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.
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.
My daughter, Nicole, knows I like to go birding, so when she sees something in the paper she sends me a link. Through this round about method, I came to read of the winter birding festival that was to be held at the Zax Sim bog in Minnesota. The festival was on a Friday and Saturday, so I decided to go. I flew into Duluth and then drove to the small town of Meadowlands. The festival was held at the local community center.
Those running the festival commented that the article that had appeared in the New York Times had immediately increased their attendance, up to about 200 people. They had to turn people away. I was lucky I acted quickly. Friday afternoon we were to go out and see if we could spot a gray owl. Fifteen minutes into the drive, we found one. The gray owl is our largest owl. It was quite a distance from the road, but with the binoculars it was easy to identify. What a great start!
The next day we spent driving around the bog. I was able some lifers: northern shrike, hoary redpoll, and boreal owl. Sunday morning we drove outside of the bog area all the way to Lake Superior north east of Duluth. I was able to see a great pair of spruce grouse, my fifth lifer for the trip. I just missed seeing several snow buntings.
There were lots of other birds that I had only seen once or twice before, and there were lots on my list that I did not see. I guess that means I will need to go back next year! Add these birds to the two I got in January on Lake Michigan, and the eight I got in Indonesia, and that is a great start to 2013.
Here is a press release regarding the International Summit on Urban Missions I attended in Thailand in January.
Who we listen to determines what we hear.
Where we stand determines what we see.
What we do determines who we become.
- Robert Mac Afee Brown
God brought together 200 urban Christian activists, thinkers and leaders for the first ISUM Summit. Hosted by the Evangelical Church of Bangkok from January 26 to 29, 2013, participants came from six continents, determined to extend further God’s reign on an increasingly urbanized earth. During this diverse gathering emerged a real sense of God bringing together trust, collaboration and solidarity.
Just over a year ago, when the International Society for Urban Mission was first formed in Klong Toey slum in January 2012, we knew something of the needs of our new urban world. What we didn’t know was who shared our willingness to find new ways forward with others. Within a year, the inspiring journal New Urban World was launched and our first Summit drew people from far and wide. These initiatives confirm that we are onto something urgent and important to God, at such a time as this.
The ISUM Summit was designed for participants to risk detecting the Spirit’s voice with others. Robert MacAfee Brown’s words reminded us that we were required to listen, stand and respond in solidarity with those on the edges, more than those at the centre. With this in mind, the Summit began with inspiration from Thai dancing, worship and plenary sessions from Shane Claiborne and Rosalee Ewell. Later we shared meals together, visited in small groups 30 immersion experiences across the city, and engaged in interviews with Bangkok activists and leaders in their context. These hands-on opportunities framed our time together. To further help give space to contribute and collaborate seven ISUM Working Groups were formed to develop seven ISUM Briefing Papers. Together they sought to detect findings for their areas generated from there immersion interviews as well as shared stories, workshops, panels, discussions, prayers and insights from the Summit. These connections can help change the trajectory of our lives and we hope can influence the direction of broader Body of Christ in the world.
Integral Urban Mission was the theme of this first summit. This concept encompasses the whole of life being important to God. We recognize that too many have either focused solely on the spiritual or solely on the material, but Christian faith insists we serve an incarnating God: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14, The Message). As the old saying goes, a spirit without a body is a ghost and a body without spirit is a corpse. We recognized that our own peace is tied up with the Shalom of God in our cities and therefore requires integral connections between God, people and the earth.
From the perspectives of each of the seven working group areas, these ISUM Briefing Papers became collaborative efforts, detecting where they saw the Spirit might be calling the people of God to give attention. The findings will be published as Kindle Singles (e-booklets between 10,000 to 15,000 words) and distributed with the help of Micah Network, World Evangelical Alliance and ISUM. Videos and articles of keynote addressees from Shane Claiborne and Rosalee Euwell, as well as interviews with activists from around the world will also be available on www.newurbanworld.org and published in the New Urban World Journal. We hope the resources and relationships generated at this Summit will help find more faithful and relevant responses to this new urban world. We know we have made a start, at least by finding kindred spirits and comrades for the journey. We look forward to seeing what God does through ISUM and the potential for the next Summit to be held in Kuala Lumpur in late June 2014. We are so grateful for all who helped make this dream become a reality!
Ash Barker, PhD
Convener, International Society for Urban Mission
I recently spent three weeks in Asia. The first week was to attend the International Summit on Urban Mission co-sponsored by the Micah Network, the World Evangelical Alliance, and Urban Neighbors of Hope. We planned this summit a year ago, and at the time said that if we could get 50 people to come, we would consider the event to be a success, but we would love to get as many of 75. Lo and behold, we ended up with 200 people. It was a great conference with inspiring messages and timely reports from several countries and cities. In addition, we all participated in “immersion experiences,” which meant visiting various urban ministries in Bangkok and reflecting on what we learned. There were also workshops as well as working groups. I presented a workshop on Urban Ministry from a Mission Agency Leader’s Perspective, and the track I co-facilitated with two others was titled Fuelling Church Planting Movements. Our goal is to help bring to the forefront the tremendous need for ministry among the urban poor. To that end we have established a new journal for which you might want to consider a subscription. You can find details at www.newurbanworld.org The journal is quite good, and is published twice a year.
Following the time in Thailand I spent a couple of weeks in a nearby country visiting friends there. I was able to visit an island where the people earn their livelihood by growing/harvesting seaweed, and have fish/shrimp ponds. Unfortunately in January a huge storm came through and all of the fish ponds were destroyed. We are enabling a food for work program for eighteen families (one village) whereby the people receive food while they reconstruct their ponds. The food is a necessity as the people have no funds, living day to day from the sales of their fish/shrimp. I also visited another city where we have worked in teaching English as a second language.
As for any birding, yes I have been able to squeeze in a bit, but that will have to wait for the next blog post!
It is winter in the heartland, and that means that birds who normally reside in Canada often make their way to the northern US. A couple of week-ends ago I heard that some species that I have not seen were hanging out at the Indiana Dunes State Park up on the shores of Lake Michigan. So on a Saturday morning I drove up there to see what I could see. It was pretty cold, but I was determined. Amidst the Canada geese, the mergansers, and the ring-billed gulls, I caught a glimpse of a loon. I had walked out a bit and hurried to where I could get the closest view, being careful not to slip on the ice. My reward: a red-throated loon, a lifer (i.e. the first spotting of this species). I was not yet at the Indiana Dunes, so after a while I made my way there. The Dunes has a nature center, as do most Indiana state parks, and these usually have some large windows outside of which are bird feeders. I had heard that a northern shrike had been seen, and that was the bird I was chasing, along with the common redpolls, which had to date eluded my binoculars. Never did see the shrike, but after two hours was rewarded with seeing seven common redpolls. Word was that a hoary redpoll, also a species that has eluded me to date, was hanging out with the common redpolls. Alas, I did not see this one.
The next week-end I got an email from my new brother-in-law’s brother that his group from Purdue University was going to Logansport, Indiana (France Park) because there were sightings of a northern saw-whet owl and a long-eared owl. Sure enough. In a stand of pines we caught an obscured glimpse of the saw-whet. We kept looking and then the bird of the day was sighted; the long-eared owl. I got a photo (not very good), saw it in flight twice, got my binoculars on it. What facial markings — like gold on each side of the face. And the “ears,” you bet they stand up.
But the day was not over because word was it that on a doctor’s property a few miles away you could see the saw-whet owls within just a few feet! So we made our way there and were rewarded with a beautiful opportunity. No kidding. The owner of the property welcomes you, and then drives you in on his All Terrain Vehicle to where the owls are roosting. And to aid you, there are ladders positioned so that you can climb and take photographs, which I did. We also saw a couple of barred owls, but these are fairly common, so no heart palpitations on my part. I had seen a saw-whet in Oregon, but it was at a real distance. These, on the other hand, were right in front of me. I got home, doctored up the photograph, and here it is.
But enought about birding (those I expect I will do some where I am going). Tomorrow morning I leave for the summit at the International Society of Urban Mission in Bangkok. Two- hundred people have registered for the summit. I am very psyched about this, because everybody coming understands that the urban poor represented THE frontier in missions for the next century, should the Lord tarry. I will be presenting a paper, focusing on the urban poor from the leader of a mission agency’s perspective.
Following the time in Bangkok I will fly to Indonesia to spend time with friends there. My task will be to listen and learn, hopefully encourage and think about the future. I will be in Sulawesi (a first for me) and then back in Semarang on Java, a place I have been many times, though the last eighteen years.
Yes, I will have my binoculars with me, especially hoping to use them in Sulawesi. You know in birding, you take take a tea break from your meetings, walk outside for a couple of minutes, and hopefully see a bird flying by that you have never seen before. Or so they say.
We had the most spectacular Christmas this year. Robyn and I served as ushers at our packed Christmas eve services on Monday. A big snow storm was scheduled for Wednesday, and we were concerned because Nicole and Greg would be driving in on Wednesday from Philadelphia. On Christmas day Robyn and I stayed at home, did a little cooking ahead for the guests who would be coming, and watched a bit of football, plus exercised and read. When we got up on Wednesday morning, Nicole and Greg were already there. They had driven all night so as to beat the storm, which they did. They went to bed soon after arriving and by the time they got up in the afternoon, there was seven inches of snow on the ground. Really good idea to drive all night!
On the 26th Andrea and Aaron came over so we had most of the day together. We opened our presents and just had a good time being together. Then on the 28th Andrea’s friends Amy and Shannon arrived, as did Emily, our niece. They were all coming because Andrea and Aaron would be married on the afternoon of Dec. 30. What a great time with a housefull of people and one tiny dog named, what else? Tiny.
The evening of the 28th was the bachelor’s party and was also the bride’s party. Greg and I went to the bachelor’s party. There were 8 of us there. It was quite a unique party. Each guy was supposed to bring macaroni and cheese, made with some type of meat and also using at least three cheeses. We had chicken, beef, sausage, and seafood macaroni. Let’s just say, it was a guys thing. Since I did not go to the bride’s party, I can’t say what they did, although they did end up at our house and played some games Nicole had devised.
The 29th Andrea sponsored a “deep clean” of Aaron’s house. They did a great job of getting the house all clean and set up for dinner which would follow the wedding. Dinner for the crew was at a restaurant we’d never been before. It was a Belgian restaurant that is famous for its pomme frites. Aaron and his Dad Mike and I all had a bucket of mussels which we could not finish. Robyn had a brussels sprouts and walnut and cheese crepe which she loved.
Sunday was the wedding on Monument Circle in the exact center of Indianapolis. We arrived at 5:15 after walking down the street a block, with Andrea in her wedding dress and holding on to my arm. It was 25 degrees outside. We did photos for about 15 minutes, and then I did the ceremony for 8-10 minutes, speaking very fast. Beautiful bride, beautiful dress, but almost no sleeves so she was a very cold bride. Andrea had put her wedding time on facebook and there were about 50 of their friends who showed up. It was a blast as people (complete strangers) were cheering as they drove around the circle and realized a wedding was going on. Plus folks out walking their dog stopped to take in the ceremony. Aaron’s dog, Moose (English bulldog) was there with a bow tie, and Tiny was there with her bib.
Then we went to Aaron and Andrea’s house where a chef served us a five course meal that was very, very good. Andrea later said, “Everything was perfect. Not one thing went wrong.”
What a way to celebrate the birth of our Savior!
The sweet, happy sounds of my wife and daughters are coming up the stairs to me. They are very excited, and it is fun hearing them. Yes, Robyn finished the Christmas decorating earlier today–I did my bit by doing the laundry. But this isn’t the reason for the excitement. The reason is because we secretly flew in Nicole from Philadelphia to be here for Andrea’s wedding shower on Sunday. Andrea met Robyn for what she thought was a twosome lunch. Nicole and I hid in a store, and while they had their backs to us we walked up behind them and I tapped Andrea on the shoulder. “Hi Dad.” Then she saw Nicole and really got excited. And so it continues, and will do so until Monday when Nicole flies back to Philadelphia.
Andrea and Aaron will be married on December 30 in a sort of “flash mob” wedding in the central part of Indianapolis. We hope that it will not be snowing or raining because the simple ceremony is to be outside. There are twelve people coming–just immediate family and a couple of friends. Then it is over to Aaron’s house for a gourmet meal for the twelve. Andrea put up an announcment on Facebook so some friends might come just to see it.
I am honored to be the one doing the ceremony. What a joy to be combining both Christmas and a wedding. Should be a very meaningful time.
Aaron and Andrea met in church, and that really pleases us, as does their involvement in their church. Aaron has a great family and we have really enjoyed getting to know them this past year. Aaron’s brother Wes in president of the local Audobon society in Bloomington, and his dad works for the Department of Natural Resources. So, Andrea is marrying into a family of …. birders!What could be better? Mike, Aaron’s dad, has published books on Indiana’s wildflowers and orchids. His mom, Barbara, is a nurse. Nicole’s mother-in-law is named Barbara, Andrea’s mother-in-law is named Barbara, and my mother-in-laws name was Barbara.
Gotta go downstairs and see what’s going on.
In my early days as CMF’s director, I thought of how great it would be to have a shower, an exercise room, and a daycare center for our working young parents on staff. I had read about all of these things in the business/leadership books on my “two foot bookshelf” that was part of my orientation for my new role. Fiscal reality set in, especially to one who did not know a lot about fiscals. Those ideas were eventually dropped over the fiscal cliff.
A few years ago we decided we need to do a little office renovation. Besides painting the office in new (bright) colors, we also added a hoop outside for shooting baskets, a covered picnic table area, and painted a walking track around our building. We also changed the dress code so that people could come to work in blue jeans any day of the week. And we added free bottled water and sodas, all in an effort to feel younger and to keep our best and our brightest.
Have to admit that I had not seen a lot of use of the 1/2 basketball court, the picnic area, or the track (although I did see stranger walking on our track regularly). That is, until our Finance Director (who negotiates our health insurance package every year) shared with us that our insurer had a Wellness Program. We signed on. Doug Germann (Finance Director) and his buds came up with some great ideas. They challenged us to enroll in the Wellness Program (if you read and listen to three articles a quarter, you can get a $50 bonus). He also came up with some great ideas, namely walking that track. Seven laps equals one mile.
We now have awards for people who walk the most laps; we track how many laps we walk on a daily basis, both personal and as an entire staff. It is amazing at how this little push has invigorated our staff. I can look out my window and see people walking laps, most on their break or at lunch time. People now have their meetings walking laps. Plus we have a time at 2:00 in the afternoon when we announce that it is time to walk if we want, and many of us do as it tends to wake us up to finish the day strong.
I am number 25 out of 30 on staff in terms of the most laps walked. I complain regularly to Doug Germann that I walk on the treadmill at home late almost every afternoon for 40 minutes, and none of that counts! He gets a gleam in his eye and says that none of his time on his bike counts either (though I remind him that walking and biking are two entirely different activities). I am pretty sure I would be in the top five if I was able to log all that I walk. I can’t, but so be it.
God gave us bodies to cherish, nurture, and use to honor Him. Frankly, a Wellness Program makes sense on so many levels. Physical (you don’t have to be an Olympian to walk a few laps), social (some people talk to one another as they walk their laps), emotional (yes, sometimes I release stress by talking to myself while taking laps), and spiritual (we have used our track to take prayer walks).
Who knows. Maybe one of these days we will recruit all of our friends to sponsor us for a month of laps at so much $$ per lap and give the collected money for one of our mission projects. I can already feel the competitive juices just thinking about it….
What a great week it has been. Our semi-annual CMF Board meeting took place Sunday through Tuesday. We had as a house guest long time friend Stephen Burris. Stephen is CMF’s Resident Missiologist. We collaborated in edited River of God: An Introduction to Missions, and Stephen is editor of New Urban World, a journal dedicated to making minister to the urban poor the key agenda item for the next century. Stephen is also involved as a series editor with Kendi Howells Douglas of a series of books on urban ministry, to be published by Wipf and Stock.
Wednesday was my day for chauffering; Stephen to a motel and collecting Rod and Lexie Sheard and then Ash Barker who are in town for the International Conference on Missions. We are in the midst of that conference as I write. Thousands of people at the Indianapolis Convention Center to celebrate the worldwide mission of the church. I hosted the annual Mission Trainers Forum where we had guest speaker Richard Brown who spoke to us about translation and worldview, and then later about the Kingdom of God and missiology. Such a joy to see so many long time friends and colleagues. I presented a workshop on “Seeking the Shalom of the City,” using the phrase from Jeremiah 29.
Ours in an unusual family of churches. We are congregational, which means we have no hierarchy, no central headquarters, no clearning house, and autonomy for each congregation. At the same time we suffer from much duplication, especially in the area of missions. A walk through the display area at the convention leaves one wondering at the duplication of resources, effort. Entrepreneurism is alive and well, which has both its upside and its downside.
I am anxious for tomorrow! There is the opportunity to see more people I have not yet seen at the convention, the chance for Ash to speak at the Connection Pointe Christian Church four times on Saturday and Sunday (along with his two presentations at the convention), and then the deep privilege of “getting back to work” following this busy week. Frankly, I love what I do.