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WITandWISDOM(tm) - July 19, 2002
We all want someone who knows us better than anyone else does, and yet accepts us, enjoys us, needs us, holds nothing back from us, keeps our secrets, and is there for us when we want to be near. - Lewis B Smedes - Caring and Commitment
Source: Peter's Pearls, http://www.peterspearls.com.au
~~~~~~~ SPECIAL THOUGHTS:
By Ellen Graham
The Wall Street Journal
NORFOLK, Va., June 12 — Carl and Janice Beaver went to church one night recently owing $10,500 on a slew of credit cards. When they walked out two hours later, they were debt-free. Now all they owe is gratitude to their brethren at Mount Carmel Baptist Church. About once a month the church holds a "debt liquidation revival," a foot-stomping, hand-clapping outpouring of music and financial generosity aimed at lifting members out of credit-card debt. How generous? The Beavers are the 56th family to have been "delivered" from debt since the revivals began about a year ago.
In a single night in May, church members not only raised the Beavers' $10,500, but an additional $5,400 to liquidate the debt of another couple, and there was $500 left over for next time. To date, the congregation has wiped out a total of $318,000 of debt.
Their feat is all the more striking because Mount Carmel isn't some suburban megachurch catering to the country-club set. It is in a vaguely seedy section of downtown Norfolk, and volunteer security guards watch parked cars during services. The church's predominantly African-American members are mostly under 50 and are drawn from across the economic spectrum. Many are from military families posted at the huge naval base here, home port of the Atlantic Fleet.
"The credit-card companies don't like me too well," says Mount Carmel's pastor, 48-year-old Bishop C. Vernie Russell Jr., an imposing figure with a graying, Santa Claus beard who accounts for all repaid debts in a pocket-sized, green notebook. But, he insists, "you can't serve your Master and MasterCard at the same time."
To an overextended generation accustomed to instant plastic gratification, Bishop Russell preaches the evils of 20% interest rates and the virtues of saving money and paying cash. At his urging, 1,000 church members have cut up their credit cards, and the shards are kept in a glass urn on the pulpit. People whose debt has been liquidated are asked to donate at least $300 at subsequent revival meetings to help other families.
This self-help refinancing project has had a salubrious effect on church coffers as well. As credit-card balances decline, disposable incomes — and church donations — have risen.
The amount tithed, for example, is up 25% in the past year, according to Bishop Russell. In addition to money collected at debt revivals, Mount Carmel takes in more than $2 million annually to fund operations and community-outreach missions, such as feeding and clothing the homeless. The goal is to have the 3,000-member congregation debt-free, except for mortgages and car loans. "When you do something collectively, it's better," Bishop Russell says.
During Bishop Russell's 19 years at its helm, Mount Carmel has grown from 35 to 3,000 members. Three Sunday-morning services are needed to accommodate the crush. It was overcrowding that indirectly inspired him to begin the revivals.
How could he ask his congregation to support a new-building fund, he wondered, when so many struggled to pay their own bills? He remembered his own worries as a young father of three, juggling a mortgage, car payments and furniture bills. "A lot of people were hurting, but they hadn't complained and nobody was aware," he says. Some were in bankruptcy, others were in danger of losing their houses.
Turning to the Scriptures, he read in Acts about the early Christians who shared what they had with each other. The notion of following their example "was something the Lord placed on my heart," he says. He presented the idea of debt liquidation at worship the following Sunday. "The first revival was the hardest," he says, because there were no previous beneficiaries pledged to help the others. Still, that day $5,600 was raised. The biggest debt the church has tackled so far was $21,000, raised over three successive days.
Church members whose debts are erased bring their bills to Bishop Russell after the meeting. He goes over the figures, initials the statements and gives them to a church trustee who writes checks to the creditors.
Those newly freed from debt must attend a seminar on staying solvent. Then the pastor meets with them periodically to see where they stand. So far, he says, there have been no backsliders. "Once you get that weight off your shoulders, you never want to go back," says Mr. Beaver.
If current trends continue, everyone at Mount Carmel should be out of debt in another year's time, Bishop Russell estimates. He has told his flock he will be the last to be called for debt liquidation because, he jokes, "You guys will have so much more money then."
In fact, he says, he pays off the full balance on his single American Express card each month.
Copyright © 2002 Dow Jones & Company, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
Submitted by Sherri Rimmer
Subjects: Debt, Credit Cards
~~~~~~~ THIS & THAT:
Each year, Chicago Center saves excerpts from conversations between airline pilots and controllers . . .
"Approach, how far from the airport are we in minutes?"
"N923, the faster you go, the quicker you'll get here"
"American 220...eenie, meenie, miney, moe...how do you hear my radio?"
I can see the country club down below...looks like a lot of controllers out there."
"Yes sir, there is...and they're caddying for DC-10 drivers like you!"
"Amtram 726, sorry 'bout that...Center thought you were a Midway
arrival...just sit back, relax and pass out some more cookies and we'll get you to Milwaukee."
"Air Force 45, it appears your engine has... oh, disregard... I see you've already ejected."
"Approach, what's the tower?"
"A big tall building with glass all around it..."
"How far behind traffic are we?"
"That doesn't look like 3 miles to us!"
"Well, you're a mile and a half from him and he's a mile and a half from you, so that's 3 miles!"
Source: Clean Laugh, http://www.cybersalt.org/lists.htm
Subjects: Airplanes, Airports, Pilots
~~~~~~~ KEEP SMILING:
Dave went on a business trip for a few days. When he returned, his wife reported that the dog really missed him. "She spent every night at the front door, waiting for you to come home," she said.
"What an example of devotion," Dave replied. "I wonder if you'd be that concerned about me?"
"Honey," she answered, "if you were gone overnight, and I didn't know where you were, you can be sure I'd be waiting for you at the front door."
Subjects: Dogs, Absent
Part 5 of 5 [Jul 15, 16, 17, 18, 19]
If you can't afford to buy gifts for loved ones and friends this year, use something other than money to create what you want. Give gifts of the heart.
GIFTS OF TIME
Create a gift certificate that promises a picnic in the park, a stroll along the beach, a night of watching favorite videos with popcorn included.
Give one or several special friends a gourmet lunch and an afternoon of chatting and laughter.
By Patricia L. Fry
Source: Signs of the Times, Copyright (c) December 2000, Pacific Press, http://www.signstimes.com
Submitted by Dale Galusha