Thinking Out Loud

December 29, 2015

Ministries that Come Alongside

A hidden tier of support organizations are turning world missions upside-down

A hidden tier of support organizations are turning world missions upside-down

There is a second tier of mission organizations that don’t get the visibility of some of the major faith missions or relief and development agencies that I often find myself mentioning to people looking to learn more about the hidden missions stories out there, or even potentially looking for an organization to be an object of their charitable giving.  I love to tell the stories of groups like these; all of which we as a family have had direct contact with. Also, with 3 days left to complete your year-end donations for 2015, these are great prospects.

Engineering Ministries International — For the most part EMI doesn’t build buildings, but they design buildings for other ministry organizations big and small and supply finished plans and architectural drawings to those ministries at a very substantial discount. They work in the background with groups like Food for the Hungry, Mission Aviation Fellowship, and Samaritans Purse. Since 1982, they’ve worked on nearly 1,100 relief and development projects in 90+ countries. I’ve written about them here before (when my son did a 4-month internship with them in Colorado Springs, Calgary and Haiti) and you can learn more about them through the U.S. website or the Canadian website.

Christian Salvage Mission — In a world where words like reuse and recycle are ubiquitous, this mission organization takes used books, devotional aids, Sunday School curriculum, Bibles and hymnbooks, and bundles them up in container loads that arrive in very appreciative hands in various mission stations around the world, at a shipping cost some commercial businesses would find astounding. I’ve written about them before on a trade blog for Christian booksellers. They are based in Canada, and you can learn more at this website, or in the U.S. check out my CRI mission – Christian Resources International.

Megavoice and Galcom — We often have a literacy bias to the subject of Bible translation. We picture the Canadian or American Bible Society or Wycliffe Bible Translators finishing a Gospel of John in some language, and then handing out a printed book. But much of the world is oral cultural (orality) not written culture (literacy). Electronics can make a huge difference but historically problems have occurred with moving parts for tapes or discs rusting in moist climates, or batteries wearing out. Now microchips and solar panels solve those problems. I’ve written about Megavoice here before. Megavoice is U.S.-based, you can learn more about them at Megavoice.com. Galcom International has offices in both countries, you can learn more about their work at Galcom.org.

Partners International — We first heard about this organization when my wife’s uncle was doing a number of missions trips 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. But it’s a better use of resources. I made reference to Ruth’s Uncle Ted in this article. That’s just an example. You can’t always partner with every indigenous organization that needs help, so PI 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.

InterVarsity’s Urbana — If you want to see an excellent picture of one organization coming alongside hundreds of mission organizations, check out, as I have, every single page of the Urbana 2015 website while the conference is still running in St. Louis.

Also be sure to read these articles published previously here at Thinking Out Loud:

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March 9, 2015

Megavoice: One of Missions Best Kept Secrets

I really wrestled with what to post today. After becoming violently ill on Saturday night, I had some catching up to do this morning, and kept shelving today’s article later and later into the morning. Often I’ll go through articles in the same month, previous years and look for ideas or items to reprint.

When I found this article on Megavoice in my March, 2011 archives, the thing that amazed me was that I haven’t re-posted it since. Megavoice is one of a number of new Christian organizations that are leveraging technology for the spread of the Gospel. Sadly, much of the philanthropy that takes place among Christians involves what I would call old-order Christian charities. The same is true for the missions budget of most local churches; most Missions Committee members simply renew the budget of the previous year.

I think this is so vital, so exciting. This is an organization you should want to come alongside of and be spreading the word about…

I’m a bit of a Bible bigot.

My prejudices have nothing to do with a particular translation. No, we don’t more of those people running around. My bias has to do with the form the finished Bible takes.

I asked someone recently what they think the Bible translation process involves. They gave me the answer I expected, the answer I would have given until just days ago:

  • Missionary translators learn the local language
  • The language is put it written form
  • The native people are taught how to read their own language
  • The New Testament (usually beginning with John’s gospel) is translated into that written language
  • Printed copies of the completed books are given out

Great concept. Sometimes, that’s how it’s done. But overall this view has one problem: It doesn’t match the experience of many people working to bring the story of Jesus to remote tribes.

The problem is with the words: “Read,” “books,” “printed,” “written.”

Many of the world’s peoples are not readers. It’s not that they are illiterate in the sense that a young man living on the streets of Detroit is not able to read in the middle of a culture full of literates. It’s not that they are illiterate in the sense of a woman in Atlanta whose makeshift home is insulated with newspapers containing words she cannot understand.

Rather, it’s because, half a world away, theirs is a culture of orality. No, I’d never heard the word before, either. Simply put, they are oral learners.

We’re talking about people who would benefit much more from an audio Bible than one bound in bonded leather with gold edged pages. Think about it: Once translators had acquired the language verbally, they could immediately produce a verbal (spoken) translation of the Bible, and then disseminate it using some kind of playback device.

But how to do that in an age where cassettes break and CD players skip or wear out?

Enter mp3 technology. The time is right. The time is now.

And that’s the theory behind MegaVoice. The term describes

For me, learning about MegaVoice has been a paradigm-shattering experience that has changed everything I’ve believed about how the translation process and the evangelization process works. I live in a world of text, a world of print media, and the possibility of such a widespread population of oral communicators simply never occurred to me.

If you’re one of the blessed people who is always looking for a project worthy of financial support, consider directly supporting this ministry. Whether in print copies or audio copies, the Word of God is still powerful, and doesn’t just “bounce off the walls,” but will accomplish great things in peoples’ lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

A small sampling of the many languages on file in the MegaVoice library

May 16, 2012

Wednesday Link List

If you missed the bonus edition of the link list this week, be sure to click over to Monday.

  • Quotation of the day, from Arminius, after whom Arminianism is named: ““Next to the study of the Scriptures which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s Commentaries…” (appropriately, as quoted on an Arminian blog.)
  • Canadian author, apologist and television host Grant Jeffrey passed away on the weekend. His independent publishing catalog was purchased years ago by Random House subsidiary Waterbrook Press, with Wikipedia listing 34 titles including one scheduled for next January.
  • At Age 30, Chris Galanos is the youngest person to pastor a megachurch in the United States. Needless to say, it’s in Texas.
  • If you have ever struggled to sing the bridge to “Blessed Be The Name” — the “You give and take away” part — you might resonate with this article and many comments.
  • On the 20th anniversary of New Wineskins magazine, Keith Brenton deals with the emotional issues that arise when one reaches a crossroads in terms of their committment to their church home. To stay or to go, that is the question. 
  • Julie Clawson learns the hard way that when you’re in the fitting room trying on swimsuits, you’re a captive audience for the woman who wants to stand outside the door and share her faith. Not sure if this would work at the menswear store.
  • Lots of Bible-related links today; that’s a good thing, right? Now picture yourself sitting alone in your room reading your Bible. In the grander scheme of things, you’re not really alone.
  • Francis Chan makes a rather provocative statement about mission and worship, and — just like Andy Stanley’s fifteen minutes of controversy last week — the words get wrenched from the heart of what he’s saying. Gee…that’s never happened before.
  • How does a Bible translator feel when a new English version is introduced, knowing so many people still don’t have a Bible or even a complete New Testament in their language.
  • The Amish weren’t supposed to have cars, but did anybody say they couldn’t fly? In a community where the official ruling was still pending, a young man takes up flying in 1917, and where the Great War is going on, he also is an exception to the practice of exemption from military duty. All this makes The Wings of Morning a rather interesting looking novel.
  • The Gay issue. It’s the toughest challenge the church has faced in years. And each gay person is going to have contact — good or bad — with professing Christians. And for every 17 interactions, you have to hope one of us gets it right.
  • Pete Wilson boards a helicopter for a flyover of a piece of property central to a complete relocation of Cross Point in Nashville, and also celebrates a God-blessed history in this 15-minute video.
  • Sports Department: Victor Goetz is a championship golfer, however he’s also quite blind. He typically finishes with a score of 105. He also earned a Paralympic gold medal in lawn bowling.
  • Pop goes the music department: A new Owl City EP released yesterday with help from Matt Thiessen of Relient K.
  • A Lutheran (LCC) pastor thinks you can preach a perfect sermon but still get a failing grade if you’ve answered all the wrong questions or left people with the wrong mandate.
  • Michael Hyatt sits down with the originators of a rather unique new English Bible translation, The Voice. This edition uses a dramatic script format where applicable, and I’m hoping at some point to get a copy so we can delve into it here in much more detail. (There’s a page sample from one month ago at this blog when the usual suspects got upset about a particular phrase translation choice.)
  • For those who follow the Fundy Follies, Right Wing Watch blog is doing a series based on the student handbook at Liberty University; this link deals with the policy of random drug testing. Too bad thought-monitoring hasn’t been invented yet.
  • Which is a great lead-in to twelve easy steps the rest of us can follow that provide an absolute guarantee that we’ll never be mistaken for a Fundy.
  • ‘You and I in a little toy shop, buy a bag of balloons for the Bibles we bought…’ — They weren’t red balloons, but they carried Bibles into North Korea, and GPS tracking devices verified that they reached the target.
  • You’ve seen the line, “If you love Jesus click ‘like.'” Does that mean that if I don’t click, I don’t love Jesus? Is Facebook theology becoming shallow, or were the FB-ers who post this drivel spiritually shallow to begin with?
  • Now then, as to that Archie comic above. If you’re old enough to remember the “even then it was awkward evangelism” Spire Christian Comics and want to relive those memories, Carp’s Place has them waiting for you on .pdf files…
  • …And since one Archie deserves another, I thought we’d end with TV favorite 1970’s bigot, Archie Bunker; and if you dare, a link to Archie reading the creation story from Genesis, which isn’t quite the same as Linus reading the Christmas story.

March 21, 2011

When Bible Translation Has Nothing To Do With Books

I’m a bit of a Bible bigot.

My prejudices have nothing to do with a particular translation.  No, we don’t more of those people running around.  My bias has to do with the form the finished Bible takes.

I asked someone recently what they think the Bible translation process involves.  They gave me the answer I expected, the answer I would have given until just days ago:

  • Missionary translators learn the local language
  • The language is put it written form
  • The native people are taught how to read their own language
  • The New Testament (usually beginning with John’s gospel) is translated into that written language
  • Printed copies of the completed books are given out

Great concept.  Sometimes, that’s how it’s done.  But overall this view has one problem:  It doesn’t match the experience of many people working to bring the story of Jesus to remote tribes.

The problem is with the words: “Read,” “books,” “printed,” “written.”

Many of the world’s peoples are not readers.  It’s not that they are illiterate in the sense that a young man living on the streets of Detroit is not able to read in the middle of a culture full of literates.  It’s not that they are illiterate in the sense of a woman in Atlanta whose makeshift home is insulated with newspapers containing words she cannot understand.

Rather, it’s because, half a world away, theirs is a culture of orality.  No, I’d never heard the word before, either.  Simply put, they are oral learners.

We’re talking about people who would benefit much more from an audio Bible than one bound in bonded leather with gold edged pages.   Think about it: Once translators had acquired the language verbally, they could immediately produce a verbal (spoken) translation of the Bible, and then disseminate it using some kind of playback device.

But how to do that in an age where cassettes break and CD players skip or wear out?

Enter mp3 technology.  The time is right.  The time is now.

And that’s the theory behind MegaVoice.  The term describes

For me, learning about MegaVoice has been a paradigm-shattering experience that has changed everything I’ve believed about how the translation process and the evangelization process works.  I live in a world of text, a world of print media, and the possibility of such a widespread population of oral communicators simply never occurred to me.

So that said, I’m going to come back to MegaVoice again here at some point in the future.  But if you’re one of the needle-in-a-haystack people reading this who is truly challenged by the possibilities this raises, I want to link you a .pdf file of a book, Making Disciples of Oral Learners, originally written as a paper published for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization in Thailand in the fall of 2004, and published in 2005.

When you link to the book, start reading at page 3 and pay particular attention to the part from page 3 to page 30.

And if you’re one of the blessed people who is always looking for a project worthy of financial support, consider directly supporting this ministry.  Whether in print copies or audio copies, the Word of God is still powerful, and doesn’t just “bounce off the walls,” but will accomplish great things in peoples’ lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

A small sampling of the many languages on file in the MegaVoice library

September 18, 2010

What Canadian Gideons Have in Common With The Catholic Church

Rocky Raccoon checked into his room
Only to find Gideon’s Bible.

-The Beatles

Most of the attention of religious media was focused this week on Pope Benedict XIV’s visit to the U.K., and the oddity of his interaction with a female Anglican cleric, something not permitted within his Roman Catholic world.

So I was surprised to open the online pages of Christian Week today and discover that, within Canada at least, the hotel/hospital/prison Bible people, The Gideons, are in fact officially all men.

Who knew the two organizations shared the similarity of such a patriarchal view of things?

The article begins,

CALGARY, AB—At one of the most significant conventions in Canadian Gideon history, members voting at the Bible distribution ministry’s annual gathering narrowly defeated a wide-ranging set of changes to the agency’s general operating bylaws.

“We lost by 50 votes out of about 2,700,” laments national president Brad Kennedy. “Our members voted 64.5 per cent in favour, but we needed a two-thirds majority.”

If the vote had gone the other way, full membership in The Gideons International in Canada would no longer be restricted to business and professional men, and the agency would be able to distribute a wider variety of Bible versions.

Sadly, the issue of Bible translations — the part of the story I am as a keenly interested in — wasn’t brought up again in the story.   Right now, Canadian Gideons use the NASB (New American Standard Version) which is considered very accurate but not easy to read.   It’s mostly used in Bible Colleges in Seminaries as a reference point or benchmark for checking other translations.

Back to the larger issue…

Women in the organization currently serve under a secondary “auxiliary” status, many exceeding the organization’s official mandate:

For at least the past year, Kennedy and the agency’s national cabinet have been pushing hard to bring Canadian Gideon bylaws in line with some of its current practices and a more culturally relevant model of ministry.

The Gideons face a serious demographic challenge: Nearly half of its members are older than 70, and another 25 per cent are over 60. Only three per cent of members are younger than 40. The average age of a Canadian Gideon is just under 70 years old, compared with 41 back in 1961. The agency is trying to adapt to attract more youthful members.

Indeed, some of the proposed changes have already been incorporated at the local level. Women are serving alongside men in many distribution projects in ways not technically allowable by the existing bylaws. And many active members would not technically qualify as professionals. “We’re trying to correct something that’s lost its relevance in our culture today,” explains Kennedy.

But the history of the organization — unlike the Full Gospel Businessman’s Association, which in most locations is a 50-50 partnership between men and women — is still officially male-dominated:

“A strong component of the Gideon brand is its recognition as a Christian business man’s organization. Unfortunately, if you change from that core value, while you may continue under the banner of Gideons, it will be in name only. It will not be reflective of the Gideon membership worldwide.”

– International Gideons president Perrin T. Prescott in a letter to Canadian Gideons

In other words, the international body is saying if you stop serving Big Macs according to the company recipe, you can’t really call yourself a MacDonald’s restaurant.

My opinion?

Being stuck in the 1940’s culturally and demographically is going to cause a die-off of the organization at a time it is still needed.   In terms of leadership tactics, and in terms of mission, this is an epic fail.

Continue reading Doug Koop’s full article at Christian Week.


Related article:  That other bastion of male headship — the Southern Baptists — caught our attention here exactly two years ago, when the publishing company of female Bible teacher Beth Moore banned distribution of a magazine featuring women pastors.

Related story in USAToday Religion:  An Arizona priest is excommunicated for participating in the ordination of a female priest; although he is now a United Church of Christ minister.

May 4, 2009

Monday Links — Christian News Update


Shack Publisher To Launch Music Division

Christian Retailing — a bookstore trade magazine published by the same people who publish Charisma magazine — is announcing that “The publishing newcomers behind Christian fiction phenomenon The Shack are hoping for a repeat success in the music world. Windblown Records, a new division of Windblown Media–the company formed to publish William P. Young’s novel after it was turned down by more than 20 established publishers–has released My Beautiful One. The 12-track CD features instrumental arrangements of worship songs by Chris DuPré.” …Continue reading the whole story here.


Adam Gregory To Star in WWJD Movie

The website Country Standard Time is reporting that Adam Gregory will star in a movie based on the book that inspired the whole WWJD phenomenon a few years ago. “…The upcoming film “WWJD” [is] based on one of the best-selling Christian books of all-time… Gregory’s original song What Would Jesus Do from his recent Canadian release “Crazy Days” will also be featured in the film. The song was co-written by Keith Follese and Billy Yates. …Filming on the project begins this week in Los Angeles.” The book referred to is In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. …Read the entire story here.


Jesus More Popular Than Beatles

John Lennon may have once suggested that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, but at the first ever auction in the 44-year history of the Hollywood Wax Museum, the wax figures of the Beatles fetched only $13,000; compared to $15,000 for Jesus and His disciples at The Last Supper. To read the short report at the Starpulse Entertainment site, link here.


Afghan Official Calls for Bible Distribution Probe

“A former Afghan official says an investigation should be conducted into U.S. soldiers allegedly trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.” So begins a report from United Press International (UPI) in which a former Afghan Prime Minister suggests that what the soldiers are doing is outside the limits of the U.S.’ own constitution. Continue reading the UPI story here.


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