Monday, December 31, 2018

Last of 2018 Sunday Funday

So this is a Sunday Funday for two weeks, so we have two vlogs (and I am still behind/catching up):
and our Winzeler family vacation to Clifty Falls:
Our life for the past two weeks has been filled with family and fun, as well as lots of snotty noses, traveling, and packing. After getting all organized at Steve's house (where we stayed while in Indiana), after Christmas we packed up and drove to Connecticut to be with Caid's family. Unfortunately, After Sofia's 24 hour food sickness (while at Clifty Falls), she then caught a cold. Graciously, she got better right before Christmas, and Jessica then caught that cold right after Christmas (we had almost a 24 hour not-so-sick period for which we are grateful!).

We had a wonderful Christmas with Winzeler family (and Carina Christmas Eve), and are now snuggling in for a wonderful New Years with Ferguson Family! We have been so blessed to be able to speak at Horizon Central, Shelbyville Community church, Brookville Road Joyland, and to meet with many amazing supporters and friends (in Indiana and Connecticut): it has been quite a wonderful first month back on home assignment!

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Two Little Words: made me cry happy tears
2. Mary's Magnificant: love D.L.Mayfield:) and Mary
3. Christmas poem by Madeleine L’Engle
4. You are Jeff Bezos game: what? need to try this...

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!

I'll get to Sunday Funday eventually, but first: Christmas!
And here is our video of the year:

Sunday (December 23) was a really important day to me last year. I had just given birth and was still in the hospital as they were checking on some things with Jessica. I was alone, as Sofia couldn't stay long visiting, and Caid was taking care of her. It was a lonely time, and I just wanted to go home. It was also our family's first Christmas away from all of our extended family. And I was nervous for my new little human. 

Fast forward to this year, when we are celebrating Jessica's first birthday, surrounded by family and friends. For Sunday Funday, I read Sarah Bessey's field notes (if you want to subscribe, go to, and the tears just started falling. As I wiped them away, I began to ask myself why the words touched me so much. Here they are:


"...Because of the work of scholars like Christena Cleveland and others, I've already thoroughly disabused myself of the notion of white baby Jesus (check out her article here on Why Jesus Skin Colour Matters). Jesus was brown and Jesus was a first century Jew. And so hallelujah. But I was still thinking like a westerner about Christmas. I was still fully entrenched then in the notion of the nativity as I understood it.

And so my grief for Mary, the Mother of God, was acute. As someone who has experienced an unintended unattended birth myself, I was well aware of the fear and the loneliness of those moments. I imagined a teenaged Mary, alone in a smelly cold barn just as I had been in a smelly cold parkade, struggling to give birth on her own with only an ignorant and likely overwhelmed Joseph at her side. 

But this year, I have been so fortunate to learn that I was wrong. Oh, it's fun to be wrong! It means we get to learn! It began when I picked up "Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels" by renowned theologian and scholar Kenneth E. Bailey for a read this winter. (I know, I know - I'm a lot of fun at parties, I promise!) As someone who lived and worked in the Middle East for more than forty years while studying theology and scripture, he wrote a surprisingly accessible book for those of us who are theology geeks. And it was in the early pages of that book that I realized I had completely misunderstood the Nativity.

And I'm so glad. For starters, Jesus wasn't born in a barn, folks. Middle Eastern homes of that time did not have the stable for the animals separate from the home at all. Instead, the home was usually made of two rooms: one for the family and the animals and another one at the back or on the roof for the guests. Joseph wasn't turned away from a hotel; he was told that the guest room was already taken. Even there the text has even been misinterpreted itself - it's not that there was no room at "the inn" as we understand a bed and breakfast or a hotel but rather the word is "a place to stay" meaning a guest room as part of an actual home.

So the story is actually one of hospitality - the home where Mary and Joseph stayed was not a guest room but an actual family room. They were welcomed into the family's quarters. They weren't even in the guest room but in the main room of the home.

Besides, Mary and Joseph were not alone, they were part of a caravan. And they were not travelling alone to Bethlehem as strangers. This was their family ancestral home. They were likely part of a travelling community of family members all headed to a place ready to welcome them for the census. It would have been unheard for them to be alone on the road, let alone be utterly friendless in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary probably would have been welcomed immediately into almost every single home in the town given their lineage, let alone the standards of hospitality at the time. 

And let's finish off with what was my biggest ache for Mary, her loneliness and isolation at the time of birth. Birth is a thin place. It's always too much - too much pain, too much waiting, too much joy or sorrow, too much love, and far too messy with too little control. So I couldn't wipe the smile off my face when I read Bailey's assertion that Mary was absolutely not alone at the moment of birth. She was almost certainly and absolutely attended by skilled and present women, likely even community midwives. In fact, she probably had too many helpers given the circumstances. 

Mary wasn't alone. She was in a warm home, surrounded by women who had walked the road ahead of her, who were able to care for her. Jesus had a similar story. He came into the world, not isolated and alone and apart, but fully embedded within a family and a culture, surrounded by women. Jesus was warm, Mary was supported, and they welcomed the shepherds there to that place, as a family.

The Christmas story isn't one of loneliness and quiet isolation in the darkness. This is a story of welcome and hospitality, of lamplight and family, of birth in all its incredible sacred humanness, entrenched in a culture and in a time and within a family." 

I am so happy to revisit and reunderstand this: and it makes me want repaint all the inaccurate pictures I've seen of the nativity. God provides, God cares. And last year? Our own Christmas miracle: they gave Jessica the okay at the very last minute, and by 9pm I was snuggled in my own bed with my new family of four. God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Thursday Sunday Funday

Sunday Funday is a time I can relax, catch up on reading blogs and interesting articles, and sort out my thoughts. You know I am busy when I can't get to it until Thursday. But here it is:)
Our weekly (late) vlog:

So we have been in the USA over two weeks now, shown our Brazilian friend around, been to Nashville, Children's Museum, the Zoo, ice skating, lots of family dinners, family vacation at Clifty Falls, Sofia gettting really sick, and Jessica's 1st Birthday. We all have winter clothing, and most of our things (in different locations) have at least been organized. I call that a win! We are getting life organized and gearing up for Christmas and then heading to Connecticut for a month. We are so blessed. In the moments when I did have a chance to stop, think, pray, and be still, I wrote:

"It is so interesting, this "Coming back," this "Reporting of your life" (in 10 minutes or less). The more we talk to people, the better/easier it is to say: but more than that, it is as if the more we talk about it, the more real it becomes. In a way, we make up our own narrative. I am not saying we lie or stretch the truth, but we do choose (intentionally) how we present our lives. I can say "The past 1.5 years were challenging, and we overcame many difficulties" or I can say "The past 1.5 years sucked and I never want to relive that again." Same truth, different perspective. People don't (mostly) want to hear me sort it out, they just want to hear the outcomes.

No matter how much I prepare, I never really know what's going to come out of my mouth until it does. Once it does, I giggle internally at how succinct and easy it sounds: there was so much life lived in those few words! And truth has such a lovely ring to it. Once said, it comforts me. It affirms me. I have a lot of "oh now it makes sense" moments. It is gratifying. I really love coming back. It helps me to give worth to when I was gone. Coming back is hard and it's own kind of work, but it complements the other part. I can't do one (Brazil or home assignment) without the other. That interconnectedness unites me in a life that is very divided."

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Tis the season of Incongruity
2. Gifts for future Missionaries 
3. Ark of the Covenant is where? I love reading things like this:)
4. Do it Scared
5. Homeness-Finding home in a mobile world

Monday, December 10, 2018

Two Weeks of Sunday Fundays

Here is a video from Caid last week:

Here is a video of our last days in Brazil, and flying to the USA (with a couple bumps along the way):

We have been in the USA for a week now (That video will come soon), and everyone is a bit tired still, but happy and healthy and at least resigned to the cold (Caid and Sofia love it, while Jessie and I are tolerating it). Some (of the many) highlights with exclamation points:
* Family! It is so wonderful to see them and hear Sofia ask "Do we get to go back to Grandma's house now?" All. The.Time.
* Church family! Who helped us out of a jam and got us Megabus tickets when we were stranded in Chicago.
* Friends! So many friends who helped get our girls winter clothes and all the stuff you never remember you need.
* Toilet paper goes in the toilet! (In Brazil, it goes in a trashcan next to the toilet)
* Bathtubs! The girls think it is a pool, and love it, as we only have showers in Brazil.
* Christmas at the Zoo! And all the fun Christmassy things around.

Hope you all are enjoying December and Advent and of God's great gifts!

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Season of Cynicism
2. What is the average length of service for Missionaries?
3. Free Printouts: Jesus Storybook Bible and Ann Voskamp Ornaments
4. Another article (but my favorite) about John Chau
5. Ideas in the Shower
6. Looking for a place to Land
7. The White Envelope: I want to find some Christmas traditions like this, but right now we are still figuring things out.
8. Gift guide for expats

Monday, November 26, 2018

Thanksgiving Sunday Funday

Happy Thanksgiving from the Fergies, and also from Living Stones:
One week until we fly out of Brazil, and a million little details to complete: just sayin--there will be no Sunday Funday next week, because of traveling. But after that, our videos are going to have a completely different view! God continues to bless in big and small ways, and we enjoyed a perfect "So grateful Sushi" Thanksgiving this year: 120 pieces for four adults--DONE.

Reads from the Interwebs: 
1. The Myth of the Absent Black Father: Interesting. I don't think I agree with all of it, but do agree that the media has made it worse and has not helped create positive roll models. I appreciated hearing a different side of things than I usually do. But fact is, most of my black friends did have absent black fathers :(. 
5. Four life changing holiday words: I really like them (no, those are not the four words, haha)

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday Sunday Funday

We have two vlogs this week (kinda catching up from last week):
Our little lady is 11 months old! And last week we had a holiday (I guess it makes up for not having Thanksgiving celebrated in Brazil this week)

Caid and I (Rachel) were able to take some extra time (on the November 15th holiday) to pray and seek God's face for clarity in what He has planned for Caid. Caid has done an amazing job helping out at the Living Stones programs, teaching sports and music these four years: but he hasn't really found his nitch that fulfills his passions and spiritual gifting like I have with Living Stones. We are excited to see what God is revealing for the future, as He takes us deeper, and brings in amazing mentors and encouragement along the way. As we count down to heading back to the USA, these breakthroughs are such a blessing, and so needed. 

Reads from the Interwebs: 
1. Capable of Complexity: A much needed (encouraging to me) article about TCKs
2. My Friend: on intercultural friendships, that connected with me
3. The parable of the Caravan: finally, an article that I connect with on this issue!
4. Three reasons to shop ethically...and 4 reasons not to: as we move into Black Friday...
5. Process of Becoming: by Eugene Peterson's wife, as he recently passed away
7. The day my heart grew three sizes: the perfect holiday post
8. Domestic abuse and #metoo: I know that the movement has gone overboard in many aspects, and I desperately hope a healthy balance is gained and maintained, but I am also grateful for it, and will share #metoo stories. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sunday Funday November

No vlog this week, as I posted 7 videos last week:). Feel free to go back and watch one of them.

It was a really important week for us last week as we met (and were encouraged) with some different leaders in Brazil. While we don't have our suitcases packed yet, there are a lot of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual things to make sure are in place as we leave for six months.
This year has also hit a lot of significant dates: 25 years of World Renewal Brazil, 20 years of Living Stones, 15 years that I've (Rachel) been serving in Brazil, 8 years of Cajueiro Claro church, and 5 years that Caid has been serving with World Renewal. We've been "on the field" for 4 years now, and it is a milestone and a time for review and reflection. November 9th was also our 5th wedding anniversary! Some people buy extra rings to go with their wedding ring. This is what we do:
Reads from the Interwebs:
1. I'm a US Citizen living in Honduras. Here is what I think about the Caravan: To tell the truth, I haven't found anything else written about the Caravan that I have connected with. I would have liked to have had a more liberal perspective as well, but unfortunately, the only liberal ones I have found seem to link all immigrants (legal and illegal) as well as refugees together (which are three very different and complicated issues). In general, I take a liberal stand in the issue of immigration. I have had plenty of personal immigration problems myself. I have definite views about refugees and those seeking asylum (as does the Bible!), and am ashamed at how few we accept and how hard we make it on these people who have already been through hell. But I still feel a process is necessary. I am not for open boarders (although I can see myself, if having been born into a different situation, attempting to illegally cross because of circumstances). This article puts well some of the reasons for that. I also think that we should be giving more visas (and different kinds of visas) to more people who do go the legal way of migrating (like myself), but this caravan is none of that. It makes my heart hurt that there are so many people in need (I am currently working with some of them every day), but I do not think bypassing our laws and processes is the answer (fixing the laws and actually dealing with the many, many problems they have--YES, please).  I am surprised at how hard it is for me to say this: it would be so much easier to just say "Yes, let them all in," but the solution is not so simple, and there are many long reaching implications. My prayers are with those in the caravan, and with people like the woman who wrote this article, who I feel are doing real, needed work.
2. Following Jesus into a political no-man's land: Yes, Caid and I voted by absentee ballot:) (Mom, I know you were wondering)
3. Mass Shootings and...: Another one come and gone and I just needed a minute to stop and grieve.
4. Spaghetti, Applesauce, and another Goodbye: I feel like I waited until I read this to grieve my great aunt's passing. Grief is a weird looking thing when so far away from home (If you don't know, the author's grandmother was my great aunt--we are second cousins? Or something like that).
5. Saying "God called me" can be dangerous: and a really big responsibility. And YES.
6. Coming back from Narnia: what re-entry feels like: This is happening in like three weeks.
7. Wise Generosity: If giving shoe boxes isn't the best idea, what is? I love her points, and would like to say that Living Stones meets all five of her points:). Just sayin.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

November Sunday Funday

Our weekly vlog (this week we have two):

(This was catching up from when Jessica was sick)

We will be back in the USA next month, and things are rolling quickly! I am moving from "Let's figure this out" phase to "Let's get this done." You can tell from all my blog posts recently, as I am trying to finish processing 15 years of serving in seems like a good milestone to do it:). Bascially, the end result was summed up here, in my "What Missions Means to Me" Series (It also has a video). 

It was a lovely week, as we celebrated Jeff's birthday instead of Halloween, and November 2nd is the Brazilian holiday Dia dos Finados, which is basically like day of the dead but without all the cool makeup and music (but they do have the flowers)! Jessica is all better health-wise, which makes life much easier on everyone, and she officially has her first words (we don't count them until they are repeated enough to know they aren't an accident)! 

While Sofia's first words were in English (we were having bets on which language she'd speak first), and the very common "Da-da" (he was very proud), Jessica's first words are also in English, but are "Hi" and "Bye." Yep. We are always telling her to tell people "Hi" and "Bye" on Skype and Facetime with family, and whenever Daddy leaves in the mornings...and now she regularly does it. Does this say something about being a third culture kid?!?

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Rethinking the Language of Short Term Missions: I have posted many things with this general idea before, but this just keeps coming up, and I think is really important, and is something I am continually evaluating to see what I can do, and what changes I need to make. 
2. Unprotected: This is a very long, secular investigation into an NGO. I read it with a heavy heart, because so many good ideas and good intentions can go wrong so quickly. I am constantly reminded that "But for God's grace, there go I..." This is a hard read, but important for those working in NGOs, especially if you don't have a (actual working) child protection policy in place. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

What Doing Missions Means to Me Series

In a conversation, one friend remarked about a missionary who'd recently shared at church: "They just seemed to really be doing what missionaries should know...orphans and widows and such."
A wise older woman replied, "You know what missionaries do? They live their lives. They do life and wash their underwear just like you do."
"Except it takes three times longer." I added. Everyone laughed and nodded.
This sums up what missions means to me. But when I unpack it more, I find I could go on without stopping. So I will just address seven things that missions means to me:

1. It means calling yourself a missionary
2. It means figuring out what a missionary is (and isn’t)
3. It means answering “Why am I am Missionary?”
4. It means refining what your mission is practically
5. It means sharing your mission
6. It means learning from others
7. It means learning from your mistakes

You can watch a summary of the series here:

Doing Missions Means Learning from Your Mistakes

(Read or watch this blog)

What I have done wrong:
A. I blurred the lines between personal funds and ministry funds. I would end up paying for most of the Living Stones supplies and parties out of personal funds (which were pretty non-existent)
B. I blurred the lines between ministry fund raising and personal fundraising. I could talk about Living Stones all day, and ask for money for the kids, but I didn’t want (or feel adequate) to ask for myself. You must know who you are and know what your ministry is- each needs funding and each is worth it- but one cannot suffer because of the other- boundaries are there to protect us. Find the lines and make them clear for everyone (for me, that meant separate videos, websites, updates)
C. I worked crazy hours to prove I was worth the money given/ worthy to be called a missionary
D. I didn’t call myself a missionary for years, while I was being a missionary
E. I didn’t want to spend any money on myself or making a home for myself. And while I survived fine, I think I missed out many enriching experiences and the support of feeling “homey”

What I have done right:
A. I kept reporting on what was happening and the beautiful stories God was writing. Blogging was a really good outlet for me to do this, and to get better at it.
B. I kept putting myself out there and connecting with people. I created a “round” of people to visit every time I was in the USA. I had a list, that I kept updating, of people to write and connect with, even when these people didn’t reply or respond back. I made sure to write personal thank yous to new and continuing supporters.
C. I didn’t get into debt, or got out of debt quickly. This is one of the top things stopping a while generation of people becoming missionaries.
D. I really loved what I was doing, and made sure not to publically complain. Was everything perfect? No. But when something needed to change or needed working through, I did it privately, making sure not to burn bridges and tear down other people, especially people in the ministry with me.
E. I was okay with only knowing a little bit. I used to joke that God would only show me the next 6 months of my life because He knew I wouldn’t have to trust Him if He showed me more. But it was true, and for most of the 10 years I served as a single missionary, I couldn’t tell you what was going to happen after that current 6 months.

Doing Missions Means Learning from Others

(Watch or read this blog)

2. and his books Subversive Jesus and the Alongsiders Story
3. (for women)
4. and her books One Thousand Gifts and The Broken Way
6. and her books Rhinestone Jesus (and others)
7. and her book Assimilate or go Home
8. and founder Christopher Heuertz (and old copies of “The Cry”)
9. Half the Sky and A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
10. New Friars and Overturning Tables by Scott Bessenecker 

Doing Missions Means Sharing Your Mission

(Read or watch this blog)

I am not going into sharing about Jesus: that is all of our mission and bottom line. I am talking about sharing how God has called you to do your specific, practical part of missions. In a way, you are a salesman: you have a message explaining who you are and why you and your ministry is worth investing in. I have heard it said that you should have three ways to present your message: the movie poster, the movie trailer, and the actual movie. Over the years, these are the tools that have helped me to do that:

A. The prayer card: personally, I use a business card because it is smaller and cheaper. It works great these days, because mostly, you just want to connect them with a website/giving site that has the rest of the information. I have a quick “elevator pitch” (condensed message that I could share on an elevator ride) that works like a movie poster.

B. YouTube Channel: we have a quite literal movie trailer that is our introduction video on our YouTube channel. We upload weekly 5 minute of less videos, so that people can check us out and get to know us in little, digestible bits. In the past, this was newsletters—and we still do a Christmas letter and monthly e-newsletters, but the videos have been much more accessible to this generation. I also have a blog, but that is more of personal thoughts, rather than missions updates.

C. Website/personal meetings: The whole story can be shared on the website, or in a personal meeting, when you have time to really connect (hopefully). This would be like the actual “movie.”

Doing Missions Means Refining what Your Mission is Practically

(You can watch or read this blog)

My mission, 15 years ago, was to love people, especially children, and especially at-risk children. I’d figured that out during my teens, and it seemed pretty simple. Then I went to Brazil and it practically looked like teaching English. So my mission was to teach English. And while I love doing that, it wasn’t my core—my lifeblood: it was simply one of the ways that I do my core mission. Then I became the coordinator of Living Stones, working with at-risk children. This was in complete alignment with my core mission, and I have found so much satisfaction in doing this. I am blessed to have found this: a vocation that lines up perfectly with my core mission.

And then I got married. Part of my core shifted. Now, an integral part of my core mission was to serve and love my husband. And then I had children: another part of my core mission is now to be a mother. I am still me, but I have been stretched. It is a wonderful thing, and as any mother will tell you, it isn’t addition, it is multiplication. You aren’t piling on one more thing you have to do in life: your life and love is multiplied and expanded to include more: and somehow, miraculously, to help you become even more YOU.

In 2016, Caid and I realized that the best way we could connect with others quickly, in this day and age, was through vlogging (video blogs). I was already making a lot of baby videos for our family, and making weekly vlogs about our life and mission just made sense. Missions is changing rapidly, along with culture and technology and the times. Gone are the days of missionary slide shows (I remember them from my childhood fondly), now your supporters want to really see and understand what is going on (as they should!) An annual newsletter isn’t enough anymore.

While we are the first missionary vloggers that I know of, I think in the next 5-10 years it will become more of the normal, as supporters want more involvement, and investors want more accountability. In three years of vlogging, we now have over 300 videos, with lots of baby pictures, laughing, learning, life and culture in Brazil, and whatnot. We hope to share practically what a missionary looks like in a world where for many, it isn’t very clear.

Our family is serving God in Brazil. But if God leads us somewhere else, or to do something else, then we will follow. I get asked a lot “But are you going to live in Brazil forever?” And the honest truth is, I don’t know. I believe that part of being a missionary is always being ready to go, if God says so. It is about following Him, whatever that looks like. It means putting down deep, deep roots in Jesus, because locational roots can, and will change.

Doing Missions Means Answering "Why am I a Missionary"?

(You can read or watch this blog)

1. Because I have found something good--the Way of Life--and I want everyone who comes into my world to know Jesus--whom they need. I am sold out to this idea.
2. Because I have been invested in and given the set of skills needed to the job--and a darn good job--in Brazil. The workers are few. I can go where many others cannot.
3. Because people who have need to give just as much as people who have not need to receive, and I have a gift in connecting those people.
4. Because it makes me happy. I want and desire to go to Brazil. I LOVE working with Living Stones. It lights me up, it is my passion. "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ― Howard Thurman. Is God big enough to match what He wants me to do with what makes me happy? YES!
5. Because I need to learn how to walk in grace, not control.
6. I am a missionary because this is what God knows will work in me to make me more like the image of Christ.

Doing Missions Means Figure out What a Missionary is (and Isn't)

(You can watch or read this blog)

He looked into my eyes, and with all of his seven-year-old self he asked, “Can I be a Missionary too?” Of course you can, was my teary-eyed response. Here I am, trying to lump 15 years of my life and thoughts and learning into seven-year-old speech. They want to know two things: what is a missionary, and can they be one. Two HUGE questions for any of us.

I have heard that being a missionary is telling others about Jesus. That everyone is—and should be—a missionary. Yes, AND. And so much more. We all, as Christians, are called to tell others about Jesus. I have heard it amplified to say that being a missionary is GOING and telling others about Jesus. Yes, AND. Much of the current focus on being a missionary is going to a different CULTURE than your own. This could be your next door Muslim neighbor or to Muslims in Africa. Being a missionary definitely carries the idea of stepping out of your comfort zone and sharing Jesus.

Officially, in this time and age, I would say when most people think of the word “Missionary,” they mean someone who has moved (become a migrant) somewhere different (than their own culture) for the specific purpose of telling others about Jesus (direct spiritual ministry in some form), mostly being supported (at least partially) by Christians from their original culture/home.

This isn’t what missions looks like in the Bible (that is a another discussion), or what it has looked like over the years. Not everyone fits into this narrative, and that is good: each person has their own journey that God takes them on to become a missionary. This stereotype is what has come out of our culture and time period: who knows what it will be in the future?

I love being a missionary. It is my dream job. But like all jobs, it is hard, it has its downsides, and sometimes I just don’t want to get out of bed. One of my biggest struggles in being a missionary has been money issues. It is hard to receive money (no, really). It is humbling and requires grace—both giving and receiving. God is my boss, but there is a lot more to it than that. I hate to say it, but many of our plans revolve around if the money comes in or not. And how do you tell that to seven-year-olds?

I am all for telling our seven-year-olds that they can be missionaries. But let’s make sure it is true. Let us, as parents, as older siblings, as aunts and uncles, as mentors, make sure our children/the children in our lives have the opportunities to be those missionaries we told them they could be. Let’s choose to live in THAT part of town. Let’s choose to go to the church that doesn’t feel so comfortable. Let’s maybe even choose THAT school.

Let’s choose to actively have other cultures as a vital part of our lives. Let’s have friends who don’t agree with us. Let’s have people over to our house that don’t look like us. Let’s not encourage/support people (ahem, politics) who don’t love people who are different than they are (race, religion, sexuality)—but let’s still love and pray for them. And if we are not doing these things, then we need to stop telling our children they can be or are missionaries.

Stepping outside your comfort zone is scary. Not being “home,” not knowing if they will accept you, not knowing if they will be kind to you…these are all things involved with being a missionary. It is not safe. It is not being cautious. It is being so full of Jesus that you have to share or you will burst.

Doing Missions Means Calling Yourself a Missionary

(Watch or read this blog)

Personally, I refused to call myself a missionary until I was “on the field” for many years already. I had grown up reading biographies of great missionaries like George Muller and Amy Carmichael and Hudson Taylor—and I knew that wasn’t me. I was simply following the green lights God had on my path—and loving it—was I supposed to be enjoying myself so much?

They actually called me “The Intern who kept coming back.” I called myself an EFL teacher. I was in Brazil 6 months and the USA 6 months a year because of visa problems, but also because I was mostly self-supported and worked my butt off in the USA to spend it all in Brazil. I was living off of $350 a month—or less. It was a great life for a single person who wanted to travel and live and make a difference.

But then I had a dear friend sit me down and ask me about my long term plan. About sustainability. And most tenderly, why I was scared to call myself a missionary: did I not think that I was good enough? I also had a cousin who came and visited me in Brazil. She looked me in the eye and said “I have visited a lot of missionaries and seen a lot of ministries: you are doing a good job. What you are doing is important and valuable.”

I was easily putting in 60-70 hour work weeks. I ate and breathed missionary work. It was my life. And slowly, I began to realize that I was a workman “worth his hire.” I could call myself a missionary, even if I didn’t look like everything in my head that was a missionary. Even if I didn’t know the future, and how long I’d be serving abroad.

Language is crazy. We connect emotions, expectations, and experiences to words until they almost become their own entity (consider all that comes up when you hear the word “Mother” or “Father”). The word “Missionary” in my mind was someone who left and never came back. It was someone who had a prayer card on everyone’s refrigerator and spoke at missionary conferences and knew what they were talking about. They always had stories of miracles and “GREAT WORKS,” all in capital letters. And I didn’t fit into this missionary narrative.

"The word missionary comes from the Latin word mitto, which means "to send." It is the equivalent of the Greek word apostello, which also means "to send." The root meaning of the two words is identical (Herbert Kane, The Making of a Missionary, ISBN: 081053587, p. 13) Unfortunately, this word “mitto” was also used and historically rooted in the sending out of merchant ships to bring back slaves and colonize the developing world. Many other people have very sad and angry associations with the word “Missionary.”

After 15 years of (now I can say) being a missionary, missions to me means how I live my life. It involves washing dishes a lot more than I thought it would. It is a lot of paperwork and what seems like wasted time as I navigate a second language and a second culture. But I also have the opportunity to work with and serve people I never would have been able to meet otherwise. I get to be a part of incredible stories that God is writing in a different context than my “normal.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Alongsiders by Craig Greenfield

(This was written and supposedly posted in December 2017. I was also 41 weeks pregnant and life was not okay, so I am posting this now).

Alongsiders (by Craig Greenfield) is not a normal book. And it really isn’t for a normal audience. But if you have a passion for discipleship, for building leadership, and for finding viable ways for changing the world (specifically focused on developing countries), then this is a book for you.

As I read it, I felt a deep pang in my heart and wished I would have had this book in my hands ten years ago when I was brainstorming, with a couple of other missionaries, about what Living Stones was and should look like on paper. Because in many ways, this is a manual for guiding principles and practical steps to starting a movement: raising up leaders to walk alongside chosen “little brothers and sisters,” and disciple them.

While there are many differences between Living Stones and Alongsiders (the ministry this book shares the story, vision, and how to of), the heart is the same, and the practicality is something I am learning from and hope to implement more in my own coordinating efforts.

While reading this book, I was either nodding my head in agreement, laughing softly as we’d (Living stones) lived or learned the same lesson, or jotting down notes of ideas of things to do for the future. A while ago I made a vlog of my favorite “missions” books, and this would go right with all of those as a must read.

This book, more than any other I have ever read on missions, is practical and step by step. Since it is telling the story of, and inviting you into, the Alongsiders movement, it is clear and concise in a way that all of my college mission’s books were not (and oh how they frustrated me!). As someone who kind of “fell into missions” and worked to get training as I went, I have not found many books to be practical in this sense.

Missions is such a big field with so many facets, that I do understand the generalization that most books and training have, but as someone longing for guidance and experience and stories, it is rather lonely. The Alongsiders Story is written with that intimacy and closeness that I haven’t found before.

It is also just darn exciting. The vision is clear and simple and you pick it up and say “Wow! I want me some of that!” Obviously, this book is most useful for someone who is looking to join in the Alongsiders movement actively and directly, but the book is also very important to those not as directly related to developing countries/discipleship of youth in understanding where missions in general is heading and some good guidelines in stepping back and letting God work, especially through local leadership.

So go buy it:)

15 Posts about Missions in 15 Years

I was in the "am having/had a second child" phase for awhile, but as she is getting closer to her first birthday, I feel like I am moving into the "you've been thinking about a lot of things for awhile, now write them down" phase (hence all the blog posts recently).

This year marked 15 years serving in Brazil. Ten years as a single missionary, and the past 5 with my husband and now two daughters. This year has also marked a change, as God has begun to bring into our lives some younger people who are asking questions about missions. This has made me want to put together, and organize, and re-write so many thoughts about missions and being a missionary...So to have them all in one place, here are 15 posts about missions from this blog (which is now 5 years old--my first blog was started in 2003, I believe)

1. 30 Tips for Short Term Mission Trippers
2. Listen to the Things that Break your Heart
3. Commissioning 
4. Why I am a Missionary
5. Be a Missionary every day (clap,clap,clap,clap)
6. 10 Things about being Missionary Vloggers
7. The Fashion Series for Missionary Women
8. 10 Myths about Brazil that many Americans Believe
9. Debriefing (on home assignment)
10. Pinterest: a Tool for Missionaries
11. Good vs. Bad/Wasteful Mission Trips
12. Failed Missionary and other Undefined terms
13. Ten Years a Single Missionary
14. Yarn and Pins (Missionary Map Boards)
15: Applying Overturning Tables

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sunday Funday October Elections

Our weekly vlog:
And my awesome 6th, 7th and 8th graders memorized 1 Corinthians 13:

Last week Jessica was sick most all the week, but it mostly works out that when I finally can get her to the pediatrician, she is almost all better already. I guess I should be grateful for that! I am happy to report our girl is back to her (sometimes) smiley self. I finally put together and posted the many, many quotes from an awesome book I read, Overturning Tables (check it out!) and what all I've been studying for almost a year (check it out!). Caid has been putting together a special Christmas choir at the International school, and it is going really well.
Brazil has elected a new president. It seemed pretty sure that Bosonaro would win after the first voting (he received 46% of the vote, even with many different candidates. They have to have a second run with the top two candidates if one candidate doesn't get 50% the first time, which is rare), and so it wasn't much of a surprise when Bosonaro won. He is considered far-right, after a long time of the Workers party (socialist left) being in power. He is also called the "Trump from the Tropics."

Staying out of my personal opinion, it definitely feels like 2016 USA elections all over again. But if you, from the USA, read articles about it, please make sure to remember that most of those articles are American's writing about Brazil from an American perspective. Brazilian politics has a completely different history, based in a completely different culture: because of this, the same kind of person can lead to completely different results. I honestly have no clue where things are going to go from here, but I do know that fear has no place in love, and that placing your hope in a politician is fruitless.

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Why expats love community: So true! When you don't have family close, there are just so many random things you need help with!
2. Tips to talk to the parents of your child's porn viewing friend: Something I am going to need sooner than I'd like
3. Lord Keep me Weeping: MY FAVORITE read of the week
4. TCK lessons "Everyone Leaves": I keep thinking that if I read enough about TCKs I can figure out any problems my kids might have and solve them quickly. Probably NOT going to happen, but I will keep learning.
5. If you knew me, you would say much worse
6. Finding a New Voice

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Choosing Last: How to live it

I loved the book "Overturning Tables" and how it give application to the church and missions (Read that here). But I also wanted to do my own study and application about how Jesus lived "Overturning Tables" (my day-to-day insights are here).

It started at the Justice Conference in 2017. Christena Cleveland spoke about how she started studying every single encounter Jesus had with people, and what it meant to the power system, to the poor, to the weak.
She wanted a theology on how Christ came to earth not to bring equality, but equity. How he didn’t create a round table, he flipped the tables. How first become last, and last become first and what the significance of that is for our lives today.
I was inspired: I wanted that too. I began a chronological study through the Gospels, each day asking, “What does Jesus teach me about being last?” I divided it up into 40+ readings, so I could do it for Lent and Advent. But since I was also pregnant/having a second child, the study ended up taking me about a year.

From this study,  I learned these 10 things about Christ. He took deliberate steps to consistently and intentionally choose last:
1. He came to earth
2. He came to earth poor
3. He came to earth poor and illegitimate
4. He came to earth poor and illegitimate and waited 30 years to anything of consequence
5. He came to earth poor and illegitimate and waited 30 years and then choose poor friends/disciples
6. He came to earth poor and illegitimate and waited 30 years, choose poor friends, and then told people NOT to tell about the miracles he did
7. He came to earth poor and illegitimate, waited 30 years, choose poor friends, told people not to tell what he did, and worked hard to keep a low profile by moving around and staying mostly out of big cities/main places
8. He came to earth poor and illegitimate, waited 30 years, choose poor friends, told people not to tell what he did, stayed out of the limelight on purpose, and preached/taught the main central message to serve others and be humble
9. He came to earth poor and illegitimate, waited 30 years, choose poor friends, told people not to tell what he did, stayed out of the limelight on purpose, preached/lived servanthood and humility, and constantly elevated and included the weak/poor/woman/sick in his actions and words
10. He did all this, and told us to do as he did (Christian = little Christ)

Jesus put himself last because he put God (the Father) first. How can I deliberately and intentionally put God first and choose last? I look for specific steps to do so in each of my roles (areas of life):
1. My role as a woman or man (physically and emotionally)
2. My role as a princess or prince (a child of God spiritually)
3. My role as a friend (socially)
4. My role as a wife/mother (or other familial role)
5. My role as a ____(vocationally)

Personally, in my life, as a single missionary for 10 years, it was a lot of impressive (to me) and visible choosing last choices. I chose to work in the inner city, I choose to work in rural Brazil, I chose to live off of very bare basics. I did all kinds of things like living off of rice and beans for a month, using only a bicycle for a month, living with a family in a poor community for a month: anything I could think of to better understand and serve those that God had called me to. I actively choose to do without things so I could give the money to someone who had much less than I did.
I found a lot of fulfillment from these choices. In a way, choosing last was part of how I defined myself. To me, that is what it meant to be a missionary, to be a Christian, to be a social justice warrior.
But now, as a married mom, I am in a different phase of life. It is much more about unimpressive and invisible choosing last. I feel that I have had to adjust to my “choosing last” to becoming much more personal, and effecting me in a much more holistic way (meaning, it touches every single role that I have). I choose to respond graciously to my sick daughter who is up all night—I choose to put my sleep needs last. I choose to let my husband have some time with the guys while I stay home with the girls. Again. I choose to use my chatting time with a friend to listen to her hurts, rather than share my own.
It is important that we don’t value some kinds of choosing last over others: they are all important, and God sees the heart and the inner sacrifice, rather than outward impressiveness. God is calling all of us to choose last: not because we are good people, or can be humble in our own strength, but because we have chosen God to be first. That must be our true motivation for choosing last to really work.

Choosing Last: What I Learned from Jesus

I used this study (for Advent, Lent, or any 47 day block of time), each day asking "What does this tell me about choosing last, and how Jesus chose last?"
Note: this 47 day study has actually taken me almost a year, as during that time I had a tiring pregnancy and my second child. Just saying. Here is a summary of my personal learnings:

Day 47: God comes to normal people in normal times and does not normal things and we freak out. Not just normal people, but normally poor normal people. Jesus consistently chooses last in the whole way he came to earth. Zachariah was looking back (fulfilling prophesy) and Mary was looking forward (her prayer about the last being first)
Day 46: As I am currently pregnant, Mary traveling pregnant makes me cringe. The Christmas story of outcasts and illegitimate children and then they become immigrants after someone rich (wise men) notice them.  Is there any label he didn’t choose? I guess he wasn’t incarcerated…
Day 45: Jesus isn’t preaching yet—John is. John the Baptist was super pragmatic and I love his direct advice to people on how to “Step down” by doing right and not exploiting their power
Day 44: People sought out Jesus because there was something about him. He turned over tables and kept confusing people with prophesies and analogies like being born again. Jesus makes it clear you can’t “get it” without him—he is the great equalizer. John steps out of the limelight and gives it to Jesus.
Day 43: Jesus leaves whenever he gets popular in a place. Jesus asks the questions—and doesn’t answer all her (the woman at the well) questions. He takes her deeper until she’s ready to hear the truth. He sought her out. He didn’t follow etiquette for the rich man (or ever). Choosing last? That section from Isaiah says it all.
Day 42: John’s message was Jesus’ message. Jesus kept moving from place to place (the poor couldn’t get to him, so he went to them). He had alone time with God for guidance. He had power and authority. What exactly does it mean to have authority? It seems like a personality trait in Jesus
Day 41: Who are the people Jesus really works with? Fishermen, tax collectors and sick people who come to him. He touched the leper and consistently rebukes leaders who question him.
Day 40: Jesus always ask sick people if they want to be well: of course they do! Hold on to Jesus, not rules or past ways of doing things.
Day 39: Jesus works hard to keep small: not letting demons or people tell others what he did for them. He did this INTENTIONALLY. Jesus passed on power to the apostles and DELEGATED. Jesus didn’t focus on rules (Sabbath especially), but on mercy. “Mercy” in Portuguese is the words “misery” + “accord” and it reminds me that mercy is being with someone (in accord) during their misery.
Day 38: Jesus showed a new way for everything: one that puts us all on the same level because we all need Jesus and to choose only Him.
Day 37: Jesus is going from city to city healing. Some cities reject him and he “woes” them, but heals and preaches just the same.
Day 36: Love and forgiveness go together, along with gratefulness realizing what has been forgiven. Jesus forgave and elevated the status of women.
Day 35: It isn’t about the socially unacceptable sins, it is about not offending the Holy Spirit (the unforgiveable sin). The bonds of spiritual family are stronger because it is eternal.
Day 34: Why the parables? The secrets are only for some? Why? Jesus taught everyone but didn’t explain it to everyone. He chose the disciples. Some would understand and flourish and others would not get it and be worse off than before. This reminds me a bit of predestination, which sorta freaks me out if I’m honest. Perhaps it’s just the idea that I’m not in control and I can’t save anyone or make sure loved ones “get it.”
Day 33: Jesus had a pillow. This makes me smile. The people seemed more afraid of the healed man than the pigs: I think that is why Jesus had the man stay and tell his story (be in relationship with them) because that is what was going to reach them. Their fear made it impossible for them to receive Jesus.
Day 32: People keep thinking Jesus just says silly things, when it is really deep and profound (“Who touched me?” “She is only sleeping”). Jesus puts the outcast woman before the rich leader—and they both get their miracles. But he let the woman have the floor and tell her whole truth. She was able to reenter society.
Day 31: Jesus limits himself so that he can only heal if the person believes. When Jesus sent out the disciples they were to preach, heal, and drive out demons. They weren’t to take money or clothes. It wouldn’t be easy but God would help them. They were to choose God over their family. This doesn’t look much like “being sent” today. I really don’t like the “hating your family” part, but as a missionary, I kinda get it—I have to actively choose being here, away from my family to be a missionary. I feel it deeply.
Day 30: We need times to get away: but if those times get crashed, we need to be gracious because God will provide.
Day 29: Jesus needed time alone too. Jesus encourages our bits of faith and calls out our true motives: from our impure motivations, he pulls out the true need and meets it. There is so much in the Bible that is wrapped up in years and years of culture and I feel like I often miss things because I am not a Hebrew scholar.
Day 28: Don’t lose the big picture following the little traditions: get the spirit of the law right. I read the story of the gentile woman written by Max Lucado where it was a playful banter—humble and smart—but sometimes it just makes me cringe a bit. I am that gentile woman. Why did Jesus choose such a weird way to heal the deaf guy? I mean, he could do it ANY WAY. And why does Jesus always keep telling everyone not to tell they were healed when he knows it won’t work?
Day 27: God can provide over and over and we still worry about that same thing (food). We say we just want a sign or one thing more before we trust/obey Jesus: when Jesus knows we wouldn’t trust/obey even if we had that one thing.
Day 26: Weird healing: Jesus has to do it twice because the first time he sees people like trees. Why didn’t Jesus do it right the first time? Is there something I am missing here culturally? Why did Jesus spit in his eyes anyway?
Day 25: God can tell us anything, but we won’t believe it/understand it until the time is right. Some demonic possession is worse than others—or harder to get rid of at least. Why would a child be possessed? I am super skeptical about what most people say about the demonic world (although I believe it is there) and confused about what the Bible says about it.
Day 24: When the shepherd goes after the one lost sheep—it is to bring it home: telling someone about Jesus isn’t about trying to convert them, it is about bringing them back to what they were created to be: restoring them and bringing them home.
Day 23: Jesus knows the heart of a person. It isn’t that going to funerals or saying “goodbye” to your family is wrong, it is that He knew their heart wasn’t in it. It is so sad that Jesus’ family didn’t believe him.
Day 22: Jesus’ teachings weren’t super clear or straight forward. He made people work to understand it. He works hard to not be easily believed in.
Day 21: Jesus doesn’t hesitate to forgive any sin, but he also doesn’t hesitate to ask for everything. He just lays it all out there and lets you choose.
Day 20: Another Sabbath healing (he really hits this hard) and another time using spit for healing a blind guy. They ask if people are sick because they sinned, and Jesus says sometimes it is for his glory: this is a hard saying for me.
Day 19: Jesus sends out the disciples to go and prepare for him. We aren’t to “save” anyone, just go and prepare things for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
Day 18: Poor people know how to “ask” because they have to—there are no other options. But we are all to be good at “the ask:” understanding we have a need and can’t solve it alone.
Day 17: Don’t worry about food and clothes: birds and flowers don’t , and they turn out fine. You aren’t in control, so don’t worry. Sell stuff--Give to the poor--Get forever treasure in heaven--Find your heart—repeat. Doesn’t seem to be much in the Bible about retiring, and certainly not retiring from growing in God.
Day 16: To the individual person who is healed, it makes all the difference. Healing is all about that one person and Jesus—not everyone else. The healings, to everyone else, was more of a show. So to that one woman, she couldn’t wait one more day (Monday, instead of the Sabbath) to play by the rules.
Day 15: We (gentiles) weren’t chosen first, but last. We are LAST. We are called to choose last. Jesus says to choose the last and be surprised: if we choose the first (best), we will be humbled.
Day 14: Jesus celebrates the last: last as in poor, last as in sinner, last as in humble. He doesn’t celebrate the rich, those who don’t need to repent, or the proud. It isn’t so much that he doesn’t celebrate them, it is that the poor are ready to be celebrated, and the rich are too busy/already full. You can still be rich but poor in spirit, or poor and consumed with getting rich—it is just not as common.
Day 13: Money blinds and makes it hard to choose God, so that is why it is talked against in the Bible. Also, comfort and ease now means less later, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use money wisely.
Day 12: Jesus knew that raising Lazarus from the dead would cause the sisters a lot of suffering first, and would be the things that pushed the Pharisees to focus on killing him. He was so intentional in all He did. 
Day 11: Keep bothering God in prayer. Don’t stop. And be humble.
Day 10: Riches are a burden. It doesn’t mean you can’t have them, it just means you need to be aware of the responsibility and hardship that they bring—a different kind of hardship from poverty.
Day 9: Eternal life is an equalizer: you get it or you don’t, no matter the time spent serving God. To be great, be like Jesus: a poor servant. Choose last.
Day 8: Jesus invited himself over to people’s houses. With the talents, I understand the attitudes, but I don’t understand the saying that those who have get more, and those who don’t have get more taken away. Sounds a lot like the world system.
Day 7: Jesus enters Jerusalem on the donkey. All four gospels have this account, but only Luke tells it where Jesus was weeping because he knew they wouldn’t get it.
Day 6: Jesus’ basic schedule was to heal and teach, heal and teach. And remove a den of robbers.
Day 5: A lot of heavy teaching here: it seems like Jesus is packing it in before the cross. Lots of parables and talking about time.
Day 4: The last supper and Jesus comforting and preparing the disciples.
Day 3: Jesus’ death. It is amazing how there is four accounts of the same thing, and the slight differences they hold, amplifying the account like different sides of a diamond. It is like how each person reflects a different part of God as the image of God.
Day 2: Jesus laid in the tomb. Well, his body did. I guess this is when he was going down to hell to officially defeat death and return to heaven triumphant? It must have been quite a party in heaven!
Day 1: Showing himself to everyone—women first! Jesus always put God’s will first: that meant that his actions were to serve others and choose to be last. How do we choose last in all the roles we live?

In this world we have a history of the powerful preying on the weak: the rich on the poor, the man on the woman, white on people of color, the healthy on the sick, the able on the disable. Most of the time it isn’t the REALLY powerful preying on the REALLY weak (although those systems are really strong and in place), the day to day aches and pains are normally from those closer together on the spectrum: the middle class kid bullying the lower middle class kid for his ugly clothes…and so on. As Christians, we are called to break this cycle. That is part of what being a CHRISTIAN is—it is integral to what Christ did, and we are called to be like Christ. So how do we step down from power? How do we choose last?
It is hard. It is easy to just let things be—to just follow the system—the system that favors white Americans. You have to deliberately, intentionally make choices to step down and choose last.

Applying Overturning Tables: Reading through the Gospels

From all the quotes of "Overturning Tables," you can see many practical ways that we need to be aware and change how business and system (Capitalism, for better and worse) have spilled over and taken over aspects of Christianity and Missions. You can read my favorite quotes from the book at the links below.
Quotes on diversity in missions (part 1)
Quotes on capitalism in missions (part 2)
Quotes on the history of missions (part 3)

I have been going through the Gospels chronologically, working through how Jesus does life--how he overturned tables, instead of making a round table: how he was after equity, not equality...and so much more. While "Overturning Tables" is a indepth look at upsetting the status quo in missions, I am looking at a personal application of upsetting the status quo in my life by following the example of Jesus. If you'd like to do the same chronological study, save and print (an easy way is to insert it into a Word Doc) the picture below.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Overturning Tables, part 3

One of my favorite books on missions is "The New Friar" by Scott Bessenecker, so when he came out with a new book, "Overturning Tables: freeing missions from the Christian-Industrial complex" I had to read it. It is right in line with what God has working on me/my Bible study of what God has to say about poverty and power inequalities. I typed up five pages of quotes I wanted to share, so am dividing them up into three main subjects: Diversity in Missions (Part 1), Capitalism in Missions (Part 2), and the History of Missions (This post). Afterwards, I will add some of my own thoughts.

History of Missions: quotes from "Overturning Tables"

“The death of Jesus not only changed the location of salvation, but also clarified the nature of mission…Mission is no longer “coming” but “going” (Isaiah 19:23-25, Hebrews 13:13)
“We are all trapped in a mental and theological framework born out of a miniscule fragment of time and space. The eighteenth and nineteenth-century clergy and missionaries, along with the structures that supported them, were just as much prisoners of their culture and era as I am of mine. But they were also people of faith and courage, progeny of the “hall of faith” recounted in Hebrews 11.”
“Adding a marginalized community to the ranks of the church exposed the tendency for exclusionary systems to crop up even among the followers of Christ…Giving power to the margins and then experiencing revival at the margins brings tension. Both the Roman Empire and the Jewish religious empire opposed the emergence of a Gentile church. It was the exclusivity of Christ over state that offended the Roman Empire, and the inclusivity of Christ to save any prostitute, tax collector or criminal that offended the Jewish empire. The calcified structures of human empire cry out in pain as they are resisted by the pressures from the excluded.”
“(In the Bible) They were to plant themselves in local soil and survive off the local food and customs. In a sense, they were not to be owned and run by investors as in a corporate model, but they were to be locally owned and operated.”
“The earliest expression of mission was accomplished by loosely structured and minimally financed traveling wayfarers, as well as through the migration of Christians on the run from persecution. Both sorts of missionaries were significantly woven into local cultures and supported by local economies.”
“The bivocational option is standard fare for ethnic minority urban church pastors, but relatively unaccommodated and only marginally tolerated in the white parachurch ministry world. A more aggressive approach to defining ministry positions for bivocational ministers without burning them out could open the door for many. It also embeds ministers in local institutions, connecting them more personally to the economies, services and cultures of a local community.”
“Rather than producing new, smaller, more localized churches or missionary bands as they grew, the tendency was to consolidate money and power and to build monoliths. And so intimacy is sacrificed on the alter of efficiency, more becomes confused with better, and talented local leaders are lured away from smaller operations because of the clout that comes with working for an organization that commands popularity, possessions and pizzazz…Rather than fighting Goliath in Saul’s armor, our Majority world sisters and brothers are picking up five smooth stones and a sling. Perhaps we need to learn something from them.”
 “In fact our word mission does not originate from Scriptures. While the term sent one was used to describe those disciples who intentionally traveled announcing good news, their work was not referred to as a mission. It is a word which comes from a sordid past and is about as helpful to the church today as the word crusade is for Christians working among Muslims. So mission was born out of the exploitative, sixteenth-century economic and political quest to acquire land, labor and raw materials, and to leverage them either for Catholic kings or Protestant investors.”
“British and Dutch Protestants each developed their own East India Companies as investment opportunities, vehicles for the rich to take advantages of the winds of trade that commercial shipping afforded. The Dutch East India Company was explicitly engaged in Christian mission, founding its own missionary training school and contracting missionaries to join their commercial ventures. Dutch missionaries were compensated by the East India Company for each baptism that they performed. English investors, by contrast, were at first opposed to combining mission with commerce, not because they had theological problems with the notion but because their efforts to control or exploit the populations where they had planted their flags might begin to appreciate the liberty afforded to all those made in God’s image and then exercise that liberty.”
“This structure required colonists willing to transplant themselves to a foreign country. To do this meant re-creating their European lives with as little disturbance as possible. So when European and American missionaries translated this organizational paradigm into their vision for expanding God’s kingdom, it took the shape of a mission society run by a board of mostly wealthy philanthropists and businessmen sending Western clergy and missionaries to lie within a missionary compound patterned after their homelands.”
(But, that doesn’t mean God wasn’t working:)“Where independent protestant missionaries had a significant presence, free democratic states emerged. The research suggests that powerfully democratizing elements such as literacy, education for women, robust nongovernmental associations and economic development were key catalysts for democracy and were either wholly generated or strongly promoted by these missionaries.”
“Carnegies, Vanderbilt’s, and the Morgan’s invested heavily in their Protestant churches and in domestic and foreign missions. These wealthy philanthropists were builders of the great educational institutions out of which most Protestant missionaries came, and promoted a positive attitude toward the corporate worldview within American Protestantism.” 
“It is true that wealthy Christian benefactors do not always use their wealth as license to dictate mission, though some do. More often it is the fear of losing a benefactor’s contributions that shapes our decisions…The International mission board of the Southern Baptists say that the average cost of an individual missionary is $4,250 per month. The Evangelical free church in America places the cost of a missionary family in Germany at $10,338 per month.”
 “It may be fair to say that the Judsons and their missionary colleagues were the first college-educated Americans sent out by a formal missions society on an oceangoing vessel, organized with the help of businessmen and invested with funds from charitable contributions. But if the story of spreading the good news about Jesus Christ belongs only to the highly educated and the highly financed sent by the highly structured, then a good many missionaries would be blotted out of church history, including the “ordinary and unschooled” followers of Jesus in the book of Acts, who started the church’s missionary enterprise two thousand years ago. The fact of the matter is that the mission of George and Hannah Leile (freed slaves that went to Jamaica themselves) had a lot more in common with the first disciples than did Adoniram and Ann Judson’s mission.” (it is all about who writes the history books☹)
“A faithful and yet nearly invisible form of Christian mission has been taking place for millennia on the backs of slaves of the empire. It has been advanced by people from the margins working quietly among their forgotten neighbors. Meanwhile the Christian-industrial complex has ballooned in size, but not in effectiveness. We have erected massive constructions accessible only by middle-class and rich missionaries, while absorbing into our bloated organizations poorer, local coworkers who are, in the words of the mission agency that sent Betsey Stockton (the first single woman missionary who was a freed slave and went as an indentured servant) “Regarded and treated neither as equals no servants.” This book represents an attempt to describe the mainstream Protestant mission world I find myself in—one born of a corporate, culturally white, individualist paradigm. This paradigm has achieved cultural dominance over most every human construct—political, economic and religious.”

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Overturning Tables, Part 2

One of my favorite books on missions is "The New Friar" by Scott Bessenecker, so when he came out with a new book, "Overturning Tables: freeing missions from the Christian-Industrial complex" I had to read it. It is right in line with what God has working on me/my Bible study of what God has to say about poverty and power inequalities. I typed up five pages of quotes I wanted to share, so am dividing them up into three main subjects: Diversity in Missions (Part 1), Capitalism in Missions (this blog), and the History of Missions.Afterwards, I will add some of my own thoughts.
Capitalism in Missions: Quotes from "Overturning Tables"

“It is not so much the content of Western mission that I am challenging here; it is the container (a capitalist mentality) of Western mission I have a problem with…Those in Christian ministry experience burnout as much or more than those in other fields, which indicates that the industrial complex we have constructed for our faith is failing us.”
 “I am not sure why Christians, Protestant evangelicals in particular, feel so keenly the need to defend unregulated capitalism. Perhaps it is a belief that capitalism takes economic power out of the hands of the state and gives it to the people. Both capitalism and Protestantism were responses to elitism. But movements that set out to overthrow elitism only create new elite and new excluded. We must never tire of reform; it must remain the one constant in a world that beckons us toward calcification.”
“One reason that the corporate business model has become such a standard organizational model is that it mostly works. What’s more, the economies on which the entire planet now operate are built on a vision for wealth creation and distribution based largely on a capitalist worldview. This is because most alternatives have failed so miserably. Like it or not, capitalism is the economic ideology by which the world produces and exchanges goods and service, and the corporation is not going away anytime soon.”
“For Weber, the spirit of capitalism was not so much the pursuit of greed as it was the pursuit of profit…Weber’s understanding of Protestantism, or more accurately, Calvinism, is that making a profit because of thrift and industry reflects your goodness or even your godliness…Poverty, hardship and suffering are by and large not part of the Protestant American construct of the Christian faith, and so our theology around these topics is weak and sickly.”
“It is telling that there are two main classifications of organizations in America: for-profit and nonprofit, as if making profit is the only way to understand how we can establish ourselves, the only lens through which we can imagine human collaboration. An organization pursuing profit is a for-profit business. But if a group of people establish an enterprise focused on any number of other noble pursuits, it is identified not by what it is, but by what it is not.”
“The materialism of Sodom translated into sexual misconduct, because coveting, objectifying, owning and consuming becomes a harmful and idolatrous way of life. Our posture toward indulging material desires is easily translated into indulging our sexual desires. Desire-consume-repeat. This is the energy the world is powered by, and the people of God are to carefully avoid it.”
“Christians often define the slippery slope in terms of sexual immorality, but according to Scripture, the slipperiest slope on earth is greed and the idolatry it inspires (Col. 3:5). Jesus warned against the corrupting power of wealth and possessions in the Gospels five times more than he addressed the issue of sex outside of marriage.
“We’ve attempted to press the gospel into product form—a privately owned salvific experience obtained through a business-like transaction…When Christianity impersonates the corporate world, we don’t need God. We can accomplish our mission with more money, a building and a bit of ingenuity.”
“The highly individualized salvation experience sold through skills of persuasion is a shadow of the all-encompassing power of the Gospel. But these are the methods we often use to measure and celebrate our mission successes.”
“The journey away from collectivism and toward individualism has been served by capitalism, which turns private ownership into a way of thinking about things. In the Bible there is an expectation that the human fabric is held together by a larger understanding of communal responsibility.”