Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mission Navajo

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
Romans 12: 9-12 NLT

In just a few short weeks, my children and I will travel with a team of 17 people from our church to the Navajo Reservation in the American Southwest. Wow.

2011 marks year three for our family’s participation in the trip, and we pray God uses each of us in ways that glorify Him, through sharing the gospel, encouraging, serving and loving others.

Tammy, Janelle, team leader and Navajo, Helene
at Canyon de Chelly, Navajo Reservation, AZ

So, as the time approaches, some concepts are dancing across my heart and mind.

·      Esteeming the poor
·      Sacrificial giving
·      Loving my neighbor
·      Compassion, mercy and grace
·      Defending the weak
·      Spiritual warfare
·      Gratitude and Blessings
·      Humility

As we prepare for the trip, I am watching and noticing myself, and my life. I’m considering my children, who they are and who God Almighty is building them to be.

I wonder how He will use this mission trip to invite my children closer to Him. I wonder what He will do in me. How will He use me? My kids? Our whole team? This year, what moments will draw me to tears at His work, goodness and the ways of my brothers and sisters in Christ on the team and down there? How will God spark in me love for the lost, His kind of love?

I remember. Some on the reservation live in octagon-shaped homes called hogans, often with dirt floors, by choice. The unemployment rate is 70 percent. The landscape is brushed with orange, rust, and brown tones that God has blended into mountains and rock formations that display His majesty. I think about The Long Walk, and what it would be like to grow up knowing this is part of the heritage and wounds of your people.

Navajo people in the area where we will serve anticipate our arrival, and I am excited to see people who I met there. I am thrilled to enjoy the blessing of seeing people who shared their history with me last year, and in doing so, taught me. I’m thinking about the extreme poverty. I remember the Navajo youth who live on the special education campus in St. Michael, so they can receive the services they need, in terms of health and education.

I’m thinking about the slight bit of nerves I have at taking my children about seven states away from their dad, my amazing husband, for more than a week. I’m thinking about his week of solitude, less than a month after he starts a new career path. I’m thinking about what it might feel like to him, to not be going along this year.

As I replay events of the previous trips to the Reservation in my mind, I experience a jumble of needs - physical, emotional and spiritual - that I want to be part of fulfilling. It makes a long enough Dorcas the Do-Gooder list. Yet, I know only God is big enough to provide. All good things come from Him.

I look forward to bonding with team members on the long drive down. I look forward to laughter and friendship happening all around me. I know it won't be easy. I know the Enemy won't like what we want to do. But I also know He who is in me, is greater than he who is in the world.

Dear Lord,
You are the God of grace and peace, perfect. You are love. Please help us to help people. I am blessed Lord. Please simply use me as your vessel. Use our team. Show yourself all around the Navajo Reservation. I pray for the salvation of many. Help us to spread your love and care. Bring sustained change, please, Lord. Raise people up, to your glory.  Please help each of our team members and their whole families to be safe and deeply knit to you.
In Jesus’ Name,
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Psalm 82:3

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Delight. What a broad spectrum of moments delight me. What a gift from God.

For Christmas, my sister gave me a cupcake stand I have wanted for a few years. I was excited on Christmas when I opened the package. Then, when I made cupcakes for our small group a few weeks ago — fun, fun — the time came to assemble the little cream-colored kitchen accessory. 

When I opened the package, out came not only the swirly cupcake spots arranged in tiers, but a handy dandy little tool. A shiny little silver crescent wrench in Barbie — or GI Joe action figure — proportions. Pretty funny. I have to credit God with a good giggle fit. Not a deep moment, but delightful.

In the Bible, God shares a lot of different facts, or perspectives, about delight. We can learn in God’s Word what delights Him, how Christ delighted crowds with His teaching (Mark 12:37 NLT), that we as His followers delight in Him, and, sadly, what delights the wicked.

With right priorities, this emotion brings something important to the tables of our lives with the One who made us. It signals what matters to us.

The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
Psalm 147:11

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So, it’s good to pray for delight, and in my ladies’ small group, we were encouraged to do just that. God answered me in two especially loving ways.

Rewind to fall of the year 2000. Our daughter, Daphne, was two years old, and I was preparing to leave her, her sister, Jess, and their dad for the weekend. I was leaving for our church’s women’s retreat I had helped plan. But a serious illness got in the way.

Ultimately, I took Daphne to the hospital, learning after a spinal tap, that she had a serious blood infection, and that some cases of meningitis had been popping up in our area. God our Healer, using a wonderful team of physicians and medicine, protected her. No meningitis. And after just a few days, no more blood infection, either. Praise Him!

Back to our life today. At Christmas in the Taste & See blog I challenged readers to donate to Compassion International from a list of donation choices the organization provides for special gifts at Christmas. I chose a vaccine-related gift and made a small donation. (Glad that He multiplies the fish.)

Then in a thank-you e-mail from the people at Compassion International a few weeks ago, I learned my Compassion giving for vaccination was used specifically to vaccinate people overseas against meningitis. The gift and connection to my daughter’s illness warmed my heart; it delighted me.

And another delight arose. During spring break the last two years our family participated in Mission Navajo at Prairie Ridge Church, Ankeny, Iowa. ( This year will make year three, though my husband will not be able to go with us. Right away after I prayed for God to delight me, my son, David’s, teacher called to volunteer and get the third-grade kids involved in Mission Navajo. Go, God!

This wise, caring educator, in our public school, heard my Navajo friend speak to her class, learned about the needs and our trip, and saw the kids’ passion. Then she reached out to coordinate donations the kids will be bringing. Of course, it’s a public school, so they won’t be collecting Bibles. But God can and will indeed use this teacher’s initiative and the children’s and their families’ love and generosity.

What a refreshing gift delight makes.

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Faith and the Global Food Crisis

Hunger. On a global scale, this problem looms large. For the first time, in 2009, the number of hungry people in the world hit 1 billion. Then in September 2010, the UN reported a decline in that number for the first time in 15 years. But it didn’t go away, not at all.

Now, as we look around the world at food riots and unrest about food security in many regions, the problem may be growing more tangible to us. To me. 

Why do we need so much information before we reach out to help on scales that would astound, that would witness Christ in a practical, compassionate way? (Not that we’re doing nothing.)

It wasn’t always my dream to use my writing and communications talents to work in the agricultural industry. But for 16 years, that’s where my work has been concentrated. I’ve learned a lot along the way. And here I am, perhaps to be a voice in my circle of friends and acquaintances.

Working for a farm marketing organization, I see and hear a lot of information about crops, supply and demand for commodities and food situations globally. But you need to understand, I am not a broker or trader. I have no agricultural or ag business degrees. I’m no expert. Much of what I read, I honestly don’t fully understand.

Commodity Issues
But here’s some information. First, the world faced a rice shortage in 2008, now wheat is following. Russia has experienced drought, a big part of the problem for wheat supplies. The Brazilian soybean crop is not expected to be great, either. 

The game begins of countries replacing one crop with another for feed and food uses. Food grade is a higher quality than feed grade, because standards for human consumption are higher, of course. So, not everything is swappable, ultimately.

Also, in the U.S., cattle production is dropping, but it seems poultry production is replacing that protein source, though Americans, especially, generally still want their beef. Me, too! To some extent, these things cycle. Still, can you see that a lot is happening?

Organic or conventional production?
Then there’s the natural food equation. Organic food is great for people who need it, and who need special food sources, because of allergies and sensitivities, and just a desire to support that type of production.

But, conventional farmers take excellent care of their livestock and land as well, with a deep sense of responsibility to respect the land and livestock. Besides, if they mess up their animals or land, they won’t make any money or have decent land or healthy livestock, anyway. Conventional grain production results in higher yields, better to meet worldwide demand.

Not everyone agrees on the depth of the problem, and many factors feed into hunger. Corrupt governments (huge issue), transportation difficulties, and overconsumption by wealthy countries, to name a few.

Even the demand for corn and soybeans for bio-energy sources adds into the equation. My dad always said he was a farmer to feed people, not to provide energy, but I sure don’t blame farmers for trying to earn a living, and help provide for our fuel needs. He doesn’t, either.
Photo Title: Starved Girl. Public domain photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Global Concerns
So, this hunger situation hasn’t gone away. Logically, these crop and livestock situations around the world matter for hungry children in Algeria, where food riots have happened this year, and they happened in places like Haiti and Mozambique back in 2008, too. 

Demonstrations happened in Oman in mid-January and have occurred in Yemen and Tunisia, and an Iowa grain analyst said after Egypt (The autocracy is not the only issue there.), Saudi Arabia could be next. China is a problem, with a per capita income of $7,400 per year. Poverty causes hunger, too. 

What is up with our world and the food crisis?

Is it hard for most of us in the U.S. to understand, because all we’re feeling is a pinch in the pocketbook? Not to downplay the problems for those of us who are truly needy here in the States.

Only God knows the future when it comes to this food crisis. And what role is judgment playing in this? I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

It is frightening, if we allow ourselves to forget Who is in control. The Bible says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Tim. 1:7 NLT

My dear family of Christ-followers, let's put the power, love and self-discipline we're given to work for good. Hopefully, our love and compassion are provoked. Jesus modeled such tenderness and mercy. We can follow His example with those same qualities, and add to them the good stewardship and generosity we’re called to live.

Q. So, what are we to do?
A. Help.

Here are a few ways to help:

The best part of helping through a church or Christian ministry is the possibility that people will so respect our help, that they will want to know our motivation for helping.

Q. What’s our motivation?
A. Jesus

Here’s another blog about earning a hearing of the gospel of Christ.

We can help, too, by praying. Specifically about issues detailed here, and about what we see in the news about hunger, food riots and related issues.  We can pray Scripture. We can pray for salvation. And certainly we help by praying for godly leadership worldwide, so that we can “lead peaceful and quiet lives.”

By helping the ministries mentioned in their efforts, we can help nursing mothers, young children and babies, teenagers, the elderly, young couples. Real people who are just trying to live. Each person we help, is a person who matters to God.

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.