Archive for August, 2011

The names have been changed to protect the inane

One of my pet peeves as an editor is having to remember the plethora of name changes for programs that are part of the bureaucratic morass known as the federal government.

During the New Deal, government programs had names that meant something and that didn't spell out silly acronyms. And the names didn't change every few years. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Tennessee Valley Authority are two that are still around.

It may be a misperception, but it seems to me that in the past 20 years, there have been more new names invented for programs than in all the decades before, going back to the New Deal, when the welfare state was born and many of the programs were created.

What really gripes me, though, isn’t just that the names change, but that names that are simple, easy to remember and known by almost everyone have changed to long, ridiculously complex names that no one except government workers (and, I hope, some political reporters and copy editors) will remember.

Consider, for example, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It used to be the Food Stamp Program, and it was so common that it was usually written lower case, as in, “The family is on food stamps.” Of course, they use debit cards now, but no matter what the government calls it, everyone else will still call it food stamps.

For more than 60 years, the federal program that provides cash assistance to low-income families was called Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or AFDC. This is what most officials meant when they spoke of “welfare.” But during the end-welfare-as-we-know-it era of the 1990s, the government changed the name to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to emphasize the fact that no free ride lasts forever.

Sometimes, a name change is shortened and makes more sense, like changing the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) to Rural Development, which is a more accurate description and kept it from being confused with the Federal Housing Administration, because the rural program was most often incorrectly referred to in conversation by the abbreviation of the public housing program, “FHA.”

States also like to change the names of things and make the names longer. Public Aid in Kentucky is now the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program. And the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, which was known by its goofy acronym, CATS, now has a new name. I don’t remember what it is. I’ll bet you don’t know what it is either. Who does?

KFC used to stand for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and most of the world's billions knew that. So who do they think they're fooling by saying it now stands for nothing? And how dumb is that — to have an abbreviation that doesn't stand for anything?

Even in the private sector, name changes are happening rapidly. America’s Second Harvest, a well-known Christian charity that distributes food from groceries that is a day or so past its expiration date to food pantry programs and soup kitchens, is now Feeding America, but I get it confused with Feed the Children. My guess is that with the popularity of premillennial mania created by the “Left Behind” book series, Second Harvest didn’t want to be confused with apocalyptic theology.

Sometimes public embarrassment results in a company or institution changing its name. Such was the case with Blackwater, the soldiers of fortune organization that came under criticism during the Iraq War, and the School of the Americas, where our military trained paramilitary forces for Central American terrorists like Roberto “Blowtorch Bob” D’Aubisson of El Salvador. I don’t remember what the new names of those institutions are either. I think that’s the point. They don’t want us to know. We aren’t clients.

The most asinine private name changes, though, come about when businesses or organizations drop their names but keep the abbreviations, although the abbreviations no longer stand for anything. Future Farmers of America is now just FFA. I suppose there was some stigma associated with the word “farmers.” And the American Association of Retired Persons is now just AARP, because you can now be a member about 20 years before you’re old enough to retire, and no 50-year-old wants to be thought of as past his prime. (I know, I’m 50 this year, and I keep throwing away the applications.)

And of course, the one everyone is familiar with is KFC. The reason that it’s no longer Kentucky Fried Chicken is that the word “fried” has such a bad connotation now. However, they still sell fried chicken as well as their new Kentucky Grilled Chicken. But as a lifelong Kentuckian who was proud of the fact that this company is known from Tokyo to Instanbul, I’m disappointed that the name no longer has the word “Kentucky” in it.
In fact, it doesn’t have any words in it at all.

And that’s simply inane.

McConnell deserves credit for debt deal

With members of the Republicans’ tea party faction wanting the government to default so they could make a point, and liberals among the Democrats describing discretionary spending cuts as satanic, it’s a small wonder that the two parties were able to come to any agreement on raising the debt ceiling.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was one of the key players in the debt ceiling negotiatons that resulted in an agreement to cut the debt by $3 trillion. Photo by Politico.com.

Fortunately, after all the revolutionary rhetoric on the right and reactionary stridency on the left, the wiser gray heads in Washington showed they’re the ones who are still in charge.

When it came down to brass tacks, Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, President Barack Obama and certainly not least, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, were the ones who got it done.

The senior Kentucky senator, who talked at length about the debt deal when he spoke at the first Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Luncheon Monday, played a major role in the negotations that resulted in a reasonable deal.

At the end of the day, this was a win for pragmatic conservatism.

What the debt limit agreement will do is cut government spending by about $3 trillion over the next decade in return for raising the debt limit. That’s a significant amount. But the debt doubled from about $5 trillion to $10 trillion under President George W. Bush and has increased by an additional 35 percent under President Obama. Forty cents of every dollar now goes to pay the debt. Only a few years ago, it was 20 cents.

“I think that even the most liberal members of House and Senate realize that we’re on an unsustainable path,” McConnell said Monday.

Let’s hope they understand it.

Serious debt reduction is going to require cuts in discretionary spending, entitlement reform, and — here’s where I part company with Republicans — tax increases, or at least eliminating some deductions, credits and exclusions.

The debt deal, however, was a good first step. McConnell deserves credit for drawing a line in the sand and saying to the radical element in his own party: “We are not going to default; that is an irresponsible position” — as well as negotiating in good faith with the White House, the House and the Senate Democrats to reduce the debt without derailing the recovery.

It’s a comfort to know there remain leaders on Capitol Hill  who realize that legislating is the art of compromise.

In his speech to the Chamber of Commerce, McConnell said that Americans have voted for divided government more often than not in recent history, and maybe that’s a good thing. Divided government was, after all, the intent of our Founding Fathers when they opted for the American system of checks and balances rather than modeling our government on the British parliamentary system in which the same party that controls the legislature controls the executive branch of government.

It is one way, if not the most effective one, of forcing Congress to hew to the middle, where the silent majority of the American people are. While our country may have been born out of revolution, the American constitutional system is deliberately structured to discourage extremism. This is especially true of the Senate, which, legend has it, George Washington called the “saucer” into which legislation is poured “to cool it.”

While most Americans are fed up with the partisan bickering and gridlock in Washington — and I’m as sick of it as anyone — McConnell is right when he says the rancor in Washington today is nothing compared to that of the early 19th century.

Nevertheless, he said, “At every critical moment in American history, we’ve done the right thing after arguing like crazy …”

Let’s hope this is one of those moments.

Walking the narrow road in a dark country

Grad student from Winchester returning to Haiti as missionary

“Enter through the narrow gate. For … small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
— Matthew 7:13-14

By Randy Patrick/The Winchester Sun

Ashley Wingate thought her internship in Haiti would be about working with children. Prisoners and prostitutes hadn’t entered into her plans. But God had other plans.

The 23-year-old graduate student from Winchester returned home in June from working with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission after she earned her teaching degree.

Ashley Wingate, 23, spoke at Forest Grove Christian Church July 31 about her experiences in Haiti and her decision to return there as a missionary.

She was to have gone back to Eastern Kentucky University to finish her post-graduate work, but instead she’s going back to the place where she feels the Spirit is calling her to serve.

“I thought I was going to Haiti to be a light” to the people, she said, but it has been just the opposite. “They probably changed me more than I ever changed them.”

The change began in 2009, when Ashley went to Haiti for the first time with others from Calvary Christian Church on a short-term mission trip.

That was the year before the earthquake killed tens of thousands of people and devastated the island nation that was already the poorest in the Americas.

After she graduated from EKU, she applied for a five-month internship with the mission at St. Louis du Nord, Haiti.

She had wanted to do some charity work before beginning her teaching career and considered other options, but “my heart was already in Haiti,” she said.

Ashley told her story and showed a video last Sunday to the congregation of Forest Grove Christian Church, where her grandparents, Duane and Ruth Ann Wills, are members.

St. Louis du Nord is about six hours north of the capital, Port au Prince, where the earthquake occurred. It is a remote, rural area where the mission began its work more than 30 years ago.

Ashley left Kentucky after Christmas for Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. She guided doctors and other short-term missionaries around its several campuses, being their “go-to girl,” and helping them with whatever they needed. She and another intern worked in a grocery ministry, buying food to distribute to needy people, and doing door-to-door evangelism.

When they would show up with food, she said, they would explain that it was “a free blessing,” that “God calls us to love our neighbors, and this is how we showed Christ’s love to them.”

The missionaries would talk with the people, getting acquainted with them, then ask “if they knew Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”

If the people said yes, then they would pray with them and tell them that they were “a light for Christ in a country that’s so dark.” If they didn’t know Christ in a personal way, the missionaries would ask if they wanted to accept him. Some did and others didn’t, but they were always respectful, she said.

“They always welcomed us into their homes with loving arms, and sat there and listened to us whether they believed in what we were saying or not,” she said.

Her real challenge came when she and the other intern would go on Thursdays with another woman, an experienced missionary, to do prison ministry and visit young women who worked as prostitutes.

“The criminal justice system there is terrible,” Ashley said. “You could be put in jail for owing someone money … and you could go to court the next day, or you might never see a judge.”
Fifty or 60 men might be crowded into a single prison cell, and the missionaries would go there and “do devotions with them.”

Some were were baptized, but didn’t really change, while others were devout Christians, and it showed.

“You could look at these men and think there’s no way they could have any hope … but I can’t explain to you the hope I saw in their eyes,” she said. “Even though they  are locked in their prison cells … they have their freedom in Christ. He means everything to them.”

It was especially the prisoners who changed her, she said — them and the “brothel girls.”

The girls would come from Port au Prince. They were ashamed to be selling their bodies to survive and so they would travel far from home.

“You could see that they had so much built up inside of them — so much hurt,”she said. “They didn’t know anything different than what they were living.”

The missionaries, though, would show their love for them and tell them that God intended something better for their lives.

Once she witnessed to eight girls, and when she went back,  there was only one to meet her. But they held each other and cried.

“I don’t know their hearts. I don’t know if they ever accepted the Lord,” she said, but she knew she had to keep telling them about his love for them.

Being a witness in that way doesn’t come naturally to her, Ashley said.

“I don’t like talking in front of people. … But that’s where God shows up. … He would just speak through me.”

She believes the mission’s work is making a difference in Haiti.

“It’’s a very dark country. There is brokenness. But (God) is working … especially through this mission.”

When Ashley came home June 30, she planned to return to school and begin her career. She thought she might go back one day.

“I thought mission was something I would do later on in life, but God had different plans,” she said.

Ashley and her parents, Dallas and Cheryl Wingate, are members of Calvary Christian. One night, while she was worshipping, the song she was singing affected her in a profound way.

“The words were, ‘I give myself away. I give myself away. My life is not my own. To you I belong. I give myself away.’” (Listen to the song by William McDowell here.)

“I can’t describe the feeling in my heart,” she said. “I felt God was telling me to do something.”

“I tried to ignore him, and he knows how stubborn I am,” she said, but throughout the week, “he just continued to knock on the door of my heart.”

She also kept remembering a Bible verse, Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has  been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

She couldn’t help but think of all the ways God had blessed her life, and she knew he wanted to use her to bless others.

“I thought, ‘Why would I not listen to him and bring glory to his name after he’s done so much for me?’”

“I knew I was going to go forward and take the next step,” she said.

She applied to Northwest Haiti Christian Mission to be a missionary and was accepted. She will be leaving in September for two years — unless she feels that God is calling her home. And if he wants her to stay longer, she said, she will.

She will be using her teaching degree to teach preschool there, and will also be teaching a Bible curriculum.

She’s excited, not only about educating the children, but also helping to bring them into a relationship with God through Christ.

Voodoo is very prevalent in this country, and if there’s anything that breaks my heart, it’s that these kids are being raised to believe these lies,” she said.

“The future”  of Haiti, she said, “is with these kids,” and she wants to teach them about “the one true God” so that they can change their country.

“God can use me in a great way,” she said. But she added that he can use any believer who is willing to “surrender” to him.

“You can be a light” wherever you are, “according to his power that is at work within us,” she said, quoting Ephesians 3:20, one of her favorite verses.

“I couldn’t get up here and talk, I couldn’t go to Haiti, I couldn’t do anything if God didn’t do it through me.”

Ashley said, “I’m scared out of my mind every time I walk out my door in Haiti,” but, added, “when I give it to God,” he gives her back the strength she needs.

“I think the world tries to make us think the things of this world are what matter,” but it’s important to remember, she said, that they are temporary and the things of God are eternal.

“I’ve learned that all we can do is trust God,” she said. “This is not the life I had planned for myself at 23 years old. But I keep reminding myself, this life is not my own.”

Contact Randy Patrick at rpatrick@winchestersun.com, follow him on Twitter @Suneditor or read his blog and comment at http://kyvoice.com/winchestersun/newerworld/ and become a fan of Randy Patrick’s Newer World on Facebook.

One in the Spirit: Christian youth come together in Winchester

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” — Christ’s high priestly prayer — John 17:21 (New Living Translation)

Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world to share his good news, Theo Macmillan told a group of youths who joined hands Saturday afternoon at College Park to pray for their community.

Samantha Carlisle, 19, stretched out her arms and lifted her head as she prayed Saturday while a light rain fell during the Unity Movement rally at College Park. The youth-led event was a Christian gathering that emphasized the problem of drug addiction in Clark County. Photo by Randy Patrick.“The world starts right outside your door,” he added.The Unity Movement rally was the first event organized by young adults and youths from churches throughout the community to try and bring Christians of all denominations together to address problems of addiction.

According to Greg Troutt, director of Second Chances Outreach, a faith-based drug rehabilitation program, Clark County has one of the highest statistics of drug overdose deaths of any county in Kentucky. But he believes, from his own experience that faith in Christ can change addicts’ lives.

“It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship,” he said.

Troutt said he has seen “revival” begin in jail and spread outside the walls to influence a community.

“I’ve been to crack house where people pray better than we do in church,” he said.

“Today’s the day that change can begin in Clark County,” Troutt said.

After Troutt’s talk, the mostly young crowd gathered around the music stage and joined hands to pray and hear “testimony” from people whose lives had been changed through faith.

Theo MacMillan led the Unity Movement gathering and also led participants in singing worship songs.

Timothy Christopher, youth pastor at Ephesus Baptist Church, said that 10 years ago, “I would have robbed and cheated you out of everything you own” to get money for drugs. He was a crack cocaine addict, he said, and one day he looked in a mirror and “saw a demon.” He got down on the floor and prayed to Jesus to deliver him from the addiction.

“He let me see what I had become,” Christopher said. At that moment, he said. “I heard the chains snap, I felt the weight lift, and I was free.”

Christopher urged those attending the rally to go out and spread that message of freedom.

“Let’s let it go viral,” he said.

Theo MacMillan, one of the organizers of the event, strummed his guitar while others spoke and prayed, and let the crowd of 200 or so in a worship song that most of them seemed to know.

“The Holy Spirit wants to take over this city. He wants it to be his,” MacMillan said. But God wants his followers to tell others, he said.

“How are they going to hear without a teacher?” he asked.

[This is  one of my favorite worship songs about Christian unity. Listen to Jars of Clay performing "We Are One in the Spirit."]

 

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