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Global Ebola Crisis: A Praying Global Church

Guest Post by Michael Badriaki

I recently visited Nelson Mandela—Madiba’s—prison cell on Robben Island where he was held during apartheid in South Africa. What a place for anyone to learn about human pain and suffering. I am reminded of Bob Schieffer’s recent interview on “Face of the Nation” with former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Albright summed up our current condition by saying “the world is a mess.” Madam Secretary is right. Her interview focused on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia and the Gaza and Israel conflict, but the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic in West Africa kept coming to my mind.

Ebola hits close to home, since I have personal experience with its harmful threat. In 2001, Ebola was confirmed in Uganda, which is my home country. I remember the grip of fear, uncertainty and embarrassment that surrounded the outbreak. There was talk of wearing gloves as protective gear during handshakes. I wondered what we could do as the church in Uganda. Was silent prayer enough? If not, then what manner of praying could we do? Was it prayer offered in faith, since prayer involves faith? But faith without works is dead.

During the current Ebola crisis, I have wondered why the global church’s voice has been so quiet, even with a death toll of more than 4,200 lives in West Africa. The global Church’s silence pales in comparison to the attention shown during the 9/11 attacks in New York City where over 3,000 people lost their lives. Why such disparities of response? Could it be another delayed response as it was during the wake of the global HIV/AIDS catastrophe?

Ebola is no stranger to students of history in Uganda. In fact, Uganda has been one of the hardest hit countries by more than one strain of Ebola. However, Ugandan’s health community resiliently determined to combat Ebola even with prayer. In fact, Uganda’s ministry of health proved its capacity and preparation to control and contain Ebola in Uganda.

Yet such hopeful news is lacking in the media’s coverage of the Ebola epidemic. Is it because bad news is profitable? Uganda’s fight against Ebola can provide expertise on how to contain the disease in Africa. Uganda is among the “poor” nations of the world, but this nation’s ability to fend off Ebola showcases why the so called “poor” can, and must, always be part of any leadership and improvement initiative on such matters.

The Christian church and its involvement in “missions” in African countries should consider investing in the care and actions demonstrated in Uganda. There is need to respond to disease crises when they happen, and some Christians have done so. But the global church should prayerfully seek to work with a preventative purpose. Church leaders and congregational members can be best served by a question such as: What are the precursory structural and sinful conditions that contribute to preventable pandemics?

Experts reveal that Ebola is caused by a virus and is a deadly illness that can occur in humans. According to World Health Organization (WHO), “Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected animals. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. Patients are frequently dehydrated and require oral rehydration with solutions containing electrolytes or intravenous fluids.”

The current Ebola crisis is the “worst Ebola outbreak in history and is expected to continue till the end of the year.” It can be easy to compartmentalize the deadly stories told in the media about the Ebola outbreak or simply leave it to the experts to handle. But chronic infections are shaped by more than mere biology. They are also shaped by social forces well beyond the control of patients and their families.

Human suffering is not the problem of a few; it impacts all. We cannot afford an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. The global church cannot allow such deliberate apathy; otherwise the world-wide church continues to turn its back on patients and their families. And that is the antithesis of Jesus Christ who proclaimed, “… I was sick and you looked after me …” (Matt 25:36). The redeemer of the world desires compassion and action for those who are ill.

Local and global Christians can care for the sick through a prayerful approach to potential and actual epidemics. The global church has an opportunity to serve people who are sick and dying of Ebola. Yet, how does one pray and learn from this crisis?

Many people have heard about the American missionaries who were evacuated because they were infected with Ebola. But what about the people in the African countries who are impacted by Ebola? Has the noise from apathy hampered the attitude of empathy? Does God listen to the prayers of people afflicted by Ebola? What are the conditions of the little children and their families caught up in the storm? When will the epidemic’s storm end?

For the two American missionaries, the Ebola storm was defeated on its arrival into the United States. The fortunate missionaries were cared for at Emory University Hospital and Nebraska Medical Center. Based on the recovery of both American missionaries, people around the world, whether religious or not, now know that it is possible to contain Ebola. We learn that Ebola does not have to go on a bloody, uncontrolled rampage. Amazingly, prior to the recent missionary Ebola patients in America, according to Dr. Bruce Ribner, “… a patient with Ebola virus infection has never been cared for in an institution in the United States.”

Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of infectious diseases at Emory University Hospital says, “… the reason Emory was chosen is because it’s one of the four institutions in the United States capable of handling patients of this nature.” Dr. Ribner also provides non-clinical clues, namely, the presence of institutions that function with strong health systems. Effective leaders build effective institutions. The lack of such institutions and proper health systems in the countries impacted by the Ebola epidemic is part and parcel of the health crisis and structural violence. Other issues are lack of leadership, infrastructure, management, economic factors, conflict, and poor policies.

What part do structural conditions play in this crisis? Emory University Hospital, Nebraska Medical Center, and Uganda’s Ministry of Health provide some answers since these institutions have demonstrated a capacity to stop Ebola more than all the affected Western African countries combined. Structural problems including leadership issues are complex, but these are the places where attention needs to be given.

So what can the global church do? Prayer is a solid place to start, since it is an indispensable practice in the human experience. However, prayer cannot be the “sit down and do nothing” approach. Churches should offer prayers in faith, work to identify and establish mutual collaboration with credible leaders, and invest in viable ventures for medical centers around the world. These are just some of the ways the Church can engage this global crisis.

Faith as Paradox

I’ve been hard at work on a second book and just received the uncorrected proofs on Saturday. It’s called The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith and seeks to describe and define faith and what it means to live out the Christian life.

One of the thinkers I lean on heavily in the text is Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard, arguably, shaped my understanding of faith more than any other Christian writer. He disavowed me of the notion of faith as mental assent and firmly planted in me the conviction that faith is obedience, trust and the reality of leaning of God amidst the uncertainty of life.

Here is a nugget from Kierkegaard that might take a minute or two to digest. It speaks directly, however, to the idea of walking by faith rather than sight (and probability).

When it is a question of making a resolution, the calculation of probability is a contemptible fellow, a bungler, a peddler. It seeks to trick people out of something more than money is worth. Anyone who seeks the aid of probability is lost in imagination, whatever else he may try to do. When making a resolution, if you do not meet up with God, you might as well have never lived. Probability is a commercial paper not quoted in heaven. In making a resolution, therefore, let God overawe probability and rend it speechless.

If you find Kierkegaard, faith or the topic of Christian living interesting, you can see more or pre-order the book on Amazon here.

Disciplemaking 101: Before You Begin

Guest Post by Ed Underwood

Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

I’ve learned a lot of lessons in forty years of discipling–Forty years of trying something that didn’t work, finding a solution, and having some success. It’s been the greatest adventure of my life, being privileged by the Lord Jesus to make disciples to Him. Before you get started, I want to tell you now what I wish I would have known before I began my journey as a disciplemaker with a high school student so long ago when I was a Young Life leader.

1. You are right in the middle of God’s will. Discipleship is God’s will for every believer, it’s Christ’s Great Commission, our Mandate, our privilege … it is what the Lord Jesus wants us to be about. Making disciples of all the nations is what Jesus told us to do, and the only way that will happen is when individual believers just like you take it seriously and make the commitment to disciple, or mentor one friend. It happens one life at a time.

2. Keep It Simple! Paul put it this way in his second letter to his friend and disciple, Timothy: “And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many other witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well” (2 Timothy 2:2, NET). The NKJV translates it this way: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

The strategy is simple. The things someone, say your Paul, told you—whoever your mentor is, you share those with faithful people who will be capable of passing it on to others. Disciplemaking is the addition that leads to multiplication. If I just share my life and the truths I know about Jesus with one eager disciple who will be able to share it with others, I’ve done my addition part so that God can multiply the impact of my little life.

3. View it as a labor of love. This has to be an expression of your love for Jesus Christ and your love for the one you’re discipling. If you think of this as a task, an assignment, something you need to do to bargain with God or any other perspective other than love, you’re not going to last.

Disciplemaking is hard. Think about it. We’re being used by God as he pulls a life out of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son of His love, we’re cooperating with the Holy Spirit to transform self-absorbed and full of darkness people into the expression of their life God originally designed for humanity—to be other-centered worshipers of God … to be more and more like Jesus Christ.

4. Count the Cost! Taking you back to 2 Timothy 2, after stating the basic strategy in v. 2, Paul is quick to remind Timothy of what it will cost: “Take your care of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).

Think of discplemaking as the frontlines of spiritual warfare, the clash of two kingdoms for the souls of men and women, boys and girls. You can be sure that Jesus’ enemy, Satan, is set against you. Every distraction, discouragement, and disappointment will be hurled your way. The devil will use anything to stop you from launching a new believer into a life of eternal significance as a disciple of the Master.

Our Lady Liberty

In May of 1953 my dad, his parents and two sisters were on a boat that sailed from Rotterdam, Holland with travelers and immigrants to the United States from post-WWII reconstruction Europe.

Ellis Island, the primary entrance point for immigrants from 1892 to 1953 that welcomed millions of immigrants coming to the country, had just been closed by the time my dad sailed past the outstretched arm of the Statue of Liberty. Instead, they stopped just on the other side of Ellis Island in Hoboken, NJ, which had been outfitted as a more modern facility, and offered trains that took immigrants west to the Midwest, Great Plains, and—as in my dad’s case—all the way to Los Angeles.

I’ve been learning more about my family history over the last decade than I remember hearing or paying attention to when I was younger—things such as the fact that my grandfather who was a Dutch Baker landed in the US with $20 in his pocket and eventually retired as the head chef at the Disneyland Hotel.

Culture and heritage is an important thing for identity. I had the benefit of living in Holland between ages 3-6 while my dad, who flew for the US Navy, served an exchange pilot for the Dutch navy. Most of my earliest memories in life are European memories: cows in the green grass in fields in the Swiss Alps, tulip gardens under cloudy skies on Sunday afternoons in Holland, and chasing pigeons in St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

We all come from somewhere, and I was blessed early in life to have exposure to that side of my family history. It’s something I’ve been trying to share with my four daughters (they’ve received no fewer than three Dutch cookbooks over the past few Christmases if that gives you any idea.) I look forward to one day taking the girls to New York, showing them the Statue of Liberty, and telling them the stories of how their Opa (my dad) was welcomed to the land of liberty as have been so many other immigrants in the course of our country’s history. The Statue of Liberty, truly is an amazing and awe-inspiriting symbol of this country highest aspirations.

Here are the famous words penned by Emma Lazarus in 1883 as part of the fundraising efforts to build the pedestal on which the statue would stand.

“The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

”

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

[Here are a few images of me and Tamara and the Statue of Liberty when we took a cruise on a recent trip to New York for a think tank on diversity.]

Lisa Sharon Harper on Lament and Asking Forgiveness

Lisa Sharon Harper is currently the Senior Director of Mobilizing for Sojourners. She previously served as the founding executive director of New York Faith & Justice. In that capacity she helped establish Faith Leaders for Environmental Justice, a city-wide collaborative effort of faith leaders committed to leveraging the power of their constituencies and their moral authority in partnership with communities bearing the weight of environmental injustice. She also organized faith leaders to speak out for immigration reform and organized the South Bronx Conversations for Change, a dialogue-to-change project between police and the community. Her writing has been featured in The National Civic Review, God’s Politics blog, The Huffington Post, Relevant Magazine, Patheos.com, Urban Faith, and Prism where she has written extensively on tax reform, comprehensive immigration reform, health care reform, poverty, racial and gender justice, and transformational civic engagement. Lisa is the author of Left Right & Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics and Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican or Democrat and recently co-authored Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith with Mae Elise Cannon, Troy Jackson and Soong-Chan Rah.

KW: How did you choose the topics you addressed in the individual chapters of Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith?

LSH: It’s important to understand the diverse nature of the team of authors, to understand how we chose the topics. We are a team of two women and two men; two historians and two theologians; two white evangelicals and two evangelicals of color. At our core, we are products of the evangelical church, specifically, and the American church, more broadly. While some of us might identify with the ones who sinned and others with those sinned against in one chapter, in the next chapter the one sinned against might find that he or she is the sinner. Sin knows no racial or gender bounds. So, first and foremost we all considered the chapters from the perspective of our collective broader identity—the church. And we asked ourselves: “As the church, how have we sinned against the world?” From there it was clear: racism, gender injustice, sin against indigenous peoples, sin against immigrants, sin against Jews and Muslims, sin against the LBGTQ community, and sin against the rest of God’s creation. These are the sins non-Christians hold against Christ and the church—and rightfully so. We have never repented—not collectively. So, these are the sins we would confront and confess in our book.

KW: Can you briefly illustrate your premise that Christians need to ask forgiveness with one of the topics covered in the book?

LSH: Sure. One of our foundational sins as Americans, is our sin against the first nations of this land. Our triumphal mythical American identity as “the city on a hill” and the recipient of God’s “manifest destiny” led our founders to justify all manner of sin against the first people of this land; from the Pequot Massacre, to the Cherokee Trail of Tears and the removal of the five southeastern nations, to the Western removals. Throughout our beginnings we claimed to be God’s chosen people, yet we trampled the Ten Commandments. Often in the name of Jesus, we broke treaties: “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Sin. We massacred men, women, and children: “Thou shall not commit murder.” Sin. We coveted the lands and resources of our indigenous neighbors: “Thou shalt not covet … anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Sin. We stole land through land grabs and stole native children; not giving them back until their parents converted to Christian faith. “Thou shalt not steal.” Sin.

But most of all, the thread we were struck by—the thread we discovered that wove its way through almost every chapter—is the sin against “the other.” A deep seeded belief that some people bear the image of God more than others—in other words, some people are simply more human (more worthy of protection, more worthy of honor, more worthy of life, more worthy of liberty, more worthy of happiness) than others.

KW: Why do you think the American church has largely missed the importance of lament, given it’s strong emphasis in the scriptures?

LSH: From Genesis to Revelation the importance of lament is threaded throughout the scripture. Yet, the American church is shaped and its vision limited by its experience of the world. Ours is an experience shaped by triumph, not tragedy. American cultural legends, myths, symbols, and heroes, shape our understandings of ourselves in relationship to the world. The Lone Ranger, Manifest Destiny, the city on a hill, and John Wayne live at the heart of the American identity. This triumphal identity causes us to gravitate to triumphal narratives in scripture.

For example, while African Americans have a profound relationship with the story of the Hebrew’s exodus from Egypt, that is not the identity defining narrative of the general public in the U.S. Our nation’s formative story is that of those same Hebrews entering their promised land. Our nation’s founders forged that mythical comparison in the early years of our nation’s history.

What use does a culture built on the myth of triumph have for lament? Our worship songs answer that question: not much. As a result, when confronted with the outcomes of the realities of our world: racism, gender injustice, nativism, the degradation of God’s creation, sin against immigrants and people of other religions, then we are dumbstruck. We don’t know how to respond.

KW: What role do confession and repentance play for those who may not think they are directly involved in these issues?

LSH: Nehemiah offers Christians a valuable picture of representational corporate confession. He did not grow up in Israel. He and his family had nothing to do with the sin that caused the nation’s walls to be breached and burned by fire when the Babylonian Empire conquered the nation. He wasn’t there. Yet, Nehemiah stands in the gap for his people. He identifies with their sin as if it were his own and as if it was the sin of his family.

He says: “Both I and my family have sinned. We have offended you deeply, failing to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances that you commanded your servant Moses.” (Nehemiah 1:6b-7)

In scripture, confession always leads to repentance. Nehemiah is no different. Immediately following his confession, his feet get to stepping. He goes to the king and gets busy rebuilding the wall. God honors Nehemiah’s confession and repentance. The people of Jerusalem are brought back from exile. The city is restored and the wall is rebuilt.

KW: What makes us so quick to deny sin rather than address it?

LSH: A friend once said to me: “To ask for forgiveness is to die a small kind of death.”  It’s true. It’s the death of pride, the death of ego, the death of the façade of perfection. And it’s funny. At the heart of our Christian faith is the belief that we are sinful beings. We are not perfect. That is why we need Jesus. That is why we need the cross. That is why we need the resurrection. Yet, we have rejected our need for Jesus when it comes to the most egregious sins in American church history. We have rejected the cross. And as a result, we have rejected the possibility of resurrection.

Ephesians 2:1-2a tells us: “You were dead through the trespasses and sins, in which you once lived, following the course of this world.” I think something got into our theology and caused us to over spiritualize our sinfulness. We think of it abstractly as our “sinful nature.” So, then we’re able to get “washed in the blood” of Jesus and think cool. I’m clean. Don’t need to worry about being held accountable for my sin anymore. Malarkey! The scripture itself is talking about active sin (not a nature) sins that really do hurt people—sins that really do break relationship—sins that really do destroy the world. We think just because we pray a prayer we’re okay. But acknowledging our sinful nature isn’t enough. We must acknowledge our actual sins and repent of them. We must cease from following the course of this world. We must stop living in the death of our sins. Instead we must die that small kind of death through the simple act of confession. Only then can we experience resurrection. Only then does God say in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

KW: Can you share one of your prayers of confession or lament?

LSH: The book is full of prayers of confession and lament. One of the most powerful prayers of lamentation I’ve ever personally experienced was taught to me in the midst of a journey I took to Srebrenica, Bosnia. It was 2004 and I was on a month-long journey with 20 Intervarsity college students from across the U.S. We were traveling through the Balkans to understand what it takes to make biblical peace and what it takes to break it. On this day, we loaded off of our chartered bus at the freshly dug Srebrenica Potocari Memorial cemetery. This was the site of a 1995 massacre during the Bosnian war. Orthodox Serbian forces, blessed by the state church, killed more than 6000 Muslim men and boys by bullet-fire all in one day. We walked dumbstruck among the dead. When we boarded the bus again we prayed a corporate version of a simple prayer prayed by Orthodox monks for centuries: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.”

KW: What advice do you have for people who want to be able to address these often divisive and misunderstood issues in a cultural conversation that is so fast-moving and driven by headlines?

LSH: I would recommend that folks come together with their church leaders teams, small groups or Bible studies working through the book chapter by chapter. Forgive Us is an excellent opportunity to move congregations from ignorance or apathy, through awareness and confession, to repentance and action.

KW: What impact do you hope to have on America and the American church with this book?

LSH: I think our greatest hope is that Forgive Us will help the church to encounter our forgiving, renewing, restoring, and redeeming God in a way that ultimately impacts the witness of the church and brings healing to our world.

Homer and Jesus

Guest Post by Mike Caba

At the beginning of Western literature stands Homer and the influential texts, The Iliad and The Odyssey, that are attributed to this author. These works portray aspects of the Trojan War and the journey home of one of its participants and in so doing reveal much about the ancient Mediterranean world. They were widely read and recited in antiquity and, as such, they are excellent primary sources for those interested in studying the Biblical world, particularly the competing worldviews that Christianity encountered when it spread from its Jewish roots. In effect, by comparing and contrasting the teachings of Jesus and his followers with other beliefs, we can discover the unique features of the Faith–and Homer provides a treasure trove of opportunities in this regard.

To begin with, one of the primary purposes that the Homeric epics were composed, and thereafter frequently recited, was to facilitate the continuance of the values of a patriarchal society in which the leading male participants sought glory and riches for themselves, often through warfare–though not exclusively so. To support this value system, the most potent gods were often seen as furthering the cause of the leading men. For example, Zeus actually loses sleep “pondering in his heart how he might bring honour to Achilleus,” which he eventually does through the means of vicious battles in which Achilleus slaughters foes uncounted. And so it goes throughout these stories as the leading combatants, with the support of the gods, are ever concerned about their glory and property, with women being one type of property, often willingly and in abundance.

Then, into this whirlpool of violence and acquisition comes Jesus, a rustic manual laborer from the edge of the Roman Empire who, though not being characterized by personal frailty, rejected the testosterone-controlled world of his day. Indeed, it would seem that Christ’s teachings were not only different, they were often nearly the opposite of Homeric values. For example, the possibility that a Homeric hero would “turn the other cheek” or follow the admonition to “love your enemies” is almost zero; actually, language of this type would likely have been unintelligible to these macho fighters. Instead, they would much rather “go on and win glory for ourselves” as one friend said to another while urging him to continue in deadly warfare.

Regarding material wealth, certain conflict and even a monumental bloodbath that would last for years, could be expected from Homeric heroes if someone laid hands on their property; thus, the necessity of launching a war to secure the return of Helen, the wife of a chieftain, when she was stolen by an opponent. To the modern Western reader it may seem quite odd that many people lost their lives for the return of the wife (i.e., property) of one man; yet, the value system was so stacked in favor of the patriarchal rights to glory and property that severe battle was necessitated by such an offense. Jesus, on the other hand, while in no way turning a blind eye to thievery of any kind, focused the thoughts of his followers on other types of riches. Indeed, Jesus instructed his people to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (NIV).

And so it goes, in point after point Jesus was, well, different, but not just for the sake of difference; he was actually fundamentally rooted in a reality distinct from the broken world around him. In truth, he understood the temporary and lifeless nature of the bloodstained, sensual and mammon-hungry world in which he walked, and he knew of its coming demise. So he led the way elsewhere and, as odd as it might seem at first glance, he did urge his people to seek glory, but of a different kind by a different path, for he said through one of his spokesmen that to “those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (NIV). In effect, real glory comes to those who become good through the goodness he gives, not to those who are strong in the flesh or are of a certain gender or race.

An Invitation to All Things Reconciled

Guest Post by Rick Gerhardt

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a part of that group of thinkers (say, in the back room of the tavern), the folks engaged in deep lengthy conversations that had the potential to change the way their culture approached things? Have you wished you had been there when the ideas that led to significant change were first being kicked around? Have you often thought that you had something to add to the important conversations, if only you had known where they were taking place and had been invited?

Well, this just may be your opportunity and your invitation. Let me explain…

Next month, a group of Christian thought leaders are getting together in beautiful Bend, Oregon to have a deep conversation about our abdicated role as followers of Christ in caring about and for the creation He came to redeem. Taking its title from Colossians 1: 15–20, the All Things Reconciled conference is intended to advance, deepen, and change the conversation about Christ and creation within evangelical Christianity. This groundbreaking dialogue will be jointly hosted by A Rocha and Kilns College. Those helping to guide our conversation will include:

Rev. Peter Harris, Founder of A Rocha International, Conservation Biologist
Dr. Jonathan Wilson, Professor of Theology, Carey Theological College
Leroy Barber, Executive Director, Word Made Flesh
Ken Wytsma, President of Kilns College, Founder of The Justice Conference

Are you meant to be one of the select voices in this conversation? Are you a follower of Christ who is a leader (pastor, teacher, leader in business or NGO, author, or speaker)? Are you aware that the redemption Christ came to initiate applies to all He created? Are you excited about seeing change in the way Christians talk about the environment (locally, nationally, and globally) and in the way we interact with the places God has put us? Then we want your participation.

All Things Reconciled is not open to all comers; the target size of this three-day conversation is 30-40 folks. We’re hoping, of course, for a diversity of Christian perspectives within this group, and that may mean you. If you’re reading this, and meet the criteria I’ve just laid out, will you prayerfully consider joining us in Bend October 21–23 for this important conversation? For more information, or to register, click here.

Mike Yankoski on The Sacred Year & Spiritual Practices

Michael Yankoski is a writer, aspiring theologian, and urban homesteader who dreams of becoming a competent woodworker, musician, and sailor. He received his MA in theological studies at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, is a (novitiate) Oblate of St. Benedict, and has authored four books, including his latest The Sacred Year: Mapping the Soulscape of Spiritual Practice — How Contemplating Apples, Living in a Cave, and Befriending a Dying Woman Revived My Life. Michael grew up in Colorado, feels at home on the Pacific Coast, and currently resides in Indiana, where he and his wife are pursuing PhDs at the University of Notre Dame. Web: www.MichaelYankoski.com Facebook: fb.com/myankoski Twitter: @michaelyankoski

KW: What have you found to be the greatest challenges to those who desire rest, stillness, and intimacy with God?

MY: Ours is a culture careening at an unsustainable, utterly out-of-control pace. There is so much inertia, so much movement in the direction of ceaseless work, unbounded consumerism, and overwhelming frenzy that even when we try to cultivate rest, stillness, and intimacy with God, our best attempts are often be overrun by the sheer momentum of it all. This is a reality—it seems to me, anyway—that is endemic in the Western world, and which shows very few signs of changing any time soon.

Within this context, one of the most dangerous beliefs that I have myself encountered when it comes to rest, stillness and intimacy with God, is what I’ll call the “someday syndrome.” I know I’m suffering from this syndrome in my own life when I start hearing myself using phrases like “I’ll rest someday,” or “next summer I’ll cultivate stillness,” or “perhaps someday I’ll grow in intimacy with God.”

By the “someday syndrome” I mean the belief that there will be more time—sometime other than now—to cultivate these essential habits in our lives.

At the heart of this pernicious “someday syndrome” is the belief that we can only cultivate rest, stillness and intimacy with God once we have finished our work. Or, once we have achieved enough. And, of course, the danger inherent to this syndrome arises from the fact that we live in a culture where a dominant perspective is that work should never be finished, that none of us will ever have achieved enough.

It is all too easy to put off cultivating rest, stillness, and intimacy with God, but the simple fact is that if we delay pursuing these practices until our work is finally finished, we will find ourselves always caught in frenetic habits and patterns of frenzy.

Rest, stillness and intimacy with God are not things we do once the work is finished, but rather in the midst of all the competing demands and strain and obligations that life in our time and culture places on us.

KW: What symptoms most commonly identify those who’ve reached a point of inner corrosion – or, a state of spiritual anemia?

MY: C.S. Lewis has a brilliant reflection that I’ll bring in here as a way of trying to get at this question:

“Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”[1]

I mention this quote from C.S. Lewis because I think “rats of the soul” are a pretty good indicator when we’ve reached a point of inner corrosion, or a state of “spiritual anemia.” We see the rats coming out at interesting points—when a neighbor stops by needing some help and we perceive them to be “interrupting” us, when we cuss out a co-worker or a fellow freeway-dweller, when we wake up in the middle of the night with the aching sense that we’re heading in the wrong direction—these are all the sort of “rats of the soul” that are indications that something is likely is amiss.

The simple fact is that we live in a culture of “image management,” where there are “reputation consultants” who help not just the movie stars but everyday citizens try to ensure they’re always viewed in the best light possible. Our culture has become more about masquerade management than actually cultivating a life of virtue, than actually being (or becoming) someone whose life actually exhibits the kinds of qualities we’d like to be perceived as having.

And occasionally the façade cracks. The masquerade breaks. The rats get out. Whenever this happens it’s an invitation, I think, an invitation to begin attending to the inner corrosion, to seek health and healing and shalom so that we are no longer spiritually anemic, but rather so that we might be moved—by God’s grace—toward the flourishing purpose for which we’ve been created.

KW: How have the spiritual practices unexpectedly shaped you?

MY: Spiritual practices are unlike any other kind of “practice” we as humans typically engage. In a normal “practice”—say, practicing piano or a sport or something like that—we move ourselves by our practice along a sort of continuum or spectrum from being a novice toward having mastery of that thing we’re practicing. There’s a basic logic to it: we do these certain things—scales, drills, etc.—and these actions make us into something else. We “sculpt” ourselves, in a sense.

Spiritual Practices aren’t like that. They aren’t “techniques.” Rather, it seems that Spiritual Practices very quickly take us out of the realm of our own ability and into a place where we are dependent upon the One who is more than we are, where God is the agent and we are the subject of “sculpting” originating somewhere else.

I certainly found this to be true in the spiritual practice of fasting, or of listening prayer, or of pilgrimage, just to name a few. In all of these, I very quickly found myself in “liminal places,” ie: places where my own strength and abilities were clearly not enough to sustain the practice, and I was being buoyed or held by something other than my own capacities as a human.

Put simply: we don’t DO Spiritual Practices, but rather Spiritual Practices DO us.

So, (and if I might answer the question by editing it a bit), rather than noting “how” Spiritual Practices have unexpectedly shaped me, let me simply say that I was most astonished during my Sacred Year that Spiritual Practices shaped me, and not as a result of my own efforts, but very clearly as a result of being brought by the practices far beyond what my own meager “abilities” could accomplish.

KW: To a person wanting to incorporate spiritual practices into life again or for the first time, are there certain practices that you might suggest he or she begin before others?

MY: We live in a world where we are conditioned to be multi-taskers. We are constantly working on multiple things, having phone calls while writing emails while driving while jotting down shopping lists while trying to get the kids to stop screaming. On a neurological level, people like Nicholas Carr (see: “Is Google Making Us Stupid” and The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains) have begun exploring what this ceaseless multi-tasking is doing to our ability to go deep into anything at all.

In this cultural context, one of the most important spiritual practices that I would encourage people toward is that of attentiveness. Of noticing. (the theological word for this—by the way—is contemplation). Try practicing not being distracted. Turn off your phone. Turn off your internet access. Be attentive to where you are, to what is going on inside of your head and your heart. If being internally attentive is difficult at first, perhaps cultivate the practice of being externally attentive: Find out how many black spots there are on the back of the ladybug in your yard, or how many leaves are on the branch of a tree. Take an hour to eat an apple. Walk to church instead of driving. Listen well to the person with whom you’re speaking, instead of allowing your eyes to wander the room, trolling for momentary distractions.

We also live in a world that is filled with noise, and thus I recommend a sort of potent antidote: silence. Silence can begin in small ways, like taking 5 minutes to turn off your Mp3 player, turn off your cell phone, and sit silently on a bench in a park, or take a slow walk through an old-growth forest or even your own neighborhood.

Something I find particularly helpful amidst the practice of silence is noticing and being attentive to what it feels like to try and slow down, what it feels like to try and welcome silence, whether it comes easily or with great difficulty. Noticing whether I feel refreshed or frustrated, acts as a sort of “thermometer” for how my interior life is going at any particular time.

This practice of cultivating spaces and times of stillness and silence in my life is very much connected to hearing “the still small voice of God” (see 1 Kings 19:12). Whenever I read this passage I’m struck by how hard Elijah had to work to hear the voice of the LORD: he had to flee, endure the wilderness, go to a particular place, endure enormous distractions (a storm, an earthquake, a fire, perhaps his own expectations about how God would speak, etc.) in order to finally, finally hear what God was actually saying.

To find silence—the place in which we just might hear something in our truest self—we must persist, we must endure, we must cultivate silence.

KW: How do you articulate the relationship between our practicing the disciplines and our growth into spiritual maturity and likeness to Christ?

MY: I mentioned a bit of this above in an earlier question, but it seems to me that Spiritual Practices are a way of habituating and patterning our lives in such a way that we are regularly invited to depend not on our own abilities, but rather to come into the presence of God and be shaped and formed by the Spirit who is at work to bring us “into conformity with the image of the Son” (see Romans 8:29).

And yet, the fascinating invitation in the New Testament seems to be that we are invited to “co-labor” (ie: 2 Corinthians 6:1, where Paul uses the word syn+ergoi in the Greek, which is where we get our English word “synergy” from) with God, that is, to partner “synergistically” with God in the work that God is doing.

We see Paul exhorting Christians to this kind of “synergistic participation” with God’s work in other places as well, such as in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi where he exhorts Christians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling because God is at work in you” (see Philippians 2:12-13).

Two helpful distinction are often drawn upon by theologians at this point: the distinction between “justification” and “sanctification” (“justification” is the process by which we are brought into right relationship with God, and “sanctification” is the process by which we become more fully who we were created to be) and also the distinction between something being “sufficient” for something else to happen versus something being “necessary” for something else to happen (something that is “sufficient” is able to bring about the other thing on its own, whereas something that is “necessary” is needed for the other thing to come about, but is incapable of bringing it about on its own. For example, picture a sailboat: the sailboat’s sails are necessary for the boat to move, but not sufficient if there is no wind).

Bringing these two distinctions together, it seems that the Scriptures and the bulk of Christian Theology affirm that while human activity is insufficient to accomplish either justification or sanctification (that is, that humans will never be able to make themselves right with God, or to make themselves into what they were created to be) human activity is—in normal circumstances, anyway—a necessary part of the process of sanctification (that is: God does not force us against our will to become the people we have been created to be).

We are not simply forced by God to become who we were created to be against our will. Rather, God invites us, empowers us to live “life in all its fullness” (John 10:10) that we were created for.

KW: What is your greatest desire for those who choose to read The Sacred Year? 

MY: I think I have two specific desires for those who read The Sacred Year. I begin the book with one of my favorite quotes, from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “Earth’s crammed with heaven / And every common bush afire with God; / But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”

That would be my first desire: that people who read The Sacred Year would begin to “take off their shoes,” that is, “to practice the presence of God” as Brother Lawrence taught us to do, to begin to notice more of the innumerable ways in which God is at work to draw us more deeply into his love, all the ways God is inviting us to become more of who we were created to be, and to participate synergistically with what God is at work to do in our world.

And secondly, I would say that I hope that people who read The Sacred Year are encouraged not just to believe Christianity (while that is certainly important), but to live in a particular way because of their belief. That’s what I was trying to get at above about the relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxy: we are invited and empowered to live in a particular way because of our faith in Christ, to be a particular kind of people because of the hope that we profess. I would say that my second hope is an enduring hope that those who read The Sacred Year will find themselves encouraged to pursue more fully, more adamantly, more joyfully what Eugene Peterson calls this “long obedience in the same direction” that is the Christian Life.


[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 192. Google Books Link: http://bit.ly/1qG19L6

Kilns Residence Week


Two weeks ago Kilns College kicked off the new distance learning program attached to the Master of Arts in Biblical and Social Justice with a one week “Residence Week” complete with tours around Bend, late nights and long conversations, and a class on Christian Mission, Race & Leadership taught primarily by Leroy Barber.

It was one of the most rewarding weeks in recent memory and I’m excited about the students—pastors, lawyers, publishers, missions workers, non-profit leaders from as far away as Toronto, Buffalo, and Cincinnati.

One of the things we try to do at Kilns College is to not exhaust one professor, but expose students to the best of many voices so they can gain context, perspective and insights that only multiple, unique voices can carry. As such, it was a blessing to see the class be able to interact with Leroy Barber in the class on Christian Mission, Race & Leadership and with Eugene Cho for a special event. Both recently launched new books  – Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White, —Who’s More Precious In God’s Sight?: A call for diversity in Christian missions and ministry and Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?. Coincidentally, both books were recently listed in Relevant Magazine’s list of 9 Social Justice Books to Read this Fall. (Not too bad that our students were able to interact with two authors from this list!)

Below are a few of the pictures from Residence Week. I’m looking forward to seeing how this program can change lives both in Central Oregon and North America through the new distance program. For more information on the program, or to inquire about becoming a student, click here.

Jeremy Courtney, Iraq, and Hard News


Jeremy Courtney and Tamara Wytsma

Recently, while attending a conference on diversity in Harlem, my wife Tamara and I had the chance to sit down for dinner with one of our good friends Jeremy Courtney. It was a fun evening getting to eat at the Red Rooster, one of Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s main restaurants (if you watch Chopped on the Food Network you’ll know who I’m talking about). It was also great getting to spend time with a friend who’s back in the US with his family on furlough from their ministry Preemptive Love in Northern Iraq. Preemptive Love is an organization that he founded to help Iraqi children in need of life-saving heart surgeries and as an experiment to see what can happen when love strikes first.

With the destabilization in Iraq and the emergence of ISIS, Jeremy has been scrambling to connect donors with organizations on the ground that can help poor, vulnerable and displaced people. He is also trying to use his time in the states to raise awareness and educate Americans about the plight of Iraqis.

The day we met with Jeremy, he’d been bumped from two network news shows because of Robin Williams’ suicide the day before. In the news world, Williams’ suicide is what’s called “hard news” and took the primary news spots away from stories about suffering Yazidi and Christian minority groups, as well as the abduction and sale of women and girls.

Dead Poets Society changed my life and I’ll always remember Robin Williams’ memorable characters in Patch Adams, Good Morning, Vietnam and many others. But it did seem to me that it’s a strange world when instances of human suffering on a massive scale are old news or soft news in the 24-hour news cycle.

I remember feeling that night, and have reflected on it since, that more people need to hear from Jeremy and more churches should be exposed to the depth of his heart and theology while he’s on furlough. If you’re a representative of a church, school or event that would like to inquire about having Jeremy share his story and shine a light on the plight of Iraqis, please contact him at jeremy (at) preemptivelove (dot) org. You can also check out his recent book Preemptive Love: Pursuing Peace One Heart at a Time which chronicles his story and the story of those connected with Preemptive Love.

Leroy Barber on Diversity in Mission & Ministry

Leroy Barber is Global Executive Director of Word Made Flesh, an international organization that works among the most vulnerable of the world’s poor.  Rev. Barber is on the boards of Mission Year and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). He is the author of New Neighbor: An Invitation to Join Beloved Community, and Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World and was also chosen as a contributor to Tending to Eden, and the groundbreaking book UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters.  His third book, Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White, —Who’s More Precious In God’s Sight?: A call for diversity in Christian missions and ministry, was just released.

KW: How does the message of Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White—, Who’s More Precious In God’s Sight? intersect with the message of your book Everyday Missions?

LB: Everyday Missions invited everyone to see that it’s possible for God to use them. There are no disqualifications for missions and there are no high qualifications for missions as far as schooling and seminary that some may think of. Taking Dr. King’s idea that, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve” – you can serve wherever you are. That message connects with the new book in this way: now that we know we can all can serve – can we do that equally? Can everyone lead in a missions organization? Can everyone participate even if they can’t get the funding? So the first book invites everyone, this book critiques the current system that has developed in order that everyone can participate fully and be comfortable in their space.

KW: How has the church historically misunderstood or misrepresented the Missio Dei and how does it need to be redefined?

LB: The Missio Dei is defined as God’s heart for people and his heart for the world and it’s where we get our word missions. It’s about how much he cares for us and how much he loves us – and I think that’s what should drive mission. But the church has replaced that with a personal evangelism thrust. There’s nothing wrong with evangelism. But this evangelism thrust that often condemns people, puts them down, and lets them know how bad they are is not true to God’s heart. Jesus said he did not come to condemn the world – the world is condemned already – but he has come to bring life. I think the Missio Dei should represent the heart of God that brings life.

KW: What first step or recommendation can you provide for someone who wants to heed the call to diversity in missions?

LB: Before we try to diversify our organizations and missions, we need to begin with relationships. Start with diversifying and deepening your own personal relationships. Listen to those voices and pursue those friendships authentically. Out of real, diverse relationships, diverse organizations and pursuits will begin to develop more naturally.

KW: Can you describe further that philosophy of friendship and relationship you see as the key to growing diversity in the body of Christ?

LB: Our knee-jerk reaction is that we want to do something, we want to get something done. Instead, our first reaction should just be to want to be with people, we just want to know people, hear their stories, hang out with them. Something will come from that as those relationships deepen. But the first question shouldn’t be what should I do? because that ruins the relational aspect. If I think someone is coming to get to know me just so they can do something, or so they can help my life, then I don’t feel valued as a real person. We need to shift our perspectives and put authentic friendships first.

KW: What is some typical pushback you get with your message about diversity in missions and what is your response to those comments?

LB: I get a lot of pushback about evangelism because some people think I’m trying to lessen the idea of evangelism, that I’m preaching the “social gospel,” and that it’s not the most important thing we need to be talking about and doing. But actually, I’m trying to enhance evangelism. Evangelism is important but we need to think about the whole gospel and understand the full  context. I feel like people get to know Jesus better if our lives are lived in a way that invites people to want to know him – I think that’s a more powerful way of evangelism.

KW: Are there any encouraging signs for you with regard to diversity in the church?

LB: Yes, the question is at least on the table now! When you talk about diversity and multiculturalism people know what you’re talking about, have a general understanding of its importance and want to engage with it. Many pastors and leaders want to know how their church can be more diverse. So I see good signs in the desire to pursue diversity, we still have some way to go, but there is good progress on that front.

KW: What one question should people be asking about diversity that they are not and why?

LB: I think the question is this: if you want to see diversity in your organization, you think it’s the right thing, and you see it’s presence and importance in scripture – why are you not walking towards that? Why are you not making commitments that will allow you to reach out to the “other”? Whether the “other” for you is the other gender, African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Latinos, or Native Americans. What would it look like to really set some goals for yourself to reach out and get to know someone else? If it’s really as important as we say, we need to create practical steps and set goals.

KW: How would you encourage someone to do that in an environment that doesn’t seem to offer a lot of diversity?

LB: At work for example, even if everyone is the same color, not everyone is the same class, religious background, or even the same denominational background. Just start by reaching across boundaries, whatever they are in your environment, so that you can begin making that  practice a part of your life. Go to lunch or coffee with someone, or read books from another perspective. Those are some great little things you can do to start the process.

KW: What message or challenge do you want leave with those who read this book?

LB: The message is to see that this is how God wants to see the world: we are one church, one body, and one voice with different expressions. Diversity is beautiful. To see that beauty, we need to get to know each other so that we can experience the fullness of God and the fullness of life that he offers. You can check out some resources to go along with the book here.

Welcome Pete & Jenn Kelley

I’m excited to announce the recent hire of Pete Kelley to the Antioch staff here in Bend, OR. I’ve known Pete for over 8 years and it’s exciting to bring someone onto the team that I have much to learn from. Pete & Jenn are passionate about many things, including a love for people. Below are a few questions I threw Pete’s way to give folks a better sense of who he is and what he’s about. Pete will be overseeing several ministries at Antioch including city engagement, discipleship, the future student ministries leader, and he will be teaching and preaching, as well. I’m excited to have Pete, Jenn and the family join the Antioch community–they will be arriving the second week of October!

Family stats:

Pete and Jenn (married 10 years this month), Emma (6), Moses (4) and Myla (2).

How would you describe your passion in ministry?

I’m passionate about the missiological task of helping the local church recover her identity and mission in a post-everything culture. I’ve been inspired by the writing of E. Stanley Jones, the 20th century American missionary to India. In Jones’ era, most Christian missionary work looked more like colonialism than actually announcing Christ’s kingdom. Jones was fascinated by the question of what would happen if instead of imposing a Westernized Christian culture on the people of India, he were to simply seek to introduce them to Jesus. In The Christ of the Indian Road, he writes: Is Jesus enough? Can we simply remove all the baggage that Western Christianity has attached to the gospel, and simply introduce Jesus? Can we allow the culture to fall in love with Christ, be inspired by the life Christ lived, and seek to follow him?

I find these same questions to be pertinent today in a context like the Northwest where many people are all too familiar with American Evangelicalism and want nothing to do with it. It seems like some Christians are freaked out by this new landscape, but I think it gives us an exciting opportunity to ask questions like, “What does the gospel of Jesus and his kingdom look like and sound like for these people, in this place, at this time?” I’ve found that in engaging these kinds of questions, we not only are better equipped to innovate fresh expressions of the kingdom, but the Spirit will also unveil the beauty and brilliance of Jesus to us in ways we’ve never seen before.

With lots of bad press on church these days, what are positive signs you see in local churches here in the Northwest?

Yeah, there’s been a lot of bad press. There are also lots of churches doing really good things up here, but that’s not what makes the news. I see a growing number of churches in the Northwest who are partnering across denominational lines to seek the good of their cities. I see a spirit of humility and authenticity among many of the pastors and church leaders here. And I see lots of churches that have been able to move past the old either/or dilemma of evangelism and justice ministry, finding creative and compelling ways of both proclaiming and practicing the good news of Jesus. Most of that will never make headlines.

In what ways has ministry been a joint endeavor with you, your wife Jenn and your family?

As a church planter, the mission statement for your church becomes the mission statement for your life, so our family is very much in it together. Jenn and I have always seen our home as our primary place of ministry and try to be very intentional about building relationships with our neighbors, sharing our life with friends who believe and live differently than we do, and opening our home to our community. There are people in our home every day. I built Jenn this huge 10-foot dining table for Christmas a few years ago and that table has become a sacred gathering place not just for our family but also for many of our friends and neighbors. Our kids have already learned that church isn’t somewhere we go one day a week, but it’s who we are and how we live every day.

What are some ways we as Christians can keep the emphasis in Christian community and church on people rather than programs, buildings and religiosity?

Jesus told his disciples it was their job to seek first his kingdom and his job to build his church. I think we get into trouble as pastors and church leaders when we switch those around. When our emphasis becomes church-building rather than kingdom-seeking, we begin to lose sight of the mission and have a tendency to hijack the church to build little kingdoms of our own. People are reduced to numbers and pastors become CEOs or rockstars. Things get messed up pretty quickly. On the other hand, when we leave the church-building to Jesus, we are freed up to love people rather than use them.

Loving people takes hard work though. Henri Nouwen defined community as the place where the person you least want to live with always lives. This means you don’t have true community until there’s someone there you wish wasn’t. It’s easy to form a club or a clique around some common interest, but life in the family of God is going to be messy. But that’s the genius of Jesus’ invitation into his family; he calls us to share life deeply with people we’d never choose so that we can learn from him how to really love others.

What are you most excited about in joining the team at Antioch?

Antioch is a church that preaches a big God and has huge vision, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. I like that. I’m excited to join a team that works hard but enjoys life and loves each other well. We also love Bend and are looking forward to staying in Oregon but leaving the rain.

What are some things you have recently been learning or reading?

I’m working on an M.A. in Applied Theology right now, so I don’t have much time to read for fun these days but one new book I read recently and think is really helpful is The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War by my friend Josh Butler (to be released in October). Josh tackles these really difficult topics – hell, judgment and holy war – in a way that helps you see the divine logic behind some of these difficult teachings of Christianity. Reading that book has not only helped me personally come to a clearer understanding of those topics but has already shaped several conversations I’ve had with non-believing friends who are drawn to Jesus, but caught up with some of these questions.

Are We Overrated? A Conversation with Eugene Cho

Eugene Cho is the founder and Lead Pastor of Quest Church – an urban, multi-cultural and multi-generational church in Seattle, Washington – as well as founder and Executive Director of the Q Café, an innovative non-profit community café and music venue. He is also the founder and visionary of One Day’s Wages (ODW) – “a grassroots movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty.” ODW has been featured in the New York Times, The Seattle Times, NPR and numerous other media outlets. For his entrepreneurial work and spirit, Eugene was recently honored as one of 50 Everyday American Heroes. His recently released his first book, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?

KW: Based on the theme of your book, what would you say is the greatest hindrance to a Christian’s ability to actually change the world?

EC: I don’t think there is really one answer to that question. The body of Christ is a mosaic of people in different seasons of their lives and different seasons of their spiritual walk so I don’t want to single out one aspect, but I do think there are a few significant factors to talk about.

The first would probably be apathy and a general lack of conviction that we need to do something and that God has called the church be part of his plan.

The second, which contributes somewhat to the apathy, would be an erroneous theology. Many of us have a theology that says that we just need to focus on Jesus and that the most important thing is bringing the most people to heaven with us. While I agree with the basic premise, it lacks a larger, more robust vision of the kingdom of God that we pray will be manifest on the earth, as well.

Lastly, I think fear is a significant factor. The world around us is so broken. Just think about what’s happening today: the border crisis in Texas, the continued conflict in Israel and Palestine, Nigerian girls still being held captive—these these situations lead to fear and paralysis because we just don’t know what to do about it.

But I think we also need to be careful about what we mean by changing the world. In our language and in our theology we talk a lot about this and that’s good. I’m glad that, particularly in the evangelical world, the language and issues of justice have been elevated by things like The Justice Conference, for example. But I think we need to be careful about our messianic complexes, about our hero complexes. It would be ridiculous for us to think that we are trying to change the world without understanding that that God also wants to change us.

Part of the title of the book is “Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World?” If I could add another sentence to that already long title it would be: “and also be changed ourselves.”

As we’re seeking to change the world and bring about justice, for us not to consider our own complicity in a broken world, would be missing so much and would actually be a hindrance to the work we are called to participate in.

KW: Why do you think it has become so easy, and so commonplace, for well-meaning Christians to confuse the line between good intentions and doing good?

EC: Part of this is cultural. We live in a world where it’s easy for us to express our good intent. I don’t want to just slam our culture and our people because it’s partly the language of the world we live in whether it’s social media or the ease of getting and responding to information.

This isn’t necessarily bad, but if we’re honest, there’s always a cost to following Jesus, a cost to justice, a cost to taking good ideas and implementing them. We’re all in love with justice, compassion and generosity, but there is a ceiling to that. We love justice until there is a personal cost to us.

That’s the distinction between action and good intent. Action requires a personal cost beyond a tweet or Facebook post.

We have to remind ourselves that there is a cost to following Jesus.

KW: You talk about the reality of Christians being “called to the insignificant.” Why do you think we need to be reminded of this, and why is it so difficult for us to hear?

EC: I’m not suggesting that we have to be insignificant or invisible, but in a world where we’re attracted to glamor, popularity and significance we have to remember that this isn’t the essence of our following Jesus. The most important part of our calling is to be faithful. If we’re attracted to attention and bright lights it can compromise our motivation and good intent. And, ultimately, it feeds our hero complex.

The cover of the book is an unrevealed human being with a superhero uniform. If we’re not careful, we’ll be overrated because we’re more in love with the idea of being seen and being celebrated than we are of being faithful.

Nowhere in scripture do I see that God’s calling for us is to be glamorous, trendy or relevant. Our cultural context makes this so tempting so we have to remember what God’s calling is for us—to be faithful.

KW: You say that Christians ought to begin with self-examination. What questions do we need to ask ourselves?

EC: In the midst of our busyness and desire to be defined by our work, we need to stop and realize that how our culture defines heroism, is different than what Jesus modeled for us. For example, I think there’s something about being humble, being careful about our motivations and acknowledging that in the work of justice we need to ask ourselves the hard questions

How do I embrace silence and solitude in the noise and clutter?

Am I defining myself and finding my significance in busyness and in “good work?”

Am I in it to glorify myself or to elevate God and those that I’m serving?

Am I using people for the sake of growing our own influence and platform?

These are hard questions and questions I wrestle with as a person, as a pastor, and as a leader in somewhat of a public role.

KW: How would you encourage someone paralyzed with the overwhelming charge of making a difference in the world?

EC: I would begin by reminding them that it’s not our job to save the world, it’s not even our job to change the entire world—we need to be realistic. There’s no possible way we can change the whole world; it’s a phrase and a marketing slogan we throw around in the church.

All we’re called to do is be faithful, to live as faithful followers of Jesus. And as we’re faithful followers who study God’s word, as we grow in our understanding of God’s heart, as we learn that justice, mercy and compassion reflect the character of God, as we’re people that study the scriptures, pray and spend time with the Holy Spirit—not because we’re trying to produce certain things, but because we’re followers of Jesus—out of those things will well up convictions that will help us and sustain us. Out of this will spring up energy and guidance for more than one hit wonders, single events, or fundraisers.

I would love to encourage someone to consider what it means to follow Jesus in all of the wonder, in all of it’s scandalous nature, for the marathon of life.

God has begun this mission and I believe that Christ came, Christ died, Christ rose again, and that one day he will come back to restore all things unto himself. We get to simply be a part of this. The world, the mission of God’s salvation, and redemption of this world does not rest on me. I can rest in that and trust that God is at work.

KW: What do you believe the church in America most needs to hear?

EC: The most important thing the church needs to hear is the most important thing we’ve needed to hear from the beginning—it’s the reason we exist. We need to be a church where everything we do is in response to the gospel of Christ. And by the gospel, I’m not just suggesting that we earn our ticket to heaven. The gospel is so amazing and magnificent that it does give us the gift of salvation and reconciles us to God through Christ. But the gospel is also such that it also ushers forth the kingdom of God that was demonstrated by Jesus Christ. That’s the gospel that we need to be a part of and be about.

May we be about the gospel, and may everything that we do—including the pursuit of justice—be in response to the gospel of Christ.

KW: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

EC: Go Seahawks!

On Sticking With It

Guest Post by Rachel Goble

The photo above is from my first visit to Thailand in 2008 sitting in a circle, hearing stories of young women who were trafficked form Myanmar to Thailand’s border town as sex workers. I’ve been with The SOLD Project for 6 years now. It’s amazing to me how often I get asked “so what are you up to now” and watch people’s shocked faces to find out I’m still with SOLD. Or other times I’m in conversation with friends and express the hard parts of my job and get told “you’ve been with this for a while. It wouldn’t be bad for you to move on”. I’ve had enough of these interactions in the last year to both recognize their repetitiveness as well as create a certain feeling of insecurity in what I’m doing. Should I move on? Have I been with this for too long? Could someone else lead it better?

In the last six years I’ve been with SOLD I’ve watched friends move on to second and sometimes even third careers. I’m 31 years old. We’re all in a place of figuring out what we want to be when we grow up. Am I missing something?

I absolutely love what I do. Sure, there are times I feel off balance and know that parts of me aren’t being challenged. Other times I’m overwhelmed with challenge and wish I had a boss telling me what to do next. Sometimes I wish I’d gone corporate as the instabilities of the non-profit world and lack of sustainability weigh on me. I yearn for guidance and growth and new experiences.

But don’t we all?

As I’ve settled into my sixth year of being with the same non-profit – one that I helped start from it’s very beginnings – I’ve realized that I don’t want to run when it gets hard. Or overwhelming. Or when I feel like maybe I’m missing out on some other experience.

Someone once told me that most baby boomers are still in their same careers as when they graduated. Whereas my generation will have experienced 4 careers by the time they retire. I don’t see anything right or wrong about either. But I do know that. For me. Today. I’d like to stick with mine a little longer. Even if that makes my peers not so sure what to do with me.

Gary Haugen once gave a talk I resonated deeply with. He eloquently shed light on the road to justice being long. And painful. And at times mundane (think data entry). But it’s the moments of victory that we celebrate. I’m learning to accept the journey. And learning to trust that the moments of victory will come. With a lot of hard work. And vulnerability. And dependency on investors. And even data entry.

I have a dream. Of a world where children are free of exploitation. Where cycles of poverty are broken. Where families are restored. And I’m seeing that. Every single day. With my work at SOLD.

So, to keep myself balanced, I start other initiatives that feed and breathe life to other aspects of me. I run a photography business that allows me to be creative and provides extra income. I consult. I attend conversations and gatherings about faith and leadership development (both things I’m passionate about). I create personal projects and make films. And all of these outlets allow me to meet new people. Who inspire me and encourage me and get me to ask deeper questions.

I don’t know what the future has for me. But I do know that today, six years later, I am more dedicated to SOLD and our mission of prevention than ever before. And I hope that remains true for years to come. I’m glad I stuck it out. And I’m writing this blog post to remind future me that the journey can be incredibly difficult or even worse, at points, mundane. But the glimpses of justice from the fruits of our efforts that we see along the way make it all worth it.

Paul McCusker on C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity

Paul McCusker is an author and dramatist. His books include Screwtape Letters: The Annotated Edition and the newly released  C. S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created a Classic, plus over 20 novels and non-fiction works. His scriptwriting includes the multiple award-winning audio dramatizations of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis At War and the Peabody Award-winning Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom.  He is also a writer and director for the popular children’s program Adventures In Odyssey.Paul lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, son and daughter.

KW: How did your interest in C.S. Lewis and the story of Mere Christianity develop? 

PM: I grew up with a cursory knowledge about C.S. Lewis – the quotes often used in churches and youth groups from him. But my interest in C.S. Lewis as a writer and person began with The Chronicles of Narnia, which I read back in the 80s. I was so impressed with them that I began to read about his life and explore his other writings, including Mere Christianity. Then, as a writer and director for Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, I had the honor of dramatizing all seven Narnian stories, along with The Screwtape Letters. 14 years ago in England I stumbled onto Justin Phillips’ CS Lewis and the BBC, which chronicled his relationship with broadcasting and told the story of how Mere Christianity came to be written. I immediately made notes about how to dramatize it, but the project was put aside for various reasons. It came to mind again a couple of years ago and we eventually produced the audio drama of “C.S. Lewis At War.” While Phillips’ book was helpful, it was written mostly for a British audience. So I had to do a lot of peripheral research to fill out sections, not only about Lewis and the BBC, but about World War Two and England and other aspects that American listeners would need to know. The idea then came up that I should write a companion book for the drama, which I did.

KW: What are some ways that WWII shaped the thought and ideas Lewis expressed in his radio talks and in the finished book?

PM: The war shaped every aspect of the lives of those living in England at the time. Everyone was touched by it in one way or the other, through fear, loss, and tragedy. Lewis had evacuees living in his house, his brother Warnie was active in the military in France, friends or children of friends were regularly shipping out to fight, the threat of an invasion by Germany seemed imminent. Lewis was impacted by all of this. And, as an academic, he came into regular contact with the prevailing secular positions, and anti-Christian bias. With the BBC broadcasts, then, he spoke into the nightmare that was England. He reminded an increasingly secular culture about faith and God and hope and mercy. He also wrote The Problem of Pain and The Screwtape Letters during this time, as well as more of his science fiction novels, and many of their themes came about because the nation was at war.

KW: What was the most surprising thing you learned in your research?

PM: I was surprised by the complexity of Lewis as a man. He was not easily categorized. There was a full integration of his life, experiences, pain and faith. The portrayal of him as a “pie in the sky” Christian, living in an academic tower and untouched by the realities of life, is nonsense. He was a fully rounded human being.

KW: How would you describe the legacy of Mere Christianity?

PM: It’s amazing to think through the many ways we’ve been impacted by Lewis’ thought and approaches in Mere Christianity. The “Three L” argument about Jesus (Liar, Lunatic or Lord), the explanation about God’s being about to deal with all prayers from all people because He is outside of time, and even arguing for the faith from a soundly intellectual and reasonable position – they were all positions popularized by Lewis. We take them for granted now because he did them so well. And it’s significant that his work seems as relevant now as it did when first presented – even more so, in some cases.

KW: Is there something unique we can learn from the chaotic background to the formation of Lewis’ work that might help us understand or navigate our way forward in much of the chaos of today’s world?

PM: He took seriously the task of defending Christianity to a secular audience in a sensible way. He earned his credibility to speak into people’s lives by identifying with their common humanity and then guiding them into the bigger picture of eternity. He was intentional in trying to explain why Christ was relevant using the language of the people, without talking down to them. He didn’t shy away from the tough questions. He didn’t use tricks of propaganda to explain what he believed. We have to remember that every generation has its challenges, its chaos, its secular ideas, its anti-Christian efforts. Ours is no different from his. The question is: will we rise above the shrill voices and screams to speak  about Jesus in a meaningful way to our culture?

KW: What’s a significant takeaway for you personally?

PM: I learned that writing a book about C.S. Lewis is incredibly difficult. I’d rather do novels where I can make up everything :)

KW: What are the books you most recommend to people to learn more about Lewis or the sides of Lewis we may not know? I  recommend Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis by George Sayers. It’s one of the best. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by Lewis himself is essential, as well as reading Lewis’ many other works. Lewis’ letters to his friend Arthur Greeves is insightful, since they span most of his life. Professor Devin Brown’s books about Lewis and his works are very good. And, for self-serving reasons, I also recommend Screwtape Letters: The Annotated Edition :)

An Interview with Mark Charles

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for awhile you know that I like to do book interviews with authors to expose people to a variety of different leaders, voices and perspectives. One of the things we all benefit from in the current world – where we tend to interact most with things we already believe or agree with – is exposure to different points of view. One of the things that helps us grow as people and in wisdom is getting outside of ourselves and deepening our understanding of other perspectives. The Native American, and certainly the Native American Christian perspective, is one that we often don’t hear or are rarely exposed to.

Mark Charles is a voice that many of us need to hear. He is a writer, blogger, speaker and thought leader. I asked him to do an interview about himself, his ministry and his mission of trying to help contextualize the Christian faith within native culture. If you want to connect more with Mark you can connect with him on Twitter (@wirelesshogan) and follow him on his blog.

KW: You partner with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship at Calvin College as a Resource Development Specialist on Indigenous Worship. What have been the blessings to you as you’ve engaged the topic of contextualized worship in a formal academic setting?

MC: Ya’at’eeh. My father is Navajo and my mother is American of Dutch heritage. Both sides of my family have been involved in the Christian Reformed Church for at least 3 generations. In fact, my Navajo grandparents were translators for some of the early Christian Reformed missionaries in the Southwest. I personally have been involved in several ways with the denomination, including as pastor of the Christian Indian Center, a CRC church in Denver CO, before I moved back to the Navajo reservation with my wife Rachel and our 3 children.

One of the main goals of the Worship Institute is to revitalize worship in the local church this is done primarily through a grants program geared towards congregations. After my family and I moved back to the reservation, I began to write about life, reconciliation, marginalization of native people, and the process of contextualizing worship among native cultures. While living there I was connected with one of the grantees and through that relationship I began developing a partnership with the Worship Institute.

As our partnership continued to grow, I began consulting for them: doing leadership development and teaching and writing about contextualized worship. Their partnership allowed me more time and resources to invest in local leaders on our reservation and to engage in conversations throughout the country about what it means to contextualize Christian worship for indigenous cultures.

When I lecture at the seminary I usually start by asking the students whether anyone has ever participated in a contextualized worship service. A few ethnic minority students usually raise their hand. I then look around the room and tell them I have to assume that the rest of the class must worship in a Jewish synagogue on Saturday in Hebrew. Of course, their answer is no.

I go on to inform them that actually, they do participate in a highly contextualized worship service. When you come from a dominant culture you assume that the way you do things are normal—but, in fact, most worship services in the US are highly contextualized to fit the Western culture and the American people. A core value of the United States that unfortunately had been adopted by the American church is the value of assimilation. But that is not a Biblical value. I use the topic of contextualizing worship as a way to encourage the students to instead embrace the discomfort that comes from our diversity.

But perhaps the best fruit that has come from my partnership with the Worship Institute had been the opportunity to invest in Native leaders with Cru (formally Campus Crusade) and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. 3 years ago we started a national Native American student conference called Would Jesus Eat Frybread (WJEF). This conference attracts about 100 native students from around country allows them to ask questions about it means to be both native and Christian.

KW: What is the one of the most important messages the American church needs to hear about indigenous peoples?

MC: There are many things that the American church is ignorant of in regard to indigenous peoples. One of the primary things is that for much of the history of our nation, the American church has worked in partnership with the US government to destroy, assimilate or marginalize Native Americans and our cultures. The main way this came about was through the Doctrine of Discovery. The Doctrine of Discovery stemmed from a series of papal bulls written in the 15th century. Essentially, it was the Church in Europe saying to the nations of Europe, whatever lands you encounter that are not ruled by Christian rulers, the people in those lands are less than human and the land is yours for the taking. It was this doctrine that allowed Columbus to claim to have discovered America—because his worldview, theology and doctrine told him this land was empty.

This doctrine has become a foundational doctrine, not just for the American church, but also for the nation. Most people don’t know the Doctrine of Discovery by name but they do recognize the fruit of it which is foundational in much of their attitudes and perspectives. Manifest Destiny is a perfect example. The Doctrine Discovery feeds a lie to the church and our country which is the belief that the United States is God’s chosen nation and this continent is their promised land. This belief is rarely preached explicitly. But it is implicit in the understanding of what it means to be an American.

The Doctrine of Discovery has also been codified into US law. There are a number of cases in the Supreme Court that reference the Doctrine of Discovery. One example is Johnson vs. M’Intosh (1823). In that case, two white men were arguing over the ownership of a piece of land. One man had purchased the land from indigenous people and the other man had purchased it from the government. The court stated that based on the Doctrine of Discovery, the indigenous people only had the right of occupancy and that the Europeans had the right of discovery. And the right of European discovery trumped the right of indigenous occupancy.

Most people are not aware that at its core our nation is this systemically racist and fundamentally unjust. We often point to the Declaration of Independence as evidence that our nation is “good” and believes that “all men are created equal.” But even that declaration was based on the Doctrine of Discovery. The colonies claimed that the British crown was limiting their ability to expand and “discover” the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains so therefore they had to declare their independence. So the great statement that “all men are created equal” has in its foundation an assumption that the indigenous peoples living in the land were not fully human.

This is a difficult truth to swallow and this information causes quite a paradigm shift for most people. But it’s important to understand this history and the way it has influenced our life and our thinking.

KW: What do you think is the greatest misunderstanding about indigenous people?

MC: I think the biggest misunderstanding people have is that we, Native Americans, aren’t here. Most people don’t realize or think about the fact that we still exist and that there are close to 6 million Native Americans living in this country, representing over 600 tribes and residing on more than 300 reservations.

Four and a half years ago, then Senator Brownback (now governor of Kansas), amended House Resolution 3326, the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, with a 7 bullet-point apology to Native Peoples of the United States. The apology mentions no specific tribe, treaty or injustice and ends with a disclaimer stating that nothing contained in it is legally binding. The senator tried for years to get a meatier apology passed as a stand-alone bill, but couldn’t even get it out of committee. So he kept watering it down and still was unable to move it. It was finally recommended that he bury it in an Appropriations Act in order to pass it. He did so, and it was signed by President Obama on December 19, 2009, but it was never announced, publicized or read by the White House or Congress.

I hosted a public reading of this apology in December 2012 in front of the Capitol building in Washington DC. I invited Governor Brownback, President Obama, and other government, political and denominational leaders from around the nation to come in hopes of creating a dialogue to begin the process of reconciliation. We had about 200 people show up—almost entirely from the grassroots level. Virtually no one with leadership in the church, academia or the government attended.

At this reading I shared a metaphor that I have used for nearly a decade to invite our nation into a conversation for reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

Being Native American and living in the United States feels like our indigenous peoples are an old grandmother who lives in a very large house. It is a beautiful house with plenty of rooms and comfortable furniture. But, years ago, some people came into our house and locked us upstairs in the bedroom. Today, our house is full of people. They are sitting on our furniture. They are eating our food. They are having a party in our house. They have since unlocked the door to our bedroom but it is much later and we are tired, old, weak and sick; so we can’t or don’t come out. But the part that is the most hurtful and that causes us the most pain, is that virtually no one from this party ever comes upstairs and finds us in the bedroom, sits down next to us on the bed, takes our hand, and simply says, “Thank you. Thank you for letting us be in your house.”

It is my prayer that our nation can begin to acknowledge and respect the indigenous peoples this land.

KW: What is the goal of your new organization 5 Small Loaves?

MC: Through honest education, intentional conversation, and meaningful action, 5 Small Loaves is pursuing restored relationships and seeking healing for Native Americans, the Church, and the United States of America.

For the past 5-7 years, I have mostly participated only in dialogues where I was invited to engage. This included joining the boards of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA) and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). I also accepted invitations to speak and lead (in partnership with other organizations) on issues of diversity, racial reconciliation, and other faith issues.

But in the past 3-5 years, there have been 3 specific issues that I have been compelled to speak out on and lead into primarily on my own. These issues were so important to me, but yet incredibly controversial throughout the broader country, that I found if I did not speak, then very little would be said or done. These issues are:

  • Creating a space for native voices in national political elections.
  • Advocating for the inclusion of the indigenous peoples of this land in the process to comprehensively and justly reform our nation’s immigration laws.
  • To publicly and respectfully read the U.S. apology to Native peoples that was buried in the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.

Pursuing reconciliation is going to require engaging in dialogue on these types of more difficult issues. Very few organizations are willing to take on the risk, so we needed to start our own in order to engage them. My wife, Rachel, and I understand that we cannot do it alone. We need to have partners, encouragers and other leaders to help. We’re looking forward to seeing how God will use this organization to raise up people to help move the dialogue forward in these areas.

How Tyrants Become Gods

Guest Post by Ben Larson

I’ve noticed something about myself recently: there are some ugly tyrants in my life. They’re not people. They’re not evil. They are gifts that I have allowed to become tyrants. Here are my thoughts on them:

The Tyrant of Opportunity
How often have I found myself jumping into a project I don’t have time for or paying for something I can’t afford or losing an entire weekend to busyness? Opportunity is probably the biggest tyrant in my life right now. While ignoring opportunity is foolish, and opportunities are a good thing, I’m bombarded by so many that I sometimes forget that I don’t have to try to do it all (especially since I can’t).

The Tyrant of Potential
Knowing your strengths is a good thing. Knowing your capacity is a good thing. Being aware of what you are capable of accomplishing is a good thing. Laying awake at night angry because you feel like you haven’t mastered every interest and accomplished every goal? Not so good.

God knows our potential better than we do, and – more importantly – he knows where our energy will best be spent. It can be difficult to trust him when we know all of the cool, impressive things we could be doing with our lives. I’m learning to beware when I start to think thoughts like “If I could only work a little less…”, “If my relationships didn’t take up so much of my time…”, “If I could just be alone and chase that one goal 24/7…” None of those statements sound like the beginning of a sentence Jesus would say.

The Tyrant of Desire
In the age of American Idol and the Disney generation, I REALLY feel compelled to “pursue my dreams,” whatever that means. But what about God’s calling on my life? Does it involve chasing my personal version of success? Buying my favorite toys? Visiting the coolest places? Playing the biggest stages? God’s calling might not, and am I willing to do more than just accept it and resign myself to it – am I willing to embrace it and pursue that calling with everything I have?

The Tyrant of Guilt
We need to feel guilty. We’re imperfect people that make foolish, selfish, hurtful decisions every day. But not all guilt is healthy. Some is imposed on us by culture, like when a dad feels guilty for not being able to give his kids as many Christmas gifts as the dads in the movies. That’s a silly, cultural guilt that has no place in our Christian paradigm. I don’t want to be tyrannized by cultural guilt that pressures me to perceive my success, my self-worth, my achievements, or my decisions in a way that Christ wouldn’t see them. A God who cares more about orphans and widows than priests and kings would probably not want me to feel guilty for missing a meeting to give a hitchhiker a ride.

The Tyrant of Money
We all get this one. The true danger of money is that it represents everything else in the list…I can leverage money into anything I want it to be, which makes it the most seductive of all the tyrants.
The funny thing about our brains is that knowing about the problem isn’t enough to make the problem go away…this is one of those tyrants that we can only reprogram ourselves away from through generosity.

What is a tyrant? Someone with a lot of power who makes unreasonable or immoral demands and doesn’t have their people’s best interests at heart. Sounds kind of like a false god, doesn’t it?

“You shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3

Mike & Ann Mara on Medical Work in Kenya

Some of Tamara and my best friends are Mike & Ann Mara. Mike and Ann Mara joined Antioch at the very beginning, over 8 years ago. They are a unique couple in that Ann is Irish and they both met in Africa while Ann was working in relief and development and Mike was doing medical missions. The amount of things we have collaborated on over the years is a pretty long list, but World Relief NEXT – where we worked on creative and educational material advocating about Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and the founding of The Justice Conference would be some of the more significant things. (In fact, if you’ve ever been to the conference, Ann has been the emcee from the beginning and you’ll recognize her face and lovely Irish accent).

Around 2 years ago Mike, Ann and their two children Michael and Jane were sent by Antioch to Kijabe, Kenya where Anne works in advocacy and Mike works as an orthopedic surgeon. They recently returned home for a brief stay in order to tell stories, increase the profile of the work being done in Kijabe, rest and raise funds.

I thought it would be fun to do an interview with Mike & Ann because I believe in them and their work as much as anyone else I know.

KW: What is the history of the medical work in Kijabe?

M&AM: AIC Kijabe Hospital was founded in 1915 and is a 280-bed multi-specialty facility in rural Kenya. Nestled in a small village on the eastern escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, this African mission hospital has grown to provide an extraordinary range and quality of services to some of the most vulnerable patients in Africa.

The hospital was originally established as a small clinic to provide good health care for Kenyan and missionary families. Despite being located in a rural village, it has grown to become a major Kenyan referral hospital with over 700 Kenyan employees. Of the twenty six consultants (doctors) at the hospital, half are Kenyan and half are ex-pat missionaries from England, Australia, and the USA.

Incongruously, this rural hospital has become one of the leading training centers in East Africa. Licensed training programs mentor the future leaders of medicine in East Africa and beyond. Programs include medical and clinical officer internships, five-year residencies in both general surgery and orthopedic surgery, fellowships in pediatric surgery, pediatric neurosurgery, and soon reconstructive plastic surgery, and paediatric acute care, as well as a family practice residency program.

Kijabe Hospital is literally the city on a hill which cannot be hidden. It serves as a beacon of Christ’s hope and love for vulnerable patients from Kenya, South Sudan, and throughout East Africa. Patients come to Kijabe Hospital knowing that they will be treated with love, compassion, and dignity, regardless of their ethnicity, faith background, or ability to pay.

KW: Please describe your ministries at Kijabe Hospital.

Ann:  I was tasked with establishing a Resource Mobilization Department within the hospital. My work includes communications through website development, newsletters and social media, as well as grant-writing, fundraising, and donor acquisition and appreciation. This allows Kijabe Hospital to communicate its vision and alert people to the needs that exist for equipment, personnel, and capital improvements. My desire is to see collaboration between individuals and institutions all over the world, engaging and investing in the Spirit-filled work that takes place at Kijabe Hospital.

Mike:  My work is to head up the orthopaedic surgery department at Kijabe, and to train and disciple surgical trainees within our five year orthopaedic surgery residency program. In addition, we have the opportunity to travel on outreach trips to provide medical care, surgical training, and shine Christ’s light in some of the darkest corners of the African continent.

KW: What are some of the things Americans don’t understand about the medical needs in East Africa? 

M&AM: Most Kenyans living outside the major cities have little or no access to quality medical care. Rural health clinics may have no doctor or nurse on staff, and frequently have little medicine in stock. Simple medical problems such as an infected cut, ear infection, or broken bone escalate to life and limb threatening conditions due to lack of medical care. For trauma, such as car accidents, there are only 40 orthopaedic surgeons to serve 40 million people. Kenyans constantly suffer or die due to lack of trained medical providers. The fortunate few may be able to borrow money, or sell livestock or land, to travel for days to get to a functioning hospital.

KW: What has been the most impactful thing you’ve experienced since being in Kijabe?  

In Africa, the distinctions between the physical and the spiritual, the natural and the supernatural, become blurred. Patients presenting with a medical condition or injury come in carrying tremendous spiritual burdens as well. Deformity, birth defects, and illness are often seen as a curse to be feared as much as a medical condition to be treated.  As westerners, with cultural and language barriers, it can be difficult to decipher the patients’ cultural, social, and spiritual backgrounds. It has been amazing to see the Kenyan and western staff, the medical and chaplaincy staff, work together as an holistic team. We believe this is a vision of the “Kingdom Come;” different parts of the Body of Christ in action here on Earth. We have seen patients refuse life-saving surgery, or refuse to hold and love their baby with a birth defect, until a spiritual stronghold was identified and broken through fervent prayer by the medical and chaplaincy teams. Patients are often released from spiritual bondage as well as having their medical conditions treated.

KW: What are the most helpful ways people can be involved with you in the work you’re doing, or become supporters of your ministry in Kenya? 

There are many levels of answers to this question, but first and foremost, we need prayer. We are continuously comforted and strengthened by the prayers of hundreds of people around the world. The struggles in Kenya are often as much spiritual as they are physical. Prayer has become our daily bread:  it sustains us on an hourly basis.

As long term missionaries to Kijabe Hospital, we are required to depend upon the Body of Christ for our living expenses. Our monthly budget is set by our mission agency, Serge, formerly World Harvest Mission.  This has been an incredibly humbling experience, recognizing that we are completely dependent upon more than 100 individuals, families, and churches who sustain us. It is impossible to do this ministry in isolation, as we recognize that collaboration is the essence of missions. Partners in our ministry support us through recurring monthly tax-deductible donations through Serge. We invite you to prayerfully consider partnering with us in our ministry in Kenya, by visiting our donations page.

Finally, Kijabe Hospital is energized by Christian doctors coming to do short term missions. This brings new ideas and enthusiasm to the medical trainees, and allows the long term Kenyan and missionary doctors to take much-needed breaks. Please email our medical director, Dr. Mardi Steere, at meddir.kh (at) gmail (dot) com, if you are interested in short term medical missions.

KW: How would people find out more information and stay updated on your life in Kenya? 

Please feel free to email Ann at annmoran2002 (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk, or Mike at kijabeorthopaedics (at) gmail (dot) com. We would love to hear from you and answer any questions you might have.

We regularly update our blog documenting our triumphs and struggles here in Kenya.  Please visit at www.marasafari.org.

For more information about Kijabe Hospital, please go to www.kijabehospital.org.

KW: What do you hope is the lasting impact of your ministry in Kenya?

Ann:  It is a privilege to tell the story of this incredible place. The story of what happens at Kijabe Hospital on a daily basis needs to be shouted from the rooftops as a picture of God’s immeasurable power and the advancement of His Kingdom here on earth. It is my hope and prayer that many more people will hear about God’s work at Kijabe and will be excited to partner with the hospital in various ways.

Mike:  My greatest joy is coming alongside the next generation of Kenyan, Christian medical leaders, and training them to be orthopaedic surgeons. Our prayer is that they will be well trained medically, and also discipled in stewarding their talents for God’s kingdom. Many of our Kenyan trainees feel the call to serve the vulnerable in Kenya, and some have even traveled with us to surrounding countries which have far greater medical and spiritual needs. These young doctors will in turn train and disciple the subsequent leaders in Kenya and beyond.

Messages from Antioch Church

Below you'll find Ken's latest messages at Antioch Church in Bend, OR. Searching for a specific video? Visit Antioch's Vimeo page to find more of Ken's messages and other videos from Antioch.

Answers from Askquestions.tv

Below you'll find Ken's most watched videos from Redux. Searching for a specific video? Visit Askquestions.tv to find more answers from Ken and many other Christian leaders and thinkers from around the world.


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