Thinking Out Loud

October 1, 2019

The Time Public Giving is Appropriate

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:05 am

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
– Matthew 6:1-2

Fund-raising events like this one may incur costs to present, but donors want to know they are part of a larger host of supporters.

There is a value in fundraising banquets, and that value is not confined to the ability of the charity to present their work, or the fact that people come predisposed to make a significant contribution that they might not make in response to a direct mail campaign.

The value lies in giving corporately, or to be more specific, in knowing that you are contributing to a cause in which others are also invested.

Let me come at this the opposite way.

Unless you give to “blue chip” name-recognizable Christian charities — and frankly, I think your money goes much further when you support younger organizations and second-tier charities — you don’t know what support the organization already has. Your attitude might be, ‘I would give to this more fully if only I knew that other people are also supporting this.’

When you attend the charity’s public events, you see that not only are others deeply invested, but their support extends to doing volunteer work and if available, even short-term commitments overseas.

You’ve all seen Christian telethons for various ministries, I suspect. The host announces, “There’s a group of businessmen who have pledge to match everything that’s given in the next half hour up to $40,000.”

I always thought these dollar-for-dollar matching challenges were somewhat contrived, but now I’m not so sure. Those businessmen (and women) simply want to know that their major donations are being accompanied by grassroots donations of a great host of people who can’t do what they are doing, but they can do something.

The verses in Matthew 6 above indicate that your giving can be both in secret and in public. It’s a caution against name recognition more than anything else. But if your name and amount given (or pledged) remains confidential, you can still show up and by doing so, say ‘I support this cause; I stand behind the activities being carried out by this organization.’

In the larger assembly of people, you might even find yourself adding an extra zero to that check.

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July 18, 2019

Canada’s Best Kept Charity Secrets (2): Engineering Ministries International

This week we are highlighting the work of four Christian organizations based in Canada. Even though our readership is three-quarters American, I wanted to give visibility to these groups. The group featured yesterday and the one featured today have American offices, so people on both sides of the border can make donations and receive a valid income tax receipt. In the case of the organization featured below, they are based in Colorado Springs, CO, but it was through the office in Calgary, Alberta that we first came into contact, so they are truly, one of Canada’s best kept Christian charity secrets.


I’m a working on a building
I’m a working on a building
Hallelujah
I’m a working on a building
For my Lord, for my Lord

~Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys
(click here to listen!)

eMi logo

In January of 2015, my oldest son began a new chapter of his life, doing a 16-week internship with a Christian organization that nobody we’ve spoken to has ever heard of, but once you get the concept, you would be more concerned if nobody had thought of it.

Here’s their purpose statement from the landing page of their website:

Engineering Ministries International (eMi) is a non-profit Christian development organization made up of architects, engineers and design professionals who donate their skills to help children and families around the world step out of poverty and into a world of hope.

Poverty is a key element of the projects they choose. As much as you’d like to get all your engineering and architectural drawings done cheap for the new gym and fellowship hall at Church of the Affluent Suburbs, I don’t think they’re going to be able to help you. But they do have a host of mission organizations they’ve served since 1982 working on over 1,100 relief and development projects in 90+ countries; with many of the relationships developed alongside ministries such as Food for the Hungry, Mission Aviation Fellowship, and Samaritan’s Purse.

So, in the case of the project my son was involved in, they designed a building for an orphanage in Haiti that at the time housed ten kids and desired to expand to a goal of future growth to 75 beds, plus a chapel, plus a school that will be profitable. All on land they already own. eMi works with organizations in partnerships like that.

This wasn’t a paid internship for him. He actually paid them, about the equivalent of another full year of school, for a time frame involving a single semester. But they picked up travel and living expenses for his week in Colorado Springs (where their world headquarters are) the time working in the Calgary office (one of five satellite offices) and a trip to Haiti to see the project site and meet the key players there. Their finished drawings were given to a local construction company that built the first phase of the facility to their specifications. (Check out the scope of this project they consulted on in 2009.)

How did we hear about all this? We ran into eMi at an annual event in Toronto called MissionFest, which I’ve written about elsewhere, a sort of trade show for mission organizations. Since I know a lot of people, I pitched a number of options to him, but he set the bar really high in terms of the type of Christian organization he wanted to work with, and eMi met his criteria. His degree is in Electrical Engineering, but they taught him some of the Structural Engineering principles and the whole thing will count toward his professional designation.

I should also add that to the best of my knowledge, eMi is always looking for Structural Engineers and Civil Engineers, especially on the short 8-day field trips. If that’s you and your schedule allows you some travel time; or you’ve taken an early retirement, you might want to get to know these people. Same applies to architects and surveyors.

I once heard it said that Youth with a Mission was the Evangelical world’s best kept secret. I’d like to nominate eMi as a runner up. When you think about the concept, this thing gives new definition to meeting a need.

As I get to know this organization better, I expect to be writing about them again. For my Canadian readers there’s eMiCanada based in Alberta, and for my UK readers eMiUK is based in Oxford.


Tomorrow: Unlike most eMi volunteers, he ended up getting involved with the charity they did the work for, right up to last weekend (July, 2019). Tomorrow we’ll introduce you to that charity.

July 17, 2019

Canada’s Best Kept Charity Secrets (1): Mustard Seed International

This week we are going to be highlighting the work of four Christian organizations based in Canada. I realize that our readership here is three-quarters American, but I wanted to give visibility to these groups, and as it turns out, the first two we’ll look at have a very definite presence on both sides of the border, but as this one isn’t well-known in Canada, it meets the definite for this series.

Last March 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.

I don’t have stats for last year, but 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.

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.

October 1, 2015

The Business of Charity

Portions of today’s blog post have been edited to avoid specificity.

Earlier in the week we had a trip into the big city, and Mrs. W. suggested there was a place she needed to go as they are the sole supplier of a particular item she needs for a particular hobby. So after dealing with the necessities that took us there, we ventured into some new territory, only to discover her supplier was across the road from a well known Canadian Christian charity.

Not wanting to miss the opportunity, I dropped in. I’m not sure whether or not this happens frequently or not, but they didn’t seem to have a protocol for this. Nonetheless someone was fetched and she answered a few of my questions, and then I asked her if it was possible to have a quick tour.

Now she could have easily turned us down, but she took the time to show us around the building which was larger than I expected for an agency of this nature. It’s easy to judge from the outside, but I am not aware of all the many facets of their ministry, so I just took it as given that better minds than mine had determined that both the facility and the staffing level were right-sized.

Still, having been around the Christian scene for a long time now, I am sometimes able to sense things. I guess that having worked for Christian organizations that have been forced to operate on a shoestring, I am always surprised at the size and scope of the larger ones, a reminder, as I said when we were walking back to the car, that charity is a business (of a sort) and is part of a larger industry (of a sort) of charities and not-for-profits.

Generally, I was surprised at the number of offices and staff, even though the number is probably conservative by charity standards. I will admit that getting this balance right is probably a science, as indicated by the chart below:

The Business of Charity

I once worked for a Christian organization that paid their staff “based on needs.” As a single, young person fresh out of college and still living at home, I was paid very poorly. (They later faced a lawsuit over this practice, and I was issued a subpoena but was released after I told them I didn’t work concurrent with the woman who launched the suit.)

On the other extreme, a friend of mine once visited the head office of a better-known Christian charity and reported entering the lobby and “sinking in the plush carpeting.” While that person may have been given to exaggeration, I don’t question the report of a grand piano in the “guest reception room.”

I believe that probably fewer people would give the organization I visited money if they saw what I saw, but then again, I’m not sure that some people would continue giving money to their local church if they saw the invoices for floral arrangements sent to funeral homes. Or that the church really needed to lease a third copier/printer which doesn’t do anything that the other two don’t do. One one level, perhaps my tour yielded too much information.

What I do think however, is that the type of “drop in” that I did should be more the norm than the exception. The organization should have a designated person who can deal with spontaneous public relations opportunities that arise, and also be able to offer an apologetic for why the various staff are needed in conjunction with the organization’s mandate or mission statement.

On another level, it never hurts for the people who do the actual giving to be better informed.

 

 

March 12, 2015

Engineering Ministries International: Recent Haiti Project

I mentioned a month ago that I would return to more about Engineering Ministries International. Even if a family member wasn’t intimately involved, I think if I had seen a presentation about their work I would be instantly hooked. Their work is so vital and their cooperation with other ministry organizations is so commendable.

eMi logoIf you know someone who is:

  • an engineer
  • an architect
  • a surveyor

you should get them to do some research on this organization with an eye toward possibly taking a vacation week and serving with this ministry on one of their design trips.

You can read my earlier article about EMI by clicking this link. There’s also a shorter article I posted while the team was on the ground.

In the meantime, today I want you to enjoy a video of the trip that our son Chris was on in Haiti. His team is now in Calgary continuing to do the final design work for the client organization, the Welcome Home Children’s Center. EMI has offices in Colorado, Calgary and Oxford, England and donations make it possible for them to do architectural and engineering designs for client charities at 90% off market rates.

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

January 12, 2015

Working On A Building (Or Several)

I’m a working on a building
I’m a working on a building
Hallelujah
I’m a working on a building
For my Lord, for my Lord

~Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys
(click here to listen!)

eMi logo

Starting today my oldest son begins a new chapter of his life. He’s doing a 16-week internship with a Christian organization that nobody we’ve spoken to has ever heard of, but once you get the concept, you would be more concerned if nobody had thought of it.

Here’s their purpose statement from the landing page of their website:

Engineering Ministries International (eMi) is a non-profit Christian development organization made up of architects, engineers and design professionals who donate their skills to help children and families around the world step out of poverty and into a world of hope.

Poverty is a key element of the projects they choose. As much as you’d like to get all your engineering and architectural drawings done cheap for the new gym and fellowship hall at Church of the Affluent Suburbs, I don’t think they’re going to be able to help you. But they do have a host of mission organizations they’ve served since 1982 working on over 1,000 relief and development projects in 90+ countries; with many of the relationships developed alongside ministries such as Food for the Hungry, Mission Aviation Fellowship, and Samaritan’s Purse.

So, in the case of the project my son will be involved in, they’re going to be designing a building for an orphanage in Haiti that currently houses ten kids and will expand to 50, with a goal of future growth to 75 beds, plus a chapel, plus a school that will be profitable. All on land they already own.  eMi works with organizations in partnerships like that.

This isn’t a paid internship for him. He’s actually paying them, about the equivalent of another full year of school, for a time frame involving a single semester. But they’re picking up travel and living expenses for his week in Colorado Springs (where their world headquarters are) the time working in the Calgary office (one of five satellite offices) and a trip to Haiti to see the project site and meet the key players there. Their finished drawings will be given to a local construction company that will build the facility to their specifications.  (Check out the scope of this project they consulted on in 2009.)

How did we hear about all this? We ran into eMi at an annual event in Toronto called MissionFest, which I’ve written about elsewhere, a sort of trade show for mission organizations. Since I know a lot of people, I pitched a number of options to him, but he set the bar really high in terms of the type of Christian organization he wanted to work with, and eMi met his criteria. His degree is in Electrical Engineering, but they’re going to teach him some of the Structural Engineering principles and the whole thing will count toward his professional designation.

I should also add that to the best of my knowledge, eMi is always looking for Structural Engineers and Civil Engineers, especially on the short field trips. If that’s you and your schedule allows you some travel time; or you’ve taken an early retirement, you might want to get to know these people. Same applies to architects and surveyors.

I once heard it said that Youth with a Mission was the Evangelical world’s best kept secret. I’d like to nominate eMi as a runner up. When you think about the concept, this thing gives new definition to meeting a need.

As I get to know this organization better, I expect to be writing about them again. For my Canadian readers there’s eMiCanada based in Alberta, and for my UK readers eMiUK is based in Oxford.

And if you’re the praying type, remember our son Chris.

 

 

March 5, 2012

The Business of Charity

This weekend I had two widely different experiences which were both connected by the theme of philanthropy in a Christian context.

The first began with an article I read about an organization which annually pools funds from a handful of wealthy donors and foundations and then receives grant applications from ministry organizations from which a few are selected to receive funding for various projects.  I’m guessing that you have to be giving around $100,000 to play in this league, but I wondered if in the process of collecting applications they had uncovered any organizations that might be of interest to people whose charitable donations were closer to $10,000 annually.

My motivation was that I believe that many people of means who are looking beyond their local church for worthy projects tend to go with what I call “the usual suspects.”  These high profile Christian parachurch organizations and relief and development agencies have frankly, in my opinion anyway, grown fat. They’re well known, well-established; they receive money in bequests, and honestly don’t need as do other charities.

On the other hand, there are a number of what I would call “next generation” missions and ministries which are just starting out, haven’t been corrupted by largesse, and are trying to meet new challenges; while at the same time being relatively unknown among the people I would call “the givers.”

However, when I delved into this further, what I found grieved me deeply, and when I use the word grieve, I am not trying to be overly dramatic.

In case you don’t know, charity is an industry.

This industry is greatly focused on self-perpetuating and while some revenue definitely goes to charitable purposes, a surprising amount goes to assuring that there will be even more revenue in the future.

As I examined some of the successful grant applications, a large number of them had gone to improving websites, integrating technology systems, streamlining data processing, hiring IT specialists, increasing web presence, etc.  The phrase, “proposals that demonstrate a thoughtful and innovative approach to increasing an organization’s impact will be more favorably considered” should have been a red flag.

The organizations themselves are doing work worthy of support, but these large donors would never have the satisfaction of seeing their money used for those more noble goals.  Instead there was money for proposals and studies and initiatives to increase further fundraising. Quick, gag me with a response card.

There was money for Christian colleges, but it wasn’t going to bursaries or keeping tuition costs flat for the next three years.  There was money for a Bible distribution organization, but it wasn’t buying Bibles.  There was money for an organization that helps out young mothers in poverty, but it wasn’t going toward infant formula or subsidized housing. There was money for a Christian camp, but it wasn’t providing for summer leadership training for students or giving free weeks of camp to children in poverty. There was money for a medical mission, but it wasn’t going to buy pharmaceuticals or first aid supplies. There was money for a student ministry that wasn’t going to hire another high school or college worker; perhaps one that is qualified but not networked enough for the rigorous deputation required.

There was money to buy an organization new laptops, to help another promote a promotional DVD, for another to hire a consultant, for another to start an arts journal. And more consultants, IT directors and website improvements. And then there was the one for a well known inner city mission to improve the acoustics in a meeting room. “Seriously, I just can’t work with the echo in here.”

Do you see the problem?

I was hungry and you hired a consultant. I was thirsty and you improved your website. I was in prison and you merged with another organization. I was naked and you lobbied your government for increased freedoms to raise more money.  I was homeless and you were worried about room acoustics. I was sick and you bought inventory management software.

This is the very type of liberal spending that grates on so many people when it’s done by government, but we forget that there is much excessive spending in the religious charitable sector as well. I’d really like to know how that arts journal is going to make the world a better place.

By contrast, on Saturday night, we attended a fundraising dinner for a missionary in eastern Europe. He got on a plane and landed in a foreign place with nobody there to meet him at the other end. No idea where he would stay when he got there or where his first meal would come from. No covering from a mission agency or church denomination.

The spaghetti dinner we attended — and church fundraising doesn’t get any more basic than this, except for car washes — was put together ostensibly because the church had no proper means by which to receipt donors. The missionary in question was working with the gypsy population until the government forced most of them out of the city in question, and so he now works with ethnic minorities. Any extra money he has he spends on the people he works with, including needs they face for prescription medicine. He has apparently put off his own medical care several times, preferring to look after the needs of others.

The money collected on Saturday night will be given to his mother here in Canada, who will then credit an account that he can access. This is real grassroots fundraising for a real grassroots missionary. What it should be all about. They raised $840; nothing in that number to attract the interest of the elite donors club.

Charity is a business; there’s no getting around it. Its participants end up with confused priorities and misguided visions. The term, “misappropriation of funds” needs not refer to people who are stealing or embezzling from the organization in question, you misappropriate every time fail to meet the genuine needs for which the organization or program was established in the first place.

In all fairness, I should add that all the examples above apply to 2010, and in 2011, the “faith-based funders,” as they call themselves elected to support more realistic projects, and required that each one represent a partnership between two established Christian charities. Still, many of the projects were described in a somewhat nebulous form of charity-speak that belies what the actual invoices for goods and services actually pertained to; and also, as a footnote, the money in both years all stayed in North America; there was no consideration of projects undertaken by U.S. and Canadian organizations overseas.

Sigh.

…If you wish to support the missionary in the story above, contact me off the blog and we’ll try to provide some direction. I guarantee it would be money well spent, even if you don’t get a tax receipt.

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

J. B. Phillips Translation

 

THIS IS TRUE RELIGION

 


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

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