washington has allowed Pat and me and many others to engage diplomats from Islamic countries—and even to befriend some, leading to opportunities like this one to counteract this dangerous poison by demonstrating Christian love, truth and concern.

Working in Washington also leads inevitably to opportunities to work with issues related to religious liberty around the world. As believers, we should all pray for and help fellow Christians who suffer in restrictive Islamic lands. Simply being Americans gives Rev. Mahoney and me, and any of us, a critical advantage in advocating for persecuted believers around the world. I do this formally through my board membership at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. It was through the Institute that I first went to Morocco and later to Sudan and Darfur.

Justifying this for me is almost a no-brainer. First, I have always felt called to a wider burden then simply the borders of our own country. I spent 15 years as a missionary evangelist, preaching the Gospel and directing various ministries of mercy in 40 countries. I founded Operation Serve International (OSI), a Christian humanitarian relief group that shares “the love of Christ in word and deed.” We started by reaching out to the real felt needs of the children, women and men living in the vast municipal garbage dumps around Mexico City, later branching out to similar populations in Cairo, Egypt. When I relinquished leadership of OSI back in the mid 90’s, my successor, the Reverend Dr. Sameh Sadik and his wife, Connie, took the ministry to new heights and new places. (Learn more about OSI at http://www.operationserve.org/.)

There’s another deeply personal aspect to all this: My daughter, Anna, is now living in Moroccan Sahara, directing a computer literacy school for native Sahrawi women. It doesn’t get any more personal than that!

I say all this to say it is impossible to isolate ourselves as Christians or as Americans. The Gospel mandate itself is to preach to all nations. (In the original Greek, read that, “all ethnic groups.”) “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.” We don’t need to go further than this, but we can. The eyes of the world look to America for everything from religion, to morality to blue jeans. We cannot ignore that fact. God has uniquely blessed America with world leadership. American Christians are uniquely positioned because of that platform.

Good for Pat Mahoney and company to have known and acted on this. Good for them for obeying what I believe was the prompting of the Holy Spirit to go to Iraq to witness Christian love and truth to the leadership of that beleaguered and war-torn country. Good for them for presenting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki with the Ten Commandments plaque donated by Faith and Action. As Rev. Mahoney told the Prime Minister during the ceremony, “The eternal truths contained in the Commandments are shared by our two cultures. They bring us together rather than drive us apart.” Good for Pat for encouraging suffering Christians in that country by meeting with them, praying for them and asking how all of us rich and comfortable Christians in the West can help them. And good for Pat and his team for taking the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ to such a bad news place. If the Gospel works in Baghdad, it will work everywhere!

Please take time to join me in thanking God for the safe return of Pat and his team. And please take time to make a contribution at our website to offset their considerable travel expenses. One thing we’ve learned from all this: It ain’t cheap to go to the most dangerous place on earth—it could’ve cost a lot more than money. Thank God it didn’t—this time!

- Rob Schenck

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