Friday, March 30, 2007

More UK Travels

Monday had lunch with Paul Sands, the closest thing Tom has to a pastor - rather manic, high-energy guy, and glad to ask us hard questions and bring up difficult subjects. I really appreciated the time with him. Setting was fun, too - a church converted into a cafe, which still has services after serving breakfast on Sundays - much more a part of the community and inviting than your typical church.

That afternoon drove out to a Bible college to meet with a young couple who used to live in Tom's city and are interesting in returning when they are done with school in the fall. Future teammates? We got on quite well. Tom had not met them before, either.

Tuesday had chapel and hooked up with Jay and Teri, the couple I was really hopeful we would be able to spend time with, and not only did they warmly welcome the reacquaintance, they also took us out to lunch and we had a wonderful conversation about what they are learning these days as they walk with the Lord. We were all so blessed.

Wednesday drove to Bradford, met with my colleagues there, had dinner with them, spent the night at Bob & Kathryn's. Highlight for me was pulling away for coffee with Kim, who was for quite a season my closest coworker. She is now in Britain engaged to marry this fall. Lots to talk about. So good to have time with a close female friend like that.

Leaving shortly to reconnect with the kids, and then take them North to see and spend the night on YWAM's latest ship, the Next Wave. A tremendous amount of driving, bad traffic likely, and I am nervous about it all working out. Trying to bite my tongue. Ouch!

Little internet acess, down time, or opportunity to get away alone and reflect - taking its toll. I want a break. But the conference we are attending this next week may be less intense.

As much as Tom and I see the world through remarkably similar lenses, the differences are a bit tough, like wearing the wrong pair of glasses. Running up against my fears and disappointments, trying to sort them out, have hope and joy and peace, press ahead without being reckless. I am not sure I love him enough to - but why the rush? Emotionally this is quite draining: trying to enjoy, evaluate and stay in a wait-and-see attitude at the same time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


With Tom on the day Josiah was baptized; shopping with Genevieve; Tom & Genevieve; playing around on the tube.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

From Harpenden

Made it to England! No Internet access these last few days but it seems to be working again... so, sorry to any who emailed me and expected a response!

A couple of weekend highlights and a lowlight:

- Friday, was able to get a spontaneous appointment with an OM ship captain named Graham who was happy to talk and dream with us about launching a ship-based ministry of a different sort, and wanted to be the first one to join a prayer network to support it.

- Met Tom's kids Josiah on Friday and Genevieve on Saturday; spent the day in the city with them. We got on pretty well. Have to say I think I could even be friends with their mum, Trixie, as my co-worker Les had prayed I would. It was a bit tricky managing our day in the city, with people of two genders, three nationalities, born in three different decades - but we settled on the Museum of Science, the Museum of Natural History, and taking in a film.

- Managed to overcome my phonophobia enough to touch base with all my friends in Bradford, or at least their voicemail, and made tentative plans for Tom & I to travel there Wednesday, have dinner with our staff there, and spend the night. Good to have that arranged!

- Sunday was what we expected to be the weekend's most key point, the real reason we had flown to England a week early - Josiah's baptism. When we got to the church we discovered that England started Daylight Savings Time this weekend! As we had just arrived in the UK we had no idea, and nobody said a word. So we missed the whole thing, by one hour. Huge challenge, emotionally, for Tom especially, but we pulled together and refused to feel sorry for ourselves or bitter. We still got to join the party back at Trixie's afterwards - something else he thought would be too hard for him but turned out not to be - went and did a bit of shopping (with expert advice from 14-year-old Genevieve, quite the fashionista), and took the kids out for dinner.

Generally - Tom and I are enjoying each other and having a great time. Will post more later. People who pray, thanks for keeping all the stuff with meeting-the-kids before God! I so appreciate it. Will post some pictures too. Next, we are hoping to do some more ministry networking: make appointments with a ship-ministry guy named Brian. He had a new ship on the Thames and we are hoping to go see it. A yacht, really. Also left messages with mutual friends Jay and Teri from whom I first heard about Tom and his ministry vision many years ago. Wonderful people and I have been in their home but I have to admit we have never really clicked; I pray that this time we would! They get back from a trip Monday night and we hope to run into them Tuesday and ask for some time together.

Monday, March 19, 2007

What Can Two Dozen Do?

For those who have been lurking around looking for updates on the Caleb Project remnant, immigrants, and refugees, here’s some more “scoop.” Official news should be posted on our web sites within the next few days. As I write I notice both are down for no particular reason. (Carrying on without a computer guy is tough. The main network guru from before still helps on a contract basis but has full-time employment elsewhere.)

At this point two dozen people who were formerly on staff with Caleb Project or ACMC have accepted positions with Pioneers. All are part of the ‘remnant,’ those who still worked here as of February 13 when we were all laid off – so, people who were hanging around waiting for something like this to come through. Not surprising that many of us took the Pioneers offer.

It’s possible that some of the ‘immigrants’ – those who resigned previously – or the ‘refugees,’ those who were previously laid off or sort of pushed out – may return, but it would surprise me. If we can make a go of this and rebuild some momentum, I think we will pick up some volunteers and new staff, but that is a ways down the road. At this point further personnel losses seem more likely than further gains.

What Can We Do?

A press release sent to Pioneers staff around the world is accurate and realistic about this. However, it does bring up some kinda scary questions about our capabilities which the Pioneers staff may ask:

“Will [Pioneers Denver] now be doing the UPG research and resource production for which Caleb Project was known? Who do I contact to submit a UPG in my area for research consideration?”

“How can I get training programs like …Encountering the World of Islam, the [five-week Perspectives] Exposure Course, Ethnography Training, Advocacy Training, and the Crossing Cultures Seminar… in my home church?”

I am the only one remaining on staff with experience in several of those programs, so I’d have to say they are pretty vulnerable. We may have two dozen people signing on, but no single area of our previous ministry has more than two people committed to it, and some have none. Our ability to produce or accomplish anything is severely compromised.

On the other hand, it’s an amazing thing that we are able to go on at all. Can't two dozen people change the world? When I was teaching 'Pioneers of the World Christian Movement' recently I noticed that number cropping up a couple of times... here are excerpts from my teaching notes.

Twenty-four Willing Skillful Laborers

A large map of China was hanging on the walls of Hudson Taylor’s study. He read over and over again the names of the Inland provinces: South of the Clouds, West of the Mountains, North of the Lake. He knew there were hundreds of cities, thousands of towns, and tens of thousands of villages where the Word of God had not been preached. He had already talked to all the mission societies he knew of urging them to send men to the inland provinces, and they listened sympathetically but told him nothing could be done at present.

If only, he thought, there were two missionaries in each province. That would be a start. Then the thought came to mind, “Why don’t you ask God to send them to you?” This was a much more difficult thing for Taylor to accept than going himself. Suppose he sent them out and there wasn’t enough money? Suppose they starved to death? What if the Chinese got angry at them and killed them? How terrible to be the one to send them to their death. The responsibility would be too great.

But one Sunday morning in June he was walking on the beach at Brighton and came to the conclusion he would have to do it. How could he leave those millions of Chinese to die without God? That would be far worse than his missionaries dying. After all, even if the missionaries starved to death, they would go straight to heaven. If they turned only one Chinese to worshipping God it would be all worth it. Comforted by this thought (!) he also realized he could only start a mission agency if God was calling him to do it. And if that was the case, the responsibility for what happened would be God’s, not his. That was a revolutionary thought; the weight of responsibility rolled off his shoulders.

So he would ask God to send whatever was necessary to start a mission society that would go West of the Mountains, South of the Clouds, North of the Lake – to 11 provinces and Tibet. Two workers each. He would pray for 24 workers. He wrote it in his Bible. “Prayed for 24 willing skillful laborers at Brighton, June 25, 1865.”

So what if he had barely enough money to support his own wife? The Taylor family was really living on almost nothing at this point. But God would provide. If he was doing God’s work, God’s way, God would supply all that was needed. He walked across the beach, up to the promenade where the fashionable men and women strolled and went home. Back in London, he went to the bank as soon as he had a chance and began to prepare for the resources God was sending. Surely the money was already on its way. That Tuesday he opened a bank account with ten pounds in it - in the name of the China Inland Mission.

In his life Hudson Taylor would see CIM send 700 missionaries to China. They faced a lot of failure and rejection along the way, of course. However, his work continued to grow and now his agency works in countries throughout East Asia as well as among East Asians in other parts of the world.

The strength of the church is China comes from many things, but among them is the faithfulness of Hudson Taylor’s missionaries - starting with the answer to his prayers for two dozen.

Another great missionary endeavor I spoke of was the Moravian church, particularly in its eighteenth-century heyday. Moravianism was really a movement, made of communities of believers that worked and worshipped together and committed themselves to God's purposes in their lives and in the world.

Twenty-four Hours of Prayer

"The Moravian missionaries were the first large-scale Protestant missionary movement. They were also first to send out un-ordained "lay" people (rather than trained professional clergymen), the first to go to slaves, and the first in many countries of the world. …Hundreds of missionaries [were sent] to the Caribbean, North and South America, the Artic, Africa, and the Far East." [Summary pulled from wikipedia]

Prayer was a key element of their ministry. Following a revival, the Moravians establish a 24-hour prayer vigil that lasted for more than 100 years. Imagine that! It’s interesting, when prayer and outreach are combined the gospel spreads. The early church in Rome was a praying church. The medieval monks were intercessors. And now the Moravians were just as dedicated to prayer as to outreach. A true revival will result in both prayer and outreach.

...In his book “Red Moon Rising” Peter Grieg writes about being inspired by the Moravian focus on prayer:

“Back home we knew that God was calling us to pray. We also knew that we were bad at it. Just a handful of worthy “intercessors” were diligently responding to the call while the majority of us struggled to even attend their weekly prayer meeting. We knew it was wrong whenever we thought about it. So we tried not to think about it. But the voice of the Spirit had been growing more insistent of late.

“Maybe, I thought, there is something in this Moravian, non-stop prayer model that could help us back home to pray a bit more...Walking into the Moravian chapel back in Hernnhut with its plain, shaker-style interior, I calculated that it would only take 24 one-hour shifts to fill a day with prayer. Perhaps some people would enjoy praying through the small hours of the night. Surely, if this little community of 32 houses could pray non-stop for 100 years, a church like ours could manage a month. And if God could touch the world from a place like Hernnhut, maybe he could even do it from an old English Cathedral town like [ours]."

...One thing stood out to me as I was going through my notes to prepare for teaching is that we can point to pioneers, key men and women on whose efforts everything seems to turn. But there are always co-workers, mentors, helpers, and supporters - communities of people that formed around the vision.

Consider this 24/7 prayer movement modelled after the Moravians. It takes just 24 people giving one hour a day of prayer to start a 24/7 prayer room. And to send two missionaries to every province of China took just 24 men willing to give themselves to God. Of course many more came along as well, in time. But isn’t it remarkable what two dozen people can do to change the world?

The amazing thing about the kingdom is that when you are empty, or weak, or vulnerable, you are right where God can use you. God is not looking for half-full glasses, and certainly not all-full ones - it's the ones that know their emptiness that he can use!

So, when I look at the two dozen of us joining Pioneers, a pair here, a pair there: Seems so small and weak. Yet we are not all there is. We are part of something much bigger. And, we have many former staff, program alumni, and friends scattered across the country and world in a variety of ministries. Might this situation be the very thing needed to get us to work alongside others in true partnership, bringing both our skills and our vulnerabilities to the table and putting the kingdom of God first?

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

What Shane Says about St. Patrick's Day

Something's going on with our Missions Catalyst web site; the fun article Shane Bennett wrote did not go out to our 3000 subscribers this week. But this article won't keep - it's about March 17 - St. Patrick's day. Enjoy!

St. Patrick’s Day, A Missional Holiday
To me, growing up in midwest America, St. Patrick’s Day seemed to be the lamest of holidays: We didn’t get the day off from school. Not being Catholic, the whole idea of saints was lost on me. And I was never good at planning ahead: My green shirt was always in the laundry. That meant I spent the whole day dodging the inevitable, “You’re not wearing green!” pinches that seemed to be the main way we celebrated the day. As I got older, the green-beer-fueled drunken revelry that replaced the pinches held little attraction for me. March 17th just didn’t measure up to Easter, Independence Day, or my birthday.

But as a lifelong mobilizer, I’ve come to appreciate the special significance that St. Patrick’s Day has for the likes of us. Last month’s Practical Mobilization was a whiny tirade about how Evangelicals have had their identity stolen. I said that missions zealots such as us, should of all Christians, be people who are “for” good things, not simply “against” bad things. This month, I’d like to float out two reasons why we might want to be “for” St. Patrick’s Day and how we might use Saturday’s celebration to share some of the stuff that’s closest to our hearts.

Patrick Rocked

I’m no historian, so feel free to correct my mis-steps here, but it looks like God did some pretty cool stuff through Patrick’s life. Here’s a very brief look at some highlights. Check for an 1800-word version of his life or for a 300-page tome.

As a boy, Patrick was abducted by Irish pirates off the beach of his western England homeland.

The pirates sold him to a cruel master who made him oversee the sheep and pigs. He was always cold and hungry.

In the midst of his slavery, the Holy Spirit began to move in Patrick’s heart, convicting him of sin and calling him into a deep love for God and compassion for the Irish.

After six years, God told Patrick to make a run for the coast 200 miles away. Although failing to escape would result in torture and maybe death, Patrick obeyed, arrived at the shore, and (amazingly) found passage on a ship back to England.

Patrick hugged his mom, mourned his father who had died during his captivity, and began to settle into his new/old life.

God didn’t let him settle long. Soon in a “Macedonian call” dream, the people of Ireland asked Patrick to return.

Again Patrick obeyed and set off for seminary in France, where, deemed too dull to be pioneer missionary, he had to wait years before he finally convinced his superiors to send him to Ireland.

Staying in Ireland until his death, Patrick planted some 200 churches and raised up missionaries who went to Britain, on to Europe and as far south at Italy. I don’t know about you, but I’m impressed and inspired by Patrick’s life. I praise God for the example he provides to us. And I want my kids to know that I’m for St. Patrick’s Day because the guy behind the day really rocked.

Guinness Brewed
I’m also for St. Patrick’s Day because of the guy who invented the beer that will be dyed green and flow like a river this Saturday. Let me be clear: I am opposed to drunkenness. But rather than rail, privately or publicly, about drunks, let’s lift our glasses to Arthur Guinness, a man who actually did something about drunkenness in his day.

As a young man, Guinness asked God to do something about the whiskey drinking and the resulting drunkenness he saw on the streets of his Irish city. God answered his prayer, instructing him, “Make a drink that men will drink that will be good for them.” Arthur responded obediently by inventing Guinness Stout.

Now, depending on your views on beer, you may feel like this was something short of all-star obedience. Shouldn’t he have invented Orange Juice or Ovaltine? In Arthur’s favor, the beer he began to brew did help limit intoxication: Its low alcohol content coupled with its heaviness (“It’s like a loaf of bread in a can!”) means it’s hard to get drunk drinking Guinness. And its positive health benefits have long been extolled (if not proven!)

God blessed Arthur’s efforts. As the beer poured out, the money poured in. And here’s a cool connection for us: Guinness used some of his considerable wealth to finance the early mission efforts of Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, now known as Overseas Missionary Fellowship.

So now I like St. Patrick’s Day. It gives us a chance once again to celebrate a great God keeping his promises and accomplishing his purposes. If you are Chinese or Southeast Asian in descent, the gospel’s road to your heart may have been paved by Guinness and his collaboration with Hudson Taylor. If you have an Anglo heritage, your spiritual history may snake back through St. Patrick. I realize anew that God does his work in ways that surprise, that sometimes involve great pain and loss, and sometimes great success. He does it through unlikely characters, perhaps like me and you.

Here's to Patrick, and Arthur and the God over us all!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Up and Coming

Peanuts are banned, pretzels are passe, but if you pick the right airline you might just get your own cheese snacks extruded in the shape of little jets! Move over Goldfish! What do you think? Does the name say it all? I wish I could share the little darlins' with you - but I ate them, every one.

My next travels may hold other surprises:

March 10-11 New Castle, Colorado - Several folks are flying in from out of town for our next ethnography training, so the organizers have invited us for a fun-packed social weekend in the mountains. Until I realized we weren't going up until Saturday afternoon I was feeling resentful - it was like working another weekend! Realized, too, why I often don't find mountain trips restful. Close up, mountains invoke within me feelings of danger and claustrophobia... come on, haven't YOU ever felt that the hills were alive?!

March 12-16 Somerset, Colorado - Then it's off to Jesus Camp (Camp Id-ra-ha-je West) to do five days of ethnography training. The team includes a married couple bringing seven of their eight kids (aged 5-18), a couple with a two-year-old, a single guy, and two single girls (one my friend Sarah.) They are all going to SE Europe this summer. My pal Shane and I will share the training load. He's bringing his wife and their brood as well; the more the merrier! Fun? Could be. Should be. But sleeping bags, and camp food (and rumor has it, limited Internet access! Not sure about cell phone coverage)
Then...yes, it is happening...
  • March 22 - April 5 England!
  • April 5 - May 2 Kazakhstan!
I'm going to see wonderful Tom, meet his kids, and then go on to the shores of the Caspian Sea to explore if God has a life for me there. Pray for some divine appointments with people He would have us meet with in both countries.

Meanwhile, back in the office, we're still waiting for the deals to come through for the transfer of assets to Pioneers. Along with about ten of us in the Littleton office, however, I am a provisional member of the Pioneers staff now.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Empathy on Demand?

Composing recent entries brought to mind this scene from a movie I checked out from the library not long ago: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The character "Trillian" has a line which I think may have been one of the main reasons for the existence of a rather significant subplot.

Here's how Wikipedia describes it.

"The point-of-view gun is a fictional device created by Douglas Adams for the movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

"According to the film, the gun was created by [the computer] Deep Thought prior to its long pondering of the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. When used on someone, it will cause them to see things from the point of view of the person firing the gun. According to the Guide, the gun was commissioned by the Intergalactic Consortium of Angry Housewives, who were tired of ending every argument with their husbands with the phrase: “You just don’t get it, do you?”

"Near the end of the film, Marvin uses the gun to save the crew from hundreds of Vogons. After the Vogons see things from Marvin’s chronically depressed point of view, they all collapse.

"When the gun is [first] discovered it is playfully used by Ford Prefect and Zaphod on one another, and eventually taken by Trillian who uses it to force Zaphod to understand why she was upset over the destruction of Earth.

"Following this, Zaphod threatens to fire the gun at Trillian, to which she replies that she is “already a woman,” and therefore it will have no effect on her."

Of course this is Douglas Adams so the whole thing is quite tongue-in-cheek. Unfortunately the sexist stereotype in the bit about Trillian does not hold up under close scrutiny, does it? Wouldn't it be good for the world if it did? If at least half of us human beings were naturally in tune with other people's perspective? Since this is, alas, not true, we all have to be more patient with one another and work at understanding and being understood.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Strange One

I’ve had several encounters this week that included ‘the look.’ No, not a glare, nor a leer, or even a look that everyone would find unpleasant. Many people like it. But I never have. It’s the look that says, “Aren’t you amazing?” And perhaps they would add: “I could never be like you / do what you do / understand you.” Keep in mind I’m projecting: Often the words are never spoken aloud. Sometimes they are.

I’m sure people don’t realize how it bothers me. It’s not that I dislike drawing attention on the whole. I enjoy public speaking, and I love to make people laugh. If being admired does not necessarily bother me, then what is it? I think it’s just being found ‘unusual.’ People put me in some category to which they cannot relate; they point to and underline the differences between us instead of seeing and acknowledging the many things that make us brothers and sisters, friends, sojourners on same path, or one of those comforting images. I so much prefer the words, “I know just what you mean!” and “I feel the same way!” Being told I’m strange and different - even with admiration - is lonely and isolating.

I suppose it should not be surprising, now more than ever, that I get the look. The stories I tell, the places I've been, the things I'm interested in are all a bit off the beaten path I suppose. When people ask if I have any travels planned I have to mention that I’ve met a great Australian guy and am preparing to go to the other side of the world to see if I can join him in his life on the Caspian Sea. Weird? Yes, I’m afraid so.

Well, why let the look spoil my joy? Time to stop taking offense and let my friends and acquaintances off the hook.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this tension. I bet a lot of people do. Is that ironic or what? Just one of those things about being human. We are so much alike, and so different. Is it surprising that the different-ness should strike one powerfully, at times?