For over 28 years I have pursued a Gospel with power to change lives and mobilize people as agents of transformation. I long to see transformation from below as the Good News of Jesus Christ impacts the poorest of the poor in every area of their lives and society. I have ministered among peasants in rural Honduras, Mexican immigrant farm workers in migrant labor camps in Washington State and with inmates in Skagit County Jail and in other countries. I find that men and women trapped in addictions, violence, penal systems, poverty and the like are often desperate enough to open themselves to help from God. However negative images of God and self constantly threaten the conversion process. These must be identified and countered in a holistic way as the basis for empowerment and transformation. Our mission to people caught up in places of greatest spiritual darkness require a vaster array of approaches, greater unity and collaboration within the body of Christ, strategic engagement with social-service, business other players and advocacy before civil authorities.
Confronting oppressive images of God begins as trust in built through authentic relationships. Negative perceptions about God and self come from abusive parenting, unjust social structures, experiencing poverty, calamities, and other suffering, traditional religious interpretations, spiritual oppression and other sources. The origins of oppressive theology must be identified and addressed in a holistic way that includes proclamation and teaching backed up by signs and wonders, advocacy, accompaniment, counseling, inner healing and deliverance, sustainable development, preventative health care and many other approaches. A constantly evolving biblical theology informed by Jesus’ teaching, the Holy Spirit’s guidance, intercession and worship and fruitful engagement with the larger body of Christ and world must ground our efforts.
God’s respectful, saving Presence and high view of humans launches the Bible’s story of redemption. The Spirit hovers over the darkness and chaos and God speaks light into existence, and orders time and space (Gen 1:1ff). God makes humans in his image and likeness, commanding them to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28). This reflects God’s mission to bless, send out and multiply his image-bearers to fill the earth with his glory. This is nothing less than a vision of the Kingdom of heaven invading earth. Humans in right relationship with God are given authority to subdue, and rule over an earth under the power of the ruler of this world. This authority is lost when we let the creature define God, “did God say…?” Letting creation itself or competing voices reveal God rather than God’s very words and acts erodes our confidence in God’s total goodness and grace causing us to live by grasping, by the sweat of our brow instead of by gift.
Restoration is only possible when we find ourselves in some way met by a God who reveals himself as one who pursues us, meeting, confronting and yet loving us in the midst of our sin.
Cain is the first human God pursues—and we see that God’s ministry priority from day one outside the garden is to deal with this violent, resistant humankind embodied in Cain. Persistent pursuit of notorious sinners through acts of love and holistic witness must be one of the church’s highest ministry priorities.
Even for God this mission is not easy. The Lord does not succeed in stopping Cain from killing his brother Abel, even after his timely intervention in the heat of Cain’s anger with one-on-one counseling “why are you angry…” personal mentoring “if you do well…” and discipling “sin is crouching at the door, and it’s desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain kills his brother anyway, but God does not give up on him or on anyone following in his footsteps.
The Lord confronts Cain for his murder, advocating for the voiceless victim Abel by directly questioning the powerful: “Cain, where is your brother?” God confronts the perpetrator with the secret sins, the hidden crime as the One who sees and hears the cries of the oppressed, and knows every clandestine burial site: “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (4:10). God reveals himself as an advocate for the oppressed who is totally committed to justice on behalf of the voiceless victims. Caring for orphans, widows, the unborn, the disabled, all oppressed minority groups, victims of human trafficking, and others must be high priority for missions today.
The Lord describes hard consequences coming to perpetrator Cain as a result of his killing—not as direct punishments but natural consequences of his violence. “And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you; you shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth” (Gen 4:11-12). Judgment leads Cain to cry outs to God.
“My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, thou hast driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden, and I shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and it will come about that whoever finds me will kill me” (Gen 4:13-14). God’s response shows amazing mercy to undeserving sinners and illustrates the later word: “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. God’s stern warning of hard consequences is announced to all who decide to use violence against the violent, even in the name of justice. “Whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.”
God puts a sign of protection on Cain to keep people from killing him— showing special interest in violent perpetrators. This continues through Scripture and must inform our mission priorities today. Christians must die daily in the waters of baptism, emerging cleansed from allegiances to nation, laws, policies, attitudes and practices that would disqualify them from bearing good news to enemies and sinners.
While Cain goes away from the presence of God in spite of God’s best efforts, like the prodigal son he is coming back—and the Father pursues him with open arms. Will the prodigals find themselves wanting to return to us? Are we joining the Father in running towards and embracing the broken, returning ones?
We see God’s preferential option for sinners continues through Scripture. God chooses many key biblical characters who were violent men or criminals: Moses, Samson, Jacob, Judah, David, Matthew the tax-collector, Simon the zealot, the Apostle Paul.
God cares about violent perpetrators for many reasons. He longs to see an end to violence of every kind and pursues would-be violators and seasoned killers to help them face their sin and receive healing for their deepest wounds—before they do more damage to others and themselves. Since the violent are those who remain alive, who “win” over and against the weak, God pursues these survivors, winning them over through the only effective violence, the violence of love– the kindness that leads to repentance.
God’s mission continues throughout Scripture, and is ultimately successful in Jesus, who undoes the entire system of vengeance by letting himself be delivered over into the hands of violent men for our (and their) salvation. Should this not be one of our highest priorities today?
Violent men continue to be marked with the sign of the cross. Followers of Jesus must pray for the protection and peace God afforded Cain to be on contemporary equivalents of Cain (whether they be local criminals or Al Queda or Taliban combatants) —and for the 70×7 forgiveness that Jesus taught and embodied to overcome the 77 vengeance curse of Cain’s descendant Lamech (Gen 4:24; Matt 18:22) that menaces in places where violence is on the rise. Jesus accomplished this as he died at the hands of violent men, between two criminals. And we worship him for this unfathomable love that saves.
We must pray for people caught up in violence—for safety so they will grow up into their highest callings in Christ. We must also pray for God’s powerful presence of love to stop people currently engaged in violence or plotting acts of vengeance or terror in their tracks as the resurrected Jesus stopped Saul in his on the road to Damascus. We long to hear all these gang members testify with Paul:
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate his perfect patience, as an example for those who could believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim 1:12-17)
Facilitating Transformation through Confronting Negative Images of God
Facilitating transformation of individuals oppressed by negative images of God involves us first identifying and breaking agreement with false notions of God and self that demobilize us from becoming free subjects in God’s Kingdom. The process of conversion involves progressive differentiation of images of God and self from false notions of God’s and our own identity to increasingly truer perceptions. This happens through deliberate confrontation of negative theology and most importantly, through experiences of the fullest, most authentic encounter with God in Jesus Christ. This frees humans to be the subject of their desire.
Many people on the margins of society have images of God that are mostly negative in ways that hold them back from any positive benefit or any spiritual attraction whatsoever. For many “god” has already been defined by core experiences of human father or authority figures who abandoned or rejected them, punished or abused them, was impossible to please and controlling or permissive and negligent. Negative images of God also come through people’s assumptions that calamities, injustice, sickness and other forms of oppression are willed by God or sent as punishments.
When my Honduran peasant colleague Fernando and I first began asking impoverished peasants why their corn and bean harvest were so dismal I was startled by their near unanimous responses: “It’s God’s will.” We launched our ministry Tierra Nueva by starting a demonstration farm– cultivating steep, eroded mountainsides using contoured terraces, rock or pasture grass barriers to prevent further erosion and soil building strategies like compost and cover crops. We planted corn, beans, vegetables and fruit trees to the curve of the land, experimented with fish ponds, fuel efficient mud stoves and other appropriate technologies.
Our first year’s harvest was ten times better than people were accustomed to seeing, drawing the attention of peasants from the surrounding area. We helped those interested in attempting our approach establish an experimental plot on their own land, discipling them in these organic-intensive farming methods. When they saw for themselves that protecting and rebuilding soil led to dramatically improved harvests, God was “off the hook,” no longer to blame— and a space was opened for them to hear about a good God who does not will crop failures and poverty.
My wife Gracie and our Guatemalan colleague Catalina taught vegetable gardening, nutritious recipes, hygiene and other preventative health measures people found their health improving. As people learned that amoebas and bacteria could be eradicated through boiling their water, once again God was no longer to blame for the premature death of their children through malnutrition and dysentery. Health education brought a needed corrective to traditional explanations that attributed most common health problems to witchcraft or curses from enemy neighbors. While deliverance continued to be important in combating other kinds of oppression, subsistence farming and health education are also critical for community wellbeing—easing tensions due to false accusations and taking away power from local corianders (witch doctors).
While negative images of God can be removed through helping people see natural causes for common afflictions and social problems, the Good News of God’s self-revelation as Jesus is essential. We find that getting people to read and study the Bible, though very important, does not automatically bring clarity. We need to clearly present Jesus as the full embodiment of the Old Testament God and interpreter of the Hebrew Scriptures—law and prophets. When Jesus is transfigured before his disciples the Father makes it clear that listening to Jesus trumps Moses and Elijah. Without this continual clarification people get tripped up in legalistic and excluding appropriations of OT laws or justifications of violence based on Joshua. Reading the Bible for Good News begins with clear New Testament teachings regarding Jesus.
In these last days God has spoken to us in his Son, … and he is the radiance of his glory and the exact representation of his nature (Heb 1:2-3)
For he delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of this beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. And he is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation (Col 1:13-15).
In the Gospel of John there is a clear articulation of God’s unexpected otherness/holiness revealed in Jesus. In the prologue the logos is identified as present with God at the beginning and as actually being God. To avoid any confusion the writer emphasizes that this logos-God created all things, is the life and light shining on people and cannot be overcome by darkness. The writer of John emphasizes that this word/life/light enlightens every human (1:9).
Yet in a surprising twist the prologue states that the world does not recognize the word who becomes flesh, nor do his own people receive him! This is because a God “full of grace and truth” is completely different than the familiar, dominant images of God as an all-powerful, imposing, aggressive and conquering Sovereign. This word/life/light represents a God who is powerful. Yet at the same time there is a foreignness, and holiness to this kind of power, and it can go unperceived. It can be resisted.
Receiving/believing in this very different God leads to being born of God— a filial event called adoption. When this one is received and believed people share in God’s “other” power, which is called exousia, “authority.”
But a many as received him, who believe in his name, to them he gave the authority to become children of God (Jn 1:12)
Does being born of God shift people away from the limitations of their human identities as addicted, bound, imprisoned, unemployed, and oppressed? People on the margins are desperate to experience authority over longstanding habits and powers that oppress.
John’s Gospel describes with great subtlety the process of becoming such an empowered child of God—and it all has to do with communion with Jesus. Human witnesses point to Jesus as the fullest revelation of God: “No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known” (John 1:18).
John the Baptist articulates the role of all missionary announcers of Jesus as the “voice crying in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’ (Jn 1:23). He points people to prophetically to Jesus, who himself invites potential disciples to come and see where he stays. His team grows as he exercises authority by means of his prophetic gifting: naming Simon “Cephas/Peter”, seeing Nathaniel where only God could see him and affirming his true identity “behold an Israelite in whom is no guile!” (1:47). The role of prophetic ministry is to directly challenges negative views of self—inviting people into their highest callings.
Often my colleagues and I find ourselves sharing spontaneous impressions that people recognize as bringing to light details that only God could know. Recently while praying for a Mexican farm worker in his late thirties a faint picture flashed across my mind of an adult throwing rocks at young boy who was shepherded animals. I asked him if his father ever lost his temper and threw rocks at him when he was a boy, causing him to run away terrified. He began to cry and grabbed his leg where he had been hit. That day he forgave his father for this offence, which was one of many others that contributed to this man’s fear of displeasing employers and others in authority.
The Apostle Paul writes that the one who prophesies “speaks to people for their strengthening, encouragement, and consolation” (1 Cor 14:3) and makes God real to a person who do not yet believe “when the secrets of his heart are disclosed” (1 Cor 14:25).
A close look at Jesus’ prophetic ministry as depicted in the Gospels overturns alienating traditional images of God. Jesus’ revelation to the astounded Samaritan woman that she had had five husbands as he offered her living water in John 4 is one of many examples that subverts contemporary readers assumptions. Jesus’ witness regularly challenges common beliefs that God favors the righteous over sinners, law-abiding people over criminals, the rich over the poor, the beautiful over the ugly, the intelligent over the ignorant, offering flashes of a very different sort of God.
People assume that God is like a rigorous admissions officer at an exclusive University or a demanding, scrupulous employer examining resumes— choosing only the most deserving into his ranks—especially if they are to be ministry workers or any kind of leader. Yet right from the beginning of the Bible we see that God pursues the most unlikely candidates.
I recently led a Bible study on 1 Corinthians 1:26-2:5 to a group of 12-14 bedraggled Caucasian and Hispanic inmates in the jail. Most of the men were in their 20s and 30s were addicted to drugs and alcohol, had not completed high school and would be hard pressed to qualify for anything but low-wage jobs. Before reading the text I asked the men what sort of people they think God would chose to be pastors or missionaries.
“People from higher social classes,” said one man. “People who were smart and educated, who had their shit together,” he continued.
“I think he’d chose people who’d been through lots of big troubles,” said an older man. “He’d want people who could relate to ordinary people like us.”
“Do you think they’d have to be educated, able to explain things well, be good public speakers and all?” I asked.
I could see that the men were unsure how to answer, divided between the what they assumed to be the conventional answer that God chooses strong, smart, righteous people and the wisdom of the older man that included them. I invited someone to read the texts and watch people’s eyes brighten as the words witness to a God very unlike normal human authorities.
Consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that he might nullify the things that are… (1 Cor 1:26-28).
A God who purposely chooses those not mighty, noble, brilliant but rather those who are despised and nothing is a God that gives them hope. What kinds of God reveals through being crucified, through speaking through the weak and nobodies? The next reading brought even more hope to the inarticulate ones there in the circle.
Brothers I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God… And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Cor 2:-5).
I often invite people to read the account of Jesus’ calling of the fishermen in Matthew 4:18-22, asking questions like “where were Jesus’ first recruits and what were they looking for when Jesus called them? Inmates are sometimes visibly afraid to state the obvious as the “correct” answer as it do directly counters the dominant theology. “At the sea looking for fish” is contextualized to “at work looking for money” and people are invited to include their actual places of work—even if they are drug houses, bars, factories or fields.
When I ask people what Jesus’ call of the disciples in Matthew tells us about God people begin to perceive the refreshing otherness revealed in Jesus. God comes to where we are, wherever we are. God calls people who are not visibly seeking God, righteous or religious in any way to join him. Luke 15:1’s description that “all the tax-collectors and sinners drew near to Jesus to listen to him” confounds people expecting God to be a law-enforcement agent type. There must have been something about Jesus that attracted the bad guys. What was it?
I often invite people to look at the immediate aftermath of the first disciples’ following of Jesus. In response to the question “where did they go and what did they do?” The text offers a compelling picture of an adventurous life that positively impacts hurting people that is far more attractive than minimum-wage jobs, drugs and alcohol or a life of crime.
And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people… and they brought to him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and he healed them. (Matt 4:23-24)
In our weekly jail Bible studies, visits to migrant camps and rural villages in Central America and everywhere we go we regularly lead Bible studies and pray for suffering people and witness God’s power to heal. Healing often happens before people come to faith, undermining the dominant image of God that sees sickness and a sanction for bad behavior and healing or any sort of benefit as a reward for good behavior.
Once I offered to pray for a man suffering from shoulder and lower back pain after the police had violently pulled his arms behind his back nearly dislocating his shoulders to handcuff him. They had thrown him in the back of the police car and the handcuffs had dug into his back. Before praying for him I asked if he felt he needed to forgive the police for their excessive use of force.
“No,” he said. “I was drunk and resisting arrest. I’m a big dude and was pretty out of control. They were just doing their job.”
I prayed that Jesus would undo the damage done by the police and show the man how much he loved him regardless of his violence. I stepped away and asked him if he felt any improvement. He said he felt the pain leave his lower back but said he was sure that if he drew his arms back behind his back the pain would be intolerable. He began to gingerly move his arms behind his back and amazement came over his face. “I’ll grant it to you. I’ll grant it to you. The pain is completely gone,” he said, dropping to his chair and crying with his head in his hands. Like in the Gospel accounts we regularly see God’s healing presence overturn people’s negative expectations as the one full of grace and truth makes himself known concretely.
Healing is one important dimension of an important Greek verb sotzo, which literally means “to save,” but is often used in the Gospels as a synonym for “to heal.” There are two other Greek verbs used in miracles of healing, therapueo ”to cure” and iaomai “to heal,” so Gospel writers seem to be making a special point in using the highly theological sotzo, which is used in Paul’s writings to refer almost exclusively to Jesus’ saving work on the cross for eternal life (see Rom 5:9-10; 8:24; 9:22; 10:9-10,13; 11:14,26; 1 Cor 1:18, 21; 1 Cor 3:15; 5:5; 7:16; 9:22; 10:33; 15:2; Eph 2:5,8; 1 Tim 1:15). This meaning of salvation for eternal life is also present in the Gospels (Mat 10:22; 16:25; 24:12-13; 19:16, 25; John 3:17; 5:34; 10:9; 12:47). However there are many occurrences of sotzo that are rendered in English translations as “heal” in miracle stories where people experience physical healing (Matt 9:21,22,22; Mk 3:4; 5:23, 28, 34; 6:56; 10:52; Luke 6:9; 8:48, 50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 4:9; 14:9). In addition, we see many other occurrences of sotzo in the Gospels and Acts that refer to being saved or rescued from danger in the lifetime of the beneficiary (Matt 8:25; 14:30; 27:40, 42; 27:49; Mk 8:35, 35; Lk 9:55-56; 23:35, 37, 39; Acts 27:20, 31). This rich verb and the related noun soteria “salvation” present a holistic notion of saving/salvation that includes salvation for eternal life, supernatural healing and deliverance, but also physical acts of helping, rescuing and liberation. Mission must take into account this rich diversity of actions that communicate God’s love to our hurting world.
I traveled to Guatemala in September, 2008 to train pastors working with gang members. We visited one of Central America’s most infamous prisons to visit the gang member inmates of perhaps the most notorious street gang in the WesternHemisphere. A week before leaving for Guatemala City I dreamed of a heavily-tattooed man with a hole in his right side. I met this man in the second prison– a big intimidating guy with tattoos and a myriad of scars from stab wounds and bullets all over his body—including a big indentation on his right side from a near-death shootout with the police.
This man, a gang leader serving a 135-year sentence, ended up taking me back into the heart of the prison to find a bathroom, and then inviting me into his cell. I shared with him my dream and he was visibly moved, welcoming my offer to pray for him. He told me about his worries about his son and shared his longing for God’s peace and love in his heart. I prayed for him and anointed him with oil.
He led me back into the yard where we succeeded in gathering many inmates for a Bible study on Jesus’ call of Matthew the tax collector. I described how Matthew was a tax-collector—a member of a notorious class of people that nearly everyone hated.
“Who might fit the description of tax-collectors today?” I asked.
Gangs in Guatemala force businesses in their territories to pay “protection taxes” [from themselves] and taxi drivers to pay “circulation taxes”- and the men smiled and looked at each other, acknowledging that they fit the description.
“So what was Matthew doing when Jesus called him?” I ask.
The men look surprised when they note that he wasn’t following any rules, seeking God or doing anything religious, but practicing his despised trade when Jesus showed up on the street and chose him.
“So let’s see if Jesus made Matthew leave his gang to be a Christian,” I suggest, and people look closely at the next verse.
There Jesus is eating at Matthew’s house with other tax-collectors and sinners and the disciples.
“So who followed whom?” I ask, excited to see people’s reaction.
The men could see the Jesus had apparently followed gangster Matthew into his barrio and joined his homies for a meal.
“So what do you think you guys, would you let Jesus join your gang?” I ask, looking directly to the man I’d just prayed for in his cell and the other gang chief.
They were caught off guard by such a question—but there we all were, deep in their turf being welcomed, Bibles, guitar and all– and nobody was resisting. Big smiles lit up both their faces as we looked at Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees’ distain. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”
I ask them if they are at all offended to think of themselves as sick—and they don’t seem to be at all. I’ve got their attention and Jesus’ final word to the religious insiders hits these guys like a spray of spiritual bullets from a drive by:
“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Jesus’ firm dismissal of the accusing Pharisees “go and learn” and clear preference for sinners as the “called” drew the circle of gang members irresistibly into Jesus’ company.
I was delighted that the men agreed to let us lay hands on every one of their bare, heavily-tatted backs as my colleague sang worship songs over them, including: “Jesus, friend of sinners, we love you.” I heard from a pastor that the gang leader I had prayed with was amazed at how his “homies” (fellow gang members) were letting us pray for him and whispered: “It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the Presence of the Holy Spirit in my life and seen the homies at peace. I feel really good.”
Two months later last November 22nd I spent a day in a bleak French prison in Lyon where suicide was rampant. I was there training French prison chaplains and ministering to inmates. That night I took a train back to Paris to learn the horrific news that the Guatemalan gang leader I’d prayed with who had the hole in his side and three others had been taken in the middle of the night by the police and placed into a prison of 900 inmates that were all violently anti-gang. On the morning of November 22, 2008 rioting inmates killed, decapitated and mutilated the bodies of these four men who we’d laid hands on to bless.
While carrying off these men authorities also burned all the 150+ inmates possessions, sheets and makeshift shacks they’d built for conjugal visits in a big bonfire—leaving them beaten up, naked and traumatized. Local gang pastors boldly accompanied the shattered families and inmates in the aftermath of this event. They brought over 25 huge bags of clothes collected from churches, deeply touching the gang inmates who are used to being despised and excluded.
Yet anti-gang sentiment is rising in the country and scapegoating continues in full swing. Recently authorities invaded the prison again and apprehended the other leader and two others, transporting to another prison. A plot was exposed showing their killings were being arranged for the anniversary of last year’s killing of four. This time high-level advocacy on their behalf before government officials in the USA and Guatemala exposed the plot and led to greater security and visits for these inmates. The gang members inside and outside the prison and their families have been deeply moved by Christian solidarity.
Micro-enterprise & mission
Gang members, drug-dealers and ex-offenders need opportunities to develop other stills so they can step away from lives of crime and become legally-functioning members of society. Tierra Nueva is working to establish micro-businesses both in Honduras and in the USA to provide skills training, jobs and income to sustain our ministries. We continue to work to help famers improve production and storage of basic grains, bring water to marginal neighborhoods for basic needs and vegetable gardens, increase the quality of coffee and distribution of specialty coffee and establishing a water-purification plant to sell bottled water. We import Honduran coffee to the United States, where we have train and employ gang members and ex-offenders to roast and market specialty coffee through Underground Coffee Project. Tierra Nueva runs an organic farm called Jubilee Farm, producing and selling vegetables and flowers as a site for discipleship and training for farm workers and others on the margins. Micro-businesses are increasingly important to provide alternatives for felons, sites for ministry and income for ministries.
Direct confrontation of false images of God through proclamation and holistic responses to people’s felt needs, fresh readings of Biblical texts, pastoral accompaniment, advocacy, prophetic ministry and healing prayer are some of the ways that prepare people to meet Jesus as the one who saves them from their sins and transforms their lives. The kindness of God leads to repentance—understood as a change of heart (Rom 2:4). So we do everything we can to effectively pluck up, break down, destroy and overthrow the false while also facilitating, ushering in, and preparing the way for the revelation of the kind God who has the power to save.