Tag Archives: Claude Good

Building God’s Community Together

by Steve Kriss, executive minister

I’m writing on my last night in Mexico City after celebrating the 60th anniversary of Mennonite churches here.  Over the last months, we’ve been reacquainting ourselves with one another between conferences and reconnecting the strong cords that have, for years, tied our communities together across language, culture, and country.

60th anniversary United Worship of the congregations of CIEAMM at Iglesia Christianas de Paz. (Photo by Kiron Mateti)

It was humbling to stand in front of hundreds of Mexican Mennonites who had come to follow in the way of Christ through the hopeful actions of mission workers—men and women who had left the familiarity of Mennonite congregations in Pennsylvania to build community in the emerging neighborhoods of Mexico City.   As we gathered at Iglesia de Christianas de Paz, I offered a greeting from 1 Corinthians, a reminder that different people have different roles but God brings forth fruit. Together we are building God’s community.

El Buen Pastor – the first Mennonite congregation in Mexico City. (Photo by Kiron Mateti)

But in the midst of that gathering, I was struck most by how going across the boundary to Mexico had changed our conference.   Early stories suggest that Franconia Conference leaders had been waiting for an opening to send international workers.  With a letter of invitation from a woman in Mexico, and after some discernment between various Mennonite mission organizations, Franconia Conference took the lead in Mexico.

Photo by Kiron Mateti

I believe these actions 60 years ago enlarged our hearts and understandings of the world and our connections within it.  Young leaders left familiar community for impactful service and leadership; they learned new foods, spoke Spanish, and tried to understand what essentials should be shared in a new cultural context.  Our understanding of what it meant to be Mennonite had to change.

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of El Buen Pastor congregation, the first Mennonite congregation in Mexico City. (Photo by Kiron Mateti)

And the church in Mexico grew – and is still growing.  The CIEAMM network represents our historic connection, but new connections — the Red de Iglesias Missioneras International led by Kirk Hanger; Iglesia de la Tierra Prometida, where long-term mission workers Bob and Bonnie Stevenson remain; and Centro de Alabanza de Philadelphia, pastored by Fernando Loyola and Leticia Cortes from Iglesia de Christianas de Paz — are ongoing parts of our shared witness.  Along with the Bible translation work of Claude Good that ensured the availability of the Holy Text in the Triqui language, we have made significant contributions to the family of Christ’s followers in Mexico.  The community that makes up these various networks is likely similarly sized to our current Franconia Conference membership.

The view from the top. (Photo by Steve Kriss)

As part of our visit, we visited the Torre LatinoAmericana in central Mexico City.  I stared out from atop the 44-story building, built in the same era that our earliest mission workers arrived. I looked toward the Cathedral of our Lady of Guadeloupe, where the story of a visit from the Virgin Mary to a farm worker in the field would change the trajectory of faith toward Roman Catholicism.

This global city sprawls in every direction around the tower: Mexico City is the size of New York, with 20 million people in the metro area.  There are Starbucks and Walmarts, as well as lots of traffic, and omnipresent cell phones.

Closing prayer at Luz y Verdad congregation, the 2nd congregation begun 60 years ago in Mexico City. (Photo by Kiron Mateti)

I prayerfully wondered what the next years will hold for us together, recognizing each other as sibling communities, and honoring together the Good News of Christ’s peace as we celebrate the possibilities of a faith that crosses boundaries.  This faith changes us in our giving and receiving and, ultimately, changes the world in ways that are both big and small.

From Lukewarm to Hot Christians, part 2

Claude Goodby Claude Good, Souderton congregation

The Hidden Agenda Behind the Worm Project

So what is a Lukewarm Christian? Francis Chan wrote a book called Crazy Love. In it he describes the characteristics of a Lukewarm Christian: Lukewarm Christians love others but not as much as they love themselves; their love often comes with strings attached; they give money to charities and the church as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living; they choose what is popular over what is right; they are thankful for their luxuries and comforts but they rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor; they want to do the bare minimum to be “good enough;” they do not live by faith; their lives wouldn’t look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God.

The author comes to the sobering conclusion that there is no such thing as a “Lukewarm Christian.” It is an oxymoron, meaning that the two words cancel each other out. If Jesus says that He will spit them out of his mouth, it means that they are really not His followers.

If you know you are “lukewarm” and you’d like to let God light a fire in you, the Bible most certainly has the answer. It starts with the words, “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God….” I am told that in the original “to seek” has more of the meaning of “to crave.” Anyone who has an addiction to drugs or alcohol knows what “to crave” means. Some who crave chocolate or sugary foods may even understand – you gotta have it!

An earnest seeking for God is bound to create a love for him and his son Jesus Christ and we naturally want to obey the command, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  We can tell from human experience that if we are in love with someone the easiest thing to do is what we know that person wants. The same is true when we truly love Jesus.

If you are lukewarm, let your imagination run wild. Imagine yourself in a beautiful state, surrounded with deep love and filled with gratitude. God is magnificently creative; just think of what he can do with dust! Three times he tells us that “the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). Try standing in front of a mirror and in wonder and astonishment take note of what God can do with dust.  We all have the attractive choice of being made and remade into in His image.

One of my delightful memories from Mexico City is walking with all our children to the grocery store through scenic back streets. Once when we were almost home, I looked around and in dismay said, “Where’s Rob?!” He was our youngest and about five years-old. We dashed back to the store and looked all over for him. As we returned to the street, we saw a kindly lady leading Rob by the hand and saying, “Is this your house?”  Rob would tearfully say, “No.” and then they would go to the next house with the same question and answer. You can imagine our great relief and gratitude to that kind woman when Rob was back with us again.

So again I say to all of us, “I just want us all to be together forever.”  I want us all to know God and to love God and to care for others so that they may also know God and love God and care for others.  Let’s all be together forever, red-hot Christians, becoming more and more like Jesus.

Read From Lukewarm to Hot Christians, part 1

From Lukewarm to Hot Christians, part 1

Claude Goodby Claude Good, Souderton congregation

The Hidden Agenda Behind the Worm Project

Recently I had a visit from a friend. Our conversation turned to the pain of the world. Much to my surprise he broke out weeping; his weeping was caused by his deep concern for the people still living in the pain of darkness. He asked for a tissue. The next day I found the crunched up tissue and was about to chuck it in the garbage. But I suddenly thought, “I can’t throw this away because it holds tears that I believe are sacred to God.”  So I put it in a special place to remind me of how much God wants us to care for those living in darkness as well as the poor who are hungry and sick.

While living in Mexico, we sometimes took our small children to visit zoos or museums.  There were so many people around us we had to keep alert to see that we stayed together. But little Ceci made it easier. She would anxiously watch to see that none of her siblings got out of our sight; she really wanted us to stay together!

So how does that story relate to the hidden agenda behind the Worm Project?

In the beginning it appeared the Worm Project might never get off the ground. We couldn’t find people interested in distributing the tablets. I was nearly ready to give up. But I had another reason to keep trying. Just like our daughter’s deep concern for her biological family, I really wanted all of us as Mennonites to be together forever just like we want our families to be with us for eternity. All of us are part of a larger family; my prayer is that as many of us as absolutely possible will be together throughout eternity along with all the redeemed ones from every tribe and nation.  And if we are to be together forever, we must know God.

So what could be done that might encourage us lukewarm Christians to be hungry to know God? In Jer.22:10, God told the son of Josiah in strong terms that he was only thinking of himself by building a fancy palace and making people work for nothing. But his father Josiah, God said, had defended the cause of the poor and needy. AND THEN GOD MAKESTHE VERY CRUCIAL STATEMENT, “Is that not what it means to know me?” Caring for the poor is one way to know God.

Many Mennonites are frugal. Combine that with the fact that $100 will treat 7,000 sickly children, ridding them of worms (1.4 cents each tablet)–that is bargain basement prices for those who know how to pinch pennies.  We like to say: “Little is much if God is in it.” And we know God IS in it because he says, “Spend yourself/pour yourself out on behalf of the hungry.”  For those who obey, he promises that we will become like “a well-watered garden…. or a spring that never fails” (Isa.58:10 -12). The Spirit of God tends to build a real compassion within us as we realize how many can be helped with our resources. Lukewarm American Christians need an increased awareness of the pain and darkness in the world. Knowing God intimately is the key to having God’s caring heart within us for those living in that pain and darkness.

Thankfully, God, the “Divine Coordinator,” supernaturally inspired many of our people to respond with love and care for the children with worms. God, the Divine Multiplier, has multiplied our gifts in a marvelous way. Well over 100 million tablets have gone out. He has also brought together a highly motivated Board and a team of Partners who are overseeing the distributions in many countries. The passion of both these groups of red-hot Christians insures that the program will continue.

The Worm Project: The power of “one”

by Diana Gehman, Worm Project, dianagehman@yahoo.comWorm Project

His forwarded emails had all the intriguing elements of an obscure drug dealing story: ‘international searches for the cheapest manufacturer; purchases of the drug in bulk quantities for lower prices; recruitment and networking with distributors in the United States and third world countries; research for ways to get the drug into countries where customs posed barriers or required monetary bribes; and leaving a paper trail showing 100% of all donations going to a nonprofit charity. I was drawn into the contagious passion that this 80-year-old man breathed into every word, a passion that beckons others to join him.’This inconspicuous man is Claude Good. His passion is The Worm Project.’

That passion started out of a scenario of desperation. While serving as a Franconia Conference missionary in Mexico with the Triqui Indians from 1960 through 1985, Good became increasingly frustrated that children were suffering and dying from malnutrition from intestinal parasites, or “worms.” He set out to find a way to alleviate their condition. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worms ate up to 25% of what little food the already malnourished children could obtain. Infections from intestinal parasites caused stunted growth, weight loss, asthma, diarrhea, low immune systems, learning disabilities, and even death. After diligently searching, Good found a miracle drug called Albendazole, which given every 6 months for 3 years would eradicate the intestinal parasites and enable a child to benefit from the nutritional value of all food eaten. Thus, out of desperation came inspiration: eradicate malnutrition in children in impoverished countries by wiping out worms through the distribution of Abendazole tablets. The Worm Project was born.

The scale of the challenge was formidable. WHO estimates that over 2 billion people around the world are infected with common intestinal worms and over 150,000 are estimated to die every year. Before long, Claude was able to find established nongovernmental organizations that were eagerly looking to form partnerships. These partnerships provided the most efficient method for the distribution of Albendazole and provided necessary education, skills, and other resources to reduce morbidity in these desperate countries.

Worm ProjectFrom The Worm Project’s inception until today, abundant giving has enabled the purchase of over 75 million Albendazole tablets, which roughly equates to 375 million pounds of food saved from worms. During 2011, The Worm Project will purchase 30 million tablets and reach out in some form to approximately 70 countries. Currently The Worm Project is able to purchase one tablet for 1.4 cents. That means 6 tablets given over 3 years costs less than 10 cents. The multiplied power of a contribution can be seen from these World Health Organization figures: $10 will treat 700 children and save 3,500 pounds of food from worms.

Please join us at The Worm Project Banquet held at the Franconia Heritage Restaurant in Franconia, Pa. on Wednesday, September 14 at 6 pm. See for yourself how God uses His power in you and others to change the lives of His hungry children forever. Feast on simple and delicious third world foods. Learn how you can be a part of The Worm Project’s 2012 goal to distribute 60 million tablets. The banquet is free, but please register by contacting Claude Good at (267) 932-6050, ext. 136 or cgood@franconiaconference.org. You can also visit WormProject.org.

In the gospels, Jesus commands the disciples to feed 5,000 hungry people in a remote location. Andrew responded: “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Andrew asks a legitimately human question in response to a seemingly absurd command. Jesus responded to Andrew’s question not with words, but by modeling how to surrender our will to the infinite, miraculous power of God’s love. It is God who does the work through us. One small hungry boy gave all that he had to eat that day. Looking to the Father, Jesus gave thanks, broke the bread, and then gave it away. One boy. One lunch. 5,000 people fed. Be “The Power of One”.