Friday, December 26, 2008
No, I have not given up blogging! I miss blogging but time as the saying goes, waits for no man.
Work in the parish of Christ Church and responding to my FACEBOOK account has eaten into my time.
Hope to have more time in 2009 (Sounds like a lot of wishful thinking!!)
Thursday, December 25, 2008
A Christmas Carol poem- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The shepherds went their hasty way,And found the lowly stable-shed Where the Virgin-Mother lay: And now they checked their eager tread,For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,A Mother's song the Virgin-Mother sung.
They told her how a glorious light,Streaming from a heavenly throng.Around them shone, suspending night!While sweeter than a mother's song,Blest Angels heralded the Savior's birth,Glory to God on high! and Peace on Earth.
She listened to the tale divine,And closer still the Babe she pressed:And while she cried, the Babe is mine!The milk rushed faster to her breast:Joy rose within her, like a summer's morn;Peace, Peace on Earth! the Prince of Peace is born.
Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,Poor, simple, and of low estate!That strife should vanish, battle cease,O why should this thy soul elate?Sweet Music's loudest note, the Poet's story,Didst thou ne'er love to hear of fame and glory?
And is not War a youthful king,A stately Hero clad in mail?Beneath his footsteps laurels spring;Him Earth's majestic monarchs hailTheir friends, their playmate! and his bold bright eye Compels the maiden's love-confessing sigh.
Tell this in some more courtly scene,To maids and youths in robes of state!I am a woman poor and mean,And wherefore is my soul elate.War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,That from the aged father's tears his child!
A murderous fiend, by fiends adored,He kills the sire and starves the son;The husband kills, and from her boardSteals all his widow's toil had won;Plunders God's world of beauty; rends awayAll safety from the night, all comfort from the day.
Then wisely is my soul elate,That strife should vanish, battle cease:I'm poor and of low estate,The Mother of the Prince of Peace.Joy rises in me, like a summer's morn:Peace, Peace on Earth! The Prince of Peace is born!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Michelle and Elijah met up with a group of South Americans in Singapore and yakked away in Spanish with them.
I was caught up with work and could not be a part of this event.
Victory Family Centre, a dynamic church dedicated to missions and outreach, is trying to reach out to Spanish speaking folk through their missionaries who served in South America!
Ten years ago the idea of Spanish speaking Singaporeans
reaching out to Latin Americans would have been unthinkable!
Its amazing - the world has shrunk.
Michelle and Elijah enjoyed themselves thoroughly.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
DRIVING, SANTA CRUZ
The clogged intersection is a vivid reminder as to how crazy it can get in the roads of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. There are no traffic lights in some of these places. The result is congestion, jams and fearless driving!
Driving thru this maze requires skill and a gung ho atitude. I kinda miss it!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.
-- William Shakespeare
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Voice for the Voiceless
Jan 1926 - Sept 2008
I recieved news of JB Jeyaretnam's death through a SMS at a meeting. I was shocked because of the suddeness of his passing away.
Life seemed fragile. A great man had died. A heart attack was the cause, I found out later.
He was not a stranger to my family. Scenes of our past encounters flashed through my mind: a chance meeting in a lift; bumping into one another in the streets; discussions in church, buying his book.
We met several years ago. I was as a young deacon in St Andrews Cathedral. He was a server and carried the cross during the procession at the 8am service. He had an easy smile and fulfilled his duties with sobriety and dedication. We chatted about family and life in general. I lost contact with him after leaving the Cathedral. He will certainly be missed.
Jeyaretnam was a special man who pulled no punches, especially when locked in debate with his political opponents. The parliamentary debates between him and MM Lee were riveting. He gained their respect for his tenacity and perserverance in the face of huge obstacles and attacks. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a very unusual gesture, mentioned Jeyaretnam in a parliamentary speech as a positive example sticking it out in Singapore through thick and thin.
Singapore is no paradise, especially for the poor. It has its fair share of people who struggle to eke out a daily living. And believe me these people struggle! They do not win scholarships nor are they given medals during national day celebrations. Wealth is supposed to trickle down to them. And sometimes this trickle is a literal trickle, crumbs from the table. Without these strugglers a wealthy economy is only an idea in a textbook.
Falling through the cracks the marginalized face isolation and poverty, they dont fit into a fast moving urban city nor are they selling points of a successful system. You seldom see them in church on Sundays. They're busy working, hustling for every cent in order to meet basic needs and pays the bills. Its easy to sideline the poor as part of a "small" social category and claim the sanctimonious priority of keeping one's eye on the whole picture of a nation's prosperity. Strange how the whole picture seems to benefit only a certain sector.
Their voices are drowned out by statistics and pragmatic reality. There was a need for someone brave enough to respect their dignity and speak for them. Jeyaretnam was such a man. He speak up for them. Seah Chiang Nee a former journalist characterizes him as someone ready to fight for the ordinary folk, especially the poor:
The greatest loss is felt by lower-income people who feel left out by “elitist” policies that cater more for profits than their welfare.
This class of people regards Jeyaretnam, a long-time socialist, as someone who genuinely cared and was ready to fight for the ordinary folk, especially the poor.
JBJ Jeyaretnam, voice for the voiceless.
His speeches and work as a politician arose out of a conviction that the weak and oppressed needed to be looked after and empowered. Man is not a digit in the economy but a sacred being made in the image of God and worthy of treatment befitting his dignity.
He was a patriot - a citizen fulfilling our Lord's calling to love our neighbour.
His legacy? I'd like to think of him as a voice for the voiceless.
By David W. Virtue
You would think that British-born theologian Dr. J. I. Packer - a man with impeccable Anglican credentials, multiple accolades, numerous books and now in his 82nd year -- might just be permitted to kick back and listen to Jazz music (his favorite), write more theological tomes and exempt himself from the current culture wars in the Anglican Communion.
Not a chance.
The distinguished octogenarian Canadian, Anglican, theologian, teacher, author and priest, has experienced the culture wars first hand. At the age of 81 and with more than 60 years as a priest in the Church of England and the Anglican Church of Canada, he experienced the shock of being defrocked by a revisionist Canadian Anglican bishop and then re-ordained by an orthodox Anglican Archbishop from another jurisdiction.
A lesser man might have had heart failure and shuffled off to glory.
But this thoughtful, quiet, seemingly under-stated theologian has a rod of iron spine and a clarity of vision and purpose about the gospel and church that shines forth from the pages of his books, from his life, from the pulpit and from within the sometimes messy confines of a press conference.
In Virginia, this past weekend, he was the keynote speaker at the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) ( a division of CANA's) second annual Synod Council at the Church of the Epiphany in Herndon. Packer ripped a proposed covenant that would include "heretics" as an unworkable solution to holding the Anglican Communion together, saying that a North American Anglican Province was absolutely necessary for orthodox Anglicans in the US and Canada.
He hinted darkly that the GAFCON Primates might be forced to form their own Anglican Communion, free of the heresies of Western Anglicanism sunk in the mire of Tillichian Christianity foisted on the West by the German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher.
"Because of liberalism, the sort of liberalism that came into the church from the end of the 19th century into the 20th century, it was never challenged and corrected. If there is a weakness in historic Anglicanism it is a willingness to tolerate the intolerable and that has betrayed us. Tillich's position affected all the seminaries of North America. This is where we are today in the West."
In the pulpit and at a later press conference where VOL posed a number of questions, Packer put into perspective what he saw as the current state of affairs in the Anglican Communion today.
Question: What hope do you have in a Covenant as a solution to holding the Anglican Communion together?
Packer: I don't think it can be the solution as the matter is being handled from Canterbury, because the Covenant is being handled to include and provide for the heretics in the church and de facto what is coming out of the hopper is being drafted to keep everyone inside who are also outside of historic diocesan structures.
The liberals are maintaining positions not tolerable and need to be explicitly excluded in any future working basis. I am not thrilled at the process going on. From Rowan Williams' standpoint nothing else needs to be done. His position sympathizes with the heretics and he doesn't want appear to be dragging his feet. He doesn't want to see Anglicanism restructured or redefined so as to leave those people out. He encourages the covenant process, at the same time the covenant will be exclusive of some.
(Historically) what happened in the 19th century is that bishops and the archbishops of Canterbury began a pattern of tolerance with a standard of tolerance that became (over time) a virulent liberalism because of the teaching of (German-American) theologian Paul Tillich. Episcopal leadership has been ruined from that day to this.
This has been going on in TEC and CofE for the last half century and is something like suicide. It is a process of ensuring that the life is drained out of the church and the leaders do this by encouraging various forms of liberalism. This does not communicate life and it doesn't build up congregations, it only weakens and shrinks them.
Question: Are you in favor of a new Anglican province in North America?
Packer: Yes, I am and I hope that the movement that is underway is a non-geographic one both for the U.S. and Canada. I believe it is going to succeed. We must make it succeed. I hope it would be recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It will certainly be recognized by the majority of primates of the Anglican Communion.
(CANA missionary Bishop Martyn Minns said he hopes the Communion will recognize it. He said it would function like a province and work coherently and be recognized by GAFCON groups. Asked about a time line, Minns said a proposal would be submitted to the GAFCON Primates Council by the end of this year. It will be a short time line. By early next year recognition will come, he said.)
Question: What is your opinion of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury? Do you have any regrets calling for the resignation of Rowan Williams?
Packer: The Archbishop of Canterbury is an honest man and by being honest he has positioned himself over a barrel, and as long as he is the ABC he will be over the barrel. Is it comfortable? No. Is it helpful for the world Anglican fellowship? Again, no.
Yes, he has admitted before becoming ABC that he said and did things, which sanctioned gay unions. When he become ABC, he said as far as the gospel is concerned, he was going to fulfill the role of the champion of Anglican order and the Lambeth Conference.
The '98 conference declared itself categorically against homosexual unions and homosexual activity and anonymous marriage and the ABC said he must and will uphold the standard. But his moral credibility is shot. The gay way is ruinous in all sorts of ways. Anglicans have rightly to be concerned about this.
Personally he is not in a position to being himself or to encourage or bring discipline on bishops with such a point of view that he embraces himself. So he is over a barrel. It seems to me the best way out that the Holy Scripture recommends as wisdom is that following this Lambeth, he should be finished as archbishop and move back into the academic world. He is a fine scholar. There are many institutions that would be glad to have him on their faculties.
Question (from VOL): Do you see GAFCON as a possible alternative Anglican Communion?
Packer: Speaking very cautiously, the answer is yes. One possibility will be that the orthodox Anglican communities will be organized in a fellowship which has GAFCON roots and has as its center the leadership of the Primates.
The churches of the old West are unable to enter that circle. We cannot walk together with heretics. These folk in the northern western world are heretics. What that means for the Church of England and provinces deeply infected with a lesser form of liberalism and what that means for the churches of North America is beyond me to guess. There is a sorting out going on and we shall all come out of the hopper better.
Question: What is your assessment of the Charismatic Movement?
Packer: I have assessed the Charismatic Movement and taking and looking at it piece by piece, the Charismatics really believe in exuberant praise. Praising the Lord is a central aspect of worship. It is a delightful activity, a powerful activity and the effect is charismatic. Am I cool to the charismatic movement? Oh no, I am not cool to the Charismatic Movement. I am very grateful for it, because it brought praise and giving glory to God. It is a group, corporate and needed in our personal lives. We need the Charismatic Movement to come and show us that.
Asked by VOL if this was a paradigm shift in his thinking from his Reformed theology, Packer said no. "This is not a paradigm shift. We (evangelicals) are not in the habit of giving glory to God. Charismatics help us emphasize the glory of God.
Question: Do you have any words of encouragement for the Diocese of Pittsburgh?
Packer: I have three words, VOTE FOR IT. Pittsburgh will be No. 3 diocese to leave The Episcopal Church. I hope they do come under Archbishop of the Southern Cone into a world of sunshine and peace.
Question: Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori says there are no goats, all are saved. Do you believe that?
Packer: Bishops should be guided by the teaching of the Bible. The Bible standard is that the human condition is lost and that we are without Christ. The Bible recognizes that there are those who are not saved. All of that determines our view. Faith in Christ is the path of salvation and without faith in Christ we are not in position to say anyone is saved.
DURING the course of his sermon, Dr. Packer said the following things that VOL believes are quotable and usable quotes:
"Our calling is be faithful and energetic in our walking and keep on keeping on...it is a life of steady walking..."
"We are walking home to heaven. We walk in company in, with, and under the Lord Jesus Christ..."
"The life of communion with God and with Christ is the path of holiness..."
"There are three questions we must ask when we read Scripture: "What does this tell me about God? What does it tell me about life's ups and downs, and what does this to say to me about my life today."
"Theology is for everyone...it is thinking together under the authority of scripture. It means we have access to God and we believe in the sovereignty of the living God."
"The glory of the Trinity as the divine team - Father Son and Holy Spirit...we praise the Trinity. "
"The sinfulness of sin cannot be over-emphasized. The world is convinced that the individual is basically good. We need to hammer away that we are sinners and the gospel is Good News for bad people."
"The Gospel stresses the sinfulness of sin and stresses the glory of Jesus Christ. He is loving, serving, ministering and going to the cross to bear our sins away."
"Don't be afraid of penal substitution...it is Christ in our place..."
"Penal means he endures the penalty of our sin. He takes the sort of separation from God that impenitent sinners face. He bears this.
"The lord lays on him the iniquity of us all..."
"Our guilt goes to him. His righteousness...and we start over with God...our sins are forgiven...our past is blotted out..."
"Stress the graciousness of his salvation...the supernaturalness of his church of being born again.
"Stress that God moves to draw near to us..."
"The hope of heaven should be stressed..."
"Stress the glory of God in creation, providence and grace."
"Glory is God's self disclosure."
"Praise to God for the praiseworthiness He deserves...God is adorable let us praise His name."
Packer said that catechizing had fallen out of use in teaching children. Kids can learn the basics of the faith from the age of 3. They can learn what their heavenly father can do.
"Christian doctrine is not a series of abstractions...."
"We become life-long teachers and life-long learners..."
"You never come to the end of the realities that Scripture presents to us. Keep learning and keep on applying what you learn to life."
ON BISHOPS: "When bishops are good value, they are very good value. When bishops become heretical, then parallel jurisdictions become favorable. As tensions increase for faithful Anglican congregations, they must come under helpful new bishops."
"Bishops are overseers of pastoral ministry in stated areas. That used to be the Anglican way. Episcopal oversight has had to be set up geographically alongside of Anglican pastoral structures in the same geographic area because of the present situation."
ON METHODS OF TEACHING:
"Monologue is basic."
"Q & A is the form of catechetical answer."
ON THE PRESENT SITUATION:
"I have re-aligned. CANA is part of the realignment. We are being overseen by Southern part of South America..."
"God is using the present situation to squeeze the liberal leadership out of the Anglican Communion..."
"We need to restore a sense of mission in a truly pagan world..."
"We are to be counter cultural..."
"We are called to live as the Early Church did...in the world we won't be understood."
"We are new creatures in Christ..."
"I see this as a temporary phase until Anglicanism restored to its former glory."
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Here is a picture of mobs, followers of the government, entering the periphery of Santa Cruz with sticks and weapons.
Armed groups in Santa Cruz are ready to engage these mobs in violent confrontations.
This threat of a violent clash between the government and the civic authorities in Santa Cruz forms the backdrop to continuing negotiations between the Government and opposition groups, led by Santa Cruz.
All of Bolivia is hoping and praying for a settlement which will bring to an end this seemingly never ending conflict between the highlands and the lowlands.
Oh dear...in my great enthusiasm I gave the mistaken impression, in my previous post, that the government and the opposition from the lowlands signed an agreement to bring an end to the social upheaval in Bolivia.
Actually they only agreed to an agenda for negotiations. It was a positive step but the problems remain.
Government's supporters have laid seige to Santa Cruz!
There was a plan to invade and create havoc in the city. By God's grace nothing of the sort happened. The government managed to calm the situation by insisting that their supporters remain in the outer fringes of Santa Cruz and to not do anything.
Meanwhile some sectors in Santa Cruz have armed themselves and are ready for a bloody confrontation. Businesses have reinforced security in their shops. Its tense in Santa Cruz.
Lord have mercy on Bolivia!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Thanks to outside mediation, President Morales and his opponents have agreed to terms which will cool tempers and hopefully bring the current violent upheaval to an end. The terms of the agreement as reported by CNN appears to favor Morales's opponents in the valley and the lowlands.
Thank you for all your prayers.
There are still critical issues which have not been resolved, the approval of the new constitution being one of them but on the whole Bolivia and its adopted sons (I'm one of them!) heave a sight of relief.
The photo above shows the Cardenal Terrazas receiving a copy of the accord from Mario Cossio, the governor of Tarija, which was signed by the goverment and the governors of the various regions. The man seated is the governor of Santa Cruz, Ruben Costas
Friday, September 12, 2008
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer September 13, 2008
BUENOS AIRES -- Bolivia declared martial law Friday in the isolated northern state of Pando, site of violent clashes a day earlier that left at least nine dead and dozens injured.
The move was the government's most dramatic action yet against a wave of violence this week in provinces opposed to the leftist leadership of President Evo Morales. The violence had prompted widespread speculation that the government would declare a national state of siege.
But Friday's announcement was limited to Pando, where the order limits public gatherings, bans protests and imposes a midnight-to-6 a.m. curfew.Morales warned Thursday that "patience has a limit," as his nation endured its third day of clashes and attempted sabotage of natural gas pipelines.
On Friday, amid relative calm, officials signaled that a harder line was likely."We are not going to tolerate any more the actions of radical and violent groups that are only causing confrontations among Bolivians, causing pain and suffering among brothers and threatening the national security," Gen. Luis Trigo, Bolivia's military chief, declared in a statement.
Outnumbered troops and police officers have generally stayed out of the way of violent groups such as those who sacked government buildings in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, a center of opposition to the central government in La Paz. The general also rebuffed an offer of help from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close ally, who this week pledged to come to Bolivia's assistance should Morales face a coup. The armed forces, Trigo said, "emphatically reject foreign interventions of any kind."Across the region, many are worried that the nation of 9 million could veer into civil war.
"There is no question that these conflicts this week have pushed Bolivia farther toward the abyss than at any time since the return of democracy a quarter century ago," Jim Shultz of the Democracy Center, a nongovernment group based in Bolivia, wrote in his blog. "And what makes it so is the absence of any obvious way for it to end."Bolivia is deeply divided even though Morales won 67% of the vote in a national recall referendum last month.
A conservative opposition bloc comprising the leadership of five of Bolivia's nine states is demanding greater autonomy and a larger share of revenue from natural gas and petroleum sales. Most energy fields are situated in opposition strongholds.Both Morales and Chavez have accused Washington of working with right-wing agitators in Bolivia to topple the president, an allegation denied by the Bush administration.Bolivia and Venezuela expelled their U.S. ambassadors this week in protest against Washington. The State Department responded with expulsion of the Bolivian and Venezuelan envoys.On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two Chavez aides and Venezuela's former interior minister, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, for allegedly aiding leftist rebels in Colombia.
Morales was scheduled to meet Friday with opposition Gov. Mario Cossio, of gas-rich Tarija province, in what was described as an effort to head off further conflict. However, the daily La Razon reported that Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera participated instead of Morales."I am completely convinced that this is the last opportunity to begin a process of reconciliation and leave behind the process of confrontation," Cossio told reporters before the meeting.As the unrest eased Friday, an atmosphere of tension remained in much of the country, according to reports from Bolivia.
Road blockades were causing shortages of food and fuel in Santa Cruz. Long lines were reported for diesel and cooking gas.Gov. Ruben Costas of Santa Cruz province, a leading opposition figure, blamed the central government for the shortages, saying Morales' supporters were exacting revenge. Coca growers loyal to Morales were reported to be blocking the main road that links the central city of Cochabama to Santa Cruz. Pando, home to only 60,000 people, is an Amazonian state that borders Brazil and counts nuts and latex among its main products.
Thursday's violent confrontations in Pando resulted in at least nine deaths, the highest toll yet in Bolivia's civil conflict. Media accounts from the isolated zone indicated that most died of gunshot wounds.Unconfirmed reports circulated Friday that six other bodies were found in the Tahuamanu River in Pando.
One government official, Sacha Llorenti, who holds the title of deputy minister for social movements, was quoted in news accounts as labeling the killings a "massacre" by anti-Morales gunmen.
Pando, a small state in Eastern Bolivia (lowlands) was the scene of major confrontation between the government and political and civic leaders from the East.
The government's decision to use the newly won revenues from oil companies as a handout to the elderly and a plan to go ahead with a nationwide referendum to approve the new constitution was the spark that set the lowlands on fire.
The result: 8 ( now 15 )deaths with countless injured.
Eastern Bolivia is now entangled in a violent engagement with the government. Sectors of the local population under the leadership of civic leaders have clashed with police and seized government buildings. The army is on alert. The President's para military are heading toward the East. Its spinning out of control.
Is the stage being set for the final showdown??
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Sep 11, 2008
LA PAZ - PRESIDENT Evo Morales of Bolivia on Wednesday ordered the US ambassador expelled, accusing him of contributing to divisions in the country which the government warned was headed towards 'civil war'.
Ambassador Philip Goldberg was to be sent an official message from the foreign ministry 'informing him of the decision by the national government and its president that he should return to his country at once' and that he was 'persona non grata', Mr Morales said.
The move came amid violence in several regions that Mr Morales's spokesman, Mr Ivan Canelas, said were creating conditions for 'a sort of civil war'.
Anti-government protesters on Tuesday ransacked government offices, and seized oil facilities and three regional airports.
In south-east Bolivia, a gas pipeline was blown up Wednesday in what head of the state energy company YPSL, Mr Santos Ramirez, said was a 'terrorist attack' by anti-government protesters.
The explosion occurred in Yacuiba, near the border with Argentina, causing a cut in natural gas supplies to that country and to Brazil.
The unrest was a worsening of a political conflict between Mr Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, and rebel governors in five of the country's nine states.
The conservative governors are opposing Mr Morales's bid to reform the country along socialist lines designed to benefit the indigenous majority, and are encouraging the protesters in their actions.
They have also made moves towards autonomy, something Mr Morales has branded as illegal. Two weeks ago, he ordered troops to guard gas facilities and government offices in their eastern lowland territories.
In his speech on Wednesday, the president accused the US ambassador of aiding his opponents.
Last month, his foreign ministry protested a high-profile meeting Mr Goldberg held with the governor of Santa Cruz state, Ruben Costas, Morales's chief foe.
The government also noted this week that the head of the Santa Cruz employers' federation, Mr Costas's ally Branko Marinkovic, had just returned from the United States.
In Washington, the US State Department said it had not received a formal order from Bolivia to withdraw its ambassador.
A spokesman, Gordon Duguid, said Mr Morales's charges against Mr Goldberg were 'baseless'. Bolivia, South America's poorest nation, has been in the grip of the contest between Mr Morales and the rebel governors for months, but the risk of widespread violence had up to now been tempered by political moves by both sides.
Last month, a referendum called by Mr Morales delivered a strong confirmation of his leftist mandate, with two-thirds of voters backing him. But in the rebel states, voters also returned most of the governors forming the opposition coalition.
After failed negotiations to find a compromise solution, Mr Morales announced two weeks ago a new referendum, for December 7, to vote on his rewritten constitution, which would redistribute land and national revenues to give more to the indigenous population.
The opposition coalition, which also includes town mayors, have focused their attention on the main source of Bolivia's income: the natural gas fields that lie in their eastern half of the country.
Militants linked to the opposition group set up road blocks to add pressure to the governors' demands for more control over gas revenues.
On Wednesday, pro-Morales supporters did the same, cutting roads from the capital La Paz to Santa Cruz.
The situation has created a divided Bolivia, one riven by ethnic confrontation between the indigenous community and the population in the more prosperous east which is largely of European and mixed descent. -- AFP
Monday, September 08, 2008
Great Food and Good Fellowship
Here we are at a mid week bible study meeting at the Ponniah household. Alfred and Angie Ponniah are active members of the Parish of Christ Church. This is where I'm currently serving in the diocese of Singapore before I return to Bolivia. Alfred and Angie, for the benefit of my foreign friends, are Singaporean Tamils. And if you dont know...Tamils are a ethnic Indian group in Singapore. Many of us are grandchildren of the first wave of Tamil migrants from India.
In the past 12 years or so another huge wave of Tamil expatriates and professionals have come to Singapore, looking to improve their prospects.
The food served at the end of each meeting is exquisite. Very very spicy n tasty.
Friday, September 05, 2008
No, I have not forgotten Bolivia.
My wife, Michelle, recenlty returned from Bolivia with the latest news. Federico Bascunan's (one of the clergy in Santa Cruz) daughter got married to her boyfriend. Michelle also into old friends. Carlie and Simon Thomas. They were the first missionary couple we worked with in Santa Cruz. Simon was very patient with us and a very prayerful person. He is retired. Time flies!
Folk in Santa Cruz miss us. They want to know when we're returning to begin some of the projects we lined up. Hmmmnnn......
The problems in the country continue unabated. The President and the governors of the various states were all re elected in a recall election. Only one anti government governor lost his seat. Evo Morales, the president is now proposing a referendum to approve the new constitution which was drawn up by the Constitutional Assembly. The oppostion in Eastern Bolivia believe the constitution to be flawed because it was never passed in the Assembly with a 75% approval of the delegates.
Positions have hardened. The states in the East are attempting to close the highways to the West in an attempt to corner and starve the government. Rumors are swirling of a take over of government buildings in the East. The damage on the Bolivian economy will be immeasurable. Michelle told me that prices were still high and that goods in supermarkets were dwindling. The President has called on the Army to forcibly impose government control of its institutions and the highways.
My heart continues to ache for this landlocked country in South America.
Lord have mercy on Bolivia!
Sunday, August 31, 2008
MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD LIBERALISM AT WORK!
WHO ARE THE MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROADERS?
Never underestimate the influence of a coterie of middle-of-the-road liberal Anglicans over the worldwide Anglican Communion (AC).
Led by the present Archbishop of Canterbury, these liberals come from many parts of the communion: US, Britian, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Asia and Latin America. By and large they were responsible for orchestrating the processes and outcome of the Lambeth conference. Building alliances, majoring on nuances and negotiating with opponents are their core values. Although using Biblical language comes easy to them they are agnostic when it comes to believing the Bible's final authority.
They hold to an ongoing tension between God’s revelation in scriptures and the voice of the Holy Spirit in contemporary human aspirations for liberation. They value all opposing views of a given issue, will not take a clear stand, veering toward views which question prevailing orthodoxy.
Their sympathies lie with homosexuals in committed relationships; with time they believe that everyone will see reason and embrace gays. Their strategy in the AC is to mark time with endless discussions and convey the appearance of a resolution. Hence their willingness to sign on the dotted line of any document which upholds inherited Biblical views concerning homosexuality WITHOUT any clear provision of disciplining those who continue to defy the Biblical position.
THE ANGLICAN BRAND NAME
Anglican or Episcopal to the middle-of-the-roaders is akin to Rolls Royce or Mercedes Benz. Prestige is attached to being Anglican or Episcopal in social circles where inclusiveness is prized. This is partly due to the Anglican Church's appeal to the educated and professional classes and its status as an established church in the UK.
The Anglican church's place in Singapore is also derived from a special statute in the nation's constitution. With such a pedigree its normal for the church to enjoy a degree of acceptance by certain sectors of the governing elite, especially of the liberal ilk. Any disciplinary move against gays would be a sign of intolerance and not reflect the qualities of a church's pedigree. To discipline those practicing same sex blessings diminishes the quality of the Anglican or Episcopal brand.
LIMITS OF BIBLE BELIEVING PRIMATES/BISHOPS
Yes, Bible believing Bishops and the Global South Primates, represent the vast majority of Anglicans. Their strength in numbers however does not translate into the ecclesiastical power (finances, knowledge of judicial processes and political infighting) necessary to expedite changes and reform. Many of them, because of their traditional deference to the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC), especially in Asia, would find it traumatic to consider sidelining, or God forbid, to even consider disciplining the Church of England (COE)!
The Bible believing Bishops and Primates, though formidable in restraining the middle-of-the-road liberal agenda within the Communion do not really pull the levers of power.
To their credit they've also managed to ensure a sound biblical perspective of homosexuality in official declarations and documents. This positive contribution however is not muscular enough move the mechanisms necessary to discipline those who've silently or blatantly ignored the injunction against same sex blessings and the consecration of gay Bishops.
MUDDLE OF THE MIDDLE
Middle-of-the-road liberals are concerned of the reaction from ordained homosexual clergy within their own ranks if they are seen to discipline the TEC.
The Church of England (COE) is a case in point. Recently the British government passed a law allowing gay couples to legalize their relationships in a civil union. The COE, in recognizing gay clergy within their ranks, allowed them to enter these civil unions, with the proviso that they restrain from having sex and inform their Bishops of their live-in relationships.
It is only a matter of time before a practicing gay is consecrated Bishop in the British Isles.
Is there a moral equivalence between TEC's decision to consecrate a gay bishop and the COE's decision to allow their gay priests to enter into civil unions?
It's difficult to believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic head of the Anglican Communion and the COE, is not constantly looking over his shoulder to measure the impact of his decisions and statements on the gay lobby and their clergy as he leads the Communion. This is one of the main reasons why affirmations of support for the Biblical position concerning homosexuality are accompanied by ambiguous comments designed to elevate the gay hermeneutic on the same level as the inherited Biblical position on homosexuality.
The Lambeth Conference was no exception to the rule.
Declarations of support for the Biblical position concerning homosexuality were accompanied by attempts to stir discussions between liberal and conservative Bible believing bishops so as to create an environment where the possibility of gays living in a committed relationship could be bandied about.
The two leaders, a New Zealander and a South African, in charge of the bible study at Lambeth were pushing views aimed at diluting Resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference (this resolution clearly spelled out the incompatibility between Biblical teaching and homosexual activity).
WILL THE COVENANT WORK?
A ray of hope is the formulation of a Covenant which will prevent a repetition of the present crisis.
Anglican Provinces will be asked to sign on to a Covenant that sets standards for all and provides boundaries for those who choose to be a part of this arrangement. A violation of these boundaries will potentially trigger a disciplinary process. Of some concern is the proposal that the ABC adjudicates the disciplinary process. Will the ABC provide clear leadership in maintaining the integrity of the Faith as preserved and handed to us by the Apostles? Probably not, if his performance in the handling of the current crisis is anything to go by.
Many have criticized the covenant because the present crisis of the AC is not within the purview of this Covenant.
Those who opt out of the Covenant will probably not belong to the first tier membership within the AC. The necessary approvals will have to be settled at a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Committee (ACC) in the middle of next year. At Lambeth the proposals of the covenant were received and accepted for further deliberation and approval from the various provinces which constitute the AC.
ABC & LAMBETH
The ABC's 3 speeches at Lambeth were a mixed bag. The 1st was a general description of the current state of affairs, the 2nd was an ambiguous attempt to define the question of homosexuality as a clash of differing perceptions - the African and the American.
The intent however was clear: he was trying to bring the gay hermenuetic on par with the Resolution 1.10. Bible believing Bishops reacted negatively and strongly. Predictably the ABC in his 3rd speech back tracked with comments which pleased them. This seems to be his modus operandi. The ABC is known for these swings from one position to the other.
Lambeth 2008, taken as a whole, ended on this rather unsure note.
CONCLUSION: SO WHAT’S NEXT?
Firstly, no decisions were made and critical issues were left for someone else to sort out in a not too distant future. Secondly, it’s going to take a long time for the AC to pick up the pieces with respect to its global unity. Thirdly, any province which approves the consecration of a practicing gay as Bishop will send the AC as it is presently structured, into oblivion. Fourthly, a growing number of parishes, dioceses together with some Provinces are coalescing around GAFCON - a group of Bible believing primates and bishops who are offering an alternative centre of authority for those who wish to align themselves to an unambiguous approach to Bible based Anglicanism.
So what's next? Well, the general convention of TEC will meet to decide if they wish to continue to temporarily suspend the consecration of practicing gays and unambiguously stop the blessing of same sex unions. The ABC is also calling a meeting of the Primates early next year.
2009 promises to be an interesting year!
Monday, August 25, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Here's Oswald Chamber's classic meditation, The Opposition of the Natural. Its a great devotional passage from where we get the oft repeated phrase, the good is the enemy of the best.
The Opposition of the Natural
Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires —Galatians 5:24
The natural life itself is not sinful. But we must abandon sin, having nothing to do with it in any way whatsoever. Sin belongs to hell and to the devil. I, as a child of God, belong to heaven and to God. It is not a question of giving up sin, but of giving up my right to myself, my natural independence, and my self-will. This is where the battle has to be fought. The things that are right, noble, and good from the natural standpoint are the very things that keep us from being God’s best.
Once we come to understand that natural moral excellence opposes or counteracts surrender to God, we bring our soul into the center of its greatest battle. Very few of us would debate over what is filthy, evil, and wrong, but we do debate over what is good. It is the good that opposes the best. The higher up the scale of moral excellence a person goes, the more intense the opposition to Jesus Christ. "Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh . . . ." The cost to your natural life is not just one or two things, but everything. Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself. . ." ( Matthew 16:24 ). That is, he must deny his right to himself, and he must realize who Jesus Christ is before he will bring himself to do it. Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence.
The natural life is not spiritual, and it can be made spiritual only through sacrifice. If we do not purposely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural to us. There is no high or easy road. Each of us has the means to accomplish it entirely in his own hands. It is not a question of praying, but of sacrificing, and thereby performing His will.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I've not been putting stuff on this blog for a long time. Could it be bloggers block?
No, not really!
Its the work in the Parish. Its hard to find time to do anything else except to get lots of things done. I'm also the supervisor of a the parish's kindergarten.
Phew! Parish work in Singapore is demanding, especially if one wants to align the Church with the Lord's command to fulfill the Great Commission.
I've been in Christ Church for only 2 months but it seems like 2o years! Some of the issues and problems I've inherited have a long history. The past feeds the incoming Pastor's diagnosis of the Parish's present situation.
You can't really take a church forward unless you're looking to future and studying the church's past. Tough decisions need to be made. Resources need to be harnessed. God's people need to be organized, trained, motivated and mobilized. This is a lot of work.
Its like storing a large number of provisions on the ship before we leave shore and begin the journey. Pray for me
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
CAN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION DISCIPLINE ITSELF?
The answer, till now, is NO.
REJECTING BIBLICAL AUTHORITY
Liberal forms of Anglicanism in the West (USA, Canada, Britain) treat the Bible as a book of some value with some good teachings. They shy away however from revering the Bible as THE final authority when it comes to belief or behaviour of a Christian. Social movements and reason based speculative thinking have held sway in the liberal camp. This has colored their views on gender and host of other issues.
Hence it was not a surprise when liberal bishops, under the influence othe gay lobby, began to ordain, albeit discreetly, homosexuals and privately blessed same sex unions. The public consecration in 2003 however of an openly gay person as a the Bishop of New Hampshire and the official approval of same sex blessings in a Canadian Diocese, New Westminister, were ground-breaking events which shattered the unity of the Anglican Communion. Anglicans who viewed homosexuality as a sin saw these acts as a frontal assault against the final authority of the Bible.
The tragedy is that no one has really been brought to task for what's happened. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay person with a live-in partner, still remains the Bishop of New Hampshire. Those who consecrated him were invited to the Lambeth conference! The diocese of New Westminister together with other Canadian Anglican churches have not stopped the lurch toward the blessing of same sex unions.
FAILURE TO DISCIPLINE
Moderate Anglicans tell themselves constantly that they have no clear or formal international ecclesiastical structures (a world-wide ecclesiastical court for example) to discipline heretical Bishops and wayward Provinces. There is some truth to this but it is not the whole truth.
This crisis for instance forced the Communion to look into the area of mutual accountability and discipline. The most promising Anglican institution to bring some measure of order into this murky situation is the bi/tri-annual meeting the Anglican Primates. They have slowly, much to the chagrin of the liberals, tried to provide the boundaries to keep out behavior and beliefs which are contrary to the Anglican Communion.
The decisions however by the Primates to hold the American church to account have not been followed through. The liberals, who hold the power in the higher echelons of Anglican Communion, have managed to stymie the efforts of the Primates. Hence the only recourse was to depend on the Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) to use the moral authority of his office.
The ABC dropped the baton. His failure to implement disciplinary measures decided upon by the Primates to set right the situation in North America, served to undermine the credibility of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Rowan Williams, the present ABC is at the core a neo-liberal. He may sound evangelical at times but in essence he probably does not view homosexuality as a sin (if anyone can show me a written paper or sermon by him which proves otherwise...I will publish a retraction with an apology).
HEART OF THE CRISIS
Biblical Church discipline is a crucial component in the life of God's people. Paul in his Epistles never backed down from disciplining errant leaders and correcting sinful behaviour in churches. The Reformation of the 16th Century identified it as a mark of the church. And so it is normal for Anglican dioceses to have ecclesiastical courts where errant clergy and Bishops are tried according to Canon Law. A similar mechanism exists in various provinces of the Anglican Communion in the world to discipline bishops of dioceses. But even a disciplinary mechanism i.e an ecclesiastical court is rendered meaningless if these courts are stacked with officers who don't believe in the basic tenets of the faith!
The absence of a sufficient number of orthodox Bishops and clergy to put the brakes on rampant liberalism in the Anglican instruments of unity together with the failure of the Anglican Communion to constitute an international mechanism to discipline errant Bishops and Primates who've never been held to account in their provinces for their unbiblical beliefs and practices is not only an adminstrative problem but a deep seated defect in Anglican ecclesiology (understanding of the Church).
In the other words, can the Anglican church therefore say it is part of the One, Holy & Catholic and Apostolick Church of the ancient creeds when it cannot rein in wayward clerics in their local settings who've defied the very doctrines and beliefs of its confession?
This is at the heart of the crisis we face.
THE HOPE AND PERIL OF LAMBETH CONFERENCE
The upcoming Lambeth Conference, a once in 10 yearly meeting (last one was held in 1998) of all the bishops within the Anglican Communion will gather in England to discuss issues and bring their experiences to the table. In 1998, a resolution 1. 10 which clearly spelt out the church's traditional teaching on homosexuality was passed with a massive majority. It dealt a severe blow to the gay lobby. Since then however the Anglican Communion has been unable to put into practice resolution 1.10 within the American and Canadian Churches.
It appears that there will be no clear admonishment and disciplinary action of the American church at the Lambeth Conference. The Liberal Bishops from the States might get a slap on the wrist to please Bible believing Bishops but there is a feeling that Lambeth will not put into place anything substantial which will deal with the problem of ordaining practicing gays & lesbians and the blessing of same sex unions.
THE PROMISE OF GAFCON
Hence the importance of the recently concluded conference, GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference), at Jerusalem. The final communique was a bit of a stunner because it declared the office of the Archbishop of Cantebury (ABC) as being irrelevant to its claim as symbolic head of the Anglican Communion. This was the wording: While acknowledging the nature of Canterbury as an historic see, we do not accept that Anglican identity is determined necessarily through recognition by the Archbishop of Canterbury
The Primates who attended GAFCON formed a Council of Primates which will now be a new ecclesiastical centre for all who wish to distance themselves from the ABC and hold themselves accountable to another structure within the Anglican Communion apart from Cantebury. The Lambeth Conference will now have no choice but to deal with the problems posed by the American Church and the challenge of this new movement-structure, GAFCON.
A tepid response with no disciplinary bite from this years Lambeth Conference will result in many Conservative Bible believing Bishops and dioceses to align themselves with the GAFCON conference Primates. The leaders of GAFCON have repeatedly said that they are not a breakaway group but a movement committed to the preaching of the gospel within orthodox Biblical faith.
And so we sit and wait for the final communique of the Lambeth Conference 2008!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
DRAWING A LINE IN THE SAND
Close to 1200 Anglicans - Bishops, clergy and laypeople have gathered at a conference, Global Anglican Future Conference, (GAFCON) in Jerusalem from June 22nd to 29 to chart a new course in the Anglican Communion. All the participants in one way or another view the consecration of Gene Robinson, a practising gay cleric, as bishop in the American Episcopal church as having brought about an irreconciliable division between the more liberal leaning northern hemisphere (Britian, US & Canada) and bible believing anglicans from the south (Africa, Asia, Latin America). There are of course exceptions to his division. British evangelicals join with the conservative south to condemn the consecration of a gay bishop. American Bble believing anglicans have either left the episcopal church or chosen to fight for their cause. The liberal Brazilian province stands with their sponsors in the US.
REASON FOR THE DIVISION
This rift could have been avoided if the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, had consistently stayed true to the decisions by the Primates to discipline the American Church. The deadline to discipline the wayward American church in September 2007 passed without any action on his part. Many, within the evangelical Anglican camp, lost confidence in him as a result.
DYNAMICS OF GAFCON & LAMBETH
At play is the Lambeth Conference, a special meeting of all the bishops in Anglican Communion who meet once every ten years. They are scheduled to meet in July this year. A large chunk of the African bishops could not in their conscience attend this conference because Bishops in the American church who approve of the blessings of same sex unions were invited. Gene Robinson, the gay bishop, was not invited as a move to placate conservative Anglicans. Hence the decision to build an alternative evangelical voice i.e GAFCON in Jerusalem. The conference seeks to unite those who believe in biblical authority with the intention of building a structure/network which opposes and goes beyond the current Canterbury policy which seeks to reconcile those who believe in the integrity of the gay position with those who don't.
There are also however quite a sizeable number of Bible believing Bishops, clergy and laity who believe that a way can be found within the present structures to save the Communion from the homosexual lobby. Many of them are attending GAFCON and Lambeth. Some, the conservative Bible believing institutionalists, have decided not to attend GAFCON, viewing it as schismatic and will only attend Lambeth. I respect those who have chosen to work within the present structures and I admire the prophetic gumption of those who've taken steps to build a structure which does not have as its centre the Archbishop of Canterbury.
A PERSONAL TAKE : DIVISION AS JUDGEMENT
The Anglican Communion has never been mired in such controversy as the current one with the exception of the tumultous events of the Reformation which caused Rome to split from the Church of England!
Well, division is sometimes the result of God using the sword of his word to divide or separate the good from the bad. The Bible is rife with the language of division: the wheat from the chaff, sheep from the goat, light from darkness. It is a necessary but unpleasnt experience: having the sword of the Lord to penetrate and divide us before he puts us back again on His terms (Heb 4:12; Matt 10:34; 1Cor 11:19). The divisions emerging within the Anglican Communion strike me as part of a fiery process which will burn away our sin.
Lord have mercy on us all!!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
WELCOME TO CHRIST CHURCH!!
Here are 2 photos of Christ Church, a Tamil speaking parish, where I'm serving as Vicar. If God wills I will be here for about 2 years. And then return to Bolivia.
Christ Church is probably one of the very few, it could even be the only, Tamil speaking congregation which has a high proportion of middle class and professional Tamils.
The first Sunday service, a traditional eucharist is at 8 am; a small punjabi congregation meets later at 10.45; an english speaking service is conducted at 5pm and an outreach to Tamil workers culminates in a 7.30 pm prayer and praise.
The usual midweek meetings and activities coupled with the church's kindergarten keep the place humming.
There is much to be done in the parish. I have a busy schedule and only God's grace keeps me afloat!!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
The European Cup final last night was settled in a dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Manchester United and Chelsea ran themselves to the ground in an action packed 1-1 draw. The players gave their best and played their hearts out. Both teams took turns to dominate the game and deserved to win the cup. My heart goes out to the Chelsea team. Losing a Cup Final in such circumstances is a horrible experience. And where's the honor in winning a Cup Final through stage managed penalties?
I had stayed up to watch the game in Singapore - 2.30 in the morning! In Bolivia, because of the time difference, these games are televised live in the afternoons. The experts were predicting a close & tight game. The possibility of not having a clear winner and going through the tension of a penalty shoot-out, was very real. I decided to risk it anway.
The problem with a penalty shoot-out is that it makes redundant the previous 120 minutes of soccer. Both teams start from scratch when the kicks are taken; its as if the previous 2 hours of soccer was an almighty waste of time and players' sweat.
The Golden Goal was, for a time, a solution to for games which in a draw, even after extra time. The team which scored the first goal after a extra time was awarded the game. Hence the term Golden Goal to describe goals of this nature. Referees would then blow their whistle to signal the game's end. Strangely this arrangement did not catch on and disappeared shortly.
Friday, May 16, 2008
AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE A BURMESE CHRISTIAN?
- Pray For The Military Regime & Family Of Victims
- Help In Relief Efforts
- Comfort Those Who Lost Loved Ones In The Flood
- Organize a Revolt
- Leave The Country For A Vacation
- Mobilize Help From Overseas
- Agitate For More Democracy
Thursday, May 15, 2008
GOING TO BOLIVIA 15
1991 EXPLORATORY TRIP TO PERU & BOLIVIA - Part 4
Breakthrough In Santa Cruz!
Where or what was Santa Cruz? I thought it was a little village in one of the outlying areas near La Paz.
You'll be taking a plane to Santa Cruz. Its in the east and part of the lower regions of Bolivia, someone remarked. The distance between La Paz and Santa Cruz is slightly more than that of Penang and Singapore. And so we hopped onto a plane, early in the morning, at the La Paz airport. The biting cold did not distract me from the events of previous night: I had told Bishop Moses that I had no sense of leading to serve in La Paz; the phrase in Psalm 23:2, He makes me lie down in green pastures, began to have an impact on me.
As the plane took off and headed toward Santa Cruz, I could literally see the dawn of a new day. The idea of God the Shepherd making me to lie down in green pastures as a personal promise to lead me in the next step of my journey was taking on a life of its own. I peered through the plane's window. The sky was clear; no sign of the massive snow capped mountain ranges around La Paz. Below was dense jungle and various tributaries from the main rivers of the Bolivian lowlands.
As the plane made its descent...I saw something which made my heart leap - green pastures. At that moment, I made the connection between my experience of Psalm 23 last night with the sight of the huge green coloured tracts of land below. My heart began to race. Was I being led to serve in Santa Cruz?
The plane hit the tarmac and slowly made its way to the arrival dock. Airport workers pushed the portable staircase toward the hatch; the air hostess opened the door and invited the passengers to step out and leave the plane. I walked out of the plane, saw the airport and walked toward the arrival lounge. The first few steps were more of a bounce than a walk. My heart bubbled for joy and a sense of "homecoming" gripped me powerfully. I could not contain myself. I hugged Bishop Moses, telling him more than once, The Lord has called us to serve in Santa Cruz...I'm sure of it. He smiled and was taken aback by my exuberance, We'll see...we'll see, he said. It was strange. I had never been to Santa Cruz before and yet somewhere deep in my heart was a quiet conviction of Christ's call to serve there.
Sue Woodcock, a SAMS UK (South American Mission Society, United Kingdom), greeted us with a friendly handshake at the airport and directed us toward the church transport, a pick up truck. She was an experienced missionary and filled us in on some of the history of Santa Cruz. Bishop Moses quizzed her on ministry in this part of Bolivia. Ministry was tough, rewarding and frustrating...I wish she we had more experienced help, she remarked.
We were only due to spend a day in Santa Cruz! And so making use of the time was absolutely crucial.
Parts of Santa Cruz resembled Singapore in the 60's and would not have been out of place as a Malaysian town. It was easier to breathe in Santa Cruz; the weather - hot and humid -reminded me of Singapore. Santa Cruz is flat and huge; its buildings as a consequence are laid out horizontally. It attracts migrants from within and outside of the country. People, from the highlands of Bolivia, in search for jobs and better prospects, flock to the lowlands of Bolivia, especially Santa Cruz. Large Japanese, Mennonite and smaller European colonies dot the rural landscapes with their farms and light industries - soya, cotton, livestock and poultry.
Santa Cruz, billed as one of the fastest growing economic regions in South America, partly because of the vibrant drug trade in the 1980's. The drugs were processed in the valley regions of Bolivia. The financial deals and the transfers of money however took place in Santa Cruz. With the passage of time, other industries - petroleum soya, cotton, sugar cane etc - grew and are now powering the economy.
Sue Woodcock, interrupted my thoughts in the pick-up, "We'll be having breakfast with the Obregon's and then we'll go to the church grounds" (Ernesto & Denise Obregon were missionaries from SAMS USA).
I had forgotten how hungry I was in all the excitement. Breakfast sounded like a great idea.
As we drove our way to the Obregon household, my thoughts began to centre on the Lord's plan for us to serve Him in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
GOING TO BOLIVIA 14
1991 EXPLORATORY TRIP TO PERU & BOLIVIA - Part 3
Personal Crisis In La Paz
We were taken, after some rest at the Blaxland residence, to a swirl of events: a pastor's meeting, a city wide intercessory meeting, pastoral visits, church services camp; meetings, special luncheons etc..we were kept busy. I preached a sermon on the prodigal son at a Sunday service.
The church council interviewed me in extensively in an attempt to assess my suitability for the work in Bolivia. Most of the questions centred on my ministerial experience as a Pastor in Singapore. Would I be able to cope with the rigors of missionary work in a faraway land? The missionary attrition rate was high in Bolivia, especially in the Anglican Church. The possibility of having an Asian to serve in Bolivia had never been explored until now. Some reservations had been silently expressed because of the cultural differences between Asians and Latin Americans. Most of the missionaries were from Europe or the US.
Doubts however about my sense of calling to work in La Paz surfaced and continued to consume me. I felt trapped, embarrassed and uncomfortable in Bolivia. Was my sense of discernment to serve the Lord in Latin America flawed? There were clear indications in Singapore directing me toward South America. Had I made a mistake?
A lot was riding on this trip. Bishop Moses had invited me to go along because of a common conviction of the Lord's leading to serve Him in Bolivia. The thought of disappointing him was also beginning to gnaw away at my soul. Valuable resources had been spent on this trip! It would have been easier to catalogue my doubts as negative feelings and to move on. My conscience however did not leave me in peace; sharing with Bishop Moses about my sense of emptiness for La Paz was inevitable. And so with a a sense of trepidation, I approached him one night and opened my heart. He looked stoic and did not respond directly to my comments Cynthia was sympathetic. He urged us to focus on the activies at hand and complete the programme which the Bolivians had prepared for us.
I went to my room feeling deflated. My heart cried out, Lord what are you up to? Had I made a mega mistake?
I found His comforting presence in Psalm 23. The 2nd verse touched me deeply: He makes me lie down in green pastures , he leads me beside quiet waters. His hand was over my life; there was still something which I had yet to see and experience.
The activities of the day and the high altitude fever left me tired and breathless. A restful sleep would hopefully give us some peace of mind for next day's activities, which included a change of scenery.
We were going to the lowlands of Bolivia, a place called Santa Cruz!
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Sharing The Gospel With A Taxi Driver
Michelle and I were late for an appointment, so we jumped into a taxi. As the driver drove off, I heard the chinese version of the hymn, Amazing Grace, from the radio. This hymn always stirs a passion for the Lord in my soul.
It was too good a chance to let slip. I shared with the taxi driver the testimony of John Newton, author of Amazing Grace. He seemed interested as I spoke to him about Newton's work against slavery after his conversion. My jet lag and flu got the better of me but my wife's enthusiasm was like a second wind. We began to talk to him about God's salvation in Christ. And I shared with him the gospel concerning Jesus and the need to believe.
Someone else had apparently just shared the gospel with him. He was willing to listen and showed keen interest as I drew comparisons between Jesus and Budhha. There is a way to do this without insulting other religions. I genuinely respect other faiths, especially the living religions of Asia.
Michelle then explained to him how the Bible was God's word to us.
Must go to church and study more the bible lah...He told us rather sincerely. I remembered the words of our Lord with reference off another sincere seeker...He is not far from the kingdom.
As our journey came to an end, I was keen on praying with him. The traffic however was heavy and he could not wait for a long period. I prayed to the Lord silently, commended this man to the His mercy and told him to go to his friend's church.
Monday, May 05, 2008
After weeks of squabbling between the central government and the civic leaders of Santa Cruz, a special referendum was held on the 4th of May to approve new statutes which would effectively make Santa Cruz a self governing state within Bolivia. As expected 84% voted for this radical change. One data however which should be interesting are the amount of absentions. There are conflicting reports - some claim 20%, others put it at 40%. The President, in claiming the latter statistic, is trumpeting the illegitimacy of the process.
The Bolivian government view the referendum as illegal and unconstitutional. Civic leaders and their supporters claim otherwise - the referendum is the endgame of a 3 year process which allowed Bolivian states, for the first time, to elect their own governors.
Four other states are planning to hold their own referendums. The current trends, especially in Eastern Bolivia and parts of the valley region point to a system not unlike the one in the USA - where states have a special rights and a high degree of self government.
Bolivia however is run by a central government in La Paz, the capital of the nation. For instance simple immigration paperwork instead of being done in regional offices can only be processed in La Paz; regional leaders also claim that too much income from wealthy regional economies is channelled to the central government.
The current government, however under President Evo Morales, believe only a socialist style central government can effectively meet the just aspirations and rights of the poorer indigenous sector of the nation and guarantee a fairer distribution of the nation's wealth. This of course runs against the grain of the regional civic leaders emphasis on free markets and decentralization. To complicate matters mutual suspicion between regional civic leaders and the central government is also driven by their racial, ethnic and cultural differences.
So what's going to happen next?
The government and the governors of the fledgling autonomous Bolivian states will meet to resolve the constitutional crisis these referendums have provoked.
Pray for goodwill, mutual trust and a spirit of compromise to characterize these meetings.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Leaving Bolivia Temporarily To Work In A Parish, Christ Church, Diocese Of Singapore.
I left Bolivia last week and returned to Singapore a few days ago. I shared with Bolivian church leaders and Bishop Frank Lyons, the issues and rationale behind the decision to return to Singapore to do a 2 year home assignment as Vicar (Senior Pastor) of Christ Church. They were generally supportive of the plan but also expressed concern over critical projects in Santa Cruz which have stalled as a result of my absence.
Its never easy to leave the mission field... is it?
The local Bolivian leadership will find its own stride and deepen the life of the church while I'm in S'pore. Praise the Lord that there is more than sufficient maturity to carry out these tasks.
The Diocese of Singapore has been unyielding in its support for the past 14 years of my life and ministry in Bolivia. Thank you Bishop Moses Tay for having the faith to facilitate my sense of calling to serve in Bolivia and for Bishop John Chew's continued support. He, Bishop John has also agreed to send me back to Bolivia after the tenure at Christ Church.
The Lord's hand is over our return to Singapore. Michelle is busy with the creative arts and has her own network of ministry partners from several churches. She's been invited to minister in some of the countries nearby. Elijah's National Service commitment will end in September next year.
grant us grace
to discern the details
of your leading
as your servant
returns to serve you
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Trip To La Paz, Bolivia
Bishop Moses, Cynthia his wife and I hopped on to the plane to La Paz, Bolivia’s capital after our brief one day stopover in Lima, Peru.
La Paz, a city situated in the Andean mountain range, is not only home to Lake Titicaca but also cradle to Tiwanaku, a mysterious ancient civilization which predates the Incas. The intricate irrigation canals; when seen from an aerial view, speak of an advanced culture ahead of its time. Titicaca is the highest and largest lake in South America.
Those with heart ailments are discouraged from going to La Paz because of the high altitude and thin air, commonly called Sorochi. Some of the symptoms are shortness of breadth, nausea, fever, loss of strength and drowsiness. Sorochi coupled with the biting cold weather takes a heavy toll on its visitors, especially if they’re unprepared and traveling to La Paz for the first time.
Rev Greg Blaxland together with Judy, his wife received us warmly at the airport. Greg and Judy gave us a warm Bolivian hug. Greg and I were formally introduced to each other by Bishop Moses. I never met the man personally although I had heard him speak at the Tuesday clergy meeting where he shared with us a wide array of needs in Bolivia, the most pressing being trained clergyman.
Judy, on seeing Cynthia shiver incessantly from an unexpected blast of cold wind blowing through the airport, immediately wrapped a winter coat around her. Cynthia, although by nature tough, succumbed to the full fury of Sorochi and was confined to rest during our stay in La Paz. I was beginning to feel the effects of the altitude and was told to walk slowly but survived the experience.
The drive to the Blaxland’s apartment was a fascinating exposure to the sights and sounds of La Paz – undulating rollercoaster like roads, endless alleys, poor beggars, men and women in elegant suits, old and new cars, modern buildings, ancient monuments, cobble-stone roads, riot police with helmets and gas canisters; chaotic traffic, freshly baked bread; women with bowler hats and thick bright skirts; sounds from drums and flutes; bright exotic food stalls in pavements, graffiti on walls, revolutionary slogans, banners, beautiful flowers, broken down trucks and men in blue overalls. La Paz, the nation’s capital reflects the charm of Latin American idealism as well as the scars of Bolivia’s history.
The Blaxlands were staying in the 7th floor of an unfinished apartment block. Apparently this was not uncommon in La Paz. The staircase railings were yet to be fixed; there were no lifts and parts of the external walls had not been built yet! Apparently this did not discourage owners of the apartments from moving in. Losing one’s balance while climbing parts of the staircase was risky to say the least! So we learned the art of walking carefully and slowly up the stairs. After a while we grew accustomed to our habitat.
Nothing prepared us, especially me, for La Paz. It was all very overwhelming: the sights, smells, sounds, new language, high altitude and people.
But what was worrying, for me anyway, was a slow but growing sense of spiritual discomfort; I just didn’t seem to connect spiritually with La Paz….