Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Donne On The Incarnation
from titusonenine

Twas much,

that man was
made like God before,
But that God should
be like man
much more.

–John Donne.

(icon on the right from the holy nativity convent)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Other Works By Hanna Cherian Varghese

The Angelic Announcement.

The Nativity Scene.

This work on the shepherds reaction to the angelic announcemnet is in batik.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


A Very Happy And Blessed Christmas To All Our Beloved Readers!

May The Lord Bless You With A Special Work of Grace This Christmas.

The painting on the right captures the angelic announcement of our Lord's birth to the shepherds. The artist is a Malaysian - Hanna Cherian Varghese.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


There's a lot of action in the streets. I now understand why our Lord, Paul and people like Wesley attracted crowds in non- religious places. It's a fascinating experience and you get to meet all sorts personalities. I sense that there is a tremendous hunger for spiritual truth in Bolivia; many know that there must be something more to life;lets not forget the walking wounded who need Jesus's love. Friends, the harvest is plentiful!!

The other day I was invited to speak to a group of Bolivian adults who were learning English. I relished the idea of sharing the gospel with them; they were all, "to my disappointment", christians except for one lady; she shared her feelings of loneliness during the Christmas service. Someone suggested that she seek prayer from me. She was not against the idea. So I prayed for her; She felt better after the prayer and thanked me profusely; time prevented her from staying on; it was getting late. She told me of her intention to get counsel at our church.

A few days later I met up with a guy who wanted to sell me berries and raspberries. I began to share with him the gospel; his smile and responses convinced me that I was speaking to a Christian. He was very happy to meet up with a fellow believer. He began telling me his story and showed me a crumpled tract given to him by someone with lots of enthusiasm. It was a Jehovah Witness tract! I shared with him the differences between JW's and Christians. He gave me a quizzical look at first and then joined in with lots of questions and comments. He thanked me profusely for the time we had together and gave me the tract. It was a great session! I also bought some of his berries; they were huge, juicy, red and delicious.

Yesterday the cab driver who picked me up at town was a backslidden Christian. He was so keen on sharing his woes with me that he drove slowly, hoping that he would have the time to tell me his whole story. We then decided to stop at a corner; he stopped his engine and poured his heart out. His wife had left him and his 5 year old daughter to start a new life in Spain (quite common these days in Bolivia). To complicate matters he was thinking of starting a relationship with someone he had just met. He was confused and did not know what to do because his wife in Spain was sending him mixed messages about her intent to return to Bolivia. He was looking for clear directions. I gave him a few pointers: the Lord had sovereignly arranged our meeting, he must forgive his wife, he needed to seek the Lord first, clarity over the situation would surface; he needed to make a wise decision that would honor the Lord.

I prayed for him, invited him to our services and gave him my card. He was very grateful and did not want to charge me the taxi fare. I insisted that he keep the money. He smiled and drove away.

Lord, grant us the courage to be your instruments in a lost world!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Book Review: Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf

This is probably one of the best books I've read!

Volf's "Exclusion and Embrace" was written during the internecine wars and "ethnic cleansing" in former Yugoslavia. His basic point is that emphasis on ethnic identity promotes exclusion and forces one to differentiate and exclude oneself from the "other". He argues for differentiation not at the expense of inclusion. According to him exclusion is the root of the problem in communal warfare. His solution is Christ's embrace of the "other" on the Cross. This emphasis on the Cross in the introduction sets the stage for Volf as he fleshes out his ideas in book. The language can be technical at times especially for the untrained eye; Volf interacts with secular writers like Eduard Said, Nieztche etc.

One of Volf's major contributions in this book is the idea that liberating the victim from the oppressor is not enough. The victim must also "embrace" and forgive the oppressor if he is to be free from the oppression. Christ as the supreme victim or scapegoat is the best example of this principle; he embraced his enemies on the cross. Liberating the oppressed without a strategy to embrace the oppresor can predispose the victim to resent and hate his oppressor. Volf has probably seen some of this in his homeland, Yugoslavia. Hence the assertion that liberation needs to include the restoration of the oppressor. How does this work in the real world? He seems to be advocating pacifism; Volf later clarifies his position and gives a tour de force in the last chapter of the book.

The last chapter Violence and Peace is passionate and probably the most engaging in the book. Volf does a superb job of expositing the christian view of non violence within the backdrop of sorting out the apparent contradiction between Christ, the willing lamb of God, of the Gospels and Christ, the fiery judge seated on the white horse, of Revelations executing judgement. A non violent approach according to him only makes sense if unrepentant oppressors are judged by the Christ of the Revelations. Temporal non violence only makes sense if evil is finally judged. An embrace assumes that parties in conflict are willing to mutually forgive each other. If the oppressor however refuses the embrace of the oppressed then judgement rightly awaits him or her. The Biblical texts take into consideration such an outcome. This healthy dose of realism acts a counter weight to some of the idealism in the earlier chapters. Seldom have I read such passion for God's judgement from an academic theologian.

Volf's work has helped me gain a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding inter ethnic feuds and the regional conflicts of Bolivia within a christian perspective. The chapter on Gender Identity was interesting but not very meaty. The one on Oppression and Justice is a classic and should be read by all would be reformers.

I heartily recommend this book!

Sunday, December 17, 2006


I dunno know what to say...we've just joined the ranks of:

Bill & Melinda Gates, Bono (2005) - I wish I had Bill's money and Bono's gumption.

Mikhail Gobarchev (1989) - History, unlike Russia, will be kinder to Gobarchev.

Pope John Paul 2 (1994) - John Paul was courageous. He recognised Luther as a son of the church and asked forgiveness from the protestant community.

Mandela, De Klerk, Rabin and Arafat (1993) - Mandela is a hero; history cornered De Klerk; Rabin like many a great visionary was killed; Arafat a father figure to his people had no more cards left to play.

Ayatollah Khomeini (1979) - He's dead (sigh of relief)

The Endangered Earth (1988) - Huh?...the earth is a person?..when did that happen!

Would TIME have chosen Jesus as their Person Of The Year in AD33?

Saturday, December 16, 2006



NEARLY 500,000 TURN UP AT THE CABILDO IN SANTA CRUZ (photo on the right).

They came from just about everywhere: isolated provinces, little towns, forgotten villages, poor barrios, upper middle class enclaves and outlying districts. Many walked and others chartered buses/vans/mini-buses. Some rode on horseback.

A sea of green and white flags of Santa Cruz greeted me as I made my way toward the city centre. Almost everyone had the flag except for yours truly. I managed to find a place near the local burger king outlet. It was'nt the best of places. A lady looked at me hard and gave me a flag; I thanked her and continued to soak in the atmosphere! It was hot and humid. There was one guy with a cool 4 sided square hat; a tired looking pregnant lady decided to sit on the pavement; A cute 5 year old girl, tastefully dressed with a frangipani clipped in her hair, sat on her father's shoulders. People were talking through their cellphones - trying to connect with their friends. A flautist and a drummer, about 5 metres from where I was standing, played local favorites. Spontaneous chants laced with vulgarities against the president kept people entertained. The vendors were out in force, selling everything from mineral water to flags.

Helicopters, hired by the TV channels, swirled above like vultures over their prey. And the crowd would oblige by raising and waving their flags whenever they flew over us. The podium was enormous with the green and white backdrop; at the centre were yellow, green and red - the colours of the Bolivian state; superimposed on these colours were the words "2/3". This was of course a reference to the key demand that the constitutional assembly pass every proposed article of the new constitution with a 2/3 majority. The government controlled assembly however passed a ruling which approves the new constitutional articles through a simple majority vote. The ruling party now has at its disposition the right to any pass articles it sees fit; its opponents in the East see this as a blank check to impose a socialist indigenous system over the whole country. Also, and this is important, the large business constituency in Eastern Bolivia views a socialist driven centralized government as a threat to their interests.

The programme was a combination of chants, music, songs and speeches. It was not possible to see the action on the podium from where I was standing. The sound, although a little rough, came through. The major speeches were given by the president of the civic association, German Antelo and the governor of the Santa Cruz, Ruben Costas. Both made commitments to stay within Bolivia; the Venezuelans and the Cubans were accused of meddling in Bolivian internal affairs; President Evo was criticized severely. One lady near me was critical of Antelo's speech saying that there were no clear-cut calls to action. Beneath the surface of this movement, on the part of some, is a willingness to take up arms. Any call to violence however would have immediately taken the wind out of this massive civic movement because the vast majority of the people although angry and frustrated are basically peace loving.

There were some clashes in a province, near Santa Cruz, called San Julian. The President's supporters blocked the road in San Julian to Santa Cruz; buses full of people could'nt get through to the Cabildo; tempers flared and fighting broke out; unconfirmed reports say 2 people may have died.

At a press conference later President Evo sounded conciliatory and even congratulated the organizers of the Cabildos saying that his party is willing to dialogue with the opposition.

We are entering the holiday season; people will start thinking about their Christmas dinners and gifts; hopefully everyone will calm down.

We might enter the new year with hope for a settlement.

Friday, December 15, 2006


The Lord's love in our hearts helps us find the right words to reach the lost.

He looked burly and not the sort of taxi driver you'd fool around with. I thought twice and decided to share Christ with him; we exchanged names. Call me Jorge, he said.

I asked him if he was planning to go to the Cabildo today. He said "NO" and went into a tirade against the civic leaders of Santa Cruz, accusing them of being elitist and not sharing their wealth with the poor. Roman priests, nuns and Christian pastors were not spared. According to Jorge, Roman priests and nuns were well taken care of at the expense of the simple folk in the churches; Pastors were no better because they were taking advantage of the people's ignorance. A staunch supporter of President Evo, Jorge said, "Evo is the only president who is looking out for the poor". I was a little taken aback by his support for the government because he was a fair skinned native cruceñan from eastern Bolivia. People from this sector are avowed opponents of President Evo.

How does one share Jesus with the "Jorges" of this world? Well, I told him that he was right; priests and pastors had indeed failed to live up to their calling as God's servants. Jorge remained silent as I told him that Jesus, unlike his servants, is faithful and a person of great integrity. I find that talking about Jesus is a powerful witnessing tool. The Lord's love in our hearts for the lost helps us find the right words to reach those who need him the most. Sometimes its not what we say but the way in which the Holy Spirit fills our words with the Lord's love for the lost. His words were measured and less offensive; he nodded his head in agreement with me about Jesus. I invited him to our Christmas Eve celebrations and prayed for him. He thanked me for the conversation and sped away. I felt a little frustrated that I could not close the deal and lead him to Christ. He appeared to be very hard but there was a softening towards the end.

Pray for Jorge. I'm sure the Lord will send someone else to build on what the Holy Spirit did through me. And pray for discernment, wisdom and boldness to evangelise!

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Churches Pray In The Streets

With just one day to go before the Cabildo, its getting tense in Santa Cruz. The government sent a cabinet minister (2nd from the right, flanked by high ranking military officers) to try and smooth things over with the civic leaders. He was gently rebuffed. A few days ago the President railed against the separatist tendencies of those behind the Cabildo at a public function organised by the military. The officer corps not unlike Bolivian society are deeply divided over issues facing the country. Some support the president; the others identify with the aspirations of their regions. If push comes to shove, the latter will not obey the president and might even take matters into their own hands. We have not come to this precipice and my reading of the present situation does not foresee such a collision. The current volatile situation however has the potential of undoing social constraints, unleashing acts of violence.

People in the streets are buying the Santa Cruz flag, T-shirts and other paraphenalia for the huge open air meeting tomorrow (a million might just show up!). Some of the words on the T-shirts are very provocative and highly disrespectful of the government.

Cabildos are also scheduled to be held in 3 other Bolivian States in the East - Tarija, Beni & Pando- tomorrow.

Many churches are praying for peace to prevail. Various christian groups are moving around the town centre praying for the city and for revival. A group of churches committed to unity of the nation also put together an open air service (we are part of this group). Revd Federico Bascuñan, the Vicar of Christ Light Of The World was interviewed by one of the TV Channels.

Pray that the Cabildo tomorrow will be peaceful!

Monday, December 11, 2006



How do civic leaders and regional politicians get the government to take seriously the aspirations of their region? They convene a massive public meeting where speeches and declarations are made in the city centre. These public meetings in spanish are called "Cabildos". In 2004 the civic leaders of Santa Cruz called for a "Cabildo"; a declaration of regional autonomy was made at this huge open air meeting of the populace. Nearly 200,000 people responded and turned up (picture on top).

Prior to the "Cabildo" a massive signature campaign, in support for autonomy, was launched in Santa Cruz; the matter was then put to the congress and the wishes of the people were made into law by the previous government. As a result Santa Cruz and the other 8 states of Bolivia elect their governors and have a greater say in resource management and self government. Its fascinating to see the legislative process of a nation bend to the collective force of a massive civic action!

The election of Evo Morales and the possible proposal of a radical collectivist Cuban style constitution at the constitutional assembly have convinced a large number of people in eastern Bolivia that the government intends to do away with regional autonomy and transform Bolivia into a a socialist - indigenous entity. A series of hunger strikes in Santa Cruz against the government continues to capture the imagination of many in Eastern Bolivia.

Civic leaders have now played their ace; they've convened a "Cabildo" on Friday the 15th of December; this is a major civic action only reserved only for critical moments; a "Cabildo" only works when the vast majority of the people are supportive of the cause. And it appears that the people of Santa Cruz as well as 3 other states in the east are supportive of civic leaders and opponents of the government. A million people are expected to turn up! The opposition against the central goverment has now reached the proportions of a major social movement and it is quite possible that at least 300,000 people will respond to the call.

People are also nervous. Rumors abound of government agents planning to instigate violence at the "Cabildo".

Some extremist elements are calling for Santa Cruz to be an independant republic. Forget it! This will never happen.

Will the President declare a state of siege and detain the leaders behind the "Cabildo" and the hunger strikes? The constitution grants him the right to do so if he believes that these actions threaten national security.

Pray that the "Cabildo" will be peaceful and free from violence.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Bishop Lyons paid us a visit and confirmed 12 new members. The parish has set a goal of 300 new members. The candidates above are from our extension centre, Bread Of Life.

The candidates below are from the mother church, Light Of The World.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Today Michelle and I celebrate 21 years of marriage. We were married at the Church Of Our Savior in 1985 on a Saturday afternoon. Pastor Derek Hong led the service. Bishop Moses Tay was present to give us his blessings. Rev Villlie D. read some of the prayers in the service. My classmates at Trinity College stood by us as we exchanged vows. Revd Kenny Chee (blogpastor) agreed to be my best man and Susan Verghese was the bridesmaid. We are grateful that our friends, parents, and relatives made the effort to support us at our wedding. I remember someone sharing a marvellous prophecy of how the Lord would make us a blessing and a light to the nations. And that was fulfilled when we left Singapore to serve the Lord in Bolivia.

There are no short cuts nor secret formulas to marital happiness. Listening to each other, praying together and not taking your spouse for granted are some of the basic components in any marriage. By God's grace we've survived some of the rough patches in our relationship; I can't imagine our marriage without Christ. One of the most difficult things to work through is the daily grind of simply living together: managing schedules, adapting to your partner's habits/customs, ensuring transparent financial transactions and accepting your spouse's idiosyncrasies.

Pray that we will be a witness to God's love and mercy.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


The men's ministry got together and decided to clean the church sanctuary and to paint the walls. On your right is Ariel; his dad Beto, brought him along to help out.

Meet Roberto Dick, with the red t-shirt below , the leader of the men's ministry.

In the middle is bare chested Marco Ortiz. He has been around for 3 years; he serves on the church council.

This is Beto, with the red cap, a newcomer to the church who has integrated rapidly in the life of the church. He has strong leadership gifts.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Exercising Your Gifts Through The Body

by Ted Schroder

There is no greater frustration in life than experiencing a gap between our ideals and our realities, between our expectations and our actualities. That is the constant problem in political discourse as well as religious experience. It's the disappointment felt by the losing team. So it is healthy for us to consider the practicalities of our own ideals: how realistic are we about what we can achieve in our own lives and in our church.

How can we make what we do happen? How can we sow the seed of the kingdom? How can we grow the kingdom of heaven in quantity and quality? How can we grow in the love of Christ, in discernment and knowledge? In 1 Corinthians 12, St. Paul tells us that we can make it happen through our understanding that the church is the Body of Christ and that we are individually part of it. Individual Christians are born by the Spirit into the Body and remain part of that Body.

The metaphor Paul uses is very graphic. The church is the Body, animated by the Spirit, under the headship of Christ. It is the Body of Christ in the world. The work of Christ in the world is done by the body, by all Christians working together in one organic unity. The body is made up of many parts: just as we have different bodily parts so we have different parts of the church body. Each is connected to the other, and all need one another. We have different functions but are equally needed for the health of the whole. No one should have inflated ideas about their importance, or deflated ideas about their insignificance. Each has a contribution to make.

This is how Eugene Peterson in The Message puts it:

"no matter how significant you are it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn't be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, 'Get lost; I don't need you'? Or Head Telling Foot, 'You're fired; your job has been phased out'? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way - the 'lower' the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary... The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance."

Why is it necessary for Paul to spell this out? Was it because some people were trying to get their own way, throwing their weight around? Was it because some people were trying to make everyone else over into their own mold? Was it because some people had become so self-sufficient that they felt they did not need others? Was it because some were takers and not givers? Was it because some were content to be spectators and not players? Was it because some people felt that they could be Christians without being part of the church? Was it because some felt they did not need the church?

In any game it is not possible to win unless the whole team pulls together. In any business it takes all parts of the workforce and management working together to become a success. The best plan in the world will be pure idealism without everyone working together to make it happen. What is it that can prevent that happening?

Moral philosopher Mary Midgley contends that, "Ever since the Renaissance, it has been the key project of our culture to free individuals from the pressure of their social background and to enable them to stand alone. Endless devoted efforts have been made to pry each loose from his family, his state, his church and any other shell to which he might cling, and allow him - indeed force him - to think and act for himself... The careful separating out of each soul from its social background has of course been responsible for an immense amount that is distinctive and valuable in the achievements of our civilization. No other culture has carried it nearly so far. No wonder that to many people it never looked, until lately, as if we could ever have too much of that good thing, individualism." (Evolution As Religion, 166)

What we have painfully discovered in recent years is that we cannot live to ourselves, we are part of a whole. We are environmentally connected. We are part of a global economy. What one person does affects others. We cannot live independently of others. We have learned that one part of the body cannot be treated without affecting other parts. We are more and more aware that one part may be cured at the expense of another part because of side effects. The communal aspects of life, which used to be despised now appear as both necessary and understandable in terms of the sciences. The words of the philosophers of the Enlightenment, who won great battles against tyranny, still echo in our minds with the question, "Can anything be more important than individual liberty?" But when excessive individualism threatens marriage, family, the state, and the church, we must question it.

Midgley goes on to say: "Of course, human beings are distinct individuals. But they are also tiny, integral parts of this planet - framed by it, owing everything to it, and adapted to a certain place among its creatures. Each can indeed change its life, but does not originally invent it. Each receives life in a family (as a petal does in a flower), in a country (as the flower does on the tree), and in the biosphere (as the tree does in the forest). Our environment gives us nearly everything we have.... All this is no derogation of our essential dignity, because dignity is meaningless without a context. The only person who might conceivably exist and make sense on his own is God, and even He apparently prefers not to try it, since He creates the world. And whatever might be true of God, man is no god, but a social being and a part of the fauna of this planet." (op.cit.170)

Just as we have to value and respect the physical and cultural environment in which we live, by acknowledging our dependence on one another, and curbing our unrealistic selfish individualism; so too, those of us who claim to be Christians, have to value and respect the Body of Christ, of which we are a part, by acknowledging our need of one another, and restraining our selfish desire for an unrealistic spiritual independence.

We need one another. Lone-ranger Christians who think they can dispense with the church are mistaken. If we have a personal relationship with Christ we are part of his Body. We are not independent of one another, we are interdependent. Professing Christians who say they don't need the church, are going against nature. Spiritual isolation breeds grotesque and unbalanced lives. Fellowship in the Body of Christ should nurture a healthy person.

In the movie, "Hear No Evil, See No Evil", Richard Pryor stars as a blind man, and Gene Wilder stars as a deaf man - chasing gangsters and escaping wrongful arrest by the police. It is an hilarious spoof showing how each must depend on the other for both are handicapped. So it is with all of us in the church. In order to get anything done, we have to rely on one another, and work together.

We need to exercise our gifts. Just as parts of the body can atrophy if we do not use them, our spiritual gifts can shrivel up if we do not fulfill our obligation to use them for the common good. We are created for a purpose - to participate in the life of the church, and not just be a spectator, or depend on the exertions of others. We are called to do our part through serving and giving in one capacity or another. "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10)

Russell Conwell was one of Philadelphia's most prominent preachers toward the end of last century and the beginning of this. He was most famous for his celebrated inspirational lecture, "Acres of Diamonds", which he gave more than 6,000 times throughout the country. He founded Temple University, hospital, and the seminary which is now Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, whose new extension campus we support in Jacksonville. He exhorted people to use their God-given gifts, all their talents, abilities, and imagination, to serve others. He denounced both the 'lazy poor' and the wealthy who accumulated riches solely for their own enjoyment. I commend his prayer to you.

I ask not for a larger garden
but for finer seeds.

I ask not for a more distant view
but for a clearer vision of the hills between.

I ask not to do more deeds
but for more effective ones.

I ask not for a longer life
but for a more efficient one for the present hour.

I want to plant more,
advertise more;
tell the story of Jesus in clearer form.
I want the world to be more wise,
and also more glad because I was used.

may some oak say, 'I grew stronger';
may some lily say, 'I grew purer';
may some fountain say, 'I threw clear water higher.'

May some good books be read;
may some good friendships be made;
may my total influence tell for righteousness,
without an unnecessary tear.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Managing Confrontational Language In The Public Square

Matt Green in his article below believes we should use Christian language in secular panel discussions and avoid terms that mislead. "Sexual Orientation" according to him does not properly describe homosexuality nor does it factor in the possiblity of God changing those who display such an orientation. Green may have a point especially in places where political correctness guts the christian message.

Its different in Singapore. The Prime Minister was questioned at a press conference by a reporter concerning homophobia (I saw it on youtube) . PM Lee replied that his government's challenge was to provide space for gays without disregarding people who consider homosexuality a sin. He used the "S" word! He was probably referrring to Muslims and Christians; both these groups teach that homosexuality is a sin. What an irony! A secular politician using religious terminology to put forward his government's case.

No Such Thing As "Sexual Orientation"

Matt Green, Editor
Ministries Today

Homosexuality poses the greatest challenge to discernment, discipline and restoration that the church has faced in the past 100 years. Why? If we don't learn how to discuss it with winsome conviction, we'll probably lose our voice on the issue altogether. Thankfully, when God brings a sin into the open, as he did with the exposure of Ted Haggard, it means He's giving the church an opportunity to deal with it.

However, before this happens, we must change our language and stop allowing popular culture to define our terminology. What do I mean? Here's just one example: In a recent CNN interview with Kyra Phillips, instead of providing incisive clarity from a biblical perspective, evangelical sociologist Tony Campolo muddied the waters. I'm not suggesting that Christians must be ready with pat, religious mumbo-jumbo for every tough question posed by the media, and I confess that I sometimes agree with Campolo's controversial views on social justice, poverty and war. But he needs to put his perspective on homosexuality back under the microscope of Scripture.

In discussing Haggard's restoration, Campolo states:
"Will he just say, 'I have a little problem on the side'? Or will he begin to face the fact that maybe I have a sexual orientation that does not offer an easy fix? And if he does turn out to be homosexual in his orientation, he's going to have to live with that orientation and figure out what this means for the rest of his life, because there's not an easy fix for that."

First, Scripture does not recognize homosexuality as an orientation, any more than it recognizes adultery, fornication, anger, drunkenness or lying as individual orientations. Instead, it prohibits specific behaviors--all of which have their root in an "orientation" that every human being was born with: sin. This orientation (or "sin nature," as theologians would put it) leads us to reach for a bottle, a gun, a syringe or someone else's spouse in our relentless defiance of God's law. Whether by nature, nurture, genetics or life choices, some of us are more inclined to certain sins, but we remain, as Paul so eloquently contends, "without excuse".

The language of "orientation" has allowed us to relinquish our responsibility for specific behaviors, to psychologize our conduct and to label each other as drunkards, abusers, adulterers, liars, homosexuals and so on, based on the sins we are most likely to commit. This system is convenient both for those who do not struggle with any of the sins that happen to be "socially-unacceptable" at the moment and for those looking for an external excuse for their sinful behavior.

Campolo is partially right: Our orientation toward sin is something we're born with and will have to deal with all our earthly lives. But the orientation and the sin itself should not be confused, lest we embrace some fatalistic version of Christian living. Campolo sounds a lot like Paul, who wrestles with this when he states, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" (Romans 7:15). But if we keep reading, we see that Paul was convinced that it is possible, through the power of the Spirit, to win daily battles with the the "sin orientation" that lingers in our fallen souls. As church father Augustine summed it up, before conversion we were "unable not to sin," but when we are in Christ, He enables us not to sin--a testament to the power of the Spirit to circumvent our wiley sin nature.

Whether speaking to our congregations or the press, imagine the clarity church leaders could bring to the nebulous discussion of "sexual orientation" by letting our language reflect biblical reality and altogether avoiding the cultural labels of "gay", "lesbian", "bisexual", "transgender" and so on. The results?

It helps church leaders avoid fixating on discussion of certain sins at the expense of others and alienating people who struggle with specific sins, while leaving others off the hook.

It levels the ground at the foot of the cross, where all sinners must meet--regardless of which sin they are most vulnerable to.
It naturally redirects manipulative questions such as "Will gays go to hell?" to more substantive ones, such as "Will sinners go to hell?"

It redirects the focus of those wishing to justify their orientation for one reason or another to examining their specific behavior as offensive to God.

The increasing prevalence of homosexual behavior in our society provides an open door of opportunity for Christian leaders to reclaim the language of sin and, in so doing, bring hope to sinners and clarity to believers seeking to understand the depths of their own depravity and ongoing need for grace.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context by David Instone-Brewer, 2002 Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

David Instone-Browne has probably written the first book which seriously takes into account the socio historical context of the Biblical texts on divorce & remarriage. The subtitle, "The Social and Literary Context" says it all and may sound a little academic to some. This does not mean however that the material is geared only for academics. On the contrary I found portions of the book helpful to Pastors and lay leaders; the last chapter deals with the pastoral dimensions of ministering to divorcees in the process of remarriage.
Check out the chapter headings:

1. Chapter 1 The Ancient Near East - Marriage Is a Contract
2. The Pentateuch - The Divorce Certificate Allows Remarriage
3. The Later Prophets - Breaking Marriage Vows Is Condemned
4. Intertestamental Period - Increasing Rights For Women
5. Rabbinic Teaching - Increasing Grounds For Divorce
6. Jesus Teaching - Divorce On Biblical Grounds
7. Paul's Teaching - Biblical Grounds Include Neglect
8. Marriage Vows - Vows Inherited From The Bible And Judaism
9. History Of Divorce - Interpretations In Church History
10. Modern Reinterpretations - Different Ways To Understand The Biblical Text
11. Pastoral Conclusions - Reversing Institutionalized Misunderstandings

This comprehensive work traces the evolution of divorce and remarriage during the Biblical and post Biblical period. I found the chapters on Intertestamental Period, Rabbinic Teaching, Marriage Vows especially enlightening. The material in these chapters is not the sort Christian authors would normally tap into when putting forward their views on divorce and remarriage.

Most of us are trained to arrive at conclusions through a straight reading of the various Biblical texts and passages which mention divorce and remarriage. Instone-Brewer's contribution is to not only help us read the texts within their socio-historical context but to also nudge us to a place where the historical context influences our interpretation of divorce & remarriage. Did Jesus ignore 1st century Judaism realities and do away with divorce and remarriage? Or was his teaching an attempt to bring discipline into a liberal religious system vulnerable to easy divorce? Instone Brewer's responses are no to the first question and yes to the second.

The book is structured to make it easy for the reader to get into the author's perspective from the get go. And that's a help for busy pastors. Instone-Brewer states the conclusions of his work in the introduction. Here are his conclusions:

a. Both Jesus and Paul condemned divorce without valid grounds and discouraged divorce even for valid grounds.
b. Both Jesus and Paul affirmed the Old Testament grounds for divorce.
c. The Old Testament allowed divorce for adultery and for neglect or abuse.
d. Both Jesus and Paul condemned remarriage after and invalid divorce, but not after a valid divorce.

Although the book can be a bit heavy going at times - Pastors, theological students and lay leaders will not find it difficult to tackle issues the book raises. If you're a busy Pastor or a lay leader, read chapter 11 first (Pastoral Conclusions - Reversing Institutionalised Misunderstandings). The ultra- conservative will not agree with some of the analyses nor the conclusions; the centrist will find lots of material to boost their position and liberals will find stuff here that makes them wince.

David Instone-Brewer breaks new ground in this book. Its worth the money and time.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Like Custer At The Little Big Horn, Opponents Of Cuban Style Social Collectivism Make A Stand.

General Custer fought Red Indians in the American west. His most dramatic test was when Sitting Bull, the Sioux warrior-chief swarmed all over him at a place called the Little Big Horn. Custer, hopelessly outnumbered, had no choice but to make a stand. Something similar is taking place in Bolivia's Constitutional Assembly where opposing historical forces, represented by the present government and a very vocal opposition, are locked in a fierce contest. The latter, a huge minority, are now making their stand. It was only a matter of time before the indigenous marginalized indians would confront, on their own terms, the dominating groups in Bolivian society with their claims. These groups, feeling threatened, have reacted against what they percieve as an all out assault on their values and regional interests. We are hopeful that good sense will prevail and that a compromise will be reached at the last minute.

Student activists, civic leaders - both male and female, the influential agricultural lobby and political parties opposed to the ruling party headed by President Evo Morales have put together one of the largest hunger strikes in the history of Santa Cruz. They are protesting against what they percieve as the government's attempts to push forward an agenda that will change drastically the socio-economic fabric of Bolivia. At stake are 2 big issues. The first is a controversial land reform Act which will effectively give away land in Santa Cruz to poor emigrants from the highlands. Secondly the government-backed representatives at the Constitutional Assembly passed a law which will give them the right to pass any article or statute of their choice by a simple majority vote instead of the required 2/3 majority. The government does not have enough representatives in the Constitutional Assembly to claim a 2/3 majority. Hence the push to pass the new articles of the proposed constitution through a simple majority.

Its amazing that the Constitutional Assembly has not passed a single article or statute after nearly 4 months of existence. Neither the ruling party nor the opposition groups have put forward a proposed constitution! Legally the Assembly has up till the middle of 2007 to table a new constitution that will be approved by a nationwide referendum.
Opposition groups within the Constitutional Assembly believe that a 2/3 majority ruling would force the ruling party to seek a consensus with them and rein in extremist elements. The middle class & urban populace are fearful that the present government has the authority now to re-create Bolivia as a socialist country a la Cuba! The massive non-violent protests against the government are attempts at trying to change the government's stance.

The leftist based indigenous movement in the government sees this Constitutional Assembly as a historic opportunity to frame a constitution that will not only satisfy indigenous aspirations but also give a voice to marginalized sectors of society. History has landed them an opportunity to undo past injustices and to ensure a fairer distribution of the nation's wealth. Its difficult to envisage them caving in to the demands and protests from the other side.

The business constituency, large sectors of Eastern Bolivia, local politicians and civic leaders have a different take on the Constitutional Assembly. They view themselves as the future of country and percieve the present government as retrogade and totally out of touch with the times. From their standpoint, the Constitutional Assembly, like Custer's stand at the Little Big Horn, is THE place to stop the unholy alliance of socialist collectivism and radical indigenous politics. Ensuring that proposed articles are passed with a 2/3 majority is the only way to safeguard their interests.

These are the 2 "Bolivias" in Bolivia: The "Bolivia" of the indigenous people and the poor, especially from the west, want a revolutionary new system responsive to their cultural, material and economic needs. On the other end of the spectrum is the "Bolivia" of the thoroughly urbanized, middle and upper middle class, who feel very vulnerable to changes associated with what they percieve as Cuban style social collectivism. Many of them are in the eastern lowlands and attend our churches in Santa Cruz.

Perhaps the Custer analogy, for the folk in the East, is not the most appropriate; He was slaughtered by Sitting Bull's armies!

God willing there will be no violence and a last minute compromise maybe reached.

Pray for Bolivia!!

Friday, November 24, 2006


A Hardened Taxi Driver Recieves Christ

The taxi driver picked me up at downtown Santa Cruz. Taxi drivers are a captive audience to anyone wanting to lead them to Christ. And so I decided to share the gospel with this particular driver. He was unshavened, looked tired, angry and his right eye was bloodshot. Nope he did not look like the sort that Jesus would want to save. And my hunch was confirmed when he launched into tirade against a particular racial group in Santa Cruz. He did not look or sound like a good church goer. I was not in the mood for a drawn out political discussion; I wish I had taken another taxi.
Then something happened. The Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost took over. His love began to purify my heart as he reached out to embrace this hardened taxi driver. A part of me wanted to share Jesus with him; a part of me was fearful. I launched out anyway; perfect love does cast out fear. He kept quiet as I shared with him about Christ's great love for him. He looked down and out; battered by what was going on in Bolivia. He needed Jesus more than anyone else. I sensed the spiritual walls falling apart before Calvary's love. As he stopped in front of my house, I asked him if he wanted to receive Christ. He said, Yes! I led him in a prayer where he asked Christ to not only forgive him of his sins but to also enter his life.
Is there anything more fulfilling in life than leading someone to Christ? No, not at all!

Thursday, November 23, 2006



The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope met in Rome; they released a statement which was full of general pleasantries except for the passage below in orange.

Certain realities cannot be glossed over; the unbridgeable impasse between Rome and Canterbury is one of them. Rome finds it hard, almost impossible, to renounce its marian dogmas nor its claim to episcopal and ecclesiatical supremacy. Rome has never renounced its call for us to return to her, the Mother church. Its hard to imagine a Pope ever making an ecumenical pilgrimage to Lambeth Palace!

Anglicans are also in holy disarray. The election of a practising gay to the episcopate in the US together with the consecration of women bishops in the Anglican Church have not only sunk any hope for unity between the Anglican and Roman ecclesiastical bodies it is also forcing the the Anglican Communion to re-draw itself within catholic and apostolic boundaries. No one has his finger on what the Anglican Communion will look like after Lambeth 2008. These are the new developments which are characterised as being divisive for Anglicans in the joint statement; they present serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress. On a positive note, the divisiveness of the present Anglican drama could be the birth pangs of a biblically centred catholic and apostolic identity.

Here is the excerpt from the statement released after the meeting between the Archbishop Of Canterbury and the Holy Father:

"In this fraternal visit, we celebrate the good which has come from these four decades of dialogue. We are grateful to God for the gifts of grace which have accompanied them. At the same time, our long journey together makes it necessary to acknowledge publicly the challenge represented by new developments which, besides being divisive for Anglicans, present serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress. It is a matter of urgency, therefore, that in renewing our commitment to pursue the path towards full visible communion in the truth and love of Christ, we also commit ourselves in our continuing dialogue to address the important issues in the emerging ecclesiological and ethical factors making that journey more difficult and arduous".

The anglo-catholic parts of the Anglican communion will probably shake their heads and join the cry of the psalmist, how long oh Lord, how long. The low evangelical anglicans will shrug their shoulders and say, so what? Some might go into a state of shock to discover that Anglicans and Catholics have been talking about a visible union for many years. In Latin America, especially in many parts of the province of the Southern Cone, any talk of rapprochement with Rome, is akin to asking a Christian to converse with the unearthed remains of a dead relative convicted of paedophilia.

Until our Lord returns the only visible unity between Rome and Canterbury is our common baptism in Christ. Maranatha!

Monday, November 20, 2006


"...this movie... mirrors uncontrolled male genius gone amok"

Watching PRESTIGE it is like playing chess with an imaginary board in your head; the story line weaves its way through a series of overlapping events and invites you to figure out what's actually going on in the lives of the characters. The movie not only entertains it also makes you participate in the gradual unfolding of the plot. Prestige reminds me of that great Michael Caine/Lawrence Olivier classic, Sleuth. Coincidentally Caine is also in this movie. Hugh Jackman, Wolverine/X-Men and Christian Bale, Batman sneak in and out of the their plot with some impressive performances. And Michael Caine's deceptive simplicity never fails to deliver the goods. He once told Larry King that acting is like "being in a natural conversation". Very true. Scarlet Johannson and Piper Perabo (a stage name?) don't just provide the romantic interest; they provide a foil to the motif of the movie: obsession and its underlying sub themes of illusion, deception and revenge. Nope...this movie is not about male bonding; it mirrors uncontrolled & competitive male genius gone amok. This is a good movie; its worth the money!

There is a particular masculine tendency to diabolically mock, compete and destroy. Jackman's Angier and Bales Borden are men trapped in such a pathology. They are not easy to evangelise: too clever and hardened for their own good. Only divine regenerative power can break through. And when that happens, men like Angier and Borden sing their own Psalms of healing and redemption.

Children will sleep through the movie. No nudity or foul language in the movie.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


A Talk On Communism & Socialism From A Christian Perspective At A Local Hotel Draws A Big Crowd.

What sort of a talk would interest men to consider the claims of Christ? Bolivian men like politics; the country's swing toward the left has stirred interest; the press and the radio/TV talk shows have latched on to this story. Bolivia is also no stranger to communism and socialism. So the men's ministry decided to organize a talk based on a Christian perspective of Communism and Socialism. About 2/3 of the men who attended the talk were non christians. The speaker, Leopoldo Sceti, is an experienced christian radio talk show host; he spoke for about 4o minutes. After the talk we mingled with the newcomers and invited them to a fellowship meeting in a member's home where the theme of the talk would be further dealt with. We've never done anything like this; the results are very encouraging.

There is a stereotype of men as being anti church and not interested in spiritual matters. The men's ministry is trying to undo this false stereotype. Winning men to Christ is a top priority; setting a man on fire for the Lord has an immediate and positive impact on his wife and family!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


The guy on the right is a craftsman; he is also a prisoner; his works are on display at a special festival organized by, Palmasola, the state penitentiary in Santa Cruz. We normally associates prison with crime. This guy apparently has managed to get his creative juices flowing in prison. Jail is not an impediment for those who want to get ahead in life. Is it any surprise that he is my Bolivian hero? The language of rights does not exist in prison. Its easy to get bitter. Not this inmate. He is making the best of a "bad" situation. The Bolivian justice system is notoriously slow and inefficient. Judges can be bought. Some languish in prisons for months without having their cases tried.

The warden recently announced that they were opening a soap making factory in the prison. Most of these products are exported to the US and Japan. These initiatives provide great therapy for the prisoners and provide income for some of them. Prision should not only be a place for punishment but also a means to rehabilitate.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Last Sunday was one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life. No, I did not do anything. Others did! The Pastor who took my place in the mother church preached a powerful sermon; many responded to the altar call. He led the service with lots of anointing. At the extension centre, the deacon led a retreat for the leaders of that small work; his leadership is growing in that part of the vineyard. Its great to see, those that you've trained personally, moving into positions of great responsability. Both of them however are struggling with their theological extension courses; its not easy to study and serve at the same time. Its my responsability to not only help them finish their studies but to also mentor them in their new roles.

My dream is to raise dozens of empowered clergy filled with the Holy Spirit; some of them will be bi-vocational. This of course is a great challenge in Bolivia. Meeting needs, sometimes very basic ones, go hand in hand with a solid formation that helps one to look beyond themselves in the third world (actually thats true everywhere). People need to be fed, led and taken care of before they can go beyond their own needs and see the challenge of serving others. Configurating all this within an Episcopal church government requires a long term strategy that does not cave in to immediate demands. We are raising leaders who can lead their flock within a larger ecclesiological dynamic. Character formation, honing minstry skills and learning the bible/theology are the three basic components of our leadership training programme. The current leadership have some ways to go before they can raise leaders and project a growing a "self supporting" work. Missionaries like myself come in at this point and provide the necessary back up leadership. How to empower leaders without cultiving dependancy amongst the locals and fostering paternalism among missioaries remains the hot button issue!

Pray For Us!

Monday, November 13, 2006



Last Saturday I went to a follow up workshop on inductive bible studies. The speaker was a Pastor from Cochabamba, one of the major cities in Bolivia. He bought a large number of inductive study Bibles which sold like hotcakes. These special bibles are huge with no headings or a predeterimined outline of texts which make up the books of the Bible(yes, the Bible is actually a library of 66 books and letters). With these Bibles however you get to work on the text and do your own outlines. The method rests on three pillars: observation, interpretation, application. There are of course several sub points which undergird each pillar. The essence of the method is diligent and careful reading of the text. This simple discipline helps the reader to understand the message of the book. It would be however an error to ossify the results of the inductive study method. Biblical scholarship always challenges you to think afresh about a particular book or a text. Its as if the texts are growing organisms!! This of course means that our outlines need to be revised and upgraded.

In the last decade or so we've been "blessed" or assailed by all sorts of study bibles which basically spares the reader the hard work of reading slowly, examining the flow of the text and determing the structure of a given passage or a book. All this does is to help people see the bible in terms of someone else's viewpoint and does not really encourage the reader to dig deep into the word.

The inductive bible study helps one see the literary patterns and structure of the text and it is this seeing that helps one to dig the scriptures for its jewels.

I don't know of any method or system which gets readers into scriptures like the inductive method. There are no fancy books to read or a theologian's name to refer to. It requires work but the payoff is worth it.

One of the best motivational prayers for the inductive bible study method comes from an ancient collect in the Anglican Book Of Common Prayer. Here it is:

Proper 28 The Sunday closest to November 16

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be
written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise
hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them; that,
by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace
and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which
thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and
reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and
ever. Amen.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Christian witness is not morality in itself but an ongoing story of God's gift of redemption as we humbly embrace the brokenness of our sin.

Our efforts at salvaging a measure of integrity from the rubble of a scandal can sometimes sound truncated.

Rev Leith Anderson, is Ted Haggard’s replacement at the National Association Of Evanglicals (NAE). Haggard resigned because of a well publicised moral failure in Colorado. Anderson said in relation to the public perception of Haggard’s fall:

They will understand that if there are 45,000 churches (affiliated with NAE), that 44,999 of them have leaders that did not misbehave and that one person misbehaved and that that is an anomaly." (my emphasis)

Externally, he said, people looking from the outside at evangelicals may attempt to paint them all with one brush.

“There will be those that will think the worst of evangelicals because of this and I’m sorry about that,” Anderson said. “This is not who we are. This is not what we do. This is an exception.” (my emphasis)

eerrghh…does this mean that those 44,999 churches have faultless Pastors who don't misbehave?

My sympathies are with Anderson. He's back is against the wall and something needs to be said in order to put the NAE in a good light. His statement above however borders on spin. People these days can smell spin a mile away!

He may have also unknowingly painted an overly generous picture of Pastors in his attempt to convince people that the NAE is a network of mature Pastors who do not indulge in homosexual trysts. Anderson of course is empirically right. There are men and women in difficult pastorates who are exemplary. This is not to say that exemplary Pastors don't misbehave or do dumb things. There is nothing exceptional or anomalous about sin in Christian leaders. Church history does not exactly put a positive spin on the moral failures of Christian leaders. And yeah…read the Bible too…David, Abraham, Jacob, Noah and Peter - these guys would NEVER have made it to the Times list of the top 50 influential leaders of the decade.

The difference between Haggard and the rest of us? his sins were brutally exposed; ours are either hidden, tolerated or seen as Christian virtue. Most Pastors may not be involved in homosexual trysts. Several of us however lie on occasion, exaggerate in the pulpit, struggle with pornographic temptations, get angry, cuss and yell, don’t pay taxes; there are times when we say “God told us” …when in fact He did not. And let’s not forget all the prideful religious back biting. Pastors don't model political correctness but the terrifying and bloody work of Christ's redemption in our lives.

"whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. Jas 2:10"

When people taunt us for our moral failings, lets repent and NOT take refuge in our own sense of righteousness and claim it was an exception or an anomaly. Suffering taunt and lampooning for our sins is good for the soul! The Psalmists and the writer of Lamentations saw God's hand behind the sorrow of their sins and it was to Him that they directed their cry.

The self deception and self denial that drove Haggard’s "misbehaviour" lurks in all Pastors and takes different sinful shapes and forms. And that, Leith, is neither an exception nor an anomaly!

Pray for your Pastor and his family.

Monday, November 06, 2006


The Bolivian Government Sucessfully Renegotiates Contracts With Oil Companies

President Evo Morales and his cabinet, through some pretty deft negotiations, have signed new contracts with major oil companies. With these new contracts Bolivia not only gets a higher percentage of income earned from the sale of petroleum products but also have a greater say in the production of their natural resources. We are seeing, perhaps for the first time in Bolivian history, a concerted and joint effort by petroleum companies and the government to work out a deal that will benefit both parties. In the past the country swayed from the extremities of nationalisation and privatization. Lets pray and hope that the increase in the national income will trigger more growth and social justice.

Lets give credit where its due. The Bolivian goverment served the long term interests of its people in these difficult negotiations. There was talk of nationalising the oil industry and the previous minister who led the negotiations resigned because expropriating foreign property was a non starter from the word "go". The new minister and his team however managed to put together a deal which the oil companies could accept.

Bolivia's problems will not vanish overnight but there seems to be some positive traction; the government appears to be bringing people together and some of the divisive rhetoric has diminished somewhat.

Thank You For Your Prayers.


A Youth Pastor Had The Opportunity But Did Not Share the Gospel With Che Guevara!

3 Ten Year Olds Sit Through A 40 Minute Adult Bible Teaching Without Fidgetting!

I had my hands full last Sunday. The Senior Clergy was on leave and I covered his duties which included lots of teaching, preaching, counselling and administrative stuff. The lay leaders were out in full force and did their part in ushering, preparing breakfast and helping distribute the wine and the wafers. We had a few newcomers. One of our members was weepy because she could not witness her son's marriage in the States; the US embassy had rejected her application for a visa (a very common outcome due to the illegal imigration)

As usual its the priestly task of preaching, teaching and celebrating the eucharist that gets my juices flowing. These days I try to not only evangelise through my messages but to also get christians to witness for Christ to non christians. Getting people fired up to do evangelism can be challenging, frustrating and rewarding. I closed my sermon with a story of a youth pastor who, although presented with many opportunities, did not share Christ with Che Guevara when Che was a youngster; the story is documented in a book written by Junior Zapata. Che Guevara has a hypnotic hold over the left and the dreamers in Bolivia (as well as in Latin America) partly because he was killed in the jungles of Bolivia. He is now part of the pantheon of heroes in Latin American. Zapata rhetorically asks, "What would have happened, to Latin America, if Guevara had become a Christian". The Lord brings people into our paths so that we can share Jesus with them.

At the nigth Service I taught on the Christian perspective of "Life After Death". I saw 3 ten year olds enter the sanctuary with their dad. He came to the night service because he could not come for the morning Eucharist. My heart sank because my teaching was going to be long and directed to adults. It was an interesting experience because the 10 year olds sat through the 40 minute exposition of the intermediate state, heavenly rewards, judgement, and the final restoration of creation without making a fuss or throwing a tantrum. Unbelievable. There were moments when they looked as if they were listening to the teaching! We have no Sunday School during the night services. One of the them actually responded to my prompting to read some of the Scripture passages aloud during the sermon.

After the service I went to buy a take-out for the family; I returned home, tired, and thankful for the day's experiences.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


It was a hot and humid Sunday morning in Santa Cruz Bolivia. People were using their bulletins as a fan. We were celebrating the witness of the Saints departed last Sunday. ALL SAINTS occupies a special place in my heart. I pastored a church called ALL SAINTS in Singapore before my departure for Bolivia nearly 14 years ago.

I was ALSO ordained as a deacon (1995) and priested (1996) on the Sundays before ALL SAINTS DAY in the diocese of Singapore. By a strange coincidence (I stand corrected - there are no coincidences in the Kingdom!) I was recieved as Archdeacon on the Sunday before ALL SAINTS DAY of eastern Bolivia in the parish Christ Light Of The World, by the Bishop of Bolivia, Frank Lyons. Some of the diocesan clergy who had attended the standing committee meeting the day before, stayed behind for the Sunday service and prayed for me. I appreciated that show of support.

If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would be an Archdeacon in a South American diocese I would have written him off as crazy!!




From the Barnabas Fund http://www.barnabasfund.org/

Thousands of frightened Iraqi Christians are fleeing Iraq, after an escalation in anti-Christian violence. Several horrific attacks on Christians in the last three weeks have increased the fear amongst the Christian community. This appears to be a response to a call by militants for increased violence during the Islamic fasting month, Ramadan (which this year is 24th September - 23rd October).

On Wednesday October 4th an explosion was detonated in the mainly Christian district of Camp Sara, Baghdad. As people gathered round to help the wounded a second, larger explosion occurred. Nine Christians were killed in the attack, one of the largest deathtolls for a single attack. Observers say that the timing of the two consecutive bombs was similar to that of the attack on a church in Baghdad on 24th September.

On Tuesday 10th October Paulos Iskander, an Iraqi church minister, was abducted in Mosul. Iskander's eldest son received a phone call from the kidnappers demanding a ransom of $250,000; the family, unable to raise this money, were able to negotiate for a ransom of $40,000, but the kidnappers also demanded that Iskander's church publicly repudiate the remarks about Islam quoted by Pope Benedict XVI last month. When Iskander's family asked for proof that he was still alive the kidnappers held up the phone so that the sounds of crying and screaming could be heard. The family began to raise the ransom by asking churches and Christians in the area to help, and arranging several loans. Iskander's church as well as several other churches placed 30 large posters around the city to distance themselves from the Pope's words. However, before the ransom could be paid Iskander's decapitated body was discovered on 12th October, dumped in an outlying suburb of Mosul. His body showed signs of torture, with cigarette burns, bullet holes and wounds from beatings. His hands and legs had been severed, and arranged around his head which was placed on his chest. Iskander's family later received a phone call from the kidnappers, who taunted them that Iskander "had a lot of blood in him".

In Baquba, 65km north-east of Baghdad, a Christian doctor was abducted and killed on his way to work in Baquba hospital. There has also been an unconfirmed report that a 14-year-old Christian boy was crucified in Basra. Amidst the surge in hostility towards Christians in recent weeks, Christian girls have increasingly become the target in a spate of kidnappings and rapes. The girls are taken from their families at gunpoint, from their homes or snatched off streets into waiting cars. They are frequently raped and abused while in captivity, only released if their families are able to find the large ransoms demanded.

The shame of their ordeal, which is felt far more in such a culture than in the West, can make the victims suicidal. In one case a girl killed herself after being abducted and gang raped by nine men. When the abductors allowed her to call her family she asked them not to pay the ransom. The family did pay and she was returned to them, but she was found dead the following morning; she had taken an overdose of sleeping pills. In another case five Christian girls were kidnapped in front of policemen as they tried to obtain passports from a travel and citizenship department in Baghdad. The police did nothing to try to stop the kidnappers. Indeed police forces in Iraq generally seem either unable or unwilling to do anything to protect Christians, and it is reported that some are even participating in these brutal crimes against Christian women and children.

As Christians leave their homes out of fear of the violence around them, some have been specifically threatened to force them to leave. Thirty families in Mosul received messages on their mobile phones on 30th September telling them to leave within 72 hours or they would be killed. The continued exodus of Christians from Iraq and persecution of those who remain leads some to predict that there may soon be an end to the ancient Christian presence in this country.

*Please pray for shocked and grieving Christians coming to terms with the horrific deaths of their loved ones. Pray that they will have peace in their hearts, and feel themselves comforted and protected, held in God's everlasting arms. * Pray for peace in Iraq, and in particular that the violence against Christians will come to an end. Pray that police and security forces in Iraq will protect all citizens irrespective of their faith.

Friday, October 27, 2006


The Bolivian Beat recently interviewed Frank Lyons, Anglican Bishop of Bolivia. Bishop Frank and his wife Shawnee served in Ecuador and Honduras before the Lord called them to serve in Bolivia. They have 5 grown up children. One of them is in Baghdad Iraq and the others are studying and working.

BB: How did you come to a personal knowledge of Christ as your Saviour and Lord?
Bp Lyons
: I came to the Lord as a young lad of six when I was confronted with long periods of debilitating earaches (they would operate to allow for drainage). I turned to the Lord for healing. A few years later, watching the movie “King of Kings” one Holy Week, I realized that Jesus bore his cross personally for me. I was also nourished by a good Sunday school at Loch Raven Presbyterian in Towson, MD. Other experiences as a youth deepened that faith.

BB: You knew Abp Michael Ramsay the former Archbishop of Canterbury when you were a student at Nashotah House. What were your impressions of him?
Bp Lyons: Abp Michael Ramsey is an imposing figure for Anglicanism with his combination of Bible and liturgy. He was foremost a Biblical theologian. He is criticized for this because the tendency is to place systematics above biblical theology. That affected him as well, especially in the (old) Robinson “God is Dead” affair. I believe that by his actions he saved John Robinson’s soul, whereas, James Pike was allowed to wander and perish in the desert. However, as I now read the various biographies, Ramsey regretted his actions until his death as somehow a denial of the unwritten Anglican charity of “openness to whatever doctrine” that in effect pits ego-intellectualism against true faith. Personally, we had some brief chats, but I was not one of the students who maintained a deep, ongoing relationship. He did follow our missionary career with interest.

BB: Who were some of the people that influenced you in your growth as a person and as a pastor/Bishop?
Bp Lyons
: My participation at the two local churches of my youth was rewarding, especially with David Lord’s biblical teaching. Mentoring has not always been an Anglican focus, so my studies and reflection on the ministry have aided me. The Bible faculty at Wheaton, especially Al Hoerth, Hassel Bullock and Gerry Hawthorne, and later Peter Wagner at Fuller, have been of greatest value to me. The time in ministry spent with Steven Giovangelo and the congregation of St. Luke’s of the Mountains in La Crescenta, CA, was invaluable to my and Shawnee’s ministries.

BB: Can you share with readers your experiences In Renewal?
Bp Lyons
: My teenage years were spent at St James Church in Potomac, MD, which was dynamically charismatic. Our rector, David Lord, was a solid Bible teacher and our youth group was very active spiritually. Many people matured in a balanced faith and five others were also called into the ministry during that era. Renewal presented a problem for our Diocese which opposed our version of the “faith once delivered” at every step. Openness to the Spirit does not necessarily mean excess when tempered by clear biblical training, but rather compliments it.

BB: The biggest challenge you face or faced and the most satisfying moment in life ?
Bp Lyons:
My biggest challenge came when the Lord called us overseas to minister cross culturally. I think I was planning to go to some nice quiet, maintenance oriented suburban church. I do not have the adventuring/discovery gifts that I consider necessary to be a missionary. Flexibility and an orientation to lifelong learning help me make up for those deficiencies. The great need for development is what keeps me on track here; developing people mentally, materially, and spiritually as disciples of Jesus.

BB: You participated in a dig in the Holy Land as an archeologist. How has archeology deepened your faith?
Bp Lyons: I dug at Beersheva in the sixth season under Y. Aharoni and A. Rainey, where a horned altar had been discovered previously. Kathleen Kenyon visited that summer. A lot of brute strength was involved in trying to dismantle the Herodian foundations superimposed there. Archaeology is critical in illuminating the text of Scripture and bringing home Jewish culture. As the gentile Church grew out and away from the Land we lost sight of the role of geography and Jewish culture in this context. When Jesus says something, “where he is” and “his culture” are as important as the way in which he says it.

BB: What’s your favorite Bolivian food and why?
Bp Lyons My favorite is Pique Macho. Mouth watering pieces of filet mignon are cooked in a meat sauce with franks or sausage and are placed with fresh tomato, onion and locoto over a bed of piping hot French fries. Locoto is the local pepper which varies in strength within each piece. Delicious, but much like Russian roulette.