Thinking Out Loud

February 16, 2015

Design Team on the Ground in Haiti

Filed under: education, missions, parenting — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:33 am
Image captured on Flight Aware mid-trip. I don't consider this helicopter parenting, it's more like satellite parenting.

Image captured on Flight Aware mid-trip. I don’t consider this helicopter parenting, it’s more like satellite parenting.

Though he’s been away from home off and on for many years, this is the first time we’ve ever been cut off from our son electronically.  It’s going to be a long week as we wait for the first communication when they return to the US and then Canada, though I recognize that for some of you reading this, Haiti is just a stone’s throw away compared to places in the world where you have close relatives.  If you’re coming in part-way through this story, I wrote about his 4-month internship with the organization at this blog post.

emi logo brickThe more I hear about Engineering Ministries International, the more impressed I am with this organization and the unique role they fill in world missions.  I’m so excited to be able to passionately tell their story.  At 9 minutes, this video is a little long, and requires you to read the captions, but it defines exactly what a design team does in the various countries in which EMI serves. They’re not doing the actual building, which means they’re not taking away work from locals.  They’re also living within the realities of the budgets the host organization is working with, and the construction materials that are available. In Haiti, the latter is a daunting prospect.

The director of the team he’s serving on wrote about all the things they’re taking with them.

We get 1 suitcase each. Between our 4 and the 2 belonging to the interns also leaving from Calgary, we’ve managed to pack:

  • water test kits, a pocket penetrometer, a TDS meter, measuring tapes, a portable printer and all sorts of other engineering-type stuff
  • first aid kits, headlamps, plug adapters
  • craft items, both from our own stash and donated by our church to do a craft day with the kids there
  • several quilts sewn by kids from our church
  • pillow case dresses and shorts sewn by a friend with a heart for orphans
  • hats knitted by [our daughter]
  • t-shirts from a friend of eMi
  • some hand-me-down clothes
  • small toys and school supplies from [our daughter’s] friends
  • some hot chocolate (a special request!) & peanut butter
  • toothbrushes donated by a friend and toothpaste donated by our dentist
  • donated soccer balls and a pump
  • more school supplies [donated]
  • oh – and our own clothes and toiletries and such

There’s a ceremony that engineers go through — family are not allowed to attend — in which they are given a ring. My son wrote about that recently:

As my graduation neared, I was given a steel ring to wear as a tangible reminder to double-check my work because, in engineering, I will often have people depending on it for their safety, but I’m finding that I don’t need the reminder. The spectacle and gravity of the work, and the humbling and uplifting character of the cause, are enough.

Anyway, this has been somewhat random, but I hope you’ll remember the team in prayer this week, and if you have engineers, surveyors, architects or people with similar gifts in your faith community; EMI is always looking for people to go on short-term trips.  If you know a student who is studying any of those fields, there is opportunity to do a internship — the other intern on his team is doing a co-op term — for professional credit. You can link to the various websites at these links:



January 13, 2015

The Changing Face of World Missions

upside-down world

I grew up in a highly-missions-focused church in Toronto, Canada. At The Peoples Church, the annual World Missions Conference was the highlight of the year. I can’t tell you how many missions stories I’ve heard and the number of languages I’ve heard John 3:16 recited in by people wearing multi-colored tunics.

But modern missions is… well… modern. Here are three ways that come to mind:

PartnershipsThe organization we wrote about yesterday is a good example of this. If each devotes itself to its core competencies and subcontracts the rest, there is much efficiency to be gained. In more traditional missions, I suspect there was less sharing and cooperation, and groups were all busy re-inventing the same wheel.

Paradigm Shifting – Organizations like MegaVoice and Galcom are changing our definition of what it means to “give someone the Word of God.” Far from the printed gospels we envision, their miniature audio devices solve two huge problem of portable devices in rainy climates: rust (no moving parts) and battery life (they use solar power.) I wrote extensively about MegaVoice here.

Pragmatism – Typically, missionaries would embed themselves among the tribesmen (there was never mention of the tribeswomen) and learn the language, codify it in print, and then work on presenting the Jesus story. Computers offer the means to multitask: If indigenous speaker from group A also knows languages B and C, and is friends with a person who speaks B who also knows D and E… well you can see how this could get interesting. Wycliffe Bible Translators call this sort of work Cluster Projects.

Personnel Placement – There’s a sense in which we’re all missionaries. We live busy lives, and in the process develop relationships with extended families, neighbors, fellow students, co-workers, the woman at the library, the stock clerk at the grocery store, the weight trainer at the gym. So it is also that people with specific technical training can enter an otherwise missions-restricted country, but in so doing they take Jesus with them, and the sharing of their faith, while it may be low-key, is often strategic. However, the process carries with it certain risks.

Persecution – Even if the nation is not restricted, people serving vocationally in missions ministry often find themselves somewhat out-of-step with both the nation in which they serve and the people back home. Yes, persecution can even come from within the church family. Even if it isn’t as overt as the systemic persecution in many countries, it impacts the individual who has already given up any hope of an affirming salary or equity in the real estate market. Some days, the smallest thing can break you. For the children and teens who exist as “Third Culture Kids” life is equally bewildering. These people need our friendship and personal support.

…Missions is not a big deal in some churches, with very token, very limited budgets given to ensure that the small handful of people who got a donation last year get one this year. While the capital ‘C’ Church is becoming more aware of the plight of the poor, many times the appeal is for a project in their own city. Few Americans know what the face of world missions looks like. Missions books are among the poorest selling categories in Christian bookstores.

Still, the world of world missions — as opposed to the relief and development ‘industry’ — is an exciting environment. Learning more will stimulate your own faith in your small corner of the world, and will accelerate your prayer life.


January 12, 2015

Working On A Building (Or Several)

I’m a working on a building
I’m a working on a building
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.



December 8, 2014

Mid-East Persecution Continues to Increase

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:25 am

I don’t always share the emails I get from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) but I think it’s important to raise awareness of what’s taking place, especially when bloggers are so focused on the American/Canadian church.

ACLJ Petition Dec 2014

It’s hard for me to even put this into words.

ISIS jihadists are now barbarically beheading Christian children.

The Christian Vicar of Baghdad is reporting that ISIS terrorists demanded that four children recant their faith and “say the words that you will follow Muhammad.”

These brave Christian children – all under 15 years old – refused, saying “No, we love Jesus.”

ISIS cut off their heads.


There is no other word to describe the horror.

As people of faith, we must not allow this to continue. We must defend Christians from ISIS genocide.

Christian children are willing to face death for their faith in Christ.

We must defend them.

We demanded the Obama Administration take action, and it is, but not nearly enough.

Be heard for these persecuted Christian children.

Sign Our Petition: Stop the Genocide of Christians in Iraq.

Jay Sekulow
ACLJ Chief Counsel

August 21, 2014

Sidebar to the Kent Brantly Story

Filed under: current events, missions — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:25 am

A part of the story you may not have heard…

Kent Brantley

Breaking Christian News adapted this story from Assist News Service, but made the headline something that Assist had buried in the final two paragraphs:

The website stated that The JPS Foundation is now accepting donations for Brantly and his family, who lost all of their earthly possessions when he contracted the Ebola virus and was returned to the United States for treatment. After his symptoms appeared, Brantly was isolated and was never able to return to their home. According to JPS, everything is considered contaminated by Ebola and will be destroyed.

“No date has been announced for his release from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, but when he is well enough to join his family, they will face the challenge of replacing everything from household items and clothing to computers and children’s toys,” said JPS in a statement Friday. “All funds will be held in a separate account within the JPS Foundation for the financial support of Dr. Brantly and his family during his recovery.

After all they’ve been through, they face the same loss as would a family whose home was destroyed by fire. But better to have Kent alive, right? 


“I’m sorry I’ve got to take this call, it’s Kent Brantly.”

This article is a must-read. It puts Kent Brantly in perspective in a way that will challenge you to the core.  Click to read Scot McKnight’s article:
Kent Brantly: Every Now and Then a Disciple Breaks Out

May 29, 2014

Thursday Link List

Species rarely seen: The Thursday List Lynx

Species rarely seen: The Thursday List Lynx

A few things missed out this week by a few hours. We might repeat some of these on the PARSE list anyway, but I wanted to share them while they were still fresh.

  • Did someone in your church write a great modern worship song that’s only being sung by your own congregation? Enter it in the Sing It Sunday song contest, and it could be performed in front of 13,000 people at Catalyst Atlanta. Contest details here.
  • I debated whether or not to make this one the sole subject of today’s blog post… Do you know someone who labors in ministry and gets discouraged by what seems to be so little fruit? A pastor whose small church seems lost in a megachurch world? A youth worker who spends long hours working with kids who seem unresponsive? Send them this story.This is the recently uncovered story of a missionary who died thinking he was a failure. 84 years later a thriving church is found hidden in the Congo jungle.
  • In the wake of the death of Fred Phelps, there was a small mention that in the seemingly quiet months before he passed away he had been excommunicated from his church. I remember reading that, but not really focusing on it. It’s possible the reason is that he mellowed; that he softened his stance on some issues to a degree not acceptable to church hardliners.
  • Relevant Magazine did a list of six well-known church figures who, if judged by the standards of modern Evangelicalism, would simply never make the cut. The provocative headline calls them “6 Heretics Who Should Be Banned From Evangelicalism.” The last one will surprise you.
  • A piece that was in the link list yesterday sparked some follow up articles that appeared too late to meet the Wednesday list deadline. The topic was racial balance in the author mix at InterVarsity Press. I’ve often commented that the Christian publishing world is dominated by Reformed voices, which by implication means white and male. But we tend to think of IVP as having more of a global focus. At the blog, By Their Strange Fruit, here is part two of that article, as well as a more general piece which is less IVP-specific.
  • UPDATE: The son of the pastor of a snake-handling denomination who died in February was himself bit this week but refused to be hospitalized. Cody Coots replaced his father as pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name church in Middlesboro, Kentucky.
  • Finally, many Christian people feel that since ‘God hates divorce,’ they are obligated to stick with a marriage no matter what. As Lee Grady points out, there are at least four instances where it’s right to leave.



May 21, 2014

Wednesday Link List

John Wesley quotation

Out of several hundred potential links, these were some things that got my attention this week. Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, the list’s owner, a blog of Leadership Journal in the Christianity Today family. From there, click the stories you want to see.

When not hunting down links for you, Paul Wilkinson blogs at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, and Christian Book Shop Talk.

January 22, 2014

Wednesday Link List


So, if you’re following the saga, sometime in late June we agreed to make the Wednesday Link List part of Out of Ur, which is part of Leadership Journal, which is part of Christianity Today, which was founded by Carl F. Henry, who was not related to Buck Henry. But then, last weekend, Leadership Journal officially rolled out PARSE which is where each of the links below takes you… you can click through from there.

To celebrate our first official PARSE column, we bring you both quality and quantity this week…

Link sleuth Paul Wilkinson is also available to DJ your next youth group meeting or help you herd your cats. He writes these little disclaimers at the end of the list for CT/PARSE readers and sometimes forgets to remove them here.

Trouble reading this? We’re experimenting with leaving out the “<big>” tag on each line for the first time; but if it’s small for ya, we’ll update midday. This classic blog theme has a default that’s somewhat miniscule.

Our closing graphic is from a collection of 30 mean letters written by kids.

Dear Uncle Bryan

April 22, 2013

Pray for Saeed Abedini

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:01 am

This is an update of an appeal we ran here on March 26th.

Pray for Saeed AbediniWe need to pray.

And we need bloggers and people on social networks to mobilize their followers to pray.

The American Center for Law and Justice reports:

It began last week. American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is serving an eight-year prison term in Iran because of his Christian faith, has been suffering from internal bleeding for months – injuries received from the beatings in prison. In what could only be viewed as a cruel act of psychological abuse, prison officials took Pastor Saeed to a hospital last week – only to be turned away – and brought back to Evin prison without receiving medical treatment for his internal bleeding.

Now, comes word out of Iran, that the beatings and physical abuse are intensifying. Pastor Saeed reported today that last week he was severely beaten the same day the prison officials took him to the hospital. During the weekly prison visit today, Pastor Saeed’s family reported that his physical condition is worsening – seeing first-hand the marks and symptoms left by the recent beating. These beatings and the internal injuries are causing Pastor Saeed frequent fainting spells.  Iranian officials are telling Pastor Saeed it could be an additional two months before he will receive medical treatment. Such a delay is inhumane and a gross violation of Iran’s international obligations. 

In addition to refusing to give Pastor Saeed the medical care he needs, it now appears authorities are stepping up their physical abuse and psychological torture. Pastor Saeed reported that cellmates, who appear to have connections to the Iranian intelligence police, recently threatened they would suffocate Pastor Saeed in his sleep, making his death look like an accident.  The daily threat that his life could be taken by his internal injuries or by the hands of cellmates, weighs heavily on Pastor Saeed.  

Christianity Today reported Saeed was being pressured to renounce his faith.

Iranian officials have pressured imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini to renounce his faith in Jesus even as they have stepped up their physical abuse and psychological torture of him, including taking him to a hospital but denying him medical treatment, according to recent reports.

In a letter obtained by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Abedini—a U.S. citizen of Iranian descent—wrote that he was told by Iranian prison officials, “Deny your faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam or else you will not be released from prison. We will make sure you are kept here even after your 8 year sentence is finished.”

Abedini’s response, he wrote, is Romans 8:35-39, which says persecution and death cannot separate a believer from Christ.

“The reality of Christian living is that difficulties or problems do arise in our lives,” Abedini wrote. “Persecution and difficulties are not new occurrences, but are seen often in the Christian life. It is through the suffering and tribulations that we are to enter the Kingdom of God.”

I believe we need to pray for an absolute miracle here. We need this story to completely reverse course.  We need to see a miracle release like God did for Paul and Silas in the book of Acts.

But will you pray?

Often on this blog we’ll tell you about some amazing thing you need to see or read or browse and there will be a section that says click here. Out of maybe a thousand visitors here in the first day it’s posted how many do you think actually click? Often less than ten.  Many times just six.  (The link in this paragraph doesn’t exist, it’s an example.) That’s why it scares me to ask people to pray.

Or for my Canadian readers, we went on three different blogs a year and a half ago with the goal of raising $150 for the Salvation Army.  Now remember, Jon Acuff raised $60,000 to build a two kindergarten classrooms in Vietnam in a single day! So I figured we’d go way over our goal.  We raised $135.  That’s why it concerns me about asking people to pray.

You can’t assume it’s all okay, somebody else will cover this.

So today I’m asking you guys to pray, and to pray big; but as type this, I’m wondering how many will actually stop and maybe turn off your monitor right now and intercede — stand in the gap on behalf of Saeed — for God to do what only God can do?

Additional coverage at Assist News Service, Christian PostWorld Magazine

Please, link to this story on your Facebook page or Twitter feed copying this shortlink:

If you’re new to this story, here’s a Wikipedia article with some history

January 23, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Christmas production at  First Baptist Church in Curitiba, Brazil as seen at Church Stage Design Blog.

Christmas production at First Baptist Church in Curitiba, Brazil as seen at Church Stage Design Ideas Blog. That’s one huge choir.

It all begins with a design template that looks like this.

It all begins with a design template that looks like this.

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama Crashes the Party Exactly One Year After His First Visit Here

Lloyd the Llink Llist Llama crashes the party exactly one year after his first visit here

For the last couple of weeks there has been a weekend link list here. Some of the most interesting articles this month have been listed in those two editions.  So be sure to check them out.

  • I never know for sure when I check out new blogs if the writer is on our side or not, especially when the first post I see looks like this one at Loon Watchman.
  • Deans at other schools are fighting the possibility of accreditation for what would be Canada’s first Christian law school at Trinity Western. 
  • Why swear an oath on one Bible when you can swear an oath on two?  A writer at Think Christian notes: “What I like about these [Bible] selections is the way they point to public and private figures who influence or inspire President Obama, and whose faith probably all shape the way he approaches his faith and his work.”
  • You’ve heard of the dog who shows up for daily for a church service its late owner regularly attended. If not Fr. Z blogs the story, but notes that the dog’s appearance at the altar risks affecting the church’s ‘sacral character.’ 
  • Sometimes it’s hard to become a Christian knowing that, if you do, someone is going to starve to death. Here’s a dilemma for missiologists.
  • Don’t miss this one: J. R. Briggs gets an inspiring lesson on grace when he has to ask his 6-year-old son for forgiveness.
  • Tyler Braun notes that summing up the gospel as “Jesus Loves Me” is too me-centered, unless we include spreading that love as part of the gospel mandate. 
  • Zac Hicks has an interesting article about the role of Worship Pastor as Emotional Shepherd and the dangers of manipulating the congregation.
  • A central Pennsylvania Wesleyan church officially opens a $4M expansion including a fitness center, jungle gym, café restaurant and Christian bookstore.
  • So what exactly does it mean when you find a dead bird on the steps leading to your workplace?  Especially when you’re looking for more than, ““A dead bird on the step means either a cat loves you and has brought you an offering of food, or it means a bird flew into the window/door and killed itself…” 
  • By now you’ve probably had occasion to look up a favorite TV show, movie or actor at IBDb, but did you now there’s now a Christian Film Data Base (CFDb)? The site also has a blog that’s updated daily with reviews and interviews.
  • I’m writing this listening to an at least five year old song by Starfield – Reign In Us. Just clicked replay for the fourth time. 
  • And news last week that Jason Dunn from Hawk Nelson has a solo album releasing in May.
  • Meanwhile at American Idol auditions in Chicago Curtis Finch, Jr. impresses the judges with a brief gospel performance.
  • For church leaders and pastors, Dave Kraft’s website, Leadership from the Heart is must reading. Here’s a piece outlining three temptations that can undo you and your leadership
  • And here’s more good leadership advice from 9Marks on counseling people who haven’t crossed the line of faith.
  • Looking for a career in ministry? Check out
  • I suspect that Christian bands like Sidewalk Prophets love it when bloggers take one of their songs and use it as springboard for a devotional piece; like the writer at Journey of a God-Follower does with their song, He Loves Us Anyway.
  • Not So 31 is the name of a blog based on a reference to “the Proverbs 31 woman.” She does a lot of book reviews and book excerpts in particular, including some recent ones by Steven Furtick and Chris and Kerry Shook.
  • We linked to this picture — one of my favorite images of 2012 — late last year but never included it. Until today.  It was taken by Andreas Solaro for the Getty wire service and is captioned: Pope Benedict XVI caresses a lion cub as thousands of participants in the “Pilgrimage to Rome” festival – circus professionals, carnival people, street artists, pavement artists, bands and folk groups – gather at the Vatican on Dec. 1, 2012.  We think the Pope should have a few kittycats running around the Vatican the way the Queen has her Corgis at Buckingham.

Pope Benedict XVI - With Very Large Cat

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