Ministry "Short Sprints" and "Marathons"

By Brad Phillips As I write these lines, the world is rightly focused on the terrible tragedy in Haiti. Sudden calamities like earthquakes and hurricanes test the ministry "response time" of Christians and people of good will. And I have, like you, been blessed to see so much love and support given in such a short time. There is much debate about whether America is still a "Christian nation." I know one thing for sure, American Christians set the standard for responding to world disasters. Of course, all glory goes to God, and not man. We love others because He first loved us.


Recently my brother, Doug, led a team to Haiti in February to deliver aid and to rescue some of the thousands of new orphans in that struggling country. I was moved to read his accounts of the terrible scenes they witnessed day after day as their eyes were assaulted with images of complete destruction and despair. But where sin abounds, Grace abounds all the more, and Doug and his team were able to help make a positive impact on thousands of lives.

Orphan children help Doug with his computer posts.

I have observed that "natural disasters" are in some ways easier to handle than "man-made disasters." The reason is because the cause is "clean." An earthquake has no political agenda to promote or discriminating policy towards a particular minority faction.

"Man-made disasters" are another thing all together.

When people are dying because they are targeted for extinction by competing political or religious forces, the cause is not so "clean." There is not the overwhelming sympathy from the world that we see in Haiti.

If help comes, it is often compromised by political or diplomatic restrictions. And if the problem tends to go on and on with no end in sight, the world begins to lose interest and to just forget.

Such has been my experience in places like Sudan, where the "man-made" earthquake has destroyed cities, wealth, health, peace, and especially people for decades. And as far as man's eyes can see, there is no end in sight.

From 1983 to 2005, more than 2 million Christians were shot, starved, butchered, and burned to death in Southern Sudan. Millions more were enslaved or made homeless. And from 2003 to the present, as many as 400,000 people in Darfur, Sudan, have been killed.

Since Sudan's troubles are purely man-made, then tend to go on and on. The reason is because the solution is mostly spiritual - not just physical. Sure the world can ship in tons of aid and medicine, build schools and hospitals, and put up cell towers. But until the hardened hearts of sinners are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, Sudan will continue to be a "Haiti in slow motion."

PPF has done its share of crisis relief. Up until 2005, crisis relief was most of what we did. But after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, and things began to quiet down a little in Southern Sudan, we began investing more in people, discipleship, and rebuilding.

But this is long, slow work. People don't change overnight. Doing this kind of slow, unglamorous work requires dedicated supporters who are looking for a "long-term return" on their "investment." It's what I call the difference between a short sprint ministry and a marathon.

Sometimes God uses His people for "short sprint ministries" like those in Haiti. There was a tragedy. There is an immediate need. Christians are responding to that need.

But Sudan is a spiritual marathon. It's a race that will go on a long time before the runner gets a water break, much less reach the finish line. By supporting PPF, you have sometimes had to sprint, but mostly you're in this race for the long-haul.

I want you to know how grateful I am for your example. When I browse the list of people who regularly contribute to our ministry, I see many names I have known for 10 years - or more. Some have sent literally hundreds of individual gifts. And I know the number of gifts pale in comparison to the number of prayers offered up for our persecuted brethren.

But running a marathon can be difficult. Every curve or hill seems to be replaced by another curve or hill, then another, then another. But God encourages us in Gal. 6:9 to "not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." The race we are running will come to an end. It might not be this year, or next. But we have the confidence and assurance to know that each day we continue "running" is one day closer to the day when Africa "shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Hab. 2:1)

Thank you for running with me. Let's continually encourage one another as we run this race together.