"He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Revival or Reformation

Revival or Reformation
How the Ethnic Church leads the latter and rejects the former

To say that the Latino Pentecostal community is impacting America would be an understatement. The ethnic church, particularly the Hispanic segment, leads a reformation that at the end of the day will provoke Catholics to be more Charismatic, Evangelicals to embrace diverse worship, and main-line denominations to return to biblical orthodoxy. Latinos exhibit little interest in capturing a former Glory and reviving old models, patterns, and narratives that died or faded. Rather, the Hispanic Church seeks to present a distinctive brand of Christianity, a 21st century reformation.

Worship Reformation with Sabor
Rev. Saturnino Gonzalez pastors a Hispanic Mega Church in Orlando, Florida. The 4,000 member congregation exhibits the very DNA of a church committed to reforming the collective body. “I do not lose my culture when I come to Christ, I incorporate it”, stated Gonzalez. Accordingly, Pastor Nino, as his congregants call him, believes that Worship is the key to ministering and attracting Hispanics and that the Latino community is transforming how America worships. “We are adding sabor or flavor to the songs we sing and how we praise”, explained Gonzalez. The Recent Pew Research validates that very point. According to the research Religious expressions associated with the Pentecostal and charismatic movements are a key attribute of worship for Hispanics in all the major religious traditions -- far more so than among non-Latinos. Moreover, the growth of the Hispanic population is leading to the emergence of Latino-oriented churches across the country.

Catholic Reformation with Tongues
When Martin Luther posted his grievances on the doors in Wittenberg, the Protestant Reformation began. Today, Latinos lead a new reformation but not by opposing the Catholic church but by injecting it with a Charismatic/Pentecostal Thread. Above all, the most striking fact is that there are more Latino Catholics who speak in other tongues or identify themselves with a Pentecostal/Charismatic experience than non Catholics. Pew surveyed over 4,000 Latinos and discovered that Renewalist Christianity, which places special emphasis on God's ongoing, day-to-day intervention in human affairs through the person of the Holy Spirit, is having a major impact on Hispanic Christianity. Among Latino Protestants, renewalism is more than twice as prevalent as among their non-Latino counterparts. A majority (54%) of Hispanic Catholics describe themselves as charismatic Christians, making them more than four times as likely as non-Latino Catholics to identify with renewalist Christianity. The implications of this are particularly important for the Catholic Church, given that the rapidly growing Latino flock is practicing a distinctive form of Catholicism. Recently, Pope Benedict addressed the Brazilian faithful and identified Evangelicalism as the greatest threat to Catholicism. How does this change the way Evangelicals perceive Catholics? “As a Latino Pentecostal, I grew up believing that Catholics were doomed to hell because of the idolatry and prayers to Mary. Today, I understand that the majority of those same Latino Catholics pray in tongues like I do, worship with the same enthusiasm and desire the same personal distinctive relationship with Christ we all long for”, explained Rev. Israel Bermudez, Associate Pastor of the Pentecostal Church of God in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. According to Bermudez, this phenomenon facilitates the bridging of the gap between Catholics and Evangelicals. Catholics no longer represent the anathema to evangelicalism. In the Latino Community, Evangelicals and Catholics are Charismatic brothers.

Biblical Reformation with Orthodoxy
As Latinos become card carrying members of congregations, one distinctive contextualizes the impetus and bases for the faith experience; biblical orthodoxy. “Hispanic Christians believe that the word of God is the final authority. Any deviation is deemed as heretical and unacceptable”, stated Dr. Angel Nunez, Senior Pastor of a Multi-cultural congregation in Baltimore, Maryland. Nunez added that while the Anglo church debates whether miracles, healings and Pentecostal experiences exists today, the Latino church sees these arguments as futile because they exists in the daily narrative of Hispanic believer. “We do not need someone to water down the Gospel for us. We don’t need the Gospel to be presented as for the spiritually impaired, we need rhema word that will reveal biblical truths and transformative principles”, added Nunez.

In conclusion, Revivals demand the resurrection of dead and forsaken models, patterns and experiences. Reformations demand a declaration, an abrupt and confrontational demand against the status quo. Today, across America, the ethnic church approaches the Wittenberg doors of America’s religious institutions and posts the demands for Worship that will lift the soul, experiences that will empower The Spirit and a biblical journey that will catapult a life. While the non ethnic church seeks to revive the old, the ethnic church arises and declares “Behold, I do a New Thing.. Saith The Lord.”

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is the President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, The Hispanic NAE, serving 15 million Latino Born Again Christians and 18,000 Churches by providing Leadership, Fellowship, Networking, Partnerships and Public Policy Advocacy.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Latino Evangelicals 2.0

Latino Trends: Hispanic Evangelicals 2.0
Is the Latino Church Purpose Driven and Seeker Friendly? Can Latino Evangelicals reconcile their zeal for Holiness a long with a Grace Filled restorative Gospel? More important, what is the missional Latino Church and what lessons can the entire church derive from her?
Emerging out of the plethora of streams currently inundating the Kingdom is the transformational narrative of a church that just recently experienced its Protestant Reformation. The Hispanic missional movement is defined in the heel of the first Protestant reformation in the Hispanic Church. The Roman Catholic Church prevented for centuries any significant penetration of the Protestant Reformation initiated by Martin Luther in the 1500's. Thus, the first serious Protestant impact in Latino America came via the Evangelical wing of the Church particularly the Pentecostal movement. Understanding this will enable the church at large to value, collaborate and strengthen the threads of what is the fastest growing segment of the American church, Latino Evangelicals.
The trends in the Hispanic church will reverberate within the walls of the entire Church, according to Pastor David Sandoval of Dallas, Texas. "Hispanic Evangelicals 1.0 or the first century of Latino Evangelicalism was focused on personal piety and experiential Christianity. Hispanic Evangelicals 2.0 will continue to do such however it will expand it's reach to include corporate piety and holiness a long side relational Christianity. For example, not just are we going to be preoccupied with personal holiness but we are going to address issues we neglected", stated Sandoval. In addition, Sandoval added "We focused for too long on the length of a dress, jewelry, hair styles and physical appearance, while our teens were getting pregnant, dropping out of school and totally disconnected to the church. We have, for the most part, emerged out of legalism, yet we are beginning to tackle the true bondages in our community such as sexual immorality, poverty, domestic violence, drug abuse, witchcraft, strife and lukewarmness".
Hispanic Evangelicals 1.0 focused on Latinos and Latin America. Hispanic Evangelicals 2.0 for the first time are looking beyond the culture and addressing the spiritual and social needs of other cultures and around the world. "Globalization has hit the Hispanic Evangelical Church. Over 99% of our outreach and 99% of our giving in the 20th century went to other Latinos. In 2001, for the first time, over 50% of all missions giving from Hispanic Churches went to such places as Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East", stated Dr. David Espinoza, Former World Missions Board member of the Assemblies of God and current Trustee of Global University. Pastor Espinoza also added that Hispanic are deliberately focusing on such places as India, Africa and The Middle East due to the fact the Latinos are embraced with a lot less trepidation than North American Anglos because of the current political environment. "Latino Missionaries are impacting nations where Anglo Americans can't reach due to media and historical stereotypes. When they us coming, there is no sense of imperialism, colonialism or a hidden agenda. What they see is a brother who was once bound but now is free. Although the stereotypes regarding Anglo Americans is incorrect, we believe the Latino Church can reconcile perception with reality and bring about the day when those stereotypes are shattered", stated Espinoza.
How will the Hispanic Evangelical missional thread impact the rest of the church? One needs to ask Dr. Albert Reyes, one of the most prominent Latino Evangelical leaders in the World. "Hispanics in America will continue to shape and influence our nation as population demographics emerge. When we think about the influence of Hispanic evangelicals on the evangelical church we will see several trends begin to surface over the next 20 to 30 years. We will begin to sense a paradigm shift for what it means to be an evangelical in America through cultural, social, ecclesiastical, and political venues. Hispanics will bring their cultural values to bear on evangelical Christianity with an influence of a collective worldview. That is, Latino/Hispanic evangelical Christians will be more interested in the welfare of the community at large than their own personal welfare. The locus of control for Hispanic life is in the community and how well the community is doing seems to matter greatly to Latinos/Latinas. Hispanics will help evangelical congregations gravitate toward a balanced application of the gospel to include issues of social justice and equality for everyone in the community. Social issues will take center stage in congregations because the scripture bears witness to Jesus' focus on the poor, the prisoner, the blind, and the oppressed .Those in need are our primos y primas, tios y tias, hermanos y hermanas as well as our neighbors. In addition, Reyes added that Hispanic evangelical Christianity will change the texture of our congregations as they begin to reflect the Hispanic culture and community. "Worship, discipleship, missions, evangelism, church planting, etc. will have a nuanced Hispanic flavor in its implementation. Hispanics will take a more active role in the political landscape of our day while respecting the long held value of separation of church and state. Hispanic evangelicals will find their voice and speak their convictions from a biblical/theological perspective and a Judeo-Christian worldview that is distinctly shaped by Hispanic culture." Finally, Reyes concluded by prophetically declaring " As the decibel level of the Hispanic evangelical voice increases the message will become convincingly clear along the lines social justice, incarnational approaches to mission, contextually accurate congregational life, and political involvement".
At the end of the day, the Latino church may very well be the embodiment of a church that is both purpose and presence driven, seeker and spirit driven, prophetic and missional, and above all things; RELEVANT.

Latina Evangelical Leaders and The Death of Machismo

The current immigration debate succeeded in removing the grave clothes from one of America's best-kept secrets, the Hispanic evangelical church. According to one of the top Hispanic evangelical scholars, Dr. Gaston Espinosa, 37 percent of the U.S. Latino population (14.2 million) self-identifies as "born-again" or evangelical. This figure includes Catholic charismatic's, who constitute 22 percent of U.S. Latino Catholics.
The Latino church is the fastest growing segment of the United States church. If the current migratory and birth rate trends stay constant, by the middle of this century, the majority of born again Christians in America will be of Hispanic descent.
As a result, it is of the utmost importance for the entire church to understand the Hispanic evangelical ethos and analyze the trends within such body. The emerging trends in the Hispanic Church have the potential of transforming not only the Latino community but the entire American born-again family. The three trends to consider are: the women-driven mega church movement, the Hispanic missional movement and the Latino seeker, and the rise of a global Hispanic Christian social agenda.
First, I believe the next Joel Osteens, Rick Warrens and T.D. Jakes of the church will have last names Garcia, Gonzalez, Rivera, Maldonado and Velez. The Hispanic church already has mega churches throughout the nation.
From Miami, Fla., Guillermo Maldonado pastors an 8,000-member thriving congregation. Gilbert Velez, Steve Perea, Danny DeLeon and others lead churches with thousands of adherents. Yet, what makes the Latino church unique in its mega church phenomena is that the culture universally known for its machismo is ironically producing pastors with names such as Lucy Saavedra, Maria Torres and Wanda Rolon.
In other words, the mega church phenomenon in the Latino community is being co-driven by women. Undoubtedly, the question arises, how can a culture known to restrict the role of women in the cultural context reconcile with women as the senior leaders of thriving congregations?
"Hispanic Christians value one thing over the cultural dynamics and stereotypes of the people. We value the anointing. We value the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit. More important than gender is the testimony of God. Our people will follow whoever is carrying the mantle regardless of gender," stated Sergio Navarrette, superintendent of the southern Pacific Latin district of the Assemblies of God.
In the state of Nevada, one of the largest Hispanic churches is lead by Lucy Saavedra. Pastor Lucy just finished the successful purchase of a multi-million dollar complex. In a recent meeting in Las Vegas, Lucy stated that one of her goals is to see Hispanic women pastor mega churches in every major urban center in America. Accordingly, Lucy was appointed by the National Hispanic Association of Evangelicals to spearhead the National Hispanic Christian Women's Task Force. "Our goal is to remove the final vestiges of bias against women leadership while simultaneously providing networking relationships and resources to equip top tier female Christian leadership", stated Rev. Saavedra in the March Board Meeting of the National Hispanic Association of Evangelicals.
While many in the non-ethnic evangelical community still debate the role of women in ministry, the Latino church is leading the way in a progressive facilitation of female pastors. Hitherto, the evangelical debate continues to demonstrate a bias against the facilitation of female executive leadership, be it as Senior Pastors or supervisors in ecclesiastical oversight. However, the Latino born again Christian narrative is beginning to include the matriarchal elements embedded in the cultural context of the Diaspora.
"From the onset of the Hispanic Evangelical church women were never viewed in a secondary role but rather as significant foundational pillars of the early church. From Aimee McPherson, Sunshine Ball and Dolores Espinoza, early leaders of the Evangelical Church in America, particularly in the Pentecostal setting, were women who paved the way for today's Lucy Saavedra and others like her", explained Dr. David Espinoza, Senior Pastor of La Trinidad Church in San Fernando, Ca.
Hispanic women will not tolerate tokenism and limited roles within the great equalizer called the church. In the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Wanda Rolon leads a mega church in the thousands while simultaneously providing oversight to Pastors and churches in different parts of the Caribbean and the states. Undoubtedly, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements have been more receptive of women in executive leadership than many of the main line or traditional evangelical denominations. This very fact could very well be a central catalyst in explaining why more Hispanics are embracing Pentecostalism and the Charismatic stream of evangelicalism than the others. Denominations, fellowships and churches that exhibit the great equilibrium of Galatians as it pertains to equality before Christ will be the magnet of Hispanic families towards their ministries. Women like Sylvia Samayoa an Investment Broker from California demonstrate the need to connect successful Hispanic women to ministries where women can develop their full potential. Hispanic women are looking for role models not only in the political and business spectrum but in the church.
"Hispanic denominations and fellowships are more open to female executive leadership than many of our non ethnic brothers and sisters," stated Felix Posos, chairman of the Latin American Theological Seminary. "I predict we will see female leadership of our denominations before others do", added Posos.
How will all this change the face of the church? At the end of day, the evangelical church in America may well see women in all roles and positions in the church including denominational leadership and the senior oracles of biblical orthodoxy and renewal thanks in good part to the Hispanic church looking beyond "machismo" and embracing biblical equality. In the 21st Century church many spiritual sons and daughters will be grateful to Hispanic Christian Women who removed the grave clothes of bias and limitation while exposing the Glory of God.
Galatians 4:31: So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman. NASB

Immigration Fact Sheet

Immigration Fact Check: Responding To Key Myths

1. MYTH: The government is going to give permanent legal status to 12 million illegal aliens before securing our borders.

· FACT: Temporary worker and Z visas will not be issued until benchmarks for enforcement are met. These triggers include:
o Increasing border fencing.
o Increasing vehicle barriers at the Southern border.
o Increasing the size of the Border Patrol.
o Ground-based radar and camera towers along the Southern border.
o Resources to maintain the end of catch and release.
o DHS establishment of worksite enforcement tools, including an electronic Employment Eligibility Verification System.

· FACT: As we work to meet these triggers, we must provide a mechanism for undocumented workers with clean records and steady jobs to come out of the shadows and be accounted for in a regulated system, on a probationary basis. This will allow immigration enforcement officers to focus their resources on apprehending violent criminals and terrorists.

· FACT: To obtain probationary status, illegal immigrants must come out of the shadows to acknowledge they have broken the law and pass a preliminary background check.

· FACT: Probationary status may be revoked at any time if a worker is found ineligible for the Z visa, fails to maintain a clean record, or fails the background check required for obtaining a Z visa.

· FACT: The Administration has already seen progress in securing our borders due to increased investment and other deterrence factors – the number of apprehensions for illegally crossing the Southern border is down 27 percent from this time last year. The Administration has:
o Expanded the Border Patrol from approximately 9,000 agents in 2001 to more than 13,000 agents today.
o Built 78 miles of permanent vehicle barrier and 86 miles of primary fencing.
o Put in place four Ground Surveillance Radars and one Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), with another (UAS) coming on line in July of this year.

2. MYTH: Under the guest-worker program, guest workers will be able to bring spouses and children into the United States. Children of guest workers will be entitled to free education in public schools, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

· FACT: Temporary workers can only bring their families if they show that they have the financial means to support them and that their family members will have health care insurance while in the U.S. In addition, the number of family members that may be brought into the U.S. by temporary workers is capped.

· FACT: Temporary workers are required to pay taxes on the income they earn while working in the U.S. They must also pay a State impact fee of $500, plus $250 for each dependent (capped at $1,500 per family), to cover costs of public services used.

· FACT: Temporary workers are not entitled to welfare, Food Stamps, SSI, non-emergency Medicaid, or other programs and privileges enjoyed by U.S. citizens and some Lawful Permanent Residents.

3. MYTH: This bill, through mandates with the Employment Eligibility Verification System, gives the federal government the authority to force national ID cards on all American citizens.

· FACT: There is no provision in the bill that requires the creation of a national ID card. The Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS) requires workers to present a limited range of highly secure government-issued or government-authorized IDs. These include:
o U.S. Passport (for U.S. citizens only).
o Document issued by DHS or the State Department containing photo, biometrics, other such personal identifying info needed to ensure identity (for non-citizens).
o State-issued, REAL ID compliant license presented along with a Social Security card, or for a limited period before implementation of REAL ID, a State-issued license with a photograph that can be verified by DHS, presented along with a birth certificate and Social Security card.

4. MYTH: The bill allows dangerous gang members access to the Z visa program if they renounce their gang affiliation.

· FACT: Any gang member convicted of any of a wide range of criminal conduct is not permitted in the Z visa program, whether he or she has renounced his gang affiliation or not. The range of crimes that disqualify applicants from the Z visa program extends into the thousands and includes:
o Any felony
o Any three or more misdemeanors
o Any serious criminal offense
o Crimes involving moral turpitude (with narrow exceptions for certain misdemeanors such as those committed before age 18)
o Violations of a law relating to a controlled substance

· FACT: Even if a gang member or other applicant has not been convicted of a crime, he or she is ineligible for the Z visa program if the Government concludes that he is sufficiently dangerous. This is true for all applicants, including gang members who have renounced their affiliations. For example, among those ineligible is any gang member (or other applicant):
o About whom there are "reasonable grounds" for regarding as a danger to the security of the United States;
o Who the Government knows or has reason to believe seeks to enter the U.S. "solely, principally, or incidentally" to engage in unlawful activity; or
o About whom there are reasonable grounds for believing has committed a serious criminal offense outside the U.S.

· FACT: The bill would, for the first time, give the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) tools to keep certain aliens out of the United States solely on the basis of their participation in a gang. No conviction is required – if an individual has associated with a gang and helped "aid" or "support" its illegal activity, then he or she is not allowed to remain in the country – even if he renounces his gang affiliation.

5. MYTH: The bill contains a new category of visas for family members that includes a waiver for "family members in hardship cases," which will exponentially increase extended-family chain migration.

· FACT: The bill would end chain migration – preferences for siblings and adult children would be eliminated. In addition, visas for parents of U.S. citizens would be capped.

· FACT: After the family backlog is cleared in the first eight years after enactment, the bill will eliminate about 190,000 extended family visas per year. By contrast, the category of "extreme hardship" cases is capped at 5,000 visas per year.

· FACT: The number of family members that could qualify for the waiver is exceedingly small – such individuals could migrate only if they would otherwise experience "extreme hardship" that cannot be relieved by temporary visits. For example, the category might extend to families that have a member with a disability.

6. MYTH: Illegal workers who remained in the country after they were ordered deported by an immigration judge are eligible for Z visas.

· FACT: Illegal workers who ignored deportation orders are not eligible for the Z visa program, except in exceedingly rare cases in which they can demonstrate their departure would "result in extreme hardship."

· FACT: The determination of what constitutes "extreme hardship" lies entirely within the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security, who has no interest in allowing this exception to be abused.

Who is My Neighbor?

Latino Trends: The 21st Century Good Samaritans
Who is my neighbor? This query introduced in the Parable of The Good Samaritan exemplifies the very debate in the heart of the Ethnic Church and the primary challenge to the Evangelical body at large. As we continue to thread the Hispanic American Evangelical Narrative, we find ourselves negotiating a historical juxtaposition between the preservation of our cultures and the building of His Kingdom. After 100 years of exponential growth in the Latino Church, Hispanic Pastors and leaders find ourselves struggling to define a new missiological baseline. Here is the primary question in the Latino Church, do we exist to preserve an ethnocentric ideology or do we focus on intentional building of the Big K which is the Kingdom of God? Hence, the Latino Church is strategically and prophetically situated to provide leadership to the collective Evangelical church in America by both incorporating the tenants of the Good Samaritan Parable and nullifying the MYSPACE.COM version of Christianity.
The Latino, African- American, Anglo and other ethnic segments of the church must go beyond the myspace.com mindset. Pastor Nick Garza, an Assemblies of God Pastor in Sacramento, Ca. sees the functional structure of this web site as the anti-thesis to successful biblical outreach. "MySpace.com is a world wide internet phenomenon because it enables the subscriber to determine who has access to his/her profile, pictures, stories and information. In other words, unless you have been given access, you can't come in. Only my friends, who share my interests are granted access. All granted of course if you initially become a Friend of Tom (Tom being one of the co-founders of this virtual social networking site). Accordingly, the Church has operated under a Myspace.com model. As long as Christ is our default friend, we are somehow allowed to build our own space with limited access to include only those who we know or permit.
Moreover, Garza added "Although I believe a need exists for ethnic churches to serve the various constituencies in our communities, we must never see the preservation of the ethnicity, language or culture as the primary purpose of the local congregation. We must be readily accessible to all our neighbors. Recently, I heard a Hispanic denominational leader warn Pastors and leaders to be careful in starting English speaking services because it may result in the loss of our heritage and culture. This sort of statement exemplifies the limited thinking that hinders cross threading of the collective narrative and fosters an atmosphere of segregation and competitiveness."
According to Dr. Albert Reyes, National Hispanic Baptist Leader, the Latino Church personifies the 21st century Good Samaritan. "Samaritans were a mixed breed. Just as Latinos are mixes of European, Indian and Afro American cultures. Samaritans were rejected because of their make up. We see our diversity as strength. We can reach out to Anglo, Asian, Black, and other ethnicities because racially and culturally, our fabric reflects the various threads. Latino Evangelicals have a prophetic calling to build bridges between the various communities and facilitate a fruitful ministry of reconciliation."
The Good Samaritan parable not only challenges leaders to ask "Who is my neighbor?", but embedded in the parable is the question" How much am I willing to invest"? The Good Samaritan provided his oil, wine, donkey, silver and even a commitment for future expenses to be reimbursed. "As a Latina Pastor, I got tired of limiting my ministry to one class, group or segment of our community. The current trend in the Latino church is to provide ministry, services and even starting satellite churches where there are no or very few Latinos. We want to reach out to all. Our desire to reach out must be accompanied by the allocation of all resources including financial, time and manpower", stated Rev. Reina Olmeda, Senior Pastor of Third Day Worship Center in Allentown, Pa. Olmeda added that the Church has a biblical mandate to walk the path of transformational ministry and identify the needs regardless of the size. "It is important to note that the Samaritans were rejected because of their ethnic makeup. What made the Samaritan Good was not what he had or who he was but rather how he responded to the needs of others. Today, we have great facilities, strategic programs and various resources, now it's time to pour it out and bandage the wounds of our neighbors.
Historically, in response to the original question, "Who is my neighbor", the Latino church responded by identifying those in the Latino community. That erroneous response limited the outreach and created walls of segregation between the Hispanic Church and others. Today, we must ask this question by bringing clarity to its original intent. "Who is my neighbor?" in essence asks, who is my brother, sister, customer, market, potential partner, collaborator, target, and mission? In reality, this question reverberates on a constant base within the confines of our Christian walk and really asks, who do I want to heal, restore, love and embrace? Before, the Latino Evangelical Church, particularly the Latino Pentecostal church, focused exclusively on personal piety, Holiness and Escapism. For the first time, the Latino Church is providing a viable response to the question raised in Luke Chapter 10. Who is neighbor? My neighbor is the poor and the rich, the black and the white, the urban and suburban, the city and the rural. Who is my neighbor? My neighbor is the children of Darfur and those suffering with Aids in Africa. Who is my neighbor? My neighbors are the victims of Katrina and the Sunnis and Shiites of the Middle East.
Our response as Christian leaders to this query speaks more about who we are than who will reach out to. In essence, "who is my neighbor?" is actually questioning, not who are those around me, but rather who am I in the midst of a lost and dying world.