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Thank You’s

Thank you for giving the article “Made Like Us” such a prominent place (December 2008). Mark Stephenson’s portrayal of Jesus brought tears to my eyes. As a man with disabilities, this article helped me understand how Jesus is like me and I am like him.

“Disability is not just an impairment, but an impairment compared to your peers,” the author so beautifully makes clear. Disconnected from God, we are also disconnected from each other, even more so when we stand out as being different. To hear that we recognize Jesus Christ in the marks of his disability and we could not know him without those marks is a real eye opener. It provides a new perspective and gives me new hope.

“In Christ’s disability, we recognize him as true God and find in him a compassionate companion who dwells with us in our limitations.” Thank you, Mark.

—Mike TulpOrillia, Ontario

Thank you so very much for the poem “Psalm 139: Alzheimer’s Version” by Richard DeWaard (December 2008). Some time ago my sister’s husband was diagnosed with the debilitating illness of Alzheimer’s. Thankfully I could share the poem with her and her children. She reflected that it was an emotional experience reading it, but was grateful nonetheless.

— Harry A. EmmerzaelGeelong, Australia

Argument ad Phobium

I would like to propose a new logical fallacy. I think it should be called “argument ad phobium.” In her article “Discernment vs. Discretion” (December 2008), Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma dismisses the viewpoint of students who are concerned about Hollywood’s representations of sex, violence, and foul language. She calls this “a fear-based approach [that] leads to perpetual spiritual and intellectual immaturity.”I’ve noticed lately that this is a common form of argument. If you can’t refute a premise, just call it “fear-based.” An example of this is that anyone who argues that homosexual activity is sinful gets labeled a homophobe.One of the definitions of discernment is the ability to make wise judgments. This author tells us to “test the spirits” by witnessing sin in art. Is that really wise when St. Paul tells us to “avoid every kind of evil”? He also tells us, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Is that what we are doing when we sit in the dark watching most of Hollywood’s output? 

—Pete De Ritter
Comstock Park, Mich.

Shoe Box Giving

I write to thank Nancy Visser for asking some very thoughtful and valid questions about the wisdom of sending boxes filled with Christmas gifts to children in the developing world (“Christmas Giving,” IMHO, December 2008). I asked the same questions when I joined Samaritan’s Purse Canada in early 2006 and began to help steward its Operation Christmas Child program.As a member of our senior management team, I have learned that the gift-filled shoe boxes really do transform lives. They give children hope and the very real knowledge that someone far away cares about them no matter where they are, and no matter what challenges they are facing. They do this in a way that a donated goat, a vaccination, or a medical clinic never can. I’m certainly not downplaying the importance of livestock programs, of life-saving vaccines, of medical clinics, and/or a host of other relief and development initiatives. But they don’t speak to a little child—conveying God’s love—the way a shoe box can.Also, there are many examples of Samaritan’s Purse and its local partners going into a village or town to distribute gift-filled shoe boxes and using that opportunity to join locals in identifying and meeting many other needs—including livestock, vaccines, clinics, etc. The shoe boxes lay the groundwork.I can also cite examples of North Americans for whom packing a shoebox was their first tentative step in reaching out to people in the developing world, their first tentative step in being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. A year or two later, these North Americans are continuing to support Operation Christmas Child while also supporting other relief and development initiatives. Again, the shoe boxes lay the groundwork.

—Jeff Adams
Director, Communications and Creative Services Dept.
Samaritan’s Purse Canada and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada
Calgary, Alberta

Without getting into the relative merits of goats vs. shoe boxes for Christmas—both are surely affordable and serve different purposes—here is a comment from our local newspaper. Students at a nearby school were filling shoe boxes when a flash of recognition crossed the face of one of them. He had received a similar box the previous Christmas while living in a refugee camp in Benin, West Africa. He said, “It was the best Christmas I had in my life. It was hard for me to open the box, I was so happy. . . . I would say some kids didn’t open their present for a year; some kids want to keep it special.”

—J. Cameron Fraser
Lethbridge, Alberta

About the shoe boxes, I do not quite agree that we are only pushing North American consumerism. The boxes also contain gospel messages. And you do not have to put only trinkets in the box. You can buy a pair of shoes for a child as well as some dollar-store toys.I’m glad to pay the $7 to send a box and make a child happy. I want these children to know that someone cares enough to tell them that God loves them.

—Johanna Smeenk
Stanley, N.Y.

Testing Our Waters

As one who married into the Dutch culture and was baptized in the Christian Reformed Church as an adult, feelings of exclusion in church are not foreign to me. I therefore feel compelled to give Gary Mulder a loud, heartfelt “Amen!” to his editorial “A Fish Doesn’t Know It’s in Water” (November 2008).If congregations within the CRC are interested in growing by means other than births and transfers, I agree that we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and how we may unintentionally leave others out. There have been many times, within the church walls, that I have felt like a Canadian fish trying to swim my way around Dutch waters. Sometimes that’s a lonely place to be.

—Lucretia Apperloo
Lethbridge, Alberta

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