17 February 2013


My dear friend Hannah, a Journeyman who works at BIMS, ministers a great deal to kids in a nearby township called Alex. Alex is a dark place. Unemployment, HIV and tuberculosis, poverty, and rape run rampant. Hannah has news every week of some fresh nightmare that took place in the township. A six year old was raped by her uncle. Two children were locked and abandoned in their house for days. A child was covered in boiling water as a form of punishment. A pair of young sisters witnessed their pregnant mother trying to commit suicide. Could a place be more hellish?

Hearing these stories and encountering the very victims week after week induces such a strange emotional storm. Rage, incredibly deep sadness, desperation, hopelessness, confusion, pity. Where and how do you embark on conquering an Everest-sized problem like Alex? In my weak and fallen human condition, my initial reaction is to retreat into blissful ignorance. Pretend these people and problems don't exist so that I am not responsible for them.

My teammates and I have been working in Alex at an non-profit that feeds and nurtures orphans  and vulnerable children. The founder of the non-profit is an amazing woman who, after nearly dying of HIV-related complications, vowed to God to use her second chance at life to make a difference in her hometown of Alex. I've been helping her apply for grants, and while we were working last week she expressed a stunning thought. She told me the story of Jesus turning water into wine in John 2. This was the Christ's first miracle -- a monumental occasion. But the Scripture says only the servants were there to witness the event. Not the bridegroom or the master or the guests. Only the servants, who at Jesus' request filled the waterpots, knew how the miracle happened and by whom it was performed. My friend told me that in this life the ones who see the Lord's miracles are the ones who obey His request to serve. Many will benefit from His miracles, but don't you want to witness them as well?

The township of Alex is in need of a miracle. Of a million miracles. I've decided that I want to see them happen. So instead of slinking into ignorance and mental comfort, I'm committing to serve where I can. Our service may not be epic, but we will fill the waterpots nonetheless. What a privilege to be enlisted in God Almighty's restorative work in a place that could appear beyond redemption.  I cannot wait to see Alex's oceans of toxic water one day transfigure into fragrant rivers of blood-red wine. 

He has done it before. 


  1. I really don't have words for this what happens to all this children.
    I'm so happy, that there are people just like you, who make the world a better place, even if it is just a little step.
    You are in my prayers, Alex!
    I wish you all the best, Nina

  2. One of the best things I have ever read. Alex you are such an encouragement to us and I know you are to all you are meeting and tending. Please know we are praying for you and also for Hannah and the city of ALEX. Love ya, Kathy and Beau Cooper

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  5. My comment won't be as articulate as your description of the town that bears the same name as you. It is indeed a tragic story of the condition of the (in)humanity of life in this place so far away. I wish I could say that it was shocking and beyond my belief; however, in the 40 odd years I have spent in various offices I have heard all of these tales in one form or another. Admittedly, I have not heard them in as short a period of time or such a concentrated location. Having heard these stories spread out over the years has prepared me incrementally for the next. I can no longer be shocked, but I can't stop feeling empathy and sadness for those who have been through such things. Life can be just as savage in the USA; it just doesn't occur with such concentration in one place. You have worked in a community where you could have heard many of these stories. Jane, Rhonda, the volunteers, and interns have been making a difference in the Nehemiah Center, one brick at a time. It is slow work; it requires dedication, time, the love of Christ, the development of trust, the establishment of credibility, and the constancy and follow through of that incredible group of Christians dedicated to the command to "spread the Word".

    Your decision to work to make a difference is inspiring and so typical of you and the family you come from. (Okay, I know I've ended a sentence in a preposition, but it sounds awkward to phrase it another way.) I encourage you and applaud you. I will also point out to you that the several months that you will have there are a very short time to address a very big problem. Your God is big, but the willingness to hear the message may not be what you have experienced in Montgomery and at FBC. I think you can have a lasting impact through whatever support, encouragement and inspiration you can give to Hannah, who sounds like a woman with your heart. The two words, "one day",show that you know you can only begin the miracle that will take a long term commitment by many others. Like Nina, I wish you all the best. We love you in this old house on Perry St.