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Issue 9-11

Scavenger Genes

Some of us were born with a scavenger gene. I confess that I am one. I can’t resist the temptation to comment (obnoxiously) when complimented on an article of clothing or a new household item, “Goodwill—five bucks,” or “St. Vincent’s Resale Shop—three dollars.”

So when I saw the kitchen cabinet (without a hole cut in the top for a sink) discarded at the curb in front of the house of a son’s neighbors, I realized it was exactly what I had been praying for to store all the messy leftover paints and supplies that had been gathering dust on a rusting metal shelf in the garage.

There was no way I could load the eight foot by four foot storage unit by myself into our compact Mazda “Protégé.” So I returned back to my son’s home, where I had been visiting, with this bright suggestion: If he and a friend would help me, I’d run to nearby Menards and rent a flat bed truck for $18.99 an hour.

When he agreed, I rented the truck, and the three of us loaded, then unloaded the ungainly cabinet, pushed it into the swept and waiting garage corner, after which I returned the pick-up to Menards—all in under one hour. Painted a barn red with fancy patterned knobs from Hobby Lobby, the salvaged cabinet not only looks great, hides all the messy paint supplies, but provides me with a counter-high project table so I can repair and beautify all the salvage I find—the most recent being a used chandelier I am de-wiring and transforming into a “candleier.”

Perhaps even more stunning is the fact that all this redeemed salvage that furnishes my home (and the perfectly good wardrobe that I wear) is a metaphorical reminder that Christians should be about the business of redemption because that, indeed, is God’s business. All my salvage reminds me that God specializes in the reclamation enterprises. He is the Original Scavenger, the One who reclaims and recycles those who have been assigned to the garbage heaps and to the discard curbs of the world.

Do you remember this litany from I Corinthians 2?

  • Not many of you were wise by human standards;
  • Not many of you were influential;
  • Not many of you were of noble birth.
  • But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;
  • God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
  • He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

No wonder I get so much glee from salvaging: It’s in my spiritual genes.

I cannot tell you how much I believe in the power of the godly scavenger hunt. Seeking the outcast, sharing the message of the Gospel with those who feel they are unfit. Telling them of a God who became outcast in order to reclaim and recycle those who were outrageously deformed, discarded and lost. This seems to me to be the essence of the Scripture. It is a reclamation and recycling story.

Once, in our inner-city Chicago pastorate, we designed a time for “All Those Who Feel They Are Misfits.” David and I didn’t have any particular people in mind when we set this idea into motion so we were surprised when the most remarkable folk attended; writers and creative thinkers. David Larson is one I remember, a medical student who went on to do his residency in psychiatry at Duke University Medical School. He was part of the group who helped to establish a spirituality-in-medicine research project at Duke, determining first, how exactly to define spiritual factors, then second, how to measure the impact of those factors on health. Dr. David Larson eventually worked with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC, where the same criteria became integrated into research that eventually showed the definite positive effects of religiosity of any kind on human health. A “misfit,” indeed.

Perhaps this is why I am so thrilled about what is happening with the Global Bag Project in our pilot undertaking in Nairobi, Kenya. Carla Boelkens, our GBP Director, writes about Jecinter with a newborn, abandoned by her husband, and living alone in one of the slums of Nairobi. The oldest of eight children and the only girl, Jecinter was forced to postpone her dream of having her own sewing shop after completing classes in dressmaking in 2000. Her parents were ailing and she needed to care for them.

When Carla met Jecinter in March, 2009, she was very low in spirits. She didn’t have a job and didn’t know how she was going to survive or care for her daughter, Patience. A friend brought her to St. Martha’s Ministry, our GBP partner, where Eunice and Caleb Otieno, the directors, came alongside her to offer hope and love through their community of faith.

Through a business loan from St. Martha’s Ministry and the donation of a sewing machine from GBP contributions, on September 1st Jecinter opened her own shop in the Kibera slums (one million people in a one square mile area) in the Makina Market. Jecinter is planning to make dresses and GBP shopping bags. She is now passing on the hope and love of Jesus she received from St. Martha’s by teaching another woman how to sew and eventually create the beautiful kanga-cloth reusable GBP shopping bags. How’s that for a reclamation story!

Here's a photo of Jecinter and her daughter, Patience.

Jecinter and her daughter, Patience


Salvage. A Redeemer God with a redemption agenda. One who comes to make all things new. People with a scavenger gene. This is all the stuff that epic tales are made of.

I invite you to become part of our scavenger team.

Karen Mains


The Global Bag Project

Good News! The Alive and Well Foundation is granting us $300 a month for a year ($300 x 12 = $3,600) to increase the traffic to the Global Bag Project website through Internet marketing initiatives. That web address is Our goal is to sell bags so bag-makers like Jecinter will have work and be able to support themselves and their children. The first check will pay for the development of a Global Bag Project monthly newsletter. We have the e-mail addresses of several hundred people who have already purchased bags and want to reconnect with them on a regular level.

However, we need 10 donors who will give $30 a month for a year ($30 x 10 x 12 = $3,600) to match the Alive and Well Foundation grant. The original gift of $300 monthly will drive us to our goal of increasing Internet bag sales going about 20 mph. Matching gifts from 10 donors will enable us to drive to our goal of Internet bag sales at 40 mph.

The Global Bag Project U.S. office is also looking for one-time large gifts to provide resources to build the Stateside marketing thrust (so we can reach our Internet bag sales goal going 80 mph!)

If you can give a monthly gift for a year or if you can give a one-time larger donation, contact Karen Mains at Checks may be made payable to Global Bag Project and mailed to:


Global Bag Project
Box 30
Wheaton, IL 60187

Annual 2010 24-Hour Advent Retreat of Silence for Women

Registration is open for our Hungry Souls Advent Retreat, Wednesday-Thursday, December 1-2. The cost for the days, including a private room with bath and three meals is $120. If you register by October 15th, the early registration fee is $100. If you bring a friend who has never attended, the fee will be $90 for your friend and for yourself. You can begin early registration by e-mailing Susan Hands at

Tiffany Staman of Breathing Space, a retreat ministry, will be leading the Advent Retreat with Sibyl Towner. Tiffany will be heading up the Advent Retreat Ministry for this year and will be encouraging retreatants who have experienced her day events to attend. We had 66 attendees last year in two back-to-back retreats. We have room in one retreat for 55 attendees. This coordinated effort between Hungry Souls and Breathing Space could mean that the registrations will fill faster, so we would encourage you to register as soon as you can. Checks for early registration may be made payable to Hungry Souls and mailed to:


Hungry Souls
Box 30
Wheaton, IL 60187

There is nothing that prepares your heart, mind and soul for the holiday season like a time of intentional spiritual silence.



The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to

Karen Mains

Karen Mains

"I cannot tell you how much I believe in the power of the godly scavenger hunt. Seeking the outcast, sharing the message of the Gospel with those who feel they are unfit. Telling them of a God who became outcast in order to reclaim and recycle those who were outrageously deformed, discarded and lost. This seems to me to be the essence of the Scripture. It is a reclamation and recycling story."


A History of the World in 6 Glasses

A History of the World
in 6 Glasses
By Tom Standage


Karen says:

This book is a prime example of why attending book clubs is so beneficial. Often (generally every meeting) books not on the assigned reading list are recommended. Good readers endorse good books. So at our last Read and Intercede Book Group, the host Bruce Duncan suggested we check out (this suggestion was made after our time of discussion and prayer) A History of the World in 6 Glasses.

Since I just received a Kindle from some of my kids and since I just registered it and am figuring out how to use it and since I am away from home with four airplane transits, I decided this would be the first book to download on my electronic reader (which I, a dyed-in-the-wool bookie, love, by the way—particularly for travel). So I ordered it, downloaded it and read it on the airplane ride from Chicago to Phoenix.

It is a rather enchanting look at world history from the rim of a beer mug, or wine glass, or spirits jug, or coffee and tea cup—or coca-cola can! The main players are not human, but the serendipitous discoveries that nomadic man made, for instance, when a bowl of mash fermented, or in the effort not to be sickened by polluted water drank the juice from pressed grapes, or when slave-traders bartered rum for human flesh, etc. etc. For just a good read that is illuminating but not demanding, I too recommend 6 Glasses.

Were this a hard-back book, I might have some trouble deciding whether to put it on the history shelf in our home or down in the “foodie” corner along with the cookbook desk in the basement. But Kindle storage spares me that decision.

Here’s to good reading!


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