Month: July 2016

Are Missionaries Safe?

Take a mission trip to a foreign land – one of the first questions you will get is “Is it safe?”  Have a prayer for the missionaries and “Lord please keep them safe” will be said a number of times.   Take the grandchildren to a developing country…. well don’t tell grandma….she won’t be happy.

I’m not mocking these.  There are REAL dangers out there.  When we flew into Guatemala we were not aware that they were in the middle of a 30 year civil war until we saw soldiers everywhere with machine guns.  When a friend of mine flew into Kenya he saw tanks lining the runway.  A soldier came on the plane and said, “if you get off the plane you may not be able to leave.  You can stay on the plane and leave now or take your chances.”  hmmm  Airports are being blown up.  People are getting kidnapped and shot.  This doesn’t take into consideration food and water issues or other health concerns.

But let’s look at it from another view.  How do foreigners feel about coming to the “greatest country on earth” (I hate that saying)?  Danger of getting shot.  Be careful of road rage.  Buy travel insurance because we don’t have national health care.  Apparently the world believes that it is the wild west here and everyone is packing ready to shoot anyone.  We know that only happens in Chicago.

There are no guarantees on our safety – anywhere.  Most Americans die in America so it must be unsafe.  Our son joined the Marines which can be very scary for a parent.  Right after his graduation to boot camp several police officers were killed who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They made it through war only to be gunned down in America.  People die from running, skiing, playing baseball and driving and yet we don’t classify them as dangerous activities.

We need to take caution wherever we are and whatever we do.  Kids wear bike helmets now – that would have been a joke when I was a kid.  Be smart.  Be careful.  Be culturally intelligent.  But most of all trust God to lead you.  God didn’t instruct us to be safe.  He did call us to go share the gospel.  Is it safe?  Nope.  Go anyway.

Here are a few travel advisories to the USA: http://mentalfloss.com/article/68276/25-unusual-foreign-travel-warnings-visiting-us

A friend just sent this link to me.  Very very sad.  It is dangerous everywhere: http://www.omaha.com/news/nebraska/young-family-killed-in-i–crash-was-headed-to/article_1decf7ac-580c-11e6-8bb6-eb3c17ea9b44.html

africa

Advertisements

I’m tired of going to church

I am 56 years old which means that I have lived through approximately 2,912 Sundays.  I have been in church on at least 2,000 of those (I’m guessing).  I am tired of going to church.  I have no major complaints.  I’m just tired of going.  Over the years there have been pro-church times and anti-church times.

High school was a plus time because I wanted to see my friends in youth group.

College was a down time because youth group is over and not really feeling a part of anything.

Marriage was a good time – building new relationships and having children.  You get a lot of support for child rearing at church.  Babysitters, advice, clothes, etc.

Disasters and crushing times are a good time to be at church – when we lost our son, the church was at it’s best.  I can’t say enough for how they cared for us.  I can’t imagine going through a natural disaster or difficult time in life without having the support of a church.

Empty Nest – This is my period of life.  When I was a child, my parents made me go.  When I was a parent I made my kids go (which then included me!).  Now there is no one to make me go and sometimes I just don’t want to.   I don’t have any major complaints.  No church is perfect.  If it was perfect I would ruin it as soon as I stepped in.

I’ve listened to over 2000 sermons and sang enough hymns and worship songs to last awhile.  I went from a conservative church to a contemporary one.  I’ve gone from an old congregation to a young one.  An old stone structure to meeting in a gym.  From Mennonite to Baptist to a cell based charismatic.  Pews and folding chairs.  I’ve been in just about every denomination at one point or other.  I’ve seen scandals, blow ups, deceit, back stabbing, crying, yelling, grace, forgiveness and mercy.   I’ve seen a lot of love and a little bit of hate.  I’ve been in churches that spoke in tongues and churches that said they are of the devil.

The point is, I’ve seen almost all that can be seen in a church and heard almost anything you might want to hear (or not hear).  Unless something radical comes along, I’m just a little bored with the whole thing.  It’s not a matter of right or wrong, good or bad.  I’m just a little tired of it.  Sleeping in on Sundays at my age and going out for coffee with my wife is pretty nice and I may just do it again this Sunday!

church

Barbie Savior

Short term missions have long been a topic of debate in the mission world.  Are they really “mission” trips or are they vacations in a developing nation?  Are they worth the money?  Do they do more harm than good?  Are they offensive to local populations?  The questions go on and on.  I have no aspiration to settle the argument here!  I’m just trying to catch you up on some of the recent rumblings in the internet “mission” world.

One of the latest popular trends is Barbie Savior on Instagram, @BarbieSavior on Twitter and the blog BarbieSavior.com/blog.

Here is a quote from their “about” page:

Barbie Savior began in 2016 by two friends who were simply tired of the acclaim of the White Savior on social media. It began as a joke – a place for us to express our frustrations. Our little Instagram account, however, caused quite the stir. It was clear we struck a nerve on the age old topic of the White Savior Complex.

Together we have over a decade of studying, traveling, and working abroad. While this left us cynical and jaded enough to create Barbie Savior, we know full well that this issue – and these conversations – are so much bigger than us.

One post comments on the problems with visiting orphanages:

So many of us start out by volunteering in orphanages. We believe in the biblical and humanitarian call to look after orphans. It starts with our innate desire to do good, so how did we get it so wrong? How did the first line of defense for orphan care become so harmful? When did we decide it was the healthy, proper thing to do to visit orphanages and “experience” the African orphan? This industry, “orphanage tourism”, is detrimental in countless ways.

To see more blog posts in this program, please search #stoporphantrips on social media.

Another hot topic related to this on the internet is #LintonLies.  I’m not going to go into details on this.  A quick summary is Aspiring actress Louise Linton recently released an extract from her memoir detailing her experiences in Zambia as a young  white saviour idealistic volunteer.

I think anyone who has worked in missions for any length of time and/or worked in orphanages has seen mission trips that just made them want to puke!  Or at least cry.  Teams of youth bouncing around acting stupid.  Older teams that really just wanted to shop for deals at markets.  Teams that wanted to hold babies and children and tell them that they were going to take them home.  Teams photographing in an insensitive way that embarrassed the locals.  Teams that spent horrendous amounts of money to build a wall that the locals could do for a fraction of a fraction of the cost.

But…..there is always a but….

For all the “damage” and “waste” that an American short term mission trip can cause there are some very valid huge benefits and facts:

1) Many if not most missionaries get their “heart call” for missions by the seed planted on a short term mission trip.

2) Americans are criticized for lack of knowledge of other cultures.  Developing culture is not really taught in our schools and most people do not have an inborn desire to start studying them.  Most who develop a passion for this get it from visiting another country.

3) Most people do not really have a passion to give to a ministry unless they embrace it personally.  Short term missions are a great way to build loyalty.

4) I look at missions in a similar way to professional sports.  Millions of children learn a sport and play on a “little league” team of some sort.  Hundreds of thousands of those children will play their sport at a high school level.  Thousands of them will play at a college level.  Hundreds will play at a professional level.  A few will become Rock Stars in their field and be forever remembered.  The same applies to missions.  Many will go on a week mission trip.  Only a few will make life long commitments.  Those life long people may be sickened watching the stupidity of a short term team but they need to realize that everyone starts somewhere.  I got weeded out of sports by the 6th grade.  I’m still battling through high school in the mission arena.

5) Orphan ministry – I don’t have room to go into that here (maybe later).  When we told a long termer on our first trip that we wanted to adopt he said “So you want the perfect child.  Girl, healthy, infant, light skinned”.  In other words – a trophy child that we could show off.  If you know our family or have read my blogs, you know that is NOT what we got.  I wish I could tell that long termer who we adopted and tell him that I am still offended by what he said – although at the time he said it, it was probably true.  You see, some of us learn from our short term trips.  Some of us don’t.

6) Missions as a whole is very messy.  Sometimes it is downright shitty (sorry but it fit).  Whether discussing long term, short term, misionation trips, styles of mission agencies, approach, orphanages – they are all messy and no one has all the answers.  We are a broken world but we have grace, mercy, love, hope and vision to try to learn a better way!

7) Go on a mission trip.  Don’t be a Barbie Savior.  Just go and serve.  Study another culture. Give to a missionary.  Cry for the lost. Adopt a needy child.  Just do something!

barbiesaviour

What’s Happened to Church Volunteers?

As church leaders, we have all heard it many times:  “I’d love to help but I’m just too busy”.  I understand that.  We can’t do everything for everyone and sometimes the best thing to do is to say “no”.    But there seems to be a growing trend in the church that matches society – volunteering is a thing of the past.

Overall volunteering numbers are down and in a downward spiral – only 25% of Americans did any volunteering in 2013.  That’s down from 29% 10 years ago.  It’s easy to jump on the Millennials for this.  But is it all their fault?  One of the statistics states that people who are educated are the biggest decliners.  Maybe that’s because they need to work three jobs to pay for their student loans.

So what is affecting the church?  When my dad was a pastor, he was almost always a lone employee over the span of 30 years.  The churches he led all paid part time janitors.  He occasionally  had a part time secretary that was paid and sometimes he had a paid part time youth leader.  Looking at churches of a comparable size today you will find a paid pastor, paid children’s director, paid youth leader, paid associate pastor, paid administrator, paid secretary plus the trusty janitor and possibly more.  A church in my town is now paying someone to care for the baby nursery because no one would volunteer to do the job.

It is probably fair to say without doing a lot of research that a large part of our church budgets have now shifted to salaries which support the needs of the congregation rather than outreach and missions.  In a time when missionaries are facing higher costs to be on the field, they are competing with financial balancing at their home churches.

So what is causing us to pay nursery workers instead of finding volunteers?  Why are we needing to pay children’s workers, youth leaders, worship leaders, sound and tech people, and other care givers?  Are we really that busy that we can’t serve or is there a shift in our attitude towards giving our time?

One of the causes in the slide is the hiring of employees at all.  A church without a pastor will push everyone to chip in to cover the need.  As soon as a pastor is hired, everyone backs off and allows the “paid” professional to do the work.  This pattern continues down the line – if a youth leader is paid, volunteers who want to work with the youth will dwindle.  Is it wrong to hire staff?  No.  In many cases it is necessary and may be the best for the church.  But, leadership needs to be aware that the more positions are paid, the more members will be hesitant to volunteer because they are not getting paid.

A second cause is additional background checks, liability and cost to volunteering.  When I was a youth leader I often drove kids home from an event.  I would be very leery of doing that today with abuse allegations being common.  Even if I was totally innocent, my life would be ruined if one youth made a claim of inappropriate behavior.  That is a terrifying thought.  Some may be willing to teach Sunday School but don’t want the hassle of doing a background check.  It’s not that they are worried about the check – they just don’t want the added responsibility to teach a few Sundays a year.

A third possible reason is that many of us grew up in homes where our parents volunteered for everything and as a result were never home.  Being a preacher’s kid I felt the pain of my dad being away most nights at meetings and other ministry needs.  When I had my own children, I said that I wanted to be home with them so that they wouldn’t say that I cared for someone else more then them.

Whatever the reasons for the decline, the church today needs to be aware of the decline and confronting it.  Hiring every need is not the answer and will make our churches even more self centered than they are already.

1 Peter 5:2  Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.

church