Thursday, October 25, 2012

Missionary Secrets 4: our churches don't know what to do with us...

Missionary Secrets 4: our churches don't know what to do with us...
by Abu Daoud

It's true. They send us money. They are normally happy to see us when we get back to our native country. They have good intentions. But in the end, they have no idea what to do with missionaries. It's mostly out of sight, out of mind. Which is not great. I personally love to hear from our churches. I don't mind answering their questions or e-mailing some recent prayer requests or pictures.

So here is some good advice which I got from an eNewsLetter send out by this agency on a regular basis. (You can sign up for it at their website if you like.)

Here is the section I liked, with some great advice on taking care of missionaries and keeping in touch with them:

Neal Pirolo wrote the best book on this subject, Serving as Senders Today: how to care for your missionaries as they prepare to go, are on the field, and return home. Here's a list to get you started, but to read more click on the link to buy the book from Amazon.
  1. Enlist folks from your congregation to be the advocates for the missionary who can coordinate support and make needs known to the congregation;
  2. Offer a room in your home for the missionary to store their possessions;
  3. Ask if the missionary needs help filing taxes whilst away;
  4. Have the Sunday School classes focus on the missionary's area of service. Learn some of the language, culture, and needs;
  5. Volunteer to babysit the missionary's children so that they can have time away before re-entry to the field;
  6. Send care packages, birthday cards, and other items for their wish list;
  7. Offer to send out their communications;
  8. Although the aim is a warm, supportive relationship, it should also be one of accountability.Get references, verify their call, and request ministry reports;
  9. Offer friendship. Invite them to a meal or out for coffee;
  10. Find a tangible way to serve the missionary. For example, one missionary we know works with orphans in a cold climate. Folks from her supporting church have a knitting ministry and send hats and gloves to the children she serves;
  11. Send a short-term team to visit them on the field. Find out how the team could best serve. If sending a team would be too much of a burden, send one or two leaders instead;
  12. Get technical:  do Skype calls with the church; ask for video footage, photos, etc.;
  13. Are there doctors in the congregation who can help advise in medical situations;
  14. Commission the missionary during a service, put on a church meal with relevant ethnic food, consider taking a photo that the missionary can take on the field;
  15. Pray regularly for the missionary during the service, small groups, etc.;
  16. Be sensitive to your returning missionary. Culture shock is unnerving. Perhaps counselors and friends in the congregation can lend an ear and help them process their experiences.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Triumph for World/Global Christianity

Today the Pope announced a special session to install a number of new cardinals. Cardinals are bishops who have the special faculty of coming together as a college to choose a new pope when there is such a need (normally when he dies, and after a certain age they can no longer vote). Check out this fantastic list. I really think it shows Christians around the world that the Catholic Church is global (as are so many other Churches increasingly). This makes me happy:

  • Archbishop James Harvey, 63, the Milwaukee-born prefect of the Papal Household;
  • Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai, 72, the Lebanon-based head of the worldwide, 5 million-member Maronite church;
  • Major Archbishop Basilios Cleemis, 53, head of India's Syro-Malankara church – the first hierarch from the 600,000-member community to receive the red hat (and, by two years, set to become the youngest cardinal);
  • Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja (Nigeria), 68
  • Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogotá, 70
  • Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, 55; head of Asia's largest diocese
HT to Whispers in the Loggia. And Kudos to the Successor of Peter, who still has not read my letter to him I think.

BTW, the College of Cardinals is the oldest existing democratic institution in the world. See how you learn awesome stuff on this blog? 

--Abu Daoud

Friday, October 19, 2012

Where David Goldman (Spengler) is wrong (I think)

I am a big fan of David Goldman (Spengler) who writes for Asia Times and First Things, among other publications. His recent book How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is Dying too) was a great read. On the whole I enjoyed it and learned a lot. I do not share his optimism about Israel and the USA, but on the whole he is making some great points. (I am, in the end, a neo-medievalist, after all.)

But there is a real problem here...I don't think his case that Islam is 'dying too' is really correct. Yes, there are some really low birth rates in Iran and a few other places, but let's take a look at the TFR (total fertility rate) of the world's eleven most populous Muslim-majority countries:

                Name             Population               TFR[1]         Net migration/1000 population
11.       Indonesia            204,847,000                        2.23                        -1.08
22.       Pakistan               178,097,000                        3.07                        -2
33.       Bangladesh         148,607,000                        2.55                        -1.04
44.       Egypt                     80,024,000                           2.94                        -0.2
55.       Iran                        74,819,000                           1.87                        -0.11
66.       Turkey                  74,660,000                           2.13                        0.5
77.       Algeria                  34,780,000                           2.78                        -0.27
88.       Morocco              32,381,000                           2.19                        -3.67
99.       Iraq                        31,108,000                           3.58                        0
110.   Sudan                   30,894,000                           4.17                        -4.52
111.   Afghanistan        29,047,000                           5.64                        -2.51

[1] From CIA World Factbook, estimates for 2010 or 2012.

And now note that of the eleven only one of them has a TFR below replacement, Iran. Meanwhile, countries like Afghanistan and Sudan are very high. Also note the net migration. With the exception of Turkey and Iraq, these countries are exporting large numbers of their uneducated Muslim population. And again, we are not taking into account Somalia or Yemen, both with high TFR and high net out-migration.

Where does this all point? It does not seem to me like Islam is dying too. Yes, the birth rates are declining, but in the populous countries they are all still well above replacement and these countries are exporting their Muslims to the world, and especially the West.

But maybe I'm missing something here. Dear David Goldman (Spengler), please let me know what it is that I am missing in these numbers. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Abu Daoud on Insider Movements

For a long time now this has been one of the main debates going on in misiology (I dislike the word--who combines Latin and Greek? Oh yeah, Americans). The debate goes by various names, all of which are annoying. The most recent label is Insider Movement. Nobody knows exactly what these are, or where they are happening, or how to define them. It appears to have something to do with Muslims staying within their birth communities while following Jesus. For most Muslims this means remaining within the Umma, one would think. Most Muslims and Christians throughout history agree that the Umma and the Holy, Apostolic Church do not overlap. Remaining within the Umma would appear to mean that one continues to call one's self a Muslim, if not actually go to mosque (lots of Muslims don't go to mosque, lots of Muslim women can't go to mosque at all). The whole thing is very confusing.

John Piper has recently spoken out against IM. Cody Lorance (don't know who this person is at all) responded. Our brother Warrick Farah over at the fine blog Circumpolar has summarized the two issues and offers his own two cents.

I personally find the whole incredibly annoying. Not because the discussion is not worth having, but because the people engaged in this discussion simply do not have, imho, the civilization resources to make a positive contribution to the discussion. Here is what I said in a comment at Circumpolar:

In the end I suspect that American evangelicals are just not really capable of having this conversation. As Americans we are a history-less and rootless people. As evangelicals we have, for the most part, tried to get by on the bible alone (a ridiculous project) while getting rid of tradition and ritual. A tradition that lacks an appreciation for its own rituals, history, and traditions simply is not capable of making a useful contribution to matters of religious identity for Muslims [or Christians] who are deeply invested in history, ritual, and tradition.

One attempt to define IM is here. It is the best one I've found so far.

Insider movements can be defined as movements to obedient faith in Christ that remain integrated with or inside their natural community. In any insider movement there are two distinct elements:
1. The gospel takes root within pre-existing communities or social networks, which become the main expression of “church” in that context. Believers are not gathered from diverse social networks to create a “church.” New parallel social structures are not invented or introduced.
2. Believers retain their identity as members of their  socio-religious community while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible
--Rebecca Lewis, 'Insider Movements: Honoring God-given Identity and Community, p 16, IJFM 26:1, Spring 2009. (Google it...)

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Asia Times Online :: Palestinians ditched; Egypt next?

Egypt collapsing? What do you think? Check out what Spengler says here in this great article:

Asia Times Online :: Palestinians ditched; Egypt next?

Orient & Occident: Great News from Anglican Diocese of Egypt

Just read this on the Anglican Communion website. I am happy to hear this news that this wonderful publication, Orient & Occident, is being revived in an online, bi-lingual format. Check out this interview with the Episcopal bishop of Egypt. He seems to really understand the important of Temple Gairdner, one of my heroes. I have mentioned Temple Gairdner in a number of previous posts (here, here, here, and here).

Here is a snippet from the article.

Why did you choose to relaunch Orient & Occident instead of a new publication?
Orient and Occident was launched by Temple Gairdner and Douglas Thornton, and they are very precious figures to us. They were behind the real start of the Anglican Church in Egypt. They are not the ones who started the church, but they are the ones who started to engage with the Egyptian society and not just care for British citizens who lived in Egypt.
Temple Gairdner was a great thinker and a pioneer. He was 100 years ahead of the community when he started interfaith dialogue with the magazine. He allowed Muslims to write in it and responded to them. He was ahead of the whole world in engaging with the Islamic world. We cannot find better that what Temple Gairdner and Douglas Thornton did, and we would like to have the same spirit they did, which we need much more than any time before.
Well, check out the revived Orient & Occident already! (Or in Arabic here...)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Friday Demonstrations: Pray for Jordan

Hi All,

Here is a prayer update from some colleagues in the country of Jordan where things are less stable than you might think. All names have been removed. Please keep this little country in your prayers:

...a huge demonstration/march that is being planned for this coming Friday, October 5th here in Amman. It will take place at around 1 p.m. (6 a.m. EST) after Friday prayers.
As you know, the Middle East has been in the news quite a bit lately. While countries to the north, east and west of us are grabbing the headlines, the weakening Jordanian economy is taking a toll on the poor and middle class. Over the past year, there have been demonstrations throughout the country. Most of those have been peaceful. Our prayer is that they continue to remain that way.
The organizers of the event this Friday have been voicing more and more that the government has had a year to come through on promises and it has fulfilled very little. There are two parties that both desire change, however, one wants political reform in cooperation with the government and the other party is calling for the participants to not back down and be heard no matter what the cost. The latter is being led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
In light of these events, we are asking you to pray for the following:

  1. Pray that those who intend to bring harm will have their plans exposed and that there would be disunity among their leadership.
  2. Pray that the demonstrations would remain peaceful and that there would be no casualties or injuries.
  3. Pray for peacemakers and wisdom for King Abdullah and the government. Also, pray for peace and stability in the country.
  4. Pray that God would use the current events to bring all those living in Jordan closer to the Prince of Peace.
  5. Thanks for praying with us and for your concern for our safety. Please be assured that we will be in a safe location during these demonstrations. 
Your love and support is invaluable. [...]

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Victor Davis Hanson on the Neurotic Middle East

Asymmetry is, of course, assumed. One expects to be detained for having a Bible in one’s baggage at Riyadh, whereas a Koran in a tote bag is of no importance at the Toronto airport. The Egyptian immigrant in San Francisco, or the Pakistani who moves to London, expects to be allowed to demonstrate against the freewheeling protocols of his hosts, while a Westerner protesting against life under sharia in the streets of Karachi or Gaza would earn a death sentence. What is nauseating about this is not the hypocrisy per se, but the Middle Eastern insistence that there is no such hypocrisy. We expect the immigrant from Egypt to deface public posters and call it freedom of expression; we expect Mr. Morsi, who enjoyed American freedom while he studied for his Ph.D. and then taught for three years in California, to deny it to others and trash his former host.

Read it all HERE. The Middle East will have no progress until the folks here get that there really is a double standard and that, to put it bluntly, the Middle East (excepting Israel) contributes practically nothing to the world. Ouch. I know. But true...