Unconstitutional? Did the Congress violate the U.S. Constitution in establishing the Union Churches of the Canal Zone in Panama?

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

The establishment of a network of protestant, Union Churches in the old Panama Canal Zone in the early and mid-1900’s was most unusual in how it came about, raising the question of whether, since it was established by the United States Congress, it was, in fact, unconstitutional.

The Panama Canal Zone was an unincorporated territory of the United States from 1904 to 1979, centered on the Panama Canal and surrounded by the Republic of Panama. The Zone consisted of the canal and an area generally extending five miles on each side of the centerline, (excluding Panama City and Colón), which cut through the heart of that Central American country. Originally, it was intended to give the canal a security buffer and to house the facilities needed to operate the canal.

In the original agreement with Panama, that country granted to the United States, in “perpetuity”, the use, occupation, and control of a zone of land for the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation, and protection of the canal.

From 1903 to 1979, the territory was controlled by the United States, which had purchased the land from private and public owners, built the canal and financed its construction. The Canal Zone was abolished in 1979, as a term of the Torrijos–Carter Treaties two years earlier; the canal itself was later under joint U.S.–Panamanian control until it was fully turned over to Panama in 1999.

In fact, over its nearly 80 year history, the Canal Zone was a de facto American colony in the heart of Panama and a bone of contention between the two countries.

Within a decade the United States congress established an entity to provide religious services to the thousands of U.S. citizens who lived in the Zone and ran the canal and auxiliary services in support of the operation.

 There are those who would argue that the establishment of the Union Churches in the Panama Canal zone violated the First Amendment which states:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

 However, in providing for moral and religious safeguards the Congress and Canal Zone authorities early on provided government-paid chaplains. That provision ended with the completion of the construction of the canal.

 From there, under the leadership of a group of laymen, the Union Church of the Canal Zone was organized in February, 1914. Most Protestant denominations except two (Southern Baptist and Episcopal/Anglican) cooperated with this piece of ecclesiastical statesmanship. A centralized organization maintained work in all the civilian “gold” towns (those populated by Caucasians) along the Canal, employing pastors who had to be ordained “men” of American, Protestant churches. This Union Church did not regard itself as a denomination but as a federation for Christian service. No attempt was made to establish a doctrinal position, and members were not asked to sever their relations with their home churches. (Adapted from Prowling About Panama, by Bishop George. A. Miller, Abingdon Press, 1918)

A further step, the one that called into question the constitutionality of what happened, occurred on December 31, 1941 when the U.S. congress passed this act:


To incorporate the Union Church of the Canal Zone.

Whereas the Union Church of the Canal Zone is an unincorporated evangelical religious organization which has established and maintained union churches at various points in the Canal Zone since its organization in 1914, succeeding in that year separate union churches which had been maintained for a number of years previously; and

Whereas it has parsonages and church buildings at the following points, to wit: Balboa, Pedro Miguel, Gatun, and Colon; and

Whereas the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, a corporation of the State of New York, and the boards of various cooperating churches in the United States desiring to make provision for worship by the adherents of their respective denominations who from time to time reside temporarily on the Isthmus of Panama and who do not desire to sever their denominational ties in the United States have contributed toward the establishment of the Union Church of the Canal Zone; and

Whereas the said Union Church of the Canal Zone is not related to any of such denominations in the way of ecclesiastical subordination or subjection thereto; and

Whereas it is desired to insure the continuance of the work in which the said Union Church of the Canal Zone has been engaged Therefore

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


In Christian Cooperation at the World’s Crossroads, author Robert H. Rolofson wrote that “This is probably the only church incorporated by the Federal Government.”

In an interview granted in 2010, the Rev. Clarence Payne, a former pastor of the Balboa Union Church, explained,The Canal was built by the US from 1904 to 1914. During that early period, many of the American workers came from the American South. They were mostly white and mostly Protestant. There was a desire, a need to continue spiritual life; so here in the Canal Zone, they ran Sunday schools in the YMCAs and other informal recreational buildings such as the clubhouses…. In the early years, the Panama Canal Company provided chaplains to conduct services in these places for the workforce.

As time went on, as more workers began to bring in their families and permanent communities were created, they perceived the need to have their own churches.

Towards that end, they did some intelligent thinking: Let’s not replicate what we have in the US with various denominations of churches at four corners of an intersection. Let’s combine the denominations into a union church. The Episcopal church couldn’t support that, and they established their own churches. The Baptists did the same. But among other denominations, there was an effort to establish interdenominational churches, union churches. The National Council of Churches took this on, and inside their offices at 475 Riverside Drive in New York City they opened an office of Union Churches in the National Council of Churches. The National Council of Churches had no authority over the Union Churches, but they offered support, in any case. So the Union Churches of the Canal Zone came to be, prior to the opening of the Canal….

 In any case, the union church movement caught fire. There were between seven and nine union churches in the Canal, each with its own building. Balboa Union Church, Gamboa, Pedro Miguel, Gatun, Margarita, Cristobal (a beautiful stone building) and one on the West Bank, whose name I don’t remember. Every one of them brought pastors down from the States. They chose a joint mission statement, and they called themselves the overarching title, “Union Church of the Canal Zone.”

 INTERVIEWER: Why did the US Congress do that? Do you have the sense that they were trying to push a certain doctrinal theology into the Canal Zone and Panama?

REV. PAYNE: I don’t know. Except, of course, that the Canal Zone was a territory by treaty of the United States Government.  Certainly, in the early 1900s the US was a Protestant, Christian country. Protestantism ruled. There were Catholic immigrants, but the dominant religious movement was Protestant….

Meanwhile, during this period, the Canal Zone, churches thrived. They were very active centers of religious and community life. I might add that in those early days, community life was centered around the churches and the Masonic movement.

 Over the years, seven Union churches were formed in the Canal Zone. As time passed, some, such as the Cristobal Union Church, closed as territory was returned to Panama.

As of today, with the Canal Zone territory totally returned to Panamanian sovereignty, only two remain operating under their original name and as expat churches: Balboa and Gamboa. Some of the original buildings were torn down; others are owned and occupied by other Panamanian, Spanish-language churches.

With the transfer of the Canal Zone property to Panama under the 1988 treaty, the Union Church of the Canal Zone, unconstitutional or not, went out of existence. Ministry with an expatriate congregation continues in the two Union Churches that remain plus other congregations in Panama City, including Crossroads Bible Church which formed independently of the old Union Church system, LifeBridge International Church which was planted more recently by the International Baptist Convention and other traditional, international churches which existed also outside of the Union Church system and are related to Anglican, Lutheran and other bodies.

While the remaining Union Churches in Panama no longer operate under a U.S. legal entity, the historic question of their original constitutionality still lingers on.


McConkey, Clarence, (Ed.).  (1992), Balboa, Panama. The Union Church of the Canal Zone, 1950-1992. The Union Church of the Canal Zone.

Rolofson, Robert H. (1950) Balboa, Canal Zone. Christian Cooperation at the World’s Crossroads, The Union Church of the Canal Zone.

Kenneth D. MacHarg is the author of From Bangkok to Bishkek, Budapest to Bogotá, The Compelling Story of International Congregations published by Energion Publications

(https://shop.aer.io/ncs/p/From_Bangkok_to_Bishkek_Budapest_to_Bogot_The_comp/9781631995774-909?collection=missions/9980) from which this essay is adapted. He served as the pastor of the old Margarita and Gatun Union Churches in the Panama Canal Zone from 1974-1977. He is retired and lives in Carrollton, Georgia.


Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

I Wonder Where She Is Now

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

I think about her almost every day. Her photo is in our kitchen and I see it as I pass back and forth.

How well I remember the evening.

It was at the Louisville, Kentucky airport in 1980 or 1981. She and her mother had just arrived from Haiti, via a refugee camp in Miami.

She was tired, confused, frightened. While someone helped her mother to locate their small luggage, she seemed to droop, so I picked her up and put her on my shoulder.

A photographer from the newspaper was there and snapped the picture.

It so well reflects the uncertainty yet hope that so many refugees have as they resettle in the various communities of the United States.

In those days we were resettling refugees from Southeast Asia after the devastating wars there as well as from Cuba during the Mariel boatlift. But among them, there were also a handful of people from countries such as Romania and Haiti who needed help in getting a new start.

And, it was a privilege to do that.

We accomplished each resettlement by identifying a congregation that would sponsor a family—finding a house, helping them learn English, assisting them in searching for a job, but primarily by just being a friend—ready to help out and smooth the way.

The process of assistance lasted about six month, sometimes a little longer. As they learned the language, obtained a job, met others from their own country or made new friends here, they quickly moved away from dependence on a congregation or an agency, and made their own way.

The reality was that the vast majority assimilated into the American way of life so well that their dependency on us and the churches quickly evaporated. They moved out on their own, established their lives, made friends and melded into the community. As do the vast majority of refuges who come to this country.

Ever-so-grateful for a new opportunity, they quickly meld into the community and begin to make a contribution. They obtain citizenship, vote, assume leadership positions, pay taxes, and live successful lives that contribute to the milieu of who we are as Americans.

When I hear the hateful talk about refugees in our modern world I just shudder. Yes, there is a charitable expense to resettle them, but refugees pay that back in work, taxes, community involvement and responsible citizenship over their lives. They blend into the wonderful diversity that is the United States of America.

I am proud to have been a small part in the resettlement of dozens of refugees in Kentuckiana, and look forward someday to helping others to achieve the same thing.

Over the years, I have lost track of those who we helped to settle. But I have not forgotten them. And, I wonder where this little girl is now.

As the Executive Director of the Kentuckiana Interfaith Community in the 1980s, Kenneth D. MacHarg assisted in the agency’s refugee resettlement program. He is currently retired and living in Carrollton, Georgia.

Happy Birthday Radio; 100 Years of Broadcasting History

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

August 20th marks the 100th anniversary of radio broadcasting.

On that date in 1920, The Detroit News put radio station 8MK on the air. The call letters were changed to WBL in October with a limited commercial license, then to WWJ in March of 1922.

There are those who will assert that, in fact, WWJ was not the first broadcaster on the air. They will point to radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which bills itself as the “Pioneer Broadcasting Station of the World.” It traces its beginning, initially using the temporarily assigned “special amateur” call sign of 8ZZ, to its broadcast of the 1920 Harding-Cox presidential election results on the evening of November 2.

While historians debate the question, natives of Detroit and Pittsburgh will each passionately argue that their station was, indeed, the first (and probably the best.)

Both stations can uniquely claim several firsts, but there is a distinction between the two which might more accurately affect how one views the issue.

WWJ was the first commercial station in the world to broadcast daily programs, commencing with that initial transmission on August 20th. There is little doubt about that assertion.

 Certainly, there were other experimental stations which had previously broadcast occasional programming content (as opposed to two-way communications) including music, some news and other features several years before WWJ took to the air.

In comparison, KDKA reports that it was the first commercial broadcaster, being fully licensed as a commercial station when it started up. WWJ was not licensed until later even though it had provided daily service since its August sign-on. Also, WWJ operated under three different call letters, but was, in fact, on regularly since the August 20 sign-on.

It appears that while the station was established and funded by the newspaper and located in the paper’s building, the original amateur license was issued to Howard Bowman of Detroit. Bowman was an employee of The Detroit News. That arrangement apparently continued until October 13th when the newspaper took over the license.

Thus, the distinction between the two was in the difference in licensing in that WWJ’s original status was under an amateur license to an individual while KDKA’s was as licensed to the broadcast entity from the start, albeit with a “special amateur” status.

To the listeners, the point was probably unknown and unimportant. Both were broadcasting stations offering programming to the general public and each making history in those early days of radio.

WWJ initially broadcast between 7 and 8 p.m., and programming consisted primarily of phonograph records interspersed with announcements. Early airings included fight results from the heavyweight championship bout between Jack Dempsey and Billy Miske on September 6 and a play-by-play account of the Cleveland Indians-Brooklyn Dodgers game in the World Series. Weekly vocal concerts were begun in September with Mabel Norton Ayers as the first featured artist.

By October, The Detroit News reported that “hundreds” of Detroiters had wireless receiving sets on which they could hear the news and other features sent out by “The News Radiophone.” WWJ also broadcast the results of the presidential election in November.

Initially, WWJ did not pay performers but attracted numerous personalities to appear on the air including Lillian Gish, Fanny Brice, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. The station is believed to have been the first to broadcast news reports regularly and the first to also carry religious services and play-by-play sports.

The WBL call sign was randomly assigned but the newspaper soon found that listeners had difficulty hearing it correctly. The regional Radio Inspector was asked to change it to something more phonetically distinct, such as WKL or WWW. However, since neither was available it was assigned WWJ on March 3, 1922.

In 1923, The Detroit News complained that it was forced to cut back some of its hours to make way for a competitor, the Detroit Free Press, which had established its own station WCX (now WJR) on the same frequency.

In an interesting side note: while WWJ and KDKA have vied for recognition as the “world’s first radio station” (as WWJ used to promote itself on the air in the 1940s and 1950s), radio station KCBS in San Francisco also claims the title of “first” by tracing its history to a pre-World War One station operated by Charles “Doc” Herrold in San Jose, California.

The station made test transmissions in 1909 and began broadcasting weekly concerts in 1912. Herrold’s San Jose broadcasts were suspended during World War One when the U.S. government prohibited the operation of civilian radio stations, and after the war ended he did not return to the airwaves until 1921.

Closer to home–Georgia:

Initially the first broadcast radio stations were established in northern cities such as Detroit, New York City, St. Louis, Cincinnati and others. But it wasn’t long until a new venture in Georgia led to the first southern station.

On March 15, 1922, the Atlanta Journal licensed the first commercial radio station in the south under the call letters WSB. The “Voice of the South,” as it was called, broadcast from the fifth floor of the Journal building on two frequencies – one for entertainment, and the other for news and market information.

It was the 27th radio station in the United States to take to the air. Before the station started the Journal published instructions on how to build crystal-set receivers.

The station went on the air with two 90-foot wooden masts supporting a crude antenna on the roof of the newspaper building and a power of just 100 watts. Initially, the programming consisted of local talent singing or playing an instrument. It was said that anybody who wanted to get on the air simply had to provide their own program and could have any time they desired. 

Anyone who could “sing, whistle, play a musical instrument, talk or even breathe heavily” appeared on the air according to one of the earliest performers. While unusual by today’s standards, radio then was such a novelty that listeners enjoyed almost anything. 

Not to be outdone, the then-rival Atlanta Constitution newspaper launched its own radio station, WGM, on March 17 of the same year. Although this broadcaster gained some national notoriety, it was shut down by its owner on July 29, 1923 after just over a year of operation.

The equipment was donated to the Georgia School of Technology (Georgia Tech) where it was used by the school’s electrical engineering program in early 1924 to set up radio station WBBF. That station changed its call letters to WGST in 1925 and operated as such for decades until changing to WGKA in 1989 and later to WBIN in 2020.

In the early days, most stations did not have regular programming schedules, often broadcasting for fewer than 8 hours a day. The “invisible audience” of listeners could tune in for a mix of news, music, and commentary from the announcers.

Radio came to Middle Georgia when Mercer University founded WMAZ (Macon) in 1922, primarily hosting sermons and speeches by divinity students. That same year, WPAX (Thomasville) began playing phonographs from the owner’s garage by holding a microphone close to a Victrola.

From the early 1920s until the late 1940s, West Georgia radio listeners had to tune in to the early Atlanta stations or, at night to one of the many 50,000 watt, clear channel powerhouses that could be heard across the country including WSM in Nashville (the home of the Grand Old Opry), WHAS in Louisville, WLW in Cincinnati or even more distant stations such as WGN in Chicago, WJR in Detroit or WWL in New Orleans.

But then, WLBB in Carrollton went on the air in 1947. According to a 2013 article about the station in the West Georgia Living magazine, a publication of the Times-Georgian, the call letters didn’t mean anything, but “listeners who tuned in to the station’s twangy, homespun music programs started the joke that the letters stood for “We Love Butter Beans.”

The station originally broadcast from the People’s Bank building on Adamson Square (now known as the West Georgia Technical College headquarters) using a 250 watt army surplus transmitter. As with the earliest stations, the bulk of the programming featured musicians who would go to the studios and perform live.

Ken Denney, who wrote the story, reported that “in addition to “Uncle” John Patterson, there were groups with such names as “Charles Cole and His Southern Kinfolks,” the “Radio Homefolks,” the “Georgia Playboys” and “Joe Tyson and His Farmhands.” 

All made regular appearances on the station, sometimes attracting a live audience which watched them from behind a plate glass window.

Evidently at the beginning there were no national network programs. Everything was produced locally. And, Denny said, “for the local musicians, it was strictly pay-to-play; they had to pay WLBB for blocks of air time, usually 15 minutes.  Most musicians found sponsors or passed the hat among their neighbors; for some, that got easier over time as radio exposure made them local stars.”

Later, a popular DJ named Bob Green managed WLBB and kept one foot planted in country music’s Top 40 present and the other in the station’s hillbilly past. Until the station changed owners and management in 1963, Green not only spun the latest discs but hosted several live music programs as well.

In addition to up-and-coming local country singers like Clyde Durrough and Marshall and Pearl Hannah, Green provided an outlet for older, more traditional performers such as Alton Stitcher and Uncle John Patterson, the “Banjo King.”

Today, the station is owned by Steve Graddick of Bowdon who operates it along with several other AM and FM stations in the area. Over the years the station had operated under various call letters, including WBTR and WPPI. Graddick returned the original call letters in 2001.

For us, it is sufficient to say that the impact of broadcast media, whether radio or television or online podcasts or whatever have brought us together, informed, inspired and, indeed, divided us as a people. But, the efforts of the founders and broadcasters since the 1920s have certainly made us better informed and entertained.


WWJ The Detroit News; The History of radiophone broadcasting by the earliest and foremost of newspaper stations; Together with information on radio for amateur and expert, By radio staff of The Detroit News, 1922

Welcome South Brother, Fifty Years of Broadcasting at WSB, Atlanta, Georgia, 1974

WLBB, Voice of an Era, by Ken Denney, West Georgia Living, a publication of The Times-Georgian, Carrollton, GA, March-April, 2013

I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling: The Long Life and Timeless Music of Alton Stitcher by Mick Buck, https://uwgcph.org/alton-stitcher-i-hear-a-sweet-voice-calling/liner-notes, 2003

Closer to home–Kentucky:

Kentucky took the great leap into broadcasting, when on July 13, 1922 at 7:30 p.m., Credo Fitch Harris announced to all who might have been able to hear, “This is WHAS, the radiotelephone broadcasting station of the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times in Louisville, Ky.”

While that evening brought the state’s first licensed radio station into history, many believe that the story of broadcasting in Kentucky is rooted in an event 30 years earlier, when a Calloway County farmer, Nathan B. Stubblefield, picked up a device he had invented and spoke the words “Hello, Rainey” to a friend a short distance away, without the use of wires.

That demonstration of his “wireless telephone,” in 1892, near Murray, led to the claim that radio was invented in the Bluegrass state. Stubblefield’s words to Rainey T. Wells preceded Guglielmo Marconi’s “wireless telegraph” of dots and dashes by three years.

The question of whether Stubblefield is the true inventor of radio has been shrouded in mystery and some controversy. He was a self-educated man and experimenter who spent a great deal of time tinkering with electronic equipment and reading scientific journals.

From Stubblefield’s many experiments and inventions he obtained four patents, including a lighting device, patented in 1885. He went on to patent a mechanical telephone and his wireless telephone. His interest in telephones undoubtedly led to his experiments with wireless voice transmissions.

According to some accounts Stubblefield actually demonstrated the possibility of wireless communication as early as 1885. Dr. Rainey Wells documented the successful experiment in 1892; and a family physician testified to witnessing demonstrations in that year, in which Stubblefield spoke and played the French harp over the air.

In July of 1922, just days after WHAS went on the air, a license was recorded for a station in Paducah, WIAR. That was followed in September by WLAP in Lexington and WAOK in Frankfort. Another authorization was given to a Louisville physician, Dr. Edwin T. Bruce, in August but programming was irregular and the doctor gave up the license the following year. By 1925, only WHAS and WLAP were shown to be still broadcasting.

Two years later, a license for a new station, WFIW was given to Acme Mills of Hopkinsville. The original power was 250 watts, later increased to 1000 watts.  By 1933 the station had been taken over by George W. Norton, Jr. and moved to Louisville where the call letters were changed to WAVE.

Originally WAVE operated with a power of 1,000 watts on a frequency of 940 kilocycles, with a 239-foot tower atop the Brown Hotel.  The station, consisting of four offices, two studios, and control rooms, was located at the northeast corner of the fifteenth floor of the Brown. 

The dedicatory program originated from the Brown’s Crystal Ballroom, and was part of an hour-long nationwide NBC network salute to WAVE.  At 10:30 PM, NBC in Chicago originated a quarter-hour program, followed by a quarter hour from NBC New York.  WAVE originated a 30-minute program beginning at 11 PM, with NBC announcer Ford Bond, a native Louisvillian, as master of ceremonies.

WAVE later operated under the call letters WAVG, then, under the ownership of the same company that operated channel 32, changed to WLKY and then under yet another ownership in 2000 to WGTK.

WGRC was an early pioneer station dating from 1936 when it came on the air in Louisville, but licensed to New Albany. The call letters stood for ‘George Rogers Clark,’ the Revolutionary War hero and founder of Louisville.

Following World War 2, the station decided to move its transmitter and tower from New Albany to Jeffersontown. Originally it broadcast with 1,000 watts at 1400 on the dial. From the new location it was able to boost power to 5,000 watts day and 1,000 watts night at 790 on the AM dial.

Long time Louisville radio veteran, the late Jerry Fordyce, took a $12-a-week job at WGRC, to break into broadcasting. He told of dressing up in a suit and tie to go to the studios and announce every fifteen or thirty minutes “This is WGRC, Louisville.” He later was an announcer and disc jockey of the “Breakfast Matinee” show.

In a mid-1980s conversation, Fordyce recalled hosting many national network programs from WGRC, including those featuring Nat King Cole and other big artists of the time. He fondly remembered one evening after one such program for the Mutual Radio Network, throwing the show to Bing Crosby on an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean. He said that his biggest thrill in his long radio career was hearing Crosby’s voice come back across the network lines with “Thank you Jerry Fordyce in Louisville, this is Bing Crosby…”

WGRC eventually became the legendary top 40 rock station known as WAKY. For many years its studios were in the Kentucky Home Life Building. The station continues today as WKRD.

The fourth station to sign on in the Louisville market was WINN which began operations in 1941 as a popular music station but flipped to country music in 1961. WINN remained a country station until 1982.  A group of Chicago-based pastors bought WINN, changed the format to its current black gospel playlist and changed the call letters to WLLV-AM.  

For us, it is sufficient to say that the impact of broadcast media, whether radio or television or online podcasts or whatever has brought us together, inspired and, indeed, divided us as a people. But, the efforts of the founders and broadcasters since the 1920s have certainly made us better informed and entertained.


WWJ The Detroit News; The History of radiophone broadcasting by the earliest and foremost of newspaper stations; Together with information on radio for amateur and expert, By radio staff of The Detroit News, 1922

Towers Over Kentucky, A History of Radio and TV in the Bluegrass State, by Francis M. Nash, Host Communications, 1995

Was Stubblefield The “Father Of Radio?  By Francis Nash, https://kentuckyexplorer.com/nonmembers/3-radio.html

WAVE’s History: 1930 – 1960’s https://www.wave3.com/story/21629619/waves-history/

Attn: For a fascinating radio series about this 100th anniversary, check out these special one minute features and the seven minute summary from CBS Radio here: https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/cbs-news-radios-a-century-of-sound/

Kenneth D. MacHarg is a Carrollton resident and the author of Radio Survives and Thrives, The History of Kentucky Broadcasting from 1945-1970.

When is Enough Enough?

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

When is enough enough, or am I just out of touch? I am aware that this is a time of unprecedented prosperity and economically the government and business are letting the good times roll. Who would want to be critical of people’s new found wealth, a bustling economy, full employment and an affluence that seems to feed off of and flow back into the economy?

As I hear about how well people are doing, I’m glad for them. But, then I read about some side effects of these heady economic times and I just shake my head in dismay.  For example, some time ago a headline in the Miami Herald read, Gargantuan saltwater fish tanks delight—at a price. And what a price, –$23,000 was the price of one, $80,000 the price of another! That doesn’t count the fish that cost up to $700 each to stock those tanks.

Then, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution headline predicted that Even three-car garage may not be big enough. That article said, “the generation that believes life is too short to suffer inconvenience has now decided that two- or even three-car garages are not enough.”

“Wallowing in space is an affordable extravagance,” one homeowner told Newsweek magazine a some time ago. “There is also evidence that “garage-mahals” may be making a comeback—all thanks, of course to…the economy,” the Washington Post said in an article. Additional storage space is becoming “an outright necessity for overspent consumers,” the article explained.

Doesn’t it all seem outrageous, especially in a world where $2,000 can cover the yearly salary for a doctor at a health clinic in a squatter settlement in Ecuador or just $50,000 can build a shelter to house homeless girls otherwise headed for prostitution on the streets of Morelia, Mexico? When more than one billion people live on less than one dollar per day and more than 3 billion on less than two dollars per day? When approximately four million American children under age 12 go hungry and about 9.6 million more are at risk of hunger according to estimates and more than 500 million people worldwide are malnourished?

Now, it is easy to lay a guilt trip on a prosperous society and to shame those who have money into giving to the needy. After all, there is no end to the list of good organizations doing work to help the poor.

But, what is bothersome about all of this is the way we live when so many are in need. Do we really need an $80,000 fish tank—or a $23,000 one for that matter? Do we have to build a three or four car garage so we can just store all of the stuff we aren’t using? What other extravagances do we indulge in just because it’s hard to spend all of that money?

What does it say about our society when we parade our excessive consumerism in the same newspaper that reports on starving children in Korea or the murders of street kids in Brazil? Can we be content to buy another television or automobile when mental health and social service organizations are leaving the disturbed and needy on the streets to shoot at children in schools and churches and scrounge in trash cans for food? Can we really complain about small things such as a long wait at a bank or a sold-out item in the grocery when some women walk for eight hours a day to carry water for their family’s survival?

Perhaps we have come to the point where we must examine our own actions and motivations. With so much luxury time and wealth, how can we use our resources to provide a helping hand? What about the possibility of matching what we spend to pamper ourselves with a contribution of time and money to one of those charitable organizations? Certainly we can exhibit more compassion and a little more responsibility in the use of what we have.


The British relief and development agency Tear Fund recommends the following for those who wish to get a handle on their spending and do something significant with their surplus:

  1. Draw up an extensive list of the luxuries you expect to enjoy in a normal month, including video rental, movies, sports, meals out, CD’s, etc.
  2. For one week, keep an accurate account of all your actual expenditures on luxuries.
  3. At the end of the week, add up the total you spent on all luxuries and send an equal amount to an organization that is targeting the needs of the poor. You can decide how long you want to do this, for a week, a month, a lifetime!

(An earlier version of this article appeared in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald in 2002)

What is 3rd Culture? – A Shared Essay

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

Recently, a graduate student at the University of West Georgia returned home to her family in south-central Asia after several years here in Carrollton. In a letter after her arrival, she wrote about the unexpected readjustment that she is experiencing. Here is what I wrote back to her. (I shared it with the director of the office of international students at the university and he included it in a newsletter for those students. Here it is for your information and help.)

Surprisingly, reverse culture shock (returning home) is much more difficult and unexpected than the original culture shock you experience when you came to the U.S.

You expect to have culture shock when you go abroad, but not when you return home. You expect everything to be the same, but it’s not. You have changed and your culture has changed, and now you have to make the adjustment.

To be perfectly honest, while you do make the transition eventually, it is never 100% because now, you are a third culture person; no longer totally and only part of your own culture, but never totally part of the new culture. So, you are something between the two.

My wife and I, for example, find that even though we have been back in the USA for so many years, we still fit in much better with third culture people than we do with our own. So, that’s what you are experiencing and will continue to experience, though it gets easier soon. Today, we still feel more “at home” with third culture people than we do with the general American society.

Also, people who grow up in a third culture setting (diplomatic kids, missionary kids, etc.) frequently (1) marry another third-culture person (2) work in a third-culture like a multi-national, or international organization.

And, I found more and more as I served as the pastor of the international, English-language churches in places like the Czech Republic and Kyrgyzstan, that while those churches were primarily founded for English-speaking expats living in those countries they were also including a large number of local third-culture people who had studied or worked abroad and had trouble fitting back into their normal, local churches and society.

There have been some books written about that and you can also read articles about it online. Perhaps they would help you.


Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

Proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform people

The work of our church extends outside of our doors to our community and to the ends of the earth through the missionary outreach that we support. And, even in this time of isolation and a general slowdown, that work of preaching the Gospel continues with urgency.

I once witnessed a powerful example of what mission work does to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to transform people.

You perhaps have heard about the five missionaries who were killed by the Waodani Indians in Ecuador in 1956. The missionaries had flown into the jungle, landing on a remote stretch of the Curaray River which they dubbed “Palm Beach.” There, they had made initial overtures to the previously unreached tribe.

During their stay, something went terribly wrong and the five men were killed by members of the tribe. Among them was Jim Elliot, the husband of the well-known Christian author and speaker, Elisabeth Elliot.

An American soldier and Ecuadorian troops accompanied missionaries to the site several days later to investigate. They buried four of the bodies on the bank of the river—one body was later found farther downstream. The search party left the missionaries’ Piper-PA-14 Family Cruiser airplane behind.

That incident was the catalyst for hundreds, maybe thousands of people to enter missionary service. And, it spawned several books, movies and other presentations.

Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint, Nate’s sister, eventually went back into the village and began living among the Waodani people. Many of them became believers. While Elisabeth eventually returned to live in the U.S., Rachel continued to live among the tribe until just before her death. She is buried near Toñamapade.

Nate’s son, Steve, also got to know many of the Waodanis and spent several summers with them as a boy. As a result, he speaks their language.

In 1994, reports began to come in to Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) missionaries that parts of an airplane were beginning to wash up along the Curaray River at the village and downstream for several miles. Then, a report came out of the jungle that the skeleton of a small aircraft had been found.

I was in the village of Toñampade one day and ran into Bill Clapp, an MAF missionary who had flown there to investigate the reports. I went with him to nearby Palm Beach, and we found some cable and a few scraps of metal that looked like they had come from the plane.

We then crossed back over to the village and went to a house where, we had been told, the airframe of the plane had been placed. There, behind the building, was, indeed, the rusted framework of a Piper-PA-14 Family Cruiser. That discovery brought stunned silence. Finally, Bill put his hand on the throttle and moved it forward. And, I remember distinctly what he said. “The last person to move that throttle was Nate Saint, 38 years ago.”

Several months later I went back to Toñampade in the jungle with Steve Saint, Bill Clapp and others to try to recover and carry out as much of the aircraft as possible. We combed the beach for days, walking back and forth along the banks of the river. One Indian had brought in a sheet of metal that was obviously part of the outside wall of the fuselage. It had a space on the side where the plane’s nameplate had been.

As we were walking down the beach, someone pointed. There, lying in the water was a piece of metal with the word “Piper” on it.

One day while we were there, we took off on a hike away from the river, back into the depths of the jungle. After a half-hour walk, we came upon a clearing and an old building alongside a good sized stream. There, waiting for us was an elderly Indian gentleman. He had walked barefoot for two hours to meet with Steve.

The two men immediately embraced and began to talk in the Waodani language. They must have conversed for at least a half-hour while the rest of us fed the parrots and Toucans and Quetzels that the owner of the property kept while he also allowed his monkeys to climb up on us and sit on our shoulders.

Finally, the pair got up and embraced, and the old man slowly waded across the stream to begin his two-hour trek back home.

I looked at Steve Saint and saw that he had tears in his eyes. I asked him about the old man. He said, “I never know when I say goodbye whether it will be the last time that I see him here on earth.” In fact, the man died about three or four years later.

Then, I learned that it was this person who 38 years earlier had been on Palm Beach and was the one who took a spear and drove it through the heart of Nate Saint, Steve’s father.

And there in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador, I watched those two talk and embrace with genuine affection and Christian love.

I have never witnessed such a powerful display of what one person’s forgiveness of another and God’s forgiveness can accomplish: the complete transformation of a sinner into a believer, a reconciliation between two very different men, and the entrance of a new-born saint into the Lord’s kingdom.

Recently my good friend and missionary colleague Ralph Kurtenbach wrote about another of those tribesmen who died a month or two ago. Here are some excerpts from his article:

Mincaye Ænkædi knew what it was to kill a person. He knew forgiveness for his actions. And he knew what it was like to later become a father and friend to his victim’s son.

Many people will not have heard of him. But to some Christians around the world, his first name is all that’s needed to envision the story of his dramatic conversion to Christianity in the late 1950s in the Ecuadorian rainforest.

His name means “Wasp.” When his life began in the jungle, Mincaye’s people, the Waodani, were trapped in a cycle of revenge killings amongst themselves. Internecine warfare seemed to point them toward self-decimation by time evangelical missionaries attempted to reach the tribe. On January 8, 1956, Mincaye and a small cohort of warriors speared to death Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian.

Within two years after those spearings on a sandbar of the Curaray River, Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth, and Saint’s sister, Rachel, were living in a Waodani settlement with members of the tribe who had killed their loved ones. The women’s message of forgiveness and peace was transformative in Mincaye’s life.

“Of the reported deaths spanning up to five generations,” missionary anthropologist Jim Yost later wrote, “only two individuals purportedly died of natural causes in old age. Forty-four percent of the deaths were a result of intratribal spearing, and 5 percent were due to infanticide. Seventeen percent were a result of [cowode or “outsider”] shootings and captures; snakebites accounted for another 5 percent and illness 11 percent.”

Steve Saint, who toured with the elder Waodani promoting the movie, End of the Spear, said that Mincaye’s most frequent speaking theme was, “We lived angry, hating and killing, ‘ononque’ (for no reason), until they brought us God’s markings. Now, those of us who walk God’s trail live happily and in peace.”

 “The tendency to idealize or romanticize ‘primitive’ cultures falls to crushing blows … as the reality of life in the upper Amazon rainforest plays out in gruesome details often too explicit and vivid for the cushioned Western mind,” wrote Yost and Williams….  “The reason is obvious—watching parents, children or siblings murdered in their sight burned indelible memories and emotions that could be erased only by a total transformation of the spirit. The fact that that transformation has taken place is the real story here.”

To tell any story is to leave parts untold, focusing on a core set of data. At the heart of Mincaye’s are the undeniable facts that he killed a man—and perhaps many men, as well as women and children—and that he knew forgiveness for his deeds, and that he became to Steve Saint a father.  

 That transformation was brought about through the power of God unleashed by Him through missionaries who long ago went to the Ecuadorian rain forest to share the life-changing news of Jesus Christ with a primitive people.

(For Ralph’s complete article, please click here: https://www.assistnews.net/non-violent-death-of-waorani-man/ )

Today, that kind of powerful witness continues through missionaries who serve the Lord around the world. And, we, through our offerings to our church and our support of missionaries contribute to that kind of life-changing, live-giving witness.

That mission work has not ceased in the face of the Covid-19 virus. In fact, in continues in an even more urgent manner. I pray that we will continue to financially support not only our local church, but the missionary outreach we carry on through His servants serving around the world.


Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

To shake or not to shake Hands: That is the question in the age of Coronavirus

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

The caution came right from the top: “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you,” said Dr. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases. Fauci, a key member of the White House task force, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying: “Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease — it probably would decrease instances of influenza dramatically in this country.”

But, many would say that learning not to shake hands is going to be hard if not impossible to do. After all, it’s so much a part of our social history; we always shake hands with people, friends or strangers.

Even while breaking a life-long habit can be difficult, it can be done. I did it once, and in that there is a story.

We lived as missionaries for nearly two decades in several countries of Latin America where greetings involve much more than just a handshake. Indeed, to properly greet a friend you were are also involved in hugging.

Women hug each other. Men and women, when the woman initiates, put an arm on a shoulder and blow a kiss by the ear. And two men shake hands and give an abrazo, a sort-of hug which involves using both hands to pat each other on the back of the shoulders.

It’s just part of the culture, and an enjoyable one. As a pastor, at times I gave hugs and blow-by-the-ear greetings as I greeted people when they arrived for worship and after the service as we chatted in the back of the sanctuary.

So, hand-shaking, hugging, abrazos became a natural and common part of our lives.

Then we moved to central Asia where I was the supply/interim pastor of an English-language church for parts of three years. Quickly, I learned that my days of hugging and blowing kisses and even handshakes for that matter with local people were mostly over.

While the expatriates in that church from North America and Europe were used to the human contact, I found that many Asians preferred not to touch, even to shake hands, and certainly were uncomfortable with hugging.

Instead, they bowed. Some did so by slightly bending their head and upper torso a few inches. Others went in for the deep waist bow. But most of them, especially the women, recoiled from any handshaking.

But remembering not to do that was difficult. My instinct was to stretch out my hand and grasp theirs. So, as a reminder and to prevent any embarrassment, I took up the practice of keeping at least my right hand in my pants pocket.

Now, that was difficult. I was taught as a child not to put my hands in my pockets. My father-in-law who owned his own business and for whom I worked for several summers frequently told me that he was reluctant to hire someone who did so because he took it as a sign that the person was lazy. And, in theological seminary the professors taught us never, never, never to put our hands in our pockets when we were preaching.

So, in Asia, I struggled to break a lifelong habit and started putting my hands in my pockets when greeting worshippers on Sunday morning. And, eventually, I became pretty proficient at doing so.

Back in the United States, over the years I have drifted back into handshaking and hugging at church and in other social occasions. But now, with the new advice from respected medical experts and the evidence that the nasty virus may be around for a while, I’m going to return to putting my hands back in my pockets.

I did it once, I can do it again. I guess that you can teach an old dog (or in my case, an old man) new tricks. Like handshaking, a lot of new habits may come out of this pandemic.

Kenneth D. MacHarg is a retired missionary/pastor. He and his wife, Polly, live in Carrollton, Georgia.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

Words from the Lord in times of anxiety

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine at the time of America’s independence struggles. Those words are equally appropriate today during our current struggle with a deadly virus, isolation, loneliness and even despair.

Think of the emotional roller-coaster that we have ridden in recent weeks. Fear, isolation, grief, doubt, and anxiety have gripped us and left us exhausted as well as frightened and desperate. Some people stay glued to the television while there are those who have turned it off, looked the other way and sought solace in other things.

And, we have asked, where is God? Has he abandoned us? Does he care?

Those are legitimate questions for all of us to raise and with which we should struggle. They go to the heart of our concern and our uncertainty.

But, in the midst of doubt and sadness and apprehension, we find stark words of hope and promise in the Bible. Remember, the word hope in the New Testament means promise, certainty, assurance, guarantee.

Hear these words:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 

While we are in the middle of the storm, we are reminded that we won’t be blown away or abandoned or left without hope and promise. Indeed, in the midst of everything that is happening, we can affirm that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8: 38-39

We are encouraged by these words of Jesus: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27 

The proclamation of the Gospel for these trying times is, that in Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, God our creator and sustainer has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to himself.

And, with that affirmation, is promise, hope and proclamation.

With that hope we can continue to serve Him by praying for our missionaries, making calls, sending emails to fellow church family members and supporting our church through financial gifts and prayer. Without this support, like many other things that are experiencing the crunch as a result of the virus, our church cannot continue to minister, teach and serve the congregation and community.

The Christian theologian and author Henri Nouwen wrote about a deeply difficult time in his life in words that we can adopt for our lives in this time of stress: “I can only keep trying to be faithful, even though I feel faithless most of the time. What else can I do but keep praying to you, even when I feel dark; to keep writing about you, even when I feel numb; to keep speaking in your name, even when I feel alone. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.”


(Written for use by First Christian Church, Carrollton, GA, April 2020) 

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.

Where have all the flowers gone?…

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

Recently I watched a PBS special, John Sebastian Folk Rewind, featuring some of the great folk music of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

What a wonderful and sobering reminiscence of a turbulent yet exhilarating time that shaped the lives of those of us who lived through it. Memories of student activism, the exhilaration of the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the influence of the peace movement by activists flooded back into my mind. It was a challenging yet meaningful time to live.

As I soaked in the music and the memories it generated, I remember the idealism of the age and the sense that we, as a generation, were, indeed, effecting significant change in our communities and society at large.

The music was a crucial part of the movement. It expressed the societal frustration that was on the minds of many of people and our desire to bring transformation in our communities, the nation and, indeed, the world.

As I listened to the likes of Pete Seeger, The Kingston Trio, Judy Collins and Woody Guthrie I realized that the words to their music affected attitudes and actually contributed to changing society for the better.

Just two songs will illustrate the power of the music and the lyrics.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Songwriter: Peter Seeger

Where Have All the Flowers Gone –lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company

Set in the still-fresh memories of World War 2, the Korean conflict and the then-contemporary military action in Vietnam, this tune touched the sensitivities of several generations tired of war and wanting a more peaceful world. Yet, the seemingly rapid succession of military action was frustrating to those of us wishing for economic and social development while enjoying the prospect of living, working, and participating in a world void of killing, prisoners of war and countless graves.

The second addressed the more domestic issues of racial and ethnic conflict as well as discrimination and growing violence:  

Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now….

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand (listen!)
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now….

I said, come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Right now
Right now

Songwriters: Chester Powers / Chester William Jr. Powers Get Together lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Frustrated by domestic racial and societal separation as well as violence and following several successive wars, this song painted a picture of a generation, in conflict with their elders, yet united around common values and equality with a concern for all citizens regardless of race, creed or sex.

“Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together and try to love one another—RIGHT NOW!”

Naïve? Unrealistic? Not in the view of young people who came of age in that era. These were our goals, our dreams, our values, the things for which we prayed and worked—and somewhat succeeded in achieving.

Naïve? Unrealistic? Hopefully not, but definitely a desperate need in our current, polarized world divided by rancorous politics and hardened separation.

It was good to hear that great music the other evening. I sang along—even in my off-key style. I joined the TV audience in applauding frequently during the program. I also wiped away literal tears that filled my eyes. And, I hoped that we might listen to this music again and embrace its meaning for us and the new generation that is joining the struggle.

Kenneth D. MacHarg is retired pastor/missionary and a resident of Carrollton, Georgia. His mid-1980s radio interview with folk singer Pete Seeger can be heard at: https://archive.org/details/PeteSeegerInEcuador.

In Communion, I am satisfied

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

Back when our children were in their early elementary school years, we lived as a family in Panama where I was the pastor of one of the English-language churches in what was then-known as the Panama Canal Zone.

Our daughter, Beth, became a good friend of a young Chilean girl, Anna, whose father was a shipping agent working with goods that went through the canal to and from Chile.

Anna was bi-lingual, speaking both her own native Spanish fluently and doing a very good job with English as well.

One evening, as she was eating dinner with us, Polly asked if I wanted some more food. “No,” I replied, “I really don’t, I’m full.”

Anna looked at me with her big eyes and said, “Oh, Mr. MacHarg. You shouldn’t say you are full. You should say ‘I am satisfied.”

Oh, Ok, I thought to myself, thank you Anna for helping me with my own language.

Actually, Anna was reflecting in English how you say such a thing in Spanish.  Generally, in polite company, Spanish-speaking people don’t say “I’m full,” they say “Estoy Satisfecho” –“I am satisfied”.

Anna was just reflecting the courtesy of speech that her parents had taught her to say when visiting with other people.

I’ve thought about that incident a lot over the years, and it has brought back many pleasant memories.

I have also found that quite often, when I have completed taking communion, I think to myself, with a little help from Anna, “I am satisfied.”

That’s an interesting thought to have each Sunday. After all, in communion we take the emblems, a tiny, tiny piece of wafer and a small cup that holds, maybe, a half of an ounce of juice, and we consume it as an observance, a celebration, a remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

Now, if I have come to church hungry for food or thirsty for something to drink, I have to admit that what I take in communion doesn’t do much to relieve my hunger pangs or my thirst.

But, that’s not what I am satisfying in this simple but deeply profound act of memorial, of celebration, of worship of Jesus Christ.

In Communion, I am pursuing a very different, very profound concept of quenching a thirst or a hunger.

In Matthew 5:6 we read: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Righteousness is the perfect holiness of Christ. It is an essential attribute to the character of God; quite literally meaning “One who is right”. Think of it as the polar opposite of sin. To commit sin is to go against God’s design for our lives, therefore righteousness is the only living standard that is acceptable for us to stand before the Father. The wages of sin is death, but in the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death. (Proverbs 12:28)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ.

In communion, we are not seeking to satisfy our physical hunger or thirst.

We are hungering for righteousness, the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ.

Indeed, Anna, when I have taken the wafer and the half ounce of juice each Sunday, I am, indeed, very, very satisfied.

Take, eat, drink, be satisfied.


Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. Also please forward this link to others who might be interested in this blog. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button along the side of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these articles, please let me know at that same email address.