International Ministries

Slade - International Ministries The latest from Stan Slade https://internationalministries.org/teams/114-slade.rss A Journey of Discovery <p>"I <i><b>get</b></i> it!&nbsp; This is a journey of discovery!"</p><p>My new Kenyan friend Didacus was right.&nbsp; He did "get it."&nbsp;&nbsp; BereanSafari is all about making discoveries... in Scripture... in the Lord... in our world... and in ourselves. <br><br>BereanSafari was created by a dynamic, dedicated and creative group of East African followers of Jesus.&nbsp; They wanted to make it possible for a wide variety of pastors, people in university student ministries and lay leaders in local churches to experience how powerful it can be to immerse themselves in discovery Bible study for a week.&nbsp; So they created a Bible study training event.&nbsp;&nbsp; They called it "BereanSafari," combining the Swahili word for "journey" with a reference to the people of Berea, who searched the Scriptures to see whether Paul's message about Jesus really did fit together with the revelation of God in what we now call the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament (Acts 17:11).<br><br>Their vision has caught on.&nbsp; This year, from August 6 to 13, the tenth annual BereanSafari brought together 84 people from throughout and beyond Africa.&nbsp; These week-long events have been held at various places in Kenya and Ethiopia.&nbsp; This year we were in the most delightful setting so far:&nbsp; a beach hotel south of Mombasa, on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast.<br><br>My role is to work with one of the study groups, asking questions, drawing people out and helping them truly to hear one another and the text, while also putting relevant background information at the service of the group,&nbsp; I also cheer them on.&nbsp; Soon, the group comes to understand that the foreign "expert" is far more interested to learn what they see and think, than to tell them either what he sees, or what they "should" think.&nbsp; Throughout the week they sharpen and expand their ability to work directly with the text of Scripture, rather than deepen their dependence on the knowledge and opinions of others.&nbsp; Of course, there is a vitally important role for the work of experts in Biblical history, cultures and languages, so participants also deepen their appreciation for the proper use of scholarship and reference materials.&nbsp; But, as Didacus exclaimed this week, at some point they come to the realization that BereanSafari really is about learning to use both their direct observations and fruits of scholarship in order to discover fresh insights and unsuspected riches in the Bible.<br><br>At one point this week Didacus made a discovery that surprised him greatly.&nbsp; In his ministry setting, he is surrounded by advocates of the "health and wealth" or the so-called "prosperity gospel."&nbsp; He saw that the missions of John the Baptist, Jesus and Jesus' disciples were all set on a different trajectory.&nbsp; When he saw the full context in Mark for Jesus's statements in Chapter 4 about "the measure you give will be the measure you get," and "to the one who has, more will be given," he exclaimed, "Oh Lord, this is not at all about what people have claimed!&nbsp; They've been plucking the words right out of their context, to make them say what they don't say!"<br><br>It has been an incredible privilege to be invited by the African planning committee to be a part of the BereanSafari leadership team for each of these last ten years.&nbsp; I love to work with first-timers and also to help coach participants who are learning to become teachers and facilitators for others.&nbsp; This year I had the pleasure of co-facilitating with long-time friend Andrew Sibairo, a gifted and dedicated member of the BereanSafari core leadership.&nbsp; He has a wonderful way of helping people to discover the relationship between Scripture and their current African contexts.&nbsp; I love to learn from Andrew!<br><br>God has blessed and powerfully used these events.&nbsp; Time after time, we see people surprised and inspired by what they find when they study Scripture together in a patient, careful way.&nbsp; Over the course of a week together, a learning community forms as people share each other's questions and discoveries. Before long, they are sharing each other's struggles as followers of Christ, and helping to bear one another's burdens.&nbsp; <br><br>Along the way, their fresh encounter with Scripture also becomes a fresh and surprising encounter with God.&nbsp; And with one another.&nbsp; And with themselves.&nbsp; The experience can be life changing!&nbsp; It was for me, nearly 44 years ago, as a college student.&nbsp; It continues to be life-transforming in the very different context of East Africa today.&nbsp; <br><br>Thank you for making it possible for me to play a role in God's work of changing lives and equipping leaders for the work of God's mission in our world!&nbsp; <br><br>May you be blessed as you allow God to use your life to bless others,<br><br>Stan<br><br>P.S.&nbsp; The many different aspects of the work I do are all supported both by focused contributions to my personal support and by gifts to the World Mission Offering. So, I am excited to see the <b><a href="internationalministries.org/drives/41">IamIM</a></b> effort to double gifts made to this year's WMO.&nbsp; If you are able, I invite you to join me in helping to grow WMO through <b><a href="internationalministries.org/drives/41">IamIM</a></b>!<br></p> Sat, 13 Aug 2016 21:12:35 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/62809-a-journey-of-discovery https://internationalministries.org/read/62809-a-journey-of-discovery "These people?" <p>"<i><b>These</b></i> people?"<br></p><p>My friend, whom we’ll call Manny, is no stranger to religious and ethnic conflicts.&nbsp; Manny lives in a place where tensions between different racial, ethnic and religious communities run high—and the flames are often fanned by people seeking power of various kinds. (To one degree or another and, whether we admit it or not, the same is true of all of us. Our televisions, cities or even neighborhoods are places where conflicts rooted in racial, ethnic, religious or other differences seem to be never-ending.)&nbsp; Still, in the midst of it all, Manny was surprised.<br><br>Years earlier, he had gone through the pain of being expelled from the community into which he was born.&nbsp; He was even cast out of his own family.&nbsp; When he publicly declared his faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, his family experienced a tsunami of shame in the eyes of their tightly-knit community.&nbsp; The family had to do <i><b>some</b></i>thing to restore their honor as a family within the community.&nbsp; Unwilling to kill him, they did the only other honorable thing.&nbsp; They cut him out of the family entirely.&nbsp; So, Manny had lived through gut-wrenching pain in his own family as a result of a faith commitment.&nbsp; Still, Manny was surprised.<br><br>By the grace of God, Manny had rebuilt his life, moving to a city and identifying no longer with the community into which he was born, but throwing himself whole-heartedly into the life of the group known as Christians.&nbsp; So, when his pastor preached the Great Commission from Matthew 28, Manny lived it.&nbsp; He went out into his world to tell people about Jesus and invite “all nations” to find life in following him.&nbsp; And that is what led to Manny’s surprise.<br><br>As the Blblical writers might say, “the Lord was with Manny.”&nbsp; As he shared with others the love of God in Jesus, Manny saw people respond in faith.&nbsp; Very different kinds of people.&nbsp; People from other racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds.&nbsp; Manny brought them all to the congregation where he worshipped, the congregation where he heard the Great Commission.&nbsp; That’s where he got surprised.<br><br>One Sunday a small group of Manny’s new friends came to worship.&nbsp; They had become followers of Jesus through Manny’s witness.&nbsp; But people in the community into which those men had been born felt betrayed, shamed and angered by their decision.&nbsp; So, as the men were worshipping in the congregation alongside Manny that day, a larger group of men from their birth community suddenly appeared, entered the sanctuary, dragged the new followers of Jesus into the street in front of the church building and began to beat them severely.&nbsp; Fortunately, Manny had a friend in the local police force who was patrolling nearby.&nbsp; As soon as Manny called him, the police came, stopped the beating and saved the lives of the new believers.<br><br>This event was terrible.&nbsp; But, given Manny’s context, it was not completely surprising.&nbsp; The surprise came next.&nbsp; <br><br>The church was, naturally, very traumatized by what had happened.&nbsp; As a minority community in the midst of much larger communities, they were scared.&nbsp; With good reason.&nbsp; But the surprise came when Manny’s pastor, the same one who had called the church to fulfill the Great Commission, said to Manny:<br><br>“<i><b>These</b></i> people?&nbsp; They are <i><b>your</b></i> problem!!”<br><br>Manny was stunned.&nbsp; He had responded to the call.&nbsp; God had blessed.&nbsp; The men had found grace, meaning, peace and purpose in Jesus.&nbsp; But they would <i><b>not</b></i> be finding a home in the church.&nbsp; At least, not anytime soon.&nbsp; <br><br>Manny had read his Bible enough to know that in God’s future, people from every tongue and tribe and people and nation would be bound together in love, anchored in (and worshipping) the one God who had made them all.&nbsp; But maybe, he began to think, getting to that oneness could be a process, rather than a single leap.&nbsp; After all, in his parables Jesus had explained that the Kingdom of God was like a growing seed and like gradually-acting yeast.&nbsp; Maybe it would take time for people to discover and embrace their oneness in Christ.<br><br>At the same time, Manny thought about the pattern he saw in John’s portrayal of Jesus and Luke’s description of the work of the Spirit.&nbsp; John explained that in Jesus, God had entered fully into a specific human community and context (or, in Peterson’s rendering, “moved into the neighborhood” [John 1:14, The Message]).&nbsp; And, when the Spirit of God came upon the believers on Pentecost, the amazing news of God’s mighty work was proclaimed in the languages that were the expression and vehicle for all of the different cultures present that day.<br><br>So, he thought, maybe rather than calling people to leave their communities as the first step in following Jesus, one could faithfully follow the model of the Spirit and of Jesus himself by entering deeply into the life of each community, to begin transforming it from the inside out. <br><br>Today, Manny is pursuing this approach as he works with people in several radically different communities.&nbsp; He moves to meet them “on their own turf.”&nbsp; He patiently walks alongside them as they grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as they discern the ways the Spirit is speaking in <i><b>their</b></i> language and explore the ways Jesus wants to live in <i><b>their</b></i> neighborhood.&nbsp; As they grow, they gradually deepen their understanding of how Christ calls them to turn away from some parts of their traditions, reinterpret other parts and build upon yet other parts, as the Spirit empowers them to become increasingly faithful followers and reflections of Jesus.&nbsp; And along the way, they continue to share the good news they have found in Jesus with others in the communities they have not left.<br><br>Ironically, Manny realizes his pastor was right.&nbsp; “<i><b>These</b></i> people?”&nbsp; Truly, they are his problem.&nbsp; They are his problem because he has heard and is responding to the call of the God who loves them and offers them life in Jesus.&nbsp; They are his problem because he can no longer remain content in any “us,” that does not live out love for “them.”&nbsp; As Manny patiently works, he prays for the day when all of God’s children will see that the dividing wall between every “us” and “them” has been torn down in Jesus.&nbsp; In the meantime, he meets them where they are.<br><br>It is a privilege to have the chance to participate in some small way in what God is doing through Manny and others like him.&nbsp; Thanks so much for the prayers and gifts by which you make it possible for me to come alongside them, encourage them and learn with them what it means to follow Jesus in our world today.<br><br>Blessings,</p><p>Stan<br></p> Sun, 24 Apr 2016 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/61889-these-people- https://internationalministries.org/read/61889-these-people- By myself <p>"Grandpa?"<br><br>"Yes, Natalie, what's up?"<br><br>"Grandpa, could you help me do this... <i><b>by myself</b></i>?"<br><br>"Sure thing, Natalie!"<br><br>Well.&nbsp; <i><b>That</b></i> was a bit of an exaggeration.&nbsp; Even setting aside the logical challenge, there was nothing "sure" about it.&nbsp; Grandpa was working hard to keep from bursting into laughter, and it was making the stairs more challenging for me to manage, too.&nbsp; But, by the grace of God, Grandpa was able to stifle his giggles and provide a steadying hand, so Natalie could navigate the stairs to the basement "by herself."&nbsp; <br><br>Out of the mouths of babes....&nbsp; <br><br>Thank you, Natalie, for such a clear glimpse into my soul!&nbsp; How often have I prayed like that?&nbsp; <br><br>Not, of course, with the guileless honesty of a two year old.&nbsp; I would never actually call out to God with a sincere "help me do this <i><b>by myself</b></i>."&nbsp; Even if Holy Week had not just reminded me, I know that Jesus gave us the model of how to pray when facing something really tough:&nbsp; "not my will, but yours be done."&nbsp; So, I have the language down.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br>But, far too often, when I pray "thy will be done," there is an unexpressed-but-real "and I have a pretty good idea what that should look like" lurking nearby.<br><br>The Gospels make it clear that this habit is not just mine.&nbsp; It seems to be pretty deeply ingrained in human beings, even the ones who dream of and pray for God to intervene in the world.&nbsp; As John puts it in the opening lines of his Gospel, the Word "came to his own people, and even they rejected him" (John 1:11, NLT).&nbsp; Even they.&nbsp; In the final hours before Jesus' death, even his closest friends turned on him or ran away.&nbsp; Even they.&nbsp; They rejected or opposed or fled because they already knew how the story was supposed to go.&nbsp; If they weren't exactly saying to God "by myself," they were certainly saying "<i><b>my</b></i> way."<br><br>The Gospels don't actually introduce anything new in that regard, though.&nbsp; However much we humans may long for "God, with us," the Biblical record suggests we've been a "by... my... <i><b>self!</b></i>" bunch since the beginning.&nbsp; Genesis 3 suggests that we are even willing to sacrifice a pretty good gig to satisfy that urge.<br><br>So, as I am amazed and amused by the transparency of a two year old (now three... it has taken a <i><b>while</b></i> to get around to writing this!), I am also reminded just how much we adults tend to do the same thing (with more subterfuge).<br><br>I, personally, am undoubtedly as guilty of this tendency as the next person, whether or not I'm always aware of that.&nbsp; So, over and over again, at ever-increasing depth, I am challenged to make Jesus' prayers my own:&nbsp; "not my will, but yours," "may your will be done on earth, as in heaven."<br><br>Just at the moment, though, I am on a different wavelength.&nbsp; Far from seeking to do anything "by my self," I am instead acutely aware of, and deeply grateful for, the fact that I am <i><b>not </b></i>"by myself."&nbsp; I have been immersed in teamwork at IM's home office and around the world, making small contributions to events, processes, ministries and relationships that I did not create, do not sustain and cannot control.&nbsp; And it is amazing.&nbsp; What a privilege!&nbsp;&nbsp; <br></p><ol><li>Teaching and encouraging Bolivian pastors in December...</li><li>celebrating the amazing story of God's work among the Telugu people in India in January...</li><li>growing in faith with Mexican pastors and seminarians in February... </li><li>learning with and from theological educators from the length and breadth of Latin America a few weeks later... </li><li>and working on Responding to the Call throughout the last couple of years (to say nothing of the daily participation in the support of others' ministries at IM's home office!)...</li><li>and as I write, I am in the air, on the way to speaking opportunities in Thailand and India--privileged to contribute to ministries of whole teams of deeply dedicated folks. </li></ol><p>None of this has been "by myself."&nbsp; In fact, none of it would even have been possible "by myself." <br><br>I am thankful to God and to be able to serve together with many, many partners in mission--including you!&nbsp; Thanks for your friendship, prayers, gifts, words of encouragement and inspiring examples.&nbsp; <br></p><p>May you be blessed as you let God make you a channel of blessing to others, even-or maybe, especially-when you get to bless them by helping them do things "by... my... self!"<br></p><p>Stan<br></p> Tue, 05 Apr 2016 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/61721-by-myself https://internationalministries.org/read/61721-by-myself Learning to run... stretching forward! <p>On a warm day before the rain set in last week, I caught a couple of minutes of our three little neighbor girls at play.&nbsp; The youngest, Hadley is full of zest for life—and full of passion to catch up with her big sisters.&nbsp; In typical full-tilt mode, she giggled and bounced down the driveway on her toes.&nbsp; Hadley is just two.&nbsp; Far from steady on her feet.&nbsp; The driveway is steeply sloped.&nbsp; I was transfixed… caught somewhere between panic-stricken and awe-struck.&nbsp; Part of me wanted to rush over and scoop her up, before her reckless run down the driveway led to a tumble into the asphalt, complete with tears and major road rash.&nbsp; Part of me wanted to cheer her on, amazed by her fearlessness and her success!&nbsp; Little Hadley, on the brink of disaster for at least ten yards (a lot of steps for a two year old!) actually made it to the flat sidewalk at the bottom, grinning and victorious!&nbsp; Hooray!<br><br>Little Hadley is learning to run… by running!&nbsp; Ultimately, that’s how we do it.&nbsp; At every level.&nbsp; <br><br>It is a long, long way, from two-year old Hadley, toddling on her toes, to the Olympians Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce taking the gold for Jamaica in the 100 meter sprint, and Stephen Kiprotich carrying the Ugandan flag across the finish line to take the gold medal in the 2012 marathon in London.&nbsp; But the distance is covered by running.&nbsp; Disciplined, determined, daily running.<br><br>Of course, there is much to learn about technique, about strategy, about equipment.&nbsp; But without running, none of that would count for much.&nbsp; And, surely it is true that not everyone’s body type sets them up to reach the same level of achievement.&nbsp; But the best genetic preparation in the world would be useless without… running!&nbsp; They call it training.&nbsp; But, mostly, it consists of running.&nbsp; Focused, faithful, fully committed running.<br><br>Living for Jesus is like that.&nbsp; We <i><b>learn</b></i> to do it, actually, by <i><b>doing</b></i> it.&nbsp; Whether bouncing on our toes on the brink of disaster, or striding purposefully toward the finish line or, yes, twisting an ankle, taking a tumble and losing some skin as we collide with the ground.&nbsp; We learn to follow Jesus by… following Jesus!&nbsp; As with running, there is a great deal of learning to do as we follow Jesus.&nbsp; But as with running, for our study (of Scripture, history and so many aspects of our context) to become real learning, we have to be active, engaged, actually following the Lord with our lives. <br><br>One of the images Paul used for the life of faith is that of athletics.&nbsp; In his first letter to the congregation in Corinth, he urged them to learn from what they could see runners and boxers doing to prepare to compete (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).&nbsp; Athletes’ disciplined way of life was focused on a goal.&nbsp; Paul urged the followers of Jesus to pursue the much greater goal of serving the world-changing mission of Jesus with the kind of discipline and determination they could see in the athletes around them.&nbsp; (This was an important word to a “team of rivals,” clearly distracted by intra-team squabbles.&nbsp; But I digress….)<br><br>Paul again used the metaphor of running as he wrote to the congregation in Philippi, urging them to persevere, to stay focused on Jesus and to press onward toward the finish line of God’s Reign.&nbsp; Like a runner reaching out for the tape, Paul said he was stretching forward with every muscle, focused on the finish line.<br><br>I love the metaphor, especially if we remember that following Jesus is “a team sport.”&nbsp; It is about running together, about encouraging one another, urging each other to reach our personal best and, especially, picking up our teammates when they take a tumble, as we all will.<br><br>During BereanSafari last August, I had the chance to serve as player-coach with Sara, a bright young Ethiopian woman who is honing her skills as a Bible study leader by… leading Bible studies!&nbsp; Whenever I can, I love to use teaching opportunities not only to help participants gain more knowledge, but to help them become those who do their learning by serving the learning of others (2 Timothy 2:2).&nbsp; It was a privilege to run alongside Sara throughout the week, matching stride for stride and learning together how best to assist our group in their own learning!<br><br>I was grateful to be able to join Sara as she stretched forward to develop leadership skills.&nbsp; I am grateful for all whose prayers and gifts make it possible for me to join people like Sara around the world.&nbsp; I am grateful for all whose prayers and gifts to the <i><b>World Mission Offering</b></i> are making it possible for International Ministries to “<i><b>Stretch Forward</b></i>” into a third century of responding to the call of Christ in mission.&nbsp; Thank you!<br><br>May the Lord enable you to run with faithfulness the race that is set before us all, stretching forward toward the amazing goal the Lord has established, when God’s redeeming desires will be fully realized, “on earth, as in heaven!”<br><br>Stan<br></p> Sun, 04 Oct 2015 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/60047-learning-to-run-stretching-forward- https://internationalministries.org/read/60047-learning-to-run-stretching-forward- Loving the Stranger... <p>"I have become a stranger, everywhere I go."</p><p>My heart ached for my friend Joan.&nbsp; She is a bright young woman, deeply dedicated to reaching university students in Tanzania for Christ.&nbsp; A missionary herself, she labors to see Tanzanian university students become missionaries throughout their nation and beyond.<br><br>Joan is a dedicated follower of Jesus.&nbsp; She is an effective servant of the Kingdom of God.&nbsp; And she was going through a totally normal experience for cross-cultural missionaries.&nbsp; But she didn't know that what she was feeling was normal.<br><br>That is because Joan is a missionary from Kenya.&nbsp; She is serving internationally and cross-culturally, but without the benefit of an organization with deep experience in helping people navigate well through the straits, shoals and sandbars that are part and parcel of such service.<br><br>Joan is part of an amazing work of God around the world in our time.&nbsp; After two centuries during which most of the missionaries serving around the world came from churches in the West (or "North," or "First World"*), today most of the world's international missionaries come from churches in the global South (or "Third World," or "Two-Thirds World"*).&nbsp; My friend and inspiring colleague, Samuel Escobar, has written eloquently about this movement (see, for example, his <i><b><u>The New Global Mission:&nbsp; The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone</u></b></i>).&nbsp; Wherever we go, mission workers like me, from the U.S., have the opportunity to serve alongside colleagues from places like India, Brazil, South Korea, Nigeria, Mexico... and Kenya. <br><br>Joan is part of this inspiring new wave of global servants, and I am delighted and honored to be her colleague in the service of Jesus Christ.&nbsp; At the same time, as I work with Joan, I am very grateful to have been sent and supported by International Ministries (IM).&nbsp; For, over the course of more than 201 years, IM has learned about the importance of not only sending, but also caring for its personnel.<br><br>So, as I listened to Joan, I also had the chance to share some things with her.&nbsp; I explained to her that only a few days (really, only 48 hours!) earlier, I had been at a retreat for IM's global servants.&nbsp; One of several key elements of that retreat was to enable mission personnel to share their experiences of transition and re-entry with each other and with experienced spiritual guides and pastoral counselors.&nbsp; We have learned that dedication to Christ grants us no greater immunity from the experiences of dis-location and cultural confusion than it grants us from malaria or giardia.&nbsp; We have learned that the struggles common to cross-cultural service are best handled through talking and praying with those who have "been there."&nbsp;&nbsp; We need to engage those who understand what happens in our heads and hearts when we move between two or more different sets of "taken for granted" values and behaviors--and wind up with some doubts about who we really are, and where we "fit."<br><br>We are the Lord's, of course.&nbsp; We fit right alongside all of God's children.&nbsp; But that can be very hard to remember when things simply feel "a little off.”&nbsp; We struggle to remember it when we feel like strangers.&nbsp; That’s when we need others who have gone through the experience to give us a hug, listen to us and remind us.<br><br>Thank you for enabling me to be present in Ethiopia this year, to help mission colleagues from Africa and beyond to encounter Jesus in the Gospel of Mark… to mentor a bright young Ethiopian woman named Sara who is growing in her ability to facilitate Manuscript Bible Study… and to put flesh on the words of Deuternonomy 10:19 for a wonderful Kenyan missionary named Joan:&nbsp; “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers.”<br></p><p>May the Lord also give you opportunities to encourage those who find themselves in struggles you have already experienced... and bless you richly as you do so!</p><p>Stan<br></p> Tue, 08 Sep 2015 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/59764-loving-the-stranger- https://internationalministries.org/read/59764-loving-the-stranger- Rend the heavens -- Part II <p class="MsoNormal">This is my Father's world... yet still very, very far from the way God wants it.&nbsp; <br><br>In <i><b>hope</b></i>, I believe the world will ultimately be put to rights.&nbsp; Evil, destruction and death will not have the last word.&nbsp; That word will belong to life, blessing and joy.&nbsp; The will of God will be done, on earth.<br><br>In <i><b>faith</b></i>, I believe the decisive move toward what will be, came in the least impressive of all ways, as the "wondrous gift was given" silently and out of the way:&nbsp; God's own self, in utter vulnerability, coming through the sacrificial service of a young peasant girl, out of the spotlight.&nbsp; <br><br>In <i><b>love</b></i>, I join with an immense host of those who have been inspired by the One that little baby turned out to be, the host of those who invest their lives in the future he demonstrated with his life and made possible with his death and resurrection.&nbsp; Most of the host work for that future like Mary did, out of the spotlight.&nbsp; Most of the time, the wondrous gift continuous to be given silently, unnoticed on the world's great stages.<br><br>Today I give thanks for one of the host who found himself in the spotlight, one who moved in it not silently, but eloquently.&nbsp; The debt I owe to Martin Luther King, Jr., is immense.&nbsp; Thank you, Martin.&nbsp; <br><br>As we moved into Advent last year, we were reminded by the protests in Ferguson--and then many, many other parts of the U.S.--that our little piece of Our Father's world is still very far from the way God wants it.&nbsp; Still very far from the way God led Martin to dream it... and to work for it.&nbsp; But it is far closer now than it was before the Holy Spirit empowered Martin Luther King, Jr., to galvanize a movement for change.&nbsp; <br><br>As a person of privilege, I can be tempted to forget both how much has changed, and also, how much still needs to change.&nbsp; But deep change continues to be needed.&nbsp; In the world.&nbsp; In the U.S.&nbsp; In my own soul.&nbsp; Lord, have mercy.<br><br>Part of the mercy of God comes in the form of sisters and brothers who invest their lives... sometimes risking their lives... sometimes, as Martin did, giving their lives in the service of God's great and coming future.&nbsp; They seek it.&nbsp; They pursue it.&nbsp; They embody it.&nbsp; Now.&nbsp; Ahead of time.<br><br>Many years ago, a friend and inspiring colleague in mission, Susan Gillies, shared a story about another friend and inspiring mission colleague, Chuck Shawver.&nbsp; At that time, Susan was a missionary of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, working for change primarily inside the U.S.&nbsp; Chuck was (and still is) a missionary of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, working for change primarily outside the U.S.&nbsp; Susan remembered how Chuck had responded to a question from someone in the deep South... of Mexico.&nbsp; That person wanted to know why Chuck was working to address challenges in Chiapas, Mexico, when the world's news media (yes, reaching even into remote Mexican villages) made it clear that the U.S. still had its own immense challenges.&nbsp; Chuck said yes, the U.S. faced huge challenges.&nbsp; And Chuck explained that he belonged to the larger Body of Christ, with sisters and brothers who were giving their lives to meet those very challenges.&nbsp; He explained that he had not come to Southern Mexico out of a position of power or moral superiority, but out of obedience.&nbsp; And the very One who called Chuck to serve alongside Mexican sisters and brothers on behalf of the coming Reign of God was calling many, many others to seek, anticipate and even embody, ahead of time, that coming Reign in the U.S.<br><br>Despite some beautiful hymns to the contrary, the mission of Jesus Christ in our world does not move from places where the-light-shines-and-there-is-no-darkness to places where there-is-only-darkness-and-no-light.&nbsp; Christ, the light of the world, has silently, unobtrusively begun to shine in every place.&nbsp; In every place, however hard it may be to see in any particular moment, what the Gospel of John says is true:&nbsp; "the darkness has not overcome it" (1:5). &nbsp; But also, in every place, there is opposition to the light, and a great need for transformation.&nbsp; As my friend and inspiring mission colleague Samuel Escobar has eloquently written, the mission of Jesus Christ is "from everywhere, to everyone."<br><br>In every place, there is some light.&nbsp; In every place, we yet long for the coming of light in its fullness.&nbsp; So, like the prophet Isaiah, we cry out, “<i>Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!</i>”&nbsp;(Is 64:1 ESV)&nbsp; And, in ways large and small, in the spotlight and out of it, within our own nation or far beyond it, we are called to let that bit of light that God has lodged within us to so shine, that those around us may give their thanks--and their lives--to God (Mat. 5:16).<br><br>So, especially on this day of remembrance and renewal of commitment, thank you, Martin, for letting God use you courageously and powerfully to nudge our nation closer to the beloved community and the coming Reign of God.&nbsp; Thank you, Lord, for the work you accomplished in Martin Luther King, Jr., and for way you have used him to inspire others all over this planet.&nbsp; And thank you, Lord, for calling us into the work that remains to be done.&nbsp; <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"?? ??"; mso-font-charset:78; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1791491579 18 0 131231 0;} @font-face {font-family:"?? ??"; mso-font-charset:78; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1791491579 18 0 131231 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"?? ??"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-fareast-language:JA;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"?? ??"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-fareast-language:JA;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --></style><span style="mso-spacerun:yes"></span>I am grateful to have a tiny part in that work around the world--and just as grateful for those who advance that work right here in the U.S.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p> <span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;?? ??&quot;;mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-fareast-language:JA;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA">Lord, rend the heavens!<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Bring the fullness of your Reign!</span><br><span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;?? ??&quot;;mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-fareast-language:JA;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA"></span><p>May you be blessed... and be a blessing to those around you, in whatever corner of God's world this may find you!<br><br>Stan<br><br>p.s.&nbsp; If you have not seen Ava DuVernay's movie <u><i><b>Selma</b></i></u>, I cannot recommend it highly enough.&nbsp; It is powerful.&nbsp; And points to a story that is even more powerful.&nbsp; Thanks for the testimony, Ava!&nbsp; May it encourage us all to keep walking in the same direction!<br><br></p> Sun, 18 Jan 2015 19:00:00 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/57029-rend-the-heavens-part-ii https://internationalministries.org/read/57029-rend-the-heavens-part-ii Rend the heavens -- Part I <p><br><i><b>“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,<br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; that the mountains might quake at your presence!”</b></i>&nbsp; (Is 64:1 ESV) <br><br>The old hymn says, “This is my Father’s world.”&nbsp; But when Maltbie Babcock wrote those words, he knew as well as anyone that what he habitually called “the Father’s world,” was very far from being the way the Father wants it.&nbsp; He and his wife Katherine had already buried their only two children, both as infants.&nbsp; In faith and hope marked by struggle and pain he wrote, “O let me ne'er forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”<br><br>The wrong has seemed pretty strong, lately. &nbsp;<br><br>That’s the way it has seemed around the world, with death and destruction in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel &amp; Palestine, South Sudan, Nigeria… Ebola ravaging West Africa… children fleeing for their lives from gang violence in Central America… Mexican college students attacked by those sworn to preserve the rule of law… governments in many places not protecting, but preying upon their own… and on, and on.&nbsp; God’s world, but not the way God wants it.<br><br>That’s the way it has seemed, too, across the U.S.&nbsp; And, most recently, in the heart of the U.S.&nbsp; I do not pretend to know the truth about Ferguson.&nbsp; But <i><b>some</b></i>thing—no, make that <i><b>many</b></i> somethings have certainly gone horribly wrong.&nbsp; This cannot be the world that God wants.&nbsp; Not for the Brown family.&nbsp; Not for the Wilson family.&nbsp; Not for Ferguson.&nbsp; Not for the U.S.&nbsp; Not for the world.<br><br>In the face of all of this, what does it mean to celebrate Thanksgiving with integrity?&nbsp; Do I simply thank God for all the good in the life I get to live—and in the lives of those closest to me?&nbsp; Does giving thanks to God require turning away from the truth about evil and suffering in our world?&nbsp; God forbid.<br><br>In a special way this week, I have been struck by the importance of giving thanks not just for what we <i>have</i>, but for what we <i>hope</i>, not just for blessings <i>provided</i>, but for blessings <i>promised</i>.&nbsp; On this Thanksgiving Day, aware of wounds near and far, I have given thanks especially for the day that is coming when God will wipe every tear from every eye, when pain and death will be no more, and when the peoples of the earth will be healed (Revelation 21-22).&nbsp; Evil and suffering and injustice and death will not have the last word.&nbsp; God in Christ will have the last word, and the marvelous creation that now groans in travail will be put to rights.<br><br>That is something worth giving thanks for, today.&nbsp; That is something worth living for, today.<br><br>The prophet Isaiah knew this truth, many centuries ago.&nbsp; Inspired by the Spirit of God, he painted a beautiful word picture of the new creation that is coming (Isaiah 65:17-25).<br><br>Filled with that blessed hope and faced with the radically different reality that surrounded him, just one chapter earlier Isaiah cried out in anguish:&nbsp; “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down” to set the world right, right now (Isaiah 64:1)!&nbsp; We hope, we serve, we give thanks and we cry out, “Lord, have mercy!”<br><br>It should be no surprise that Jesus, whom the Gospel writer Mark saw as God’s decisive move toward answering the cry of Isaiah (Mark 1:10), taught his followers both to live as salt and light, and also to cry out, “Thy kingdom come!” &nbsp;<br><br>Lord, thank you for what you have already done.&nbsp; Thank you that there is still so much more to come.&nbsp; Come, Lord Jesus.&nbsp; Rend the heavens!&nbsp; Bring the fullness of your Reign!</p> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 17:21:15 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/56584-rend-the-heavens-part-i https://internationalministries.org/read/56584-rend-the-heavens-part-i "God sent you to me today!" <p>I usually keep a pretty low profile at the gym. (Well, if the truth be told, the, er, "profile," is actually a bit different than I'd like. There is nothing quite like joining the kings and queens of Spandex for a few minutes to make one aware of... um... "profile" issues. But I digress. And, you know what I meant: though I'm a fairly extroverted person, when it comes to the gym, I usually try to slip in and out as inconspicuously as possible.)</p> <p>But today I varied a bit from the routine. It was all because of my friend Mike.<br><br>Mike is a fellow missionary.&nbsp; His official assignment is to help the American Baptist Churches of Michigan serve the mission of Jesus Christ as faithfully and effectively as they can.&nbsp; But, like the other missionaries I know, his love for the Lord and for people continually finds expression in ways that go well beyond his official assignment.<br><br>Mike and I had a great conversation a little while ago, as part of International Ministries' <a href="http://internationalministries.org/read/53125-responding-to-the-call">Responding to the Call</a> discernment process.&nbsp; One of the things that have stayed with me from that inspiring conversation was when Mike said, <br><br>"The gym is my congregation!"<br><br>Mike has been working out a lot in recent years.&nbsp; And, in the gym, Mike is just himself.&nbsp; Not &nbsp;"Pastor Mike."&nbsp; Not "Rev," let alone "Rev. Dr."&nbsp; Just "Mike."&nbsp; And people talk to him.&nbsp; He listens.&nbsp; They notice.&nbsp; So, one day another guy figured it out, and asked Mike to pray for him.&nbsp; In the whirlpool.&nbsp; With a bunch of other guys.&nbsp; So God has given Mike an unexpected "mission field":&nbsp; the gym.<br><br>I loved Mike's stories about mission in the gym.&nbsp; As I listened, I decided that I would basically continue to keep my "low profile" (see "Spandex, Kings &amp; Queens of," above), but stay open to opportunities as God brought them my way.<br><br>Today, as I was slogging away on the elliptical trainer, one of the guys I often see in the locker room called out to another guy that he, "D," was going to take a trip to Vietnam and Thailand.&nbsp; Whoa.&nbsp; Time to move to the next level.<br><br>D is a runner, and looks it (see "Spandex, K...").&nbsp; He is also a car salesman and a Deacon.&nbsp; (Hey, it's not like I've been <i><b>totally</b></i> anti-social at the gym!)&nbsp; So later, in the locker room I asked D, "You going to Vietnam for a race, for church or for a vacation?"<br><br>"You know Vietnam?"<br><br>"Yeah, a little.&nbsp; Mostly Saigon."<br><br>"How?"<br><br>"Been there to work with pastors and leaders in some of the churches."<br><br>"Churches?&nbsp; Oh man.&nbsp; <i><b>God</b></i> sent you to me today!"<br><br>And we were off and running.&nbsp; I don't yet know where this will lead.&nbsp; So far, we have mostly talked about food, accommodations and such.&nbsp; But "D" did begin to explore with me how the gospel gets shared in places like Vietnam and Thailand.&nbsp; Lord willing, at the very least our conversations will help to connect D's faith--and that of his congregation--with what God is doing through brothers and sisters in Vietnam and Thailand.&nbsp; I'm praying for more.&nbsp; We'll see.<br><br>My conversation with D was far less dramatic than Mike's impromptu prayer meeting in the whirlpool.&nbsp; But the point is the same:&nbsp; mission is where you find it--or better... where it finds you! &nbsp;<br><br>I continue to be grateful for the way God nudged me through the experiences Mike shared in our conversation.&nbsp; Maybe the Lord will do something similar for you today.&nbsp; In any case, I pray that the Spirit of God will keep the eyes, ears and hearts of all of us open to the opportunities to serve those whom the Lord brings into our lives today... in unexpected places!&nbsp; To whom is God sending <i><b>you</b></i> today? <br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br></p><p>p.s. Thank you so much for your partnership in the gospel!&nbsp; It has been fun to participate in <a href="http://internationalministries.org/read/56228-giving-tuesday-quick-start-guide">IM's #unselfie campaign</a> for <a href="http://internationalministries.org/uploads/document/asset/56117/2014GivingTuesday-FAQ.pdf">#GivingTuesday</a>.&nbsp;I am excited both to <i><b>go</b></i> and also to <i><b>give</b></i> to the support of what God is doing all around the world through #IntMin because I am eager to see more ministry in more places!</p><p>p.p.s.&nbsp; I was also eager to give to the offering, when I was at the ABC of Michigan annual meeting this fall--and as our congregation supports <a href="http://www.abc-usa.org/united-mission/">United Mission</a> and <a href="http://www.nationalministries.org/afc/">America For Christ</a>.&nbsp; The mission of Jesus Christ is one--across the USA and around the world.&nbsp; I thank the Lord for the work of God's Spirit through Mike... and through Lee, Soozi, David, Frank, Joan, Jim, Larry, Yvonne, Dwight, John, Marshall, Robin, Steve, Judy, Randy, Tim, Sam, Dale, Marcia, Charles, Alonzo, Steve, Marie, Larry, Jim, Alan, James, Walter, Kendrick, Al, Tom, Tony, Roberto and their teams in regional mission throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico! </p> Sat, 22 Nov 2014 19:00:00 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/56516-god-sent-you-to-me-today- https://internationalministries.org/read/56516-god-sent-you-to-me-today- He changed my life! <p>Sometimes the world can seem overwhelmingly large, especially in a place like India,&nbsp; As a foreigner, with no ability in any of the hundreds of local languages, it is easy to feel very tiny indeed.<br><br>But then, in a instant, the world can feel surprisingly and intimately interconnected.<br><br>That's what happened as I talked with Jacob Isaac last week. Jacob had just delivered a terrific message to the delegates at the India Mission Summit, in Kohima, Nagaland, North East India. Jacob is a very engaging and dynamic speaker, and a passionate advocate for youth ministry.<br><br>Jacob talked about the importance of hanging out with youth (on their terms, on their turf).&nbsp; He also shared some of the many creative things he does to engage youth and young adults.&nbsp; One brief example he mentioned was a retreat when he led Manuscript Bible Study with teenagers.<br><br>Say wha...?&nbsp; Did this Indian champion of youth ministry just say "Manuscript Bible Study"?&nbsp; In that moment I knew I would have a follow-up conversation with Jacob!&nbsp; <br><br>I first encountered Manuscript Bible Study as a college student in 1972, through the ministry of Ron Kernaghan, who was serving with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.&nbsp; It revolutionized my way of reading and understanding Scripture.&nbsp; A couple of years later, I had the chance to go further with Manuscript Bible Study, under the teaching of Ron's mentor, Paul Byer, at Fuller Seminary.&nbsp; It has been central to my practice of faith and ministry ever since.<br><br>So, more than intrigued, I asked Jacob how he got introduced to Manuscript Bible Study.&nbsp; When he mentioned Indian InterVarsity, I told him I suspected we had a number of mutual friendsl, and began with one I knew had done some work in India, Eric Miller.<br><br>"Eric Miller?&nbsp; He changed my life!"<br><br>Jacob had been a singer and a media whiz. When Eric came to India as a media consultant to India's InterVarsity affiliate (UESI), Jacob quickly joined Eric's team, to learn all he could learn.<br><br>"I was fascinated by media and amazed by Eric's creative talent.&nbsp; But as I worked with him, I saw that his real passion was the Word.&nbsp; The point of everything we did together with media was to communicate the Word of God.&nbsp; Watching Eric at work changed my focus.&nbsp; It changed my life!"<br><br>It was wonderful to hear Jacob's testimony to God at work through my longtime friend and colleague!&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; It was wonderful, also, to hear him share how something deeply important to me has also been life-changing for him.&nbsp; <br><br>Jacob's story is special to me, because of my relationship with Eric.&nbsp; But it is also typical of my experience throughout this visit to India.&nbsp; <br><br>These have been days packed with testimonies to the amazing variety of ways God's grace ripples through the human family. The Abrahamic model--blessed, to be a blessing; chosen, to be a channel--has been at the heart of the stories I have heard. From the legacy of pioneering missionaries and their courageous indigenous co-workers, to the impact of living saints, including my friend Eric, the people I have met and the stories I have heard over the last few days have been an incredible kaleidoscope of what Peter calls "the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10).&nbsp; "Manifold" (pluriform, multi-colored), indeed!</p><p>Two days ago, I listened to the great-granddaughter of the Ao Naga man who opened his home to the first American Baptist missionary to live in his village (E. W. Clark, Molungkimong, 1876).&nbsp; She, and most Nagas describe the transformation in their lives with the phrase, "from darkness to light."&nbsp; God worked through Clark's Assamese assistant, Godhula, through Clark himself, and through so many others.&nbsp; The Naga peoples of North East India would be the first to say that much transformation remains to be accomplished in their personal and community lives.&nbsp; But they know they have been changed for good, and are eager to be used by God for the blessing of others.</p><p>Listening to Jacob Isaac last week, to many Naga brothers and sisters this week, I have been reminded that, even as we remain very much works-in-progress, the sovereign Lord is pleased to make us channels of blessing to others.&nbsp; I am grateful for these many and wonderful reminders!<br></p><p>Today, may the Lord both touch your life with grace, and use you to grace the lives of those around you!&nbsp; <br></p><p>Blessings,</p><p>Stan<br></p><p><br></p><p><br></p> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/55925-he-changed-my-life- https://internationalministries.org/read/55925-he-changed-my-life- Revelation 11A <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Arial; 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mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-fareast-language:JA;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"?? ??"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-fareast-language:JA;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --> </style> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:0in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><span style="font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;mso-fareast-language:EN-US">"Wow!"</span></b><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"><span style="mso-tab-count:2">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </span><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">&lt;Sitting in seat 10C, I hear a voice, slightly raised, from the next row back.&gt;</i></span><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-fareast-language:EN-US"></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-fareast-language: EN-US">The plane is completely packed, and just beginning its take-off run.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Looking around, this seems like a crowd mostly made up of business travelers, though there are at least a few people making personal trips.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Like the very nicely dressed lady in seat 11A.</span><span style="font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-fareast-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:0in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><span style="font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;mso-fareast-language:EN-US">"Yay!!"</span></b><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"><span style="mso-tab-count:2">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </span><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">&lt;The voice is up a notch or two, in both pitch and decibels.&gt;</i></span><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-fareast-language: EN-US">The plane is picking up speed, engines roaring.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>11A is not "roaring," but she is clearly enjoying the ride!<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Looking around at the business travelers, it also seems pretty obvious that hers is the minority view.</span><span style="font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-fareast-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:0in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><span style="font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;mso-fareast-language:EN-US">"Woo-hoo!!!"</span></b><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"><span style="mso-tab-count:2">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </span><i>&lt;Pitch up; decibels, way UP!&gt;</i></span><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-fareast-language:EN-US"></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-fareast-language: EN-US">The plane is beginning to lift off, nose wheel just free of the ground.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>The biz travelers around me are showing either annoyance or boredom... or, somehow, both!<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Not me.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>I am smiling.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>11A might be able to lift this whole plane with her sheer joy.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span><i><b>This</b></i> is something to witness!</span><span style="font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;; mso-fareast-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:0in;mso-pagination:none;mso-outline-level:4;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><b><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-fareast-language:EN-US">"C-O-O-L!!!!" &nbsp;<span style="mso-tab-count:2">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></span></b><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"><span style="mso-tab-count:2"></span><i>&lt;</i></span><i><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;mso-bidi-font-weight:bold">A shout of glee;<b> riotous clapping!&gt;</b></span></i><b><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"></span></b></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-fareast-language: EN-US">Airborne.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Ground receding at a spectacular rate.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>And 11A has now entered full-fledged delight! <span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp;</span>I seem to be the only one who finds this contagious, as the folks for a couple of rows in each direction are now fully and clearly pulling off the "simultaneously bored and annoyed" reaction.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span></span><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:6.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:6.0pt; margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-fareast-language: EN-US">Not me.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>My grin has grown:<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>from a smile a couple of eruptions ago, to a full-faced grin, now mixed with chuckles.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>I am only sorry to say that my hands are full and my mind is slow.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Otherwise, I would be joining 11A with applause, cheering and a high-five from 10C!</span><span style="font-family: Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-fareast-language:EN-US"></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">It was <i style="mso-bidi-font-style:normal">almost</i> as good as traveling with a grandchild!<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>One of the things I dearly love about being with little ones is the way we get to discover life all over again with them.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>They don't yet know what "ordinary" is.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Instead, they take delight in the simplest things as they get to know a world filled with wonder. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">The traveler in 11A was no child.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Closer to 60 or even 70, I would estimate.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>But she broke through "ordinary," just as a child might have done.&nbsp; <br></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial"><br></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">I was thankful for the reminder.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Thankful, in fact, for the revelation.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>11A was <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">right!</i></b><span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>As she cheered us into the sky, something genuinely amazing was happening.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>We were f-l-y-i-n-g!!<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>How recently in human existence did this become possible?<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>How many thousands of years did people spend watching the birds and wishing we could do this... and resigning themselves to the reality that we were stuck on the ground?<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Most human beings who have ever lived could only dream of having an experience as marvelous as ours that day.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span><br></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial"><br></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">Most of the people alive on our planet today are in the same situation. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">To be able to fly through the air is both a wondrous and a privileged experience.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>It is easy to forget that.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Especially as responsibilities, worries and challenges come flooding into our lives, it is easy to focus only on them, and to lose awareness of the wonders and privileges that make up our lives, day by day.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">So, the sheer delight of 11A brightened my day and it got me to thinking.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>It is amazing that anything could be become routine or taken-for-granted, when it is as wondrous as...</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">flying...&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">or driving...</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">or tasting...</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">or showering... (with hot water!)...<br></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">or arising and walking...</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">or greeting my beloved...</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">or seeing...</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">or hearing the birds...</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">or waking up...</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">or sleeping...</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-left:.5in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align: none;text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">or breathing....</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">The list of the amazing gifts I experienced just in the first few hours of that morning a few days ago could go on and on.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>And, I took it all for granted until 11A tore the cover off my everyday world with her unrestrained delight.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Thank you for opening my eyes, 11A!</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">Whatever your challenges this day, may the Lord bring an 11A into your life, open your eyes and touch your heart with joy and thanksgiving!</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none; text-autospace:none"><span style="font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial">&nbsp;</span></p> <span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Calibri;mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;?? ??&quot;;mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;mso-ansi-language: EN-US;mso-fareast-language:JA;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA">Stan<br><br>P.S. Thanks so much for your support of the work that God keeps choosing to do through me.&nbsp; I continue to be amazed by the gracious patience and perseverance of the Lord, and am very grateful to all who work together with God to make this ministry possible, through your words of encouragement, your prayers and your gifts.&nbsp; Cathy and I are grateful to be able to give to the support of the whole work of International Ministries through the World Mission Offering, and invite you to join us in this privilege, too!<br></span> <p> <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Arial; panose-1:2 11 6 4 2 2 2 2 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536859905 -1073711037 9 0 511 0;} @font-face {font-family:"?? ??"; mso-font-charset:78; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:"?? ??"; mso-font-charset:78; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-520092929 1073786111 9 0 415 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"?? ??"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-fareast-language:JA;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"?? ??"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-fareast-language:JA;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --> </style> </p> <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Arial; panose-1:2 11 6 4 2 2 2 2 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:"?? ??"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:"?? ??"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-520092929 1073786111 9 0 415 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"?? ??"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-fareast-language:JA;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"?? ??"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-fareast-language:JA;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --> </style> Sun, 21 Sep 2014 03:50:16 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/55642-revelation-11a https://internationalministries.org/read/55642-revelation-11a Beyond belief! <p>I have long enjoyed the humor in Luke's account of the miraculous rescue of Peter in Acts 12. Herod Agrippa had already lopped off the head of Peter's friend and fellow apostle, James. He was fixing to do the same to Peter, holding him in prison for a few days, awaiting the right moment to make a public display of him. Peter had displayed incredible boldness and courage before the authorities since the resurrection of Jesus, but who knows what was running through his mind as he waited for the sword to fall?<br><br>Whatever Peter may be thinking, his community is mobilized. While Pete is in jail awaiting execution, many of the believers gather in the home of John Mark's mother Mary to pray for him.<br><br>God answers their prayer. An angel lights up Peter's cell, pokes him in the ribs, tells him to get up and get dressed... and then leads him past the guards... through doors that swing open before them... and into the street. With Peter safely on his way, the angel takes off. Peter suddenly realizes this is not a dream, but God to the rescue!<br><br>When Peter knocks on the gate at Mary's house, Rhoda the maid comes to see who could possibly be knocking at this hour... and is astounded to see Peter there! So astounded, that she runs back to the prayer meeting to tell everybody, without actually opening the gate and letting Peter in! So, Peter the fugitive is out in the street, knocking and looking over his shoulder, while Rhoda is announcing that God has answered their prayers. Peter is here!<br><br>This answer to prayer is too wonderful for them. Literally. They say, "You're crazy!" Meanwhile, Peter is still outside, knocking.<br><br>The sisters and brothers in the prayer meeting really are people of faith. But God's answer still blows them away. Whatever the actual content of their prayers, God's answer exceeds even their imagination (Ephesians 3:20).<br><br>The scene is both comic and true to life. At least, it is true to <i><b>my</b></i> life.<br><br>I know what it means to pray, work, hope, dream, pray more... repeat. And repeat. I also know what it means to interweave all those expressions of faith with questions, second thoughts, doubt and anxiety. <br><br>I have heard Peter's counsel to "cast all your care upon him," for I know that he does, indeed, care for me (1 Pe 5:7). But my "cast" sometimes seems to come up short. I know that great word from the deep and painful experience of Paul, "Be anxious about nothing, but in everything pray with thanksgiving, making your requests known to God" (Phil 4:6). I also know that simply repeating Paul's words does not, by itself, "do the trick." <br><br>This happens to me so often, I sometimes think my "life verse" should be Mark 9:24b, "I believe; help my unbelief!" Now there's a bit of raw honesty I can really embrace! Thanks be to God, Jesus embraces it, too!<br><br>I experienced all of this in a very profound way over the last 12<span style="color: rgb(84, 84, 84); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: small; line-height: 18.200000762939453px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">—</span>and especially the last 7<span style="color: rgb(84, 84, 84); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: small; line-height: 18.200000762939453px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">—</span>months. I was inspired and excited by the potential of the historic events we had dreamed of and were praying for and working on for July 2014. But also, honestly, I was anxious. Psyched out. Scared. Somehow, believing, praying, trusting<span style="color: rgb(84, 84, 84); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: small; line-height: 18.200000762939453px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">—</span>all that "casting" never actually got the cares fully out of my boat and into the Lord's boat. I got reacquainted with the tricks our minds can play on us when we recite Psalm 127:2... at 3:00 am. It was a deep spiritual struggle, and I was no spiritual gladiator. Just someone clinging to the prayer of the possessed boy's father: Lord, "I believe; help my unbelief!"<br><br>Now that it is all past, I can tell you how it turned out. The claim is really true. Despite our brokenness and lack of ability to turn loose completely of those things we "cast upon" and entrust to God, the Lord chooses to exercise his power through us "to accomplish far more than we ask or imagine" (Eph. 3:20).<br><br>The gathering of missionaries, their families, Special Assistants and home office staff was flat-out amazing. So many gifted, dedicated and inspiring folks together in worship, mutual encouragement and the search for continuing and increased faithfulness to God's call. Wow!<br><br>The gathering of a hundred leaders of international partner conventions, unions and specialized ministries from all around the world was a wonderful foretaste of Revelation 7:9-10. Together, we learned about how God is at work in all the earth, and shared each one's sense of how God is calling their ministries to rise to the challenge of mission in the future. Wow again!<br><br>As I worked with the consultation of international partner leaders, I missed the chance to be part of the Call Retreat that was happening at the same time. But I heard wonderful things about it.<br><br>And then we were all joined by the amazing group of folks who came to the World Mission Conference to celebrate 200 years of God's faithfulness to and through American Baptist international service<span style="color: rgb(84, 84, 84); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: small; line-height: 18.200000762939453px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">—</span>and to catch a glimpse of God's pathway into the future for us and the great cloud of witnesses God has raised up across the globe. Wow <i>again</i>!<br><br>I know I will need to keep learning to trust in the Lord. (As I write, I am heading home from yet another terrific BereanSafari in Kenya, where a few moments of at least <i>self</i>-doubt did not fail to creep in.) But, as you face your own challenges, whatever they may be, I hope my experience will be an encouragement to you. It really is true. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we can ask or even imagine. Thanks be to God!<br><br><br></p> Sat, 16 Aug 2014 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/55027-beyond-belief- https://internationalministries.org/read/55027-beyond-belief- But... it's not right! <p>"But... it's not right!!!"<br><br>There are a lot of "not right" things in the world these days.&nbsp; Syria. Ukraine.&nbsp; South Sudan. Malaria, hunger, infant mortality.&nbsp; Slavery and trafficking.&nbsp; And on, and on.&nbsp; It is a pretty overwhelming list!<br><br>But my companion was not focused on the world. What was "not right" was America.<br><br>Fair enough.&nbsp; Lord knows, we have plenty of "not right," too.&nbsp; The list of things that need to be put right in my beloved country is very long.<br><br>But Caleb was not actually focused on anything that might appear on such a list. He was focused on "the whole America."&nbsp;&nbsp; Hmmmm.&nbsp; That's how he refers to the jigsaw puzzle map of the U.S. we had just put together.<br><br>At the outset, he was very proud to announce that the puzzle had "the whole America."&nbsp; But at the end, he was beside himself.<br><br>"It's not riiiiiiiight, Grandpa!"<br><br>Much wailing ensued.&nbsp; And, of course, Caleb was correct.&nbsp; If you look closely at the photo, you can see that California has clearly suffered earthquake dislocation.&nbsp; Nevada and Arizona seem to have gotten out of place, too. <br><br>Caleb could see that our assembled puzzle was not perfect.&nbsp; And he was distraught.&nbsp; No amount of grandfatherly balm could sooth him.&nbsp; Much less, Grandpa's explanation that jigsaw puzzles assembled on carpets just cannot be made to lie flat.&nbsp; Caleb has a very clear vision of how things are supposed to be.&nbsp; He knows our puzzle is just not right.&nbsp; Grandpa's assurances that it is "fine," "good enough" and "the best it can possibly be on a carpet," do not touch his agony.<br><br>Caleb had another go-round on this theme later the same day.&nbsp; He was making a picture.&nbsp; A marvelous 3-year-old expression of color and energy.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Mom Emily has put quite a collection of them on the wall in the basement that serves as an office.&nbsp; As an unbiased grandfather, I love them, of course.<br><br>But sometimes when you are working very, very hard to make sure your marker delivers its ink fully to the canv... er, page, well, disaster strikes.&nbsp; "Disaster," in the form of a centimeter long tear in the darkest part of the paper.&nbsp; Ruined.&nbsp; Wailing.&nbsp; <br><br>I thought I had the fix.&nbsp; A bit of tape on the back side of the paper and, voila!&nbsp; Good as new.&nbsp;&nbsp; See, Caleb?&nbsp; Silly Grandpa.&nbsp; Of course my sexagenarian eyes thought it was great.&nbsp; But Caleb knew.&nbsp; Not good as new.&nbsp; In fact, not good at all.&nbsp; In fact, ruined.<br><br>Tough day in the life of a 3 year old.&nbsp; I wish I could somehow enable Caleb to leapfrog over this pain over the less-than-perfect puzzle and less-than-perfect picture.&nbsp; I cannot.&nbsp; He has to work through it himself.&nbsp; But it is worth it for Caleb is working on an important life lesson.&nbsp; In fact, his grandfather is still working on it.&nbsp; <br><br>How many times have I been right there with Caleb, wailing over some project that was "ruined," only because it was not perfect?&nbsp; Wow.&nbsp; Hanging out with your grandkids is risky business!&nbsp; You never know when a grandchild will turn into a mirror!<br><br>What is "good enough"?&nbsp; How do we cope with the gap between the ideal we can imagine and the real that we live and achieve?&nbsp; Especially if we are followers of Jesus, and know that God desires to make us more and more like him?&nbsp; How do we live with the gap? <br><br>Grace, of course.&nbsp; Thanks be to God, we do not have to have arrived to be loved, to achieve in order to be loved.&nbsp; Grace always comes first.&nbsp; It is acceptance that calls forth achievement, not the other way round.<br><br>But that's pretty easy to forget.&nbsp; At least for Grandpa.&nbsp; So I am grateful I was present as Caleb was working on this life lesson.&nbsp; It was a good reminder that the difference between Caleb and his Grandpa is often much less than the 59 years between our birthdays.<br><br>Lord, thank you for your mercy and love.&nbsp; May your grace enable both Caleb and his Grandpa to find deep joy in "good enough," even while "perfect" awaits us in Your Future. <br></p><p>May you, too, be blessed in the meantime!</p><p>Stan<br></p> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/53450-but-it-s-not-right- https://internationalministries.org/read/53450-but-it-s-not-right- Monday, Monday <p>"Monday, Monday"<br></p><p>That hit song from 1966 floated through the back of my mind last night.&nbsp; It was popular when I was a teenager, the only song by the Mamas &amp; Papas to make it to #1.<br><br>It came to mind because I was listening to Monday, on Tuesday.<br><br>"Monday," or more exactly, "son, born on Monday," is the meaning of the Ghanaian name, Kojo.&nbsp; I was listening to Rev. Kojo Amo who, after providing leadership to the Ghana Baptist Convention for ten years, is now the Chairman for West Africa for the All Africa Baptist Fellowship.&nbsp; Kojo is in town as part of a mission trip.&nbsp; He is touring a Ghanaian Baptist mission field.&nbsp; The U.S.A.&nbsp; <br><br>As I listened to Brother Kojo last night, I had a complex experience.&nbsp; As I said, the background soundtrack was Mamas &amp; Papas.&nbsp; The visuals were from a brilliant day in October of 2001, when I took these photos as Francisco Litardo and I spent a couple of hours in Accra with the leadership of the Ghana Baptist Convention.&nbsp; The foreground soundtrack was a highly summarized report of Ghanaian Baptist mission work in Canada (Toronto and Montreal), New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and now, New Jersey. &nbsp;<br><br>This is definitely not your great-grandmother's world of mission! &nbsp;<br><br>The smiling face of my friend Samuel Escobar also flashed through my mind as I listened.&nbsp; For, Brother Kojo was describing a marvelous Ghanaian example of just the kind of thing Samuel has been speaking and writing about for years:&nbsp; mission in our day is truly "from everywhere to everyone" (The New Global Mission, InterVarsity Press, 2003).<br><br>From everywhere to everyone.&nbsp; Mission in our day moves in every conceivable direction.&nbsp; And, if we're honest, we have to admit that many of today's mission directions are "conceivable" to us only after we've bumped into the fact that they are "actual"!&nbsp; God's surprises just keep on coming!<br><br>So, Kojo Amo is visiting Ghanaian mission sites in the U.S.&nbsp; They are places where Ghanaians who have joined the millennia-long stream of immigrants to North America are busily reaching out to their neighbors with the faith in Jesus that has sustained them on the journey.&nbsp; It is an exuberant faith.&nbsp; Contagious.&nbsp; Their churches are growing.&nbsp; And, in excellent missionary fashion, they are eager to partner with what God is already doing in the places where they are planting churches.&nbsp; Are we equally eager to partner with them?<br><br>ABCNJ is!&nbsp; We were sitting in the living room of Judy and Paul Hart, at a regularly-scheduled meeting of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey's Go Global Mission Taskforce, which Judy chairs.&nbsp; It was an exciting evening, as members of the group shared about the ways God is leading New Jersey Baptists into mission in Brazil, the Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Haiti, India... and... and... in partnership with Ghanaian Baptists, New Jersey!&nbsp; At least 150 of the world's nations are represented in New Jersey.&nbsp; Lee Spitzer, Senior Regional Pastor for ABCNJ says, "We can accomplish 2/3 of the Great Commission in our day, at least symbolically, without even leaving the state!"&nbsp; Lord willing, there will soon be a new Ghanaian congregation growing in the heart of New Jersey, aided and abetted by their American Baptist neighbors.<br><br>So, Monday was speaking on Tuesday night.&nbsp; He was describing mission from a former "receiving" country to a former "sending" country.&nbsp; And we joyously celebrated the fact that the Lord invites us all to be both "senders" and "receivers" as we participate in what is truly God's mission, "from everywhere to everyone."<br><br>In 1966, "Monday, Monday" was (and for some of us, still is!) engaging--despite the fact that it was a wistful lament for a lost love.&nbsp; This week, Monday/Kojo is engaging in a totally different way:&nbsp; he is bursting with life and contagious enthusiasm for the good news of Jesus, bearing witness to the way God is at work in our world.<br><br>Thanks be to God!<br><br>May the Lord surprise and encourage you this week with glimpses of the surprising ways God is at work in your own neck of the woods.&nbsp; Have a blessed Thanksgiving!<br>&nbsp;</p> Tue, 26 Nov 2013 19:00:00 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/51495-monday-monday https://internationalministries.org/read/51495-monday-monday Out of the mouths of babes... <p>It was wonderful to see grandson Caleb last weekend.&nbsp; What a special treat to join with Cathy, Caleb's little sister Natalie, his parents, Emily and Mike, and his other grandparents, Denise and Terry Farmer, to celebrate Caleb's third birthday!<br><br>The weekend was delightful in more ways than I can say.&nbsp; We are truly privileged people, blessed to have children, blessed to have grandchildren, and blessed to be able to make an interstate journey to celebrate the birthday of a grandchild.&nbsp; <br></p><p>If I were tempted to take all of that for granted, any such temptation was removed the day after I returned from Evansville, as I listened to Ann and Bill Clemmer brief the home office staff of IM about their work in South Sudan, and the incredibly tough context in which they do it.&nbsp; A place where the number one cause of death among women of childbearing age is... pregnancy?&nbsp; A place where mothers carry babies at incredible risk to their lives?&nbsp; Childbirth, whenever a healthy mother and healthy baby emerge, is always an awe-inspiring event for me, ever since I watched David emerge from Cathy, some 34 years ago.&nbsp; I was reminded of that just a few weeks ago, when David and Kristin gave birth to Alexis and, almost at the same time, the family that lives across the street from us welcomed little Hadley, their third daughter.&nbsp; Children, family, health... what precious gifts!&nbsp; And the chance to see one's children and grandchildren, even when they live far away?&nbsp; Priceless!<br><br>In addition to the sheer privilege and joy of the visit, though, there was more.&nbsp; It is always fascinating to be welcomed into the world of a small child.&nbsp; I was looking forward to the chance to enter Caleb's world, even for just a weekend.&nbsp; I was not disappointed. &nbsp;<br><br>My education began shortly after we arrived, when Caleb explained that Cathy and I were not his "regular" grandparents.&nbsp; It's not what you think.&nbsp; Terry and Denise do live just a few miles away from Caleb, right there in Evansville.&nbsp; In the world of a three year old, that would seem to be a great reason for Caleb to call them his "regular" grandparents, as distinguished from his grandparents who live 800 miles away.&nbsp; But no, the title is more wonderful than that.&nbsp; Both of Terry's parents are still living... right there in Evansville.&nbsp; So, Caleb gets to see his <i><b>Great</b></i> Grandpa and <i><b>Great</b></i> Grandma Farmer.&nbsp; And he also gets to see his <i><b>Regular</b></i> Grandpa and his <i><b>Regular</b></i> Grandma Farmer.&nbsp; It is delightful to watch a young mind at work, ordering the world!&nbsp; (One of the challenges of grandparenting, of course, is to receive these little revelations appropriately--which is to say, without rolling on the floor in laughter!!&nbsp; I... am... er, working on that.)<br><br>In addition to sorting out his lines and levels of consanguinity, Caleb's little mind also does quite a bit of theology.&nbsp; Must be in his DNA.&nbsp; On both sides.&nbsp; Like Martin Luther, Caleb loves to sing his theology.&nbsp; Both of his parents love music, and Emily has sung to Caleb since before he was born.&nbsp; He eats it up.&nbsp; His "Mr. Rogers" repertoire is pretty astounding.&nbsp; But it is closely followed by his love for hymns and worship songs.<br><br>His favorite hymn last weekend was one I also love, "Holy, Holy, Holy."&nbsp; Caleb's ability to carry a tune is pretty impressive.&nbsp; But for me, the most fun comes as I listen to the Caleb Standard Version of the lyrics.&nbsp; You've probably heard the joke about the Sunday School kids who sang enthusiastically about "Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear."&nbsp; Caleb made his addition to our store of unique lyrics this weekend.&nbsp; The line from Caleb's rendition of his current favorite hymn that really made my weekend, musically, was this:&nbsp; "Holy, Holy, Holy, Merciful and Potty...."&nbsp;&nbsp; (See the "challenges of grandparenting," above.&nbsp; This time, Grandpa Stan failed... totally and deliriously.)<br><br>When grandpa recovered (a process that took s-o-m-e&nbsp; m-i-n-u-t-e-s!), I gave thanks to the one who is, indeed, both merciful and mighty.&nbsp; What a wonderful little window into Caleb's world.&nbsp; And mine.&nbsp; How often do we "make sense" of what we hear in a way strikingly like Caleb?&nbsp; He just <i><b>knew</b></i> that hymn was talking about "potty," because it is such a big thing in his world these days.&nbsp; (We love our "big boy pants"!)&nbsp; How often do I "hear" what my own preoccupations and struggles prime me to hear, rather than what others--including God--are actually saying?<br><br>Jesus told a story about this in Matthew 18:23-35.&nbsp; There is much to be learned here, of course.&nbsp; Far more than I could begin to touch on in a brief reflection.&nbsp; But I am struck by the similarity between Caleb's rendition of the hymn lyrics and what the forgiven-but-unforgiving servant seems to have heard, as we follow the story Jesus tells.&nbsp; The servant begged his master for time to come up with all the money he owed (18:26).&nbsp; The master did <i><b>not</b></i> grant the servant's request.&nbsp; He did something far more.&nbsp; Instead of a delayed payment schedule, the master forgave him the whole debt.&nbsp; Just cancelled it all.&nbsp; Did the servant "hear" what the master said?&nbsp; Apparently not.&nbsp; In the parable, he immediately went out and started pressuring all his own debtors, just as if the master had said, "Sure, take a few extra days, <i><b>but bring in everything you owe me</b></i>."&nbsp; Merciful and potty.&nbsp; The servant went out determined to amass the needed sum, just as if the master had given him only what he hoped for, rather than something far, far better.&nbsp; The servant could not embody forgiveness to his debtors, because he really had not "heard" and received into his own heart the forgiveness held out to him by the master.<br><br>How often do we fail to live graciously toward others, because we really have not "heard" God's word of grace to us?&nbsp; We simply cannot imagine such a free and gracious gift.&nbsp; For me?&nbsp; Knowing what I know about me?&nbsp; Grace, you say?&nbsp; Merciful and potty.<br><br>Lord, clear my ears.&nbsp; Clear my head and heart.&nbsp; Let me hear and receive not the projection of what I think you might say, but what you really do say.<br><br>Thank you, dear Caleb.&nbsp; I cannot promise I won't laugh the next time you sing that hymn.&nbsp; In fact, I am laughing now.&nbsp; Can't help it.&nbsp; But I am grateful to be your irregular Grandpa and to learn from and with you about the grace of God.<br><br>May the Lord bless you with eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to receive the amazing reality of grace in Jesus,<br><br>Stan<br></p> Wed, 21 Aug 2013 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/49997-out-of-the-mouths-of-babes- https://internationalministries.org/read/49997-out-of-the-mouths-of-babes- Box? What box? <p>In the donut... outta the box!&nbsp; That's what mission was like for me, this week.<br><br>The donut.&nbsp; Due to its round shape--including, yes, a b-i-g grassy space in the middle--the structure American Baptists built 50 years ago to provide office space to the leaders of the movement and its mission agencies has long been called informally, by its appearance from the air, "the donut."&nbsp; More formally, we call it the, er, "<i><b>Holy</b></i> Donut."<br><br>I spent this last week "in the donut."&nbsp; But <b><i>this</i></b> donut spent the whole week, "out of the box."&nbsp; Our assortment of Daily Specials included:<br><br>Monday - praying and exploring possibilities with an incredible young woman who has already spent several years answering God's call to jump "out of the box" and into one form after another of missionary service.<br><br>Tuesday - reflecting, praying and looking ahead with another amazing woman, now mid-career in missionary service, jumping out of one style of service and into something very different.<br><br>Wednesday - giving thanks for a lifetime of service with yet another amazing woman who is completing her career with International Ministries... and eagerly anticipating our future work together for the Kingdom.&nbsp; "Retirement?"&nbsp; Not going <i><b>near</b></i> that box!<br><br>Thursday - praying, laughing uproariously and dancing in jubilee as two of IM's senior accounting staff led a totally "out of the box" celebration to recognize the faithful service of various American Baptist organizations here in the donut.&nbsp; Accounting staff?&nbsp; Out of the box??&nbsp; Wonderfully!!<br><br>Friday - praying, imagining and rejoicing with a gifted and experienced urban missionary who is bringing a career-full of creative and courageous cross-cultural service in the U.S. into an "out of the box" assignment with IM.<br><br>This morning as we talked, my friend and colleague Ben Chan exclaimed, "Box?&nbsp; <i><b>What</b></i> box?!"&nbsp; We are living in a time of constant innovation, not only in the tech world, but also in the ways and means God is providing for the pursuit of Christ's mission in the world.&nbsp; It seems as though the time of "boxes"--stable, recurring patterns--has been reduced to a speck in the rearview mirror.<br><br>God is on the move, and we are scrambling along after.&nbsp; It can be challenging, but it also seems just about right today, as we prepare to celebrate Pentecost.&nbsp; Come Holy Spirit.&nbsp; Breathe new life into us.&nbsp; Be the wind beneath our wings.&nbsp; Lift us out of the box and carry us... not where we would go, but where you are going.&nbsp; <br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br>p.s.&nbsp; Thank you so much for letting the Spirit use you to lift up this ministry with your prayers and your gifts.&nbsp; If you have been thinking about making a gift to support one of IM's missionaries, <i><b>now</b></i> would be a particularly effective time to do so, with the current <a href="http://www.internationalministries.org/drives/10">Matching Gift Opportunity</a>!<br><br><br></p> Fri, 17 May 2013 14:58:43 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/48337-box-what-box- https://internationalministries.org/read/48337-box-what-box- Dan Fountain's Memorial Service: A Moving and Inspiring Time <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p><p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves/> <w:TrackFormatting/> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:DoNotPromoteQF/> <w:LidThemeOther>EN-US</w:LidThemeOther> <w:LidThemeAsian>X-NONE</w:LidThemeAsian> <w:LidThemeComplexScript>X-NONE</w:LidThemeComplexScript> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> 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*/ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} </style> <![endif]--> </p><p class="MsoNormal">Here's a quick word about the memorial service for Dr. Daniel Fountain last Saturday (April 6)&nbsp; in Florida:&nbsp; WOW!&nbsp; It was a moving, inspiring time of celebrating God’s work in and through the life of an amazingly gifted and dedicated servant of Christ.&nbsp; Reid Trulson gave a great message based on the three Scripture passages Dan himself had preselected for the occasion.&nbsp; Kihomi Ngwemi gave a great personal testimony of the impact Dan and Miriam had on her life and that of the people of Congo.&nbsp; Other speakers made excellent contributions, also—especially Dan &amp; Miriam’s son Paul and grandson Joshua. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">It was the kind of experience that reminds me, personally, what a privilege it is to be part of this mission effort.&nbsp; I think you, too, would have been moved and would have felt proud (in a good way!!).&nbsp; </p> <p class="MsoNormal">Not surprisingly, the service turned out to be quite a missionary reunion, as well.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes"> </span>In addition to the extended Fountain and Niles families, there were plenty of retired missionaries, staff and former members of the board of directors of IM.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Current missionaries included not only Wayne and Katherine (Fountain) Niles from Congo, but also Kihomi, Nzunga and Steve James, all of whom came over from Haiti.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes"> </span>In addition to Reid, the IM staff delegation included Charles Jones, Jim Wiegner and me.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Jim Wiegner took a bunch of photos and captured the whole service on video.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>I assume that will be available more generally at some point.&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormal">I also snapped a few pix and a bit of video.&nbsp; I have put a rough cut video of Kihomi’s message on YouTube:<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjtJ4FSuwhE">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjtJ4FSuwhE</a><span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp;&nbsp; </span>Kihomi's words are both an intimate personal glimpse of her relationship with the Fountains, and also a stirring testimony to the way God's work in and through the Fountains in Congo continues to bless and transform lives thousands of miles away and decades later, as Kihomi and her husband Nzunga serve among the people of Haiti.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Wow.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Praise the Lord.</p> <p></p> Wed, 10 Apr 2013 08:21:28 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/47701-dan-fountain-s-memorial-service-a-moving-and-inspiring-time https://internationalministries.org/read/47701-dan-fountain-s-memorial-service-a-moving-and-inspiring-time Silly Grandpa! <p>"Duh!"&nbsp; That's what I said to myself when it finally hit me.&nbsp; Hey, the fact that I'm in the over-the-hill gang does <b><i>not</i></b> mean I cannot pull this off!&nbsp; So, standing on a train platform in the middle of Asia, I whipped out my phone and recorded video greetings to each of the grandkids.&nbsp; "P-r-e-t-t-y slick," I congratulated myself, as I hit the "send" button.<br><br>Well... maybe there is a little more to it than I thought.&nbsp; <br><br>Oh, I managed both to record and to send the greetings.&nbsp; But, somehow, by the miracle of modern technology, when my little video postcard made it halfway round the world to Ames, Iowa, 2 year old Caleb (hmmm... make that 2.5 year old, about-to-become-a-big-brother, Caleb!) immediately spotted a problem:&nbsp; "Silly Grandpa Stan.&nbsp; Upside down!"&nbsp; <br><br>Whoops?!&nbsp; Fortunately, Caleb knew just how to fix things.&nbsp; His full statement was, "Silly Grandpa Stan.&nbsp; Upside down.&nbsp; Get some coffee!!"<br><br>Oh my.&nbsp; Has he really been making and archiving his <i><b>own</b></i> little video recordings throughout these last 2 (er, 2.5) years?&nbsp; Yep.&nbsp; He has clearly spotted the fact that when Grandpa Stan comes to visit, a dramatic change occurs in coffee consumption at Caleb's house!&nbsp; I wonder what else those little recordings in his brain contain?<br><br>While I wonder what fresh observation will spring "from the mouths of babes," I will take strength from the observations of many of my students this week.&nbsp; At the end of a very intensive week of Bible study, they were full of energy and excitement.&nbsp; <br><br>"I love the way you draw things out of us!"<br><br>"You find a way to affirm and encourage us, even when we share off-the-wall ideas."<br><br>"The more you encourage us, the more we see!"<br><br>That's <i><b>it!</b></i>&nbsp; I was hoping they would notice.&nbsp; Unlike my coffee drinking with Caleb, that is something Grandpa actually wants people to notice.&nbsp; Not for my sake, but for theirs.&nbsp; I pray that they will see what happens when study leaders use their position of authority to create a safe space for people to risk sharing what they think they see in the text.&nbsp; When they feel safe and encouraged, participants begin to trust their eyes more.&nbsp; They begin to trust their insights and their questions more.&nbsp; And as they do, they see more, and see better.&nbsp; And <i><b>that</b></i> is exciting.&nbsp; For all of us!<br><br>Our study was focused on the Gospel of Mark this week.&nbsp; I always love to see people have a fresh encounter with Jesus, as they have a truly fresh encounter with Mark's inspired way of telling Jesus' story.&nbsp; Once again, by the grace of God, that happened.&nbsp; And that is a wonderful reward, all by itself.&nbsp; <br><br>But I always hope for something more.&nbsp; I hope that participants will notice not only <i><b>what</b></i> we are learning together, but <i><b>how</b></i>.&nbsp; I am eager for them to catch a vision for how they, too, can nurture the adventure of discovery in others.&nbsp; I hope the impact of the week together will be multiplied.&nbsp; My prayer is always that participants will take what they have learned, and use it to help others enter into the same joy of discovery and encounter that they have experienced. <br><br>Time will tell, on this week's study.&nbsp; We live and serve in hope.&nbsp; <br><br>Of course, it is also nice, from time to time, to learn that the hope gets fulfilled.&nbsp;&nbsp; I'm grateful to report that happened again recently.&nbsp; A former student sent me an email that made my day--and more!&nbsp; The note explained that Bible study time in a church in the middle of the U.S. has been revolutionized as the new pastor has put into practice with them the approach he learned as we looked at the Bible together in a classroom, several years ago.<br><br>Thank you, Lord, for the chance to be part of what you do in the world.&nbsp; And thank you, Paul, for passing along the word!&nbsp; <br><br>And thanks to all of you who make these ministry activities possible, with your gifts and with your prayers!&nbsp; I am grateful for your partnership in the mission of Jesus.&nbsp; Wherever this finds you today, may you be blessed... and be a blessing to others!<br><br>Now... I'm going to give it another try with the phone camera.&nbsp; Caleb, have you seen Grandpa's coffee cup??<br></p><p><br>Stan<br><br></p> Sun, 17 Mar 2013 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/47338-silly-grandpa- https://internationalministries.org/read/47338-silly-grandpa- Prayer Requests from IM Missionaries for World Day of Prayer on March 1st <!--[endif]---->Friday, March 1st is World Day of Prayer 2013.&nbsp; Services begin at sunrise in the Pacific and follow the sun across the globe.&nbsp; Women, men and children in more than 170 countries and regions will participate in this ecumenical movement of believers from many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer.&nbsp; It is founded on the idea that informed prayer and prayerful action are inseparable in the service of God’s kingdom. &nbsp;<p></p><p class="MsoNormal">International Ministries asked some of the missionaries for prayer requests from their fields of service.&nbsp; We invite you to share them with your friends and family, and in your communities of faith as you join with believers around the world on March 1st.&nbsp; Or choose another date that works for your community.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">The host country for 2013 is France, on the topic, “I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me” encouraging welcome for migrant people worldwide.&nbsp; It strives for a Christian response to struggles concerning immigration and for ways to welcome “the stranger” and to identify with “the least of these” in Matthew 25.&nbsp; The focus this year draws on customs of hospitality found in Leviticus to paint a picture of welcoming the stranger, and to help us put ourselves in the shoes of “the stranger”.&nbsp; We will remember our own feeling of being on the outside, and the joy of the blessings of being welcomed. &nbsp;<b><br><br>Dan Buttry – Global Consultant for Peace, Justice and Conflict Transformation<br></b>1)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for Kenya to have a peaceful election on March 4 and in the weeks before and after.&nbsp; I’ve been working with Central Baptist Theological Seminary’s Wilson Gathungu and others for the last two years in conflict transformation training.&nbsp; In April we will do follow-up trainings and strategy sessions to continue the work for peace.<br><br>2)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for all of Africa, me and Wilson Gathungu of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, as we put together a 10-day Training of Conflict Transformation Trainers in September that will shape key Christian leaders in Bible-based peacemaking skills.&nbsp; Registrants so far are from Zimbabwe, Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><b><br></b>3)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray&nbsp; for the members of the IGNITE team who will be in the Republic of Georgia in May and June, exposing emerging Christian leaders from the U.S. and Georgia to the challenges and opportunities of mission.<b><br><br>Lauran Bethell – Global Consultant for Anti-Human Trafficking<br></b>1)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for those who are walking the streets of Europe, meeting victims of human trafficking/prostitution as they meet together in April in Waterloo, Belgium.&nbsp; Pray that they learn information that strengthens their ministries.&nbsp; Pray for me as I help plan the meeting and also speaks in one of the plenary sessions, that the Holy Spirit will speak words of truth and power through me. <br><br>2)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for the European Baptist Federation’s Anti-Trafficking Network, as they meet together near Barcelona, Spain in April.&nbsp; Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide them to know more effective ways of ministering to victims of trafficking from Africa and Eastern Europe.<br><b><br>Ingrid Roldán-Román missionary in Panama &amp; Costa Rica:<br></b>1)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for students of the School Tutoring Program in Changuinola, Bocas del Toro, Panama so they can continue to acquire skills that will help them in their learning process and that through me they will know God. <br><br>2)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for the membership of the Baptist Church in Sixaola, Costa Rica that can remain faithful to God and sharing the gospel with others.<br><br>3)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for my return to the mission field after my time at home for Puerto Rico &amp; US visitations.<b><br><br>Dan and Sarah Chetti missionaries in Lebanon:<br></b>1)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;After 7 years of ministry among imprisoned maids in Lebanon, I (Sarah) am launching INSAAF – an Integrated Center for the Ministry among the Maids.&nbsp; Please pray that the harassed, discriminated, suffering maids from several Asian and African countries will find a safe haven where someone listens to their stories and ministers to their needs.&nbsp; Please pray for people to help me, to convert the building creating counseling and work stations, and for money for the renovation work.<br><br>2)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Lebanon right now is over whelmed by more than 200,000 refugees due to conflicts in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Families are living in difficult situations including unfinished buildings open to the elements in this cold winter season.&nbsp; Many refugees are Christian minorities, and the students of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (where we work) identify with the refugees and are deeply disturbed by these changes in society.&nbsp; Join us and our students in praying that Lebanese churches will reach out to the refugees and minister among them, and for churches &amp; donors in the US who would like to participate in this ministry. &nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><br><b>Kit Ripley missionary in Thailand:<br></b>1)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Please pray for the ministry of the New Life Center Foundation.&nbsp; We work with tribal girls who have experienced labor exploitation, domestic violence, sexual abuse or human trafficking, and girls who are "at risk".&nbsp; We are in a period of structural change and staff transitions, and are seeking God's guidance as we consider how we can be best equipped to meet the changing needs of tribal girls in the upcoming years.<br></p><p class="MsoNormal">2)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Insufficient access to citizenship continues to be a challenge for minority people groups in Thailand.&nbsp; Please pray for the government to open up channels so that minority people can access legal Thai citizenship.&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><b>Wendy Bernhard missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo:<br></b>1)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for our seminaries and Bible institutes as they prepare pastors for ministry in today's turbulent world.<br></p><p class="MsoNormal">2)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for the young people of Congo, that they would learn and follow Christ's way in their lives.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><b>Deb Mulneix – development worker in India and Nepal:<br></b>1)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Making strangers into friends is the goal of all of all of our Partners in Ministry in India and Nepal.&nbsp; This week, I received news about the weddings of two new friends.&nbsp; Not long ago, these women were selling alcohol, drugs, and sometimes themselves.&nbsp; Then they were introduced to Christ.&nbsp; Today, they understand the difference between loving someone and using them.&nbsp; Their new husbands show them respect that they have never experienced before.&nbsp; Now that's a Welcome to a Stranger!&nbsp; Please keep these new families in your prayers, as well as the shelter and the women and staff who work there.<br></p><p class="MsoNormal">2)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Education in India is a very high priority.&nbsp; Our early missionaries were aware of the need and established many schools around the country.&nbsp; Today, Christian schools are well respected, and many non-Christian children are enrolled in them.&nbsp; The residents of a small, remote village approached their Christian neighbors to open a school. Even though they had no funds, no teachers, and no buildings, these believers began a school.&nbsp; The first year there were 75 students, and today, three years later, they number around 350, with less than 10 of these students from Christian homes.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Like this one, many of our schools are in remote areas, and funding is not easily available.&nbsp; Please keep the students, faculty, staff, and parents of our Christian schools in your prayers.<b><br><br>Mike Mann – Global Consultant for Rural Development:<br></b>1)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Many villagers in China, Burma and Thailand live in extreme poverty and do not have access to clean water, proper sanitation and micro-loans. Pray for the mission projects that will address these challenges giving villagers hope for a healthier life and stronger economic future. &nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><b>Madeline Flores-López missionary in the Dominican Republic:<br></b>1)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for our economy which is directly affecting many families in the DR – a basket of basic supplies has gone up from 16% to 26%. Food and basic needs are now more prohibited and unaffordable for poor families. <br><br>2)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for our college students who are the future in the DR.&nbsp; They face expensive transportation, no school supplies, and limited opportunities making an education nearly impossible. Please pray for more opportunities and scholarships for college students.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><b>Chuck and Ruth Fox missionaries in Thailand:<br></b>1)&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Pray for children all over the world who are in need of education, and particularly for the children who receive Student Tuition Expense Program (STEP) funds through IM.&nbsp; We have many Akha children who are receiving educational support because of the generosity of individuals and churches; we pray that others in need will receive help, and that those in STEP will see and understand the help they receive as God's provision in their lives.</p><p class="MsoNormal">2)&nbsp;&nbsp; Pray for the Chiang Rai International Christian School (CRICS), a school created to "serve the servant" families who come to minister in many capacities to the people of northern Thailand.&nbsp; Please pray for the development of the school as it grows, particularly for 5 full-time volunteer teachers who have a heart to serve here.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Many non-Christian Thai children are also coming to the school now, and we are excited to see them come to an understanding of Jesus and his love for them</p>3)&nbsp;&nbsp; Pray for the Akha people, that they might come to all know the saving power of Jesus Christ, but also discover what His love and the power of the Holy Spirit can mean in practical ways to achieve peace and unity...in their families, in their communities, in the church and in relationship to other Christian groups, as well.<br><br>4) Pray for the projects that are helping to provide self-sufficiency for the Akha people, namely the Akha Craft program, coffee production and drug rehabilitation efforts.&nbsp; May these programs be strengthened and may the people involved develop the leadership skills they need to carry these programs forward.<br><br><b>Stan Slade - Global Consultant for Theological Education</b>&nbsp; <span style="mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;color:black; mso-themecolor:text1"></span> <br><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG></o:AllowPNG> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG></o:AllowPNG> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal"><i><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;color:black">"Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith"</span></i><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;color:black"> (Galatians 6:8).</span><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;"></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal"><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;color:black">We have something like 100,000 family members in desperate straits in the northern part of Burma (Myanmar). &nbsp;After a 17-year ceasefire in the conflict between the Kachin people and the central government, the Burmese army launched an offensive against northern Kachin State in June of 2011. &nbsp;The civilian and military authorities do not appear to be on the same page, as fighting has continued even after the government announced a new ceasefire. &nbsp;Roughly 100,000 Kachin people are now living as war refugees in their own country, displaced by 20 months of armed conflict. &nbsp;Most of them are Baptists. &nbsp;</span><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;"></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal"><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;color:black">I was in Burma in December, and worshiped with a congregation of Kachin Baptists in Yangon (Rangoon), down in the southern part of the country. &nbsp;I was moved by the stories I heard and the photos I saw. &nbsp;The Kachin in Yangon are out of the line of fire, but their hearts are heavy with sorrow, as they are in constant contact with their friends and family in the north. &nbsp;They pray continually, and put feet on their prayers with a wide variety of efforts to provide emergency relief and encouragement to the displaced victims of the fighting.</span><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;"></span></p><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;color:black"> </span><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;"></span> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal"><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;color:black">Pray for peace. &nbsp;Pray that God will touch the hearts of the Burmese military and civilian leaders, as well as the Kachin resistance. &nbsp;May the Lord raise up courageous leaders on all sides of the conflict, so that a just solution to the deep and difficult issues may be found through peaceful means.</span><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;"></span></p><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;color:black"> </span><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;;mso-fareast-font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;"></span> <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal"><span style="font-size:11.0pt;font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;color:black">The conflict with the Kachin people is just one of several such conflicts in Burma. &nbsp;They are all desperately in need of radical, grace-filled transformation. &nbsp;But this is the hottest of the conflicts at the moment. &nbsp;For the sake of our Kachin Baptist brothers and sisters, and all the peoples of Burma, pray that God's will might indeed be done on earth—and especially, in that little part of earth known as northern Kachin State--as it is in heaven.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal"><br></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal"><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG/> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;line-height: normal"><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves/> <w:TrackFormatting/> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:DoNotPromoteQF/> <w:LidThemeOther>EN-US</w:LidThemeOther> 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QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading"/> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";} </style> <![endif]--> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;; color:black;mso-themecolor:text1">To read journals by the missionaries, global consultants and development workers, click on their name under PEOPLE at the top of the IM website. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;; color:black;mso-themecolor:text1">To see mission projects that support their ministries, click on ALL PROJECTS under PROJECTS at the top of the IM website.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>You can filter the list of projects by country.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Or go to a missionary’s profile page, and click on PROJECTS to see just those projects submitted by that missionary. </span><span style="mso-bidi-font-family:Arial;color:black"></span></p> </p> Tue, 12 Feb 2013 19:00:00 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/46861-prayer-requests-from-im-missionaries-for-world-day-of-prayer-on-march-1st https://internationalministries.org/read/46861-prayer-requests-from-im-missionaries-for-world-day-of-prayer-on-march-1st Hey Buddy... <p>"...you ever had any trouble with the law?"<br><br>It was probably good that the Lord steered me away from riffing on Acts 4:19 in that moment.&nbsp; My "buddy" was almost certainly not in a receptive mood.&nbsp; Not that he was showing signs of ill temper.&nbsp; No, he seemed like a really good guy, taking things in stride.&nbsp; In fact, I was amazed by his composure and good humor.&nbsp; Under the circumstances.<br><br>After all, his 7:00 am appointment had actually shown up.&nbsp; (I have to believe the no-show rate for those "first appointment of the day" slots is pretty high.&nbsp; I mean, when <i>both</i> the reception guy and the tech guy act surprised to see you, even the slow-witted among us... with our brains still struggling to emerge from early-morning fog... even in such circumstances, we begin to detect a pattern.)<br><br>Worse yet, my "buddy" had a setup that was much less ready to go than he was.&nbsp; <i><b>Not</b></i> the place to proudly display a large "your tax dollars at work" banner.&nbsp; <br></p><p>The guy had a crummy desk, in a crummy little cramped office, just off the small waiting area with the chairs my local Goodwill Industries branch would never have been willing to receive as a donation.&nbsp; The photographic apparatus with which he would take my picture (for official use!) looked, for all the world, like a webcam that had been rescued from a flea market, connected to his computer (of which, more in a moment) and then perched on top of a plastic doughnut sitting on top of a hot/cold drink foam sleeve.&nbsp; When he asked me to look into the eyeball camera, I (with great difficulty!) summoned the inner strength needed to resisted the urge to reach out and twist the doughnut.&nbsp; But I could not resist the impulse to ask whether the eyeball was actually able to see me.&nbsp; I mean, it was pointed at the other side of the room, and clearly casting only a furtive glance at me through the corner of its little plastic lens.&nbsp; He assured me that the little eyeball could see me just fine, so I complied and, after a few takes, he pronounced our photo effort "good."&nbsp; <br><br>The extra takes were not, I swear, my fault.&nbsp; I patiently looked the little eyeball right in the corner of its cornea, just as instructed.&nbsp; The issue was not me, but the computer to which the eyeball was connected.<br><br>By the time we got to the picture-taking part of things, Buddy had already grumbled half a dozen times about the silicon fossil.&nbsp; He had apologized.&nbsp; More than once.&nbsp; He had explained that it was "touchy" some mornings.&nbsp; (I maintained discreet silence.)&nbsp; He seemed to have re-started the application we were using at least twice, though I may have lost count.&nbsp; He had even gotten up from his desk, walked around to the Jurassic CPU sitting under the shelf next to me and performed what astute anthropological observer and commentator Dave Barry would call a "guy inspection":&nbsp; he bent down, pulled the unit toward him, rotated it this way and that, and verified that it was both plugged in and composed of... "parts."&nbsp; Well.&nbsp; After assuring himself that it did, indeed, have wires sticking out the back, he gave it a whack, returned to his chair, clicked a few more times, and explained that it was now time to place my fingers on the only piece of equipment in the office that looked like it had actually been acquired for this purpose, the fingerprint scanner.<br><br>You have to feel for a guy who is expected to Defend The Free World at such an early hour, with such a digital menagerie.<br><br>Buddy apologized profusely.&nbsp; No need.&nbsp; I was actually comforted by the sight of this guy trying to do his best for the country under such daunting conditions.&nbsp; <br><br>So, I left Biblical exegesis out of it and assured Buddy that no, I was on the up &amp; up, aside from the occasional involuntary contribution to the maintenance of our nation's highways (or at least, to the provision of security for them).&nbsp; Fortunately, he seemed to take my word for it.&nbsp; Not that I have a rap sheet to hide, mind you.&nbsp; But Lord knows, if he had tried to use that computer to run a background check, I'd be writing this from a chair under the watchful, if skewed, surveillance of the plastic eyeball.<br><br>I was grateful when Buddy pronounced us a success.&nbsp; We'll see.&nbsp; (Though we may have to look out of the corner of our eyes??)&nbsp; The claim, at least, is that TSA has now outfitted me with a "global entry" permit, so I can zip past the long lines at the immigration windows when I come back from international travels.&nbsp; <br><br>I'm eager to give it a whirl.&nbsp; If it works, I can tell you right where to find me:&nbsp; I'll be the first guy standing at the carousel, wondering why the baggage guys can't do as well with their equipment as Buddy did with his!</p><p>May the Lord sprinkle joy into your day, too, whether or not you get to spend time with Buddy!<br></p><p>Stan<br></p> Tue, 08 Jan 2013 20:36:49 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/46286-hey-buddy- https://internationalministries.org/read/46286-hey-buddy- (not quite) Home for Christmas <p>It is not over yet, but we have already had a wonderful time as a family this Christmas.&nbsp; We did not manage to get everyone together in one place.&nbsp; That was the amazing blessing of Thanksgiving for us this year:&nbsp; everyone together again for a few days--wow!&nbsp; This week it has been our turn to share, as two of our three next-gen families were blessing the in-laws with their presence.&nbsp; We were very grateful for the technology and the opportunity to talk with them on Christmas day.&nbsp; And we were delighted to have the other next-gen family right here with us:&nbsp; Anna, Tim, CJ (5) and Naomi (10 months).&nbsp; For all of these blessings, thank you, Lord!&nbsp; <br><br>I have been immersed in the enjoyment of this great gift this week.&nbsp; But the mind is an amazing thing, able to be almost 100% present while still occasionally zipping off for a few moments in unexpected directions.&nbsp; And then, even with a houseful, there are the times of solitude.&nbsp; I've had more than the usual quota this year.&nbsp; (Memo to self:&nbsp; among the many ways to move through the time of preparation we call Advent, spending the last 2 weeks on the other side of the planet is not the most effective for clear-headedness on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.&nbsp; The 12 time zone adjustment obeys its own biological imperative... bestowing, along the way, sleepiness when one wishes to be alert and alertness when one wishes to be sleeping like the others.)<br><br>So it is that I have found myself often engaged in prayer for Kachin Baptist brothers and sisters over these last few days, mostly in the middle of the night, but also from time to time throughout the day.<br><br>Some 100,000 of them have had more in common with Joseph, Mary and Jesus than with me, this Christmas.<br><br>Luke's Gospel tells us that as Jesus' birth drew near, Joseph and Mary were on the road, due to the requirements of the imperial census.&nbsp;&nbsp; It was a very curious kind of "on the road," though.&nbsp; The place Joseph actually took Mary, in order to register with the census-takers, was... home.&nbsp; Since his family was originally from Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary made the trip south from Nazareth, so that Joseph could do his duty.<br><br>So, that first Christmas, Joseph, Mary &amp; Jesus were in their ancestral homeland.&nbsp; But, curiously, Luke tells us they were not <i><b>in</b></i> the ancestral home.&nbsp; They were outside the main house.&nbsp; With the animals.&nbsp; <br><br>Luke doesn't give us the details.&nbsp; We don't know if there was "no room" for them inside because the rest of the family reacted less nobly than Joseph to Mary's not-the-usual way condition.&nbsp; Or maybe it was that Joseph's particular branch of the extended family had been away from Bethlehem so long that their arrival caught everyone unprepared (neglecting to text their ETA from the road was a filial failing that had not yet been invented!).&nbsp; Perhaps the issue truly was just a matter of space:&nbsp; perhaps the rest of the extended family had already occupied every nook and cranny of ancestral housing by the time Joseph and his precious cargo finally came straggling in.<br><br>Whatever the reason, Joseph and his little family spent that first Christmas both "at home" and very much not "at home."&nbsp; (Matthew's Gospel adds that things quickly got worse for the little family:&nbsp; they rapidly morphed from "internally displaced persons" to full-fledged "refugees" as they crossed the border into Egypt to protect the life of their infant son.&nbsp; But that is a story for another time.)<br><br>There are something like 100,000 Kachin people, most of them Baptists, who spent Christmas of 2012 in a similar situation.&nbsp; They are an ethnic minority people whose ancestral homeland includes Kachin State, a part of northern Myanmar (Burma) that borders China.&nbsp; Like other ethnic minority groups in Myanmar (most famously, the Karen people), the Kachins have been struggling with the central government for decades.&nbsp; Just as that government has begun to take significant steps to cultivate better relationships with the rest of the world (and especially, with the U.S.), it has cast aside a 1994 ceasefire agreement with Kachin independence forces and launched a major military operation into northern Kachin State.&nbsp; The estimates are that military operations over the last 18 months have produced 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), living in camps along the border between China and Myanmar.<br><br>I am very far from being an expert on this conflict.&nbsp; The complexities of the history and the dynamics that feed the current violence go beyond my understanding.&nbsp; But it has been much on my mind and heart since the second week of Advent, when I discovered it was very much on the minds and hearts of my hosts and conversation partners in Myanmar.&nbsp; The leader of the large and very dynamic Baptist movement throughout the country arose from our conversation in his Yangon office early in the week to travel to the northern border and visit the camps.&nbsp; Later in the week, a long-time leader of the NGO community in Yangon urged me to look for ways that American Baptists could more effectively stand with our Kachin sisters and brothers.&nbsp; And the last thing I did before boarding the plane to leave Myanmar was worship at Yangon Kachin Baptist Church.&nbsp; There, our prayers for the suffering families of Newtown, CT, were mingled with our prayers for the suffering families of Kachin State.<br><br>They are in their ancestral homeland.&nbsp; But, whether living as IDPs in border camps or as traumatized survivors in contested territory, they are anything but "at home" this Christmas.<br><br>I do not yet know all of what I, or International Ministries, will be led to do on behalf of our Kachin, Karen and other sisters and brothers in Christ who are home but not "at home" this Christmas.&nbsp; (And those suffering in Syria?&nbsp; And those who are still picking up the pieces of their shattered lives post-Sandy and post-Sandy Hook?&nbsp; And those who are <i><b>still</b></i> displaced almost three years after the Haitian earthquake?&nbsp; And...?&nbsp; There is truly no shortage of disrupted lives in our world!)<br><br>So far, I've been praying.&nbsp; I plan to continue that.&nbsp; God loves the Kachins (and the Karen, and the Syrians, and the Americans and the Haitians and...) infinitely more than I do.&nbsp; God's patient work in the world--the whole world--is the only framework that keeps me from falling into overwhelmed despair in the face of the needs we can see.&nbsp; Praying is what puts me in perspective.&nbsp; It reminds me where I fit in the big picture.&nbsp; I certainly feel called to "do something."&nbsp; But unless the first (and last!) thing I do is to pray, I will quickly lose perspective on how the tiny contribution I might make could be part of the much larger, much longer, much deeper work of God in history.&nbsp; Without the bigger perspective, my too-puny efforts will simply become paralyzed.<br><br>Spending part of Advent in Myanmar has both reminded me of an element of the Christmas story, and added another dimension to my prayers that God's Reign will fully come and God's good and redeeming will be fully done, on earth, as in heaven.&nbsp; I am grateful for the foretastes of that redemption I am privileged to witness and to experience, while I pray for--and play a small role in--God's work to bring about infinitely more.&nbsp; May you, also, have the joy both of receiving and of extending to others the grace and love of God that is surely bearing us toward that "infinitely more."<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br></p> Wed, 26 Dec 2012 15:02:11 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/46117-not-quite-home-for-christmas https://internationalministries.org/read/46117-not-quite-home-for-christmas Music to My Ears <p><i>"I thought I knew these stories in Acts, but I'm amazed at the new things I found."</i><br><i><br></i><i>"What I really liked about this study was that the speaker did not come to tell us what to think, but helped us to discover the meaning for ourselves."</i><br><i><br></i>It was, as they say, music to my ears.&nbsp;&nbsp; The music was playing day before yesterday in CEPAD's Nehemiah Center in Managua, where I had just spent three days with pastors and congregational leaders (CEPAD is Nicaragua's Council of Evangelical Churches for Denominational Alliance).&nbsp; Gilberto Aguirre, affectionately known to all as El Profe ("the Prof"), was conducting an evaluation session at the end of our inductive study of the Book of Acts.&nbsp; <br><br>I appreciate positive feedback as much as anyone.&nbsp; It is a wonderful encouragement to be thanked for our efforts.&nbsp; It is very affirming to be both warmly welcomed and eagerly invited back.&nbsp; Feels great.<br><br>But the kind of response I both pray for and work for goes far beyond "getting strokes," as good as that feels.&nbsp; My desire is to be used by God to help people grow, not only in knowledge, but in capacity.&nbsp; I am especially eager to help people expand their capacity to discover the meaning of Scripture by working together as a learning community.&nbsp; I am no Paul of Tarsus, but I share his desire to work in a way that helps us all to grow into maturity in Christ (Colossians 1:28).<br><br>There is nothing I can do to force that outcome.&nbsp; Sometimes what I don't do is the most important thing.&nbsp; Waiting.&nbsp; Resisting the urge pour out my own views.&nbsp; Or, at least, resisting that urge long enough to allow others to do some creative thinking.&nbsp; <br><br>Of course, not everything is unprompted discovery.&nbsp; I share not only silence, but also the fruit of learning I've had the privilege to do previously.&nbsp; But, if I can couple that prior learning with careful listening to the observations and questions in the room, I can use it less to supplant and more to support the learning that others are doing.&nbsp; If I can affirm and encourage fellow learners to risk sharing their own observations, questions and hypotheses--even, or perhaps especially, when their ideas do not quite seem to me to be "on the mark,"&nbsp; it builds confidence in the group and accelerates their rate of discovery.&nbsp; Delightfully, it can accelerate my own rate of discovery, too! <br><br>At the end of the evaluation session, Dámaris Albuquerque, CEPAD's executive director, spoke on behalf of the group and the whole organization:&nbsp; "Thank you for coming and for giving yourself to us again this week.&nbsp; Please express our gratitude to International Ministries for enabling you to come!'<br><br>I am, indeed, grateful to International Ministries for the opportunity to serve in Nicaragua this week. I am also deeply grateful to you for the prayer and financial support that makes this service possible!<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br></p> Sat, 10 Nov 2012 13:24:52 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/45460-music-to-my-ears https://internationalministries.org/read/45460-music-to-my-ears missionARY - mission FIELD <p><i>"When we went to Mexico, we saw ourselves as the missionaries.&nbsp; What we discovered is that we are the mission field."</i><br><br>That's how my friend and veteran IM missionary Chuck Shawver put it, when we were together this summer.&nbsp; His words have stuck with me.&nbsp; They capture something important about my own experience, too.&nbsp; It was true in El Salvador, where we lived in the 1980s.&nbsp; It has been true in the many places I have visited and served since then.&nbsp; It is true in Valley Forge.<br><br>I see it also, over and over, in Scripture.&nbsp; God sends messengers, people called both to carry and to embody a message for the sake of others.&nbsp; But God is always also at work in and on those very messengers, calling them more deeply into the message they carry.&nbsp; From Abraham's encounter with Abimelech (Genesis 20) to Peter's experience with Cornelius (Acts 10)--and at many points in between--the mission<i><b>aries</b></i> discover they are also the mission <i><b>field</b></i>.<br><br>This dimension of our walk with the Lord came up again last night in Dover, Delaware, during a conversation with the good folks of Dover's First Baptist Church.&nbsp; We touched on the global context of mission today, and the dynamics at work in the worldwide Christian movement.&nbsp; But we focused primarily on the practice of mission, whether our mission service takes us across an ocean or across the street:&nbsp; we are always both agents and objects of mission, both instruments God is using and clay that the Divine Potter is shaping and filling with the treasure of the gospel.<br><br>I have come to love the spot in his letter to the believers in Rome, where Paul catches and corrects himself on this very point:&nbsp; <i>"For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you--or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine"</i> (Romans 1:11-12).&nbsp; <br><br>Mission<i><b>ary</b></i> or mission <i><b>field</b></i>?&nbsp; Paul saw himself as both.&nbsp; May the Lord give us grace always to see ourselves that way, too.&nbsp; It is a wonderful thing to be used by God.&nbsp; It is a humbling, but no less wonderful thing, to be a work in progress.&nbsp; It is normal--but not for being "normal," any less wonderful--to be both.<br><br>Last weekend I bought some tea at the Hy-Vee supermarket on the west side of Ames, Iowa.&nbsp; What a mess.&nbsp; The parking lot is torn up.&nbsp; The inside of the building has temporary walls all over the place.&nbsp; There are many, many clear vinyl sheets hanging about, to keep the dust from construction activities away from the food they are selling.&nbsp; But, they <i><b>are</b></i>, indeed, selling food.&nbsp; Lots and lots of it.&nbsp; There's more food under that roof and surrounded by those plastic drapes than in many a small village around the world.&nbsp; That supermarket is clearly both "on the job" and "under construction."&nbsp; Just like me.<br><br>Thanks for your partnership in the gospel.&nbsp; Whether today finds you feeling more like an "under construction" mission field today, or more like an "on the job" missionary, may you take heart in the calling to be both.<br></p>Stan<br> Thu, 25 Oct 2012 09:06:28 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/45211-missionary-mission-field https://internationalministries.org/read/45211-missionary-mission-field "Entrust to faithful people..." <p> <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"?? ??"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:"?? ??"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; 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margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --> </style> </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">Phelisters Nalyaka is a woman with a strong personality, and an even stronger commitment to Jesus Christ.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>She is a Pentecostal pastor in one of Nairobi's largest slums--a tough ministry challenge for any person, but especially so for a woman.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>She is also a Bible study coordinator, helping other pastors and church members to delve deeper into Scripture and to live out the truths they find there.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Phelisters is also a friend.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>It has been a privilege to get to know her over the last 6 years and to encourage her in the vital ministry God has given her.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">The Gospels tell us that Jesus had an important ministry to large crowds of people.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>He announced the arrival of God's Reign to multitudes.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>He displayed the presence of that rescuing, restoring Reign as he healed many of their diseases and delivered from oppression by evil spirits.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">But the Gospels also make it clear that Jesus invested a very large portion of his time and energy in a very small group, the twelve.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Despite their all-too-human weaknesses and limitations (which the Gospels also go out of their way to describe!), God used this small group as the human launchpad for what eventually became a massive movement.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">The Book of Acts describes how the small group at the heart of the Jesus movement grew and diversified, adding a "booster stage" (to continue with my old-fashioned rocketeering metaphor) to the movement.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>People who were truly at home in bicultural living--like Barnabas, Stephen, Philip, Paul, Silas, Timothy, Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos and others--played a key role in carrying the Jesus movement far beyond the geographic and cultural limitations of Palestine.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">As the movement expanded and diversified, one of the things that remained constant was its leadership development strategy.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>In the leadership letter our Bibles identify as 2 Timothy, Paul urged Timothy to take what he had learned, to identify "faithful people who will be able to teach others as well," and to entrust the life-changing message to them.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Like Jesus, Paul had the chance to speak to large crowds.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>But, also like Jesus, he focused on the formation of key people who would take the movement forward.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">One of the joys of my annual return to Kenya for the <a href="http://www.bereansafari.org/">BereanSafari</a> leadership training event is precisely the chance to go deeper with some faithful people, both in the relationships we have been building over the last 6 years, and in our shared understanding of what it means to follow--and encourage others to follow--Jesus today.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">This year's BereanSafari brought together more than 70 participants from 8 countries.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>They included university students, student ministry leaders, pastors from small rural churches and pastors from large urban churches--and even an up-and-coming Christian rap group (the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjrP1Vs3gTY&amp;noredirect=1">Super Concaves</a>)!<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Together we spent a week delving into the New Testament in four different study groups, lead by African and Western faculty members from 4 different countries.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>It was a rich, rich, experience.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">I had the privilege of working once again with Phelisters and a small group of her colleagues in slum ministry.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>They had requested that one of the study groups focus on Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth, so that is what we did together.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>We had fascinating discussions, both about the message Paul sent to the first generation of believers in Corinth, and about its relevance to the pastoral challenges these leaders face in Kenyan churches today.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>We laughed, struggled, encouraged one another, sang our praises to God and devoted ourselves to prayer.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>And, at the end, we all agreed that the Lord had blessed us with an amazing time together, preparing each of us to return to our various ministry challenges with renewed dedication.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">Thank you for making it possible for me to encourage Phelisters and her colleagues.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the challenges of ministry before me, I think of Phelisters, Richard, Alex, Alois, Peter, Dina, Joseph, Kanai Jay, Linus, Chris and the others.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>They are serving selflessly among some of the most overwhelmed people on our planet.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>What a privilege to play even a small role in encouraging them, and equipping them to rise to the challenges they face.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>They are truly "faithful people who will teach others," to whom it is a joy to entrust what I have received--and with whom to discover together the new things God has for us all!</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">May the Lord also bless and encourage you today, making you a blessing and encouragement to those you are privileged to meet and to serve.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">Stan</span></p> Thu, 28 Jun 2012 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/43530-entrust-to-faithful-people- https://internationalministries.org/read/43530-entrust-to-faithful-people- "I Like It!" <P>We were in the final moments of class, after an intensive week of study in the book of Genesis.&nbsp; My new friend, Dr. Monel Jules, was speaking to the students who had so energetically thrown themselves into the study of the text all week.&nbsp; Monel is the Dean of the Theology Faculty at the <A href="http://www.ucnh.org/">Christian University of North Haiti (UCNH)</A>. <BR><BR>We had had a good week together.&nbsp; It always takes a little while to establish rapport with a new group ("Does this stranger have anything to offer?"&nbsp; "Does he respect us?"&nbsp;&nbsp; "Will he use our questions only to embarrass or humiliate us?" and so on).&nbsp;&nbsp; The UCNH students caught on quickly.&nbsp; Halfway through the first day, they realized I was serious about working with their own observations and questions, rather than simply telling them what to think.&nbsp; From then on, our discussion times were very high-energy.<BR><BR>At the end of the week, I was moved by the expressions of gratitude from many students.&nbsp; And I was delighted by Monel's closing remarks, both to the students and to me:&nbsp; "This week, Professor Slade has led you to immerse yourselves in the text of the Bible and to find the meaning for yourselves--<B><I>I like it!</I></B>"<BR><BR>I like it, too.&nbsp; It is much harder to carry out my preferred, highly-interactive approach to teaching and learning, when working with an interpreter.&nbsp; If it were not for Monel's very gifted work as a translator, we would have made little progress during the week.&nbsp; But he was terrific.&nbsp; And, though I never recovered enough of my long-dead French to put three coherent sentences together, I could follow enough of what both Monel and the students were saying to stay with the flow of conversation.&nbsp; (It was a mercy that the UCNH language of instruction is French; if they had been speaking Creole, I would have been completely lost!).&nbsp; Also very helpful was the strong emphasis on learning English at UCNH.&nbsp; Their situation with English was the mirror-image of mine with French:&nbsp; very few of the students felt comfortable speaking in English, but almost all of them could get the gist of my comments--and then have them reinforced by Monel's excellent translation.&nbsp; <BR><BR>As we went through the week, many of the students experienced wonderful "aha!" moments, as they saw things in the text of Genesis that they had never noticed before.&nbsp; We ran out of week, long before we ran out of energy and enthusiasm!<BR><BR>It is a privilege to have the chance to work with such eager learners.&nbsp; I was especially moved by their energy and enthusiasm, in the light of the very tough context in which they live and work.&nbsp; Haiti has suffered terribly, for a very long time.&nbsp; The trauma of the 2010 earthquake (and subsequent cholera outbreaks) has been severe, but by no means isolated.&nbsp; I am grateful for the chance to encourage some of the young men and women who are clearly part of Haiti's hope for the future.<BR><BR>Thank you for the prayers and gifts by which you make this ministry possible!<BR><BR>Blessings,<BR>Stan<BR><BR>P.S.&nbsp; In addition to the privilege of serving with dedicated Haitian leaders, it was a special treat to connect here with a number of others who are part of the team of encouragers that American Baptists make available to our Haitian brothers and sisters:&nbsp; <A href="http://www.internationalministries.org/teams/54-carrion-rosa">Deliris Carrion</A> (IM missionary working in relief and development in Port au Prince, especially with disabled children); <A href="http://www.internationalministries.org/teams/86-kihomi-and-nzunga">Nzunga Mabudiga and Kihomi Ngwemi</A> (IM missionaries working with UCNH and with the women of the Haitian Baptist Convention--thanks for the ice cream and fellowship, friends!!); <A href="http://www.internationalministries.org/people/1477-herb-rogers">Herb Rogers</A> (former IM missionary to Haiti and now, in "retirement," serving on <A href="http://www.internationalministries.org/topics/volunteers">IM's volunteer mission support team</A> [VIGM], as well as the UCNH board of directors); <A href="http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1380670387">Allison Fisher</A> (a nurse and friend from our home church who was volunteering here this week); and long-time friend and former Stanford and Fuller classmate, <A href="http://www.kenwoodbaptist.org/Gordom.html">Vic Gordon</A> (pastor of Cincinnati's <A href="http://www.kenwoodbaptist.org/">Kenwood Baptist Churc</A>h), who was at UCNH to teach and attend Board meetings (while a team from Kenwood and the last two churches Vic has pastored served in other ways).&nbsp; I am inspired by Vic's 20+ year commitment to come to Limbe to teach intensive courses and to support the work of Haitian leaders.&nbsp;&nbsp; The most special treat of all, though, was to share this trip with <A href="http://www.facebook.com/cathyslade">Cathy</A>, my wife!&nbsp; While I was in the classroom with Monel, Cathy was volunteering with Monel's wife, Dr. Joselie Dormeus, in nearby Ebenezer Health Center (where she might have crossed paths with IM [and <A href="http://www.thefellowship.info/Missions">CBF</A>] missionaries <A href="http://www.internationalministries.org/teams/104-james">Steve and Nancy James</A>, had they not been on U.S./Puerto Rico assignment this month).&nbsp; We are very grateful to our friends at <A href="http://www.rbcabc.org">Royersford Baptist Church</A> for their generous help in covering Cathy's airfare to serve here!<BR></P> Sun, 22 Jan 2012 05:51:22 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/41229-i-like-it- https://internationalministries.org/read/41229-i-like-it- IM Global Consultant, Stan Slade, adds new staff role <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if !mso]><object classid="clsid:38481807-CA0E-42D2-BF39-B33AF135CC4D" id=ieooui></object> <style> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } </style> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]--> </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family:&quot;Arial Black&quot;"></span><span style="font-family:&quot;Gill Sans MT&quot;">Rev. Dr. Stanley “Stan” Slade, IM global consultant for Theological Education for the last four years, has re-joined the American Baptist International Ministries (IM) home office staff. &nbsp;In his new role, Slade is serving as Associate Executive Director for Program, reporting to Executive Director, Dr. Reid Trulson. &nbsp;Slade will divide his time between his role as Associate Executive Director (80%) and a reduced schedule as Global Consultant (20%).<br> &nbsp;<br> Slade says the new role emerged quite unexpectedly as he and Trulson conversed about a wide range of IM planning items. &nbsp;"From time to time Reid has invited me to brainstorm with him on various things. &nbsp;Late in the summer of 2011, one of those conversations took an unexpected turn. &nbsp;At about the same time, Reid invited me to help provide leadership to one of the things we had been talking about, and I felt the Lord nudge me to offer to help implement some of the others," Slade explained. &nbsp;“One thing led to another and we soon found ourselves planning an experiment in which I would wear both a home office staff hat and a missionary hat.”<br> &nbsp;<br> Slade has served in many capacities with IM over the last 28 years. &nbsp;Stan and his wife Cathy began their career with IM in 1983, working as missionaries in Central America. &nbsp;They served in theological education and health, respectively, in El Salvador. &nbsp;When the family returned to the U.S. in mid-1992, Stan joined IM's home office staff team. &nbsp;At Valley Forge, he served in many different roles, all dedicated to supporting the work of missionaries and international churches and partners, as well as IM's partners in mission throughout American Baptist Churches. &nbsp;At the end of 2007, Slade left the home office team to return to missionary service, this time as one of the small group of "global consultants," engaged in non-traditional, itinerant ministries. &nbsp;Now, four years later, he is entering into another non-traditional model of mission service, combining ongoing global consultant service with work on the staff team in Valley Forge.<br> &nbsp;<br> “I love the direct contact of teaching internationally,” commented Slade. “So, it has been a surprise to hear God’s call to set aside part of that teaching in order to help IM become the most effective instrument for global mission that it can be. &nbsp;But, it is a privilege to be invited into this new role. &nbsp;First, as I have traveled the world these last four years, my admiration for my missionary colleagues and the partners they serve has continued to grow. &nbsp;It is a joy to work alongside them, and a privilege to be invited to serve them as part of IM’s very dedicated home office team. Second, my friends in regional and local church ministry have been telling me about the ferment God is bringing about in our national, regional and local life throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. &nbsp;I hope to be more useful also to them in my new role. &nbsp;All of these friends and fellow disciples are great folks with whom to serve our missionary God.”<br> &nbsp;<br> Adds Trulson, "I am delighted that Stan has responded to the call to enter into this innovative role. &nbsp;Like churches, regions and ministry partners across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, we are trying many experiments at IM. &nbsp;I am grateful for the wealth of experience he brings to this role and look forward to serving American Baptists and the global mission of Jesus Christ together in this new way."</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-family:&quot;Gill Sans MT&quot;">&nbsp;Slade's role on IM's home office staff will be to support, coordinate and supervise all staff working on program operations, whether they serve international partners or those in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.</span></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 13:54:21 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/40118-im-global-consultant-stan-slade-adds-new-staff-role https://internationalministries.org/read/40118-im-global-consultant-stan-slade-adds-new-staff-role "More pleased than my students..." <p> <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Cambria; 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mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --> </style> </p><p class="MsoNormal"><i style=""><span style="color: black;">"I am even more pleased than my students... for I see them discovering Biblical truths for themselves!"</span></i></p><p class="MsoNormal"><br><i style=""><span style="color: black;"></span></i></p><p class="MsoNormal"> <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"Cambria Math"; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:1; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:0 0 0 0 0 0;} @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:ES-TRAD;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} --> </style> </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">It was wonderful to get a grateful email from Egla Chavez this week.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>She is a Methodist pastor in Durango, Mexico.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>She is taking the learning we did together a couple of years ago and multiplying its impact. <span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp;</span>She "got it," and is enthusiastically passing it along to her fellow pastors and the churches she serves.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">As I teach, I try to connect with everyone in a course.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; But you never know.&nbsp; </span>Sometimes a seed sown in a conversation or classroom bears fruit only much later.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>So, teaching is about patient, faithful sowing, whether or not one gets to see immediate results.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">But in most learning situations, there will be a few people (or perhaps only one) who really "get it."<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>They make teaching fun, and sometimes deeply moving.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>And after the course is over, they take what they have seen and heard and discovered and shared... and they run with it!<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>That's what Egla has been doing all over northern Mexico.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">What a delight to stay in touch with Egla as her ministry develops!<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>I am grateful to have been used by God to play a small part in that development.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>I look forward to getting together with Egla again someday, to have the kind of experience Paul talks about in Romans 1:12.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>In the preceding verse, Paul tells the Romans that he is eager to visit them and to give them some spiritual gift.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>But then he immediately corrects himself, saying he hopes "that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine."<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Exactly.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>Egla is grateful for the way God used me in her development--and I am grateful also for the way God has used her in my own growth.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">I am also grateful for the way God has used to you encourage and support me in this ministry--thank you!!</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">As I write, I am heading back toward Philadelphia at the end of a trip that included teaching and preaching in Spain, and participating in the semiannual sessions of the board of trustees of the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in Prague.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>It was a delight to work among the missionaries of the Evangelical Baptist Union of Spain--and alongside our own missionaries, Carlos Bonilla and Mayra Giovanetti.&nbsp; As always, it was also moving to talk to enthusiastic students from Eastern Europe at IBTS.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; Today I am heading back, and</span> will be returning to a new combination of mission tasks within American Baptist International Ministries.<span style="mso-spacerun:yes">&nbsp; </span>I hope to fill you in on the new developments very soon.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">For now, though, thank you for the prayers, notes and gifts that continue to make it possible for me to serve the Lord as part of the global mission effort of International Ministries!</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color: black;">Blessings,</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color:black;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">Stan<br></span></p> <p></p> <p></p> Sun, 30 Oct 2011 05:49:47 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/39935-more-pleased-than-my-students- https://internationalministries.org/read/39935-more-pleased-than-my-students- Saved by... rice?! <p> <style> <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:Cambria; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:ES-TRAD;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> </style> </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">I love to be lifted in worship to the contemplation of The Big Picture... especially, the big picture of God's love for humanity in all our amazing diversity.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>I love to get a taste of that diversity as I travel.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>But I tend to live each day less in The Big Picture and more in the concerns, challenges, struggles--and occasional victories--of The Little Picture.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>Daily, it is important to me to celebrate life's <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">little</i></b> salvations.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">For some years now--though not for nearly <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">enough</i></b> years!--I have used a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to sleep.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>There is a story behind my use of this device, but I will spare you the details.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>Suffice it to say that, by the grace of God, one day I finally truly <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style:normal">heard</i></b>--and acted upon!--the complaint of my poor suffering spouse.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>For far too many years, Cathy's nights alternated between annoyance at her husband's impersonations of a 747 landing on the other side of the bed (even a King is not big enough to lessen the suffering of <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style:normal">that</i></b>!), and the fear that her spouse had stopped breathing not for a moment, but for good.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>I had a pretty severe case of sleep apnea.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">Fortunately, the CPAP machine has dramatically improved the quality of life, not just for Cathy, but for both of us.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>So, though it means hauling one more thing (and a somewhat bulky addition to the suitcase, at that!), I always travel with the machine.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">One of the things that has made the machine a blessing for me (and not just for those condemned to try to sleep nearby) is that it includes a small humidifier.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>The air it blows into my throat is soothingly moist.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>But, therein lies today's tale.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">If one fails to empty absolutely all the water out of the humidifier before stowing the CPAP in the suitcase, those remaining drops of water can wind up finding their way not <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style:normal">out</i></b> of the machine but <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"><i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal">into</i></b> it.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>Once inside, they show an uncanny ability to find the machine's little circuit board &amp; short it out. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp;</span>I am amazed by how little water it takes to disable the gizmo!</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">I am even more amazed by the restorative power of... rice!<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>If you have ever had the misfortune to see your cell phone or other handheld electronic marvel go for a swim (I refrain from specifying the most likely locales for such immersions) and do not know about the rice cure, read on!</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">It turns out that one very effective way to dry out an electronic gadget is to throw it into a bag of rice for a few hours.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>That is why I now know there is a supermarket (with about 12 different kinds of rice) just a five-minute walk up the street from the spot where the Baptist Union of Spain celebrated its annual convention, the Palace Hotel in Gandía.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>I wasn't careful enough when I packed up the CPAP in Madrid before jumping on the train to the Mediterranean coast.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>So, my nocturnal companion was DOA.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>Not a great bit of news for one needing to sleep and to restore the voice from overuse during the day!</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">I am happy to report that, once again, my CPAP and I have been saved by rice.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>Rice!<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>Who knew?<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>Now, if not before, you do.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>May you never have need of this bit of information.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>But, if you ever do, you will know how grateful I was on this trip to be saved by rice.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">I am also very grateful for the opportunity to join, even briefly, the service of IM missionaries Carlos Bonilla and Mayra Giovanetti among our brothers and sisters in Spain.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>(I almost wrote, "our Spanish brothers and sisters," but that would be a big mistake--not only because the UEBE has welcomed a very large number of immigrants, who are energizing their churches, but also because those from Spain's states of Cataluña, Euskadi (Basque Country) and Gallicia see themselves first and foremost as Catalanes, Basques and Gallegos, not Spaniards... wherein lies a story for another time!).<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>This is a fascinating situation, with many parallels to the diversity-unity opportunities and challenges we have in the U.S.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">Thank you for making it possible for me to be here!&nbsp; Thank you for your prayers, encouragement and gifts to International Ministries--both for my support and to support the work of all of us through the World Mission Offering (WMO).<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>WMO continues to be vitally important for supporting cross-cultural mission through all the partners, missionaries and staff of International Ministries.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>Thanks for your support!!</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="">May you experience some "little salvation" this day and every day!</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><br><span style=""></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US">Stan<br></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="mso-ansi-language:EN-US"><br></span></p> <p></p> Tue, 25 Oct 2011 13:17:37 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/39855-saved-by-rice- https://internationalministries.org/read/39855-saved-by-rice- "Now I see..." <p>Immediately after the earthquake that leveled Managua, Nicaragua at Christmastime in 1972, God used International Ministries missionary Gustavo Parajón to pull together pastors and churches to serve as channels of God's love to rescue and rebuild the lives of the survivors.&nbsp; The organization that arose from the rubble in 1972 continues to serve the people of Nicaragua today.&nbsp; Known as CEPAD, the Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua, the organization has been used of God in a staggering variety of ways for nearly forty years.</p>One of the primary things I do each year when I return to Nicaragua is to plug into the leadership training ministry of CEPAD, both at a national level and with several local leadership committees.&nbsp; It is always a treat to accompany Dámaris Albuquerque (executive director) and Gilberto Aguirre (national staff) to the training sessions conducted by these grassroots organizations, to teach... and to learn!<br><br>A crucial part of these training sessions is local initiative.&nbsp; The local organizing committee sets the topic and agenda for the seminars I conduct with them.&nbsp; And, at the end of the day, Gilberto&nbsp; conducts a lively time of evaluation, in which the participants talk about what they have learned and to what degree it responded to the agenda that they had set.&nbsp; With engaging humor and energy, Gilberto (referred to by all--and affectionately--as "El Profe [The Professor]") pushes the participants to move beyond vague generalizations and identify what they are taking away from the experience.<br><br>In La Concepción last week, one of the pastors commented, "Now I see that we are called to be the church, not just for our own sake, but to become a blessing to those outside our fellowship.&nbsp; We are called to serve them, whoever they may be."&nbsp; Amen to that, brother!<br><br>I am grateful for the opportunity to help Nicaraguan church leaders catch a glimpse of ways that God is calling their congregations to look beyond their inner life and become salt and light in their communities.&nbsp; Thanks for the prayers and gifts by which you make this ministry possible!<br><br>Many American Baptist churches are currently inviting their members to contribute to the World Mission Offering (WMO).&nbsp; At the same time that we missionaries of IM are seeking personalized commitments to our support, WMO continues to be vitally important to us all.&nbsp; Live generously.&nbsp; Give to the World Mission Offering.<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br>p.s. The last photo is of Mileydi, a young girl whose picture I've taken each year as I return to teach her mother, Maria Andrea, and her colleagues in San Marcos, Carazo.&nbsp; It is great to work with her Mom, and great to see her growing up!<br> Fri, 14 Oct 2011 08:27:50 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/39684-now-i-see- https://internationalministries.org/read/39684-now-i-see- Cain and Abel... in the next pew! <p>Well, it wasn't really the <i>next</i> pew, but two pews ahead of us.&nbsp; <br></p><p>And the "pews" were actually rows of nicely padded chairs.&nbsp; <br></p><p>And it wasn't exactly "Cain and Abel," but something like "Katie and Abbie."&nbsp; <br></p><p>And, in a fortunate departure from the text of Genesis 4, nobody died.&nbsp; And, as so often happens, the role of Yahweh in the little drama was played by none other than Mom.&nbsp; <br><br>But we were all amazed as the little drama unfolded, literally, right in front of our eyes.&nbsp; In the space of less than two minutes.&nbsp; As the curtain rose, all the characters were standing.&nbsp; Mom was on the right, next to the aisle, Abbie was next to Mom and Katie was next to Abbie.&nbsp; Big brother was a respectable distance further left, and played no visible role in this particular drama.&nbsp; Cue the congregational singing, and...<br><br>"Abbie" looked to be about 5, and cute as a button.&nbsp; She was dressed in her Sunday finest.&nbsp; But neither her nicely done hair nor her pretty dress was enough to slow down that little dynamo.&nbsp; So, after standing next to Mom for the first few bars of singing, Abbie tore off to the back of the church on Some Important Mission.<br><br>"Katie" looked to be 2 or perhaps 3 years older than Abbie.&nbsp; When little sister raced away, Katie was happy to snuggle up to Mom, who responded by lovingly putting her hand on Katie's shoulder to pull her even closer.&nbsp; So far, so good.<br><br>Then Abbie came racing back.&nbsp; Well, not <i><b>quite</b></i> "back."&nbsp; She seemed to hit a wall about six feet away.&nbsp; That is, as soon as she caught a glimpse of her family.&nbsp; Stock-still for half a second, she then dramatically raised her hands to her hips--which is when our daughter-in-law, Kristin, realized, "Oh, <i><b>this</b></i> is going to get interesting!"&nbsp; (We were visiting Kristin and Dave in central New York state.)<br><br>As you might guess, Abbie did not choose to cuddle with Mom on the right, or "out" side.&nbsp; She knew where the primo location was, and she went for it, wriggling in between Mom's leg and big sister, just enough so that Mom's hand fell off of Katie's shoulder.<br><br>Unfortunately, this wasn't quite enough to capture Mom's attention.&nbsp; So, still clinging to Mom's legs with one arm, Abbie wriggled around in front and began to pull on Mom's dress with her other hand.<br><br>Mom soldiered on through the hymn, enjoying her youngest's affections and, spotting her opportunity to make amends with Katie, putting her hand out to pull her back into the space just vacated by Abbie.<br><br>Nothing doing!&nbsp; In a single move that was executed so smoothly that one might suspect it to be the fruit of much practice, Katie brushed away her Mom's hand, folded her arms over her chest, took a step further away and cast a dirty look at Abbie.&nbsp; Who was executing a deft move of her own.&nbsp; It was exquisitely choreographed to match Katie's:&nbsp; as big sister rejected Mom's (futile) gesture, Abbie was already circling back around the legs to stay between Mom and Katie.&nbsp; Oh my.&nbsp; A harbinger of Things To Come....<br><br>Is there enough love to go around?&nbsp; Abbie clearly doesn't think so.&nbsp; Nor does Katie.&nbsp; Nor did Cain, when he killed Abel.&nbsp; Nor Sara, when she sent away Hagar and Ishmael.&nbsp; Nor Jacob, when he aced out Esau.&nbsp; Nor Joseph's brothers, when they sold him into slavery.&nbsp; Nor James and John, when they launched a preemptive strike on Jesus' right and left hand assistantships.&nbsp; Nor...<br><br>Can I be okay if I'm not #1?&nbsp; How about if I am only <i><b>tied</b> for #1??</i>&nbsp; Can I really enjoy the love I receive only if I manage to ace you out?&nbsp; Can I be okay with God only if you are not?<br><br>If salvation by grace means anything, it at least means there is enough of God's love to go around.&nbsp; I don't have to be better than anybody in order to "win" it.&nbsp; God's love will envelop me whether I'm clutching the Lord's left hand... or find myself millions and millions of places down the line!<br><br>In the early years of the Jesus Movement, the famous missionary, Paul, wrote to a group of Jesus' followers who were playing the "Katie &amp; Abbie" game with a vengeance, in the city of Corinth.&nbsp; They spent their time squabbling over who was "more spiritual," who had the shinier gifts, who really had the inside track on God's leg (or at least, on God's approval).&nbsp; "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child... when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways" (1 Cor. 13:11NRSV).&nbsp; Paul called the Corinthians to do the same, to live secure in God's love--secure enough to turn from <i>acing out</i> to <i>lifting up</i> those around them.<br><br>Lord, thanks for this week's little drama, and the reminder to live as mature, secure followers of Jesus, freed from the trap of our inner Abbies &amp; Katies.<br><br>Thanks for your company--and support!--on our collective journey toward maturity!<br><br>Stan<br><br></p> Wed, 07 Sep 2011 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/39009-cain-and-abel-in-the-next-pew- https://internationalministries.org/read/39009-cain-and-abel-in-the-next-pew- First day of school... "I love you, Mom!"&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br>Uh oh.&nbsp; That's when Paula <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">knew</span> things were serious.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br><br>Of course, any mother is delighted to hear those words (any father, too!).&nbsp; I suspect most kids and parents don't say those words to each other nearly as much as we should.&nbsp; So, it was a good thing.&nbsp; Except...<br><br>Except Paula didn't just fall off the turnip truck.&nbsp; These words were coming to her from her 18 year old.&nbsp; Her 18 year old <span style="font-weight: bold;">son</span>.&nbsp; Her 18 year old son who had just <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">called her on the phone!! </span><br><br>If you have ever had an 18 year old male child... on <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">this</span> planet... you know that spontaneous calls to Mom are not in their behavioral repertoire.&nbsp; Daughters, maybe.&nbsp; Sons?&nbsp; Not gonna happen.<br><br>So why did Paula get the call?&nbsp; And why did he slip that extraordinary expression of affection into the end of the call?<br><br>Because son Jimmy is in the first days of his new life as a college freshman.&nbsp; On a planetary scale, that puts Jimmy in a position of great privilege.&nbsp; On the scale of Jimmy's personal development, it puts him in a position of great terror.<br><br>Jimmy is disoriented and afraid.&nbsp; But his whole life to this point has made him sure of one thing:&nbsp; if he says, "I love you, Mom," he will hear, "I love you too, Jimmy!"<br><br>This isn't the same as taking those first steps, or balancing on the curb, or mounting the little bike with training wheels.&nbsp; He cannot reach out a wobbly little hand, to have it firmly and lovingly surrounded by Mom's steady and much larger hand.&nbsp; <br><br>A phone call isn't as good as really touching.&nbsp; But it is what is possible.&nbsp; "I love you, Mom!"&nbsp; The little hand reaches out.<br><br>Maybe it is because growing mastery in so many areas of life has made asking for help less necessary.&nbsp; Maybe it is because the need for ego definition requires a bit of separation and at least attempted autonomy.&nbsp; For whatever complex of reasons, the little hand has come reaching out less often in recent years.&nbsp; It has also grown... to the point where it is actually larger and stronger than Mom's hand.<br><br>But it is less sure.&nbsp; So, as the world seems suddenly much scarier, out it comes:&nbsp; "I love you, Mom!"<br><br>I learned about Paula and Jimmy's story from Cathy last night as we talked over the experiences of the day.&nbsp; Her close colleague and friend, Paula, had shared with Cathy the trials and travails of launching her son into his college career.&nbsp; He's a good kid and will undoubtedly do just fine.&nbsp; But the actual "launch" included some real Mama-bird-pushes-baby-bird-out-of-the-nest moments.<br><br>As I listened, my first reaction was to wonder why Jimmy was so scared.&nbsp; Silly me.&nbsp; Cathy quickly reminded me that she had had her own Mama bird experiences.&nbsp; And then came the real surprise:&nbsp; suddenly I was picturing the two of us on a walk.&nbsp; It was a beautiful fall evening in Palo Alto.&nbsp; It was the fall of 1969 and Cathy and I were walking around the campus of Stanford University during the first week of our freshman year.&nbsp; It had been a long time since I had thought about that night, and my memory is pretty fuzzy on the details.&nbsp; But the main point--and the emotional texture--came back very, very clearly.<br><br>We were the best and the brightest.&nbsp; Everyone said so.&nbsp; We could hardly stagger away from high school under the weight of all the acclaim.&nbsp; Stanford had chosen us over so many, many others.&nbsp; Us.&nbsp; They wanted <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">us</span> to be there!&nbsp; What a great opportunity!&nbsp; But that first week, and especially on that night, as we walked among all the impressive buildings, packed with knowledge and simply radiating prestige... as we passed by the dorms full of Truly Exceptional People, we certainly did not feel like the best and the brightest.&nbsp; We were scared to death!&nbsp; We just <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">knew</span> we had gotten in through some clerical error and were headed toward total, abject failure.&nbsp; What should we do?&nbsp; Should we slip away before the error was discovered or, worse yet, before our performance in our Freshman Seminars revealed to everyone else the all-encompassing inadequacy we felt so powerfully in our stomachs that night?&nbsp; What had possessed us even to try this?<br><br>So, there's no need to ask why Jimmy is so scared.&nbsp; I have not only <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">had</span> baby birds, I have <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">been</span> the baby bird!&nbsp; And, of course, that did not end forty years ago.&nbsp; In spite of everything that has changed, I have never fully ceased to be the baby bird in need of a nudge, or the toddler, reaching out a hand for help.<br><br>The world is a scary place.&nbsp; (It is also a wonderful, glorious place, but that does not make it less scary.)&nbsp; To be alive is to risk pain, loss and death.&nbsp; So, there is always something to be afraid of, even if the face it presents changes over time.&nbsp; <br><br>That is at least part of the reason why "Fear not!" is one of the most common things Heaven communicates to humans throughout Scripture.&nbsp; From the call of Abraham in Genesis to the visionary invitation to John in Revelation, over and over we find God (or God's messengers) calling out to people (even "heroes of faith") with the words, "Fear not!"<br><br>But there's more.&nbsp; The call to move beyond our fears comes so frequently in the Biblical story not just because the world is a scary place, but because casting our lot with God's agenda does not eliminate sources of fear.&nbsp; It adds to them. <br><br>The call to Abraham was not a call to a secure, walled compound, protected from the ordinary threats and challenges of life.&nbsp; It was a call to a journey.&nbsp; It was a call to face additional threats and challenges, for the sake of all humanity.&nbsp; Abraham was invited to find his own blessing or salvation in serving as a channel of blessing for all peoples.<br><br>The call to John of Patmos was not a promise of better treatment on--or speedy release from--that prison island.&nbsp; It was a call to write a message that would encourage his fellow believers in their faithfulness to Kyrios Iesous, instead of Kyrios Kaisar (that is, to strengthen their resolve in the resistance to Rome for which they--and he--were already suffering).&nbsp; John was called to find his own freedom in serving as a channel to free his friends from their fears.<br><br>Jesus calls his followers to find our real and best lives through devoting them to the service of others.&nbsp; To "take up one's cross" ("daily," as Luke adds) can mean many things, but at least part of the meaning must be to embrace the additional challenges (and, indeed, suffering) that come our way as we put our lives at the service of others.&nbsp; It is a call to do things we would not otherwise do, for people we would not otherwise care about--and thus expose ourselves to risks we would not otherwise take.<br><br>Jesus' call to us has much more to it than that, of course.&nbsp; But as I listened to the story of Paula and Jimmy... and remembered the story of Cathy and Stan... it got me to thinking about fear in our lives, and God's invitation to give ourselves to faith, not surrender ourselves to fear.<br><br>I hope Jimmy's week is going better.&nbsp; I hope college turns out to be for him the incredible growth experience is has been for so many of us.&nbsp; And I pray that we might all respond in faith when we hear God call, "Fear not!"<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br>p.s. Thank you for the prayers and gifts that help me to put feet (and wings!) under the decision to act in faith and to serve people around the world!<br><br>p.p.s. World Mission Offering time is coming among American Baptist churches.&nbsp; Even with International Ministries' new approach to missionary support, WMO continues to be crucial for our mission service around the globe.&nbsp; (If you need more information about why that is so, please contact me, or David.Worth@abc-usa.org [800-222-3872, ext. 2311.]&nbsp; Please give generously to WMO!<br> Mon, 22 Aug 2011 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/38719-first-day-of-school- https://internationalministries.org/read/38719-first-day-of-school- Meeting Hunger and Thirst You may have seen the International Ministries news item this week on the way <a href="http://www.internationalministries.org/artifacts/37705">IM is joining with others in the Body of Christ to respond to the terrible drought conditions in East Africa</a>.&nbsp; I am especially grateful for efforts to meet these needs, because "East Africa" now has names and faces for me.&nbsp; Sisters and brothers.&nbsp; Friends who are serving the Lord and their neighbors in East Africa.<br><br>Though most of my life and service to the Lord has been in other places, over the last five years I've had the opportunity to play a small role in God's work in East Africa.&nbsp; My part is not to give physical water and food directly.&nbsp; I respond to those needs the same way you do:&nbsp; through contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing.&nbsp; My friend--and my MPT Coordinator--Lisa Rothenberger, is the World Relief Officer for American Baptist Churches.&nbsp; She also serves as a member of the Church World Service board of directors.&nbsp; She works closely with CWS staff and IM's own area directors to ensure that our contributions to efforts like those in East Africa are well used.&nbsp; I am glad to work through them and grateful for their dedicated service.<br><br>My direct involvement in the overall effort to serve the peoples of East Africa is focused not on physical, but spiritual hunger and thirst.&nbsp; Last month, I led a group of pastors, congregational leaders and student ministry workers in a very intensive study of Scripture.&nbsp; Together we explored the message and model of Jesus as we honed our skills in understanding and communicating the Living Water that Jesus provides.&nbsp; <br><br>We were part of the fifth annual "Berean Safari," which included participants from Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Norway and the U.S.&nbsp; It was a joy to share teaching responsibilities with friends from Kenya and Ethiopia and to hear the participants share their excitement over new insights.&nbsp; A Kenyan missionary to Tanzania was in my group and exclaimed, "This has been a transforming experience for me, and I am eager to take it to those I work with!"<br><br>I am grateful to be part of a holistic witness to the fullness of God's love in Jesus Christ.&nbsp; Physical food and water, spiritual food and water, skills development and capacity building, encouragement and inspiration--all are important channels of what Peter called "the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10).&nbsp; <br><br>Thanks for the prayers and gifts through which you help to make this ministry possible!<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br> Tue, 26 Jul 2011 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/37739-meeting-hunger-and-thirst https://internationalministries.org/read/37739-meeting-hunger-and-thirst A Fresh Berean Journey David Muturi is the bright, capable young Kenyan who anchors the leadership team for Berean Safari, the annual journey into Scripture that I've been privileged to be part of for the last 4 years.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br>It is a joy to work with David and the rest of the team, as they skilfully bring together people from many cultures and places in an event that never ceases to encourage and inspire all who participate in it.&nbsp; I haven't seen the final registration list yet, but if this year is like others, there should be people from throughout East Africa as well as a smattering of countries throughout the rest of Africa and the world.&nbsp; Together, we gather around the Bible and share our observations, hunches, insights, experiences and sense of the messages that God has for us through the ancient but ever-new Word.&nbsp; It is a rich experience.<br><br>It can also be a tricky process to facilitate, since there is no way anyone can know all the backgrounds present... let alone catch the nuances as people share.&nbsp; But catching those nuances and encouraging people as they discover, reflect and risk sharing their ideas with the group -- that lies at the heart of what I am called to do.&nbsp; The fidelity we seek is double, both to the Biblical text, treated with integrity, and to the work of God's Spirit in the human beings the Spirit has brought together for this moment (also treated with integrity!).&nbsp; Learning <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">from</span> them as well as <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">with</span> them is a wonderful opportunity and a real challenge.&nbsp; Please pray that the Lord will give me ears to hear and an agile mind and heart to respond.<br><br>As I write, I am waiting for the first flight of the trip, from New York's JFK to Zurich, and then on to Nairobi.&nbsp; Our study conference will begin on Sunday the 19th and continue for a week, at 7,500' above the equator, Nyahururu's Tabor Hill Retreat Centre.<br><br>Thanks for accompanying me on this journey, and for making it possible!<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br><br> Wed, 15 Jun 2011 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/36737-a-fresh-berean-journey https://internationalministries.org/read/36737-a-fresh-berean-journey Castles & Cathedrals... <span>Joe, the guide, told us that Ireland has more castles than England, Scotland &amp; Wales combined.&nbsp; That claim sounded to me li' a wee bit o' Tourguide-ish (wonder if that should be Tourguiddish?) for the simpler statement, "We have a lot of great castles!"&nbsp; After all, Joe <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">did</span> seem to have a wee bi' o' th' Blarney in 'im.&nbsp; But, after a week of finding castles around every bend in the Irish countryside, I'll give Joe the benefit of the doubt.&nbsp; In any case, there are a <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">lot</span> of castles in Ireland!<br><br>And cathedrals?&nbsp; Wow!&nbsp; There are plenty of those, too.&nbsp; But an astonishing number of them--or at least, of churches--are not in such different shape from the castles.<br><br>Barely half an hour into our first walk on our first day in Dublin, Cathy and I came upon St. Andrew's Church... or better, St. Andrew's Used-to-be-a-Church.&nbsp; It turned out to be the first of many, many recycled church buildings we would encounter in Ireland.&nbsp; I don't know when St. Andy's ceased to be a house of worship, but its stained glass now illuminates a gift shop, cafe and tourist information center.<br><br>Ruined castles and recycled church buildings.&nbsp; As I looked at the landscape and listened to presentations at the various sites we visited, I was struck by how intertwined castles and cathedrals were.&nbsp; Were, and, of course, still are.&nbsp; <br><br>Two weeks ago, Ireland was visited by the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, a.k.a., Queen Elizabeth II.&nbsp; Like her predecessors (all the way back to her namesake, Elizabeth I, who received that ecclesiastical title in 1559... probably because the men around Liz refused to grant to a woman the title awarded to [taken by] her father, Henry VIII, in 1534, "Supreme <span style="font-style: italic;">Head</span> on Earth of the Church of England"), Queen Elizabeth II is the titular head of the Church of England.&nbsp; It is no doubt a gross and cynical oversimplification to say the Church of England was created in order to allow Henry VIII to divorce and remarry in his quest for a male heir.&nbsp; But there is no denying that Henry had his own very personal reasons for wishing to free English churches from control by Rome!<br><br>Whatever the specific truth about Henry VIII, it is impossible to listen to very much of the history of Ireland--or of any European country from the Middle Ages to the 20th century--without being struck by the intertwining of political and ecclesiastical power. <br><br>Wait a minute.&nbsp; "Intertwining"?&nbsp; Really?&nbsp; What a gargantuan euphemism!&nbsp; In the same league with "being struck."&nbsp; As a theologian I am not simply "struck," but appalled, shocked, outraged and ashamed of the ways in which those who wielded churchly power and those who wielded political power used and abused their own positions and each other.&nbsp; Torture and war in the name of the Galilean carpenter?&nbsp; Assassination of spiritual leaders by "the Head on Earth of the Church"?&nbsp; "Intertwining," indeed!<br><br>Politicos in every age and culture, of course, have sought spiritual legitimation for their exercise of power (even when the spirituality in question was that of "scientific materialism").&nbsp; And the siren song of political power cannot help but appeal also to spiritual leaders ("think of all the good we could do...").&nbsp; But the one who specifically forbade his disciples from aping the tyrants of their time (Mark 10:42-45), <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">that</span> one certainly had a right to expect something better from his followers.<br><br>So, it is hard to immerse oneself in the history of Christendom--or even just to wander amidst ruined castles and recycled cathedrals--without feeling deeply chastened.&nbsp; Although I believe the message of Jesus to be far more than (and often opposed to) what church leaders have done with it, I can hardly blame those who respond to this history by throwing out the theological baby along with such exceedingly dirty ecclesiastical bathwater.<br><br>But it is much too easy to condemn the mistakes of those who lived long ago and far away.&nbsp; I believe that their mistakes--and, especially, their fusing of political and ecclesiastical power--have contributed to the great abandoning of Christian faith across Europe.&nbsp; (And, of course, there is much more to the story than mistakes.&nbsp; There are also wonderful examples of human transformation and self-sacrificial service.&nbsp; I encountered that, too.)&nbsp; But wandering amidst the ruins of so many castles and cathedrals mostly caused me to wonder how my own compromises, mistakes and betrayals of Jesus' values might also turn people away from the real message of Jesus.&nbsp; Lord, have mercy.<br><br>Which leads me from castles and cathedrals... to Camping.&nbsp; No, not the outdoor activity, but the would-be prophet, Harold Camping.&nbsp; This is not the time or place to evaluate his argument for claiming Jesus would return to whisk away His followers at 6:00 pm on May 21, 2011.&nbsp; Nor do I feel called by God to heap more scorn on him.&nbsp; The call I have felt, rather, is the one I felt among the castles and cathedrals of Ireland, the call to self-examination.&nbsp; There, but for the grace of God....<br><br>After all, I am a professor.&nbsp; That is, as a colleague of mine used to say, "I... profess."&nbsp; What, exactly, do I profess?&nbsp; Is it solid?&nbsp; Reliable?&nbsp; A good foundation for living and working in this world?&nbsp; Most importantly, does it reflect and embody the real message of Jesus? <br><br>I feel badly for the few who bet their lives on Camping's error, and must now pick up the pieces.&nbsp; Likewise, I feel badly for the many, many more who have concluded that Camping's craziness is just so much additional evidence that the message of Jesus is an illusion.<br><br>We can't really do anything about Camping.&nbsp; Failing at the prediction game twenty years ago (when he claimed "the Bible guaranteed" that 1994 would be the year) did not lead him to repent, so failing again this week (or yet again in October) probably won't, either.<br><br>But we can do something about us. My prayer for myself and for all followers of Jesus is that we might live faithfully.&nbsp; May the Lord grant us the grace to live so that he--the real Jesus--might in some small way be made visible.<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br></span> Wed, 25 May 2011 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/36160-castles-cathedrals- https://internationalministries.org/read/36160-castles-cathedrals- Listening and Learning at Brú Ború "C'mon, then, Michael, what've you got for us this evenin'?"&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br>The head musician was, in some wonderful way, both gentle and insistent.&nbsp; He knew how to prod the shy, without humiliating the terrified.&nbsp; And his way with the kids was, mostly, wonderful to watch.<br><br>Cathy and I were sitting against the wall in the main hall of Brú Ború, the cultural and musical heritage center in Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland.&nbsp; We had seen references to performances at Brú Ború in a guidebook.&nbsp; But when we arrived at the center, we found the entrance locked and most of the lights off.&nbsp; Then, as we turned to leave, an angel appeared: a wee lass of a grandmother approached, trailed by a couple of grandkids with fiddle cases.<br><br>"Good evenin' to ya!&nbsp; Would ya be comin' t' hear the music now?"<br><br>We explained that yes, we'd heard there would be music at Brú Ború and we'd come to listen, but found the doors locked.<br><br>"Aye, they are.&nbsp; But those doors are almost always locked.&nbsp; Come wi' me and I'll take ya 'round the side door.&nbsp; It's just the kids t'night, but you're welcome t' sit in.&nbsp; Come along wi' me now.&nbsp; I'm Nora."<br><br>We fell in behind Nora and soon began to learn that the friendly grandmother was much more than the driver and chaperone for those kids.&nbsp; The side doors were open and led into a vestibule where something like a registration table was set up.&nbsp; When the elderly man behind the table looked up at him, Nora whispered a word to him and he suddenly smiled and nodded us into the main hall.&nbsp; The hall was something like a small school gym, of a size and with a floor like a basketball court (more on that, later), but no hoops.&nbsp; Instead of hoops, there were crested banners, corresponding to the counties (or perhaps the clans?) of Eire.&nbsp; Nora invited us to take a seat anywhere and enjoy the evening.<br><br>A quick scan of the room indicated that "anywhere" would be a spot on the benches built into the walls around three sides of the room, for all the chairs in the center of the room (about fifty) were arranged in two concentric ovals... and filled with musicians wielding fiddles, pipes, harps and other, more exotic instruments.&nbsp; We headed for the most inconspicuous corner and took a seat among all the parents and relatives.&nbsp; Nora had given us the warmest welcome, but it seemed we had slipped into some kind of rehearsal for kids and their families.<br><br>Then John, the leader, stood up with his accordion, called out a word we didn't catch, followed by, "2, 3..." and launched the kids into a lively Gaelic air.&nbsp; The kids were good.&nbsp; <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">Really good!!</span><br><br>After several spirited warm-up numbers, we settled into the main part of the evening.&nbsp; John turned to one of the young musicians and asked, "Now then, Catherine, what've you got for us this evenin'?"&nbsp; She was a great choice for the kid to go first, it turned out.&nbsp; Catherine put down the fiddle she'd been playing and laid hands on the harp that stood next to her, announcing, "I've written a small piece."&nbsp; Well, 'twas small all right, only about two minutes.&nbsp; But it was terrific.&nbsp; Wow.&nbsp; These kids were <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">good</span>!<br><br>Catherine turned out to be, indeed, exceptional.&nbsp; The kids who followed her did not play original compositions, but portions of well-known (to everybody else in the room) Irish classics.&nbsp; The pattern was that each lad or lass, in turn, would play a solo that represented the first stanza of some famous standard.&nbsp; Then the whole rest of the group would join in with gusto, bringing an amazing sound to the remaining stanzas.&nbsp; Some of the kids were clearly virtuosos.&nbsp; But there was more.<br><br>Eventually we caught on to the fact that almost all the kids played more than one instrument.&nbsp; And, when their turn came to "let us have somethin' from ya this evenin'," they typically reached for their less-perfected instrument.&nbsp; Sometimes, those opening solos were pretty weak and wandering... but as soon as they struggled through that first stanza, the rest of the group would jump in and the enthusiasm for the song became palpable.&nbsp; And when the song ended, invariably, John had an encouraging word for the child who had so feebly started us off, "Aye, Willie, 'tis wonderful t' see the progress you're makin' wi' tha' pipe, now!"<br><br>What an evening.&nbsp; The young musicians ranged in age from 6 or 7 to about 20.&nbsp; They clearly loved music.&nbsp; And, they clearly loved being together.&nbsp; Sometimes a bit too much:&nbsp; John's only harsh words were for the older girls who simply had too much news to share with each other to be able to sit quietly during <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">all</span> the introductory solos.&nbsp; So, these prodigies really were just kids, after all.<br><br>Kids, learning to use their gifts.&nbsp; The evening was a delight, and a lesson.&nbsp; It was fun to see how even the most timid and faltering soloists would throw themselves into the music with gusto, when the cavalry came riding over the horizon and their friends all jumped into the song.&nbsp; And, it was both fun and instructive to watch John at work with them:&nbsp; patient, prodding, smiling, encouraging (except for a couple of moments with those teenage lasses!).&nbsp; I noticed his model was also contagious:&nbsp; at the end of each number, all the rest of the kids applauded the soloist, however limited.<br><br>Lord, let my teaching be like John's work that evening, helping new generations of leaders in the Body of Christ learn to use their gifts, and finding ways to enable their companions to be a great encouragement to them. &nbsp;<br><br>And Nora?&nbsp; What a surprise it was when, at the end of the evening, John announced that Nora Butler, a "living legend of Irish traditional music," would sing a solo, dedicated to the couple visiting from Philadelphia.&nbsp; Unbeknownst to us, the modest Grandma who invited us to tag along with her brood and share the evening... has pipes!&nbsp; 'Twas an honor to receive such a song... from such a singer!<br><br>Humility and hospitality, modest folk with nothing-to-be-modest-about talent... we met many such people during our visit to Cathy's ancestral homeland.&nbsp; We never kissed the Blarney Stone, but we hope some of those other qualities rubbed off!<br><br>May the Lord make you also an encouragement to those around you who, however tentatively, are discovering and developing their gifts!<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br> Sun, 08 May 2011 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/35629-listening-and-learning-at-br%C3%BA-bor%C3%BA https://internationalministries.org/read/35629-listening-and-learning-at-br%C3%BA-bor%C3%BA "Pray for my people." "Pray for my people." &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br>D had tears in her eyes as she spoke.&nbsp; I, too, was moved.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br><br>You might not think it would be a very moving experience to attend the board meetings of a theological seminary.&nbsp; And, truth be told, it <span style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">is</span> easy to lose sight of the real point of it all when one is wading through the details of financial statements or the accreditation procedures and policies that are necessary to undergird a formal theological education program.&nbsp; The real point is the students.<br><br>In my brief experience on the board of trustees of the <a href="http://www.ibts.eu">International Baptist Theological Seminary</a> (IBTS) in Prague, Czech Republic, I have found the students to be endlessly fascinating.&nbsp; Their stories are often very moving.&nbsp; So, spending time with students is always one of the highlights of board members' semi-annual visits to campus.<br><br>Last weekend was no different.&nbsp; I was delighted to see some of the students I had met on previous visits, including a couple of students I spent extra time with during <a href="http://www.internationalministries.org/read/19973">my volcanically-extended stay at IBTS</a> in April of 2010.&nbsp; And it was great to meet some of the new students.<br><br>D is a very determined young woman from the former Soviet bloc.&nbsp; After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, part of the surge of local/national pride and identity took the form of a religious revival.&nbsp; After years of political and cultural domination by Russia, the people of D's country were eager to assert their independence in every way.&nbsp; In the religious realm, that meant reacting against both Soviet atheism and Russian Orthodoxy by reaffirming other religious identities.<br><br>D's parents had been mostly uninterested in spirituality during her childhood years, but they joined in the religio-cultural resurgence and became quite active in the majority faith of their (ancient land and) new nation.&nbsp; Then, at the age of 20, D's own spiritual search led her along a divergent path.&nbsp; When she began to follow Jesus, the result was violent rejection.&nbsp; Beaten bloody by her own mother, D nonetheless persevered (and, amazingly, is still able to speak very lovingly of her mom).<br><br>D has come to IBTS to gain knowledge and skills that she can put at the service of the gospel among her people.&nbsp; If that were not enough, she feels deeply an additional burden to make a difference in the situation facing so many young women in her country.&nbsp; Jobs are scarce.&nbsp; Human trafficking flourishes.&nbsp; And even women who are not snared by the traffickers may find themselves driven toward prostitution in order to put food in their children's mouths.<br><br>In the face of such a daunting panorama, D is a woman of courage and hope--and, at least as important, dogged perseverance.&nbsp; She is getting what she came for at IBTS.&nbsp; She has also gotten involved with the <a href="http://www.icapglobal.org/">global network of people working against prostitution</a> that God is so powerfully using my friend and colleague <a href="http://www.internationalministries.org/missionaries/109">Lauran Bethell</a> to nurture.<br><br>As we parted company, D turned to me and repeated her request, "Pray for my people."&nbsp; How could I not?<br><br>I, in turn, invite you to pray for the Ds of our world, giving thanks for God's work in their lives and asking God to strengthen, encourage and equip them for the ministries to which they are so clearly called.&nbsp; While you are at it, pray for IBTS and the strategic work that God continues to accomplish through it.&nbsp; This vital ministry is continuing to go through a special time of discernment, related to the pursuit of long term financial health.<br><br>Thank you for providing the prayer and financial support that enables me to make a small contribution to the life of IBTS and to students like D.<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br> Wed, 20 Apr 2011 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/35062-pray-for-my-people- https://internationalministries.org/read/35062-pray-for-my-people- Small world! "My Mom shops in that store!"&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br>I had been unable to resist the urge.&nbsp; Usually, I try not to inflict my pictures ("Our name is Legion, for we are <span style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">m-a-n-y</span>...") on people.&nbsp; Decades ago, I put an entire room full of people to sleep with my f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s photos. So, I well know the (soporific) power of pictures.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br>But this was a special case.&nbsp; Ishor was genuinely interested.&nbsp; And, as we looked at the pictures, his eyes did not grow heavy, they got brighter!&nbsp; Then, in a small restaurant in a small city in the middle of the U.S.--a Vietnamese restaurant, no less!--Ishor joyously pointed to the photo on the screen and said, "My Mom shops in that store!&nbsp; And our home is just down the street!"&nbsp; The photo was one I had taken years previously in Kathmandu, Nepal when I visited missionary friends, <a href="http://www.internationalministries.org/missionaries/108">Carole and Bucky Sydnor</a>.<br><br>Despite what seems to be its unofficial airline motto ("you can't get there from here" [I have stories]), Springfield, Illinois is a wonderful place.&nbsp; Once you <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">do</span> get there (preferably, by driving), the people are terrific.&nbsp; And, as in so many American cities, "the people" come from <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">every</span>where!<br><br>I was in Springfield to participate in the annual mission conference of the <a href="http://www.abcgrr.org/">American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region</a>, and stayed over through Sunday in order to share in the life of <a href="http://cbcchurchfamily.org/">Central Baptist Church</a>, where my friend Reg Mills is the pastor.<br><br>Ishor is a bright young electrical engineer who is plugged into the life of CBC.&nbsp; As we talked at the end of the Sunday School hour, he was amazed to learn that I had been in his hometown.&nbsp; So, Reg thought it would be fun to get Ishor and me together at lunch. <br><br>Ishor was eager to know where in Kathmandu I had been, and what I had learned.&nbsp; I was busily demonstrating the limits of my memory when it hit me that my computer had the photos I had taken in Nepal, and was only a few yards away, in the parking lot.&nbsp; As we fired it up and starting looking at the pictures, Ishor got more and more animated--especially when it turned out I had actually spent a brief time in his neighborhood.&nbsp; Small world!<br><br>During lunch, the "small world" discovery also went the other way, as I listened to Ishor's story.&nbsp; At the weekend mission conference, I had spent a little time working with the story of the reunion of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 33.&nbsp; I had invited the participants to live as channels of God's mercy and love so that they, like Esau, could be used to reveal "the face of God" to others.&nbsp; When I asked how Ishor, born a Hindu, had become a follower of Jesus, he basically gave me the same message I had shared with the conferees. &nbsp;<br><br>As a boy, Ishor was eager to learn all he could.&nbsp; So, when he heard about a Sunday School operating among the local group of Jesus' followers, he decided to check it out.&nbsp; What he found was a teacher unlike any he had ever met in ordinary schools.&nbsp; In them, the teachers seemed to take a special delight in punishing children for what they did not know and humiliating them for what they had not yet learned how to do.&nbsp; At the church, Ishor met a radically different kind of teacher, a woman who embodied loving encouragement.&nbsp; Ishor was astounded--and attracted--by this very different way of treating people.&nbsp; In that loving teacher, Ishor came to recognize the love of God.<br><br>Small world.&nbsp; The seeds sown by a loving Sunday School teacher in Nepal have borne fruit not only in Kathmandu, but also in Springfield, Illinois.&nbsp; An investment in the life of a little boy has yielded dividends in the contagious enthusiasm for Jesus of a winsome young man. &nbsp;<br><br>I am encouraged by Ishor's story, and hope you are, too.&nbsp; We never know what God will do with our faithfulness.&nbsp; The real value of small acts of love and kindness is impossible to anticipate.&nbsp; May the Lord enable us all to be like that teacher in the lives of the Ishors around us!<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br> Sun, 17 Apr 2011 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/35048-small-world- https://internationalministries.org/read/35048-small-world- "I won’t go home the same." The words belonged to my friend Ron.&nbsp; But they apply equally to me.&nbsp; Ron was saying good-bye to the pastors after 3 days of very engaging conversations about Scripture and ministry.&nbsp; What a privilege to be invited into their world for even a few days!&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br>It is a very different world.&nbsp; They are a tiny religious minority in the bewilderingly complex land of India.&nbsp; They are all from small minority ethnic groups in a country of a billion people.&nbsp; They live in a climate of great social and political tension, punctuated with some frequency by political violence.&nbsp; They work in cities, small towns and tiny traditional villages... or maybe not-so-traditional: cell phone ringtones now disturb the traditional quiet!&nbsp; So, the pastors daily navigate a jumble of cultures, ethnicities, religions and even centuries--a challenge that boggles the mind.<br><br>What, on earth, could we offer them?&nbsp; Certainly not the assured recipes of Western Christianity... so clearly awash in its own--our own--sea of struggles.&nbsp; We did not come to give them the five principles, six rules or seven steps to spiritual success.&nbsp;&nbsp; There were no canned Powerpoint presentations, four-color brochures or manuals.&nbsp; Instead, there was Scripture.&nbsp; And dialogue.&nbsp; Real dialogue.&nbsp; For, when working with Scripture, we tried to resist telling them what they were supposed to see, let alone, think.&nbsp; (I say "tried" because, I confess, I can get pretty excited about what I think I have found in the text!)<br><br>Our seminar was devoted to a form of inductive Bible study that has come to be known as Manuscript Bible Study.&nbsp; It is an approach that emphasizes personal and community discovery, rather than monologues from the experts.&nbsp; The engagement of text, participants and facilitators followed a three-step pattern.&nbsp; After a time of personal study in the text, we would invite small groups to have unstructured conversations about the observations, insights, hunches and questions each participant developed during the study period.&nbsp; We did not give them a list of the "right" questions to ask or answer, but let them engage in their own self-guided process of discovery.&nbsp; After the small groups had a chance to work, we pulled the 42 participants together to harvest the fruit of their labors.&nbsp;&nbsp; Our opening questions were always open-ended ("What did you see?"&nbsp; "What did your group focus on?"&nbsp; "What do you want to talk about?")<br><br>Guided by a shared commitment to the text of Scripture itself, and making use of the group's own growing ability to distinguish between suggestions truly rooted in the text and those foreign to it, we came to generously-bounded agreements about the message of the passages we studied.&nbsp; Then the foreign facilitators listened and offered encouragement as participants offered their own "so what?" statements about the meaning of the ancient message for life and ministry in North East India today.&nbsp; It was a learning experience for <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic; text-decoration: underline;">all</span> of us.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; And, in the final session of personal sharing, one by one, the pastors said they, too, "would not go home the same."<br><br>Around the edges of the seminar, there were many more conversations, as well as forays into the life of the city of Guwahati, in the state of Assam.&nbsp; Our incredibly gracious hosts--the Council of Baptist Churches of North East India (CBCNEI)--made sure that we were not only well cared for, but also enabled to learn about Assam's rich cultural heritage and get a taste of "real life" today.&nbsp; All in all, it was powerful.&nbsp; We're especially grateful to Dr. Asangla Ao and her husband, Rev. Dr. A. K. Lama (General Secretary of CBCNEI) for an unforgettable experience!<br><br>So, we do not return quite the same as when we left, though it is too soon to tell in just what way.&nbsp; New threads have been added to the cloth of our lives.&nbsp; Germinating seeds are at work, but the plants are not yet visible.&nbsp; But, even now, I am grateful... to God, and to you.<br><br>Thanks for the prayers and gifts by which you make this possible, both for me and for my friends in the global church!<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br>p.s. If you'd like more glimpses of our experience in Guwahati, you can find an album of my photos<a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/sslade07/201103India?feat=directlink"> </a><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/sslade07/201103India?feat=directlink#">HERE</a>.<br> Sun, 27 Mar 2011 20:00:00 -0400 https://internationalministries.org/read/34436-i-won-t-go-home-the-same- https://internationalministries.org/read/34436-i-won-t-go-home-the-same- What do you teach? "What do you teach?"&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br>Seems like a simple enough question.&nbsp; And, of course, I can usually identify the "subject matter" for any particular course:&nbsp; The Gospel of Mark, The Book of Acts, Contemporary Mission, Introduction to Theology and so on.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br><br>But it has been a very long time since I thought of courses primarily in terms of their "subject matter."&nbsp; Almost exactly 31 years, actually.&nbsp; One day in class, halfway through my first year as a college professor (a shattering experience, but that's a story for another time), I came to the conclusion that I needed to teach people, not subjects. <br><br>Of course, that is a caricature--effective teaching and learning requires good work with <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">both</span> the human "subjects" <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">and</span> the intellectual "subject matter."&nbsp; Still, given the way I had so exclusively focused on the "subject matter" of my courses, for me it was a revolutionary change of emphasis to try to take the human beings in front of me with equal seriousness.&nbsp; My previous lectures in that course had been trying to answer the question, "What is symbolic logic?"&nbsp; Our subsequent class discussions engaged the students in learning how to make use of the basic disciplines of logic in their broader lives and learning.<br><br>In every course since then, I have tried (not always successfully, I confess), to keep my primary focus on the learners, even while seeking to do justice (again, not always successfully) to the content the course claimed to address.<br><br>The Lord gave me another opportunity to grow in this regard a couple of weeks ago in Mexico.&nbsp; A student we will call "Pedro" came to the first class session eager to... fight.&nbsp; The other twenty students in the room were eager to learn.&nbsp; They had come to dive into the second half of the Gospel of Mark, both to deepen their understanding of Jesus and to hone their skills at Biblical interpretation.&nbsp; But Pedro came to fight.<br><br>A recent addition to one of the congregations close to the seminary, Pedro had been eager to come along when his pastor told him about the special Bible study workshop that would be offered.&nbsp; I suspect Pedro came with some combination of eagerness and wariness, probably due to some previous church experience in which he had been warned that seminaries are places where people "lose their faith."&nbsp; But whether he came warily or not, he immediately found something to fight about.&nbsp; It made for an unusually "high energy" first session in our week-long intensive course!<br><br>So, for Pedro that week, what did I teach?&nbsp; I hope I communicated to him something of the love and patience that God has shown me over the years.&nbsp; I certainly tried to model for him a way to love the Lord not only with all his "heart, soul and strength," but also with all his "mind" (Mark 12:30).&nbsp; I was certainly grateful for the prayers that many offered for this course and for the fact that I was only one of many people in the room who patiently sought to communicate love to Pedro--love, and also lack of fear about combining heart and mind.<br><br>Honestly, though, even today I have no idea whether I "taught" Pedro anything about the Gospel of Mark.&nbsp; I am thankful to be able to report that he stayed with us all week.&nbsp; He even managed to hang in there as we tackled the last chapter of Mark--which contains one of the most difficult textual challenges in the whole New Testament.&nbsp; <br><br>So maybe, then, between the whole group of us, we did help Pedro to take a step or two forward on the path of faith.&nbsp; I certainly hope so.&nbsp; For it was faith in the living God--faith that engages one's whole heart, soul, mind and strength--that I at least tried to teach.<br><br>My prayer is that, whatever your "day job," you will be passing on something similar today.&nbsp; May the love of God will flow through you today in such a way that those around you are blessed, and encouraged to take a step further along the path of faith.<br><br>Thanks for your company and your support on this journey!<br><br>Stan<br><br> Sun, 20 Feb 2011 19:00:00 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/33028-what-do-you-teach- https://internationalministries.org/read/33028-what-do-you-teach- Here and there... "So, as you travel to all these places, what mission challenges <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">do</span> you see that are common to them all?"&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br><br><br>The questioner was a bright, thoughtful young man who had been paying close attention as the evening's conversation unfolded. He had waited patiently during the Q&amp;A session after my presentation about what it meant for Jesus to "move into the neighborhood" (as Eugene Peterson nicely renders <a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%201:14&amp;version=MSG">John 1:14</a>) in Vietnam and other places.&nbsp; He had clearly picked up on my message that "mission" is something God is working on <span style="font-weight: bold; text-decoration: underline;">every</span>where, not just in faraway places.<br><br>So, as the evening drew to a close, he was not going to let me off the hook with vague claims about mission "from everywhere to everyone" (which by the way, is part of the subtitle of a wonderful little book by my inspiring friend and colleague, Samuel Escobar [<span style="text-decoration: underline;">The New Global Mission:&nbsp; The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone</span>, IVP: 2003]).&nbsp; What, in fact, did the challenges facing rural and small town Indiana churches really have in common with the challenges facing missionaries halfway round the world?<br><br>Us.&nbsp; As that brilliant social commentator and sometime theologian Pogo once famously put it, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."<br><br>The young man's question was a wonderful way to "bring it home," to move from a detached discussion of the faraway, to real, personal engagement.&nbsp; I sincerely thanked him for the question.&nbsp; For, the mission of God is not about somebody else's transformation.&nbsp; It is about mine.&nbsp; And yours.&nbsp; Likewise, it is not only about transforming the way we talk, or the ideals we claim to believe in (though it certainly includes all of that).&nbsp; It is about transforming the way we act--and that, right at the source.&nbsp; I mean, source<span style="font-weight: bold; text-decoration: underline;">s</span>.&nbsp; The heart--yes, absolutely.&nbsp; But also the world around us, the environment we both shape and are shaped by.&nbsp; <br><br>Long before we become self-aware about the impulses of our innermost selves (our "hearts"), those common human impulses for both good and evil have already been given labels in a specific language and contours drawn with the pen of a particular culture.&nbsp; As it moves into each specific neighborhood, the gospel of Jesus Christ finds much to affirm and much to challenge.&nbsp; That is a constant across all cultures.&nbsp; But this mission constant has myriad expressions, due to our wonderful cultural diversity.<br><br>So I responded to the young man's question by saying that in every context, the mission of God seeks to carry out a deeper human transformation than anything we've yet seen, since even those who seek most sincerely and intentionally to follow Jesus make innumerable compromises with our particular culture's way of giving expression to human sinfulness.&nbsp; To get concrete, I mentioned the struggles Vietnamese face regarding ancestors and those we Americans face regarding money.&nbsp; In Vietnam, the pastors had shared with me a little of their challenge of living out a Biblical way of honoring ancestors (<a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus%2020:12&amp;version=NIV">Exodus 20:12</a> sounds very different to traditional Vietnamese ears than to, say, 21st century American ears!) while turning away from any hint of idolatry or spirit worship.&nbsp; In America, the folks at <a href="http://www.emptytomb.org/research.html">www.emptytomb.org</a> regularly remind us that our own problems with syncretism lead most American Christians to find a way to make "tithe" mean something close to 2% (Paul's warning to Timothy [<a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Timothy%206:9-10&amp;version=NIV">1 Timothy 6:9-10</a>] seems to make little headway among us... and gets utterly swept away wherever the "gospel of prosperity" takes root).&nbsp; This was an easy example to cite, since everyone in the room had just come through another cycle of our culture's celebration of wealth.&nbsp; My deepest identity may be hidden in Jesus, but I still "get it" when Lexus, BMW, Zales and Kay barrage me with the message that I really should have surprised Cathy this Christmas with a very special gift (whether found in the driveway with a big bow, or under the tree with a little bow, the gift would be "very special" simply because it was Very Expensive).&nbsp; <br><br>So, whether our "mission field" is a faraway place of strikingly different language and culture, or the neighborhood our family has lived in for generations, it remains a place where the gospel both celebrates what is good and also seeks ever-deeper transformation of all that is less than God's best for human beings.&nbsp; Scripture promises and presses toward--and calls us to anticipate--a blessed hope that goes far beyond a "you &amp; me, Jesus" getaway to a heavenly retreat center.&nbsp; It inspires us to look for and live toward the time when "The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ" (<a href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%2011:15&amp;version=NIV1984">Revelation 11:15</a>).&nbsp; It tells us the story of One whose patient work to make all things new will one day be fully unveiled in a "new heaven and new earth."<br><br>In the meantime, mission continues, as Samuel Escobar puts it, "from everywhere to everyone."&nbsp; I am grateful to be on this journey not only with the Lord, but also with you.&nbsp; May the Spirit empower us all to live toward the transformed future God is bringing.<br><br>Blessings,<br>Stan<br><br>p.s.&nbsp; I have been meaning to tell you about a wonderful tool for learning and reflecting about mission that has recently become available to anyone with an internet connection--for free!!&nbsp; I have subscribed to the <a href="http://www.internationalbulletin.org"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">International Bulletin of Missionary Research</span></a> for years, and find it consistently informative and thought-provoking.&nbsp; At www.internationalbulletin.org/register you can easily and quickly gain access to this terrific resource.&nbsp; The current issue includes brief articles on the 4 major mission consultations held around the world last year to both remember and transcend the great mission conference held in Edinburgh in 1910.<br><br>p.p.s. If you have ever wondered how many Christians (and Muslims, and Hindus and Buddhists) there are in the world, or wanted to know facts and figures about Christian mission, this is an especially good moment to visit www.internationalbulletin.org.&nbsp; For, each January the IBMR devotes a few of its pages to an update from the latest research on global Christianity.&nbsp; Have a look!<br> Thu, 20 Jan 2011 19:00:00 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/32038-here-and-there- https://internationalministries.org/read/32038-here-and-there- The leopard shall lie down with the kid... Well.&nbsp; This is clearly no leopard.&nbsp; And my good friends Ron and Eric have not been kids for... a... <span style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">while</span>....&nbsp; And, of course, they were never "kids" in the sense that Isaiah meant!&nbsp; Still, this was the image that came to mind as our pastor, Karen Selig, did a wonderful job of leading us into the meaning of Isaiah 11 a couple of weeks ago.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br><br>In March of this year, Eric, Ron and I were once again part of an international faculty that has been doing inductive Bible study seminars in different places around the world for many years.&nbsp; At the end of the seminar, I traveled to Rangoon/Yangon, to do some work on conflict transformation with people in Burma/Myanmar, and my friends went to a place near the Thai-Burma border that has become known as the "tiger sanctuary" (or "<a href="http://www.tigertemple.org/Eng/index.php">tiger temple</a>").&nbsp; As you can see, the tigers there do, indeed, lie down with those they would normally fear or eat:&nbsp; us.<br><br>The conditions at the tiger sanctuary are unique.&nbsp; (In fact, they are controversial.&nbsp; Some claim the reality behind the scenes is very different from what visitors experience.&nbsp; I do not have adequate information either to attack or to defend it.&nbsp; What struck me though--and what I want to highlight here--is that my friends say it was an amazing taste of strikingly different possibilities for life in this world.)&nbsp; Those who run the place are inspired by Buddha, not Jesus.&nbsp; Still, I think followers of Jesus can learn something from its very existence.&nbsp; For, thoughts of the tiger sanctuary came to mind for me first, not as Pastor Karen read the words of Isaiah 11:6, but when she reminded us of the amazing things that God has done through the work of <a href="http://www.koinoniapartners.org">Koinonia Farm</a>, in Americus, Georgia.<br><br><span style="font-style: italic;">Here's the <span style="text-decoration: underline;">short</span> version of what went through my mind:</span><br><br>Isaiah was inspired to use a variety of metaphors as he talked to his fellow Israelites about the disasters that were headed their way... and the outpouring of blessing that would eventually follow.&nbsp; New growth would sprout from the stump of a tree that had been not only cut down, but burned.&nbsp; Out of apparent annihilation, God would bring a totally unexpected new burst of life.&nbsp; Not a plant, a person.&nbsp; That person, we confess by faith, was Jesus of Nazareth--who is none other than the risen Lord.<br><br>As Pastor Karen added a small ceramic goat to our congregational nativity scene, she reminded us that Isaiah's vision of leopards lying down with kids is not so much about animals, as people.&nbsp; The real transformation of predators and prey that needed to take place in Isaiah's time--and desperately needs to occur in our own time--is the transformation of human predators and prey.<br><br>If that transformation still needs to happen, over 2,000 years after Jesus' birth, what does it mean to sing carols about peace on earth?&nbsp; At least part of what it means, is that we live by faith and hope, not by sight.&nbsp; Also, to sing about peace in a world like ours should mean committing ourselves to live out and work for what we sing about.&nbsp; Just why the Lord has chosen to take thousands of years to move from the inauguration of the Kingdom of God in Jesus to its full expression at the Second Coming is a mystery.&nbsp; But this "in the meantime" that we have been granted is an opportunity to move from watchers to workers in the longest long term project in history:&nbsp; God's transformation of the very fabric of human life.<br><br>It was as she encouraged us to join in the work God is doing that Pastor Karen called our attention to the great example of Koinonia Farm.&nbsp; There, Clarence Jordan and those who joined him knew they were living and working on "a demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God."&nbsp; Koinonia Farm was not and is not the full expression of the Kingdom--not even in its own internal life.&nbsp; But it has embodied a serious attempt to live into and live out the message of Jesus.&nbsp; And, God has used that "demonstration plot" to produce some amazing fruit all over the world (not least through one of its daughter ministries, the better-known Habitat for Humanity).&nbsp; <br><br>At the tiger sanctuary, Ron and Eric got a brief taste of radically different relationships between predator and prey.&nbsp; At Koinonia Farm, Habitat for Humanity and myriad other churches and special-focus ministries (including those served by International Ministries!), people get a taste of the future that is coming.<br><br>We are still very far from experiencing the fullness of life that God intends for humanity.&nbsp; That, truly, is bad news for us all.&nbsp; But it also means there is a lot of room for more "demonstration plots" for the Kingdom of God.&nbsp; In fact, there is both room and need for such "demonstration plots" wherever we are.<br><br>I am grateful for the chances I get to be a part of such expressions of God's Kingdom, whether in Royersford, Vietnam or anywhere else in the world--a world that is somehow both God's and ours.&nbsp; As we celebrate again this week the coming of God in Jesus, may it whet our appetite for the fullness of what it promises... and quicken our hands to pick up a hoe and work the field of our own little demonstration plot!<br><br><span>May God grant you a joyous celebration of Jesus' birth... and also make of you and those with whom you serve daily, a fruitful demonstration plot for the Kingdom!</span> <br><br>Stan<br> Tue, 21 Dec 2010 19:00:00 -0500 https://internationalministries.org/read/30241-the-leopard-shall-lie-down-with-the-kid- https://internationalministries.org/read/30241-the-leopard-shall-lie-down-with-the-kid-