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A Conspiracy of World Changers

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Usually we make resolutions that have to do with self-improvement, things like losing weight, lowering blood pressure, or spending more time in prayer or studying the Bible. All good resolutions, but mine is actually so big that if God doesn’t get involved I’m going to end up feeling like Peter taking a step on the water – “What in the world am I doing here? If Jesus doesn’t come through I’m going to end up looking pretty silly and awfully dead.” So, are you ready for my resolution – I want to change the world, this year. Now please notice that I didn’t say I wanted to change “my world”, I want to change “the world”. And if God doesn’t come through for me I am going to end up looking pretty silly, maybe arrogant and certainly very foolish.

You hear the term “world changer” and you think of bigger-than-life people like Galileo, or Henry Ford or Bill Gates. Isn’t it a bit presumptuous to think I could walk with giants like that? But not all world changers are in this category. I sometimes think that the most effective world changers are some of the behind-the-scenes people whose names never end up in the spotlight. People like that anonymous Sunday school teacher who stopped in to visit a shoe clerk in Chicago. That shoe clerk was Dwight L. Moody and that began a chain of events that stretched through Wilbur Chapman, Billy Sunday, Mordecai Hamm and then Billy Graham. I doubt that that Sunday school teacher thought, “I am going to change the world today,” when he walked into that shoe store.

That’s the kind of world changer I want to be. Let me tell you where and how I am going to do it. There is an extremely high correlation between illiteracy and poverty and incarceration and a whole host of other social dysfunctions. Think about this for a while – teens with significant reading problems are 4 times more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide. Adults without basic literacy skills accounted for 75% of the unemployed and 60% of prison inmates while 85% of youngsters appearing in court were unable to read. Wow! If we can help one child – one child that is falling through the educational cracks – we will change his world and he will change the world of those around him and that little pebble thrown into the pool will send ripples through the whole pool.

That is exactly what I am doing. A couple years ago I heard about a program called Mission: Literacy that is using volunteer tutors to teach children to read at a grade 3 level. These were children who, for various reasons, were not being helped by the educational system to learn how to read. Because of a very generous gift we were able to launch a pilot project in the city of Saskatoon in partnership with a ministry called The Bridge on 20th. Volunteers armed with training and excellent materials started an after school program hosted in St. Mary’s Catholic school and the project came to life.

Mission: Literacy class at St. Mary’s School

After 16 weeks stories started to trickle in about what had happened. One little boy chose to come to the program rather than play basketball. He had found a place staffed with a group of trained people that cared about what was happening in his life and that is where he wanted to be. Another little girl asked this question of the director one day after the session was over “Are you obsessed with God or something?” His love for God had so permeated his life that people on the outside could see this love or obsession as the little girl observed.

A new program is set to be launched in the small town of Rosthern. A number of Burmese refugees have moved into the town. The 10, 11, and 12 year-olds are being placed into grade levels appropriate to their ages and not their educational preparedness. Most of them have only the most rudimentary command of the English language and sometime almost no reading and writing skills. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that these children are soon going to be left behind by the educational system. And this group of loving, dedicated volunteers in the town of Rosthern have committed themselves to changing the world through education.

We have had enquiries from two ministries in Saskatoon, one in Regina, one in Winnipeg, and another in Kenora, Ontario and another in Toronto. We are changing the world.
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Rosthern volunteers with Angela Sparks (front row centre)
I traveled to Vancouver with our tutor trainer to help Urban Promise launch their Mission: Literacy program. Wow!!! There were over 30 teenagers that work as volunteers who will be helping to teach young children how to read. Now that’s changing the world.

I want to ask you to join me in a conspiracy to change the world. The top three things you can do are – 1) Pray, 2) Pray and – you guessed it – 3) Pray. That’s what I want you to do. I am constantly challenged and encouraged by the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Print this up, put it on your fridge, look at the pictures and pray. Pray for the ministries with whom we are partnering. Pray for the tutors. Pray for the children. Pray for the Canadian Bible Society as we raise funds and awareness to keep this ministry going. Ask your church to pray. Include us in your Sunday morning prayer time. Send it through your prayer chain. Please pray.
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Pray for me while I travel. I have responsibilities across the provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and into northern Ontario. I am driving over 60,000 km a year and I am discovering that there are some idiots on the road. Pray that I won’t be one of them. Pray for my wife as we often spend extended periods of time apart. A couple weeks ago I got stuck in farm yard and I had to walk over a mile to get a tow truck because I had left my cell phone in my hotel room. Please pray for me.

We are all bombarded with requests to pray and we want to, but… Life has a way of intruding on our best intentions. In a month or two I will send you a second chapter in this adventure and tell you how our last training session went and how many ministries have signed up. And I will tell you about a bold ministry initiative in Rwanda called She’s My Sister. This is a program that utilizes biblical material to provide Trauma Healing to thousands of Rwandan women whose lives have been forever changed by the genocide. And we are exploring if and how these same materials can be used in Canada with our First Nations people.

As a friend of mine used to sign his letters and emails – let’s trade prayers.

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