True Test

Pentecost 116


In a country where all are said to be welcomes, at least for the current time being, and in which a statue stands welcoming all, this weekend’s acts of terrorism beg a discussion of trust…and trust broken.  These welcoming efforts are best dealt with by making sure goals are met and work is organized.  The inscription on the Stature of Liberty gives an air of legitimacy to such efforts of welcoming those to our shores.  However, the land can only support just so many and policies are put into place so that those coming to this country are subject to scrutiny.  However, policies are only as good as the people that lead them and  will be effective and continue the open door policy only if those coming having a willing heart and caring demeanor.  Clearly some would wish to defy these policies which are, at their core, a matter of trust and distrust.


An easier way to review the immigrant policies is to think of them as aid organizations.  They do, in fact, give aid to those wishing to live here.  Many are escaping rigid and murderous regimes while others are simply seeking a better life for their families. Like immigrant policies, aid organizations have a standard they must meet and are subject to intense review.  Some prove able to pass; others are not.


One such example is Greg Mortenson and “Pennies for Peace”.  Born in Minnesota, Greg Mortenson grew up in missionary schools in Africa, learning to speak Swahili as well as he spoke English.  His parents returned to the United States in time for Greg to graduate high school.  He attended college and earned degree in liberal studies and nursing after a stint in the US Army.  Mortenson began the CAI, Central Asia Institute.  His time with them has been fraught with investigations and repayments of monies.  Although he was the New York Times Bestseller List for over two hundred weeks, having written five or six books, some of his biographical details and stories in his books have been disputed.  Although he was subject to court-ordered restitution, the IRS has not cleared his CAI foundation and he no longer serves as its head.


What cannot be denied is the work done with his Pennies for Peace campaign.  The organizations tag line says it all: “Together we can cultivate peace, nurture hope, and change the world—one child at a time.”  So how does this campaign work?  Quoting again from the website:  “Participants collect pennies while learning important lessons about cultural understanding, experiencing the rewards of sharing and working together to bring hope and educational opportunities to children in Central Asia.  A penny in the United States may have little worth, but in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan just a few pennies can buy a pencil and open the door to literacy.”


The terrorist acts that occurred in New Jersey, Minnesota, and New York City this past weekend are a call to our faith and put our belief in the ideals of this country to the test.  Those who will react with distrust and fear are playing into the hands of the terrorists.  The definition of terrorism, as defined by the federal government of the U.S.A., is this:  “criminal acts perpetrated on innocent victims for the express purpose of creating terror and fear.”  These villains do not know their victims so they cannot claim they are doing this out of a religious belief or an intent to improve anything.    They just want to create distrust and fear.


In 1936 Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnston wrote a song entitled “Pennies from Heaven”.  Recorded by Bing Crosby, Billie Holliday, and Frank Sinatra, it became a popular hit.  The phrase “pennies from heaven” came to mean unexpected goodwill or found treasure.  “Every time it rains, it rains pennies from heaven.  Don’t you know each cloud contains pennies from heaven?”  While the leader of the campaign had some problems and perhaps did not go about his work in the best way possible, the Pennies for peace project was and has been successful.  By placing trust in even something as small as the smallest unit of currency, positive change was possible.  One penny may not seem like a lot but one hundred of them makes a dollar and one hundred of those can equal one hundred dollars.  That can purchase a flock of chickens or two goats that can not only provide food for a family in need but also give them a livelihood.


I hope today, if you live in the U.S.A., you go about your living with a smile on your face.  We need to be aware and report what looks askew.  Additional unexploded devices were discovered in New Jersey when two homeless people reported a suspicious backpack.  As a robot sought to disarm the devices they exploded.  Thanks to these two homeless people and their trust in the system, lives were saved.


Continue to welcome those who come to our shores with trust but also be diligent in your own living.  While you are at it, find an empty jar and start your own collection of pennies.  I think you might be surprised that you can collect quite a few that will amount to greatness when combined with those of others.   The victims of this weekend’s tragic events did nothing wrong.  They were doing everything right in living as best they could.  We owe it to them to investigate and continue to live our best efforts.  Trust in your ability to make a difference, continue to trust and don’t let terrorists lead you astray.


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