Thinking Out Loud

May 4, 2018

Christian Author Flaunts Use of Vulgarity

Filed under: books, Christianity, missions — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:51 am

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
 – Ephesians 4:29 NLT

Nor is it fitting for you to use language which is obscene, profane, or vulgar.
– Ephesians 5:4a GNT

The new book The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright had the potential to speak to issues on which she is well-versed, such as ‘short-term mission trips as seen by a full time career missionary,’ along with other topics. Over the years I’ve read her takes on short-term missions and I think she has some very valid things to say.

Unfortunately for all, she’s somewhat sabotaged her prospects for this book’s wider acceptance with gratuitous use of profanity, vulgarity and expletives; furthermore, she’s proud of it. I’m not sure what this says about where she is currently at spiritually, or what it says about Convergent, a division (like Waterbrook) of Penguin Random House (PRH). 

That LifeWay doesn’t carry this shouldn’t be a surprise, but neither is it available through Christian Book Distributors (CBD).

She writes,

“I have no interest in pandering to a larger crowd for the sake of a bigger audience, even if it means I won’t get my message to as many people. This may shock you, but it’s not my purpose in life to tell the whole church and everyone in it my thoughts on God and faith and ministry and all that stuff. My goal here was to write a memoir, not a thesis, so my job was to write my story, my way, and that’s what I did. For any number of reasons, the language being only one, the book I released into the world isn’t gonna appeal or be palatable to a lot of people, and I’m 100% cool with that.”

“I don’t really care if some hyper conservative blowhards don’t hear those messages from me. If someone’s eyeballs are too righteously delicate too see “bad words” in print, or their earholes are too religiously tender for a little Audible profanity, then a book that uses the word “f**k” to talk about f**ked up missions obviously isn’t the right vehicle to get the message to them. Like, I’m just not their people and my book is not their book — and that’s cool…”  [edited]

Then, in the same blog post she totally flaunts her choice by listing all of the instances of swearing and invites readers to censor the book with a black sharpie if giving it to someone more sensitive. I’m including this here only to show those reading this the sheer volume of these which occur, though, in the spirit of the topic at hand, I’ve made a crude (pun intended) attempt to redact the words themselves:

I don’t want to seem hypocritical about this, but years ago the bookstore I own and manage decided to carry the testimony of Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, which has the f-word in the very first sentence. I think the packaging of that book and the fact it would only appeal to those who knew her story limited the possibility of accidentally being purchased by the wrong person, and we also added — and continue to add — a small warning sticker of our own to the back cover.

I’m not sure why I’m willing to give Nadia a pass and not Jamie, but each bookstore has to decide what works for them. I did have a white-haired grandmother rather deliberately purchase Nadia’s book and come back later to order multiple copies of it, and her book which followed.

The publisher writes:

The Very Worst Missionary is a disarming, ultimately inspiring spiritual memoir for well-intentioned contrarians everywhere. It will appeal to readers of Nadia Bolz-Weber, Jen Hatmaker, Ann Lamott, Jana Reiss, Mallory Ortberg, and Rachel Held Evans.”

That’s a rather narrow list.

It’s too bad that, a time when Christian authors, publishers and bookstores are struggling, an author would choose to deliberate his or her audience.

I like Jamie. I really do. I think her perspective needs to be shared. This choice of, for lack of a better term, lexical set was her decision and that of her publisher. I have to give them the benefit of the doubt that they feel they made this decision intelligently.

 

 

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March 23, 2018

Mission Profile: Mustard Seed International

Earlier this week I had what I consider the special privilege of spending nearly 2½ hours getting to know the work of Mustard Seed International (MSI) a Christian organization whose tag line is, “We teach. We love. They lead.” I had a very focused lunch meeting with Craig Jeffrey and Lucie Howell who direct the U.S. and Canadian operations respectively from an office near Toronto.

When we think of organizations like this, usually two models come to mind.

The first is all about proclamation. This suggests the image of the individual who learns the language of a particular tribe and embarks on a program of Christian education and evangelism with the goal of ‘winning souls to Christ.’

The second model is all about relief and development. This suggests going into a particular area and providing nutritional food, clean water and medicine. The goal of evangelism is not at the forefront; neither is it pushed entirely into the background for such organizations, but the primary purpose is to bring “a cup of water” in Christ’s name.

Mustard Seed International provides an alternative, what might be a third model, namely a focus on education. As we discussed this, I could not help but think of something my oldest son said to me having just returned from his second trip to an orphanage in the third world. He pointed out that without a decent education, the kids are going nowhere. Education is the key to allowing a child to have, as the prophet Jeremiah conveyed it, “a future and a hope.”

As Mustard Seed’s website explains,

Through the schools we start, staff, and operate, we provide Hope to our students, teachers, and the communities they live in. The education, training and discipleship they receive nourishes their hearts and minds. In every classroom and children’s home we run, we teach in words and deeds about our greatest Hope. Driven by that Hope, teaching is our small act of worship. It starts mustard seed-sized, but with God’s blessing it will grow into something much bigger.

Some of the brightest and the best kids are given an opportunity to further their education in ways that would be not be practical without the organization’s intervention. With the possibilities that presents, do some take advantage of that to move on to better things? Craig Jeffrey said there is a small percentage of students who are lost to the lure of careers in larger cities and towns, but a larger number take their expertise and return to their home communities to bring leadership to those villages; hence the “they lead” part of the aforementioned tag line.

In 2017 alone they accomplished the following:

  • 34 teachers-in-training who are preparing to become world changers in villages.
  • 33 teachers in Java.
  • 30 teachers in the remote mountains of Southeast Asia.
  • 6 teachers in an outreach center in Java.
  • 8 teachers serving in a kindergarten.
  • 29 teachers in 3 schools located in a village along the K River.
  • 40 part-time teachers in Borneo.
  • A pastor and his wife who have dedicated themselves to teach in a remote village where Mustard Seed has opened a school.
  • Support for a widow who was left alone to raise her 5 children.
  • The rent to keep a kindergarten rolling forward, and a new 6-year contract for a kindergarten that serves 32 children.
  • The materials for 3-day training for 35 teachers on an Eastern island.
  • A youth center in Java that provides discipleship for 461 teenagers on 8 campuses, and CEC which provides discipleship materials and homework assistance to 55 children.
  • The tuition, food and other expenses for 50 abandoned or orphaned children in Seeds of Hope Children’s Home.

You can’t tell the story of Mustard Seed International without dropping a few names.

Lillian Dickson aka ‘Typhoon Lil’

I was interested in knowing more about Lillian Dickson (1901-1983) mainly because she was a huge influence on Bob Pierce who founded World Vision. In a section about her, Pierce’s daughter Marilee Dunker writes:

It is fair to say that my dad met his match when he was introduced to Lillian Dickson in 1953 on a visit to Taiwan (then called Formosa). Her willingness to take on human need wherever she found it reaffirmed my father’s own conviction that God will do impossible things when we don’t put limits on Him. Their lifelong partnership would bring thousands to Christ and become one of the enduring cornerstones of World Vision’s ministry.

The story of the diminutive founder of Mustard Seed International is all the more remarkable in that Lillian came to Formosa in the 1920s as a missionary’s wife. Her husband, Jim Dickson, was the “official” missionary in the family, and his bride devoted the early years to their children and home.

But when the kids got older, Lillian decided she wasn’t going to “sit out her life.” With Jim’s blessing, she packed up her Bible and her accordion and began hiking with a team of medical missionaries into the most remote areas of Taiwan. They went where neither modern medicine nor the hope of the gospel had ever reached.

During the next 30 years, “Typhoon Lil” (as she was affectionately named after surviving a particularly savage storm) walked thousands of miles, fearlessly wading through rushing rivers, crossing dangling wooden bridges, and facing down angry witch-doctors and headhunters. She slept, ate, laughed, and cried with the tribal people she loved, and every day God trusted her with new needs and a bigger vision…

Lillian Dickson earns a detailed page at Wikipedia and Pierce interviewed Dickson; the video is posted at Vimeo. While the organization looks to the future, ‘Typhoon Lil’ is an inextricable part of MSI’s history.

Paul Richardson – Missions runs in the family

The other name that’s inescapable in the MSI story is Paul Richardson, International Director. Paul is the son of iconic missionary Don Richardson, whose book Peace Child is both a powerful story and the textbook on a particular aspect of missions and evangelism called contextualization.

A 2010 story in The Christian Post tells the story of Paul and his wife Cynthia:

As Richardson and his family began to settle down in Compton, Calif., he and his wife received a calling from God and they were led to return to his hometown, a small village in Southeast Asia.

They arrived in the Muslim-majority country to find a generation “as lost as you can imagine.”

“HIV/AIDS is spreading there more rapidly than almost anywhere in the world, a lot of the streets and cities are ruled by violent gangs, there’s a tremendous amount of drug abuse and alcoholism and there is illiteracy, a lack of skills,” said Richardson, director of Mustard Seed Southeast Asia.

But what was most shocking upon returning to the land where his parents served was the extent to which the society had fallen to within two generations.

“During the 1960s to 1970s there were as many as 1,400 missionaries who moved there… As an adult I have a chance to go back to that same island … and what I see there, to be completely truthful, has been very shocking to me.”

In the same article he provided a reason why MSI chooses to work in education as opposed to traditional mission modes:

“In missions we are responsible to do far more than just start churches but we are to unleash a movement of discipleship in the young and instill this as a core value in the hearts and the minds of anyone who chooses to follow Jesus,” he stressed.

Mustard Seed Southeast Asia is currently involved with approximately 3,000 children across the region, working with indigenous leaders, other local teachers and the government to equip and mentor them with hopes they will rise up as the future leaders of the world.

The school has attracted teachers from all the over country to participate in training programs.

“We have increasing influence in education methods among many teachers and just helping to set them free as teachers and discover God’s creativity in the classroom,” Richardson explained.

Our lunch meeting ended all too soon. Nothing I write here can capture the passion that Craig and Lucie have for this work. MSI is not an organization on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but I hope that with this article, by raising awareness, I can motivate some of you to pray and as God leads, give to support this work.


If you are among the givers and are looking to support a new project or cause, let me encourage you to connect with MSI using the following links. MSI is both EFCA (USA) and (CCCC) Canada approved.


TPT Matt.13.31 Then Jesus taught them another parable: “Heaven’s kingdom realm can be compared to the tiny mustard seed that a man takes and plants in his field. 32 Although the smallest of all the seeds, it eventually grows into the greatest of garden plants, becoming a tree for birds to come and build their nests in its branches.”


This article was voluntary on my part and was not requested or expected by MSI.

February 13, 2018

The Short Term Missionary Returns

Filed under: Christianity, missions — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:29 am

FLL to PAPAt 8:46 this morning, after a layover in Fort Lauderdale, Chris, our oldest son has arrived back for a week in Haiti after an absence of three years.

In 2015, he connected with Engineering Ministries International (EMI), a ministry which comes alongside other organizations for the purpose of designing various types of facilities. His four month internship was centered mostly on designing three buildings to be erected on new land purchased by Welcome Home Children’s Centre, a charity based in Georgetown — about 45 minutes west of Toronto — which operates an orphanage near Marotte, about two hours north of Port au Prince.

This time he’s returning with a team from the charity, not EMI. He’s actively kept in touch with them, and has helped out with their website and some fundraising events. He gets to see the first of the three buildings he helped design which has been constructed in the intervening years.

I love the organic beginnings of this organization:

Camille Otum was born in Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, and raised in the nearby town of Cabaret. At the age of nineteen she was inspired to embark on an adventure and moved to Canada. She chose to settle in Montreal, Québec, where she had French language and cultural connections. Once married, Camille, her husband Sam and their family moved to the province of Ontario and now make their home in Georgetown.

In 2004, Camille joined a group from her church as a chaperone on a mission to Haiti with young Canadians aged 15 to 18. This was an opportunity for her to help in her home country and to offer her leadership and language skills to the project.

During the trip, Camille visited her old friends in her hometown of Cabaret. She was quite distressed by what she saw. This was not the village she had left many years ago. Now, she was witnessing homeless children begging in the streets, desperate and malnourished.

Camille returned to Canada with this image embedded in her mind and began discussions with her family and friends about the situation in her homeland and her deep desire to help. With the support of her husband, Sam Otum, and her church friends Audrey Hoekstra and Era Ferron and their husbands, Peter Hoekstra and Ezekiel Ferron, and a friend, Caroline Bailey, she shifted into ‘business’ mode. After considering options, they decided to open an orphanage and Welcome Home Children’s Centre was incorporated as a non-profit entity in Canada.

Usually, people don’t stay in touch with organizations where they’ve served in a short term mission. Chris is different. He has a real heart for this organization, plus he is able to speak both French and Haitian Creole, which gives his time there greater potential. This is his first “vacation” time since starting his career job two years ago, and he was insistent he didn’t want to just do tourism. He wanted to do something which would make his 7-8 days count.

Please join us in praying:

  • for safe flights for the team going through Niagara Falls airport, to Ft. Lauderdale, to Haiti and then for Chris as he flies back solo doing this same route (other team members are staying longer) and has to find his way from Niagara Falls, NY back to Toronto.
  • for safety, security and health for the team (5 people) on the ground in Haiti.
  • for wisdom as Chris looks at the solar panel electrical system he helped design.
  • for a fruitful time that is beneficial to the ministry organization, the children in the orphanage, and their leaders.
  • for some opportunities to interact with the children and encourage them
  • for a sense of God’s presence and leading.

Thanks.

The video below was produced 3 years ago by EMI, but gives a great overview of what Welcome Home is about.

And in case you’re wondering, here’s what he can expect in terms of weather:


Update: The original article didn’t include this, but if you’re interested, here are the links to Engineering Ministries International as well as the Calgary, Canada office he interned with. If you have skills in the field, you don’t have to do a full 4-month internship as he did. EMI is always looking for

  • surveyors
  • architects
  • engineers (often mechanical, structural, etc.)

to go on a one-week trip to a particular country and take part in a highly organized, streamlined design blitz.

 

January 18, 2018

Blogger’s Book Better Late Than Never

Flipping through listings of future publications in the “Religion” category, I was surprised to find a spring listing for a book from Christian blogger Jamie Wright. Though there’s nothing showing on her blog since August of last year, being The Very Worst Blogger would be an appropriate addition to her collection of “worsts.” I wondered if people would remember her after all these years.

Like the blog, the book is titled The Very Worst Missionary and is being distributed by no less than Penguin Random House. With an April 3rd release date — just after Easter — the book will appear under PRH’s Converge Books imprint, a parking place for anything Christian that’s edgy. Yeah, they got that right. Totally candid, brutally honest, and wonderfully transparent.

Earlier today I browsed this blog’s archives for references to Jamie Wright only to find too many indexed to follow up on all of them. But this should give you an idea; a 2013 piece on being the parent of three teenage boys, simply titled Sex.  [Warning: Explicit language.]

…I believed that sex was the best thing I had to offer the world. It was the only thing about me worth loving. And I learned, too young, that I could leverage sex to get what I wanted. My female parts had become my greatest asset.

Then I found my way into the Church, 19 with a baby on my hip, and while I lingered on the outskirts of the Christian bubble, guess what I learned… I learned I was right! Apparently, even God was super concerned with my vagina, and where it had been, and what it had touched. Apparently, my genitals were like a portal that led straight to my soul. I had been muddied – and everybody knows that once you muck up clean water, you can’t unmuck it.

It took me a lot of years and a lot of conversations with God (and with people who know more about God than me) to understand that everything I believed about my own sexuality was built on two huge lies.The first comes from our culture, and it tells us that sex outside of marriage isn’t a big deal.

The second is from the Church, and it tells us that sex outside of marriage is the biggest deal of all the deals ever.

One allowed me to give it away freely, convinced I would carry no burden. The other forced me to carry a spirit crushing load.

Both are complete crap.

Now that we’ve shocked a few of you, for me the real gold to be mined in Jamie’s blog are some pieces she wrote on short-term missions, as seen through the eyes of full-time career missionaries in Costa Rica; like this 2012 piece, Hugs for Jesus:

…We ended up shooting an impromptu interview with this group of college aged youth, who’d come from all over North America and Europe. We asked them simple questions like who they were, what they were doing, and what they hoped to accomplish by giving out hugs on the streets of Costa Rica. I can say they were at least able to tell us their own names with confidence – beyond that, it was obvious that none of them was really sure why they were here or what they were doing. One girl even admitted that she wasn’t even a Christian when she arrived in the field, and that her Mom had signed her up (As a missionary! On a missions trip!!) without her knowledge.

We asked them, “If someone accepted a hug and was so moved by said hug (and subsequently knowing that Jesus loved them) and they wanted more information, what would you do?”

And they weren’t really sure.

So we helped them out with a suggestion, “Would you, y’know, maybe refer them to a local church?”

“Oh, yes! Yes. For sure. We would refer them to a church.”

Cool. Which church?

“Oh. Costa Rica has tons of great churches.”

OK. Do you know what any of them are called? Or where they are?

“Well… No. But, they’re everywhere around here.”

Oookaaay… Do you go to a church here? Like, a church that you could invite people to attend?

“Um…yeah. Hey, you guys? What’s that church we go to? Like, on Sundays. What’s it called again?”

So you don’t even know where YOU go to church?

And then, a leader came up and tapped her watch and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but we’ve got to go do… a…thing…” And then they split.

Jamie Wright

A little later that year, after quoting Luke 10 where Jesus sends out his version of a missions team, Healthy Short Term Missions? Do it Like Jesus, she noted:

Where Jesus appointed, we take volunteers.

Where Jesus sent pairs, we send herds.

Where Jesus admonished for danger and quiet humility along the road, we opt for vacation destinations and loud self-congratulations.

Where Jesus asks to be bringers of peace, we often bring chaos.

Where Jesus designed an opportunity for a disciple to lean into a new family, learn a new culture, and serve under the head of a household (who best knows his own need), we march in with a plan and the resources to git’er’done – completely missing out on the gift of being “a worker worth his wages”.

What if the original picture of “short-term teams” was meant to show us this valuable step in the process of discipleship, where we can learn dependence on God, love for others, and how to serve

And what if we’ve taken that picture and turned it into a billion dollar industry, creating dependence among the poor – not on God – but on the ourselves, damaging Christ’s image in the world, and missing the point entirely?

That’s the type of thing I’m looking forward to see reach a wider audience this spring. Whether or not I’ll get to review the book here, I don’t know; I have no contacts at Converge Books.

But I’m also looking forward to the first type of writing we quoted first. That’s what Jamie is all about. And that’s why I think she’s the very best missionary.  


Publisher marketing:

…As a quirky Jewish kid and promiscuous punkass teen, Jamie Wright never imagines becoming a Christian, let alone a Christian missionary. She is barely an adult when the trials of motherhood and marriage put her on an unexpected collision course with Jesus. After finding her faith at a suburban megachurch, Jamie trades in the easy life on the cul-de-sac for the green fields of Costa Rica. There, along with her family, she earnestly hopes to serve God and change lives. But faced with a yawning culture gap and persistent shortcomings in herself and her fellow workers, she soon loses confidence in the missionary enterprise and falls into a funk of cynicism and despair.

Nearly paralyzed by depression, yet still wanting to make a difference, she decides to tell the whole, disenchanted truth: Missionaries suck and our work makes no sense at all! From her sofa in Central America, she launches a renegade blog, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, and against all odds wins a large and passionate following. Which leads her to see that maybe a “bad” missionary–awkward, doubtful, and vocal—is exactly what the world and the throngs of American do-gooders need.

The Very Worst Missionary is a disarming, ultimately inspiring spiritual memoir for well-intentioned contrarians everywhere…


Sharing the Sriracha bottle left to right: Nadia Bolz-Weber, Sarah Bessey and Jamie Wright at a Meatball Bar (whatever that is) in early 2014. I thought the only progressive Christian female writer (at the time) missing was Rachel Held Evans. (It’s amazing what you find in your photo file.)

 

August 12, 2017

For the Forty-Somethings

 and some Thirty-somethings

 plus a few Fifty-somethings

It’s time to step up.

By that I mean, it’s time to get out the checkbook (or chequebook if you prefer) or grab the credit card and go online.

I’m not talking about giving to your local church. I’m sure you already do that. Maybe you tithe. Maybe you’re what Andy Stanley calls a percentage giver.  Things are stable financially and you’ve recognized that responsibility. Your local church thanks you, and wouldn’t exist without you.

No, this is about giving beyond your local church. It’s about the parachurch organizations, the faith missions, the Christian social service agencies. It’s about hospitals in third world nations, adopting orphans, and teaching literacy to jungle people, and preparing translations of the Gospel of Matthew.

Here’s the deal: A generation that founded many organizations — many formed in the post-war years 1945 to 1950 — and then funded those organizations is dying off. These generous patrons need to be replaced.

At the same time, as Christianity loses its ground numerically in Western Europe, Australia/NZ, and North America; awareness of the faith mission organizations is decreasing. Those of us who populate the pews on the weekend do not have opportunities to hear about the vital things different groups are doing, either domestically or in far-flung mission fields.

Some of these organizations are watching their donor base shrink and shrink to the point where everyone from office staff to field workers face cults. It’s now or never…

…Writing an article like this without mentioning names of potential objects for your philanthropy is difficult, but that’s what I pre-determined this piece would be. I do however suggest a few questions:

  1. Am I interested primarily in proclamation of the Christian message, or I am okay with organizations who serve the needy in Christ’s name?
  2. Do I want my money to stay here at home, or do I want to give to overseas projects in the most economically disadvantages parts of the world?
  3. Do I want to give to a major, longtime, well-established Christian charity, or do I want to partner with a newer, upstart group?
  4. What causes tend to resonate with me?
  5. If my gift means I end up on a mailing list, are these organizations I genuinely want to read about and learn how and what they’re doing?
  6. What particular ministry opportunities or places in the world am I personally aware of which may not be as familiar to others?
  7. Do I want to scatter some funds among a handful of Christian organizations, or go long and deep with one particular cause?
  8. Are there ministries where I have personal contact with a particular worker and will thereby know that the job is getting done; the money well-spent?

You might need to do some research. If you’re married, make sure your partner agrees with your choices, especially if you’re writing checks on a joint-account. And decide if you want to be a monthly supporter — which the organizations love because it provides them with a stable financial forecast — or if you’re doing a one-time thing.

People in the middle of a variety of ministry contexts are watching for your contributions.

May 27, 2017

The Grilling that Missionaries Get When Trying to Maintain their Funding

This is about one-tenth of a larger 2014 article that a friend sent my wife. I just about wept reading this particular section.  The article is titled Ten Things That Your Missionary Will Not Tell You and the author is Joe Holman. Joe and his wife Denise have 11 children and serve in Cochabamba, Bolivia with Ripe for Harvest World Evangelism.

…When we meet with mission committees, churches, sending groups and donors they always ask us very specific questions. I have NO problem with that. What drives me bonkers is when someone NOT doing what I AM DOING judges me because they don’t think that I am doing enough of what they are not doing.

The best example of this is when you meet with a missions committee and they ask us about our evangelism. I share how, this year alone, we have shared the gospel with over 2,000 people (true story) outside of the church walls and have baptized 35 adults. The committee talks a little and then says something like, “We are concerned about the follow up of the converts and why so few have been baptized. We would also like to hear more about your evangelistic endeavors. What do you do and how do you do it?” Then, after sharing what you do and how you do it, they have critical comments and corrections about methodology.

The problem is this. The church that this mission committee is a part of hasn’t baptized 35 adults in the last 10 years and does not have a single planned evangelistic event on their church calendar. I often want to say, “We have baptized 35 adults and shared Christ with over 2,000 people…what have you done?” Or, “That is a great idea on evangelism, help me put some flesh on it. How did you guys implement this in your church?’ Or, “What do you do for follow up after your community evangelistic event?” I can’t, but I really want to. It is honestly difficult to listen to armchair quarterbacks who have never suited up critique the game that I am participating in.

Another example of this is how people who are doing nothing to help the poor criticize us for how we help the poor. They tell us what we should do, what we should not do, how and when and to whom we should do it. They tell us of the latest book that they have read and/or the latest sermon that they heard. They do nothing themselves, but they know exactly what we should do and if we don’t do it their way, then the threat of cutting support is dangling over our head.

If someone who is actually doing the ministry has advice, input or corrections then it is infinitely easier to accept. It is when we are told what to do by someone not doing anything that we have to constantly check our hearts and put a guard on our lips.

January 29, 2017

A Not-So-Typical Day in the Life of a Medical Missionary in Rwanda

Filed under: Christianity, missions — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:18 pm

This article is here today because I know the author, Jesse Wong. He and his wife and two kids left a comfortable life in North America to work in a hospital in Rwanda, Africa.

Motorcycles in Africa

Having lived here now for over 2 years, I have had my fair share of learning how to drive on these roads. Interestingly enough, Rwanda has had a lot of development in terms of rebuilding the many roads. The Chinese have done an incredible job and carving out switchbacks into what I think is one of the most windiest and nauseating places in the world to drive. But this smooth tarmac, though brand new, is now an accident and death trap for motorists. Especially “motos”.

wongs-in-africaTransportation is expensive. Most people can’t afford a vehicle, nor a trip on a taxi. But hopping onto the back of a moto taxi is a cheap alternative and you can get to your destination in no time. Unfortunately, there are so many curves on these single lane highways, and with so many transport trucks and passenger carriers, passing is incredibly difficult. Especially when these trucks drive in the center of the road.

We were returning from a short trip and came across a terrible crash. A moto driver carrying medicines for one of the health centers attempted to pass a transport truck and was likely pinned. His helmet was off his head (helmets here are called brain buckets, that’s all they do) and he was contorted and fresh pink arterial blood was everywhere.

The accident had happened about three minutes prior. I wasn’t sure if the person was dead or alive. Despite my Kinyarwanda and communication, the policeman and witness were making it very difficult for me to approach.

“Please, can I help, I am a doctor.”

“NO PHOTOGRAPHS!”

“I’m not taking any photos. I just want to help. Is the person alive still?”

“IT IS ILLEGAL TO TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS OF A CRASH SCENE!”

“Ndi Muganga (I am a doctor) – I want to help.”

“NO PHOTOGRAPHS!”

“I understand… I told you I have no phone. Let me help!”

As I checked for a pulse, in which there was none, I asked myself… do I even bother with performing CPR? What is this man’s chance of survival? Will he end up a paraplegic or quadriplegic? I remember one of the surgeons saying that quadriplegics die here in Rwanda, as there are no support systems to take care of them, no wheelchairs or even adequate roads to support them, it would be better to let them remain dead.

And so I stepped away from the first road fatality that I have witnessed in my life, and likely not my last. Just a lesson in life, culture, and tarmac. Turns out this was the 3rd fatality in this village since the road was completed about 2 years ago. I’m surprised it is that low. But as a dentist I have seen my life’s share here of terrible crashes and the damage to the face, teeth and lips. The ones that appear on Friday afternoons and I can’t even begin to know where to start, what to sew up first and what tooth to remove or splint.

These fatalities and crashes won’t decrease. I am wondering if there are any creative, economical new ways to prevent accidents like these in a continent where poverty sustains these dangerous means of transport. Any ideas anyone?


If you wish to make a one time or monthly donation to The Wongs and receive a charitable tax receipt, you can do one of the following:
1. Credit Card: one time and monthly donations click here
2. For Debit Card monthly donations click here and where the form says “Please designate my automatic donations towards the following project:” write beside the bullet “Other” 008233. Print the form, scan and send it to jbrown@samaritan.ca

October 15, 2016

Remembering Uncle Ted

I won’t purport that this in any way is a full tribute to my wife’s Uncle Ted who passed away several days ago. (In addition to being her uncle, she lived with their family for six months.)  Rather, what follows was presented previously on the blog in two different articles.

tedWe first heard about Partners International when Ted was doing a number of missions trips to Nigeria with an adjunct project named, appropriately, Alongside. You know how everybody is always raising money to build wells in the third world? Well (no pun intended) sometimes the pumps break down very quickly, and nobody is actually committed to repairing them. There’s no glamour in that. It’s hard to raise funds for that. It’s easier to drill a new well because then you can brag on the number of wells your organization is building and then raise the appropriate costs.

You cannot deny however that repairing them is a better use of resources. So Ted’s project involved working closely with the people already on the ground. You can’t always partner with every indigenous organization that needs help, so Partners International is especially focused on seven categories: Children at Risk, Education, Christian Witness, Entrepreneurship, Health & Wellness, Justice Issues, and Women’s Issues.  (You can learn more at PartnersInternational.ca.)

But here’s the thing: Just as there’s more glamor in drilling new wells, so also do the people who are simply fixing them not always get the same level of attention and funding. We tend to want to fund big buildings. Massive outreaches.  It’s probably much easier to raise $60,000,000 than it is to raise $60,000. People gravitate to projects that sparkle. 

And then there is another thing: Colonialism. The pros from the U.S. arrive to make everything perfect because it seems more straightforward to simply stick the drill in the ground and create another well, rather than honor the sacrifice and service of the previously group which dug the first well in the first place. ‘We know what you need and we can fix it.’ Maybe some of the motives are right, but in balance, it’s filled with impracticalities; not unlike the summer missions teams which went to Central America and kept repainting the same school which had been repainted two weeks earlier by another missions team.  Yes, that’s a true story. And despite the greater fundraising potential, it’s lousy stewardship.

The people on the ground know better. The indigenous Christian leaders know better. I’m told they are planning a memorial service for Uncle Ted in Africa sometime in the spring. Because heroes don’t always look like we think they do. Sometimes they are simply people serving in straightforward, practical ways.

 

February 26, 2016

Book Makes Praying for the World More Intimate, More Personal

Today I want to recommend a book to you that was not given to me for review nor do I have a copy in front of me as I write this; but it’s one in a book genre that I feel is essential reading for any individual or family who wants to expand their prayer focus farther than their own immediate family and friends; beyond their own city or town.

Brian StillerBrian Stiller is what I would call a Christian statesman, a phrase which I take to mean a person who is both well-versed and widely-traveled and thereby is unusually forthright when it comes to the political,  economic and spiritual conditions and issues in various parts of the world. As Global Ambassador with the World Evangelical Alliance he is also the former President of Youth for Christ Canada, former President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (the Canadian equivalent of NAE) and former President of Tyndale College and Seminary in Toronto.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting with Brian at each of these stages and he was gracious enough to allow me to interview him for a magazine when he was at EFC, and there were things he said that day which I can still quote verbatim.

His book, An Insider’s Guide to Praying for the World (Bethany House, 2016, paper) would fall into the same category as the popular Operation World which is an exhaustive index of the countries of the world and the particular challenges each presents in terms of the spread of the gospel.

However, where Operation World is exhaustive, Praying for the World is personal. Brian Stiller shares from his own experiences, having visited the various countries covered in the book. The book is thereby somewhat autobiographical, but I would argue that Stiller’s write-ups for each are both subjective and objective at the same time.

Of the 52 chapters, not every one is about a unique nation:

  • 3 deal with prison ministries
  • 1 is a general perspective
  • 1 is about global prayer initiatives
  • 1 looks at The Pope
  • 1 looks at a religion rather than a nation, in this case Islam
  • 2 repeat a country; Vietnam and Rwanda each have two chapters

By my calculations, that means 43 countries remain; countries that most of us will never visit at all, but in this one book we’re afforded the opportunity to see these nations and their needs through Brian Stiller’s eyes. The 52 chapters may be read in any order, or consulted for reference. 

Each section contains:

  • an overview of that country
  • Brian’s ‘dispatch’ from that nation; the main essay
  • a key Bible verse
  • specific items for prayer
  • a suggested guided prayer

The potential uses for Praying for the World are many, but would include everything from your family prayer time, to giving to your missions committee, to having a copy in your church library.

Brian C Stiller - An Insider's Guide to Praying for the World

 

 

February 21, 2016

Today Various Churches Join in One Song

Global Hymn Sing The Task Unfinished
Today on the blog we want to invite you to sing along as we join with churches over the world who are using this one song today as part of a global hymn sing. Earlier in the month, Ed Stetzer provided the story behind the song:

…China Inland Mission (now OMF International) worker Frank Houghton originally wrote “Facing a Task Unfinished” in the 1920s as a call for 200 missionaries to go to China at the height of persecution. Despite obvious danger, by 1931 over 200 had planted the seeds of the Gospel. Mission experts believe the call and response contributed to greatest growth of Christianity in the history of the world, estimated at 80-130 million people coming to faith in Christ.

OMF International recently celebrated its 150th anniversary and invited Keith and Kristyn Getty to re-visit Houghton’s much loved, and still timely hymn. Though Keith and Kristyn are thrilled to be a part of this historic event, and will use it as the title track of their next project (2016), all composing and publishing royalties from the updated song will be donated to OMF International in support of their continued work in perpetuity.

Facing a task unfinished
That drives us to our knees
A need that, undiminished
Rebukes our slothful ease
We, who rejoice to know Thee
Renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee
To go and make Thee known

Where other lords beside Thee
Hold their unhindered sway
Where forces that defied Thee
Defy Thee still today
With none to heed their crying
For life, and love, and light
Unnumbered souls are dying
And pass into the night

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord

We bear the torch that flaming
Fell from the hands of those
Who gave their lives proclaiming
That Jesus died and rose
Ours is the same commission
The same glad message ours
Fired by the same ambition
To Thee we yield our powers

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord

O Father who sustained them
O Spirit who inspired
Savior, whose love constrained them
To toil with zeal un-tired
From cowardice defend us
From lethargy awake!
Forth on Thine errands send us
To labor for Thy sake

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord

We go to all the world
His kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord

Original Words by Frank Houghton. Original Music by Samuel Wesley. New Words and Music by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Ed Cash, and Fionan de Barra; © 2015 OMF International, Getty Music Publishing (BMI), Alletrop Music (BMI), and Fionan de Barra (all admin. By MusicServices.org

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