21) "What-If"ing our Way to Shalom | Josh Brake

What if you started asking, "What if?" This week, Mark engages some feedback from listeners like you (or actually you if your name is Nathan or Andrew!): he talks a bit more about what it's like to be a guy who almost walked away from this whole Christianity thing, but is somehow compelled by the alternative life that Jesus offers. He also unpacks a bit more the idea of safety: last week, we found that churches need to be the safest places in the world; this week, we explore how churches might be the safest places in the world. Finally, Mark notices a trend in the last 21 guests: these are people who are asking "what if" of their world, of their churches, and of their lives. What happens when we ask, "What if?" We get a few steps closer to God's shalom-vision for the world.

Then Mark sits down with Josh Brake, minister at Maple Avenue Baptist Church and founder of Kutoa along with his wife. Josh has traveled to dozens of countries - from teaching in Spain to working at a Buddhist university in Bangkok to exposing human trafficking in Pakistan. He shares how he grew up in Toronto city housing, how he and his mother were supported by a caring church, and how his passions and convictions ultimately took he and his wife all over the world. And one day, his "what-if" moment arrived, and his life has been tirelessly devoted to a new movement ever since - that's bringing shelter, care, aid, and resources to friends and neighbours all over the world... $1 at a time.


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Notable Quotes from Josh Brake

"That's really the hamster wheel that's inherent with Buddhism: is this merit. 'I can earn what I need to achieve this state and I can escape the cycle.'"

"It's something unconsciously aware of as I work through Kutoa. Like, 'here is a lot of good stuff we're doing. A lot of good things; we're helping people people that are created in the image of God.' That's a good thing to do and there can be a lot of praise heaped on me or towards our organization where I can think, 'Wow I'm so great!' But in the end, salvifically speaking, we bring nothing to the table when it comes to our salvation. We are empty. We are broken. We are beggars of the worst degree. We are criminals! There aren't a million Kutoas I could start or a million lives I could save through feeding programs or something like that that would in some way warrant my salvation."

"I don't feel that I need to apologize or that we need to apologize for pastors who take very seriously their specific role at equipping the saints for works of service. They have a God-ordained task at shepherding the local church, so we never want to be hard on somebody for actually doing that well. But what it's going to mean is that they have less time to be able to invest in other people or avenues of relationship in other missional ways. That being said, they are not excused from also living in the way that other Christians are called to live. So if we are all to be ambassadors of Christ… I mean that is a wonderful analogy that has gripped my heart in so many ways to be an ambassador - is to live among a people that are not your own on behalf of someone else. So Scripture says that we are aliens in this world. Christians, we are the aliens - we are the weird ones and we are called to be among people who are not our own...."

"We have made a very intentional decision to know our neighbuors. Who are your neighbours? Who do you live next to? Who do your kids go to school with? What are their stories? What is their background? How are they thinking about God generally, Christ specifically, and their own salvation? Are they working towards something? Do they even know the gospel? What I've found is that in most communities and people that I've engaged with, people just don't know the message."

"When I go into a school and I talk about Kutoa and I talk about the parable of the good Samaritan…, it's an easy way to talk about my faith. People don't know where that came from! 'Did you know that that is a parable that Jesus told? Here's what it means and here's how it's actually reflective of our own hearts and our own need and here's what Christ did for us!' And so I just feel like there's a lot of people that just don't know the message and they haven't had a chance – though through their lives they've said 'no' – they haven't actually said 'no' to the gospel because they actually haven't heard the gospel yet."

"As parents, our children are our primary responsibility when it comes to messaging the gospel displaying the gospel in our own lives and communicating it to them. But then also, how are they then living out the gospel?"

"We do things in a way that the world does not do. That's what Christians should do; that's the way the church is supposed to operate. So when there is conflict, do we turn our backs and start chucking stones? Or do we extend forgiveness and humbly apologize? It's a different world. So we're bringing essentially a Christian culture - and I don't want to say like a colonialized Christianity - but a Christian culture in the way that the Bible talks about."

"I went over to some tribal parts of India and other Taliban-controlled areas of Pakistan which were very dangerous. And we were seeing these brick kilns where generations of families were present, and they were slaves. And so we got them when the guards weren't there and we took pictures and did video and wrote reports and all sorts of things and brought them back to the appropriate people.... It's supported by an illegal system of 'indentured servitude' as they would call it -  people who owe money and that are charged money to live at the place where the work - more money than they make - and then they are not freed and then any children they have are into that system as well and their children. And so it continues and continues. It's a big problem that plagues our world right now - both human trafficking and the modern slave trade is massive."

"We're getting up to go in the morning and the guy who's with us, he grabs my hand and he looks at me and he says, 'Brother Josh, if they should take you, just keep saying, 'I love Pakistan.' Okay, let's go!' Just like this.... And then we go. And I'm thinking, 'Oh my goodness I have two kids at home this just got real.'"

"And as we were leaving there (we were in a vehicle going back to where we were staying), and at the time there was 1.1 billion people in India and I thought, 'That .1 is three times the population of Canada.' Just that .1 it was a massive population…. I knew how much great work could be done for so little. So I thought, 'What if?' And you start asking 'what if,' and that 'what if' - that night as I couldn't sleep and as I was just reading through my Bible - just grew into this idea."

"So I was committed in my brain that if when I got home, if someone else was already doing this, if someone was already doing what was to be known as Kutoa one day, I would support them. 'Great job! I'm with you!' If they weren't, I would float the idea to my wife that maybe we should do that."

"The idea was what if we got as many people from all around the world to give a dollar a month to a pot. And then every month, however many people gave a dollar, we would decide where that money went. But we give them some way to do that - some voice into the process. And technologically speaking, we were at the perfect point of human history to make that happen. The Internet was there, online credit was there… scalability is there, everything is there that we need to exist virtually but make an actual impact in the world."

"We just started through different networks of people just finding people that were on board with us - that were willing to work hard for much less than they would normally make and create a website that is excellent and very unique in its field. There is no one else - there are no other charities - doing exactly what we're doing."

"We understood that this could fail. We still understand it could fail - it could! And if that's the case, then the money that we've invested and that other people have invested is lost. And that's part of being entrepreneurial. But we don't believe that will be the case, and things are happening we believe are showing just the opposite is going to be the case."

"It's a principle-based decision. It's this: one person, one dollar, one vote. So if you're using Kutoa and you're in Canada or you are using Kutoa and you're in Calcutta or in Tokyo, we want you to have the same experience. We also want it to be equally available. So if you have an Internet connection and a credit card or a PayPal account, you can afford to be a part of Kutoa. So we have kids who are part Kutoa; we have adults who have six-figure salaries that are a part of Kutoa, and they have the exact same voice. That's it. Everyone has the same voice."

"We want to be a mouthpiece for these organizations, so we don't charge them anything – we give them a free service essentially. So if you were to come across the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldier iInitiative and you didn't know that there is a quarter of a million child soldiers in the world and 40% of those are girls for whom their life is horrible, all of a sudden you come across this and you've given a dollar for the first time in your life to the prevention of this horrible, horrible issue. Then you say, 'But you know what? I've got a little extra, and I'm gonna give $10 to them or I'm gonna give $100 to them."

"We're changing people's perspectives on, first of all education, but then they're actually doing something. They're actually giving a dollar. So at some point when we have enough people, maybe we're going to have enough to build a hospital in rural India where there is 2 million people and no hospitals. I can't build a hospital on my own. No. But I can give a dollar to it and so can 100,000 other people...."

"The more people we have giving a dollar, just the bigger things are going to be able to do. And that's what excites me and excites the people that are involved."

"Each person has been created in the image of God. There is an inherent value in every single person. And we do our worship of God at a disservice when we refuse aid to those who need it, who have been created in the image of God. For example, a man is drowning in the river. The first thing as I come across him that I don't ask is, 'What God do you worship? Who do you love? What kind of job do you have? What color is your skin? What language do you speak? I don't ask any of those things. I extend my hand, and I pull them out of the river. I think that would be a good action for anyone to take. As a Christian I think it's a required action to take. Then beyond that I say, 'Here's my life. In whatever circumstance allows, that's where I become an ambassador for Christ.'"

"What we want to do in Kutoa is we let people everywhere help people everywhere because people everywhere matter."


Next Week's Episode 22

Guest: Dr. Arthur Boers - minister, professor, and author