Friday, September 28, 2007
THE TOM WADDELL INTERVIEW
Tom and Linda Waddell worked in the Bolivian Diocese for a couple of years as SAMS missionaries, before moving on. They helped us understand the importance of building communities through self help and micro enterprise programmes.
Tom introduced me to the issue of development in missions and got me into the writings of William Easterly. I miss his fellowship in Bolivia. He agreed to do an interview with the Bolivian Beat and so here it is:
1. WHEN & HOW DID YOU BECOME A CHRISTIAN ?
I finally yielded to the “Hound of Heaven” in June 1968 at the age of 23. I had been considering the Christian faith for some time, trying to reconcile what I understood Christianity to be and my training in science. I was sitting in at a youth conference when I was struck by the text: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. Let no man come to the Father except through me.” My eyes and heart were opened. I dedicated my life to Christ. And my life has not been the same since.
2. WHO INFLUENCED YOU IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST? WAS THERE A BOOK WHICH MADE A IMPACT ON YOU?
I was particularly influenced by the work of L’Abri, the ministry of Francis Schaeffer. An individual who had studied there walked along side me as I asked questions and pondered the Christian faith with its implications. The books of Francis Schaeffer (e.g. The God Who is There & Escape from Reason) and C.S. Lewis, especially Mere Christianity, were very influential in shaping my understanding and thinking.
3. WHAT GOT YOU INTERESTED IN DEVELOPMENT? WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO SERVE IN THIS AREA?
While pursuing a M.Div. degree in seminary, I took a class in Biblical Anthropology and Missions. In doing research for a paper, I came across literature in the emerging area of Christian Relief and Development. The more I read and studied, the more my heart was drawn to undertaking some sort of ministry in this area. It was only then that I saw how God was weaving together my background in economics and business with theology in preparing me for a holistic ministry (word and deed) to the poor.
God’s compassion for the poor and disenfranchised continues to drive my motivation to help make a difference in building the Kingdom of God.
4. HOW DOES ONE BREAK THE CYCLE OF DEPENDANCY BETWEEN THE DONOR AND RECIPIENT?
This is a very challenging question. Donors first need to see themselves as partners and then understand better the nature of poverty and what it means to be poor, especially the notion of “poverty of being” that typically characterizes the poor. We need to be wiser in how to share our resources. The poor do not want handouts; they want skills and opportunity.
We need to work harder to uncover and harness the gifts the poor bring to the table and seek to build capacity and self-sufficiency. Thus, we need to have the poor participate in any development efforts, not simply be the recipients. We need to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy dependency.
5. YOU RECOVERED BY GOD'S GRACE FROM A MAJOR HEART SURGERY EARLY THIS YEAR. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THIS EXPERIENCE?
I learned to think twice before praying: Create in me a clean heart, O God! But really, such an experience reinforced the sense of fragility that characterizes each of our lives. In the final analysis, I was reminded that I am dependent on God for the gift of life each new day and for every breath he allows me to take. It also reminded me about the importance of redeeming whatever time God has provided for me. While I was very much at peace about the possibility of going to be with the Lord in heaven, I am grateful for another season to work in his vineyard.
Thank you Tom for this interview!!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Words and photos don't do justice to the scenic beauty of Bolivia.
The Noel Kempf park is witness to the Lord's aesthetic and creative attributes. Natural beauty can sometimes bring one to their knees in worship. Bolivia, for many reasons, has not exploited fully the tremendous potential of attracting tourists and nature lovers to visit and explore places like the Noel Kempf park.
This photo was taken from El Deber, 27/09/07
Sunday, September 23, 2007
SHOULD PREACHERS CITE THEIR SOURCES?
I went to a traditional mega church for Sunday service. The rain did not douse my enthusiasm for wanting to go. My wife and I jumped into a taxi and made our way to the church.
It was stewardship Sunday. I was impressed by the flow of the service. The sermon and the challenge to give by faith was tastefully done. There was no heavy sell and the congregation were not manipulated or forced to give. The amount raised, a cool six figures, was staggering!
But what left me uncomfortable was the absence of citations in the sermon. Half the content was lifted from a secular book. The same phrases and words were used. Even the title of the book coincided with the title of the sermon!
What's the problem in not citing the source of a major insight in one's sermon. Not doing so is plagiarism. And besides, doesn't citing a source give the impression to the congregation that the sermon is well researched?
Inspite of this lapse, the message was edifying: persevere in all the little things which eventually tip the Lord's blessing toward us. A meatier biblical content would have given the message a bigger punch.
I'm a little puzzled as to why the source was not cited during the preaching.
Is this a common practice in Singapore churches?
Saturday, September 22, 2007
GOING TO BOLIVIA 7
Going To Bolivia 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5, 6
A BOLIVIAN MACEDONIAN CALL
In my last post I recounted my experience at a Tuesday clergy meeting at St Andrew's Cathedral where the national director, Rev Greg Blaxland, of the Anglican Church in Bolivia shared the needs of the fledgling work. He also made a passionate appeal to those present about the possibility of serving in Bolivia.
Was Greg Blaxland's appeal an open door? this was like an unexpected answer to prayer! Light had broken through the grey clouds of ambiguity which had bogged me down for the past year.
I left the Cathedral and headed for home. Michelle, my wife and faithful friend, needed to brought into this discernment process. She would need time to assimilate this unexpected development.
As expected, Michelle looked dumbfounded as I shared my experience at the clergy meeting. She had already sensed that the Lord was going to move us but was not expecting something of this magnitude. We talked at great length about our lives and the future. The conversation flowed freely. She had many questions about Elijah’s well being and his education. She was interested in the details. I had none to offer except this overwhelming sense of the need to answer God’s call to serve somewhere in Latin America.
A SPECIAL PEACE
We did not even know where Bolivia was on the map! We took a short 1 hour break and continued to talk about the implications of a decision to move to Latin America. It was getting late, way past our normal bedtime.
We were both, lying on the bed, and wide awake – thinking, praying and meditating. At 2 am in the morning, Michelle, turned toward me in the bed, looked me in the eye and said with faith, Maybe God has called us to Bolivia. I will never forget her remark because it was made in humility, like the offering of the widow’s mite. The atmosphere in the bedroom suddenly changed. It was as if we had crossed some sort of a spiritual boundary. There was nothing more to say or do. The Lord’s hand was over us over us. The only thing left to do was to get some rest.
Just before I went to sleep…my mind alerted me to the next step: sharing with Bishop Moses Tay about this sense of calling to Bolivia. I needed to rest and not think too much about what to say to him or his reaction...A part of me was anxious about this inevitable encounter (read the next post to find out why).
Sunday, September 16, 2007
by Terry Anderson
Today I preached at St Andrew's Cathedral and shared the Eucharist with God's people. The eucharist, a sacred meal, instituted by Christ, is a living testimony of Christ's covenant keeping love for His people.
To help us appreciate the significance of the eucharist I've chosen a poem by Terry Anderson which is a meditation of believers anxiously gathering around a priest as he consecrates the elements of bread and wine within an oppressive situation.
Five men huddled close
against the night and our oppressors,
around a bit of stale bread
hoarded from a scantly meal,
and a candle, lit not only as
a symbol but to read the text by.
The priest's as poorly clad.
as drawn with strain as any,
but his voice is calm, his face serene.
This is the core of his existence,
the reason he was born.
Behind him I can see
his predecessors in their generations,
back to the catacombs,
heads nodding in approval,
hands with his tracing
out the stately ritual,
adding the power of their suffering
and faith to his, and ours.
the ancient words shake off
their dust, and come alive.
The voices of their authors
echo clearly from the damp, bare walls.
The familiar prayers come
straight out of our hearts.
Once again Christ's promise
is fulfilled; his presence fills us.
The miracle is real.
Monday, September 10, 2007
ALLAN GARDINER - MISSIONER, SAILOR & MARTYR (1794-1851)
WHO IS ALLAN GARDINER?
Many of us, within the Asian mission fraternity, have never heard of Allan Gardiner. We are familiar with Hudson Taylor, William Carey, Robert Morrison, Mateo Ricci, Sadhu Sundar Singh etcc..
Allan Gardiner, was founder of the Anglican mission society South American Mission Society. He, a naval captain, travelled to Asia and Africa. His passion was to see the gospel proclaimed to the indigenous people of South America.
INSPIRATIONAL LAST WORDS
He died tragically on the coast of the Tierra Del Fuego, the tip of South America in his attempt to reach the Yagan Indians with the gospel. The ship which brought him to South American coast was destroyed by bad weather. He and his friends scrambled to the beach and were left stranded in a hostile environment. The Yagan indians, the people Gardiner was trying to reach, attacked them. Gardiner and his team, weakened by hunger and cold weather, finally died.
He kept a diary of his last days; here are some words from a letter he penned, just before he died, to his family:
If a wish was given to me for the good of my neighbor it would be that the Mission inTierra Del Fuego be pursued with vigor. Butt he Lord will direct and do everything because time and reason are His, your hearts are in His hands...".
Gardiner was an amazing man. His ability to bounce back from rejection, especially in Africa and Britain is inspirational. He, not unlike the apostle Paul and other missionary heroes, had the mysterious grace to derive energy from opposition, hardship and rejection.
He did not attract much attention nor garner much support in his attempts to proclaim the gospel in South America. His death however sent shockwaves in Britain as people gathered around the cause of sending missionaries to South America.
Allan Gardiner's death raised the profile of the South American Mission Society (SAMS) and gave it an impetus it never had while he was alive. He was a martyr in the fullest sense of the word. It is my priviledge to share his story and connect him to the Church in Asia through this blog and sermons.
His sacrifice prepared the way for many to serve in Latin America, including me. His death was not in vain. And for that we praise the Lord!!
Sunday, September 09, 2007
It was a busy Sunday.
I preached at 4 services - 3 at St James and 1 at St Andrew's Cathedral.
St James are focusing on Missions for the month of September. So I chose the episode of Christ crossing the lake over to the Gerasenes, a predominantly gentile region. Jews and Gentiles were'nt exactly bosom buddies in those days. And by crossing the lake, Jesus was signalling His intention to reach out to the nations. This episode has all the components of a no holds barred evangelistic campaign. The calming of the storm, a powerful act of deliverance and rejection from the locals are some of the incidents of this episode. The recognition of something of the divine in Christ on the part of the demons, the disciples and the man freed from satanic oppression testify to the power of proclamation!!
In the evening, I preached on the first chapter of Jonah in the NEW LIFE service at St Andrew's Cathedral. The missionary significance of this marvellous short story and the conversion of pagan mariners speaks powerfully of God's love reaching the nations.
ANOTHER SINGAPOREAN GOES TO BOLIVIA!
Meet Gerald Lim. He's at the centre of the photo on your right.
He's from Yio Chu Kang Chapel (Brethren). Gerald will be working with another Singaporean missionary, Mr Loh Hoe Peng, in Cochabamba.
Last week friends, well wishers and church members were at Changi airport to see him off.
I am of course thrilled with Gerald's desire to serve in Bolivia.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
SAMUEL DORIA MEDINA & BURGER KING
NO...this is not a Burger King sponsored post!
Samuel Doria Medina is a Bolivian hero because his business interests have by and large benefitted Bolivia. He owns a cement company and holds the Burger King franchise in Bolivia. Several years ago he was kidnapped by terrorists but was released. His decision to stay on in Bolivia and build his business interests are noteworthy. Local businessmen and entrepreuners, when not corrupt and self seeking, are a blessing to the community. They provide jobs and a sense of security for the average BolivianBurger King's staying power in Bolivia is worth a plug in contrast to another famous worldwide burger chain. This burger chain descended on Bolivia about 5 years ago amidst lots of fanfare and publicity. They opened up retail outlets in major Bolivian cities. Massive crowds and long queues clogged up these outlets in the first few weeks of operation. After nearly 3 years, they felt they were not making enough profits and decided to pull out completely from Bolivia. Kids started a signature campaign in attempt to make this burger chain say. They went ahead, sold all their belongings, packed their bags and left.
Burger King however stayed on. This speaks volumes of their commitment to Bolivia's economy and its communities. Samuel's leadership is behind Burger King's continued presence in Bolivia. And that's why Samuel Doria Medina is a Bolivian hero.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Going To Bolivia 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5
CONTEMPLATING A BIG STEP
1991 was a turning point.
My time in All Saints as Pastor was coming an end. Although I was their longest serving pastor, I knew that the Lord was leading me to another part of the vineyard. He was giving me insights and thoughts which were related to God’s wider plan for Michelle, Elijah and I.
The next step, I sensed would probably involve me leaving Singapore. Was the Lord asking me to pursue theological studies overseas? The only other unexplored dimension was a calling to serve Him in Latin America. And that sounded like a pie-in-the-sky idea. My personal conviction of remaining in the Anglican Church had also not waned. All these thoughts were bumping into on another in my heart. Integrating them on a human level seemed an impossible task. I felt overwhelmed. Thinking about these matters was frustrating because there seemed to be no visible opportunities or clear signs to chart a new course. What on earth was He up to? It can be quite stressful to understand the Lord’s ways!
THE BIG STEP FINALLY REVEALED
I went to a Tuesday clergy meeting in May 1991, burdened by weight of figuring out the Lord’s will for myself. We met at the South Transept in St Andrew’s Cathedral. I took a seat near Bishop Moses Tay. A Caucasian man was seated on his right. He turned out to be Rev Greg Blaxland, the national director of the Anglican work in Bolivia. Sy Rogers, a counselor trained in the area of homosexual reparative therapy was the other guest. Sy was the first to share and he did an interesting presentation on homosexuality from a Christian perspective response.
Greg Blaxland’s sharing was simple, short and straight forward. He talked at length about Bolivia and its challenges. His comments about Bolivian self esteem spoke to pastoral heart. Bolivia had lost most of its wars and gave up huge tracts of land to neighboring countries. Greg closed his sharing with a Macedonian call for help. Bolivia needed trained clergy to serve as missionaries in Bolivia. He looked at us earnestly and then placed a stack of calling cards at the edge of the table. We were invited to take his card at the end of the meeting and speak to him. In all my years of attending clergy meetings, this was probably the first time someone made an appeal to the clergy to pursue a missionary calling.
Joy In My Heart
Greg’s words made my mind swirl and heart beat faster. I was overwhelmed and excited; it was as if an invitation had been extended to board the train of the Lord's eternal purpose. Although I was caught totally off guard by Blaxland's appeal I knew the door to Latin America was beginning to open ever so slowly. It was tempting to speak to Greg and take his greeting card. I felt however that it was still premature to go public; Michelle, my wife, needed to be filled in first.
The clergy meeting ended at about 11 .15 am. I wanted to leave quickly, go home and start sharing with Michelle.
I left the Cathedral with joy in my heart.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
SHOULD KOREAN CHURCHES STOP ALL MISSIONARY ACTIVITIES IN
Press reports have not been charitable to the Korean hostages; the Korean church has also come under criticism. Questions are being asked:
Why did they expose themselves to danger?
Why did they put their nation and loved ones through so much anxiety?
Why did their government have to put up a ransom for their release (in doing so they only encouraged their captors to repeat their actions!)?
Are Korean churches competing amongst themselves over the quantity of members in missionary teams?
Were some team members not honest with their loved ones concerning their involvement in this missionary team?
Answers to these questions will no doubt provoke comments, accusations and a wide variety of opinions.
There was one report which suggested the departure of all Korean missionaries from Afghanistan as part of a deal which was reached between the Taliban and the negotiators.
Perhaps the Korean Church needs to evaluate their mission strategies and philosophy, especially in high risk areas like Afghanistan. If necessary a temporary halt of missionary activity might be prudent at this point.
Abandoning mission work completely in these high risk areas however is a grave mistake. To do so would be to devalue the martyrdom of the two hostages. They were brave men who gave up their lives for the sake of the gospel. We cannot but obey the great commission even if it means the risk of death or the loss of life. Paul's missionary journeys were fraught with danger. Are we to expect easier treatment from the enemy?
CORRECT ERRORS IN HUMILITY AND MOVE ON
To the brethren in Korea I say: humble yourselves, do some soul searching in the light of God's word and learn from the mistakes. You will come out this experience wiser and stronger in the Lord.
And one more observation: the villains in this episode were NOT the Korean missionary team but the Taliban. They are the ones who kidnap innocent people and murder the defenceless whose only "offense" is to improve the well being of the ordinary Afghan.
The missionary impetus of the Korean Churches to reach the lost is an inspiration to all of us, especially in the Asian Church.