Category: international

Person of the Year 2016

The first person that came to mind this year was the “Aleppo Boy”.

aleppo

He was the young boy pulled from debris in Syria.  I decided to go bigger and considered an award to all children of war and began gathering photos.  The most iconic photo I remember is from my childhood war (Vietnam) and is called “Napalm Girl”.  Anyone over 55 in America knows who this is.  I wanted to know where she is today and what became of her.  After reading her story, I easily decided to nominate her as “My Person of the Year.”

Her name is Phan Thi Kim Phuc or just Kim Phuc.  She was born on April 2, 1963 (three years younger than me) in South Vietnam.  Kim lived in the village of Trang Bang and on June 8, 1972 at age nine she was hit by a napalm bomb.  She became famous for being photographed by Nick Ut as she was running naked.  Mr. Ut won a Pulitzer prize for the photo and it was featured in the New York Times and Life Magazine.

napalm

 

Kim was badly burned and tore off her burning clothes. In an interview many years later, she recalled she was yelling, Nóng quá, nóng quá (“too hot, too hot”) in the picture. She was taken to a hospital in Saigon where it was determined that her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive.  After 14 months in the hospital and 17 surgical procedures she was sent home.

Phúc was removed from her university as a young adult while studying medicine and used as a propaganda symbol by the communist government of Vietnam. In 1986, however, she was granted permission to continue her studies in Cuba.  She had converted from her family’s Cao Dai  religion to Christianity in 1982.  After arriving in Cuba she met another Vietnamese student who she began dating and later married.   On the way to their honeymoon in Moscow, they left the plane during a refueling stop in Newfoundland asked for political asylum.   The couple now lives in Ajax, Ontario near Toronto and have 2 children.   In 2015, it was reported that she was receiving laser treatment at a hospital in Miami, Florida to reduce the scarring on her left arm and back. The treatment was provided free of charge.  She has continued these treatments even though they are very painful.

 

Kim has said, “Forgiveness made me free from hatred. I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days but my heart is cleansed. Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope, and forgiveness. If that little girl in the picture can do it, ask yourself: Can you?”

 

Kim Phúc Foundation

In 1997 she established the first Kim Phúc Foundation in the U.S., with the aim of providing medical and psychological assistance to child victims of war.  

In 2004, Phúc spoke at the University of Connecticut  about her life and experience, learning how to be “strong in the face of pain” and how compassion and love helped her heal.

On December 28, 2009, NPR broadcast her spoken essay, “The Long Road to Forgiveness.”  In May 2010, Phúc was reunited by the BBC  correspondent  Christopher Wain, who helped to save her life.

There are pictures on the internet showing Kim’s burns.  I chose a happier current photograph.  I have been touched by Kim’s life since 1972 and again now reading about her courage, faith and forgiveness.  I hope this Person of the Year blesses you as well.  Please pray for ALL the children facing war around the world.

napalm2

Most of this information is edited from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phan_Thi_Kim_Phuc

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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

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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

Meanwhile in Venezuela…

Venezuela Is Out Of Food: Here’s What An Economic Collapse Really Looks Like

TOPICS:Daisy LutherEconomic CollapsePreppingSurvivalismVenezuela
FEBRUARY 14, 2016     By Daisy Luther

Venezuela is out of food.

After several years of long lines, rationing, and shortages, the socialist country does not have enough food to feed its population, and the opposition government has declared a “nutritional emergency.” This is just the most recent nail in the beleaguered country’s slow, painful economic collapse.

Many people expect an economic collapse to be shocking, instant, and dramatic but, really, it’s far more gradual than that. It looks like empty shelves, long lines, desperate government officials trying to cover their tushes, and hungry people. For the past two years, I’ve been following the situation in Venezuela as each shocking event has unfolded. Americans who feel that our country would be better served by a socialist government would be wise to take note of this timeline of the collapse.

A quick review: Why Venezuela Is Out of Food

In 2013, many began to suspect that the outlook for Venezuela was grim when prepping became illegal. The Attorney General of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega Díaz, called on prosecutors to target people who are “hoarding” basic staples with serious sanctions.

Shortly thereafter, grocery stores instituted a fingerprint registry to purchase food and supplies. Families had to register and were allotted a certain amount of supplies to prevent “hoarding.”

Then, just over a year ago, it became even more apparent that the country was falling when long lines for basic necessities such as laundry soap, diapers, and food became the norm rather than the exception. Thousands of people were standing in line for 5-6 hours in the hopes that they would be able to purchase a few much-needed items.
Shortly after the story broke to the rest of the world, the propaganda machine shifted into high gear. As the government began to ration electricity, it was announced that this was not due to economic reasons at all, but instead was a measure of their great concern for the environment.
As the situation continued to devolve, farmers in Venezuela were forced to hand over their crops last summer. They assumed control of essential goods like food, and began putting retail outlets out of business. Then, once they had control of the sales outlets, they began forcing farmers and food manufacturers to sell anywhere from 30-100% of their products to the state at the price the state opted to pay, as opposed to stores and supermarkets.

But that wasn’t enough to keep the population fed. (Isn’t it astonishing how much less motivated people are to produce food and supplies when they are no longer allowed to benefit from their hard work? Historically, collectivism and farming have never gone successfully hand in hand.) This January, the government told citizens that they would need to produce their own food. The Ministry of Urban Farming was created to oversee this. While self-reliance sounds great, it isn’t so great in Venezuela. Just so the urban farmers don’t get too self-reliant, a registry of the crops and livestock will be required. (And obviously, they’ve already proven that they have no issue forcing farmers to hand over what they’ve produced.)

Now, it looks like all of the socialist measures and forced food production haven’t been enough to keep the people of Venezuela fed. The country is in so much trouble now that it isn’t possible to cover it up with propaganda.

According to Breitbart.com, lawmakers have learned nothing.

Socialist legislators are hoping to manipulate the initiative in the other direction, and use it to expand government control of private food enterprises. Legislator Héctor Rodríguez has insisted that the economic emergency “does absolutely nothing,” and the government should impose itself on private enterprises. Another socialist legislator, Ricardo Molina, is calling for the government to expropriate Polar, Venezuela’s largest private food corporation: “we have to intervene on private sector enterprises.”

Venezuela previously forced a Polar food distribution center in Caracas to shut down in July, putting 12,000 tons of food, six million liters of soft drinks, and 2,000 jobs at risk.

And now, the announcement of the “nutritional emergency” makes it official. Venezuela is out of food, and it’s only a matter of time before Venezuelans are quite literally starving due to a long series of terrible decisions by their leaders.

Read More: http://www.activistpost.com/2016/02/venezuela-is-out-of-food-heres-what-an-economic-collapse-really-looks-like.html

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Is it harder to go or come back?

If you talk to anyone going out on a mission assignment – whether it is short term or long term – there is a question: Is it harder to leave home and go or is it harder to return?

There is a natural fear or reluctance in moving to another country:  Leaving family and friends, fear of adjusting to a new culture and language, questions over succeeding or failure in the mission.  It is a fear of the unknown and change.

But anyone who has been to another culture faces the dilemma of returning . . . Now the questions arise: Can I deal with the materialism?  Can I deal with the first world problems?  I’ve changed, how will I relate to family and friends?  Will people treat me differently?  Will I be disillusioned?  Will home no longer be home?

All of these questions about going and returning are valid and they need to be faced.  Some will adjust easily to a new culture.  Others will have a difficult time.  Some will come home with ease.  Some will never really come home.

How has your adjustment been?  Was it harder to leave or to come back?

Numbers 15:2
Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘After you enter the land I am giving you as a home’.

 

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Person of the Year

This is my third year for presenting my “Person of the Year”.   I normally spend a lot of time praying about this and struggling through the choice.  This year was an easy decision and a very quick one.

This person of the year had lived the “good Christian life”.  By all standards she did everything right.  She went to college, met a guy, fell in love, got married, had two children and went to the mission field.  It should have been a happy and rewarded life.

The world can be cruel and life wasn’t happy, easy or rewarding.  On March 18, 2012, her husband Joel Shrum was gunned down and killed in Yemen where he was serving as a teacher.

I cannot begin to grasp the emotions behind that.  Beyond loss and fear, how does anyone justify that with God?

Fast forward several years.  This person meets a guy.  A single guy who has never married and has been frustrated in his own life for not finding a wife.  It would be easy to say, that they both got back on the “good Christian life” platform again.  But did they ever step off of it?

Happiness and “things working out” are no more a sign of living the “Christian life” than sadness and hardship being signs of NOT living the “Christian life”.  The reality is that they were both walking in God’s hands the entire time – giving Him glory.

Sounds easy doesn’t it – it’s not.  That’s why I picked Janelle (Shrum) Groff as my “Person of the Year”.  Not because everything turned out happy (which I’m glad it did!).  But because God is her redeemer and she has accepted His grace in her life!  It’s that testimony that we need to follow.

To read the beautiful story and engagement, please click to:

https://www.theknot.com/us/jamie-groff-and-janelle-shrum-aug-2015/our-story

Congrats Janelle!  You definitely deserve the Person of the Year award!

Ruth 4:11 Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah,who together built up the family of Israel.

janelle

World War 3

There is talk that we are entering WW3 with the Russians getting involved in Syria.  Some even say that it has already started.

Very few of us were not around to remember the build up to WW2 and no one is old enough to remember the beginning of WW1.   We have only read about the political climate and what happened during those years.

A world war reminds me of becoming a man – one day I knew I was a man but I’m not sure when the transition happened.  One day we have a civil war in Syria.  One day we are battling ISIS.  One day the Russians are involved.  One day the French are involved.  One day Turkey shoots down a Russian plane.  One day we are in WW3.

A world war is defined as: A war involving many large nations in all different parts of the world. The name is commonly given to the wars of 1914–18 and 1939–45, although only the second of these was truly global.

We live in dangerous times.  There is so much tension with little compromise on any of the issues.  Should we live in fear or faith?  Should we have hope or are we being naive?

Where do you put your trust?

Psalm 37:3-4 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

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Ladyboys

I began researching this topic because I heard a speaker say “pray for the ladyboys in Thailand”.  This is not a pleasant subject and I would encourage you to use caution in researching it.

The term “ladyboy” refers to boys that are transgender.  Wikipedia definition: Kathoey is a Thai term that refers to either a transgender woman or an effeminate gay male in Thailand. A significant number of Thais perceive kathoeys as belonging to a third gender, including many kathoeys themselves, while others see them as either a kind of man or a kind of woman.[1] The word kathoey is of Khmer origin.[2] It is most often rendered as ladyboy or lady boy in English conversation with Thais and this latter expression has become popular across Southeast Asia.

Searching the internet for this subject hits the range of sad, horrified, sickened and disturbed. (Like I said be careful)  Below are excerpts from various blogs of personal interaction:

“Ladyboys are men who dress as women and toms are women who dress as men. To say either group identifies as “men” or “women” would oversimplify the issue. The polite term for katoey in Thai literally translates to “third gender.” Thai has no gendered pronouns, but when Thais refer to ladyboys and toms in English, they consistently used “her” and “him” respectively in such a natural way it seems to reflect the way they think of the people rather than an effort towards political correctness”

“It is a troubled world for these people, at times, dark and abusive. In the search for life and love they look in every direction.”

“Pray for healing, transformation, restoration, spiritual breakthrough, workers among this community”.

“You know it is so easy when you come on a mission trip to be visualizing what you will do and who you will work with and how it will look. For me I was thinking I am going to work with children and with the women who are sold as ugly. Then just as easy as that is for me to visualize God says child I have other plans.ha he has a mind of his own…..Let me tell you about LadyBoys; they all are men that have been surgically altered and portray themselves as women and for all intensive purposes live and sell themselves as women. These are men that have gotten lost along the way just like we get lost along the way sometimes. Sometimes they have been emotionally or physically abused as children and to the extreme. Now more than anything they just look for love and acceptance wherever and however they can get it”.
“We are headed to Bangkok this week to focus on working with a group of Ladyboys…I love it when God changes my plans and trades them in for his !  As a westerner, I did not understand what being a ladyboy meant in Thailand. There are 67 million people in Thailand, and an estimated 2.8 million of them are prostitutes—men and women. Sons and daughters can be sold for as little as $12 and can serve up to a dozen customers daily. The problem is so widespread, there are more centers of prostitution than there are schools”.
“Some boys make their own choice to become Ladyboys.  For some though, the choice is made by the parents at an early age.  So the parents will look at their sons, and choose the one who exhibits the most feminine qualities, change his name to a ‘her’ name, dress him in girl’s clothing and give him girl toys to play with. He is now a Ladyboy. Then they have the assurance that at least one of their children will provide for them, especially if they enter the sex tourism industry where the money is good”.
“Michelle is a lady boy from a village outside of Chiang Mai. He was asked when he was younger what he wanted to be when he was older. He said he wanted to be a hairdresser. From a young age Michelle was put on hormones because his parents thought he should have been a girl. Michelle has lived through life as a man but being pumped with hormones that make him feel female. He has no identity. Stuck between manhood and womanhood”.
Looking into the Bible, there are several people who dealt with identity issues.  Joseph was a leader in Egypt and hid his true identity to his brothers.  Jacob disguised his identity to trick his father.  Moses was raised with an Egyptian identity.
For someone changing their identity there are a number of possible motivations:  Deceit – Trying to fool someone for profit or gain; Slavery – Being forced to hold a different identity; Protection – changing identity for self preservation; Confusion – gene/heredity/sexual issues of living a life different than the outer self may appear.
How do we respond as Christians?  First off, pray.  Second, learn and learn and learn.  Third pray for compassion and wisdom.  Fourth, find a ministry that is reaching a people group on your heart and support them or get involved.

Zechariah 7:8-10 (NIV)

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’    Could this apply to ladyboys?

ladyboy

Cup of Water

“It is so hurtful . . . I take the time to write an update and I get zero response.  Did it go out?  Was there a technical problem?  Was it poorly written?  Why didn’t anyone respond?  I added pictures and took so much time detailing what we are doing and I don’t even get a thank you.  From anyone!”  – posted by any missionary around the world

I hear this all the time – usually with tears attached.  Individual supporters and churches demand communication and accountability from their missionaries but seldom respond to the communication that has been required.

“How hard is it to simply respond ‘thank you’ or ‘got it – praying for you'”

You don’t need to respond with your own journal.  A simple “hello” note would be appreciated.

I encourage you to respond with a kind hello the next time you receive an email or update letter – It will be a cup of cool water!

Matthew 10:41-42 (NIV)

41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Childcup