Thinking Out Loud

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.

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December 8, 2013

Reconsidering Christmas Shoeboxes

Operation Christmas Child BoxesSeveral years ago I wrote a post here asking some questions about the whole Operation Christmas Child (OCC) thing. As I said a year later, I didn’t want to be a “grinch” when it came to OCC, I just wondered about some big picture issues.  Then last year, I reformatted the whole article to include some points that a reader had left in a comment.

This year, I was prepared to lay the whole subject to rest. Besides, collection for the boxes in our local churches has come and gone. But the article keeps attracting readers, and last week Lucy, a reader, left a comment that reminded me that as OCC grows — now with an online component that allows you to pack and ship a shoebox from the comfort of your own home right up to a much later deadline — people still have misgivings and second thoughts about the program.  Here’s what she wrote:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I thought I was the only one who had serious reservations about the OCC program. I just see it as a well-intentioned venture that, in reality, exports Western materialism. Even given the potential spiritual good, do we want children associating Jesus with wrapped goodies? Isn’t that enough of a problem here in America?

I’m a Christian who thinks Samaritan’s Purse has done wonderful things in helping people around the world. But let’s help children by really making a difference in their lives. World Vision and other ministries have programs where you can contribute toward gifts such as farm animals, wells, small business opportunities for women, etc. Much, much better than trinkets.

And thank you, Lucy for that comment. Organizations like Compassion, Partners International, The Christian and Missionary Alliance and Gospel for Asia are among the many — and I chose ones with both American and Canadian websites —  that allow you to make significant, life-changing donations to an individual or an entire village of the type Lucy describes.

Shoebox sized giving will produce shoebox sized results, and furthermore runs the risks she described in her comment. If you’re reading this on a computer — even in a library somewhere — you are among the richest people in the entire world. This Christmas, literally share the wealth.

There is a saying, Do your giving while you’re living, so you’re knowing where it’s going. The Christmas “gift catalogs” of the four organizations listed above allow you to know exactly where your money is going. Don’t lose this opportunity.

Comments can be made at the original article — first link above.

April 17, 2009

Missionfest: A Ministry Trade Show

missionfestAfter 35 years working in and around various types of ministry organizations, today I attended my first ever ministry trade show.    After several years of getting snowed out in the winter months, Missionfest Toronto moved both its date and its location and today’s balmy weather in Canada’s largest city rivaled that of Southern California.

After one aisle, I turned to Mrs. W.  and said, “We’ve only seen a fraction of this  and already it’s overwhelming.”    Basically, I suppose I always knew that a large number of ministry organizations like these existed — probably a fraction of what one might see at a similar event in the U.S. — but there was something else about having them all set up their booths in the same room.

Missionfest exhibitors consisted largely of:

  1. Actual mission organizations doing evangelism and church planting in the third world
  2. Local, urban mission organizations working in Canadian cities
  3. Relief and development agencies
  4. Christian liberal arts colleges and universities, Bible colleges and seminaries
  5. Christian residential summer camps and retreat and conference centres
  6. Christian radio and television stations and ministries
  7. The teaching ministries of various authors or pastors, many of which are also broadcasters included in (6) above
  8. Ministries focused on Bible and Christian literature distribution
  9. Commercial businesses which provide specialized services to churches and non-profits (i.e. insurance, printing, internet, etc.)
  10. Organizations with a specialized focus on ministry to children
  11. Organizations with a specialized focus on ministry to the Jewish community
  12. Umbrella organizations, Christian political organizations, denominational groups.

From my wife’s point of view however, there were only two types of exhibitors:

  1. Those who were giving away wrapped pieces of chocolate at their booth
  2. Those who were not giving away chocolate at their booth

To be fair, my wife and I probably had the longest and most productive conversation with someone she previously only knew through e-mail, concerning the ministry project with which she is engaged.   He and she are probably getting together later in the spring to continue sharing ideas.

From the outset, we wondered what motivates the various organizations to drop their day-to-day ministry agenda to go through all the trouble of displaying their magazines, flyers, literature samples, etc. at an event like this.    Some reasons might include:

  1. There’s no doubt that for missions professionals, trade shows like this provide the benefit of any professional trade show, which is social in nature, or what we Christ-followers call ‘fellowship’
  2. Mission organizations are always looking for donors.   A few times someone came out in the aisle and told us, quite clearly, that they are looking for support.    It also occurred to us that conversely, someone of a philanthropic bent might attend this seeking out a target organization for their giving.   (We were actually keeping an eye out for something that would fit this particular criteria for someone we know who is in this position, but couldn’t attend; but nothing in particular jumped out at us.)
  3. Many organizations are looking for recruits; either as volunteers, missionaries requiring deputation, or perhaps even paid staff.   The colleges and universities are looking for prospective students.
  4. Apart from considerations in (2) and (3) above, everyone is looking to raise the profile of who they are and what they do; to get their name known in the Christian community, or in this case, more accurately, the Evangelical community.
  5. I would like to think that in addition to people giving their time and talents, or their money, that these organizations are also seeking specific prayer support.    I didn’t get that particular message today, though I’ve yet to sort through the large bag of literature we brought home.

The event also features a number of seminars dealing with various aspects of mission and ministry.    Many of these were on Saturday which conflicted with another event my wife is involved in; and some were part of a ‘Master seminar’ track which wasn’t in our budget.   (Some were simply capitalizing on who was available, such as Brian Doerksen’s songwriting workshop, prior to his concert tonight with Shane Claiborne; and no, I don’t think Shane is singing but I’ve actually heard him teach a song to about 2,000 people and he’s not bad.)

For me the “star” highlights were meeting Charles Price, pastor of Toronto’s Peoples Church, and also running into Shane Claiborne in the restroom.   I went back to the Crawford Broadcasting booth hoping that Neil Boron was free.  He hosts a four-hour afternoon talk show on WDCX-FM in Buffalo, which is the closest I get to coveting someone else’s ministry.   What a fabulous opportunity he has each day.    Unfortunately, he had left for lunch when I went back.

But the interactions with everyday people doing everyday mission and ministry were also valuable.

I walked into the exhibit floor someone cynical, reminding myself that missions — especially some of the 12 categories listed above — is very much run like a business, and that many of these people are in a very real sense competitors for items 2 to 5 in the second list.

I also know that some people are equally skeptical of the missions paradigm because — unlike (for example) a Christian bookstore which is theoretically self-supporting, or any model whereby the staff are ‘tentmaking’ at some other remunerative vocation — mission organizations merely have to “ask” to get money.

But my viewpoint was softened very quickly, as I was impressed by the earnest sincerity of the people we met.

If an event like this hits your community, I would encourage you to check it out; especially if you’re at a personal crossroads and wondering if God may have some avenue of service — either short term, long term, or life long — for you to consider.


 

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