Sunday, July 29, 2012

Harry Carey Taunted Me


Tomorrow I'll be headed to Chitown for another radio event, but will arrive a day early so I can take in my first game at Wrigley Field in over two decades with my old chum and co-editor of our high-school underground comedy paper, Scott Whitney.  I used to see many a contest there when I lived in the City of Broad Shoulders.  Of course, you could sit in the bleachers then for a buck.  It's about forty times higher than that now. But there's nothing like taking in the ambience of America's pastime in one of it's cherished old cathedrals.

Many know of my rabid, vocal support of hockey.  Others have seen me wax nostalgic with legendary tales of football lore with the 70s Steelers.  Some know of the great affection I’ve had for the fledgling American Basketball Association, as well as the terrific NBA battles between the Celtics and Lakers in the 80s. 

But it’s baseball that will always have a special tug within me.  Whether reminiscing about the Pirates’ amazing double play combo of Gene Alley and Bill Mazeroski, or recounting stupendous slugfests at Wrigley Field, or sitting with Fifty-three other lonely souls at Fans Field in Decatur, Illinois watching the San Francisco Giants’ Single A minor league affiliate bumble their way through yet another loss in 1972, or somehow retaining hitting statistics from players who have been retired for thirty years…baseball will always take the biggest share of my sports heart.

Part of the romance of the ballpark stems from the play-by-play announcers that captured my imagination as a little sprout.  Every summer night I would wander up and down the AM dial from my Ohio and Illinois homes listening to Ernie Harwell describe Al Kaline’s exploits for the Tigers; Jack Brickhouse’s friendly banter on Cubs’ broadcasts; Phil Rizzouto’s chatterbox style with the Yankees; Joe Nuxhall’s sign-off of, “this is the old lefthander rounding third and heading for home” at the end of each Reds’ game; and the inimitable Bob Prince’s zany metaphors for my battlin’ Bucs (“He couldn’t have hit that pitch with a bed slat,” and “that play was closer than the fuzz on a tick’s ear” were two of my faves).

But there was one character who was always even more colorful than the rest…one who perhaps more than any other defined an era of baseball with his larger-than-life persona: Harry Carey.  Many a night I would hear him on KMOX calling a Redbirds game in St. Louis.  When the muggy Mississippi River valley afternoons would send temperatures at old Busch Stadium soaring well above 110 degrees on the field, Harry was known to actually strip down to his underwear in the press box, and stick his feet in a tub of ice water while describing the action.  

After a run-in with owner Augie Busch (it is rumored that Harry had an affair with his wife), Carey was suddenly canned by the Cardinals in ’69.  He broadcast for the A’s out in Oakland for a few years, but eventually ended up in Chicago, going to work for another renegade: the unpredictable Bill Veeck, owner of  the Chicago White Sox.

In 1972, my church youth group decided to make the three hour ride north to the Windy City to see the Sox take on the Detroit Tigers.  The original Comiskey Park was one of the oldest structures in baseball even at that point (and it remained so until it was torn down in the early 90s).  The wooden seats had been painted dark green so many times that in some cases the openings between the boards were sealed-over and no wood grain was remotely visible.  All the screws that held each seat together and to the concrete flooring had long-since been encased in heavy duty all-weather Lucite.  Cement steps leading down each section had literally been worn down a few inches from millions of footfalls over seven decades of traffic.  The scent of spilt beer, stale popcorn, and rancid cigar smoke was imbedded in the place. And it smelled great!

One of the oddities of the stadium was that the press box was actually located at the top of the balcony behind home plate. Most baseball parks had the broadcast booths tucked underneath the upper deck...but on Chicago’s south side, the announcers were pretty much on the same level as the fans upstairs.

So when we learned that we could purchase seats immediately beneath Harry Carey’s broadcast vantage, we leapt at the chance.  Veeck had placed several loudspeakers on the outside of Carey’s booth, so anyone in that area of the upper deck could hear his call of the game.  You could turn around and see him sitting there, big as life, with his oversized black horn rim glasses, mussed-up white hair, and distinctive jowls flapping away.  Anytime a batter would foul a ball back towards him, instead of running for cover, Carey would quickly grab his trusty butterfly net and try to catch the ball before it could harm anyone.  Even if the ball was fifty feet away, he would toy with the crowd by waving it about—and we loved it.   

So there we were, all dressed in support of the various teams we cheered for:  I was decked-out in Pirates’ gold and black, Duke had on his Cub’s hat and sweatshirt, Jon had on his Cardinals gear, Mike had his Yankee pinstripes, etc. etc.  All of us had brought our gloves hoping to snag one of those wayward balls sometime during the contest.  My buddy Steve Samuelson was getting bored, and decided he would have better luck standing down along the aisle way along the first base line.  Sure enough, about ten minutes later, Detroit centerfielder Jim Northrop lofted a foul right into that region, and I saw Steve with his distinctive bright red St. Louis cap and warm-up shirt run over to catch it, only to have it glance off his glove and into the hands of a portly gentleman.

With head down, Steve returned to our perch overlooking home plate, and we teased him incessantly for the next half hour or so about his lack of fielding acumen.

In the bottom of the sixth, the mighty Richie Allen, who was at that time leading the American League in home runs, came up to bat again for the Pale Hose.  Catching a ball hit by him would be the coup de grace.  Of course, there were about 27,000 others in Comiskey that night thinking the same…so the chances were nil that we would be so lucky.

Harry was setting the scene: “Richie Allen, with twenty-two dingers to lead the Junior Circuit, could give the White Sox the lead with one swing of the bat.  Oh…for the long one!”  The first pitch was a ball, low and outside to the bespeckled right-handed slugger.  “Mickey Lolich peers in to Freehan for a sign…he knows how dangerous Richie can be.  Allen waves his 34-ounce bat menacingly as he awaits the pitch.  The crafty lefthander rocks and fires…there’s a swing and a pop up coming our way.”

Arcing at least ten stories above us, the ball spun high and backward from the batter’s box.  It had a great chance of coming down in the upper deck…in fact, as it reached its apex, we realized it had a wonderful chance of coming right towards us…and within the next few seconds I knew that it was coming straight down towards me.  

Harry reached for his butterfly net, while simultaneously shouting, “Here comes a free souvenir for a lucky Sox fan!”

As the ball began plummeting from the dark Chicago sky, framed by hundreds of white- hot 1,000 watt lamps in the light standards around the stadium’s ring. I lifted my well-oiled Rawlings Roberto Clemente Special above my head, aligning the ball’s downward trajectory with the soft spot of my mitt.  I was about to become the owner of an actual American League baseball endorsed by the commissioner himself, and touched by two All-Star players just a matter of seconds before. 

I was set and poised.  Being an outfielder by trade in Pony League, I had utmost confidence in my ability.  However, I didn’t normally have to fight with other people to catch a ball, and just as the precious sphere was about to nestle into my grasp, a balding man wearing an Ashland Oil work shirt thrust is greasy hand under my glove in his vain attempt to make a bare-handed grab.  The ball glanced off my leather, and careened off several other hands and shoulders before a curly headed little blond girl picked it up from the sticky cement.

“Ohhh…a young lad wearing a Pirate’s hat really bungled that one!” Harry barked out, much to the delight of my chums and the rest of the crowd around us.  Not only had I missed out on the prized artifact, but I had been slammed by a hero and a future Hall of Fame announcer.  The teasing we had given Steve over his muffed chance a few innings earlier was nothing compared to the needling I got the remainder of that trip.

I didn’t lose any sleep over it, however. I figure there aren’t that many baseball aficionados who can say they were taunted by Harry Carey.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ti Chape (another free chapter from "Embracing the Gray")


Preparing for my sixth visit to Haiti (and first since the earthquake), I’ve been in a reflective mood. Here is a chapter form my book, Embracing the Gray that explains my attachment to this struggling nation over the years:

After passing by the hazed eastern tip of Cuba, our American Airlines flight banked steeply to the right and within minutes we were passing over the northern peninsula of Haiti, so recognizable due to the heavily rutted landscape.  The French had not been kind when they ravaged the once lush western half of Hispaniola of all the mahogany trees and shipped the lumber back to Paris to make fine furniture.  Over 200 years later, the nation is still 90% barren, and what little good topsoil remains is being eroded into the Caribbean. We circled over the Canal du Sud strait approaching Port au Prince, a teeming city I had not been to in nineteen years.  As we touched down on the single runway “international” airport, memories began to take focus.

I had been to this second-poorest country in the world three times in the 80s.  In fact, my very first trip to a developing nation had been here in early 1984 when I was managing Petra. We had begun a relationship with Compassion a year earlier, and had seen thousands of needy kids find sponsors with their enthusiastic concert audiences and via album inserts. It was so humbling for us to meet some of the children we had been sponsoring, and to see the life-changing results that child development in a Christian environment could bring about.

A wiry American with a unique accent was our guide on that trip.  He had been living in Haiti for six years, assisting with various ministries, and eventually signing-on full-time with Compassion.  His deep, expressive voice had been influenced over his lifetime of being raised as a missionary’s son in West Africa, then attending various universities in America earning multiple degrees, as well as serving as a linguist in the Army on the Eastern Front of Europe. Along the way he had mastered seven different languages, and we heard him speak fluently and persuasively in the unique language of Haiti known as Creole.  Thus began a twenty-eight year friendship with the man who is now my boss. Wess Stafford has since gone on to become the president of Compassion International, overseeing an organization that has grown to twenty times the size it was then, now giving manifold assistance to over 1.3 million children in twenty-six countries.

I’ll never forget as we were sitting in some sort of traffic back up—a very common Haitian occurrence—along the N1 Highway near the coastal town of Arcahaie.  I snapped one of my all-time favorite photos: a little boy of about three with a distended belly from malnutrition, wearing a ragged striped t-shirt and nothing else, proudly hoisting his torn little hand-made kite on a ten foot string made up of whatever scraps of twine and wire he had found.  The breeze was keeping it only about five feet aloft, but he was as gleeful as any child I had ever seen.

Wess was seated next to me in our van, and noticed my fascination with the tiny urchin.  “Ah, yes…another little Ti Chape,” he observed. 

“What is a Ti Chape?” I asked.

“It’s a Creole phrase that many parents in these poorest areas of Haiti use with their youngest kids,” Wess explained.  “I’m sure you’ll hear it often over the next several days as we visit homes.  It’s a term of endearment…but it’s also one of a harsh reality that reminds everyone every time it is uttered of how devastating each day can be for people living on the brink.  Ti Chape means ‘little survivor’ or ‘one who has escaped death’.” 

By this time, several others from the band were leaning in close to hear what Wess was explaining.

As a very tenderhearted man, Wess could not conceal his passion for these people, and tears began to well in his eyes, and with a catch in his throat he continued: “Sadly, for the majority of the poor here in Haiti, the infant mortality rate is as high as fifty percent for children under the age of five.  So, often times parents won’t refer to their littlest ones by their birth name until they celebrate their fifth birthday, because they know all too well that many of them won’t make it that far.  While they are still in this most vulnerable toddler stage, they are affectionately called “Ti Chape.”  I guess it is overly painful to consistently call them by their real name for fear of assigning too much hope to their prospects.  This same phenomena happens, by different names of course, in other desperately poor cultures around the globe.”

I watched intently for a few more minutes at that toddler joyfully trying to keep his tattered toy buoyant on the air. Then we lurched forward in the traffic flow.  For the rest of our stay I pondered what his chances were really going to be within the next few months. 

Later that day, I saw my first human corpse abandoned in one of the filthy alleyways of an intense slum on the bay known as City du la Sole. It wasn’t the only one I would ever see in Haiti.  Even now, whenever I look at that tyke’s photo in my collection, it gives me great pause, and it was all coming back to me nearly twenty-five years later as we drove through the packed streets of Port au Prince.

On our final day of this just-completed trip, we drove out the N2 highway along the southern Massif de la Hotte peninsula, weaving past colorfully painted tap-taps (old pick ups converted into buses often over-loaded down with upwards of twenty people), soot-spewing diesel trucks, and UN troop patrol vehicles that help keep the peace in this politically unstable environment. 

As we pass tiny farms, my mind drifts back to meeting Horele Georges. He was the third son of a meager dirt farmer near the town of Miragoane.  Hector Georges supported his family of seven on a rocky plot about one-half of an acre in size.  He toiled with one emaciated cow nearly every daylight hour trying to squeeze each ounce of productivity out of that parched earth as was humanly possible.

When Horele was registered into the program at age five, he began learning new agricultural techniques that showed how yield could be increased dramatically with the help of better seeds, certain fertilizers, irrigation techniques, and so on. 

A year passed as he observed through a couple of growth seasons how the corn at the project was markedly bigger than what was growing on all the area farms.  Horele started asking Hector if they could try these processes on their crops.  At first his father just ignored him, but Horele persisted.  Eventually Hector said, “Son, I’ve worked this land in this way my entire life.  My father before me did the same, and your grandfather and great grandfather before them.  There’s nothing that can be done that we haven’t tried.”

But Horele knew that some of these ideas had not been put into practice…or at least he wasn’t aware that they had been while he helped his father every day before and after school.  So, he continued trying to explain to his poppa what he had been taught.  As it was just the beginning of a new planting season, Hector finally relented, and said, “Alright, Horele.  I’ll let you have one row of this section where you can try your silly tricks.  I’ll be surprised if whatever it is you try even survives the first heat wave.”

Taking what he had learned at the Compassion project, the little boy eagerly set his attention on that modest row of newly planted seeds.  Each morning he tilled and watered.  Each afternoon he blended in the fertilizing techniques he was being taught, pulled weeds, and watered more.

Eight weeks passed, and lo and behold, Horele’s row was two feet taller than the rest of the plot.  His daddy had certainly noticed, but kept waiting for the stalks to wither.  When it was apparent that indeed his little son’s crop was going to be substantially better than his, he sheepishly said “So, son, ummm…what is it exactly that they are teaching you to do?”

By the time the next growing season was finished, Hector Georges’ little farm was producing forty percent higher yield than it ever had.

I look back fondly on Horele, because he was a boy I sponsored for twelve years. And I finally met him less than four months before he was to graduate from high school, near the top of his class. His dad became so good at the farming techniques his little son had taught him that he became a regular volunteer assistant with each new class at the Compassion project.  Skepticism and even fatalism had been superseded by the youthful zeal of his child. Hector eventually ended up on staff at the project. 

Horele in his mid-thirties now, with a family of his own.  He’s a leader in his church and in his community. And on the same tiny scrap of land he’s still raising some of the best corn on that side of the island.    

It would be easy to assess that not much has changed for the better in Haiti since that visit in 1990.  There were still massive piles of stinking refuse at nearly every street corner.  Sewers were packed and overflowing with debris.  The charcoal based energy and cooking lifestyle was still evident with a thick haze that covered most urban areas. And tens of thousands of people packed every sidewalk and spilled out into the bumpy streets…just barely avoiding dismemberment from crazed motorists.

We were headed out to see one of Compassion’s projects that had been in existence for twenty-three years, but had just a few years before added a new program that is helping revolutionize our work.

When we arrived in the rural town of Papette, where the Wesleyan Church had become a real community center over the past two decades, and it was obvious that the one thousand residents had a deep respect for all that the Compassion project had helped them with over the years.

My little group of radio professionals and I were ushered into the sanctuary where ninety-three mothers and their infants had been patiently waiting.  It was amazing how quiet and disciplined the 120 or so little ones were—we commented amongst ourselves that the same scene in America would’ve been utter pandemonium. There was a look of gentle appreciation on the face of each young woman when we made eye contact. 

A handful of the moms came forward to give testimony to what had revolutionized their lives.  You see, over Compassion’s fifty-six years of existence, we’ve always been laser-beam focused on child development for kindergarten age kids through high school.  But in the past five years, we have launched a new initiative called the Child Survival Program (CSP), which supports mothers and children all the way from their pregnancy, on into infancy, and through the toddler years.

One of the young mothers, Irmice, had her little eighteen-month-old boy draped on her shoulder, fast asleep, as she shared with the crowd.  “I serve a living, loving God,” she confidently declared.  “If not for Him or Compassion, I, and certainly not my baby, would be alive today.”  She went on to explain the loving care and instruction she had received from the CSP staff, nurses, and social workers who showed her how to improve pre-natal health via exercise, nutrition, and supplements.  Then after her son was born, the encouraging practical lessons like proper breast-feeding, preventive vaccines, immunizations, and other medicines have continued.

On a subsequent tour through the CSP wing of the project we saw cribs, tiny chairs, baby swings, scooters, tricycles, a huge supply of learning toys and instruments, exercise mats, building blocks, and everything else you would see in a well-run education based nursery.  They even had weekly classes for social interaction/training and early literacy. For these moms, who come from households where the average monthly income is perhaps $40 at best, this is a sanctuary for their babies in the truest sense of the word. The CSP Director, Rose, explained how the tots were regularly weighed, measured, and examined to make sure they were within healthy parameters. There was a full pharmaceutical closet with everything a young mother could need for their child. Extensive files were kept on each mom and baby that was regularly updated with the weekly visits at their homes as well as at the project.  We were thoroughly impressed. And the results were obvious in the shiny eyes, gleeful giggles, and yes, even the healthy full-throat wails of some little nippers. 

We saw the wall charts that were proudly displayed showing the progress of each and every infant that had come through the program…and not a single one had died.  In fact, once the three-year-olds “graduate” from CSP, they then become eligible for Compassion’s regular child sponsorship that runs from pre-K all the way through their late teens. And all of them from four to five years ago were now enrolled there.

“What an ongoing blessing we have seen as Compassion has been involved here for over a generation,” said Rev. Thebaud, the aging pastor who had formed the church three decades ago. “So many more precious little ones have been saved physically and spiritually since we began partnering with you. I am retiring soon, and will probably be going to be with the Lord very soon as well…however I can rest easy knowing that things have changed so much for the better from when we started back in 1985.”

Outside the project, we saw some much healthier looking kindergartners sailing their tattered kites.  But they were in their school uniforms, with good shoes on their feet.  I always like asking these little Haitian dynamos their names.  It swells my heart every time to hear them proudly blurt out their moniker: “Pierre!”  “Camille!” “Sebastien!” “Monique!” “Alain!” “Simone!”  “Yves!”  I close my eyes and see a skinny tyke waving some big ears of corn yelling out “Horele!”

And when I asked these mothers on this day to introduce their littlest ones, there wasn’t a single “Ti Chape” answer in the bunch.

# # #

If you would be interested in reading Embracing the Gray: A Wing, A Prayer, and A Doubter’s Resolve, you can get it via Kindle for just 99 cents via Amazon.com here:


Or you can get it as a FREE PDF download at my website here (donations accepted):


It is also available at most bookstores and internet sites in book form as well.




Sunday, July 15, 2012

More Five Star Reviews for "Embracing the Gray"


I am so grateful for the positive reviews of my book, Embracing the Gray: A Wing, A Prayer, and A Doubter’s Resolve, that continue to be posted on Amazon.com…

Hollingsworth pulls no punches here. This is real, tough, faith in the trenches. The chapters dealing with family loss are heart-breaking and yet ultimately hopeful and full of grace and appreciation. One chapter (about a trans-Atlantic flight from Hell) had me laughing out loud, covering my mouth due to shock, the way I do when I read The Onion or humorist Dave Barry! I read the book in less than a week. For comparison's sake, my wife and I are still trying to get through The Shack after two and a half years. Get Embracing the Gray
-C.H.

Laugh, cry, think.  Embracing the Gray is fascinating. Mark A. Hollingsworth writes of his challenging life growing up in an era of great social change during which he is subject to even more scrutiny as a preacher's son. Added to that, his family carries extra burdens from multi-generational family problems with substance abuse. Despite this triple whammy (or maybe because of it) Mark's amazing life evolves as one of great joy, purpose and courage while questing for spiritual answers. I wanted to put this book down but I couldn't. This is a must read for anyone who admires books that cut thru BS. 
-K.C.

You may not recognize the name Mark Hollingsworth, but you’ve probably heard him on the radio, read an article he’s written, been a fan of a band he managed or at least heard of his employer, Compassion International.
Embracing the Gray is a beautiful journey of doubt, music, reality, mission and faith…or a lack thereof.  Through short stories from his work, confessing his renouncement of Christianity in college, destruction and restoration in his family, returning to faith, occasional looks at the every day … they are journeys and questions that I think we all need to consider if we really want to make our beliefs our own.
Walking through the gentle death of his father truly moved my spirit. I’m realizing that I’m not good at aging, and as I see my parents getting older I am forced to recognize how our relationship is starting to change. For Mark, the true realization his father was slipping was by beating him in checkers. For me, it involves deciphering recipes in the kitchen. It was comforting to look into not only what might be ahead, but to know that I won’t be navigating that road alone.
Out of the collection, the stories that truly touched me were his interactions with some of the least of these: a Kenyan girl named Mercy, a woman who broke rocks into gravel in India, children in Haiti who aren’t expected to survive so they have no names, the angel that showed up on Mark’s doorstep…all unexpected faces where grace is found.  Mark’s narrative is descriptive, yet open so I can remember the people I’ve encountered over my own journey.
The beauty of a well-written memoir is realizing all of our journeys interact.  And by looking at the lives of others, we learn more about our own.
Embracing The Gray is just such a book.
-L.L.

A journey toward meaning. This book shows that everything in life can move us toward meaning. I appreciate the author's willingness to expose his life on paper so that we share his journey. I was inspired by this to see my own life in a new way - which is all one can ask of a memoir. Lovely writing and full of humor, too. Five stars.
- S.A.

Mark's unique talent as a storyteller will have you laughing, sighing, & most importantly thinking ... often in the same chapter & sometimes in the same paragraph. I found myself making an effort to find "just a few minutes" to sneak in "just one more chapter", and know I will re-read it often. This is a book that would be enjoyed by & beneficial for everyone to read ... so buy it, read it, & share it! 
-B.D.

Something that I greatly appreciate about Mark and his book is his gift of story telling. It's one thing to tell a story face to face, but sharing an experience through the written word and making the reader feel like they are right there beside you is an art form. Mark is simply a fantastic writer. I found myself, like many of the other reviewers who have posted, not able to put the book down. I wanted to find out what happened next! This book has so many layers...it's deep and soul searching as well as light and hilarious. It's one of those books where you find yourself laughing and then running for the kleenex box. You will walk away feeling inspired, invigorated, and challenged. I can't recommend this book enough. Well done.
-A.G.

I continue to be humbled by the response the book is generating.  If you have read it and wish to correspond with me, I always interact with any communiqu├ęs.   You can also read many reader reviews (97% are Five Stars) at:


Embracing the Gray is still available for a limited time as a 99 cent Kindle download at that same link, or as a free PDF download at my website (donations accepted):




Sunday, July 8, 2012

For Those Who Give a Damn


My last blog, “Some of Us Don’t Give a Shit,” really stirred up quite a response. 

Oh sure, we’d read some articles
We knew some people needed help
But social workers take care of that
I mean, why give a damn yourself?

Well, the reason that you didn’t
And the reason that you won’t
Is you think you got a lot to lose
And the other fella don’t
Oh, you give a damn, and so does he
You think the rest of us are just fakin’?
I mean what do you need that you got to give
Less than what you’re takin’?

For those of you who are interested in doing more to help poor kids in the developing world, here are some ideas:

I have been involved with these organizations (some for decades) and can recommend them highly:

Sponsor an impoverished child in a developing nation.  This is one-to-one concern at its best:

Help build homes for those with insufficient housing:

Give assistance to poor people trying to start small businesses in the developing world:

Assist with antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients

Give your voice to helping reduce poverty, third world debt, and assist economic empowerment to developing nations:

Buy African art/gifts where your money goes back to those who created the crafts:

Donate to a fund to help fight global spread of tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS:

Administer justice for those caught in forced labor and unjust systems:

Donate to help with the global food crisis affecting hundreds of millions, especially children:

Help dig clean water wells in Africa:

Act to help free children from sex slavery operations:

Write governments and policymakers about Human Rights abuses:

If you go here you can activate a donation from another source to help health care for children in the third world just by clicking:

Get involved in helping stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan:

If you’re interested in finding out more about Tony Campolo’s books, speaking, and outreach to the poor in the U.S. and abroad:

No one expects you to do everything…but at least do something

Where could you go?
What could you see?
What could you do your best?
The book is in your left hand
Your right hand knows the address
Address your questions
Address your money
Address your telephone number
But above all, please address yourself
And give a damn this summer

(Noel Paul Stookey, “Give a Damn,” from Paul And,  1971)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Most of Us Don't Give a Shit


I just attended my 100th music festival over the past few days.  It got me to thinking about one of the highlights of one of these events that happened thirty years ago this weekend…

Tony Campolo stepped up to the podium on the main stage and gazed out across a hillside throng of over 40,000 people gathered at the Creation Festival in central Pennsylvania.  Christian rock bands had whipped the crowd into a frenzy earlier that evening.  Other speakers had encouraged them to stay chaste for Christ, to not be sucked into the MTV culture, to hold strong against the influences of secular humanism. They had seen family-friendly comedians, heard testimonies from born again basketball players whose free throw percentage had climbed since they started tithing, had observed church-touring magicians….even watched a Christian juggler.  Sanctified T-Shirts were being worn by the thousands with slogans like “This Blood’s For You,” “Air Jesus” (Instead of Air Jordan), “Go to Hell….Satan!” “Rapture Practice,” “Get Right or Get Left,” “Jesus is the Real Thing,” etc.

The outspoken author and head of the Sociology Department at Eastern University was focused as he stared at the crowd…

“Last night, while you were asleep, 10,000 children on this planet starved to death!”

There was a long, awkward pause…

“Let me reiterate: last evening, while you were sleeping in your tents and motel rooms around this festival site, and resting from your hard day of partying in the name of Jesus, 10,000 children under the age of twelve died due to starvation, easily preventable water-borne diseases, or sicknesses they could not fend off due to severe malnutrition.  10,0000!  That’s point number one.

Point number two is:  most of us here don’t give a shit!” 

His words echoed back from the woods behind the huge gathering.  I’ve never heard that many people so quiet, so focused.

“Point number three is: Most of you are more concerned that I just said “shit” than that 10,000 kids died last night…and that’s what I want to talk to you about:  your sense of morality.  Because many of us think that if “we don’t smoke, and we don’t chew, and we don’t go with girls who do” that we are somehow in God’s will.  Being a Christian is not trying to be nice and wholesome.  Being a Christian is best defined as someone whose heart is broken by the things that break the heart of God!”

Campolo then went on to give one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard on the true meaning of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount.  

After he spoke, over 5,000 of those people committed themselves to getting serious about changing the world by serving those in need. Many of them are now in full-time missions, inner city work, and advocates for the poor around the globe.
 
Poverty is so hard to see
When it’s only on your TV and twenty miles across town
Where we’re all living so good
That we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
Where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
From going through our trash
He says, “More than just your cash and coin
I want your time, I want your voice
I want the things you just can’t give me”
 
So what must we do?
Here in the west we want to follow you
We speak the language and we keep all the rules
Even a few we made up
“Come on and follow me
But sell your house, sell your SUV
Sell your stocks, sell your security
And give it to the poor”
What is this, hey what’s the deal?
I don’t sleep around and I don’t steal
I want the things you just can’t give me
 
“Because what you do to the least of these
My brothers, you have done it to me
Because I want the things you just can’t give me”

(“Rich Young Ruler” by Derek Webb from Mockingbird)