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Oct 14 / Bill

Part two: Surprised by the bargain with God—the back story of the church-based study course “Misiones Mundiales

Part two: Surprised by the bargain with God and with more family life to narrate the real and parallel story of my most intimate community.                      

Ha! Was I ever surprised after my bargaining with the Almighty!

Before we had even returned to Guatemala 8 months after that fateful November 8, 1982, SETECA had agreed to establish a new Missiological Center. Well, at least five hurdles to go. The first (yes, the very first) weekend back at our church, El Camino, Dr. Abel Morales, lead elder of our church (who later would leave his medical practice to study world missions at DTS and return to teach at SETECA), welcomed all of us with a massive hug and then said to me, “OK, Guillermo, in your absence the Spirit has been working to give us a heart for missions. Will you help us on the local church level?”

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh……………!  I started to get a bit nervous, but obviously I said “But of course!” And I joined a highly motivated small community of El Camino leaders who represented the demographics of the congregation—with much more faith than I.

Within weeks the seminary curriculum was changed to include the missions course, and God had already raised up a young mission enthusiast on the faculty, a former student of mine, Jorge Morales (who years later would leave Latin America with his family to serve as missionaries in Spain).

Then within months the lay leadership training program of SETECA, called CLASE (Curso Latinoamericano Sistemático de Extensión), asked me to craft a short, ten-lesson course on world missions for the local church.  Called “Misiones Mundiales”, my co-author was Dr. Eugenio Campos (who later got his DMin from TEDS in world missions). I adapted some of my TEDS course materials into Spanish, and Eugenio did the harder historical chapters.  The work-book was released in 1985.

Uhhhhhhhh.  Now four down; two to go. This was not what I had bargained for!

In 1984 SETECA held a world mission conference (in part responding to an undeniably clear work of the Spirit of God amongst the student body that had fully awakened to its potential and future role in the historical and global mission of God.  To be honest, the faculty and administration (and I in both) were late to the Holy Spirit on this one. In all fairness, we were not the only ones late, for the global mission movement in Africa, Asia, and Latin America had few European or North American mission advocates.

For strange reasons, the international mission force was marked by a high passion for evangelism within cultures or national geographies, but seldom traveled further out—geographically, culturally, linguistically. The speakers God used in that seminal conference included Drs. Bong Rin Ro of Korea, Tokunboh Adeyemo of Nigeria, David Hesselgrave of TEDS, Dr. Emilio Antonio Núñez and Norbert Schmidt of Germany. Ro and Adeyemo also spoke at our local church missions conference.  And the response was radical in both seminary and church.  God the Spirit had exploded our world before us.  It was an astonishing time to be alive in global mission.

I well remember at some point perhaps around 1980 that a young woman student had came to my office for counsel, sharing her heart’s dreams.  She was a dear heart, but not the strongest academic student at SETECA (actually she met her entrance pre-requisites as a graduate of a household appliance repair vocational school in El Salvador.  So she said, “Don Guillermo, the Lord has called me to be a cross-cultural missionary and I want your guidance.”  My guidance?  “Woman!”, I wanted to say, “there is no mission agency for you and I just don’t think this is the Spirit speaking to you.”  THAT’S what I said to myself, whereas to her I stated, “Dear sister, we must talk and pray about this. Perhaps it is a bit early to think this way?”  To which she responded, “When the Spirit calls, I must obey.”

Many years later my Brazilian-based friend and colleague, Barbara Burns, would share with me the story of Najua, a student of hers in the Antioch missionary training center—this would have been in the early 1980’s also.  Najua had a very “colorful” background as a street kid and out of that context had been radically saved, only to become a radical missionary to her former “people group”.  So in the class one day, Najua stated, “The Lord has called me to be a missionary in Albania.”  Barbara said, naturally, “But Najua, that is impossible.  Albania is the most violently Marxist anti-God country in the world.”  To which Najua responded, “But the Spirit has called me to Albania, and to Albania I shall go.”

It’s a long story that has been written down elsewhere, but later Najua served with a team of Brazilian missionaries “next door” to Albania for years, traveling clandestinely into the country, learning the language, running the gauntlet of secret police, and witnessing serious miracles of God. When the Iron Curtain collapsed, and in Albania it crashed down, she was one of the few Brazilian missionaries who already spoke Albanian. And they moved to Albania.

Update: I recently asked Barbara what Najua was up to now, and she write, “Najua is starting a Bible college in Albania. She never quits.”

OK, back to Guatemala. My experience with this lovely student left me dumbfounded.  And that was before we spent that trial year at TEDS.

Update on that student: she served for some 15 years in one of the worst war-torn areas of Guatemala amongst the Maya people, contextualized to the max, and became a sainted missionary woman. The last time I saw her she was now headed to North Africa.  Oh, the lessons God has taught me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At some point, perhaps in late 1984 or early 1985, Wade Coggins and Theodore Williams, now President of World Evangelical Fellowship (as WEA was then called) made a second visit to Guatemala. Again, Theo’s impact and challenges at and beyond SETECA were profound.  He directly spoke to the Guatemalan leadership about starting their own, national mission agency, and about dreaming into the future for a Guatemala-based mission training program-center. And so it came to pass.

My goose was cooked!  In other words, I was stunned.  God had met his side of my “long-term bargain” within the first year of our supposedly-long return to Guatemala. I had no other option but to realize that our life in Guatemala was soon coming to an end, but I had no idea it would come so soon.  For it would be the summer of 1985 that we would say our permanent, multiple, tear-saturated farewells to Guatemala, to our church, to SETECA, to our friends, and significantly, to the new house we had constructed. The children would say farewell to their teachers at the marvelous Austrian-Guatemalan Institute and our church, Centro Bíblico El Camino. By that fall we would be living in the frozen tundras of the USA—again teaching at TEDS, again supposedly long-term.

Aug 31 / Bill

South Africa report and impressions

August 31, 2013

 

A Continent in a Cup of Strong

Good friends and global partners,

How can I bottle the majestic glory of Africa’s Victoria Falls in a cup?  No, I was not able to visit that magnificent world wonder but it remains a dream of mine.  However that analogy illustrates the challenge as I report on the two-week trip (July 24-August 9) to South Africa.

Old to New

The marvelous cataract rush of experience, emotions, thinking, preparation, speaking (16 times), face-to-face engagement, and personal mentoring was beyond expectation.

My incomparable hosts, Lydia and Adriaan, as we partake of an incredible meal

South Africa has powerfully impacted me each time I (alone or the two times with Yvonne) have visited that unique nation. Always at the top of my “preferred nations to visit”, this time I discerned again the favor of the living God upon South Africa. Its unique blend of the races, languages and peoples; its incredibly diverse geographies and ecospheres; its global buffet of food (including some of the hottest spices and unusual dishes in the world!); its tangible evidence of the Gospel of God and its power to transform; the irresistible work of the Spirit calling devoted South African Christians to radical mission—within its national peoples, needs, opportunities, and from there spiraling out to the continent of Africa and then to the world.

The Nation Maker--awaiting his Future--and a nation wonders

 

I was encouraged to hear of the “return of the exiles”, a turn-around of the exodus of citizens who post 1994 feared they would not have an opportunity-laden future, and hence left—for England, Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand, among many places.  They are returning, in spite of the challenges, and the difficulty of the racial quota system for university studies and careers.  A growing number of thoughtful Black South Africans is concluding that the reverse discrimination—affirmative action—does help them and they want to win on their own merits the right to study and work.

South African Peter Tarantal, OM leader, WEA MC Chair, Friend and Colleague

My assignments gave me a packed schedule, thanks to my dear friend Adriaan Adams (of Afrikaans background, married to the very gifted Lydia—daughter of my trusted senior colleagues, Willie and Lydia Crew).  I had spent months in preparation, knowing that I would be stretched.  Thankfully, upon arrival Adriaan told me that the four church speaking tasks had cancelled—to his chagrin and my gratitude!  I was grateful to stay in a quiet guest home where I could retire, refresh, try to sleep and breakfast.

So here were the assignments:

The Praying University of Pretoria Missions Week Team

1.  Meeting the Friday evening before the UP mission with their leadership team, sharing some of my journey, the ideas I had for the week as speaker, and then praying. What a remarkable group of students.  I am honored to know them.

2.  Serving as prime speaker five nights at the University of Pretoria annual missions fest.  The U.P has had a historically powerful role in the nation, and some 54 Christian student groups operate on campus—half of them church discipleship ministries. The World Mission Team is a student-led movement (great memories of my early-life-work with Inter-Varsity, another student-led movement).

Primo Mission Leaders, University of Pretoria

It was mid-winter, and cold; Tuesday evening I had five layers on my upper body, and students sat with blankets around them to keep warm. The worship team rocked, the dance and music teams were creative, the audience excited, and I knew deep in my bones that God was going to show up.  And He did!  I developed a five-part series with these following components to each talk:

  • A mission story, most from Africa, illustrating the arrival of the Gospel to Africa, or the price paid to follow this radical new Jesus.  The story then pointed to some key lessons.

David, Zimbabwe child immigrant, street kid, transformed young believer leader

  • An applied Biblical exposition—from Genesis 1-12 through Revelation, progressively revealing the eternal heart and passion of God for his creation, for the nations, for his called-out people and for his Gospel.

Worshipping and Interceding Students On the Line!

  • A series of five thoughtful questions that we must ask all faith and non-faith systems. Depending on their answer, we can determine which one points to the Eternal Truth of the Living God: the mystery of creation, the human personality, the brokenness (that “sickness unto death) of the human being, beauty and truth, and justice-injustice.
  • A clear set of take-homes for each night, building as the week went on.

The last night.  Just before dinner with the leadership team, they prayed for me. It was sweet, tender and powerful. I then anointed each with oil (I travel with oil for these cases as they emerge), and asked them to set sentinels on the perimeter of the ampitheatre during the entire 2 hours of the final service.  I was deeply stirred as I spoke, witnessing these young sentinel believers, interceding for their fellow students called to radical discipleship and decision.  I know they stood alongside the invisible perimeter of God’s angels, defending against the attacks of the enemy and calling on God to reveal himself.

Veteran leaders

Southern Africa Emerging Leadership Cream

Jeanet Sibanda, key South African Younger Mission Leader

3.  Engaging with a small team of younger and emerging South African mission leaders as they considered the challenges before them as a generation, engaging and providing mission leadership.  I spoke twice, but it was more just being present, knowing God was doing new things. Adriaan led the sessions, convened by WENSA (the South African mission network) and MANI (the African mission network).

 

4.  Speaking to church and mission leaders on “Sorrow and Blood: Christian Mission in Contexts of Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom”.  I had taken about 40 copies of the book and all were soon sold.

Sorrow and Blood in South Africa

5.  Speaking in three extended sessions with younger and emerging mission leaders in South Africa. Some of them were members of Adriaan’s team at the FTLT, others were students, others from Operation Mobilization SA, others in various vocations, all thoughtful and committed.  My assignment, thanks to Adriaan, was “If you had known when you were 25 what you know now, what would you have done differently?”.  Hmmmmmmmm.  That’s an interesting spin on my personal history, and it required that I return and review life to see what I would have done.  There were some lessons that could only be learned through experience, simply through maturing, through learning from mistakes.

Mission Commission SA Communications Team, + 1

But with the perspective of hindsight, I could tell them things to avoid to look out for, and to incorporate early on.  Some of these lessons were personal or related to marriage; but others were more theological and ecclesiological.

6.  Investing one-on-one, or one-on-two, or one-on-five, those more intimate interactions of life-on-life, of shaping and mentoring.

Jaco and Nadine--growing depth of relationship

This probably was my prime purpose in going to SA, and I was thankful upon departure that God had met me, had met us.  It is so clear to me that the hand of God is strongly on some of my younger friends, and I am eager to walk parallel and alongside them as they-we discover and embrace the future.

Brumilde and Hendré--choice and gifted servants, on Adriaan and Lydia's team

Whilst in SA I also discovered that God was opening a new dimension to TGC, and that was the creation of a category “TGC Associates”, key individuals invited into a more direct relationship with me under the purposes of TGC—to mentor, to shape, to build, to reproduce.  I am certain that God will provide the further wisdom and financial resources to make this happen. Already one case study has emerged and I want to walk into this unique opportunity.

Select Friends All

The final full two days were spent with Lydia and Willie Crew, my dear, long-term SA friends.  Nobody has been as generous to us as they have, in the sharing of personal resources and time, in the opening of doors for SA ministry, in the privilege of filming in 2000 a series of lectures that have become part of the “Live School” curriculum—now in English, Russian, Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Swahili & Korean.  The near future includes French, Portuguese & Spanish.  Example: some years ago a former colleague from Guatemala ministry years wrote me from the Ukraine, telling me that as he entered this small church, he found me teaching in Russian!!!!!  This Live School is a grass-roots but sophisticated program of mission training focused on the less-reached peoples of the world.

I returned exhausted but profoundly satisfied that I was doing what God wanted me to do, that I was in his place of blessing, that I received much more than I gave.

Tangibles taken home from South Africa 2013

With deep appreciation to each of you, and especially to my South African sisters and brothers.

Bill

 

Aug 16 / Bill

On truthful reporting from Egypt, a word from SAT-7

August 16, 2013

Good friends and global colleagues,

Today I was geared up to continue the reflections on “Misiones Mundiales”, with the parallel growth of the mission movement in Latin America and in my own understanding.

The dominating narrative, a Muslim Brotherhood protestor symbol

But clearly, this is the word to share today, from perhaps the most respectful Christian media ministry serving the Middle East, SAT-7.

That Western media and so many governments have simply swallowed up the Muslim Brotherhood narrative is profoundly disturbing, and makes one wonder where historic common sense has disappeared to.  My own government has no idea what to say, much less do, and constantly spins the news for the sake of self-preservation…..and other agendas.

More of dominating narrative

Have we heard the story of the young Jessica Boulous, 10, was killed last Tuesday in Cairo after attending a class at the Ahmed Esmat Street Evangelical Church?

Jessica-Boulous, courtesy of Boulous family

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/08/13/coptic-christian-killed-while-walking-home-from-bible-class-in-egypt/#ixzz2c8xLjvIO

And in the last two days the number of churches, Christian centers, residences and believers attacked is unprecedented.

Coptic church destroyed, the look of dismay, but of hope

 

All we can ask is that we pray thoughtfully and with godly aggressiveness!!

 

SAT-7 PRESS RELEASE

For immediate Release

Understanding the present situation in Egypt
Dr Terence Ascott, CEO and Founder, SAT-7 International

Nicosia, Cyprus – 16th August 2013

Many of us involved in Christian ministry in Egypt are appalled at the misunderstandings about the situation in Egypt being propagated by even normally balanced international media like the BBC, and the way it has, in general, portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood as the victims of injustice.

So, on behalf of myself, Ramez Atallah (General Secretary for The Bible Society of Egypt), Pastor Fayez Ishaq (part of the leadership team at Kasr El Dubarrah Evangelical Church), other ministry leaders in Egypt and the leadership of Middle East Concern, please allow me to paint a bigger picture of what has been going on the past year or so:

Yes, former President Morsi was elected “democratically” in June 2012, but only by the slimmest of majorities, and only 13 million people (out of a total population of 83 million) voted for Morsi at all. And yet he took this as a mandate to do as he wanted, with awinner-takes-all attitude. His new government was not inclusive and he quickly appointed former Muslim Brotherhood leaders (some with previous convictions for violence or incitement to violence) to serve as regional Governors or government Ministers. In November 2012, he illegally gave himself new sweeping powers to act without censure, and rushed through a new pro-Islamic constitution despite the protests and boycotts from liberals, moderate Muslims and Christians, and then he refused to call for new elections – as had previously been agreed to do after a new constitution had been adopted.

And, of course, the economy was very poorly managed by the new Ministers, whose only apparent qualification for office was the fact that they were Muslim Brotherhood loyalists. By the end of 2012 the country’s infrastructure had begun to fall apart, electricity and fuel supplies became unreliable, prices for basic commodities soared and Egypt struggled to get much needed international financing.

By the 30th June 2013, on the first anniversary of Morsi’s election to office, the Egyptian people had had enough! Perhaps as many as 30 million people came out to demonstrate against Morsi continuing in office – this included many who had voted for Morsi a year before and, even if the figure of 30 million cannot be independently verified, it is clear that the number of people on the street was far more than the number of people who had ever voted for Morsi. But, unlike the President of any normal democracy, he refused to go, or even seek a renewed mandate through new elections – confirming to many that the Muslim Brotherhood were just using the new democracy in Egypt to establish a theocracy.

In a situation like this, the last line of defence for democracy is the army. They alone have the power to re-start the democratic process and, by (very) popular demand and with due notice, the army did step in and remove the former President – to the absolute delight and relief of MOST Egyptians!

In the past 6 weeks the Muslim Brotherhood has occupied a number of public spaces, to demonstrate for the reinstatement of the former President (currently being held by the army and facing charges related to abuse of power, including substantial material and intelligence support to Hamas). Unlike the peaceful occupation of Tahrir Square by demonstrators in January 2011, and again at the end of June 2013, these Muslim Brotherhood occupations were dominated by calls for violence against the army, the police, the liberals and, specifically, the Coptic Christians in Egypt – all resulting in the violence witnessed on 14th August, when police stations, hospitals, private and public property were destroyed. Many Christian churches (at least 40 so far), homes and businesses were also attacked, as well as a monastery, three religious societies, three key bookshops belonging to the Bible Society in Egypt, three Christian schools and an orphanage.

The Coptic Orthodox Pope, HH Tawadrous II made a statement about the attacks on churches this week, saying that “this had been expected and, as Egyptians and Christians, we are considering ourchurch buildings as a sacrifice to be made for our beloved Egypt”. Other church leaders have made similar statements, stressing that church buildings don’t make the Church but the church is the Body of Christ, made of people who have their faith in Him, and that is getting stronger as it passes through these challenging times.

It is also important and encouraging to note that some Muslims went to protect churches and that, in return, many Christians then sent messages to their fellow Muslim citizens saying, “buildings can be rebuilt again, but you are priceless, so stay safe, and don’t worry about the churches”. And the Egyptian government also announced yesterday that the State would take the financial responsibility for the rebuilding of damaged churches.

The Muslim Brotherhood have been, and remain very effective in portraying themselves as the victims to the media, pointing to how Morsi had been “democratically” elected and that the army “coup” was a major setback to the country’s democratic progress. They have known what buttons to push with the Western press and this seems to be the version that most of the World is hearing – but it is not a version of truth that resonates with the vast majority of Egyptians.

And, while the loss of life these past few days has been most regrettable it has not only been Muslim Brotherhood supporters that have died, and there has been scant reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to destabilise Egypt, its calls for violence against the government and its supporters; and there has been a total lack of reporting concerning weapons that the Brotherhood had in the camps and used against the army as it sought to dismantle the sit-ins.

In closing, can I ask for your prayers for this important country – the largest in the Arab World, with the largest Christian Community in the Middle East. Please pray that:

·       The current violence will end soon
·       The effective rule of law and order will be re-established for the benefit of all citizens
·       There will be effective protection of church and other property against attacks by extremists
·       Egypt will be governed for the benefit of all its citizens, with people of different persuasions able to live alongside one another peaceably
·       Egyptian Christians will have opportunity to play an increasingly prominent and effective role in addressing the needs of all Egyptians and helping to bring healing and reconciliation in the country


Jul 15 / Bill

Surprised by the global-hearted Spirit of God

Part one: birthed anew, Spanish, church-based study course “Misiones Mundiales”, and in addition a few notes on our family pilgrimage                               July 15, 2013

Last month I received notice, and photos, of the release of the workbook on missions that I had first co-written in 1984.  My then-co-author was my friend and colleague, Dr. Eugenio Campos, Nicaraguan born missions teacher at Seminario Teológico Centroamericano in Guatemala.

This small missions handbook was produced in the last months of our 17 years in Guatemala, and was a kind of a departing “gift” from me to the Spanish-speaking world.

However, there is a very significant back-story that returns to two key dates, one remembered only by the year, 1981, and the other one a very specific date, November 8, 1982 (strange how I can remember some dates, but not all of them are as momentous as this one). My long-term mentor, friend and colleague, Dr. Emilio Antonio Núñez, had begun to circulate in broader international arenas, and through the World Evangelical Fellowship (of which I knew nothing at that time and never in my wildest dreams would I have considered that I would have spent so many years with this global network) had met mission leaders from Africa and Asia. He invited two of them to visit us in Guatemala and challenge us beyond our borders: Dr. Theodore Williams of India came with Dr. Wade Coggins, at that time head of the USA EFMA mission network.  Later I discovered that both were also leaders of the WEA Mission Commission. Both Wade and Theodore would become dear friends and mentors to me in my early years of service in the WEA Mission Commission starting in July, 1986. (Both of them have passed into the Other and True World now).  In 1981 Wade (a former missionary in South America with the Christian and Missionary Alliance) came primarily as Theodore’s translator but also as an “interpreter” of what God was doing in the world.

From Theo (as we later called him with affection) we in the SETECA community first heard of what was then called “Third World Missions”. His compelling stories came from the emerging mission vision and force out of India and the broader contexts of Asia and Africa.  Theo’s message was simple: the fullness of the global Great Commission is for all of the church in all times and around the entire world of peoples, cities and nations.  I honestly don’t think I had never heard of that before, and at the time it did not resonate in my heart and mind.

But it would explode in the Fall of 1982.

The November ’82 date marks the point when I was teaching an “Introduction to World Missions” class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL.  The 1982-1983 year was really a trial to see whether we would sense the Lord’s direction to teach full-time and long-term at TEDS. But it was exactly on that date, one day after my birthday (perhaps the clue as to how I could remember the date) that the class topic was “Third-World Missions”(now called “Global South mission”).  I so remember quoting the statistics that had begun documenting the growth of the mission movement from Asia, Latin America and Africa, from the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s.

As I exulted in class over what God had been doing around the world, the crushing blow hit me and I am convinced the Holy Spirit spoke to me: “But Bill, neither you nor your colleagues in Latin America and at SETECA have done anything to contribute to this movement of mine.” I believe it is Henri Nouwen that once wrote (a loose quote), “Some times the most significant thing that happens when the preacher preaches is that he is converted by his preaching.”  And that certainly happened to me that November.

I actually did not know what to do, other than to return and report my encounter with the Lord to the family. We were ensconced that year (and the very same place from 1985-1986) in a very small two bedroom efficiency TEDS campus apartment (where in February we had ¼ “ of ice on the INSIDE of our windows.  But we were also surrounded by, and suffered together with, international students and their children, godly servants from Asia and Africa who had traveled to TEDS for advanced study. So that wee apartment had become a doorway to heaven in so many ways, and some of those friendships flourish to this day.

As I reported my experience to Yvonne and the kids, the outcome was clear, “We are returning to Guatemala.”  The small living room reverberated with cheers and happiness, because we all really wanted to go back.

HOWEVER, over the subsequent weeks I had made a deal with God (before having to tell the TEDS dean that we were returning home), and in essence bargained with the Spirit:  I would leave Latin America permanently but only on condition, that six changes would have to take place.

First, that SETECA’s leadership would establish a Missiological Center to serve as a holy and passionate advocate for God’s heart for the entire globe.

Second, that the school would change the curriculum to include world missions classes.

Third, that a Latin American faculty colleague would co-write a small work book on world missions for the Spanish-speaking local churches around the world.

Fourth, that our church, Centro Bíblico el Camino would grow a heart for cross-cultural mission, starting in Guatemala but extending to the world.

Fifth (and now I was getting into really high caliber territory) that we would see the first Guatemala-born and driven mission agency.

And sixth, that we would see the beginnings of a parallel missionary training center in Guatemala.

Ha! I just knew that this deal with the Almighty would guarantee us another ten years of service, life, growth, enjoyment of our new home and happiness in Guatemala.

TO BE CONTINUED……………….

 

Mar 20 / Bill

Of Lent, obsolescence and those things not……….

March 21, 2013

Holy Week starts in a few short days and I’m not sure I’m ready. That is, I AM ready in the sense that I really need Resurrection Sunday; but I am not ready in that I am not happy with how my own Lenten disciplines have gone so far.  Part of my problem (are they not all discipline deals?) is the select cache of goodies I store under my desk top—special Australian licorice (thank you, Stephanie), my mixed nuts, those sea salt dark chocolates, and a miscellaneous assortments of international delicacies. But my weakness is just symptomatic of greater challenges; shall we say, sins?

Yet I have done well on my most challenging Lenten affirmations—refrain from speaking ill or evil of others, whether people that bug me, Evangelical leaders who jostle for position, political figures or some neighbors who love noise-making machines.  Late at night, in bed with Yvonne, we will summarize some items of the day, and periodically I catch myself, “Do not speak ill of……”

But for some strange reason, during Lent I have been thinking of obsolescence, perhaps triggered by a spate of articles on line that warn or mourn or battle the things that are passing away. Like Mike’s job (his entire segment of the electronics industry moved to Taiwan and neighborhood nations); certain processes that used to be man-made and now we have gifted and bright robots who take care of these things; old cell phones.  And how else will the Google geniuses craft to rewire our brains and the way we think, especially our younger generations who are so much on the so-called “cutting edge” of technology and social media?

So I wonder, what’s next? Who else of my friends will lose their job, career, vocation, because of our “advancing, marvelous world”?  And what things will never be replaced?  And that triggered a second flow of items that, our God-designed special creation requiring, will never be replaced.

Well, here are a few: Lent and worship, the eternals and the unfathomable, the disturbing questions of faith and doubt, pain and suffering, the quest for survival. My spiritual community, my family, my oldest and tested friendships, Christ Church and the creative public voice, “The Wall” art project during Austin’s iconic SXSW festivals.  These will not be replaced.

Love and relationality, community and otherness, friendship and marriage, vows and faithfulness, laughter and tears. The delight of the lovely Blythe, the energetic Speight and Söhren, the creative Warner quad—Brendan, Cormac, Skye and Bronwyn—all grand children. These will not be replaced.

The “smaller” things of life; the beauty, taste and delight of a well-crafted espresso coming from my own heart and machine; the marvel of recently planted green pepper and tomato plants (with a personalized prayer for each) in the renewed garden patch in my back yard (Does it need more sun and more natural fertilizer to make it and produce more this year? And what will I do with another Texas drought?). These will not be replaced.

And so I make my way through these last days of the Lenten season, needing the touch of mercy, the word of grace, the Word incarnate and the Word written to speak to me.

And you?

Feb 14 / Bill

Lent has begun, and I am ready for it. I think. I do know I need it.

February 14, 2013

Lent has begun, and I am ready for it. I think. I do know I need it.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, with a three-fold jolt to my core. But first the backdrop. I was not brought up in the liturgical-sacramental stream of the Christian faith. Quite to the contrary!! For so much of my life, starting in Latin America as a boy, anybody wearing “a white collar” represented “the other side”, i.e. Rome, Orthodox, and others who did not believe “the Truth”, or as we were taught in Latin America, “healthy doctrine (sana doctrina)”.

Then God pulled the big surprise of six years ago when we were irresistibly drawn into the very Evangelical Anglican tradition, an authentic renewal movement of orthodox, Gospel people and churches in North America. For Yvonne it was “The Return” to her roots; for me a radically new stage of my journey, my own pilgrimage to and with God.

About the turn of the century, while David served as arts pastor of Hope Chapel here in Austin, he introduced a few liturgical-sacramental elements into Hope’s life. The arts exhibitions in the chapel followed the ecclesial calendar; we began to celebrate Ash Wednesday and a powerful Good Friday service emerged. Ash Wednesday was a newer element to me, and when I began to understood what was happening, it could not become a “happy discovery”. Later I was asked to serve as one who imposed ashes, “to ash” someone, and that was sobering because I had to repeat, time and time again, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

When God brought us six years ago into the Anglican fellowship and to the Christ Church community, we happily shared with Hope Chapel some of the Lenten Season events: Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday. It was a gracious and sweet convergence of two very distinct but mutually-respecting leaders and people.

Some years ago a dear friend who had recently lost his wife of many decades came to spend some recovery days with us here in Austin. And he attended Ash Wednesday; and I imposed ashes on his forehead; and then he burst into sobs, realizing that even then his wife’s body was returning to dust. Another year, a younger friend of ours came forward for the imposition, but she walked up with a very happy smile on her face; I looked soberly at her, indicating this was not happy hour; she abruptly realized what was happening, and slowly made her way back to her seat.

Last night we started with these words: “Dear friends in Christ, every year at the time of the Christian Passover we celebrate our redemption through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration and to renew our life in the paschal mystery. We begin this holy season by remembering our ongoing need to renew our repentance and faith, and our ever-present need for the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We begin our journey to Easter with the sign of ashes, an ancient sign, speaking of the frailty and uncertainty of human life, and marking the penitence of the community as a whole. I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and by reading and meditating on the word of God. Let us kneel before our Creator and Redeemer.”

The first jolt:

The jolts last night came as the ashes were imposed on my forehead; I returned to my seat and simply began to weep. My dear 6-year-old granddaughter, Bronwyn, saw it and gently put her hand on my knee. My 14 year old grandson, Brendan, wrapped his arm around me. I wept because in a very profound sense I was seriously facing the reality of my own mortality. I will be 73 this year, and in the past year for the first time I have sensed in my own heart and body the realities that come with aging. It’s not morbidity nor fear of death; it’s reality.

The second jolt:

I observed a family of four come up, friends whom I so respect. The parents, the 6 year old girl and the wee infant were all ashed. I had never seen ashes on an infant and as they walked by I pulled mom and baby over for me to gaze with tears in my eyes on that sight. I suddenly remembered that this baby’s sister was fighting a fierce battle with cancer. What power both symbol and words of the imposition of ashes had! Another confrontation with mortality.

The third jolt? Well, I think I have to leave that for the following entry as I mull over not only Ash Wednesday but Lent itself.

Jolted, with gratitude to God for a heavy and meaningful liturgical calendar.

Dec 20 / Bill

The first of a series of post-Israel sabbatical musings and reflections

World views

December 18, 2012

We have now returned from the 5-week Israel sabbatical with very full heart and mind. The purpose of this intentional pilgrimage was double: for Yvonne, to grow in her calling as an informed intercessor; for me it was to work on the new book on persecution—shaped primarily for the North America world, but with application and possible adaptation to a broader audience.

 

Signs of water in the desert?

God met us beyond expectations and with unexpected ones. The itinerary, arriving October 16 and returning November 19, found us based in these four regions—geographic points:  Haifa and area (NW Israel and Mediterranean): 5 days; Galilee area (north): 10 days; Jerusalem and beyond (central): 16 days; Tel Aviv (west central Mediterranean): 5 days.

Caesarea Maritima

Date palm

Instead of walking the geographical path, let me start these thoughts with some of our general impressions.

First, we thank God and our Israel-based friends-colleagues for investing in us, allowing us to talk with them in depth, listening and learning from them. Long-term cross-cultural workers (names withheld for security reasons) in Israel speak honestly about the high challenges and price paid (spiritual, emotional, physical) for extended service in that epicenter of God’s actions and spiritual conflict. We have the highest respect for them. This experience brings new and expanded insight as we read news and pray.

Old Jerusalem--at least three "ways" to God

 

Second, Israel is an incredibly complex, layered piece of culture and geography, ethnicities and faiths, with many conflicting “narratives”: Jewish, Christian and Muslim ones; Jewish and Arab ones; ancient Christian communities versus Evangelicals; the Messianic believers viz a viz Arab brothers and sisters.

Christ Church, Old City--since 1846 or so

We worshiped with diverse congregations: Arab Anglicans at Christ Church, Nazareth; Messianic and expatriate believers at Christ Church Jerusalem; Messianic congregations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Mt. Carmel Messianic Congregation

 

We were challenged, encouraged, stretched, leaving with the deep conviction that the triune God’s purposes will not be thwarted at the End. We were driven to God, his Word, and asking the Spirit to guide us as we listened to the narratives.

Third, for me the writing expectations were revised early on during our 10 days in the Galilee region.

Mount of Beatitudes illuminated ms, 8th Beatitude

Our friend B, who with his wife, L, extended such hospitality and time to us, early on gave me a key guiding piece of insight: “Bill, this will be more a time to collect material, gather impressions and study, but not write.” He was spot on, though there were a couple of writing “download” gifts: one on the Mount of Beatitudes and one in the quiet garden of Christ Church, Jerusalem.

Writing and reflecting in The Galilee

My file folder came back full, my Bible marked with key passages from both prophets and NT on the themes of suffering and persecution, and on the countless mentions of place, people and times.

Engedi waters

Now come incubation, structure and writing.

in future postings I will suggest further impressions and lessons. We are so thankful to God for supporters who years ago (2006) funded this memorable but delayed sabbatical.

The Golden Gate--closed until our Lord's return?

Meanwhile…………………….we pray earnestly and with new understanding for the believers—Jewish, Arab, ex-pat—in Israel as they live and serve in the midst of constant temporal and spiritual kingdom warrings and clashings…….just as in the days of Jeshua’s First Advent.

 

 

May this be for each of us a very significant Advent-Christmas as we prepare, reflect, celebrate.

Oct 25 / Bill

Emerging reflections on harassment and persecution, from Israel and the new resource anthology.

October 25, 2012

Overlooking the Galilee from the Mountain of the Beatitudes

I sit this morning, gazing over the Sea of Galilee after a healthy Israeli breakfast, trying to key these thoughts into the computer and ultimately revive the Blog. Yvonne and I are the Holy Land to celebrate our 45th Anniversary and for a five-week sabbatical—writing for me and intercession for her.  We are doing this trip on our own, with a rented car, guide books, the counsel of friends on the ground, and with flexible time to visit, stay, probe, reflect, and then depart from the countless sites.

My mind slips back to yesterday afternoon as Yvonne and I sat on the traditional site where our Lord gave the Sermon on the Mount.  It’s really a challenge to dig down through 2000 years of history and layers of sand, rocks, rubble, and very complex political and religious political issues-narratives in order to arrive approximately to where things really happened. But on the Galilean hills just west from ancient Capernaum and up from the Sea, this is not hard to do; so many of them are still as dry, rocky and sparsely covered as in the days of Jesus.

In the gardens

And there we sat in those lush gardens, blocking out the herds of tourists from India, Russia, Thailand, USA, Germany, Slovakia and Japan.  Late afternoon arrived, the shadows lengthened, the tourist-pilgrims faded into their mega buses, and both our setting and time quieted down. Our imagination was released to travel back, to re-read Scripture, to re-visit the Sermon on the Mount, to focus on the Beatitudes, and for me the last two of the nine. Matthew 5:10-11.

Stained glass window in Beatitudes Church, Galilee

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecute the prophets who were before you.

Pause and reflect: two out of nine deal with persecution; the term “persecuted” used three times, and two other categories mentioned…”reviling” and “uttering all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account”.

All of this dovetails into the release of the magnificent new resource anthology, Sorrow and Blood: Christian Mission in Contexts of Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom, (William Carey Library, 2012).  It was my honor to lead the editorial team that included Dr. Tonica van der Meer, Brazilian mission leader and educator and shepherd of great experience, along with Reg Reimer, Canadian missionary veteran and global expert on religious liberty in Viet Nam.  We worked on the book for five years but its conception goes back to the Iguassu Missiological Consultation of late 1999, when the MC leadership was called upon to address issues related to these themes.

So what I want to do in the next series of blogs is to progressively unveil the book and its themes, challenge us to ponder their implications.  It would be great if each of you did get a copy of the book, and began thoughtfully working through it.

But here are some key questions I want to probe in this series of blogs.  While the obvious sources and objects of persecution against Christians are clear in the Global South world (some 250 million believersare unable to fully practice their Christian faith due to the forces of opposition), let’s bring the themes home to the Global North.  In what ways have the principalities and powers, the spiritual wickedness in high places, the seductive powers of Satan, the sweet-sour temptations ALREADY come to the Global North.

In what ways have these churches, their pastors, their children, youth and families been apparently inured from the rough edges of harassment and persecution to the point that they would vehemently say, “What? There’s no persecution here!!!  We are free to practice or not to practice our faith.  There’s no problem here.

Thus two final questions:

First, has Satan already won a massive first victory with this kind of denial?

Second, in how many of your churches has your pastor given a series of 2-4 messages on persecution in the West (Global North) and the cost of following the Cross, “persecuted for righteousness sake”?

Book dedication Sunday, five authors present: Yvonne, Robin, Kelley, Kyle, Bill

This unique publication, Sorrow and Blood, emerges in the fullness of times as the editorial team grappled with challenging questions.  Here were some of them:

  1. What do both Biblical record and church history teach us about these themes?
  2. What does our contemporary global experience say to us? What case studies will help?
  3. How do these themes apply to our servants in bi-vocational (tent-making) or Business as Mission service?
  4. How should we equip both the church and its leadership as well as the global mission movement in light of today’s growing harassment, persecution and martyrdom?
  5. Does persecution cause the church to grow or can it kill it?
  6. What will harassment and persecution look like as it grows in the Global North?
  7. How can this book serve pastors who begin to teach on persecution—present and future?
  8. How can we equip both the churches and our future cross-cultural servants to live in contexts where they will face persecution and possible martyrdom?
  9. Do our seminaries, Christian colleges and missionary training centers (whether in South or North) adequately prepare missionaries for this uncertain future?
  10. What do we learn for each other, and how can we pray for and serve each other? How do sisters and brothers in the Global South pray for those in the North, and vice versa?

In book, Adella Thompson photo "Genocide Journal" - Rwanda

It was a high point in my writing life when pastor Geno Hildebrant of our former church, Hope Chapel, invited me to speak there October 7 and dedicate the book, with a luncheon signing. What a delight that four other writers were there: Yvonne, Kyle Miller, Robin Harris (artistic editor) and Kelley Magill.

 

Yvonne signing her chapter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on the book, go to http://www.sorrowandblood.com/index.html

If you might want to dialogue on these issues, there is space following. Try it!

And to all, a strong season of thoughtful reflection and provocative reading.

Ah, the double post script for you

The “free” bonus is a pdf copy of the table of contents of the book. Write to btaylorgc@gmail.com.

The “premium” bonus is the chance to purchase the book at a significant discount.  http://missionbooks.org/williamcareylibrary/home.php

 

Oct 29 / Bill

Final reflections on hidden addictions

On Hidden Addictions

October 29, 2011

A last, but not final word on hidden addictions

Many things have happened since the previous musings on this nasty topic, and I want to finish off my reflections for now. Since the posting of April, a number of friends have added to the discussion. And a Google search today hit me with 8,440,000 places I could go to drive me crazy.

This pause also challenged me to gaze deeply into my own inner landscape to discern my own past and present hidden addictions. It is encouraging to see that the Spirit of God has given victory over some of the past. But others linger, and here are two.

I think I have an inordinate draw to world news—like I can’t get enough of it. My desire to stay on top of global events, to “read the times” has sucked me into too many international news sites. So I am fasting in this area.

Overdosed on news; so little to nourish the soul if any

Technology, even new stuff, has not really been a problem to me, but the iPhone presents some new challenges. So I purpose NOT to carry it into the bedroom. We have a land-line phone for that.

iPhone and I, friends and adversaries

And the list of others, some more acceptable to the public and others hidden. You know what they are, for others and for you.

I fear that too many of my friends and colleagues are deeply bound by the hidden addiction of travel, even when they see the price their own family pays. This is distressing, and it reveals the power of the addiction. Take it from this elder: you WILL pay for this, some day, some how, and you will regret not having changed.

Why do even I think I am so vital to the Cause?

What can you do then?

I am convinced that every one of my world mission friends and colleagues would benefit from asking a trusted counselor-mentor to evaluate their travel schedule. Why is this that travel has such addictive power? Perhaps it’s because it gives us significance far from the mundane of our home, family and local life. Because it takes us out of the nitty-gritty stuff of parenting, fathering, husbanding. Because there is a kick to travel, especially the longer-term variety. Because travel, or being gone from home, for some of you has now become the “new normal” and being home the “ab-normal”. This simply reveals a pathology of the soul.

The world and I a click away

Years ago, when my elder daughter, Christine, was still in high school, I returned from one of my self-important trips, gave her a hug, but she simply asked, “When are you leaving again?” That comment stung me; I immediately went to my office, deeply disturbed; I took out the commitment calendar for the next year and began calling people, explaining that I would have to cancel my trips. I was honest with them and explained what was happening. It was gratifying that not a single church or mission leader criticized my decision; to the contrary, they affirmed it.

In that context, Yvonne and I began crafting a series of practical guidelines that would control acceptance of commitments that would take me away. Here they are, updated as of today.
Bill Taylor guidelines for travel and ministry commitments

Just let me travel SOMEWHERE important

1. Never accept an invitation until after two full days. Gove time for the invitation to germinate, to evaluate and listen to my peer mentors. If the invitation is related to TGC or the MC, I ask my Austin accountability team, Kyle and Brian to give wisdom.

2. Listen to Yvonne as my first-line accountability person who knows me deeply.

3. Listen to the Holy Spirit, gut-level, “rightness” of it. Be wary of some requests—test my motives and the temptation to accept an invitation. Let the invitation pass the “smell test”.

4. Consider responding with a “yes” but only if it:
4.1 Fits our commitment to the re-naming, calling and ministry platform TaylorGlobalConsult
4.2 Fits within the MC vision. It must clearly contribute to the advance of Christ’s kingdom.
4.3 Contributes to our financial support team and new financial streams

5. Determine the budget from the inviting organization for travel and honoraria.

6. Do not let my travel alone take me more than 20% of the nights per year and with a rare exception, no trip more than two weeks in length per year. If Yvonne travels with me, then the length of travel can be extended but only if she feels the trip has value-added to her.

7. Watch my health. I must decline invitations that exhaust me “getting there” or cause sickness once there. My medical doctor has a list of off-limit nations for me. Never make a back-to-back international trip without at least 10 days of down time in between. Recovery from jet lag now takes twice as long.

8. When I return from an extended trip, realize that I rightfully have “time off” at home to be totally present to Yvonne and home, as well as “down time” to recuperate from travel. Do not shy away from days of rest, recreation and recuperation.

9. Try to avoid all travel in April (family birthdays) and December. I commit to be home for our anniversary (June 30) and Yvonne’s birthday (October 26).

10. If people want my services as a consultant, ask them travel to Austin. If I travel, they pay expenses and per diem expenses or an honorarium.

May God have mercy on us and forgive us. May we have the courage to name the beast of the hidden addictions and break the cycle before it is too late. Get accountable and stay accountable. Some of you just won’t change because the addiction is a bondage! But some of you will change, thanks be to God.

Grappling with God

May 19 / Bill

A recent webinar on missionary attrition and retention

May 19, 2011

I am committed to finishing off the reflections on hidden addictions, so stay tuned. But recently I was baptized into a new technology, the “webinar”. I know about them; have seen them work; but have never done one. Thanks to David Mays of The Mission Exchange, on May 12 I presented an hour of visualized talk (with Power Point) and then about 20 minutes of Q&A.  It was a great growth experience for me, and I already know some of the changes I would make for the future.  Evaluations by the 65 or so participants were generally encouraging, but I must improve.

So thanks to Steve Moore and David Mays for encouraging me and opening up this door.

And this is what I presented, with a chance for others to order the webinar on line through TheMissionExchange.

 

May 12 – Candid Reflections on Missionary Attrition and Retention – Global Stories and Implications

Bill Taylor, Senior Mentor for the Mission Commission, World Evangelical Alliance

Aug 18 – Reset Dialog Feed-Forward Report

Steve Moore, President and CEO, The Mission Exchange

All webinars are 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. eastern time.  See registration instructions below.

Candid Reflections on Missionary Attrition and Retention – Global Stories and Implications

In this webinar, Bill will take us on a visit to study the “topography” of missionary attrition and retention, sharing stories, key insights and outcomes of two international studies. He will elucidate some of key lessons and applications that will help mission-minded churches and agencies reduce attrition and increase retention.  He will also suggest three print resources for your use.

Bill speaks on these issues coming from a combined data base of 45 years of personal ministry, countless case studies, and two major international research studies, ReMAP I (on missionary attrition) and ReMAP II (on retention).

At the end of the day our concern is not with theoretical issues that foster longer-term mission service. The key issue is that we are dealing with people’s lives, with families, with wives and husbands, with children of all ages. The primary concern is not the institution but the people.

Bill Taylor was born in Latin America and served there for 17 years in leadership development and church planting. He has been the Executive Director of the Missions Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance. He is now a Senior Mentor.  He also coordinates its publications and co-leads its global missiology teams. His experience and training equip him uniquely with a global perspective, serving the worldwide mission movement in both Global North and South. Bill is founder and CEO of TaylorGlobalConsult, a new ministry that allows him to focus on mentoring, speaking, consulting, writing and teaching

Webinar Registration Instructions

•     Log in at www.TheMissionExchange.org.

•     If you do not already have one, create a profile by clicking the New Visitor Registration Link.

•     Once you have completed your profile and received an e-mail confirmation; login using your e-mail address and password and proceed to the online store.

•     Select the Webinar or Event by clicking on the title and follow the purchase process.

•     If this is your first webinar click here for some additional information.