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.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Overturning Tables, Part 1

One of my favorite books on missions was "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, Capitalism in Missions, and the History of Missions. Afterwards, I will add some of the things I have learned from my personal Bible study about poverty/power inequality. 

Diversity in Missions: quotes from "Overturning Tables"

“The demographic of most protestant missionary conferences in the US could be described at male, pale, and frail…The number of black Southern Baptist missionaries in the US is only one-half of one percent, and of the 4,900 missionaries only 423 (8.6%) are minorities (and they have a more minorities than any other large denomination). This raises the question: is there something about how protestant mission is shaped that makes it easier for white folk to enter and more difficult for others? Surely ethnic minorities are no less spiritually gifted or qualified for missionary service.”
“With exceptions like YWAM, I have observed the graying of North American missionaries. I was speaking to a missionary recruiter from the Evangelical Free denomination who told me the average age of the freshly minted missionaries they send to the mission field is forty years old…What began as a youth movement is now a middle-aged movement.” 
“The US missionary community continues to grow, but that growth is slowing. The European missionary effort is in decline while the missionary movements in Asia, Africa, and Latin American are picking up. The Brazilians, for instance, now have more cross-cultural missionaries than the Brits.” 
“Protestant churches and mission ought to animate structures that are economically lean and easily allow the poor to serve as missionaries, resisting the creation of a professional missionary class occupied almost exclusively by middle class, formally educated individuals.” 
“As long as the middle and upper classes are onboard, those with access to these funders can find financial support. One reason there are so many white, individually supported Christian workers (I am one of them) is because we can more easily afford to buy our way into mission with help from our friends, not necessarily because we are more qualified than everyone else. Many of my highly qualified Majority world friends, and some of my Western friends who didn’t grow up in the middle class, simply do not have the kind of connections required to pull together the $50,000 to $100,000 price tag of yearly financial support.” 
 “The introduction of a second church in a town that previously had only one church for everyone proved a great dilemma. Before that time it was assumed that a resident would worship at whatever Christian church had been established in a town or village, regardless of the denomination. Neighbors and workmates would quite likely share the communion table, no matter how they may have differed in theology. But a second church meant there was a choice.” 
“It is relatively easy to build community with those who are like us. It is another thing altogether to build community with people who have significantly different backgrounds, ethnicities and nationalities. In Christian mission, I have found the most robust communities are extremely diverse. Unhealthy forms of idealism are sacrificed on the altar of compromise and practicality in a diverse group. As we move away from individualism and toward a communal understanding of life and Christian mission, diversity will force us to balance the need for individual expression, culture and personality within a functional collective. “
“Multiplicity happens when these emerging ideas and ministries can be released to operate on their own. The incubator is no place to live for very long. Allowing our churches and parachurches to spawn smaller, local ministries that may or may not choose to loosely affiliate will have the effect of pushing ministry and resources out to the margins rather than bunching them up in one place.”
“Let us rethink our orientation to the cultural, political and social centers we have constructed for the faith, and draw into mission those who are on the margins. Otherwise we will naturally build insular systems that work well for those at the center but will exclude those in the margins.”
“The dichotomy that we must either absorb locals into our structures or allow completely local structures to emerge is a false one. It is born of similar fears inherent in the racist prohibition of mixed marriages. It is also fueled by a cultural preference for independence. Americans especially love or independence…Both the patron-client mindset in poor countries and the highly independent vision of partnership in rich ones are unbiblical.” 
“The survival of individuals depends on the collective in ways lost upon those of us living in societies that are WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic)…the truth is that we need one another, and not always in the ways we imagine. The poor don’t primarily need the wealth of the rich—though some redistribution can be helpful. They need the dignity and honor that standing shoulder to shoulder with the mainstream can provide. The rich don’t need the labor or cultural insight of the poor. They need the boldness, the faith and the humility that come with the poverty of spirit evident in so many of our brothers and sisters in the margins.”

“We can no longer afford the price tag attached to the middle-class version of Protestant mission—particularly those living in the majority world or who are otherwise cut off from middle-class or wealthy donors.”

Monday, October 22, 2018

October Sunday Funday

Our weekly vlog is...well, just watch one of the many extra ones from last week. Because I got ahead and then the girls got sick (Sofia was sick from Tuesday-Thursday, and then Jessie got sick Friday and is still on the annoying sicky edge). Besides, I have lots of extra internet reads for you instead.

And that: "the girls got sick," was a pretty decent summary of our week as well. Our car port was finished, and the video about that will happen soon:). Jessica is 10 months old, and that video will also happen soon.

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. 8 Diverse books for under $8 for kids 8-12
2. How can we have joy no matter what life brings? Staci Eldridge? Another book? Yes please!
3. Love your Neighbor as Yourself and Bring Your Kids Along: D.L. Mayfield goodness
4. What Happens Every Time I Write about Sexual Harassment
5. The gift of Sabbath: I loved the practicality in this: 
1) No work (no dishes or laundry or cleaning up toys – crazy, I know!).
2) No technology (because it’s meant to distract).
3) No anxiety or complaining (and believe me, I’m an anxious momma).
6. Choices for the Good of my Routines: I want this for in two months when all my routines are all shaken up and stirred on home assignment...
7. Four Reasons Why Churches should Visit their Missionaries: Why isn't this a thing?
8. Time Doesn't Heal Sexual Assault if Victims are Silenced 
9. She is Rich, She can send all her kids to School: So appreciate Amy's voice on...basically everything she writes about (Note: she is a missionary to Ethiopia and also related to me).

Monday, October 15, 2018

Another Children's Day Sunday Funday

Our weekly vlog reflects the continued celebrations happening:
And Caid also shared his testimony (in English and Portuguese) if you'd like to check it out:
It was quite a busy week, as not only did we celebrate Children's Day, but we are having a carport built next to our house, and the girls both decided to have fevers during the week. Wednesday was a special party at the International School:
And after Cajueiro Claro's celebrations last week, we also had Guadalajara's, Lagoa's, and the Trash Dump Community:

So five parties and communities were reached, and Jesus was shared with over 250 kids! We have such an amazing team, and are so grateful for everyone who made this happen.

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. Senders make Sacrifices too: just one read this week...you have so many videos to watch:)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Children's Day Sunday Funday

Children's Day is October 12, but we celebrated a little early. Here is the video (of Cajueiro Claro--more celebrations to come!):

Sunday (October 7th) was also voting in Brazil: and the results are that they get to vote again. Since they are not a two party system, like the USA, they have many parties and many people running. For a president to win, they need 50% of the vote, which is not super common in the first running. So the top two (this year, it is Bolsonaro and Haddad) will run again on October 28. The election has helped the economy though, as the Real to Dollar went down from 4.2 to 3.7.
We had a full fun week, with the World Renewal Brazil team getting together on Tuesday (always an encouragement and a blessing!), the first parent teacher conference of the last semester of school, a tropical party, and Caid preaching at PPC. We are so loved and blessed! Please pray for this next week of fun kid festivities, and the opportunities it brings to share Jesus.

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. The Answer when Shifting is Constant: I have three things that I have consistently failed to learn: driving a stick shift, doing a backflip on the trampoline, and I forget the other. Thank goodness our car in Brazil is a semi-automatic!
2. GRIT: Guide for praying for TCKs: valuable tool! We cannot forget these precious souls.
3. Don't Touch my Bacon! "We must ask ourselves: What’s more important–my rights or my witness?"
4. But I thought it was Chocolate: "Or, I can choose to allow my gracious God to teach me how to enjoy the ride, to release my tears and my fears to Him, and to trust that He really is good."
5. Don't Call your kids "World Changers:" My favorite and hard hitter this week: "When the call of God, legitimately and accurately interpreted, looks nothing like the world-domination and global impact you were primed to experience, what then?"
6. Lament for the Disbelieved: I haven't known what to say about current political events, so haven't said anything lately. Or yet. But this broke me a bit, no matter who is lying, telling the truth, or using information for personal/political gain.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Last September Sunday Funday

Our weekly vlog:
It was really wonderful to have our church over to our home for the first time last Tuesday, as we have settled into having people over and it feeling normal. Sofia can't remember what life used to be like before being able to run outside and go find friends at any of the houses around us:). You can see our Friday trip to get Jessica's passport on the video--as we are working on all the details of our trip back to the USA in two months--TWO MONTHS? But first, we are working on all the details of big celebrations at all the Living Stones programs for Children's Day in two weeks. It is always a great time for the kids, and a neat time of adults coming together to help out those who otherwise wouldn't get to celebrate Children's Day: holidays are for those who can pay for them. Caid preached on Sunday (in Portuguese, obviously), and it was really great to see how comfortable he was with "telling them what God was telling him" as he put it. We are blessed.

Reads from the Interwebs:
1. I Hate that there has to be Adoption: " I was so fixated on the rescue and the redemption that it was easy to just skim over the grief."
2. A Modest Proposal for Short Term Missions: basically anything on this site is gold. Just sayin.
3. When Missions Affects Family Planning: So true, many professions affect family planning--I think you just don't think about it being a part of missions when you go into it. But Caid and I have had many, many conversations about this, and the title is true. I think the scary part of it is that in being a missionary--part of the hardwired part is that you follow God's leading--even if He leads you away, or somewhere else. Missions holds certainty in loose hands. So what if you choose not to have children, just to return "home" and really wish you had had more children? There is a lot of trust issues that need to be faced.
4. Not Changing the World