An Open Letter to the Church in North America and its Leaders
Thousands of US citizens lost their lives in the first foreign terrorist attacks on American mainland soil on September 11, 2001. One issue I have not seen addressed is whether or not these attacks might have been prevented. Im not talking about the failure of our national security apparatus or intelligence community. Im talking about the Body of Christ in the US. I believe I have a unique opportunity to shed some light on this issue. You see, I work with internationals. I also live in South Florida, where 14 of the 18 terrorists lived for various periods of time before they brought disaster upon so many.
Some of the terrorists lived in Lake Worth, 40 miles away; some in Hollywood, 10 miles away; some in the communities of Dania and Davie, only 5 miles away. They were close enough for me to get in my car, drive over to their house, and become a friend. But I didnt. Why? Because I, like everyone else here, didnt know who they were and what an incredible impact these internationals would have on our country, let alone the world. And isnt that the way it continues to go? Let me explain.
Fidel Castro lives closer to me than virtually everyone who receives this. He came to the US as a prospect for major league baseball. But he found Americans inhospitable and didnt stick around. Before long Cuba fell to communism. Miriam Haile Mengistu, an Ethiopian, studied at a military institute in Virginia, but he saw enough racist attitudes and behavior directed at him that he had enough. Ethiopia fell to his dictatorial boot after he returned. Leon Trostky had no Christian contact in New York City. He returned to Russia where he helped Vladimir Lenin overthrow the Russian czar and establish the USSR. Ho Chi Minh came to the States from France. In correspondence he wrote to a friend he said he came here to find the secret of capitalism and Christianity. I have seen the restaurant he worked in. He too left disillusioned, embraced communism and led North Vietnam in war against us. Yosuki Matsuoki studied on the West Coast, and was treated as the lamentable foreigner. So bitter were his experiences here that he returned to Japan, vowing to get even. He did he planned the attack on Pearl Harbor.
How might history have been rewritten for millions upon millions of people in the gulags, running for their lives, starving to death, caught in the crossfire of wars if only these 5 men had been contacted by Gods people who were loving Christian witnesses and friends? The fact is that no one made any significant Christian contact with any of them. In the cases of Castro, Trotsky, Minh and Matsuoki, the US paid dearly for it, not only in actual lives lost, but also in foreign policy decisions and military expenses.
Now we have seen the chickens literally come home to roost, on our own shores. Will we ever learn?
Lets face it. No matter how strong our military is, no matter how sophisticated our intelligence apparatus is, no matter how many allies we have, all of these steps are defensive in nature. The best you and I can do for New York and Washington right now is pray, donate to charities and blood drives, and watch workers pick up the pieces. But is that good enough? Isnt there anything we can do to seize the offensive? Yes, there is.
14 of the 18 terrorists lived in our neighborhoods. They were internationals right here, and they were accessible to everyone. I have worked with internationals since 1987. Our area is loaded with good churches of every stripe. For a decade I have been up and down the Gold Coast calling churches and visiting pastors and church leaders. And for 10 years of work, do you know how many churches have seen the light of international ministry as a result of my efforts? Less than five. Five!! I could not begin to tell you how many churches have hung up on me, slammed the door in my face, or coldly said, "No thanks."
When will the Body of Christ in North America wake up?! When will pastors especially start being models of hospitality who train their people how to fish and stop being keepers of the aquarium? Our network with God and each other is exceedingly better than any CIA operation or FBI surveillance team. When will churches all over this country wake up to the incredible potential of international ministry in the States? And Im not just talking about urban America. Attorney General John Ashcroft recently said that the next terrorist attacks could come in the form of crop-duster planes being stolen to dump poison chemicals in metropolitan water sources. The FAA does not permit such planes to fly over large cities, so now were talking about rural America. In other words, we need an army of Gods people in every community that is united, focused, responsible, alert, trained for duty and ready to do good works in Jesus name and speak up for Him. And this is not to be done in paranoid fear that every international is a budding terrorist. Far from it. We are called to serve the Lord out of love, not fear. And when we do this among internationals, we will make a global impact. Indeed, we may rewrite history before it happens.
Could the terrorist attacks on September 11th been prevented? Well probably never know for sure. But this much is true: the opportunity was there. Once again, the Body of Christ was not united, not mobilized, not prepared, not reaching out. We missed these internationals, and once again, their impact has been horrific. How many others might be in your neighborhoods today? Is there any believer crossing their paths, or even seeing them? How many opportunities are you missing each day?
Oh God, please forgive us for our complacency, our selfish and narrow-minded pursuits, our petty arguments with other believers, and our lack of spiritual focus that sees history and opportunity through an eternal perspective. Grant that we might humble ourselves, lift our eyes up to see You, and be the kind of obedient people who want only Your will. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else will do. Amen.
Director of Training Materials, InterFACE Ministries
Senior Pastor, Lauderdale Community Church
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
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