30 April 2011

Times are a'changin'!

Original photo found here.
 ...or at least that is the premise of  Fritz Kling's book, The Meeting of the Waters .

"In The Meeting of the Waters, Fritz Kling identifies seven trends...impacting today's global church. Equal parts travelogue, character study and global documentary, this breakthrough book is for anyone eager to understand and make a difference in a changing world."

The above quote, from the back cover, pretty well sums up the book. An enjoyable read, simply from the point of seeing other parts of the world and missions through fresh eyes, it is also a challenging read. Kling forces his readers to consider our rapidly changing world and address this thought: Our world and times are changing. How do we, biblically, obey the commands to love God and people, and to go and take His message to the world? Technology and trends do not have to be the enemies if the church would learn to harness their power... and thus Fritz's purpose for writing this book: "...to address the issues of globalization and the church head on." (p. 21)

Fritz opens the book with a vivid word picture and analogy (hence the pictures included here). Traditional missions and methods need to merge with today's emphasis on mercy, techonology and shorter-term/frequent transitions mentality. He compares this to the meeting of the two tributary rivers which join together to form the Amazon. One is composed dark, clear water. The other is made up of muddy water and teems with life. The two rivers meet up, but flow distinctly separate for several kilometers before finally merging into one. Kling believes we are at such a point in missions endeavors, and instead of fighting each other or even just continuing simultaneously forward but distinctly apart with our individual projects, we need to find a way to blend and merge, working together and drawing on the strengths from each perspective, for God's glory and His Kingdom as we see a "changing of the guard" in missions.
Original photo found here.
The seven global trends he identifies, the results of a Global Listening Tour (151 one hour interviews with church leaders in 19 countries), are:
  1. Mercy - "an increasing emphasis on meeting physical needs in addition to continuing the long-standing emphasis on evangelism."
  2. Mutuality - "Leaders from traditionally poor countries increasingly have education, access, technology and growing economies... and they will demand to be heard. Global church leaders from traditionally powerful countries will need to account for these new perspectives and voices."
  3. Migration - "Relocation... is on the rise and will be rampant... All future Christian outreaches will need to adapt their message for radically diverse audiences."
  4. Monoculture - "The cultures of all countries will become more and more similar, thanks to the spread of worldwide images, ideals, celebrities and ad campaigns. Christians seeking to communicate...will need to be aware that marketing from outside their borders now shapes many of their deepest values."
  5. Machines - "The... church must recognize how newfound abilities to communicate, travel and consume are changing individuals' lives and values."
  6. Mediation - "While there is much talk of the world's flattening, partisan rifts are actually proliferating. Splinter groups now have more communication avenues for inciting discord and attracting sympathizers than ever, and the global church must find a mediating role amid increasing polarization of all kinds."
  7. Memory - "...distinct histories have profoundly shaped their societies. Visitors must understand how yesterday affects today, in ways potentially undermining because they are invisible and unstated."
For those who hesitate, arguing that the church has a timeless, culture-less message and that the church cannot follow culture... Kling would wholeheartedly agree - on one level. We cannot let culture determine right and wrong... his concern is that "the valuable treasure carried by the church -- the best news the world can ever hear -- will be risked because leaders lack the stomach, mind or heart to engage the challenging times... 'Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?' (Isa. 43:19)"

Original photo found here.

 As I've read this book and thought about it, I recognize that Tim and I have embraced, or are moving along that path, several of these global trends (i.e. machines, mutuality, mercy, in particular). The others? We've been largely clueless, although once pointed out, I believe their presence is clear, confirmed by my observations and experience, but infinitely more imporantly, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit within.

It has long been clear to me that we can't continue a practice just "because it has always been done that way," or even because the older believers or traditional local church leaders say something new just "won't work in this culture," or that a new idea cannot be "godly." Life is not static... neither is culture. Absolutely, we need discernment! We don't want to blindly follow the world simply because everyone else is doing something, even if it is "an effective something" to which everyone responds if it violates biblical principles. We also need courage to consider change, sometimes gently and respectfully confronting leaders so that we stop blindly following established practices and traditions that have become ineffective or obsolete in our constantly changing and evolving world. Much of what I gleaned from this book is the imperativeness of becoming more intentional with every part of our ministries, continually evaluating and re-evaluating progress and effectiveness with a heart and mind open to consider new alternatives and sensitive to God's leading. Continual education and learning, both formal and informal, is also critical, if we want to keep up with the changing world around us.

I included this one just because I know my hubby loves satellite images... and he'd find it interesting! To see the original image, click here. It is fascinating to see where the two rivers continue to flow along side by side.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from our organization as a part of their Continuing Enrichment/Education requirements program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 244: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and and Testimonials in Advertising.”

29 April 2011

Mullings & Musings

"The social consequences of this imbalance are vast and uncorrectable. China and India now face the reality of millions of young men and boys who have absolutely no hope of a wife and family. In China, these young men are called guanggun or “broken branches.” Just consider this — the 30 to 40 million “broken branches” in China are about equal in number to the total number of all boys and young men in the United States.

These young men represent a looming disaster on the societal level. Young males commit the greatest number of criminal acts and acts of violence. Marriage has been the great taming institution for the social development of young males. Without prospect for marriage and a normal sex and family life, these multiple millions of unmarried young men are becoming a significant social challenge in China and India. Some observers even argue that this may lead to an increased militarism in the region."

"God is good for not showing us the ending from the beginning. We would be paralyzed by fear and crippled with anxiety if we knew what the earthly future had in store for each of us. Instead he reveals the ending through our sanctified lives, little by little, step by step. Still He gives us grace-filled, backward glances of insight and understanding as we run the race forwards, leaning towards the finish line, grasping at faith to take us around the next blind curve and over the next steep hill."

“Why water polo?” Piasecki says. “Why not? The opportunity just kind of called out to me . . . Imagine if you're living in a war-torn country, and all there is on TV is soap operas and depressing news about the country. They are looking for something positive.
“People heard about what we were doing and were coming to the front gate of the base asking, 'How can I be part of the water polo team?' It doesn't even matter what sport it is. It's a little piece that can help make the country better.”

28 April 2011

Behind the Wheel

Driving in this city can be a dangerous prospect at worst... while only precarious and frustrating on the good days. We certainly never take safety for granted.

It isn't that there aren't traffic laws to follow. There are. But it seems that many tend to consider them optional suggestions... to possibly consider... if you are in the mood... if you have time... or if it is convenient for you...

My theory is that this is so because there aren't the resources to enforce the law. In other words, there may be a policeman standing at a traffic circle where a driver goes out of turn without signaling, cuts someone else off causing them to swerve into the car beside them. The policeman blows his whistle - but if the violating driver doesn't stop when the policeman blows his whistle, then the two cars who collided are left to figure things out and most often, the policeman is not going to chase or track down the violater. Thus, there are few, if ever, any repercussions for breaking traffic laws.

Reality? You are more likely to get a citation for failing to signal or not having all of your paperwork in order than you are for running a stop sign or stop light, for speeding or for crossing the median and driving the wrong way down a divided road simply because you don't want to drive the extra 500 feet for the "legal" turn around. The rule that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line is perhaps the only rule rigorously applied... that and the fact that the only time I've regularly seen Nigeriens hurry is when they are behind the wheel. Most everyone insists on their priority: their right to turn first, their reasons to drive around a traffic jam on the sidewalk or  the wrong side of the road regardless of how many they "cut" in line or who else they might inconvenience, their desire to greet someone and in the process stopping all traffic behind them until they are through with their conversation... and the examples could go on and on...

The other day, I approached a locale where the military was stopping all traffic. Someone in the government was getting ready to travel by vehicle, and so road blocks were created to give the dignitary quick and easy right of passage. And the place where I stopped was right by the entrance to the presidential palace. Now, no one was actually entering or leaving the palace, but I didn't think it wise to block the entrance, so I stopped leaving clear access as did the man in the traffic lane beside me. We sat there for several minutes, traffic piling up behind us and then the man in the Land Cruiser behind me started honking his horn. I didn't figure there was anywhere I could go, so I ignored the honking and just sat and waited... rolling the window down and turning the car off to conserve gas since it was looking to be awhile. After several minutes and several honks, the man got out of his car and came up to me. He was in a hurry and wanted to try another route instead of the one that was blocked, so he wanted me to move up - blocking the access to the palace - and giving him room to pull out, turn around and go on his way. As we discussed this, over several minutes, he readily agreed that it was wrong to block the palace entrance and that I mostly likely should stay where I was, but since he really needed and wanted to get on his way, I could go ahead and move forward to make it possible for him.

Yes, I know I have a stubborn streak - but this man kept insisting and I continued refusing to comply, not because I just wasn't "gonna give," but truthfully, because it did not seem wise and I knew it wasn't legal to move forward - in a country where stopping in the wrong place has resulted in the military shooting first and asking questions later, I was not, under any circumstance, going to willingly block the entrance to the presidential palace.

He finally tried one last tactic... I could move forward, he'd pull out and I could then back into my place. When he offered that suggestion, I gently said somewhat ruefully, "Sir, I've lived and driven in this city for 10 years now. If I pull forward for you to pull out, everyone behind us will fill in that space and I will be trapped and unable to back up. He finally smiled, laughed and said you have every reason to say that, guess I wait,... and began heading back to his car to wait just like everyone else.

Lately, while I've been driving, I've been reflecting on the fact that the things I see happening while on the road here in Niamey often reflect our human nature- our sinful and selfish "me-first-and-above-all" desires- unchecked, unchanged and undetered by the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit. Without law and consequences for violating the law, drivers in this city (and probably everywhere else) simply do what is right (and that often equates to what is convenient and self-serving) in their own eyes.

It is scary, too, how quickly I can find myself slipping into those same types of behaviors, justifying them with some mildly modified version of "well, if everybody else is driving that way..."

What situations do you see in your daily life that clearly reflect that men are sinners by nature and that without the mediating presence of the Holy Spirit, each one selfishly does "What is right in his/her own eyes?"

26 April 2011


A former pastor of one of our supporting churches writes and sends out a daily devotional that I always appreciate. Recently, he sent these thoughts about 2 Peter 2.1-12... and as a mama who has nursed 8 babies, God's word picture of craving milk like a babe is a powerful image...

“...if we are craving Scripture we will not be focusing on ourselves or others. He encourages our cravings to be intense, like a young baby calling out for milk, only to be satisfied when milk is received. When hungry, no amount of walking, rocking, singing, or holding will be sufficient; only milk will satisfy. May we so crave and only be satisfied in the Word of God. We must not cling to reading books, listening to sermons, singing hymns and songs of faith, or fellowshipping with the saints. Though each of these is good… they must never be substituted for time in the Word of God. Our diligence, our craving must be for God and His Word, for it is here we learn of His grace and goodness, here we learn of His redemptive plan, here we see His mercy and faithfulness,here we learn of true worship, and here we learn to love Him. May we have a never satisfied and always growing craving for our Lord and His Holy Word."

Mary Michelle (Dec. 2008) snuggled up to her Gammie... after her tummy had been filled.

It is easy to grab for something good... all of those other things listed above... and miss out on the best - the very words of God Himself, the very person of Jesus, Word Incarnate.

  • Why do you think this is such a common struggle?
  • Do you think all of the "tools" and other writings and reflections we have serve to distract rather than direct?
  • How do you keep from falling into that trap?

(Thanks, Pastor Terry Burlingame for reminding me and challenging me with these thoughts!)

25 April 2011

Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts ~ Easter Monday Reminiscing


terribly early morning for littles

that grows into an incredibly long day for those same littles and their daddy and mama

Easter dresses usually ending up irrevocably stained

that ever present (even if mostly unfounded) fear of snake encounters as they run far, wild, laugh and fellowship with their friends without thought, caution or restraint


this remains one of my favorite Niger times, year after year after year

celebrating our Risen Lord together with those who've become our family simply because they're here too...

they've left many and much behind because He has vanquished,

because He lives,

because He empowers
those who hope and pray to be used by the Champion to see Him defeat darkness in individual lives

sweet victory

We tasted victory this weekend
as our little guy (along with 7 others) chose to follow the Lord in Believer's Baptism...
on Easter Sunday!


this week's gratitude list - images of new memories etched at this year's sunrise service and a precious Easter Sunday shared with friends, celebrating...

(#'s 1037 - 1064)

little boys who snuggle while praying that God protects their mama from scorpions

friends who tell me sweet stories of what my kids do when I'm not there

coming up with plans of what we can do to sleep well when it is so hot

excitement over an early morning, delighted to help any way they can

clouds obscuring the sun... but gifting us with the coolest Niamey sunrise service I can recall

listening to the dam in the early morning

many hands making light labor

cheerful, albeit sleepy smiles

greeting the ambassador

several times handed-me-down and repurposed Easter dresses

hearing "He is risen... He is risen indeed!" multiple times

2 year old girls who can sit through a church service, listen and participate best that they can

hearing another of our little ones proclaim delight that Jesus is no longer in the tomb because "He raised and He lives!"

girl praying for her daddy before he preaches and encourages

entrusting the camera to her for the first time, allowing her to capture the event

seeing things from her eyes

yummy shared breakfast snacks and fellowship

kids mesmerized by things that soar... and dreaming of soaring themselves

favorite friends-counted-as-family joining us for Easter dinner

boys washing dishes and cleaning up together... mostly happily

anticipating baked ham, chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet corn and some yummy desserts

chaperoning high school parties while watching teens and visiting with amazing friends

learning about & trying out a "roach coach"

seeing my guy encouraged from an unexpected source... who has been there, walked that path... hearing him open up and talk...

being awaked by an early morning phone call and the privilege of praying for friends we've truly grown to love

multilingual, multicultural baptismal services giving glimpses of someday in heaven...

all of Elsie Mae's questions about why Jonathan was getting baptized... why we should be baptized...

being baptized by Daddy and Pastor Dave

dripping, smiling boy


(Thanks to Anna, who took most of these photos!)


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