Friday, February 23, 2007
FLOOD WATERS CONTINUE TO DEVASTATE EASTERN BOLIVIA
Help is beginning to arrive in some of the affected areas; EU countries and our neighbours have sent emergency aid. The governor bought a helicopter to assist people trapped in outlying areas.
The photo shows cows perishing.
Families, left stranded by the floods, are part of communities who've found refuge in in football stadiums and schools.
Its a devastating tragedy.
I have never seen anything like this, before, in my life.
Pray for Bolivia.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
SANTA CRUZ CARNAVAL 2007
Nothing To Redeem Except Opportunities To Foster Church Fellowship
BREAKING NEWS: 5 PEOPLE LOSE THEIR LIVES IN DRUNKEN REVELRY
Many Bolivians, every year without fail, indulge in two days of fun, drunken revelry, parades and promiscuous behaviour. Carnaval in Santa Cruz is a crazy affair. Children and adults throw inflated balloons filled with water at each other; paint and coloured water are now part of the mayhem. People have no qualms about defacing the walls and doors of the city centre city with paint and piss. At times drunken violence takes over as rival groups get involved in punch ups; Carnaval is a dream come true for the liquor industry.
I suppose there are spots of healthy fun during carnaval but by and large it is escapism built on collective indulgence. A growing number of Bolivians find the whole thing ridiculous and leave the city during the revelry.
Many countries in Latin America have their own version of carnaval. The most notorious being the one in Brazil with its bright lights and nude women. In terms of color, sight and culture, nothing comes close however to the carnaval in Oruro, Bolivia.
CARNAVAL & FLOOD VICTIMS
Groups called comparsas elect their own beauty queens and one them is chosen as the carnaval beauty queen. She is then, like a switched on human bulb, paraded in social events and parades constantly. Carnaval is costly affair. A lot of money is dished out in buying costumes, organizing parades, drinking booze and getting into a prestigious comparsa.
An ethical dilemma surfaced: Is it right for city dwellers to dance and wine during carnaval while the rest of Bolivia is in mourning?
The El Niño floods is a national disaster: lives were lost; damage to property and livelihood is incalcuble, especially for a third world country like Bolivia. President Evo Morales and the governors decided not to participate in carnaval this year;they were busy directing relief operations. It would not have been an anomaly to cancel carnaval and raise funds for the flood victims as a gesture of our solidarity with them.
THE RELIGIOUS ELEMENT
Lets not forget the religious element - a god named king Momo is the patron deity of carnaval. And Ash Wednesday always falls on the day after carnaval festivities. There's a stereotype of a promiscous reveller whose licentious behaviour is pegged to the assurance that the Ash Wednesday mass will fix his sins automatically. "If you've sinned during carnaval, not to worry; the host dished out during mass will sufficiently take care of any offense against the almighty". This is not a blanket judgement on all Roman Catholics, many of whom take Lent seriously.
Christian churches don't approve of carnaval; they normally take their people away in outlaying areas, away from the city, and put together an edifying programme which includes games, Bible teaching, fellowship and fun. Is there anything that can be redeemed from carnval? probably nothing except for the opportunity to get together and affirm our bonds as church family.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
WELCOME TO THE FIRST DAY OF LENT
ASH WEDNESDAY COLLECT
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
breath slowly...read this collect thoughtfully...don't rush the words in your mind...let the Holy Spirit work...
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
PRIMATES GIVE THE AMERICAN EPISCOPAL CHURCH UP TO SEPTEMBER 2007 TO RENOUNCE SERVICES OF SAME SEX UNIONS AND CONSECRATION OF GAYS IN EPISCOPAL ORDERS (Abp Rowan Williams seen here participating in special service at Zanzibar, Tanzania)
CONFUSION IN SANTA CRUZ, BOLIVIA 2003
I still remember the shock, embarrasment, anger and confusion written over people's faces when news of Gene Robinson's election as bishop in the US hit Santa Cruz, Bolivia. He was a practising homosexual who had left his wife to live with a male partner; his consecration service was transmitted, live, into the homes of everyone in Santa Cruz, including our church members, courtesy of CNN.
The congregation was distracted because of all the publicity given to the consecration; they did not understand how an entire province could have gone astray. And how was it possible for a gay person to be ordained deacon and priest in the first place? Those were challenging times for us in Santa Cruz. I had to sit with leaders, work through the Biblical issues and dig into church history to show how apostasy was not uncommon in the highest councils of of the ecclesiastical hierachy; the diocese of Bolivia took out advertisements in the local newspapers to disassociate ourselves from the American church. This helped to clarify the situation amongst the local populace and improved our relationships with folk from other Christian churches.
Time flies. Its hard to believe that this took place 4 years ago. Since then various attempts have been made to convince the American church to renounce same sex blessings and the consecration of gay bishops. Their responses to the worldwide communion were slow, feeble and ambiguous. A clear deadline however is now in place; the sword of discipline hangs over the american church.
PRIMATES WIELD THE SWORD IN TANZANIA
The Primates met in Tanzania at the end of last week under this dark cloud. After several days of meetngs the communique was released. The key statement was for the American church to renounce both same sex blessings and the consecration of gay bishops before the end of September 2007. The consequence of not doing so, would indicate a decision on the part of the American church to walk away from the worldwide anglican communion.
An interesting plan has also been put forward to try and help bible believing parishes and dioceses to work under the covering of a council headed by a separate primate called a primatial vicar; this council of 5 bishops will function within the present episcopal structure in the States. Will this really work? Probably not but it might be worth a try. The Archbishop of Canterbury called it an experiment. It will only work if liberal bishops have a change of heart; its difficult to envisage such a scenario.
I was expecting a stronger response from Tanzania but maybe this patient approach by the Primates will yield more fruit.
Friday, February 16, 2007
WALKIN' THE DOG
APPRECIATING SIMPLE MOMENTS
Elijah and I are taking our dogs, spot and brownie, for a walk; Nothing like the company of a loved one. The photo is a bit dated.
My son Elijah just returned from a school camp; it lasted for about a week. Michelle, my wife, with many others, are busy organising the church family camp.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
This is the "mother" of all meetings where the anglican communion will be reshaped.
AMERICAN CHURCH IN CRISIS
The Global South Primates are pushing for a new Anglican jurisdiction in the US to represent anglicans who've left the existing episcopal church. They will also insist that the episcopal church in the US be disciplined. The reason for this furore? A practising gay man, Gene Robinson, was consecrated bishop in the American Church 4 years ago. Providing services of blessing for same sex partners living together was the other straw which broke the camel's back.
An important resolution, highlighting the incompatibility between homosexual behaviour and the Bible, was passed at a meeting of all the anglican bishops in 1998; it was totally ignored by the american church toward the build up of Gene Robinson's consecration in 2003. Subsequent warnings and the suspension of the episcopal church's delegates within the major bodies of the Anglican Church were not taken seriously. The exodus of orthodox anglicans and parishes did not seem to perturb the episcopal church hierachy. Their inability to meet the requirements of a previous meeting of the primates at Dromantine, Ireland 2 years ago was predictable; most of their bishops are hard core liberals. Electing a liberal primate, fully supportive of the gay agenda only provoked the majority of the primates even further.
ONE POSSIBLE SCENARIO IN TANZANIA
The newly elected primate of the american church, Jennifer Schori, was invited to explain the actions of the american church before the primates in Tanzania. Many primates will only receive her as someone under discipline. They will not share the Eucharist with her; most of their provinces have declared a state of impaired communion between themselves and the american church (the Global South Primates did not share the Eucharist with the previous american primate either).
My predictions: The Episcopal church will be disciplined; their membership will be suspended in the worldwide anglican communion. The scale of the suspension will depend on Schori's representations and the reaction of the global south primates to the ideas and leadership of Rowan Williams. Bishops who do not accept the resolution outlining the anglican communion's understanding of homosexuality and the Windsor Report (a report put together by a special committee which asked for the suspension of gay bishops and services of blessing for gay couples) will NOT be invited to the Lambeth Conference.
A POSSIBLE FUTURE FOR BIBLE BELIEVING ANGLICANS IN THE STATES
Work on a parallel structure will also hopefully begin in earnest; this is going to be a gargantuan task because bible believing parishes and congregations that left the american episcopal church don't want a monolithic structure similar to the one they left. Many of these congregations and parishes are spread out through a variety of networks, regions and groups; they enjoy the oversight of overseas bishops and primates; getting them under one roof will be like herding cats!
Lord Have Mercy On Us All
REACHING OUT TO FLOOD
Children were everywhere; they took part in the singing and loved the sketches
Gregorio (grey shirt) and Dionosio (light blue shirt) were the coordinating Pastors from local communities ravaged by the floods.
Families were stranded and found refuge in churches and schools. Some of them brought their own little tents.
These indigenous young men are guarani; they speak the local dialect.
Some of the flood victims bought their dogs with them at the school. The dogs fought amongst themselves constantly over territorial rights.
The flood waters destroyed crops, homes, barns etc.
It was painful to see many houses under the flood waters. If it was painful for us, imagine what it must be like for the owners!
Its the school holidays so the children swim in the flood waters.
Friday, February 09, 2007
People with bad backs were were taken care off by Chiropractors
We gave wheat, eggs and sulphur soap to a stranded community bottom left. Cooking oil was distributed to families seeking refuge in a government school bottom right.
And of course intercessions were offered wherever we went. Pastor Oscar from one of the churches prays in public for this community.
REACHING OUT TO FLOOD VICTIMS 2
Vitamin pills were handed out top left.
The doctor takes a look at a little girl top right.
A skit on health care brought home the message of personal hygiene bottom left. Tooth paste and tootbrushes were handed to the community bottom right.
The dentist was on hand to do extractions.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
3 churches - An Assembly of God Congregation, An Independant Evangelical and Christ Light Of The World, Anglican - put together a team with the purpose of bringing aid to flood victims in the major provinces of Santa Cruz. We were supervised by a doctor, nurses, a dentists, nutritionists and chiropractors from a Christian Clinic.
We went in 3 buses packed with people and supplies of all sorts - medicines, food, cooking oil, mattresses, clothes, blankets, pillows, pills. On the right are the buses that took us to flood victim who had lost just about everything.
Here are some photos of the team members: The young people on the left are anglicans; The ones on the right are the nurses from the Christian clinic. Pastor Ron Firestone, below right, preaching is a chiropractor and runs the Clinic. I'm on the left, standing outside a hut.
Friday, February 02, 2007
ARE ELECTED OFFICIALS INHERENTLY GOOD?
LEADERS, LIKE THE PEOPLE THEY SERVE, ARE IMPERFECT, LIMITED AND SINCERE.
Blogpastor asked me this question recently: Is President Evo Morales good for Bolivia?
Is a nation's well being tied to the inherent goodness of those in elected office? Politicians, like the people they serve are a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. There is truth to the maxim: leaders reflect the nation they lead. And lets not forget the other one: people get the leaders they deserve
On a more positive note, the vast majority of elected leaders don't spend their time thinking up of ways to make life difficult for their people. The general populace have on many levels benefitted from sincere and able politicians. In general terms, all elected officials have a mixed record and its up to the public to decide if they deserve a second chance during elections.
THE ISSUES ARE BEYOND GOOD MEN OR WOMEN
Evaluating elected officials in terms of their policies over a long period is a sobering experience. Policies are subject to historical changes. An emergency aid policy, highly beneficial to one generation becomes a source of unhealthy dependancy in the next. A just war in one generation only leaves a confused geopolitical escenario in the next. Creating sovereign states by arbitrarily imposing borders appears to be a rational solution until inter-ethnic rivalries deepen claims made by communal leaders; borders then become nothing but lines drawn on maps. The nations of the earth, as a consequence, crash under the weight of their own alliances and vanities. The issues are beyond the efforts of "good" men and women.
But lets not go overboard. There is a place for using the adjective "good" in political discourse; Elected officials have put into place policies which have contributed to the common good. Finding solutions, albeit temporary, in the midst of a worsening economic crisis provides relief for desperate families.
THE TEMPTATION OF POWER
The problem is the human tendency to accumulate/seize power to promote oneself and their coterie. Politicians are not exempt from these innate impulses. How easy it is to deceive ourselves into sacrificing the interests of the defenceless for the larger good, especially when the larger good are our friends. Followers are also at fault. We get a narcotic fix in projecting our secular leaders as great men or women of great moral virtue. Politicians are elected to do a job; they are not mythic figures nor are they paragons of moral virtue.
ELECTED LEADERS ARE FALLEN
The Bible, describes our relationship with government leaders. We are called to pray for them (1Timothy 2: 1-4) because civil authorities under God's sovereign rule possess a mandate to do good and punish the evil doer (Romans 13:1-6). Our submission to them is based on these biblical mandates. The Old Testament provides rich examples of godly men who worked under the authority of non christian kings. Joseph was succesful in Pharoah's cabinet; Daniel served Babylonian kings; Nehemiah was an able administrator in the Persian court; Esther intervened in a crisis, influenced the Persian king and avoided a massacre. These men and women of of God were positive influences over goverment officials and kings; their involvement in the affairs of state were however not based on the intrinsic goodness of the kings. Christian support for elected officials has as its reference point, the Biblical revelation concerning the place of the nations in God's redemptive plan.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans: 3:23). All includes national leaders. Politicians placate their base constantly and at times they do it at the expense of the nation. Also, politics can be a tough business. Winning votes can sometimes mean bringing out the knives and the knuckledusters. Read Solomon's succession of David in the first 2 chapters of 1 kings; it reads like a Brian de Palma movie. Politics is about managing power for noble ends; it is not for the fainthearted. Absolute power does corrupt; hence the need for checks and balances in a democracy. C. S Lewis supports democratic freedoms because of the inclination to abuse power even amongst the noble. Democratic freedoms spread power in and through the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the state. And of course elections give the people the right to change elected officials.
ELECTED LEADERS WORK FOR THE COMMON GOOD
It is easy to let politicans off the hook and leave the governing process to realists who constantly choose the lesser evil. No, there is a moral dimension to government policies. And intelligent politicians of all stripes know this. There is a line, if crossed, will not only cost them votes but also their own reputation with the populace. They can't be slaves to immediate political gains. Sometimes the larger good has to prevail at the expense of the elected official's own political base or favorite lobby group. For instance, President Morales of Bolivia last year had to choose between supporting the actions of his supporters or sticking to a policy which benefitted the entire populace. He chose the latter. His opponents did not give him much credit; some of his supporters griped. Not supporting elements within his base will probably cost him some votes; not many but some.
The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, in the heat of an election campaign made remarks which did nothing for his image as a politician open to differing views; he apologised and scored some points; his party won handsomely. Singapore pundits were once again left to comment on the differences between a landslide victory and an overwhelming victory. A new generation of Singaporeans have emerged; they want a political climate open to differing views; the new PM reflects their values and his apology signals a positive change.
FORGET THE PROPAGANDA, ELECTED LEADERS ARE NOT GREAT MORAL FIGURES.
So can elected officials be a source for good? If doing good means the promotion of decent living standards and a degree of social stability than the answer is, yes; that's a no brainer. Exaggerating a leader's persona or projecting him or her as a great national moral change agent however is another matter. David was the greatest king of Israel. His devotion to God and his success as a warrior-king were unmatched. His biographer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in the the 2 books of Samuel does not provide a reverential look at this David's life. No stone is left unturned. Some of the stuff is embarrassing and offensive. It is not a pretty picture.
History has left us with the ruins of those who tried to lead their nations under the cover of fixed ideologies, dizzying calls to freedom and false promises. Communism ran its course and died because its idea of history was a deception. The American media after deifying their elected leaders tend to find fault with them, sometimes endlessly. And maybe the problem is not the fault finding but the juvenile attempts by handlers or lobbying groups to project their political clients as men and women of destiny. Political leaders are limited and flawed; they are not heralds of moral or social transformation. So please...spare us all the jingoism.
WE ARE NOT CALLED TO PUT OUR LEADERS ON A PEDESTAL BUT TO RESPECT AND PRAY FOR THEM.
Christ, the Good Shepherd, is the only moral crusader worthy of consideration. Only He can lead us into the promised land.