There’s a village in Ganthier, Haiti on a remote beach of Lake Azeui called Kanes [kah-ness]. A pastor I know was first introduced to them when he had been working at the language school building site in Fonds-Parisien and noticed a woman walking down the road with a carton of water on her head.

He saw her pass the school building and turn down a dusty path across the road toward the lake. It’s a mostly salt lake with hardly a patch of vegetation trimming this part of the shore. Confused and concerned, my pastor friend walked down the path and about a mile and a half later, past a few charred pieces of building equipment. There, he found a few clusters of huts constructed with mud, sticks, and dry grass.

As earthquake orphans and refugees began settling into makeshift communities outside of Port-au-Prince, some were lucky enough to end up in the care of well-intentioned (or even well-resourced) orphanages or NGOs. But those living in Kanes settled near the lake hoping to glean enough from a hardly sustainable crop of scrawny fish and chickens.

During my first visit to Kanes I hardly left the truck. Naked, bloated children were running through the dust calling for “dlo”—water. I was sitting on a ten-gallon jug of filtered water that we kept for the groups of volunteers that visited weekly. Okay, I thought, here’s the moment. Kwa Kok, the town I had been in before, wasn’t bad—at least they all had clothes on, and were generally self-sustainable. But the people of Kanes would go days without eating. I didn’t know a lot yet, but I definitely didn’t feel like I belonged there. I put the meal boxes together in the truck until I had to get outside to help serve. In the moment my sandal touched the ground, a little girl was asking to be held. All of the team members were holding children. This was the scene I had always seen pop up in profile pictures after mission trips. It was something I thought I should have been able to handle, but there, in the reality of it all, it was so difficult to take in.

Boldness and Jesus

In Haiti, I needed boldness. My experience reminds me of Peter and John, who when brought before the council in Jerusalem, stunned the Pharisees and Sadducees because they spoke with boldness after being with Jesus. I was praying for such boldness in Haiti. Jesus, working in us, can handle all things: “seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, [the Pharisees and Sadducees] had nothing to say in opposition” (Acts 4:14).

What we see in John and Peter is two men telling their story—that’s simply all they had to do. But we also see something else moving and working while they talk—they tie their words in with physical evidence of miraculous healing. Their work does not glorify themselves but the God they believe in. Perhaps, then, we should pray as the believers in Acts do:

“And now, Lord, grant your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal” (Acts 4:30).

Viewing Life Experiences from God’s Perspective

It’s natural to view our life experiences as building blocks: scrapes and bruises, callouses, tanned cheeks, and nuggets of information all decorate the mind and body. You travel, work, talk, embrace, climb, and eat to build your life—your experiences shape you. But if we profess a belief in the God of the Bible, it seems that we live for something other than “the self.”

By my second visit to Haiti, my relationships with the Haitian interns had strengthened, and I had begun to feel more comfortable with my surroundings. I went on runs with Eben in the morning, to the market with Wesley in the afternoons. When we got to Kanes, I jumped out of the truck right away and started singing with Dieph and the kids: “I SAID A BOOM CHICKA BOOM!” I met three-year-old Davidson who liked to be tickled. I sat on the tailgate of our truck with a couple of kids speaking French. When I asked a woman what she thought the village needed she simply said, “singing.” Sure, food was necessary, but these kids didn’t hide cookies and juice in order to coerce a volunteer of an extra serving like in other villages we had visited. It was as though their “survival mode” was entirely community-driven. 

I Didn’t Cry Much Then, But When I Did…

I didn’t cry much during my time in Haiti. It wasn’t until I returned to the states that I realized how broken my emotional and spiritual infrastructure had become. But one of the few times I did cry was during my third visit to Kanes, watching families trample over each other for access to the clothing and household donations we had brought for them. I can still hear a mother shouting for a pair of flip-flops that was likely purchased at Wal-Mart for three dollars. I walked away.

I walked through the village and down to the water and I think God told me that these men and women, boys and girls, were my family. I think God told me this because it isn’t an easy or a natural conclusion to draw on your own. He told me that they were my cousins and that I wouldn’t see them again for a while and I should cherish my time with them, as I did an afternoon in my grandmother’s garden back home. I walked back, sat on a bag of rice, and Davidson appeared in my arms. I tickled him and he giggled in such a cleansing way that the grip of my own “survival mode” loosened and I felt free to love this child and look upon him with greater eyes, perhaps the eyes of God, our father.

This is the story of my experience and how it has helped to shape who I am. As I write this—and writing about it is an experience in and of itself—I am trusting that God is reaching out his hand to move, and to heal—you and me.

 

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There was only one request from the apostles in Jerusalem of St. Paul. In this video, CEO John D. Barry talks about the apostles' request that he not forget the poor. What would it look like if we, too, walked with the impoverished?

The Apostles Only Had One Request of St. Paul 

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John sits in prison knowing he has only a few days left to live, and for the first time in his life, he has second thoughts.

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Even if Jesus isn’t the Messiah, John isn’t giving up. He’ll wait. Confident his whole life, never wavering and faithfully trusting—one more disappointment won’t derail his lifetime of ministry so easily. He believes the Messiah is coming, and until now, he’s believed it could be Jesus. 

The reason for his doubt is that nothing has changed. No governments have been overthrown, Jesus hasn't been crowned Victorious King, and wickedness seems to be winning.

The voice crying in the wilderness finally falters.

Quick waves of doubt begin crossing his mind—maybe it wasn't him, maybe it isn't Jesus. So John sends his friends to find out what he is desperate to know.

Are you the one?

As the world bends beneath increasing chaos ...

In these difficult times, our questions might begin to sound like John's. Violence is everywhere. Disease threatens thousands. Despite our best efforts, poverty rules neighborhoods and lives. What can be done? Is there any hope?

In our grief for the world we remain faithful, but grow discouraged. Faced with the responsibility to care for the sick, the persecuted, and the impoverished, maybe we become disillusioned—sick with helplessness; we feel persecuted by the lacking nature of our efforts and perhaps by those who are simply apathetic.

We become impoverished ourselves. 

We become poor in spirit. We are impoverished of hope—clutching the bars of our prison cells with white knuckles, our once confident voices now desperately crying. 

Jesus, are you the one, or are we to wait for another?

John's messengers came back with a news report of their own.

"The blind receive their sight. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised."

True to form, Jesus doesn't answer directly. He lets the kingdom of God speak for itself; the very kingdom John had proclaimed was at hand (Matthew 11:3–6). “There are miracles everywhere, John,Jesus seems to say.

Where is the Messiah?

I recently traveled to Central America to interview families affected by the poverty and gang violence destroying communities and driving hundreds of children from their homes—fleeing to other countries to save their lives from corruption. There are almost no jobs, no way to get ahead, and even fewer ways to stay alive. 

I sat with bereaved parents whose tears moved me to an angry, overwhelming sadness. My heart cramped in pain as I spoke with mothers who sent their children away for safety, possibly never to see them again. I met eyes whose sparkle had faded in some combination of hopelessness and wearied resignation, and felt my own eyelids grow heavy, my shoulders slump, wondering how this world could ever be made right.

John's anxious question made more sense than ever.

Jesus, are you?

Are you the one who is to come, to put the world right, or are we to wait for another?

Jesus knew the impoverished weren't just following him throughout Galilee. He sends John—the poor in spirit, the man with failing hope—good news, and asks him not to give up for lack of understanding.

"And the poor have good news brought to them.

Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

Jesus sends us the same message.

As illogical as it seems, there is good news for the impoverished—including the poor in spirit, the hopeless—even when the world imprisons us in confusion.

Call me bitter, but Jesus' message can sometimes seem a little unrealistic in the wake of my experiences in Latin America. John was discouraged in prison, but how many more questions would he have if he were here now? He would be inundated, certainly, by the amount of suffering. Today, there are thousands of lame not walking, deaf not hearing, and dead not raised. Everything seems different. Where is this Messiah and his reigning kingdom? What if it wasn't Jesus?

We're Waiting

Yet despite the world's many differences, we're more or less in the same place as John the Baptist was when he asked the same questions. We're waiting for God to make good on a promise while the world seems to worsen by the minute. And what consolation does Jesus offer us; the poor in spirit, the impoverished of hope?

Two things.

He gives us a promise that those who aren't misled by offense—by continued suffering, by increased violence, by unending poverty—will be blessed. Trust me, no matter what the world looks like, he says. 

He also offers good news for the impoverished (Luke 3:17–22).

He answers John's questions, and our own.

Yes. 

Yes, he is the one.

Jesus' kingdom is near. Where wrong is made right, and the poor are made rich, the dead are brought to life, the sick are cured, and the lame walk. In his kingdom no child flees his home for fear of persecution and no one goes hungry or thirsty, homes are safe and love is victorious.

But also, yes, we are to wait, but not for another person—for another moment. There will be another time when he will come to bring this good news to its fullness to last forever. Yes, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick, because yes, he is the one.  Yes, we are to keep holding on to this desperate hope—a hope that feels absurd when faced with impossible suffering, because yes, he is the one.

He invites us to trust that we don't see the full story, that there are better things coming, because, just like John the Baptist spent his life proclaiming, the kingdom of God is at hand—both now, and not yet.

Though John died in that prison, though families and children I met in Central America might suffer until they die, and though I might lie awake at night—wondering in doubt at whether there really is hope—the reality is yes.

Yes, He is the One, and there is good news for the impoverished.

 

Note: We don’t actually know if John’s inquiries showed doubt on his part, or if his understanding of the Messiah aligned with messianic expectations of his day (such as the Messiah reigning as immediate king in Jerusalem). Meredith's interpretation reads into John’s questions a probable emotion and probable cultural explanation.

 

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There are many things that could be said about Bihar, India--but upon visiting, one thing in particular strikes you. The poverty. In this VLOG, CEO John D. Barry shows you Jesus' Economy's plan for renewing Bihar, India by providing for the people's spiritual and physical needs.

What Is Most Striking About Bihar, India

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Join us in Renewing Bihar, India

 

We’re at church under a tree, like every Sunday in Kwa Kok, Haiti. Dust thickens the air that sits like molasses. We crawl through it into the village after the truck falters off the main road.

By the time I find a seat in an orange plastic classroom chair, my feet are caked in gray dirt and my cheeks crack when I blink. But then a precious breeze tumbles through from across the plain lying between us and the hills. Garlands of pink and white paper flowers rustle in the low branches above our heads. I hear laughter and turn to see the Haitian girls from the village in brightly colored dresses, some dustier and more worn than others, standing by Pastor Valentin’s wife, Nadege, waiting to begin their lessons. Julie isn’t among them. She’s too young, for now. I try to imagine her as a young woman and choke on dust and dry tears. Julie’s sitting with her mother in her pink and white striped church shirt. I watch her clobber over her mother’s knees and jump into Nathan’s arms.

Eben sits down next to me, and we turn our attention to Pastor Valentin, who has begun to speak from the book of Acts. I scramble to catch up, but luckily I have Eben. He lends me his French Bible.

Pastor begins talking about the apostles Peter and John and how they responded to their persecutors: “…car nous ne pouvons pas ne pas parler de ce que nous avons vu et entendu”—“…for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20 ESV). Eben, a fellow intern and English teacher with The Foundation for Peace, is telling me that there are two terms in French: temoin oculaire and what sounds like “temoin oriculaire.” He asks me what the name is in English for those who witness to what they have seen and I say, “eye-witness,” and he writes it next to temoin oculaire. Then below that, naturally, he writes, “ear-witness.” I tell him I don’t think we really use that term, or at least I’ve never heard it, and he asks why we say, “eye-witness,” but not “ear-witness,” and I just laugh and say, “fou”—Americans are crazy. That’s always the answer. But later on I figure it’s probably because we don’t value stories heard with the ears as much as we do stories seen with the eyes.

I Saw The Impoverished

In Haiti, I was an eye-witness to oppression, extreme poverty, hunger, greed, and abandonment. But during the beginning of my time in Haiti, I didn’t cry; instead, I entered what Christina—the American English teacher we bunked with at Pastor Valentin’s house—called “survival mode.”

Three weeks into my stay in Haiti, I heard about a 12-year-old boy who had lost his entire family in the earthquake. His mother, his father, and his siblings—gone. His home: rubble. He sat among crumbled stone that had once formed a roof over his head and cried through the darkest and most senseless night of his life, “crying, crying, crying.” As I heard this story, tears burned through the pink flesh of my sunburnt face, hot as blood. My mind raged. “God, you watched this happen. Where were you? What were you doing? How could you?” I cried a long time. I cried until I couldn’t breathe. I had never seen this boy. I didn’t know what his face looked like. But everything hurt, all of a sudden, and I cried all night.

God Offers Hope For Those Suffering

In Haiti, I carried the book of Isaiah close to my heart. Isaiah prophesies:

“For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert, the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water. … Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:7b,10 ESV). 

Sobbing over that boy I didn’t know came with the realization that there would be no end to suffering here on earth until Jesus returns again. I couldn’t see in that moment a Haiti where streams flowed over dry, exploited soil, or where joy and gladness conquered all of the sorrow and loss. But I knew that God offered a greater hope than the one I could see. I just couldn’t see and hear the movements of God yet.

 

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In this video, CEO John D. Barry discusses the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus overcame racial, religious, and cultural barriers to reveal the true, loving, and living God. What would it look like if we were to do the same?

Jesus Overcame Economic, Racial, and Cultural Barriers 

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The Samaritan woman has made the familiar journey to this well countless times before. She's made the journey so many times she could walk there in her sleep.

And here, on this particular morning, her reason for making the journey is the same as it has always been. She's come to this familiar place because of her familiar need: water.

This woman's need is a real need, just as it was for so many. Just as it is for so many.

And it is here, in this familiar spot at the well, that she's struck by something quite unfamiliar. When she arrives, she's taken aback to find sitting there a Man who she does not recognize, but who, quite mysteriously, seems to know her all too well. And it is somewhere in the midst of their conversation that she comes to understand him as “the solution” for her need.

Living Water

“If you knew the gift of God," He tells her, "and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” He is, she realizes, the one who can help satisfy her thirst in a real, permanent way.

"Sir, give me this water," she says in haste, "so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” But what she doesn’t quite get in their interaction is that there is a qualitative difference between what she thinks this Jewish man offers her and what he actually offers. And, in this way, this woman is a lot like you and I.

“Give me this living water,” she tells Jesus, not knowing the meaning of her words, even as they pour out of her mouth. And Jesus knows this. The look he gives her in response must be one of deepest sympathy. “Oh, child,” He must think. “If only You would let me.”

Give Me

“Give me,” she says to Jesus, with her thoughts still on her thirst, with her need for water motivating her words. And even before she finishes her sentence, the Samaritan woman has already projected her own interests onto Jesus, with complete disregard for what Jesus is actually interested in offering her.

As for her, so, too, for all of us.

“Give me,” we say to Jesus in our prayers each morning or before bed at night. “If only You would just …” we say while rubbing shampoo into our hair, or while bowing over our cold cereal, eyes closed—all the while ignoring what Jesus actually desires for us.

The woman's need for water is a real need. Jesus understood that. But he knew her needs went beyond water. And we would be fools to think her needs end there.

Beyond Water

"The Kingdom of God is what we, all of us, hunger for," Frederick Buechner once wrote (The Clown in the Belfry), "above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for."

"My heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee," St. Augustine put the same point, many hundreds of years earlier.

Both men are, of course, speaking of, pointing toward the same thing we find here in this familiar story of the thirsty woman at the well.

“If you knew who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water,” Jesus says to the woman at the well. 

A blind hunger for the Kingdom of God. A restless heart. A woman fetching water that will never fully satisfy.

"Go, call your husband and come here," Jesus says to the woman at this point, which is Jesus' way of telling the woman, “I know you need more than water, and I know you know that you need more than water. And what's more, I know you've been filling that need with that which does not satisfy.”

As for her, so it is for all of us.

I Am He

Before their conversation is through, the Samaritan woman tells this mysterious Jewish teacher she can see he is a prophet. Perhaps to prove her religious knowledge, she goes even further and tells him she knows the Messiah will, one day, come to tell her and everyone else all there is to know.

“I who speak to you am he,” Jesus says. And her life, we can assume, was never the same again.

He Understands Me

Following her experience at the well, the woman rushes back to town to tell everyone she knows, everyone who will listen to her about this mysterious man she has just met.

“He told me all that I ever did,” she says, still struggling to catch her breath. Which is to say, “He knew all about me, even though I didn’t tell him.” Jesus understood this woman, just as he understands all of us. He understood her as a “Samaritan,” and he understood her as an “adulterer.” Even in the “Give me” of our prayers, Jesus understands each one of us, too.

Long before we come with lunging arms to grab what we imagine he has to offer, he understands us. He knows our needs. And it is only in our encounter with the Living Person of Jesus Christ that we, too, find our posture changed from one of “Give me” to one of “He understands me.” He can change our “give me” to “Thank you for understanding me.”

It is only in Jesus understanding us that we begin to understand ourselves. And it is only in our understanding ourselves that we begin to realize what Jesus truly offers us—something far better than our “Give me” posture.

What We Need, Not Always What We Seek

What the Samaritan Women came to realize is that Jesus offers much more—not less—than the water she originally sought from the bottom of the all too familiar well.

What she sought is different even from what she understands by his words, “Living water,” because she is still hearing him speak to her out of her own “Give me” posture.

It is only after she sees Jesus as the one who knows her that she begins to see Jesus as someone who has something to say—not just to her, but to everyone. And it’s not long before she’s off in a flash, running to tell others—running to tell anyone who will listen.

The Savior of the World

“We know this is the Savior of the world,” the townspeople who hear the woman’s story say to one another, which is to say, “We know this is the One who understands each one of us.”

The woman at the well came that day seeking water, but she sought much more than just water. She was starving to death, even as she did her best to satisfy her thirst.

"If only you knew," Jesus says. If only you knew from whom you requested a drink, you would ask, and you would be satisfied. And in your satisfaction, you would tell the world.

Come, Lord Jesus, and change our posture from, “give me” to, “He understands me.”

This blog post is Ryan Pemberton's reflection on the story of Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well, from the fourth chapter of John's Gospel, verses 1 to 45.

 

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Jesus is shocking. Sometimes following him means making tough calls. There is one story that especially illustrates this. In this video, I tell you this story.

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In Jesus, God came as a poor man, lived as a poor man, and died as a poor man. He is good news to the poor. And as such, Jesus cared deeply about the impoverished.

Being What We Believe

What we do with our beliefs is as important to Jesus as what we believe. Jesus is about complete commitment to loving him and others. Jesus loves belief-filled actions, as his saying to a wealthy young man shows: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21; see 19:16–30 ESV). The man walks away sorrowful. Jesus then says his famous:

“Truly I say to you that with difficulty a rich person will enter into the kingdom of heaven! And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23–24).

Jesus’ disciples then ask, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looks at them and says: “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25–26). Jesus is not suggesting it is impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, or be saved—He is saying it is only possible with God. And for God to enter a person’s life they must be open to Him entering.

Many of us are just like the rich young man. Out of one side of our mouth we speak allegiance to Jesus, but out of the other side we’re speaking allegiance to the trappings of wealth. I know, because the rich young man asks the same questions I would ask. Look at the events that prompted Jesus to make his statement about the wealthy:

“And behold, someone [the rich young man] came up to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do so that I will have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why are you asking me about what is good? There is one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments!’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘Do not commit murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All these I have observed. What do I still lack?’” (Matthew 19:16–21).

Jesus is clearly frustrated and perhaps even offended: “Why are you asking me about what is good?” The man is asking the wrong question. He doesn’t ask how he can follow Jesus, or what it means to be a disciple—or what good thing he can do for the world on behalf of a good God. He asks, “What must I do so that I will have eternal life?” If we’re honest with ourselves, isn’t that the question many of us are asking God today? Jesus is unsatisfied with that question.

Eternal life (salvation) is God’s great gift, but it’s meant to be a gift that prompts action. It is meant to give us purpose.

When I was confronted with the reality of the story of the rich young man, I again asked another question that he asks: “Which [commandments]?” Jesus cites to the man all the relational Ten Commandments, and in doing so, basically implies, “All of them.” The man tells Jesus he has observed these and then asks, “What do I lack?” It is this question that gets to the root of the issue. Jesus tells the man that he lacks self-sacrifice for others—he lacks giving to the extent that it is painful to him. He lacks an ability to put aside his wealth for the sake of the gospel. Wealth is meant to bless others—plain and simple (see Genesis 12:1–3 for an example). It is not for hording and it will—if not given up, when God prompts you—keep you from fully experiencing the blessings of God.

But do not fear, fret, or worry—instead, pray. Remember: “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

What Jesus Would Say to Us Today

Put simply, when we apply Jesus’ sayings today, they look like withdrawing from any relationship, occupation, event, or thing that stands between you and following Jesus—permitted that you can do so while still honoring the commandments Jesus tells the rich young man to keep: “Do not commit murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 16:20).

Jesus has called us to join him in His work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.

Jesus’ Currency and “Owning” the Problems of Poverty

The currency of Jesus’ kingdom is different than ours. Jesus’ economy is based on self-sacrifice and His currency love. For Jesus, belief and actions are one and the same—you cannot have one without the other.

The more I reflect on the problem of poverty—and what Jesus had to say about it—the more I realize that we own the problems of the impoverished as much as they do. Our inactions have created many of them. We—all of us—are at fault for the state of our world. But we can also join Jesus in changing the state of our world.

If Jesus believed that belief is about action, why don’t we? Why have we not dedicated ourselves to bringing true discipleship and love to others, when it’s what Christ told us to do? What good is belief without it offering true hope?

God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. We are called to drop everything for Him—what is He calling you to drop for Him? This is Jesus’ view of the economy. He envisions what the world could look like and calls us to join God in the process of making that vision a reality. It’s about exchanging the currencies of this world for the currency of love.

An adapted/modified version of this article was originally published by "on faith"/"faith street" as "Five Sayings of the Homeless Jesus."

 

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It took me going halfway around the world to really learn this lesson. See what took me going to Bihar, India to learn about Jesus.

 

 

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