Where Have I Been?

I’ve been recuperating from knee-replacement surgery. Most every day now I walk a mile, so things are going well. I do try to keep my leg elevated because sitting at the desk and then standing up is still pretty painful, which my doctor says is inflammation around the IT band. About a week and a half ago we walked 2.6 miles, and it was a little too much. So I am also trying to be patient. But enough of the knee.  What else has been happening during this time?

I’ve been on a couple of short trips, one to Florida and New York (contributing editors of Christian Standard and a short family time), and then a driving trip to Columbus, OH for a planning meeting for the 2014 International Conference on Missions. Other things I’ve been doing:

  • preparing three talked to give at Emmanuel Christian Seminary in early April on the subject of short-term missions
  • writing an article on salavation for Christian Standard
  • meeeting with the CMF leadership team on some things requiring our attention as we move into the future
  • collecting (today!) the fifth volume in the Tippett series for which I serve as series editor
  • gathering a group to head to Kenya in September
  • driving nine miles only (!) to see a lifer for me, the snow bunting
  • reading. Presently reading a book I am to review for Missiology
  • putting together a new charcoal burner for grilling
  • early on in my recovery working on my stamp collection

What’s coming up in the next few weeks?

  • the mission agency ceo’s annual retreat with 7 friends and leaders of missions agencies
  • the lectures at Emmanuel
  • a trip to Maryland to meet with a church about partnering in possible new work in Myanmar
  • a trip to Singapore and Indonesia for an international Board meeting (yes, I’ll have my binoculars for the occasional free minute
  • a trip to Philadelphia for our daughter Nicole’s graduation with her Ph.D. in English literature, focusing on the post-colonial period

That takes us up till mid-May, and that is enough for now!

Past and Present

Habits from the past can be such a blessing.  Back in 1976 I was going to as many used bookstores as I could to build my library in the areas of Bible, theology, missions, Africa, and anthropology.  I was particularly interested in missions and anthropology.  I came across a book edited by Joseph Casagrande titled In the Company of Man.  This was a book with chapters by anthropologists telling their experiences with their informants.  In the table of contents I checked about half of the chapters, meaning, I thought those chapters were good.

Now, several decades later, I find myself preparing a course on anthropological research methods.  My idea for the course is to have the students read excerpts from anthropologists regarding research methods: prior to going to the field, while on the field, and when returning from the field.  Obviously one area of study for the course is working with informants.  So I dug out from my library the Casagrande book and am rereading the chapters I thought were good to see which ones might be applicable for reading assignments.

The point of this is to suggest that you write in the books you read, because you may come back to it, years later, to good benefit!

Example number two.  When we went to Singapore, our girls Nicole and Andrea, were young.  I thought it would be a good idea to get some good literary books for them to read while they were there.  Since I would be making a trip to the States, I determined to solicit appropriate titles from Marilyn Works, a great English teacher.  I did so; then I went to the local book store and returned to Singapore with 4 or 5 of her suggestions.  I recall two of them: The Trumpeter of Krakow and Johnny Tremaine.  I strongly suggested that the girls read these books.

As any parent can imagine, my suggestions were met with some laughter, some rolling of the eyes, some “gag me” looks, and etc.  To this day I do not know whether they read those books or not.  But I will say, with some pride, that both of those girls graduated with their Bachelor’s degree in English; and one of them in the same with her Master’s degree and her PhD degree.

Here is the funny part.  I had knee replacement surgery this past month, and one day in the mail from one of my daughters was a package to help me get through the recovery period.  The package  contained two books, and one of the books was The Trumpeter of Krakow.  What goes around comes around.

And yes, though I have never read The Trumpeter of Krakow, I am doing so now.  After all, it won an award for children’s literature.

Thanksgiving and Surgery

Having been on the road a lot this past quarter, Roobyn and I decided not to travel out to Philadelphia to share thanksgiving with our daughters, their husbands, their cousin, and the dog. Instead we spent much of Thursday at our church to serve meals and prepare food for those in need. Over the next couple of days, leading up to today, I took it easy, trying to get in the right mind for my knee replacement surgery on Monday.  I got out my stamp collection as my brother-in-law Gordan and I are going to begin trading stamps.  He sent me out with several dozen to include in my collection.  We’ve been over the Scott Catalogue letting each other know the ones we could use, providing we have duplicates.

Then there were the football games. Glad that Oregon prevailed (by a point) over OSU in a closely fought and hugely entertaining game.  Can say the same about Ohio St. and Auburn as well (I mean, who isn’t happy when the #1 team is defeated — we Americans always pull for the underdog;  it is a part of our psyche).  Indeed, after church this morning (happy to be in the presence of my family and Our Savior), it is home to watch the Colts and then the Pacers.  I am so wasting my time!

But I also found time to do my normal round of work related emails, and also to read a couple of hundred pages in a collection of articles about short-term missions, a current study project. Then, I have also begun deciding what clothes to take to the hospital, to clear out anything on the floor that could (literally) trip me up, and to make sure I have the means to charge my electronic items that will be bedside after I return home from the hospital.  And, I cooked a couple of meals, for which Robyn was thankful.

Today begins Advent month, and thanks to Frank Loyd and the church in Astoria, Oregon, I have an advent thought for each day of the month.

Well, that’s about it. Headed to the hospital in just under 24 hours.

Fabulous Fall

Robyn told me that the past few months have seen me away from home more than she can remember during our eighteen years in Indianapolis. A part of the reason for all of the travel is that I knew I would be having knee replacement surgery on December 2, so I wanted to get a lot in before being laid up for some time. My travels over the past three months included stops in Hawaii (hooray for Kaimuki Christian Church and Global Health Network International), Melbourne and Sydney (great times with Urban Neighbors of Hope directors and also the Tippett Symposium), Kenya (with ministers from E 91st St. Christian Church), Springfield, IL (child sponsorship emphasis at West Side Christian Church), Louisville (North American Christian Convention meeting), Siloam Springs, Arkansas (missions emphasis week-end; thanks Wendel and Bettie), Colorado Springs (Academy Christian Church missions emphasis) and Eugene, OR (stops at Northwest Christian University and Trent Church of Christ’s 100th anniversary).  Whew!  Almost a Pauline sentence there.

On the way back to Indianapolis as I pen these words; a couple of days at the office, a thanksgiving service where we will be helping our church feed some 250 people and delivering meals to another 250), then it is a couple of days as I finish prep for surgery.

Another event of the past three months was our semi-annual CMF Board meeting. We commissioned five people for field service, heard reports from furloughing missionaries, enjoyed thinking about the intricacies of partnership with our guest speaker Daniel Rickett (check out his books on amazon.com).

Do you get the feeling that I am blessed to be involved in this ministry?  I certainly feel so.

Mission of the Church Lectures

Back in 1989 I was invited to present the “Mission of the Church Lectures” at Emmanuel School of Religion (now Emmanuel Christian Seminary). The material I used came from my dissertation work on the Maasai. Since I had already participated in that lectureship, I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to do it again in 2014.  This time they have asked me to focus on short-term missions, so I am heavily involved in reading up on the subject.

There is plenty of literature on the subject, though most of it is practical and promotional. In the last ten years, however, there has been some academic research on short-term missions, so I will be able to draw from both bodies of literature.

One statistic I recall from the International Bulletin (I think) was that for every 1 long term (i.e. two years or more) missionary sent, there are 60 short-term missionaries sent. And of course over the years the typical mission’s budget in a church reserves a higher percentage for short-term trips. What are the implications of this for the decades ahead?

Twenty years ago I was making the prediction that short-term missions would likely be a short-lived phenomena. I said that because the economics would likely not allow for this to continue, not to mention that once one had been on a trip, they would likely not desire to go on another (been there, done that).  Well, that prediction could not have been more wrong!

One of the key statements for me is that mission trips can be done very well, and they can be done very badly. There is even a website where the “best practices” in short-term missions are listed. Lots to learn!

Hawaii and Australia

This past month I had a trip to Hawaii and also to Australia, areas I have never visited. We had a wonderful welcome from the Kaimuki Christian Church in Honolulu where I was able to spend some good time with a CMF Board member, the pastoral staff, and the missions committee.  This great church has been involved with CMF personnel in Africa and Asia for many years, and has recently assisted with the Big Dent microfinance program in Kenya.

While in Hawaii we also visited with the directors of Global Hope Network International, an agency with whom we have partnered in Asia. What wonderful hosts Hal and Lana were. They may live in one of the highest (elevation) residences on the Big Island, and their home is only ten minutes from the Volcano National Park.

Following the week in Hawaii (Robyn was with me) I then went on to Australia. We partner with Urban Neighbors of Hope and I was glad to spend a bit of time with a couple of the board members from this quality organization. They were wonderful hosts and even joined me in some birding.  After the few days in Melbourne, I journeyed up to Sydney where I was able to participate in the Alan R. Tippett Symposium on Mission and Cross Cultural Ministry.  It has been 25 years since Dr. Tippett’s passing, and the symposium presented the 50 attendees an opportunity to “rediscover” the missiology of Tippett.  My dissertation mentor and his wife, Charles and Meg Kraft, were there.  We all presented papers and memories. Our hosts were Kevin and Glenys Hovey, who were great to be with.  Kevin was the convenor of the symposium. One of my presentations was academic, and the other was personal.

As you would expect, yes, I was able to do some birding in both Hawaii and Australia.  All together I saw 118 trip birds, of which 85 were lifers.  I’d say the top Hawaii bird for me was the white-tailed tropic bird which was flying over the steaming cauldron at the volcano park, and the top Australia birds were the king parrot couple and the sulphur crested cockatoos (very noisy).

Actually, my trip did not end in Australia, but Kenya.  That is for another post, however.

South Texas Birding Trip

Robyn and I spent a week in Texas a couple of months ago, and we recorded 116 bird species that we saw.  I thought I would share the list for those who follow such things. The ones with the asteriks were lifers for me.  We were in Brownsville, McAllen, and up to Falcon Dam. Flew in an out of San Antonio and rented a car. Here is the list in the order seen. Should have started my own big year.

Great-tailed grackle

Common grackle

Turkey vulture

Scissor-tailed flycatcher

Cliff swallow

Mourning dove

Eastern starling

Created caracara

Black vulture

Northern mockingbird

House sparrow

Rock dove

Brown pelican

Hooded oriole

Buff-bellied hummingbird

Couch’s kingbird

Brown-headed cowbird

Northern flicker

Laughing gull

Loggerhead shrike



Spotted sandpiper

American coot

Blue-winged teal

White-winged dove

White-tailed hawk

Lark sparrow

Barn swallow

Harris’ hawk

Long-billed thrasher

Green jay

Plain chachlaca

Altamira oriole

White-tipped dove

Red-winged blackbird

Olive sparrow **

Rose-breasted grosbeak


Long-billed curlew

Snowy egret

Northern shoveler

Black-necked stilt


Roseate spoonbill

Great egret

Tri-colored heron

American wigeon

Double-created cormorant

Forster’s tern

Northern cardinal

Great blue heron

American golden plover

Caspian tern

Ruddy turnstone

Least tern




Yellow-rumpled warbler

Black and white warbler

Blac-throated green     warbler

Nashville warbler

Ruby-throated humm

Wilson’s plover

Pied-billed grebe

Black-bellied whistling duck

Belted kingfisher

Northern oriole

White ibis

Cattle egret

Least sandpiper

Clapper rail

Yellow-crowned night heron


Common moorhen

Northern harrier

Ring-billed gull

Ferruginous hawk **

Gray catbird

Black-crested titmouse

Golden-fronted woodpkr

Carolina wren

Indigo bunting

Brown-crested flycatcher

Summer tanager

Least grebe

Ruddy duck

Horned lark


Marbled godwit

Chihuahuan raven **

Common ground dove

Northern rough-winged sw

Tropical kingbird **

Lesser goldfinch

Black-crowned night heron

Green kingfisher **

Tree swallow



Greater roadrunner

Inca dove

Brewer’s blackbird

Black phoebe


House finch

Northern beardless tyrannyulet **

Western meadowlark

Swainson’s hawk

Ash-throated flycatcher

Cason’s sparrow **

Northern bobwhite

Things I Have Done and Not Done

Ten Things I Have Done

1.  Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

2.  Walked fifty miles (in five days) and twenty miles (in one day) to get my Boy Scout hiking merit badge.

3. Worn a cast on my right arm for six months.

4.  Seen over 500 species of birds in North America.

5.  Been happily engaged with CMF in a variety of roles since the 1960s.

6.  Watched only a few brief snippets of The Sound of Music.

7.  Gone scuba diving in the Indian Ocean sans diving certificate.

8.  Read all Agatha Christie murder mysteries in just over a year.

9.  Walked on Orchard Road in Singapore many times.

10. Intentionally snuck up on elephants and water buffalo–which was really stupid.

Then Things I Have Not Done

1.  Watched any of the Star Wars or Star Trek movies.

2.  Been in all fifty states (#49 coming in August, though).

3.  Broken a major bone, just five little ones, and two of those were by design.

4.  Bought a boat, a sports car, an ATV, a jet ski, a Harley, (but I did a lot of 4-wheel driving for a decade in Africa).

5.  Seen a live python in the wild (the dead one in Tanzania does not count).

6.  Eaten bat, snake, possum, raccoon, grubs, crickets, scorpion, kangaroo, testicles, eyes, or brain (sardines don’t count).

7.  Water-skied or snow-skied.  (I tried water once, and was a miserable failure).

8.  Been grounded for more than a month.

9.  Sold my coin and stamp collection.

10. Mined the entire wisdom of Alan Tippett despite decades of trying.

It’s All Happening at the Same Time!

What a two weeks we are having. The CMF Annual meeting and Board meeting was Sunday through Tuesday. We honored former General Director Jim Smith who led the organization from 1968-1987. We were thrilled that Joyce, his wife, and three of their four children were able to be here for the occasion.

A highlight of the Board meeting was the presentation by Dr. Chris DeWelt who shared with us his doctoral research on the relationship between the mission agency and the megachurch. While there has been quite a bit of research on the megachurch, there has been very little research on the megachurch and missions. As many of our Board members come from megachurches, and as we are a mission agency, there were nuggets for everybody in the room.

On Wednesday we had a family dinner in honor of Andrea’s upcoming graduation (Sunday).  Only Greg was missing. We used a gift card to eat at Late Harvest, a restaurant specializing in using local food (though the fish dish came from Greece). Andrea is getting her Master’s in Public Health, and she is being honored for her work in “food deserts.”  Her interest is working to increase access to healthy foods for all citizens of Indianapolis.

On Thursday evening Robyn and I were up in Lafayette for my presentation to the local Audubon Society chapter. I had been asked to discuss international birding, and my title was “Birding the Wild Blue Yonder.” It seemed to go over very well and there were a few questions.  Interestingly, at the end, one guy said, “Do you teach Perspectives?” (a mission education program). He had heard me years ago in south Indianapolis and said he had even purchased a couple of my books on the occasion.  He said when he heard who the speaker was he thought, “I think I know that name.”  Small world.  His wife was with him and she told me about an upcoming mission trip to Romania, and hoped she had time to get in a little birding!  See, I am not the only one who holds these two interests in common.  There are many in our tribe, (Suzie, Katy, Jesse; to name just three)

Today and tomorrow we have family arriving from New York, Oregon, and California.  They are coming for Andrea and Aaron’s wedding reception (they were married in the dead of winter and did not want to ask people to come to Indianapolis at that time of the year). It will be a great reception on Sunday . . . right after Andrea’s graduation!

We lead a busy, but joyful, life, and we would not have it any other way.  Oh yes, I worked all week too.

Hope Partnership Dialogue II

Seventy-five people gathered at Connection Pointe Christian Church last month for the Hope Partnership Dialogue. Representatives came from twenty-three churches in fifteen states.  Wallace and Mary Kamau, along with Keith and Kathy Ham, presented updates and shared vision for the future. We learned that there are now 10,000 kids going to school in sixteen centers, primarily in the Mathare Valley of Kenya. Currently thirteen churches are meeting, five of which were started last year. In 2013 there are plans for seven more churches to be started.

Of special interest was when the attenders could meet with people from other churches who are partnering in the same community in the valley. These groups shared experiences, plans, vision, and discussed combining trips to Kenya, say for medical or agricultural purposes.

These opportunities provide for good synergy, and times of prayer were very meaningful.

Other recent news of interest: 1) the second volume in the Alan R. Tippett series that I edit was published–The Ways of the People: A Reader in Missionary Anthropology; and 2) this past week-end Robyn and I drove to southern Indiana to see a spotted redshank.  There are only 30 reported sightings ever in North America, so we feel pretty special.