Category: missions

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:

A friend just sent this link to me.  Very very sad.  It is dangerous everywhere:–crash-was-headed-to/article_1decf7ac-580c-11e6-8bb6-eb3c17ea9b44.html


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

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!


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.




I Quit

A friend of mine recently said “I quit my job 5 times today”.  No he’s not a policeman or sewer tech.  He’s a missionary!  In today’s world, any job can be stressful enough to make us want to quit 5 times a day.  Sometimes I wonder if it is worth getting up in the morning!

Life is hard.  It’s not easy to be young and it’s not easy to be old.  Rich or poor – challenges are overwhelming.  How do we carry on?  Is it all worth the trouble?

I had the following scripture saved from month’s ago.  I started reading it and thought that I had written it.  Surprisingly, it is from the Bible!!!!!  Imagine that, David had trials way back then too.  He dealt with complaining.  He had was ready to explode and quit too.

It doesn’t make our situations any easier but it does help to keep it all in perspective.  It really is a brief time on earth . . .

Psalm 39 Living Bible (TLB)

39 I said to myself, I’m going to quit complaining! I’ll keep quiet, especially when the ungodly are around me. 2-3 But as I stood there silently the turmoil within me grew to the bursting point. The more I mused, the hotter the fires inside. Then at last I spoke and pled with God: Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more.


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’.



Flying Seeds

Some seeds fall straight down.  Some are carried by animals, water and birds to far away places.  Some seeds are built like miniature helicopters that fly away in the wind.

As you are scattering your seeds in the kingdom, how far will they travel?  Will your seeds stay in your local community, to the surrounding area or will they go far and wide across the world?

Seeds that travel far are not necessarily better than the ones that stay close.  What is important is that they fall on fertile ground and grow.

What are you planting?  Is it hitting fertile soil or is it landing on rock?  Will it produce a harvest or will it wilt in the sun?   If the ground around you is not fertile, maybe you should send your seeds out to a more productive land.

How far will your seeds go?

Luke 8:4-6 (NIV)

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.

800px-Sandylion near Burnley

Teachers Empowered with Skills and Curriculum

This is a ministry that I am involved in.  Please consider supporting it!

Great update! Thanks!

Springs of Africa

Schools in the Springs of Africa Education Initiative have received a unique boost in the form of children’s workbooks and teacher training.

For the third time this year, teachers from Ziwani Academy in Garissa and Seed Academy in Kitale had the opportunity to come to Nairobi for the 2-day interactive sessions. They were empowered with various approaches for effective teaching of children in the Early Childhood level.

Teacher Martha Onyango from Ziwani Academy play a game. Looking on is Sarah Lee.
Teacher Martha Onyango from Ziwani Academy play a game during the teachers training. Looking on is one of the trainers, Sarah Lee.

The training was full of humor as teachers pretended to be small children and jumped, hopped and sang their way through the course. They undertook numerous exercises and games, which they were encouraged to teach their pupils in their respective schools.

Grace Mulwa, Headmistress of Ziwani Academy, appreciated the sponsors of the training. She said that the workshop was helpful as…

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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.”


Go into all the world

We received this simple message:

Mark 16:15

Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
Simple, right?
Try running a missions department . . . Try finding ten people in a church who agree on short term mission trips, supporting long term missions, sending American missionaries to foreign countries on huge budgets, language and culture school, whether missionaries should have Skype and direct TV and internet.  I could go on but you get the message.
How about if we try to agree on mission agencies?  I won’t name names but I’ve heard terrible and terrific things about almost all of them.
Who is right and who is wrong?
How about if we just go?  Find a way that works and go.  Give.  Pray. Sponsor a child.  Get to know a missionary.  Be a friend.  Email with someone.  Learn about a country or culture.  Read.  Follow world news instead of American Idol.  Find out what is going on and support someone where your heart lands.  It’s really not hard to get started.  A simple email can change someone’s day.  Spend less time judging and more time getting involved.  If it’s not working than find a different way but just start.

Entreprenuership Under Trial

Springs of Africa

“What do you use for a keyboard?” The expression of genuine perplexity on my face lent a sparkle to his. “Let me show you!” Douglas chimed, eager to display his creativity. He quickly worked up a rhythm on Fruity Loops – software I later learned is the Holy Grail for amateur music producers – then lined his fingers on the blunted letter-keys of his relic computer, creating a quick melody. “If Dr. Dre were in the studio, he’d be the first to bump his head to this beat,” I thought to myself. To finish, Douglas topped the piece with a mixture of lively instrumentals orchestrated on the makeshift piano.


At twenty-three years of age, Douglas is a freelance music producer. His studio is found in Silanga, in the heart of Kibera – the same neighborhood in which he was raised. From here, he creates albums for singers looking to break…

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