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Will we snap back, or snap and break?

On PBS.org, I heard a lecture by former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich on the topic of “How Unequal Can America Get Before We Snap?”

The crux of his premise was that there appeared to be a widening gap of inequalities of income, wealth and opportunity. Reich asked the questions about these areas of inequality, asking, “Why was this happening? Whether this is a problem or not? And, will this ‘snap’ likely happen in the future.”

Reich compared society to the elasticity of a rubber band. He put forth two scenarios that occurs when a rubber band is stretched. The first, a rubber band is stretched and then snaps back to its original form. The second, a rubber band is stretched to the point of it snaps and breaks. After listening to the lecture, I pondered the impact of globalization and technology, stretching Reich’s proverbial rubber band of the local communities, but more importantly, the impact on Decatur County.

How far is our community being stretched, is it at the point of snap back or snap break? Perhaps, this is a question of how to measure such a sociological phenomenon.

Recently local news reported in the county’s unemployment is in excess of 10 percent. We have felt the devastation of American Fibers and Yarn closing its doors, leaving more than 240 persons unemployed and TRACO downsizing its personnel to somewhere around 70 folks. Let us not forget Propex filing Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. American World War I uniform memorabilia being sold by Sears but manufactured in China. Wall Street and automotive companies have received bailouts, but what about our local farmers and industries?

In addition to these news reports, we have been mortified and suffered by three fatal criminal acts that were carried out on defenseless victims between August through December of last year. There have been more than 10 extremely violent incidents that have occurred during this same period. The frightening question to me is how many more deaths or acts of violence will be perpetrated on innocent citizens of Decatur County? Are we at the point of snap back or snap break?

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” Proverbs 13:12a.

However, Jesus taught his disciples through the Beatitudes how to combat such personal and communal abasement. Jesus was training his team when they encountered someone low in spirit, those who were mourning, and the meek, that were to be encouraged because the kingdom of heaven is theirs, and they will be comforted, and inherit the earth, and shown mercy, and will be called the children of God.

There are two Biblical action items that reference carrying out such a mission:

Action No. 1

The Big Picture—the reason for encouraging the discourage.

Matthew 25:34-40. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

To prevent a snap break, we must conclude that it is not about us, it is about how we worship God through ministering to others. God judges our treatment of Him by not how we judge others but in how we love others. In order for our community to prosper, we must love the Lord God with all our heart, mind and soul, and love our neighbor as ourselves. We must come together as the body of Christ and building up our communities, section by section, like Nehemiah, formulating and expanding partnerships to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned.

Action No. 2

Belief and prayer—two ingredients for healing.

Mark 9:17-18, 20-25, 28-29. “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered.

“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit.

“You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Everything is possible for those who believe. We must overcome our unbelief and have faith that God will snap back, or redeem our community. We must have faith that our neighborhoods will have peace, healing and prosperity. The method of driving out the evil spirits of violence, unemployment, despair and fear can come out only by the power of prayer.

How far can the communities of Decatur County be stretched?

The challenge for us at Nelson Chapel is to develop in-reach and out-reach congregational and community care ministries that will provide hope for the citizens of this county. We have initiated Caretakers for Christ a ministry that administers Holy Communion and visit the sick and shut-in; we have formed partnerships with Kinship Care, Angel Tree Ministry and hosted a Free Summer Reading Camp for 30 elementary students.

The members of Nelson Chapel are on schedule for reopening the Dr. Joseph H. Griffen Educational Center. It is our desire to be a catalyst in granting access and exposure to education, health care and employment. It is our vision to have worship services and ministries that lead our community toward the belief in God, personal growth and to be in a harmonious fellowship with our neighbors.

Please come out and fellowship with us on Monday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m. for the convening of a community forum addressing the increase of violence that has recently fallen on our county in the last few months. The forum theme of discussion: “What are you fighting for?”