Wednesday, November 18, 2009

All in a Day's Work

Left to my own devices I'm rather compulsive, and something of an information junkie - I'm curious about a lot of things. And when I find out something new it's fun for me to tell other people.

Doesn't take much experience or imagination to see how those characteristics, taken together, could really go awry - and sometime they do.

But I like to think they are mostly harnessed for good.

And in recent years, those information-gathering skills have been put to use in my job. It's been suggested that more than anything else we're a knowledge company.

Yesterday I was all over the internet, reading. A lot of it was because I was working on our reader's-digest of mission news, Missions Catalyst. Our news editor, P., is the one who really puts in the hours slogging through the news sources and picking stories. But she's got a lot of other things to juggle, too, so sometime I end up doing additional reading and research to fill in gaps. That was the case this week.

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1. Who Picks the Projects?

In the November edition of The Power of Connecting, a monthly newsletter on ministry collaboration, I read about a house church network in the US coming alongside Christians in Ghana to see help them multiply house churches there. Good stuff, but the rest of the story is even more fascinating:
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif., Oct. 20 /Christian Newswire/ -- Recently Ghana was chosen as the winner of an online contest for an initiative proposed to help the country's subsistent farmers.

...Africa Rural Connect (ARC) hosted the contest and is a global online collaborative effort through the National Peace Corps that asks people from every background for their best idea on the challenges facing rural Africa. Their intention is to create and enhance project plans that could have a real-life impact in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to their website. In August, ARC started giving away up to $3,000 every month to each of the top three ideas as voted on by the online community. This will culminate in a chance to win the $20,000 grand prize to be announced in December. [Read full story]
How cool is that? Not someone with a bunch of money coming into a complex situation and saying, here's what we want to do to help you, but a true collaborative approach to figuring out and pursuing the best ideas. Read more about Africa Rural Connect.

2. What Not to Bring

The same day another ministry contact posted Does China Still Needs Us? The article concludes with a good list of things to put on your "Don't Pack This" list when you go overseas.

Leave behind your desire for fame, your big piles of cash, your Western books translated into their language, and "your own sincere but pre-determined agenda and time-frame, especially if funding-driven." Amen. (Many of us have such trouble packing so light!)

Perhaps, as I heard suggested not long ago, the only people who really feel a freedom to say "no" to other people's ideas are white Western men. So when the offer others the chance to give input, or ask for feedback, it's not effective; few will speak freely in front of the incumbent, the power-broker, the boss.

If we find ourselves in such a category, or partially so (e.g., we are white and Western) we would do well to make extra efforts to create the environment where others truly have a voice.

3. Radical Living

Also enjoyed reading another paradigm-breaking article excerpted and recommended by Fiona in Paraguay under the headline, Love in Action. (Link to the original source below.) I like the bit where the man being quoted - who is basically setting up a rural commune - says a lot of our charity is like carbon offsetting; our societies need so much more.

Here's my favorite bit:
The nuclear family has created an epidemic of depression and stress because there’s simply not enough time for two adults to do all the work to earn the money to pay for the nanny to do shopping to feed the children and so on. The modern, narrow definition of the word has turned the family – once a castle of inclusivity – into an excuse for exclusivity. Nowadays the phrase “I’ve got to think about my family” invariably means “screw you.” I’ve come to believe in another F word, which seems closer to the older, almost Mediterranean, sense of family: fellowship. [Read full story.]
4. Identity

Finally, as I make inch-by-inch progress toward actually being ready to start a sabbatical on January 1 (OK, it's not approved yet, but getting closer) I was encouraged by just a few words from a stranger's blog, a link to which was tweeted by a friend of a friend... funny world we live in, isn't it?
We have to be full-time Christ followers, not full-time workers.
I am hopeful that taking a break from being "a full-time Christian worker" for a good chunk of 2010 is just what I need to come back more healthy and whole.

* * *

[Thanks to Dave for the Ghana article, and to Jon who wrote it; to Justin for the China article, and G., who wrote it, to Fiona for the England article, and the Guardian who published it; to Tony, for tweeting about his training event, and his intern who blogged about it. You've all given me nourishing food for thought! A decade ago my reading life was much simpler but it's richer for this kind of input.]

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