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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Olive sparrow **
Great blue heron
American golden plover
Black and white warbler
Blac-throated green warbler
Black-bellied whistling duck
Yellow-crowned night heron
Ferruginous hawk **
Chihuahuan raven **
Common ground dove
Northern rough-winged sw
Tropical kingbird **
Black-crowned night heron
Green kingfisher **
Northern beardless tyrannyulet **
Cason’s sparrow **
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.
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