Introduction: I would like for you all to meet Lavern & Rosanna Yoder. Rosanna is my cousin and I used to work with Lavern with Choice Books in Sacramento, CA. Lavern, Rosanna & their 3 children live in a 2 bedroom apartment in a 600+ apartment complex. Lavern’s have been dedicated to the kids there for years and they have been using their talents in having kid’s clubs, ESL classes, tutoring and more. All of this is run through their non-profit called Streetlight Christian Ministries. Head on over to their website to read what they do, sign up for their newsletter and more!! In working with them, I have been amazed with their dedication to the kids and in living the way God called them to live.
Is living in a 2 bedroom apartment in a city the calling for everyone to do? No, however my encouragement to you is to read this article with an open mind. Many of us have been sheltered to the point that we think it is crazy to live in the city. However, regardless of where we live, we can always learn from our neighbors in some way. They have a lot to teach us if we just let them.
When my wife and I got married and moved into an apartment complex in Sacramento, CA, my neighbors began to give me an education. Several years after this education began, I was reading the Bible and read the story Jesus told in Matthew 25 about the king and the servants who were given talents. It struck me how much I am like these servants and how I also have decisions to make regarding my talents.
Growing up, I never worried about my father coming home from work. Now I work with boys whose parents never came back to pick them up from daycare.
I took for granted that family gatherings are a fun time with my cousins until I talked with my neighbor and discovered that she won’t go to a family gathering for fear her uncle would try to harm her.
I didn’t know I had a safety net around me until my neighbor was evicted because her child was taken away by Child Protective Services, and she no longer had child support to pay for her apartment. Right now, I have dozens of people I could call, and they would send me $1,000 with almost no questions asked, if I had a legitimate need.
I grew up enjoying acapella 4-part harmony singing. I come from a musically inclined family and singing came almost naturally for me. Now I go visit elderly friends with a group to sing and they can’t believe how we “sing like angels”.
When my neighbor’s car wouldn’t start, I pulled jumper cables out of my trunk and helped them out. How did I learn that? I’m not really sure. I think I was born knowing how to do that.
My neighbor asked me, “Why do you work so hard? You don’t have to. That’s what the government is for.” But I know a secret. Work not only provides income, it also changes how I feel emotionally, physically, and in some ways spiritually. But I only know that because I was taught to work hard.
One of the first questions many Anabaptist people ask me is, “Is it safe to live where you live?” I have learned that safety is of the Lord. But it surely helps that I don’t do drugs or sleep around or drink or wander aimlessly at 3:00 AM. Those are personal decisions I make, but they are greatly influenced by my Anabaptist heritage.
When my wife and I were going out on our first date, no one had to take my wife aside and make sure she had pepper spray in case she needed it. It had never occurred to either of us that assaults are not unusual on first dates.
Sometimes when I travel to speak or go to a conference, I stay at a complete stranger’s house. I might even arrive after they are in bed. But they trust me because of my family or someone I know or their pastor. That is not normal!
My neighbors would line up down the sidewalk for my wife’s homemade cookies. One of our neighbors said, “When you start a bakery, I will come every day for a cinnamon roll!” Why does Rosanna know how to bake like that? She was taught by her mother.
Recently there was a knock on our door. When I opened it, there was a neighbor with a jacket. She wondered if Miss Rosanna would be able to sew extra patches on it since Rosanna sews her own clothes.
One of my Muslim neighbors is afraid something bad happened to her son because he went under a tree after dark. All the Muslims in my neighborhood know that demons are in the trees after dark. And so, she lives in fear. I am so thankful I don’t have to fear superstitions!
Several years ago, my phone rang. It was Life Matters, a ministry that works with people in apartments. We work with them in doing our kid’s club. The person on the other end asked if I knew how to garden. Well, I don’t really have a green thumb, but I know what a garden looks like and my parents had a garden. That is enough. The person says, “You and Rosanna seem like that kind of people.” So, now we are in charge of a community garden for anyone in Logan Park Apartments where we live.
The thing that I realize with many of these blessings is that my wife and I were not given the choice to be born where we were born. We did not choose to learn many of the skills we know. We have been handed a tremendous gift. It is a terrible shame when we throw these good things out just because we don’t understand the value of our heritage.
I want to be fair. My children are growing up in a very different environment than I did. They will have a very different view of the world than I did. They are learning very different things than I learned. We don’t talk about cows very much around our dinner table. We discuss people and cars and who was at the park and what tricks you can try on a skateboard. And yet, I want to give my children the same values I have been given. The surroundings will look different, but the values can still be there.
Those of us who grew up in Anabaptist homes have been given such a head start in life. A good work ethic, good singing, and safety are not what makes us Christians. But these things give us huge advantages in life. But we are given a choice like the servant with the talents in Matthew 25. We can either bury our talent and pour all of our energy into protecting what we have, or we can invest in the lives of others and give the talents to the “exchangers” so God can receive His own with interest when He returns.
1 Chronicles 29:13: “And now we
thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.”
Hello everyone. We are excited to announce that Anabaptist Perspectives will be relaunching our blog emails starting in January 2020. We are grateful to God for His direction in the past and are praying for his direction for the future as well. We have been praying for some time that God would lead someone to Anabaptist Perspectives to fill this calling. We praise God for His perfect timing in leading a brother to us that loves managing this type of ministry.
My name is Dave Eshbach. Some time ago, I came across the Anabaptist Perspective’s website and YouTube channel. I was extremely inspired by what I read and watched. Later on then, I saw that they were looking for someone to help start the blog back up and to manage all the details. After some talk and prayer, I felt God leading me to accept the position. Growing up, I often desired that others would teach me how to study the Bible, how to have a deep relationship with God, and so on. Because of the longings that I had growing up, I was determined to do something with my life. Do something for God to impact others and to show others God’s love for them.
Our little family of 3 lives in Richmond, Virginia. We recently moved here to spread the Light of Jesus to this dark city. Living in an apartment, we have close neighbors and love the opportunities that come up to witness for Jesus.
My desire for this blog is that
God would receive all the glory. We as
humans are nothing compared to God and His universe. Isaiah 40:15 says: Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted
as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
Currently, our goal is to send out a blog at the beginning of every month starting in January. Please pray for myself, the board, and the proofreaders as we together with God’s help use our talents to share God’s Truth with the world each month. We feel the weight on our shoulders to teach the whole truth so no-one would be led astray but be drawn closer to Jesus. Also, pray for the writers that they would be open to God’s voice as they they write what is on their hearts.
Charis Kauffman, along with her husband Kenneth and and their 2-year-old daughter, lives in Brooklyn, NY. As a family they are discovering that their passions are bigger than their energy. If the Kauffman family is not at home when you stop by for a visit, you can likely find them in one of the many coffee shops throughout NYC, sipping on a mug of craft coffee.
The recent passing of the Reproductive Health Act by the New York State Legislature has served as a chilling wake up call to many Christians. The passing of this Act removed a long-standing ban on abortion after twenty-four weeks, effectively making it possible for a full-term abortion of any child if sanctioned by a healthcare professional. New York joined eight other states that provide no legal protection for infants inside the womb. However, the public reaction and emotion surrounding this bill have seemed to be stronger than when previous states enacted similar laws. The political climate may be partly to blame for this response, but two other factors contributed to this as well. One, the Act was signed into law by a governor who is affiliated with the Catholic Church. Two, the passing of the bill was celebrated by lighting up famous sites in NYC with pink.
My heart is heavy. I have wept over this tragic decision here in my state. I ache deeply over the evils of abortion and the millions of human lives this horror has claimed. I hurt for the thousands of women who are merely seen and used as pawns for political power on all sides of the issue. I grieve for how little value we, as a nation, are putting on human lives. And, quite frankly, I am troubled by the responses of many conservative Christians to this issue. In writing this article, my desire is to confront some common misconceptions and counter-productive attitudes surrounding the abortion issue while casting a vision for a more redemptive response.
As Christians, we believe that humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation, made in His own image. This is a dignity that we must value, defend, and promote for all humans, born or unborn. All humans are created for purpose, for relationship with Jesus, to be known and loved by God. We must be pro-life!
Too often, followers of Jesus equate pro-life with only being anti-abortion. I too was guilty of this. It was while volunteering at a holistic pregnancy crisis center as an older teenager that my eyes were opened to the complexities surrounding the abortion issue. As I heard women’s stories, saw their pain, and prayed with them, I came to understand that I had to embrace much more than an anti-abortion stance before I could claim to be pro-life. I realized the Christian’s duty surrounding this issue is not cookie-cutter clean; it necessarily is messy because it is inherently broken. Pro-life means being pro-baby, pro-mom, and pro-dad. It means holding up a standard of morality while being willing to wade into the messiness, joining Jesus in His pursuit of cosmic redemption. Prettily packaged answers of abstinence, adoption, and the need for new laws are not enough. There is a place for Band-Aids (thank God they exist), but our primary focus should be on limiting the wounds.
Confronting Common Misconceptions and Poor Responses
We often need to clean up our own core assumptions and reshape our own mindsets before we can begin to engage in healthy, redemptive ways with contemporary issues. The abortion crisis is no exception. Here are some troubling mindsets and responses that I (and others who gave input for this article) have heard or noticed among conservative Christian circles.
#1. The Baby is Unwanted / The Mother is Selfish
While this may occasionally be true for abortion cases, it is often not the case. Many women who feel like they must choose abortion come from horrible situations. As a mother, I would shudder to have my child grow up in the generational clutches of brokenness and evil that many women are caught in. These women often feel the same way . They have no desire for their child experience the horrors with which they live. Many are caught without finances, resources, and limited opportunities and they see no way out. There is often incredible shame alongside pregnancy and these mothers have no desire for their child to have to carry the shame of how it was conceived and the situation it was born into. When this is all you know and the only “hope” you have for your child, it doesn’t take much to convince yourself, or to be convinced that abortion is the loving option.
Friends, please be careful of assuming or using language that implies that an aborted baby is an unwanted baby. This mindset and these accusations only serve to create a culture of judgment and shame that will drive women away when they most need our love and support.
#2. The Mother Needs to Get Her Life Together and Stop Sleeping Around with Men
As was mentioned above, many women who choose abortion are living in hopeless situations without anybody in their life to give them love and support. Many times sex is the only path for them to feel at all wanted or loved. Or sex may be “forced” on them as a way of staying in a relationship and having housing and a place to belong. Carrying a baby full-term often means losing a job, embracing shame, losing a boyfriend/husband, and possibly homelessness.
It is much easier for us to judge and give advice than to engage in the mess with love and support. If we want to save children, though, we must be willing to love and support mothers. I cringed recently when I heard the testimony of a mother who chose an abortion after being shamed by her pastor but felt loved and understood by the people at the abortion center. This was the reason she was willing to choose their advice. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated scenario.
#3. Adoption is the Abortion Alternative
Please, don’t get me wrong! I am all for adoption. I have close friends and relatives who have adopted. I wish more people would choose to adopt. I think adoption is heroic.
But…adoption is not the cure-all, or even the best solution for the abortion crisis. As mentioned above, a woman who chooses to carry her child full-term and adopt, is still often likely to lose her job, face rejection, and stay caught in the same terrible lifestyle. So often the cry of “just give me the baby” is coming from an attitude that forgets or disdains the mother and the father of the child. Adoption is beautiful and good but it is a reflection of brokenness. It is only an option because of sin in this world. While it may be a beautiful answer with beautiful stories, I fear that sometimes we see adoption as the only alternative to offer because it is the cleaner alternative to the messiness of caring and supporting the mother, the father, and the child. Adoption is a Band-Aid and I’m grateful for it. But friends, please don’t promote it as the primary alternative/cure or use it as a way of helping from a sanitary distance.
Pursuing Redemptive Responses
So, what is the cure? Ultimately, the cure is for Jesus to return, fully eradicate evil, and bring to completion His desire for a pure, redeemed world. Until then, the whole cosmos continues to groan in brokenness, longing for redemption (See Romans 8). Jesus does not stand at a distance simply observing this groan until the time of consummation; He is active! Our Savior went into the heart of brokenness, getting bloodied and enduring the worst torment imaginable in order to provide a path of redemption. He emerged victorious and stands as a gigantic figure of hope for a broken, sinful world. But He still wears a bloody robe and is on a redemptive campaign (Revelation 19). He calls us to join Him, the bloodied King, on this redemptive quest into the middle of this groaning, cosmic mess.
Can we as people of Jesus be His light, His hope, His hands and feet in practical ways? Messy ways? Painful ways? Jesus-like ways? There are so many practical methods to engage with and support redemptive ministry. Here are some suggestions.
Engage In Redemptive Relationships
If we are going to help change the narrative of abortion, we must begin with local relationships. Advocating for new laws, sharing opinions on social media, and writing blog posts (like this one) have their place, but these are not the primary way to make a difference.
The narrative really begins to change:
When a mother in crisis is loved, supported, and shown a new path. When she finds a real friend that she can rely on and gives her hope.
When fathers and men in broken situations are pursued and befriended. When we help them learn the value of love and, through loving them, they learn how to love their wives/girlfriends, and their children.
When we engage with broken families, inviting them into our homes and adopting them into our families, providing new circles of friends.
When we learn to listen to an individual before we judge their situation or motives.
When we adopt children and do foster care, changing the narrative for the next generation. When we are willing to pursue the messy situations like adoption or foster care of babies with medical conditions, helping to show the medical world and the parents that there is a way to love and care for these children.
When we stop shaming unplanned pregnancies, inside and outside our churches, and instead celebrate the gift of life. Yes, sin must be addressed, but nobody involved should have to carry that burden of shame. God is a God of redemption.
We, the people of Jesus, should be able to show much better love than the worker at an abortion center. People in crisis go to and trust people that understand and love them. The onus to put abortion centers out of business does not have to rest on politicians; it is our task! Let’s be willing to get messy, risk pain, and follow our redemptive Lord into redemptive relationships.
Provide Redemptive Opportunities
Alongside redemptive relationships should be a pursuit of providing redemptive opportunities, giving a tangible path to a new life.
Here are some ideas:
Provide good job opportunities for single mothers and low-income families. We have many incredible, untapped opportunities in our businesses to change the abortion narrative. Be willing to embrace the mess and risk of hiring ladies in crisis and fathers of unplanned pregnancies. Too often we have embraced the lie that they just need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, not recognizing the incredible ways that they are limited through lack of connections and opportunities.
Provide safe houses for women in crisis with opportunities for education and learning new skills. There are some incredible ministries that are doing this and we could learn from them.
Provide care centers for women that offer holistic, free, and judgment-free care as an alternative to abortion clinics that often offer other free services for women.
Provide childcare for single mothers so that they can hold jobs and not be faced with homelessness or forced into abusive situations to provide food and shelter for them and their children.
Provide inner-city schools and after school programs to help change the story for the next generation.
Support Redemptive Ministries
I am so encouraged by the hundreds of individuals and ministries who are involved in holistic, redemptive causes. These are grueling, messy pursuits and these people need our support, both physically and emotionally.
Support your local PCC (Pregnancy Crisis Center). Be willing to volunteer and get involved in caring for women in crisis. Many times these centers are struggling for financial means to stay afloat and need our financial assistance.
Support families in foster care and those who are adopting. These are draining ministries both financially and emotionally.
Support the families who receive a grave medical diagnosis for their unborn child. Families facing this are often given the option of abortion by medical professionals as way to spare their child from suffering. These people need our support and help to face the life-altering changes that often comes with these diagnoses. I asked a friend with a medically fragile child for suggestions on how people can help in these situations. Here are some of her ideas:
People to help with household chores during long hospital stays
Inviting them to birthdays, after church meals, and special events. Even if they can’t make it due to medical reasons it means the world to be remembered.
Having one or two people to learn the special needs of the child and provide babysitting for date nights, assistance with doctor appointments, etc…
Give people involved in abortion ministry or women’s ministry a platform to share about their work and opportunities to educate others for this ministry. Spend time with them in their work, learning from them.
Support inner-city schools and children’s ministries.
Support organizations that are involved in holistically confronting the abortion crisis and caring for women or families in crisis. Here is a list of some organizations doing this well:
The Archibald Project
Save the Storks
The Esther House
The Morning Center
Show Hope (providing adoption aid, post adoption support, and care centers)
Friends, the abortion crisis should be a call-to-action for us. This call-to-action is much more than simply taking an anti-abortion stance or raising our voices in protest from a distance; it means being pro-life for all. What our country really needs is a massive human wave of Jesus followers going straight into the mess of broken relationships and evil that has caused this abortion crisis. We follow a Savior who offers redemption and hope to the broken and the evil. Let’s wade in with Him. There is hope!
The following is taken from an interview with Dan* conducted by Reagan Schrock. Dan is on staff with an Anabaptist relief organization and has spent several years living in the Middle East. He is a pastor and will be moving with his family back to the Middle East to aid in the refugee crisis. *name withheld for security reasons
Three years ago Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, the largest Christian Evangelical University in America, said,
“If more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they go out trying to kill us…Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.” 1
The context for his statement was in regard to the San Bernardino shooting that was currently in the news at that time, in which two Muslims entered a holiday party in California and shot a number of people. That incident followed a string of other terrorist attacks that had been going on in the United States and other Western countries over the last several years.
Liberty University often comments on current events and this was a reaction Falwell gave as a means of instruction to his students. The motive that I see driving statements like this is fundamentally a widespread concept among many Christians about the nature of America. In the book The Myth of a Christian Nation,2 the author discusses the idea of America being designed as a Christian Nation: for Christians, by Christians, Christian’s running the government, Christians participating. There is a lot of fear among people that have this view because they feel like this idea is gradually being pushed out as America becomes a more pluralistic society and more people arrive from other countries. They have a sense that America is being threatened, and we need to protect ourselves; that, as Christians, we need to stand up for what we have and for our rights.
I believe that comments like Falwell’s are motivated by a core idea that the rights of Christians in America are under threat and being trampled on by leftists, Muslims, and others. If it takes physical force to defend against those opposing forces, then that’s what they are prepared to do. Falwell intended to direct his statement towards Muslims who were involved in terrorist attacks and not all Muslims in general, but whatever the case, he was speaking about ending the lives of souls that God created.
I would say the majority of those who identify as fundamental, evangelical Christians would have supported Jerry Falwell or been in a similar way of thinking, though certainly not across the board. There are people at various levels in their response to Muslims and their responses as to how much they want to interact with them. Fear is definitely prevalent among the evangelical Christian community, and possibly parts of even more mainstream Christianity.
So now we ask the question: How would Christ respond?
When reading the New Testament, you will see almost exactly the opposite of what Falwell prescribed. Jesus made statements such as “love your enemies”,3 “resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.”4 There is one constant message that Jesus gave: The people who treat us badly are the people we are supposed to treat the best. It is very counter-cultural and counterintuitive, but that’s absolutely the message that Christ gave to His people here on earth.
The Anabaptist story is about 500 years old now, and throughout their history the Anabaptists have been an oppressed, persecuted people who have said, “We will stand up for our beliefs in Scripture no matter what it costs. Even if it means death by fire, drowning, stoning—we are willing to suffer and die.” However, times have changed and now the majority of conservative Anabaptists live in America with comfortable lifestyles and little persecution.
So how do we respond to terrorism and Islam? I fear that sometimes we are too affected by our neighbors and friends who would spread fear and make us want to respond in defensive ways by saying, “This is our country. We don’t want to let you in.” As Anabaptists we should never feel proud or superior in our understanding of Scripture, but the way of Christ is always the way of love. We have a tremendous opportunity to follow Jesus’ teachings and respond in nonresistant love when facing opposition or persecution.
Jesus said very clearly that we are not to fear those that are able to kill the body, but to fear him [the devil] who is able to destroy both body and spirit in death.5 Obviously, as humans, we do have some fears and I think God understands those, but He’s encouraging us that what we should really fear is spiritual failure and spiritual death. Fearing people and certain groups that may have the potential to harm us physically isn’t really the point. We may take some precautions, but our chief goal is not to preserve our lives. This concept involves a radical change of thinking. We’re here only for a few short years anyway, and if we can get that mindset, it changes everything. Jesus is teaching us a way of peace, love, and forgiveness, and that’s a powerful message to any enemy.