There’s Good News Here Somewhere…

by Mark G. Holbrook, ECCU President/CEO
(Originally published as a post within ECCU’s former e-publication, The Buzz.)

Last month my wife and I were visiting our daughter, Rebekah, who teaches in a missionary school in the Dominican Republic. We had just returned from visiting families in the poorest section of town, humbled that people with so little could love the Lord so much, when Rebekah’s cell phone rang. She quickly handed me the phone, and I heard my son, Matthew, yelling, “There’s fire all around. You have about one minute. What do you want us to grab?”

So began a drama that lasted through the night as we waited for the next update. At one point my brother called to say he was watching our neighbor’s home on television when the news crew panned to two guys on our roof battling a firestorm of flaming embers with garden hoses.

As we waited in Rebekah’s little living room 3,000 miles away, we prayed mostly two prayers: “Lord, please keep everyone safe,” and, “If you choose to take our home, that will be OK.” Well, our home did catch fire—briefly. Through some heroic work on the part of our son, son-in-law, a friend from church, and some anonymous police officers, our house was saved.

As for the repairs, we are now employing construction workers, doing our small part to help restart the economy.

Speaking of the economy, it feels much like that firestorm right now. The worst in anyone’s memory, with economic winds hurtling more bad news our way every day. I’ll spare you the details; you’re probably right up to date on rising unemployment, plunging real estate and stock values, layoffs, failing auto makers, tight credit, foreclosures, and even a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. It softens the blow just a bit knowing that other countries are suffering right along with us—until we realize that somehow it’s all our fault.

Most of us are bravely trying to find a pony in this huge pile of economic manure. There are a few encouraging signs. Gas prices have plunged. I just filled up our gas-guzzling SUV for less than half what we were paying a year ago. More people can now afford to look for new jobs. The supply of foreclosed homes is dropping a bit in some areas. I’ve heard investors from China are buying up lots of them.

But there really is some good news buried in this mess. Difficult times, especially economic hardship, have a powerful purifying effect. They force us to make tough choices and give us a healthier perspective on our “essential things.” A pastor friend faced with some big budget cuts recently told me, “I think this really will turn out to be a good thing.”

He wasn’t just trying to sound spiritual. He explained that the budget cuts will force his church to make some choices they had put off far too long. Programs they needed to let die. A staff reduction or two. A turn away from “professional” ministry and a return to greater reliance on volunteers. (Translate: Re-engaging his congregation in hands-on ministry.)

Speaking of perspective, when we returned from the Dominican Republic, ours had changed on many of the “essential” things at home that had been threatened by the firestorm. We suddenly realized it was time to let go of a lot of them. So we did. They just don’t seem all that essential anymore.

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