Friday, September 26
10:15 AM The starting gate has opened. Pray that I run well and finish well. Auf Wiedersehen!
10:03 AM Becky has just published our latest needs list for Ethiopia. If possible, we would like to have these items by October 31st. They are needed for our November trip. We want each of our 12 team members' suitcases stuffed to the gills! The list includes:
Food for 4-day Bible Conference in Burji, for 60 rural leaders & evangelists: $1800
Love gift salary supplements: $100/evangelist family (this will buy 1 sack of grain)
Protein bars: 86-cent Zone bars at Wal-Mart are excellent
Bible story cloths (tells Creation-to-Ascension in pictures on a cloth, 45 cloths): $485
Food for 1-week Training session of our 10 under-cover evangelists in Gondar: $900
(Below: An Ethiopian evangelist. Protein bars help nutritionally.)
Small gifts for the Chaplain’s Box, which he will use when he visits patients in their homes (bars of soap, ladies scarfs, Bible picture books, small notebooks, any size socks, children’s T-shirts, men’s dress shirts, ladies’ dresses/blouses/skirts, sweaters, Vaseline, alcohol hand gel, wash clothes, teething biscuits, hair things, needle/thread kits, etc…small, practical things)
Medical supplies (naproxyn, ibuprofen, aspirin, tylenol, alcohol hand cleanser, Jergen’s Ultra-healing hand lotion, bandaids, antibiotic ointment, multivitamins, anbesol, Immodium AD, antihistamines/decongestants, eye moisturizers, ear wax removal drops, children & infants’ Tylenol, 2-4” strips of cotton fabric for dressings with large safety pins, Citracal with Mg & Vit D, Midol, powdered electrolyte drinks/Gateraide/pedialyte, Zantac 150mg, heavy plastic/vinyl sheeting, flat bed sheets with pillow case, KY lubricant gel, hydrocortisone cream, benedryl gel, tape measurer, various splints, towels & wash clothes)
For Chaplain teaching aid: poster boards, colored markers, picture Bible story books, small fold-up table for children, simple Bible story coloring pictures or dot-to-dot, flannelgraph set ($100)
(Below: A nurse at the Galana clinic. Many supplies are still needed.)
For rural people & churches:
Food sacks for widow & orphans: $1500…we will buy the food in the capital
Seeds for farmers: $700…we are taking the seed with us
Wash basins & soap: $1500…we will buy these at the large market in the capital
Food for Christians (Muslim communities are withholding food aid to Christians): $3,000
Eyeglasses (non-prescription, strengths 1.00, 1.25, 1.50 & 1.75 only at this time)
Funds for loudspeaker & solar power at 3 churches: $1,000/church
(Below: A village elder receiving a pair of reading glasses.)
Thank you for your help. We love you!
7:51 AM If you read just one essay about the so-called bank bailout, read this. Then go out and rent the movie Titanic, while you can still afford it.
7:37 AM Greek students! A heads-up on my spring schedule. I've been asked to teach 3 classes: Greek Syntax and Exegesis (i.e., third semester Greek) on Tuesday at 12:30; Greek II (i.e., second semester Greek) on Tuesday at 6:30; and Intermediate Greek (i.e., fourth semester Greek) on Wednesday at 12:30. All classes meet for 3 hours. In addition, I'll be teaching Greek I during our January-term.
6:58 AM Got up early this morning to pray about my trip. Much of the work already calls for thanksgiving. But because the Father delights in the petitions of His children, He allows us to make our requests of Him as well. The Lord has laid on me many responsibilities during this trip, but none too hard for Him, for He is a kind Master. I think I'm caught up on answering all my emails before I leave this morning. If you do need to write to me while I'm gone, I'll do my best to answer, though it might be best to wait until after I return on Oct. 13.
In other news, we've decided to keep Dayda. She has conquered our hearts. Now we have 4 Shelties. Nate and Jess have Sheppie and Sadie. Bec and I have Sheba and Dayda. Should keep us young.
Last night Jessica got her prize: Chinese food (with my secret ingredient, of course). I think everyone enjoyed it. As Becky said to Jessie, "We ought to let you win more often."
Thursday, September 25
1:45 PM Quote of the day:
In so-called Christianity we have made Christmas into a great festival. This is quite false, and it was not at all so in the Early Church. We mistake childishness for Christianity -- what with all our sickly sentimentality, our candy canes, and our manger scenes. Instead of remaining conscious of being in conflict that marks a life of true faith, we Christians have made ourselves a home and settled down in a comfortable and cozy existence. No wonder Christmas has become little more than a beautiful holiday.
The source is Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations, p. 229. Elsewhere I've written:
I couldn’t help but notice the irony. Here we spend a month of frenetic activity in elaborate preparations adorning our humble church sanctuary in candles and greens, in the lighting of the Advent Candle, in the reading of the Christmas story, in decorating trees and tables, in canceling Bible Study so that we can rehearse our Christmas play. Yet how often does our congregation celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the one memorial that Jesus Himself commanded us to observe?
Becky and I spend every Dec. 25th serving the church in Ethiopia, which is just another day in that culture, and we don't miss the holiday one bit.
9:52 AM Since moving to the rural South 10 years ago I have become amazed at how acceptable divorce is, even among evangelical Christians. The "sanctity of marriage" line is usually applied only to the issue of gay marriage. But if evangelicals want to outlaw gay marriage, why shouldn't we want to outlaw divorce and remarriage? Clearly the latter is more socially prevalent and harmful than the former. This is one reason I oppose the idea of a Federal Marriage Amendment. It is simply not the place of the federal government to tell us what is or is not legitimate marriage. Again, I agree with Ron Paul:
Ironically, liberal social engineers who wish to use federal government power to redefine marriage will be able to point to the constitutional marriage amendment as proof that the definition of marriage is indeed a federal matter! I am unwilling either to cede to federal courts the authority to redefine marriage, or to deny a state’s ability to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. Instead, I believe it is time for Congress and state legislatures to reassert their authority by refusing to enforce judicial usurpations of power.
Where I live, Baptist deacons who are in their second or even their third marriages are AOK. I have come to learn that the nation's highest divorce rate is in the "Christian" South (see David Crary, "Bible Belt Leads U.S. Divorces," AP, Nov. 12, 1999). I think Greg Boyd (Myth, pp. 137-38) hits the nail on the head:
We evangelicals may be divorced and remarried several times; we may be as greedy and as unconcerned about the poor and as gluttonous as others in our culture; we may be as prone to gossip and slander and as blindly prejudiced as others in our culture; we may be more self-righteous and as rude as others in our culture -- we may even lack love more than others in the culture. These sins are among the most frequently mentioned sins in the Bible. But at least we're not gay!
Yes, gay marriage is wrong. It is immoral. It is sin. But no less is our judgmentalism and hypocrisy.
8:47 AM Congressman Ron Paul opposes the federal bailout package. I've emailed my congressman and senator. Have you?
7:54 AM I have a confession to make. I have really become attached to little Dayda. This is our last puppy to be sold. I'm advertising everywhere I can, but secretly I'm hoping she won't be sold and we'll get to keep her. After all Sheba needs a playmate, don't you think? It's neat to watch her romp and play. She certainly has her mother's spunk. She looks just like her father, which must be one reason I like her so much. Dayda thus has a very good pedigree; certainly I wish mine were as good. At this point her fate is known only to God. But she sure is a cutie pie.
7:46 AM Kurt Vonnegut remembers the day when the U.S. executed 100,000 German non-combatants:
“We hit every blessed church, hospital, school, museum, theatre, your university, the zoo, and every apartment building in town, but we honestly weren’t trying hard to do it. C’est la guerre. So sorry. Besides, saturation bombing is all the rage these days, you know.”
If I may be permitted to quote from my forthcoming book:
Today the nation-state has become the most murderous and destructive force the world has ever known. Not just the horrific actions of totalitarian governments but the unlawful actions of legitimate governments cry out for redress. The church has become so domesticated, so “acculturated,” that it willingly tolerates the straightjacket of authoritarian theologies. It has forgotten the words of Jesus that His kingdom is not of this world, that His followers do not have to fight to advance His cause, and that His kingly authority comes from elsewhere.
Please read Vonnegut's essay.
7:22 AM Just one more day and I will board an airplane again. If the Lord wills, I'll be back in 18 days. I am pretty excited about this trip. I often regret that in High School I felt history and geography to be worthless subjects, along with English. "Why should I study English?", I once asked my teacher. "I'm not planning on going to England." I majored in surfing during my High School years. I was mighty proud of that fact then but am mighty ashamed of it now. Now I cannot get enough of history. The country to which I am going has recently come out of chaos and has witnessed the sunrise of prosperity. Humanism is firmly entrenched, and the people are ripe for Good News. I'm anxious to give my little talks and to meet the people. I got my passport out of our safe deposit box yesterday, and this morning I'm picking up some odds and ends from the store for the trip as well as putting a few finishing touches on my lectures. From what I have been told, I will be speaking a total of 55 hours in 2 weeks. O well. A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Wednesday, September 24
7:16 PM For supper tonight Becky made the most delicious curry chicken broccoli dish. And guess who joined us?
Right now the newlyweds are off moving the cattle hither and the goats thither, but we've invited them to return "yon" to enjoy some ice cream once it gets dark.
4:56 PM What fun!
Jessie won the "guess how many bales we'll get today" game. Her prize? She asked for Chinese food prepared by you know who.
4:35 PM Chuck thanks Ron Paul.
2:21 PM The MacArthur Fellows Program has just announced its 2008 Fellows. Here are the criteria for selection:
The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.
If I may, I'd like to nominate Nathan for this honor for delivering high-quality care to a diverse, underserved community in rural Virginia, for opening avenues into the mysteries of canine care and goat husbandry, for exploring the circumstances that lead to economic cooperation in the post-bellum South, and for illuminating the intellectual and emotional life of ancient earth dwellers (aka the owners of Rosewood Farm).
I hope he wins.
11:23 AM Greg Boyd is a prolific author and a big-picture thinker. I just reread his The Myth of a Christian Nation.
I could quibble about this or that but I won't. The book clearly shows how Pax Americana has lapsed into an idolatrous Americanism. The author shows how Jesus' kingdom is, well,Jesus' kingdom -- a new way of living and a new set of values, a new community that transcends national boundaries. This is exactly what I find wherever I travel on this tired old planet. I love Greg's book and highly recommend it. I even quote from it in my new book on kingdom living, even though I completely disagree with some of Greg's other writings. I think the book offers an important correction to the evangelical church in America, if only we would stop criticizing him long enough to listen to what he has to say.
What does this mean for me personally? It means that it is not enough for me to question the just war tradition or to condemn the Constantinian compromise in the abstract. Nor is it enough for me to rail against the Christ-washed militarism being offered in His name by our politicians. Nor can I merely exegete Jesus' mandate in the Sermon on the Mount disinterestedly. The only responsible Christian ethic is for me to become an active participant in service and sacrifice for the sake of the Prince of Peace. I must discover what it means to rid myself completely of the baggage of self-will and plunge into the tranquil sea of God’s will, where alone I will find joy. At the very least, this means for me:
- rejecting the mindset of Western imperialism
- refusing to support the notion that Christian missions benefits from the spread of empire
- preaching the cross instead of the protection of the sword
- placing love of enemy at the heart of the Gospel rather than at its periphery
- affirming an allegiance to Christ that transcends national boundaries or roles
- bearing witness of sacrificial service in the name of Christ
- helping to move peace toward the center of the church’s witness in the world
- living a life of radical discipleship
- engaging in polite dialog with just war theorists and Christian advocates of war
- sharing the biblical basis of peacemaking to persons genuinely seeking to know more about it
- being committed to a ministry of reconciliation
- being willing to suffer in the spirit of the cross and to undergo a literal baptism unto death if need be
- focusing on the cross as the center of my faith and life
- manifesting the firstfruits of the kingdom of peace in mutual aid and love with the community of faith
- repudiating any coercion or manipulation of faith by the state
- praying constantly that God would move to ameliorate the hatred and pride that provide the occasion for war
- struggling to perfect my life by the Holy Spirit in the confidence that the Lord is at work
- being nonconformist yet involved in attempts at reconciliation worldwide
- preaching the Gospel persuasively and powerfully in deed as well as in word
In the end, while I cannot say that I am a peace church pacifist, this is irrelevant since pacifism or, better, peace-making, unlike the just war tradition, is not as much a dogma to be believed as a lifestyle to be practiced. May God help me to do it with courage and wisdom.
11:03 AM Here are a few more pix from my trip to Ethiopia last June. My approach to missions is very simple. All I try to do is to walk through the doors the Lord Jesus opens for me. I was flabbergasted when asked to speak to a group of prisoners in northern Ethiopia. Here they listen intensely to an old faranji tell them that Jesus loves them.
In the same town I was asked to teach a small class of church leaders in a Bible School. Here I'm teaching on missions from Matthew 9 and how Jesus went to where the people were rather than expecting them to come to Him. This fall I'll be taking some Bible study tools to help the school establish a small lending library for their students. What a privilege!
This is a small and severely persecuted congregation in a region famous for its opposition to Christianity. I am always asked to bring a brief word of encouragement. Like Paul's "encouraging word" in Acts 14:22, I have to remind them that "it is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God." I think just being there helps, though.
This former Muslim donated his land for a church meeting hall. We hadn't seen each other in over a year. It was a sweet reunion.
What special doors has the Lord Jesus opened for you today? Whether across the street or across the world, let's be going and doing, not just speaking and writing!
7:48 AM The puppies are now weaned. Sheba has made that crystal clear, and in no uncertain terms. I think they've gotten the message. Amazing. Dogs have been doing this for millennia, but it's all new for us. What an education.
7:34 AM Lionel's latest remix is a winner. Allow me, as a public speaker ("preacher" in Baptist circles), to offer 3 suggestions:
1) Get out from behind the pulpit. Of course, you will be seated among the people before speaking anyway. Can you see Jesus or Paul behind a podium?
2) Speak without notes. Be conversational. Be yourself. Know your stuff. Speak from the reservoir of Bible knowledge (and experience) instead of from the canteen of Saturday night.
3) Walk among the people as you speak. You are in fact one of them anyhow. Leaders, by definition, are sheep too. Just shepherding sheep.
Lionel's post, of course, is about more than just pulpits and platforms. But little things matter, even church architecture and physical ambiance.
7:25 AM Unbelievably, Bernanke has asked Germany to join in his bailout of the U.S. banking industry. Their answer was "Nein":
Der Wirtschaftsweise Peter Bofinger forderte, nach dem US-Vorbild ein staatliches Hilfspaket für deutsche Geldinstitute aufzulegen. In der Politik kassierte er dafür scharfe Kritik. "Deutschland darf auch deutschen Banken keine faulen Kredite abkaufen", sagte CSU-Landesgruppenchef Peter Ramsauer. Das geplante US-Paket sei eine noch nie erlebte "Sozialisierung von Verlusten". Bundesfinanzminister Peer Steinbrück (SPD) betonte am Dienstag, für ein Rettungspaket bestehe in Deutschland nicht die Notwendigkeit.
7:15 AM Go here to download The Simple/House Church Revolution by Roger Thoman.
7:06 AM Ron Paul has proven to be clairvoyant, not only about the war but also about the failing economy. Read his essays and you'll see what I mean. For his efforts he has been called an alarmist and isolationist, but what he foretold has actually happened. No one is less indifferent to the relentless march of men and machines in the Middle East than Ron Paul. That's why Paul's endorsement of Chuck Baldwin is significant.
That Chuck has acknowledged qualities of leadership no one can deny, and no one would work harder, I'm convinced, to bring America out from under the shadow of the awful catastrophe than he. The issue, politically speaking, is what is best for America -- and what is most constitutional. I believe that big issues are at stake in our nation -- issues that I'm afraid are neither perceived nor understood by many Americans, including certain candidates for public office. America exacts its will by force and thereby denies the validity of the democratic principles on which our government and our way of life depend. Our civil liberties and the economic order on which our nation rests are in great peril, but we can still gain a great objective -- not by hate and brutality and bloodshed, not by a quickening nationalistic feeling and anti-Muslim fervor, all in the name of Americanism -- but by tolerance and civil liberty. Politically speaking, I reiterate my hope that Americans will see fit to insist that our government be a government of laws. And spiritually speaking, I reiterate my hope that all true Jesus-followers, whether Republican or Democrat or neither, will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and, through scandalous love, show a lost world what that kingdom really looks like.
Tuesday, September 23
7:48 PM Just had a wonderful supper of curry chicken and peaches, rice, and green beans. Thanks a million, honey. The day at the office went well but all too quickly. I want to especially thank my secretary for making Kona Coffee for me (Mahalo!) and Surur (from Ethiopia) for checking our Amharic CDs (Amasagenalo!). Right now Becky is working on another Ethiopia project, Nate and Jessie are off to an SCV meeting down in Oxford, and I'm relaxing. Will need a good sleep tonight: we hope to bale hay tomorrow before Thursday's rains begin.
One more puppy sold today. One left. I wonder: How does this make Sheba feel?
7:40 AM Today, Lord willing, I will again be behind my familiar desk in the Forest of Wake. I am in the throes of putting the final touches on the first of 3 sabbatical trips that begins this Friday. I am anxious to get going. It will be good to get back to places I've been before, nurture friendships once established, and form new friendships that will require nurturing in the future. I expect convivial company -- a colleague will be meeting up with me halfway through the trip -- and I also anticipate a great time of teaching and learning. Where I am going the weather, I am told, is quite lovely now, neither too hot nor too cold. I will of course miss the farm and its residents, where life will continue as idyllic and active as ever. I'll take several writing pads with me: there are always a few tranquil moments for reflection in an airport or flying at 36,000 feet. Who knows how didactic I'll be when I get back! I'm also taking oodles of books as gifts for various people. Even if no one reads them, they make excellent book ends.
Just glanced at the news this morning. The democracies of the Old and New Worlds are crumbling before our eyes. The jawing about politics is truly humiliating for a nation presumably composed of intelligent human beings. The hoopla is simply another sign of the tenacity of mankind to cling to inherited ideas without thinking through the issues. If I may indulge in some guess work, I would guess that the U.S. is determined to make at least two more nations love democracy at the point of a bayonet. Be prepared for $10.00 gasoline and the quick depletion of our standard of living. I was intensely disappointed this weekend that so few people I met in Rocky Mount were aware of the Constitution Part and its presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin. If you want to be informed, you really must become at least familiar with the party's platform. I don't find either of the major parties particularly to my liking and so I am not averse to linking to Chuck's essays with a tacit cheer.
Finally, an anecdote from Podunk. In the midst of our farming community there's a rural tire store. On a visit there yesterday I had a long talk with Ray. Ray is an elderly, dignified Southern gentleman who lives next door to the tire shop. As an 18-year old Ray was sent to Europe to fight the Germans. His story has left me spellbound. He entered Europe in southern France in 1944 on a troop ship, then was sent by train (in a cattle car) to the front in northern France. He saw his first day of combat on Jan. 1, 1945, when his division was attacked by an S.S. outfit. Seriously wounded by a mortar blast, Ray barely got out of the scrap alive. "If anyone says they weren't scared, they're lying," he told me. The enemy was only 50 yards away. "Thankfully the Germans were as bad shots as we were." Ray spent the next 11 months of his life in hospitals. Doctors were able to save his leg, and today he walks with only a slight limp and a cane. I admire the courage of soldiers like Ray who do their duty even though scared to death.
May God give me the same courage as I seek to serve my King and expand His kingdom on the spiritual battlefields of this world.
Monday, September 22
1:12 PM Life on a farm is like being in a 3-ring circus: you're excited but also exasperated because you can't see everything at once. At noon I went outside and saw Nathan mowing one of our fields. A rare north wind makes it perfect weather for cutting and drying hay, so it looks like I might be home for baling after all! Most people around here gave up square baling years ago because it's so labor intensive. That's one of the reasons we enjoy it so much. To be sure I like brain work infinitely better, but I am resolutely returning to the soil and the simple and pleasant physical amenities of life on a farm. It seems just yesterday that we purchased Rosewood, built Bradford Hall, and fenced in the pastures. But we've actually been here now 7 years. Anyway it's a good place to restore order and quiet out of the chaos in the world. Seems I'm either in a foreign or a "furin" land.
A boy and his dog.
Back to work.
11:02 AM In other news, I have at last determined that it's about time for me to wade through the enormous pile of essays on my site and make this ship a little tighter. I'll be pruning and preening, and anything illegible is likely to be dumped unceremoniously overboard. Meanwhile I've been perusing the news sites and reading some wonderful exposés of our political leadership, or lack thereof. One in particular -- by De Koster -- is most entertaining. The remarkable thing to me is that anyone should be so argumentative about such surfacy issues when our national malady is much more horrible. The farm always brings me back to earth. I'm cheered by the green pastures I see everywhere and by the knowledge that they will have to be cut, raked, and baled -- though in leaving the States I might still miss out on all the fun. Despite the harrowing news from afar I still find foreign travel interesting, especially when my platter is full (as it will be on this trip).
O, Chuluse said goodbye to the Puppy Palace this weekend and went to her new home. Today Galana goes to hers. And life goes on.
10:43 AM This is one of the most beautiful fall days I've witnessed -- the new season is being ushered in gloriously. The grass is still damp, and the sun shines brightly in clear skies.
If you notice any incongruities in today's blog entries, attribute them to the howling mass of happy memories that are infesting my mind after spending a delightful weekend in Rocky Mount among our good friends the Meggs and the Enquists. Saturday morning we actually started out with a brief visit to Matt, Liz, and the boys in Charlotte Court House. It seems you can almost watch the boys grow several inches every day. Mat and Liz are such a joy to be around that it was difficult to drag ourselves away, but we had a wedding reception to attend, and a hugely important one at that. Justin and Alicia Enquist were married a month ago in Nebraska (the bride's home), but they were kind enough to hold a gala at the Enquist farm on Saturday for anyone who couldn't attend the real deal, the reception including a video of the service and some wedding cake. Here's the delightful couple with Justin's grandfather.
I am thankful that Justin found such a congenial helpmate. I think I've mentioned before the congregation that meets in the Enguists' barn, and a good group was on hand yesterday to hear us talk about the kingdom and how it's expanding in Ethiopia, and expanding in the "unlikeliest" places and ways. (Unlikely only to us.) Altogether Becky and I had an awfully good time and wish the Enguists would hold a reception every month.
In case it's a slow Monday for you, here are a few more pix from our weekend, beginning with Caleb and Isaac:
Not to forget Micah.
I had to capture this billboard on the drive to Rocky Mount. Irony, perhaps?
Our welcome at the Meggs.
Nathan leading a chorus after the reception. He restored and donated this old reed organ to the church.
Two more friends.
Chores always come before....
Then it's play time.
The gathering place.
My helper at the Ethiopia display table.
The Megg Family Singers and Players.
An adoptee from Ethiopia. In Christ there is no east or west.
Saturday, September 20
8:18 AM A prayer for Burji:
Father, in the frenzy of our modern lives, keep before us the truth that your Body is one. Help us to faithfully pray for your people who are suffering because of war and famine. For all who are affected by the Burji-Guji conflict, we pray for the peace that only your Son can give. The reason? To bring you glory and to expand your kingdom on earth. AMEN.
8:11 AM While people debate how we should vote or who is the most "qualified" to be president, the issue is far deeper than that. We have Christianized our culture, and the American flag has replaced the cross.
If you don't believe me, just ask your church leaders to remove the U.S. flag from your sanctuary. Something I'm afraid has gotten buried beneath the rubble of our fallen Towers of Babel. We overemphasize the kingdom of this world and forget about the kingdom that Jesus is building in the world through scandalous love. There is only one solution to the problems facing our homes and our society. If you're interested in learning about it, readThe Kingdom Manifesto by Jesus Christ (otherwise known as the Gospel of Matthew). If you have any time left over, you can also read books like Vernard Eller's Christian Anarchy, whose comment on p. xii is, I think, relevant:
A prime characteristic of worldly politics is its inevitable framing of itself as an "adversarial contest." There has to be a battle. One party, ideology, cause, group, lobby, or power bloc which has designated itself as "the Good, the True, and the Beautiful" sets out to overbear, overwhelm, overcome, overpower, or otherwise impose itself on whatever opposing parties think they deserve the title.
He adds that it is "a power contest among the morally pretentious." For the man or woman debating politics today there is a simple solution: a daily audience with the King, and working with Him to expand His kingdom worldwide.
Friday, September 19
6:50 PM Odds and ends: Nate and Jess left for Rocky Mount, VA, this afternoon to attend a wedding reception tomorrow for some very good friends of ours; Bec and I will join them there tomorrow... At the same location a church fellowship meets in the family barn, and Becky and I will have the privilege of speaking there on Sunday, doing (as usual) an Ethiopia presentation... I really look forward to seeing again my former horse Traveler (pictured), whom I gave to this family because I was unable to ride him every day and they've got plenty of riders... The weather here is absolutely perfect for a jaunt to the west, with daytime temps in the mid-70s and clear skies.
Right now I'm fixin' to read my escape book, along with munchin' on some chips and salsa -- am I in heaven or what?
3:23 PM Here's a brief Burji update, and I'm afraid the news is not very good. Today Becky spoke with Oshe in Soyama. He reports that passions are again splitting apart society, with 5 dead and several wounded. The hardness of hate and intemperance has again reared its ugly head. Please join us in praying for the Burji-Guji fighting that is taking place even as I type. A well-drilling team was scheduled to begin their work on Tuesday but had to cancel because of the warring. Pray that at least a semblance of peace may return to the area. We know this cannot happen unless God intervenes. May I emphasize again that we are not asking you to do something that Becky and I are not also doing ourselves. Today, let us join our hearts together in prayer for a region in distress.
11:49 AM N. and J. are back, and no sooner do they return than they are at their chores again. I captured this shot a few minutes ago while they were spreading horse manure on one of our pastures. Something in me admires that. Something in me wants to know it is still possible to generate that kind of simplicity and togetherness among today's young married couples. I can tell you one thing. Whenever Nate and Jess are away, they are sorely missed. And when I leave next Saturday for a 17-day trip abroad I'll leave a huge chunk of me in the fields and pastures and parlors of Rosewood Farm, Virginia, a tiny strip of land where life never gets stale, bored, or numb. It is never a tired, boresome place where people lose their drive and desire to do their work well, even if it's something as simple as spreading muck on a field. Of course, we'd have much poorer grass if we didn't, but it makes it a lot easier when you have teammates who complement your own strengths.
Nate and Jess decided to keep this small strip of okra from the blades of the bush hog. Becky and I are up to our ears in the stuff.
11:42 AM Teaching basic hygiene is at the top of our list of workshops for our upcoming team trip to Ethiopia in November. But there will be a "buy in." Before we'll give out wash basins and soap (one per family) you'll have to earn them by memorizing 1 John 1:5-9 (Becky's holding copies of these verses). You see, our goal is to teach the people about the spiritual cleansing available through the blood of Jesus every bit as much as the need for physically clean hands.
Here's what the passage looks like in Amharic. Before you receive your wash basin and your bar of soap you'll also have to recite this passage word perfect to a church leader. Then you'll have to recite a "catechism" we are putting together that teaches basic principles of hygiene, e.g., Q: "When should you wash your hands?"; A: "Before you eat, cook, or serve other people food." Becky thought all this up. Her ingenuity never ceases to amaze me.
10:12 AM Becky put together this list of medical equipment needed for the Galana Clinic in rural Ethiopia.
If possible, we need this equipment by Oct. 5, 2008 for shipment to Ethiopia on Oct. 7, 2008. If you have any questions, please contact Becky at 434-374-0492, or write us email@example.com. Thank you so much. Blessings, Dave
- Blood pressure apparatus, adult & child, manual or digital
- Thermometers, digital; prefer centigrade
- Fetal doplar, with gel & rechargeable batteries
- Assorted procedure equipments…hemostats, scissors, retractors, forceps, suture sets, needle holders, etc.
- Microscope, lighted
- Sterile drapes & gowns, PPE equipment
- IV Control Pump that uses plain tubing (no cassette)
- Splints, various sizes, assorted (finger, limb, neck, abduction)
- Adult & infant scales (for weights), manual preferred, kilogram if possible
- Otoscope & Laryngescope, with rechargeable batteries
- Eye/vision chart; Reflex hammer
- Pulse Oximeter
- Urine test strips, pregnancy test strips
- Reference books (English OK, with lots of pictures)
- Vaginal speculum; D&C set of metal instruments
- Ambu bags, adult & child, with one-way value protection
- Simple bed with manual crank..only need the frame, can take apart & reassemble there
- Privacy screen, collapsible
- Vacuum/suction machine, free-standing (like old Gomco), with re-usable containers
- Manual Vacuum Aspirations set (for incomplete abortion cases)
- EKG machine; Ultrasound machine; Simple X-ray machine; Defibrillator
- Any lab equipment for basic lab (CBC, chemistries, cultures)
9:45 AM Things of current interest to me:
1) The use of high tech gadgets in kingdom work. Can you imagine the apostle Paul having a mobile phone and a computer at his fingertips? God is opening unbelievably wide doors through technology, and the first ones through are the winners. Last year DBO had over 7 million hits and 5 million page views, and I am nothing but an ordinary Christian who spends 10 dollars a month and 1 hour a day to achieve worldwide connectivity. This is why I always encourage my students (and anyone else who will listen to me) to take advantage of the communication methods and tools available today. None of us has an excuse for inactivity.
(Here I'm talking with Becky in a restaurant in Addis Ababa. She was in Virginia. During my 4-week trip last June we spoke only once by cell phone, but what a delight it was. I would be seeing her in person the next day.)
(Otherwise we communicated by the marvel called email. Whenever there was electricity, that is, which was only every other day.)
2) The resources available to do God's work. It is clear, from what I've already seen in only 5 years of working in Ethiopia, that the task of world evangelization needs both vision and provision. It is so obvious to me that we must pay more than lip service to prayer. The Holy Spirit is the CEO of world missions operations, and our job as His employees is to wait upon God in prayer, and then the Lord, through the church, will send out His missionary teams to do the work (see Acts 13). Prayer is not peripheral to the church but its core, its very heart, and the worldwide missionary movement will be no stronger than the support it receives through prayer. Someone once said that prayer needs no passport or visa, that "closed" nations are non-existent when it comes to intercession. How right! I have noticed a tendency for men to over-organize their programs and projects. But the more we take control, the more the Holy Spirit recedes. I know that extremism is to be avoided, but I am frankly tired of talk about this method or that program. What is needed is a saturation in the Word of God and prayer, unity among believers, and the daily understanding and wisdom that come ONLY from above.
(If these faces look a bit somber it's because we had just spent an hour in concerted prayer for the ever-warring Gujis. I was being sent there the next day, and the elders of the Burji town church were concerned for my safety. To a man they volunteered to accompany me, even if it should cost them their life, but the Burji district elders felt that the Burjis should stay at home as I trekked among the Gujis. Eventually my son Worku [who is standing just in front of me] was permitted to accompany me. We spent many tears that night as we prayed together, not knowing whether we would see each other's faces again.)
3) Loyalty. Not to manmade organizations (though that sometimes has its place) but to the one Head of the church. Not to -isms of any kind (Calvinism, Arminianism) or to ideal-ism itself. But simply to the Person of Jesus Christ. Can I get an Amen?
4) Relationships. The really big mistakes we make that cause grief to the Body of Christ are usually the result of forgetting the importance of compassion, grace, and love. This is one of the marks of Christian maturity to which I strive but often fall so short. My experience has shown me that God uses all kinds of people in His kingdom work -- from zit-faced teenagers to well-preened Baptist preachers. My vision is that one day the work of missions will be tied not only to "missionaries" but to every one of us common everyday believers, partnering with each other in small and large ways. Only a tiny percentage of the Lord's people have experienced the "fellowship in the Gospel" (Phil. 1:5) that is at the heart of cross-cultural missions. Friend, there will be no "Acts 13 Breakthrough" in our churches until we understand that all of us are missionaries and that every place we go is our mission field.
(Now this is fellowship in the Gospel. I am visiting with the church elders in the Deda village church in Alaba. All former Muslims, they are now serving a congregation that has grown from 100 three years ago to a church with over 400. Almost everyone is under 30, even the "elders." My son David is translating for me from Alabinya into English.)
5) Finally, the Lord has placed it upon my heart today to say thank you to Brother Lionel for reminding us that we are all Barnabases, or should be. What I personally find so interesting is that Barnabas's partnership with Paul did not hit its full stride until they began traveling the world together engaged in kingdom work and church planting. Paul loved to call his fellow missionists his "fellow workers" or "fellow soldiers." They shared the labor and they shared the danger. I've found it extremely helpful to visit certain websites on a regular basis, websites that provide a "Barnabas touch" if you will, a growth point, a resource for real change (sorry, Mr. Obama, but I'm not talking about you). I rarely leave an encounter with these sites that I do not feel lifted up, challenged, and more aware of my foibles and potentialities. Lionel, your site is one of these, and I want to thank you for investing (yes, it IS a huge investment of time and effort) yourself in the lives of others.
(Everywhere I go in Ethiopia I meet Barnabases, like Desalyn and David. Here we are goofing off after a long day of traveling to the rural villages.)
(I was so tired it finally took three of them to get me up. Dimessie joins in the fun. Dimessie, by the way, owns a bus and volunteers his services to us whenever we bring a team to Ethiopia. He is an awesome Barnabas to us all.)
(On a more serious note, in June I was able to fellowship again with Zemete of Alaba, whom we earlier had brought up to Addis for fistula surgery.)
(It was successful, praise God. Today Zemete looks like a million dollars. All of these are my precious brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, and we enjoy "Barnabasing" each other!)
Thursday, September 18
6:06 PM Becky is smelling up the kitchen in a marvelously appetizing way. She's making her famous stuffed peppers, though she just told me she's using a new ingredient. But it's NOT a "secret" ingredient, she assures me. That's a relief. All we need in this family of ours is another chef who uses a secret ingredient.
This has been a leisurely day and gives an opportunity to think back over the week thus far and to recount some items of interest that may have been omitted or at least to emphasize some already mentioned. We have not heard anything definite about the well drilling rig that was sent down to Burji, but we pray that it has arrived safely and that the good work had begun. Amoebic dysentery is running rampant all over Ethiopia and the best solution is to provide clean drinking water to its population. I recall going into the villages of Burji on many occasions and hearing the elders (many of them Muslim) pleading for fresh well water, and I hate to see people suffer if it is in my power to do something about it. The wells will all be placed on church property but the water will be available to all, as will the Living Water whose love will be shared with everyone who comes to draw.
Reading the news, I see that the idolization of the state continues apace on our own shores. It reminds me of the passage in Three Years with Eisenhower when Capt. Butcher first visits Chequers, the famous home of Winston Churchill. The first thing he noticed over the entrance were the words Pro Patria Omnia, and inside the great hall was a reproduction in red, white, and blue of a Longfellow verse sent to the PM by President Roosevelt that said, "Sail on, O Ship of State! Sail on, O Union, strong and great! Humanity with all its fears, With all the hopes of future years, Is hanging on thy fate!" This of course is nothing but unvarnished hogwash and nationalism of the worst kind. "Everything for the Fatherland" might well be the motto of many a Christian denomination today in the United States.
Meanwhile I am ordering several Haven of Rest Quartet music CDs today from their offices in Costa Mesa, CA. I am very excited to have found this music. I don't know of any group that harmonizes so well unless it's the Vocal Majority out of Dallas, TX.
10:58 AM Calling all Ph.D. students. So you've had your orals in German, have you? But can you read and understand the language? Here's some simple prose from Kafka. Translate it, or as much of it as you can. Then check your translation here.
Liebster Vater,Du hast mich letzthin einmal gefragt, warum ich behaupte, ich hätte Furcht vor Dir. Ich wusste Dir, wie gewöhnlich, nichts zu antworten, zum Teil eben aus der Furcht, die ich vor Dir habe, zum Teil deshalb, weil zur Begründung dieser Furcht zu viele Einzelheiten gehören, als dass ich sie im Reden halbwegs zusammenhalten könnte. Und wenn ich hier versuche, Dir schriftlich zu antworten, so wird es doch nur sehr unvollständig sein, weil auch im Schreiben die Furcht und ihre Folgen mich Dir gegenüber behindern und weil die Grösse des Stoffs über mein Gedächtnis und meinen Verstand weit hinausgeht.
Did you pass the test? Remember: Use it or lose it!
9:37 AM Jonathan Glass asks, What is the Church?
9:16 AM Aussie John thinks that Jesus Christ actually ought to be preeminent in ALL things. He's right of course. And that includes our attitudes toward those in the Body with whom we might disagree. I recall the famous yarn about Mama and Papa Skunk and their nine children, which ends with Papa alluding to a new and terrible odor wafting into their nostrils, and adding, "I don't know what it is, Mama Skunk and dear children, but whatever it is we must get some of it." So let us argue and debate, but let us avoid being skunks, if at all possible. (Yes, I'm preaching to myself too!)
8:38 AM Here's a reminder that both giving AND receiving are acts of love.
Many times Christians are very happy about giving, but they are reluctant to receive. We feel that receiving makes us weak or incapable. Instead, receiving is an act of love, just like giving is an act of love. If we do not learn how to receive, then we do not understand love.
I didn't realize until I consulted the Greek years ago that both giving and receiving are themselves gifts of God. See James 1:17: "Every good act of giving, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there's no variation or shadow of turning." The difference is between two Greek words for gift: dosis and dorema, the first referring here to the act of giving (or, we might say, the propensity to be generous), the second referring to the actual gift itself. We can claim credit for neither, James says, for both the impulse to give as well as the object we actually give away have their origin in God Himself. I have thought about this truth whenever I reflect on the brethren with whom we serve in Ethiopia. None is "paid" to do it. All give away freely their time and resources. But all would agree, I think, that they receive as much as they give, perhaps even more, in the way of blessings.
By the way, I kinda like Greek, don't you? It affords pleasant opportunities for hashing out things on a wee bit of a deeper basis.
8:24 AM To go back to another incident described in the book My Three Years withEisenhower, here's something for any student who one day will sit in an oral exam. On the eve of D-Day, the weatherman who had spoken for all the weather services, James Stagg (pictured), after giving a rather doleful report, was asked by the Supreme Commander, "What will the weather be on D-Day in the Channel and over the French coast?" He hesitated for two minutes and finally said, slowly and soberly, "To answer that question would make my a guesser, not a meteorologist." I tell my doctoral students that if they don't know the answer to a question an examiner throws at them, just say, "I don't know." It's perfectly alright to do that. Just don't do it too often or you will find yourself in a fairly big pickle.
8:12 AM Forget quote of the day. This has got to be the quote of the year:
Many of you are afraid of the Holy Spirit. You don’t know what to do with Him, so the trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible. You are so reactionary to pentecostalism that you do not have a robust theology of the Holy Spirit.
Source: Mark Driscoll.
Wednesday, September 17
8:49 PM This has been a peculiarly exciting day. Becky went to my office in Wake Forest and met with one of my students, who happens to be an Ethiopian who emigrated to the States during the Derg (Marxist rule). He was willing to help Becky edit her Amharic music video. So Becky got to enjoy the campus today while I completed writing two lectures: "The Anabaptists and U.S. Foreign Policy," and "American Evangelicalism, the Just War Tradition, and Iran," both of which I plan to give during my travels. Becky having worked hard all day, I volunteered to cook our supper (Chinese, of course, with my secret ingredient). Becky works diligently on all things Ethiopian and handles most of our correspondence, always humming a tune or smiling while she works. Frankly I am a bit jealous of her fortitude and stamina, since she puts the Energizer Bunny to shame, and always has. Tonight we celebrated the good day the Lord gave us with some ice cream and watched Pride and Prejudice, the world's greatest movie. (Becky is a lot like Jane, always thinking the best of people.) We both have a steady grind of jobs to do between now and our departure for Africa (where we'll be for 6 weeks), so we try to make time for some diversion and relaxation. Sometimes we just sit on the porch and look at the goats or the puppies. I am very pleased at the way our trip is coming together, especially the way the Lord is tying up loose ends before they unravel. In Houston I had run into an essay saying that Mrs. Palin thought her campaign was the will of God for the nation, ditto for our "righteous" cause in the Middle East, but I no longer feel surprise or dismay about what politicians say anymore and am content to concentrate my efforts on a kingdom of another sort. Today one seems either to look upon the GOP with disdain or else with blind affection, but it is not upon the American election that the future history of the world rests, thank God. Mindless Armageddonism is the one and only practical irritation I find in the political scene. At any rate, got in a good day's work today, the both of us, and even enjoyed some ice cream to boot.
1:47 PM Exactly two weeks ago we were visiting with our dear friends at Northeast Houston Baptist Church, where Nathan Lino, a former student of mine, shepherds. Since then the city has experienced the fury of Hurricane Ike. Nathan just posted a well-written, biblical response to the events of the past week. Click here to read it.
10:47 AM Just finished reading an interesting book. Jessie loaned it to me from her bookstore. It's called My Three Years With Eisenhower, by Harry Butcher, Ike's Naval Aide. On page 806 he recounts an interview that General "Beetle" Smith had given to the American Press at the end of the war. Part of it reads:
[Ike's] original directive, given to him as Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies, told him to strike the heart of Germany. I think some of you who have heard me before have heard me say that when we examined this directive and examined our problem we decided that Germany had two hearts -- one, Berlin; the other, the Ruhr -- and that we had selected as our target the Ruhr, which was the industrial heart of Germany.
As we develop the right way of thinking and acting about the church, the Body of Christ, I think we need to be aware that there are two "hearts" of the problem, one being ecclesiological to be sure, the other, however, being perhaps of even greater consequence -- a soteriological heart. The ecclesiological problem is one of determining how the Head of the Body has designed His Body to operate and function. Every committed disciple of Jesus should be involved in rethinking the nature and structure of the church. We need to understand biblical ecclesiology and its implications for living radically for Jesus in a fallen world. We need an all-encompassing strategy (the Jesus Creed) that makes use of all the weapons and gifts the Holy Spirit has given His church. How sad it is that so many Christians are ignorant of even the most basic principles of Spirit-filled Body Life, every-member ministry, the priesthood of all believers, and sacrificial, costly service in the name of Jesus. But that' s not the only hurdle we face. There is the Ruhr, not just Berlin, to be dealt with.This is why the Anabaptists emphasized again and again the necessary link between the new birth and the life of the newborn Christian. Regeneration is more than a positional truth. It is more than the forgiveness of sins. It is a quest for obedience and self-sacrifice and thus the very opposite of Protestant scholastism. This kind of radical discipleship as taught by Jesus and modeled for us by the early church is, I am convinced, the great need of the hour. And so the issue is not merely ecclesiological; it is also soteriological. It's not merely a matter of understanding. For many, it is a lordship issue, and perhaps for some it is even a salvation issue.
As I write these words I have just celebrated my 32nd wedding anniversary. Every issue a married couple ever faces is not only a marital issue, though it is of course that. I would dare say that most "marital" issues in our lives are also, at the core in fact, spiritual issues. It's like the skyscraper that had just been completed when they discovered a crack on the 72nd story. They called the building's engineers, who immediately took the elevator to the third sub-basement, where they found the problem. Sometimes it's easy to look at the cracks on the 72nd story and fail to see the much deeper problem.
10:22 AM Becky's roast last night was phenomenal. It even looked pretty.
9:35 AM This has got to be the quote of the day (Alan Knox):
Let me start my stating that I teach in a college part time. When I finish my PhD - hopefully within the next calendar year - I hope to find a job teaching full time. I am not against education. I believe that education can be good, helpful, and important. However, education is not the same as discipleship, nor is education the same as spiritual maturity. And, I think that modernity has equated (or misunderstood) education for spiritual maturity to the detriment of the church.
Read more. I would say that the purpose of a formal education is far different from what it is commonly assumed to be. The goal should be to get us out of our comfort zones, equip us with tools for personal and individual study, wean us from the experts (whose work we appreciate but do not rely upon), and call us to use all of our knowledge in humble service to Jesus Christ. Our education is thus delivered up into holy Hands. This desacralization of the educational process must begin with the teacher's own example, who totally rejects the idea that a formal education is necessary for wisdom and godliness. Some people misunderstand the goal of an education and place a higher value on it than they should (they usually display their diplomas in prominent places for all to see how edu-ma-cated they are). There's one other emphasis we often miss as well: I believe, am convinced in fact, that we must always be about the Father's business and use all of our knowledge to advance Jesus' kingdom on earth. Michael Griffiths, looking back to the early church in his book A Task Unfinished, writes, "The disciples of Jesus were all disciples, and all were expected to be equally committed to the Teacher's cause, and equally concerned to take the gospel to the ends of the earth." It is beyond me how one can call oneself a "New Testament scholar" and not be radically involved in missions and evangelism on a fulltime basis. In the earliest years of my Christian life I was not smart enough to understand fully the dynamics of what was happening, but I was quite certain that the people around me were asking me for more than all the head knowledge I had accrued through the years. I discovered that I was called to be a servant to the broken and the hurting about me as much as I was called upon to disseminate information about Greek or New Testament. I think that's all Alan is saying, and he's not only saying it but, as far as I can tell, he is actually living it.
I have memories of being caught up in the grandeur of the famous University of Basel, its historic halls, its world-class faculty, its magnificent library. At the same time I shall never forget a man who modeled for me the goal I have been describing -- my Doktorvater, whose balance between humanitas and pietas was awesome and unique. I discovered a brutal truth about myself, and that was that I had a major imbalance, but thankfully one that could be corrected by the Master Teacher and Discipler Himself.
Life is about people, period. If a formal education can help us better serve others, then go for it. But once you have graduated, you will quickly realize how fleeting and ephemeral all your book-learning is.
Below: Two of my sons (Biruk and David) have just greeted me at the Bole airport in Addis Ababa. In Ethiopian culture, men embrace, hold hands, and display affection. I love it.
Here I'm greeting my barber in the Muslim city of Alaba. Each year we can't wait to see each other again.
Posing with a gradate after I had spoken in the commencement service of the Evangelical Theological College in Addis.
On my first trip to Alaba I met Tesfai, whose 8 year-old daughter had just been beheaded by the enemies of Jesus. We must have hugged for 10 minutes without saying a word. What can you say at a time like that?
Here are our "Burji boys," Worku and Burje. The latter's father was killed while evangelizing the Gujis. Relationships are very complicated things in life, especially when you are dealing with vastly different cultures, but for some reason God has blessed Becky and me with deep and long-lasting friendships with our Ethiopian brothers and sisters.
Tuesday, September 16
4:27 PM I am exceedingly pleased with the way my lectures are coming together for my Central Asia trip, which begins on the twenty-seventh of this month. It looks like I'll be speaking in several different venues including seminaries, graduate schools, and universities. I've been requested to prepare talks on a number of different subjects, including The Importance of the Ancient Versions in New Testament Textual Criticism, The Text of the New Testament: Is It Reliable?; How We Got Our Bible: The History of the Transmission of the New Testament Text; Modern Advances in the Study of New Testament Greek; How Linguists Help Us to Understand Our Bibles; The Purpose of a Seminary; and Why Four Gospels? There also seems to be a great deal of public interest in the war, so I have prepared several lectures dealing with that topic as warnings against what in my view is the deliberate and dangerous conflation of Christ and America.
In other news, Nate and Jess have just left to visit with her folks in Franklin, VA, about a two-hour drive to the east along Route 58, the world's greatest speed trap. Thankfully the rain storm we've been experiencing all day is traveling ahead of them in an eastward direction. So it's back to farm chores for you know who, including chicken care and keeping Sheppie and Sadie in step.
I've been receiving emails from believers who live abroad asking for gratis copies of some of my books. My gut feeling is to trust that the emails (and their senders) are legit and to supply their requests, though I may send them used copies.
One of my biggest projects today was to follow up on a large book order I placed with Amazon. Most of these volumes we'll be donating to the new nursing and pharmacy school that the Patriarch of Ethiopia, Abune Paulos, has recently opened. I promised to help if I could. Books include some pretty hefty works: Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, Katzung and Trevor's Pharmacology, A Textbook of Pharmacognoscy, Pharmaceutical Practice, Physiology of the Human Body, Medical-Surgical Nursing, Traditional Medicine and Health Care Coverage, Health Assessment in Nursing Practice, etc. About 15 volumes in all. I have no idea what they teach, as I am a complete ignoramus in all things scientific.
The pups continue to provide us with unalloyed entertainment, especially little Miss Chuluse, who is always in the middle of any scrum and who delights in "attacking" her mama. Sheba bears it with perfect equanimity, though she is hardly loath to wrap her jaws playfully about Chuluse's neck as a reminder of "who's on top." It'll be a sad day when all the pups are gone, but then again I know they will bring unspeakable joy to their new families. I just placed an ad for our last two pups (both females) in our local South Boston paper, which will supplement the ads we've run in the Durham and Raleigh papers. I've been very pleased with the families who have already "adopted" the other puppies. They have no idea what they're in for.
I'm really looking forward to supper tonight. Becky's had a roast slow-cooking all day in the crock pot, and I can hardly concentrate on my work, the smell is so good.
Nate snapped this fantastic pic before running out the door.
11:32 AM Miss Jessie has just updated her online bookstore. Go here if you'd like to see her titles.
11:17 AM We've received wonderful news from Ethiopia. A well-drilling rig is right now on its way to Burji. This is an answer to the prayers of the saints, but we can't stop praying now. The next few weeks will be crucial. The church elders in Burji will be working closely with the well team to discern the best sites to begin drilling. Eventually our goal is to have fresh well water at each of the church sites in the Burji district.
Last night's meeting was excellent. It lasted 3 hours. Jamie opened with prayer, then several shared from 2 Corinthians 6-9 the missionary principles they had gleaned from the life of Paul. All of us were impressed with the commitment Paul had to see that there was "equality" between the churches: rich and poor. Ethiopia is desperate for assistance in so many areas. Deforestation is a major concern, as is soil erosion. Land holdings tend to be very small, so farmers can't allow the land to fallow. This leads to low productivity. Ten percent of babies die at or shortly after childbirth. There are only 119 hospitals in the entire country (with a population of 75 million). Ethiopia has only one medical doctor per 100,000 people (the U.S. boasts 550 per 100,000). The current average life expectancy is only 45 years (in the U.S. it is 77). Female circumcision is still widely practiced. The main health problems are poor sanitation and malnutrition. Our team is thus very excited about the prospect of seeing the villages in Burji have clean water. This fall we'll also be teaching basic principles of hygiene and soil management, again under the leadership of the local church elders.
I know I'm sounding like a violin with one string, but the Lord's rich blessing rests on this little work of ours in such an obvious way that I can't help but praise Him for all He is doing. Our team is really fantastic. Money means nothing to us unless it can be used for the Lord's service. As the Lord Jesus has encouraged us in our faith, so we go to Ethiopia with the desire that the faith of other children of God might be strengthen and encouraged. Our hope is in God, and He will provide for the needs of His church. He has done so already in miraculous ways, but we must remain faithful in prayer and yieldedness or His blessings will cease. We must continue to commit EVERYTHING to God in prayer.
If you took yesterday's quiz, you can check the answers below (correct answers are in red).
Monday, September 15
3:35 PM I've decided to give the following quiz over Ethiopia tonight. Care to try your hand at it? Answers tomorrow.
What Do You Know About Ethiopia?
1. Ancient Ethiopia was known as:
2. The word “Ethiopia” comes from which language?
3. What object is said to rest in Axum, Ethiopia?
a) The ark of the covenant
b) Noah’s ark
c) The arch of Titus
4. Ethiopia was colonized by which European power?
d) None of the above
5. The Battle of Adwa in 1896 was
a) an Ethiopian victory
b) an Italian victory
c) a draw
6. Emperor Haile Selassie ruled Ethiopia from 1930 to
7. The Marxists ruled Ethiopia from 1976 to
8. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is
a) about 1,000 years old
b) about 500 years old
c) about 100 years old
9. The current Prime Minister of Ethiopia is
10. Ethiopia is the ____________ largest land mass in Africa.
11. Ethiopia is twice the size of which U.S. state?
12. Ethiopia has how many different ethnic groups?
13. Ethiopia is the birthplace of
14. Ethiopia is primarily
c) rain forest
15. In Ethiopia, Protestants comprise about what percentage of the population?
16. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is strongest in ____________ Ethiopia.
17. How many months does Ethiopia have?
18. In Ethiopia, the ninth hour is
a) 9 o’clock
b) 3 o’clock
c) 12 o’clock
19. The currency in Ethiopia is called the
20. Which nation does not border Ethiopia?
3:04 PM The day continues very hot and humid, not the best of weather to be working outdoors, but I'm glad to report that the gardens are finally d-c'd. Right now I'm working on my lessons for tonight's Burji team orientation, my job being to cover Ethiopian history, language, culture, religion, and geography -- in one fell swoop. But we feel that it's necessary for the entire team to have at least an inkling of how this unique and ancient civilization works, even if we can hardly understand it ourselves to any degree or in any depth. My advice to anyone who wants to see what life was like in Jesus' day is to forget modern Israel and to travel to Ethiopia instead, where everyone goes by their first and father's name, where the ninth hour is three o'clock, where you greet another person with "Salaam" and a holy kiss, where the early rains precede the latter rains, where women dress in long robes and head coverings, where noise and filth and herds and children rule. I get a big chuckle when we show the Jesus Film in a village in Ethiopia and notice that the movie and the village are one and the same -- no electricity, no running water, a completely agrarian economy, children everywhere. Religion, of course, is ubiquitous as well, about 5 percent of it being of the Protestant/evangelical persuasion and an often persecuted minority at that. I will also discuss Amharic words and phrases tonight, basic greetings and customs, and how to handle beggars and the teeming throngs of children all saying "You, You, You" at once.
So there's a lot to be done, and so little time in which to do it. At the conclusion of tonight's session we'll break up into groups of men and women to discuss problems and issues particular to gender. We'll also collect everyone's airfare -- the point of no return, shall we say?
8:41 AM Yesterday was one of those perfect days that seemed uniquely blessed from beginning to end. Becky and I topped it off with a delicious dinner at the Mexican restaurant in the grand city of South Boston, where we had gone to do some shopping for Ethiopia. I tried a new dish -- a volcanito, smothered in cheese sauce. Neither of us could finish our meals, so we know what we'll be having for lunch today. My hope for today is to finish dismembering what's left of our side vegetable garden in anticipation of some much-needed rain this afternoon.
But back to yesterday. We left the house at 9 in the morning and didn't return home until after 7:00 pm. It was a very full day. Our Sunday School class at Bethel Hill had an excellent discussion of the book of Titus, and our 11:00 service was a rich study of 1 Timothy 3. What is remarkable to me, I suppose, about the list of character traits of a godly leader is how unremarkable it is. Every Christian man should be able to point to the list and say, "These are my standards, even if I fall short in some aspects." To take only one requirement: "an able teacher." This, of course, could also be rendered "teachable," because you cannot be a good teacher unless you are teachable and willing to learn from others, especially the Word itself. Here I myself fall seriously short, and every year that I teach I am always convinced I can do a much better job of it.
After the service we drove a long and circuitous route to Bethany Baptist Church, which, while not exactly situated in Podunk, NC, must surely border it. I always feel right at home in these country churches. The ladies of the church had prepared a simple luncheon consisting of sandwiches, chips, fruit compote, and dessert. I noted there was no fried chicken and for a while wondered if we really were in a Baptist church.
Brother Matt who so ably serves the Body there led us off with a welcome, then Becky brought the group up to date on her recent phone conversation with Oshe in Burji.
Anecdotes were shared, prayer guides distributed, and then we divided into three groups of about 10 each for concerted intercession.
The Lord brought out a VERY good group of Jesus-followers to pray together. I felt the meeting was a huge and unquestioned success, and my thanks goes to Brother Jon of Cavel Baptist Church for allowing the Lord to use him to suggest we hold these prayer meetings. Three more to go before the team departs for the Horn of Africa, after which time we will see the fruit of the prayers of God's people.
Here's a pic I really like, showing the four "shepherding sheep" (or you might call them "sheep who shepherd sheep") of our Burji Coalition: from left to right are Jon of Cavel BC, Ben of North Roxboro BC, Matt of Bethany BC, and Jason of Bethel Hill BC. You will not find 4 more humble, Jesus-driven, or missions-minded shepherds I believe. It is a huge blessing for Becky and me to work alongside them and their congregations to expand the kingdom in Ethiopia.
Sunday, September 14
8:26 AM Feeling much better today. Back on 8 cylinders. Yesterday I asked Becky, "Honey, do you think I'm getting old?" Her response was, "Not unless I am." I can't ever see Becky getting old or slowing down, so that settles it.
If you can't attend our 1:30 prayer meeting today at Bethany Baptist Church, you can still join us in praying for the work in Burji. Below is the prayer guide we'll be distributing. In persevering yet submissive prayer, let us make our requests known unto God. I have no idea how many people will show up for the prayer meeting. It may be ten or a hundred. God knows. I hope to have a report and pix later today.
1. Clinic Construction…has begun; pray for good work at good cost; pray for safety & Christian testimony.
2. Clinic Operations…have begun; pray for organization as they establish a routine; pray for protection & that the Lord will establish a good reputation in the community.
3. Hiring a Lab Tech…we are waiting for God to send a Christian lab tech; currently we are borrowing a student on vacation for lab services; please pray for this need.
4. Equipment Shipment …we are sending the solar & medical equipment by freight; pray for good preparations & a safe shipment; also pray for no customs fee.
5. Team preparations… continue to pray for the 12 people going in November to Burji; preparations for Ethiopia must be done in the midst of otherwise busy lives; pray for God’s special blessing & provision in family, work, ministry & financial arrangements.
6. Ministry Assists… pray for funding & arrangements for things like seeds, wash basins, food, Bibles, etc. that we will use in our ministry in Nov.
7. Guji Conflict… currently things are “fearful but peaceful”; no active warring, but much tension; pray for continued peace.
8. Wells…we are talking with an Ethiopian business about drilling wells for the rural Burji churches; pray for good communication & God’s will to be clear.
Saturday, September 13
7:20 PM Sheba's been doing a bit of growling lately. She's been a wee bit snappy even. Baring her fangs, too. Not at me, but at her pups. You see, she's begun weaning them from milk to solid food. It's quite something to watch. She even traipses off into the back 40 and comes up with the likes of these bones.
They're not for her. The bones go straight into the puppy house. (I remove them, of course; the puppies have plenty of healthy dog food.) It's as if Sheba is providing an object lesson that many Christians could learn: milk-dependency can and should be replaced by meat-enjoyment.
How can we move from milk to meat? We must wean ourselves from the experts and the professionals, from secondhand sources. We must read the Word for ourselves, savoring it, chewing it over and over again. I'm not suggesting that commentaries and grammars are not necessary or helpful. The Lord knows I've written enough of them myself! But the truth is (1 John 2:20, 27) that God does give Christians a spiritual understanding of His Word. The same Jesus who "opened the Scriptures" (Luke 24:32) to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus can open our eyes today. It is absolutely electrifying for me to read the Scriptures and come away realizing that God has spoken through its pages. Sadly, many believers have never discovered in any depth what the Bible has to say about anything. They are much more apt to quote what Dr. So-and-So says than to offer a conviction of their own. The writer to the Hebrews refers to this problem in 5:11-14. His readers should have been teachers -- meat eaters, not milk drinkers. Throughout the epistle he reminds us that allbelievers, as priests, can enter into God's presence without an intermediary other than Christ (Heb. 10:19-22). Whatever barriers once stood between the believer and God were torn away by the death of Christ.
Teacher, teach thyself! Parents, set the example. Children imitate what they see us do. Students, if you learn just one radical thing this semester, learn this: nothing and no one can replace the Word of God.
6:56 PM What a day it's been. I spent most of it in bed with a horrible sinus headache. Couldn't sleep until Becky applied a hot compress to my forehead, then I went right off. Now I'm up to par again but running on only 6 out of 8 cylinders.
Today we sold our third puppy. Only two left. Chuluse is the smallest and sprightliest of them all. She has more spunk than the rest combined. She's going to a good home in Roxboro, NC. Glad to see it.
Becky spent the day prepping for our prayer meeting tomorrow and our next training session for our Burji team on Monday night. She also spoke with a leader in Burji today by phone, who reports that things are currently quiet between the Burjis and the Gujis (thank God), that the clinic refurbishing has begun, and that all systems are Go for our visit in November. This is VERY good news, for which I am exceedingly grateful.
This afternoon I helped Nathan unload some new windows he and Jessie purchased today in Oxford at the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store. They got a great deal on the windows. While in Oxford they sauntered through the public library's annual book sale, and Jessie managed to pick out some excellent tomes for her online bookstore. Good for her.
Friday, September 12
6:24 PM So what have we been up to all day?
1) This is how far I got in the backyard garden. I left the green pepper plants alone. In the much larger side garden I was also able to make some progress before I ran out of gas. The weather was pleasant enough -- in the mid-70s.
2) "Jesus Is Lord" (Yesus Getano) is the title of this video that Becky spent all day yesterday and today editing (in Amharic, of all things). We'll show it as a preview to the Jesus Film in the villages of Ethiopia.
3) Nate moved the goats to the horse pasture next to our house. Is there anything more peaceful than watching animals graze? I never tire of the view.
Right now Becky has started supper (beef stroganoff), while I'm writing an essay. By the way, our prayers are with our friends in the Houston area.
11:15 AM My project du jour: Discontinue the backyard and side gardens. I'm working in 2-hour shifts. That's all my poor old body can handle. The good news is that the Lord Jesus blessed us with a bumper harvest of veggies this summer, plenty to last us the whole winter and beyond. "Praise ye the Lord..., who giveth food to the hungry" (Ps. 146:1, 7).
Thursday, September 11
8:11 PM Bec and I just got back from dinner in Clarksville. Great time. Stopped by Nate and Jessie's when we got back to the farm. They'd been in Oxford all day salvaging lumber and tin. They got quite a trailer load. And guest what? They have a new puppy! Her name is Sadie. She's a tricolor Sheltie. Quite spunky too, just like Sheppie. Looks like they'll make a great couple. Maybe Jess will post a photo of Sadie over at her blog.
What a nice way to top off a great day.
3:52 PM Liz and the boys just stopped by. What a wonderful anniversary surprise. We love these boys to pieces!
2:38 PM This Sunday begins the first of 4 community-wide prayer meetings for Ethiopia in the greater Roxboro, NC, area. If you can join us, please do. We'll meet at Bethany Baptist Church at 1:00 for lunch and 1:30 for prayer. Here's the address and contact information:
245 Bethany Church Rd
Rougemont, NC 27572
2:06 PM Today I sent my publisher the preface to the third edition of Learn to Read New Testament Greek. It was very brief. I've actually made very few changes in the book. About a year ago I solicited (and received) feedback from both teachers and students, who all seemed to agree that they pretty much liked the book "as is." I thus felt that radical changes were inadvisable. Hence this third edition retains both the simplicity and conciseness of the first two editions. Changes include undated bibliographies, reworded (and hopefully improved) explanations in several places, and the addition of page numbers indicating where each word in the vocabulary first occurs in the grammar. I sincerely hope that the new edition will prove to be as useful as its predecessors.
I plan to take the page proofs with me during my sabbatical travels.
11:05 AM John Stott has a superb comment in his book The Message of Galatians. As Americans commemorate the events of Sept. 11, 2001, I think Stott's remarks are apropos. He writes:
There is a great need in the church today for a biblical, Christian philosophy of history. Most of us are short-sighted and narrow-minded. We are so pre-occupied with current affairs in the twentieth century that neither the past nor the future has any great interest for us. We cannot see the wood for the trees. We need to step back and try to take in the whole counsel of God, his everlasting purpose to redeem a people for himself through Jesus Christ. Our philosophy of history must make room not only for the centuries after Christ, but for the centuries before him, not only for Abraham and Moses but for Adam, through whom sin and judgment entered the world, and for Christ, through whom salvation has come. If we include the beginning of history, we must include its consummation also, when Christ returns in power and great glory, to take his power and reign.
Today we can rejoice in the knowledge that history is "his-story," and that all things are prepared, planned, and purposeful. Life's circumstances are not accidents, and never the result of blind fate. Let's keep our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith, the beginning and end of history, and on the kingdom He is even now establishing amidst the rubble of humanity. God is at work in the evil world around us, and we find our security not in earthly circumstances but in our Creator and Savior. And let's renew our efforts to get His Gospel to the four corners before it's too late.
10:15 AM Paul Stevens on pastoral leadership (Liberating the Laity):
Their major function is not to run the church but to get every member of the body to relate to the Head for himself or herself. The goal of equipping is not to make people dependent on the leaders but dependent on the Head. This is the highest possible calling. It requires the strongest possible leadership in the church to lead people in such a way that they do not become dependent on the human leaders.
7:25 AM Notes in the margin:
1) Happy New Year to all of our friends and loved ones in Ethiopia, which still retains the Julian calendar.
2) Alan Knox gave two outstanding lectures on the church in my New Testament class last semester. Go here to listen to them.
3) Our puppies keep growing and growing. We've sold two of them. Three left. What inexpressible delight to watch them romp.
4) Today Becky and I celebrate 32 wonderful years of marriage. We have been blessed and have found satisfaction in our married life, working together in joyful obedience to the Lord. May His holy name be praised!
5) In 17 days I leave for Central Asia. I expect great things from God and depend totally upon Him. I seek only to walk through every door He opens.
Wednesday, September 10
10:22 AM The New Testament is chock full, literally from beginning to end, of stories of how believers worked together to advance Christ's kingdom. And what does this kingdom look like? Just like Jesus. The kingdom is simply average folk like you and me who have jobs and heartaches and back pains, working together for the sake of the Gospel. That's exactly what Becky and I saw and experienced this past week as we traveled to the Lone Star State. Think of it as as heaven on wheels. Jesus the hub, believers from different congregations the spokes, and the kingdom the axle. Care to take a brief tour?
On Saturday, Aug. 30, we flew from RDU to Dallas via Reagan airport in Washington, DC. I suppose many people think the picture below represents a great deal of "power." I don't happen to share that opinion. Jesus said, "All power has been given unto Me." And by "all," I think He meant "all."
At any rate, upon our arrival at RDU we rushed from the airport to the home of Chris Clayton in McKinney, just north of Plano. Chris has been a long-time email pen-pal, but this was our first time to meet him and his family.
I think meeting in living rooms to have "church" has got to be one of the most pleasant experiences of life. Chris had invited several of his friends to hear us share about the glory of the Lord in Ethiopia. A special surprise for for me was the kimchi a Korean had brought for supper. Delicious. I'm sure kimchi will be in heaven.
The next morning the Ethiopia Express rolled into Grace Bible Church in Dallas, where Becky and I were married 32 years ago tomorrow. We set up our display table in the foyer and chatted between services. I must say, we looked every part the "missionary." Too bad we had no pith helmets.
We spoke twice at Grace, first in the youth Sunday School opening...
...and then in Brother Don King's Bible class. Young and old alike seemed interested in the Lord's work in Africa.
In the evening we moved on to First Baptist Church Murphy, where Becky's parents attend on Sunday evenings. To start things off, Mrs. Lapsley graced us with a wonderful flute solo.
I had spoken here several months ago while on a trip to Dallas, but this was Becky's first time to meet these special folk.
Brother Lionel Woods and his family drove 45 minutes to meet up with us in Murphy. What a pleasure meeting this couple and their young son (and one more on the way!). Lionel, as the whole universe must know by now, has an excellent blog called A Better Covenant.
When in Dallas we always stay with Becky's mom and dad, Brad and Betty Lapsley, erstwhile missionaries to Ethiopia. I think that Becky, a fifth generation Texan, is always happy to be back in the Big D. Me? I'm happy to be back in Mr. Lapsley's library. This trip I borrowed two of his books on the Civil War, one called Robert E. Lee in Texas, the other a biography of Jeb Stuart (who also spent his prewar years in Texas). Here's a shot of the Lapsleys next to the rose bush Mrs. Lapsley planted some 46 years ago in Burji, Ethiopia. Very special indeed, and a nice reminder of "old times."
One of our first items of family "business" was to present Becky's mom with her quilt. You'll recall that Becky sewed it on the new machine her mom gave her. To say that Mrs. Lapsley was surprised would be the understatement of the year. Here she opens her gift as we awaited our injera and wat in a Dallas Ethiopian restaurant.
Funny thing, everywhere Becky and her mom go people think they're twins. There is a very close resemblance, I do believe. I can also tell you this: They both have huge hearts.
A special moment between mother and daughter, captured on film by one grateful son-in-law and husband. This was truly a highlight of our trip. But it only got better.
On Tuesday morning we picked up our rental car and began the journey to Houston. Interstate 45 was a parking lot (refugees from the hurricane were flooding back to Houston from Dallas) so we took side roads southward, stopping at as many historical markers as we could.
On the way we met up with Ray and Lauralee Lindholm, who spend several months each year in Ethiopia. Like us, they are self-supported and use their means to come alongside the churches in Ethiopia and lend a helping hand. Their ministry is called Heart for Ethiopia. We spent several hours together rejoicing over the great miracles the Lord is doing in that part of the world.
On Wednesday morning in Houston we had a fruitful meeting with the missions pastor of the Second Baptist Church and then visited the HQ of a Christian ministry that drills wells all over the world.
We are VERY excited about the prospect of working with Living Water to provide potable water to the Galana clinic and at several other sites in Ethiopia. Here we are trying to find Burji on Google Earth.
Ever heard of Luby's Cafeteria? It's a Texas chain, and one Becky and her family visited every Sunday after church while she lived in Dallas. For old-times' sake we just had to stop and order a chicken-fried steak for Becky.
On Wednesday evening we were invited to speak at this church in Humble, Texas. (No, that is not a typo -- there is actually a city named Humble in Texas).
Pastor Nathan Lino and his wife were in my Greek class at SEBTS many years ago, and it was great to see them again. Missions is not an afterthought at Northeast Houston -- it's their passion!
I was glad to see so many youth come out to the presentation. One of our main focuses in our talks has been the Galana clinic, for which NEHBC is taking up a special offering this month. (Remember, through Sept. 19 you can make an online contribution by going to the church's website.)
From Northeast Houston we traveled to Northwest Houston as guests of Tom and Diane McMinn on their 450-acre cattle ranch. Felt right at home, too.
Tom is an elder at Hempstead Bible Fellowship and had graciously invited us to speak at their Sunday morning service. What a delightful, Spirit-filled, missions-minded couple!
On Friday evening we met in their living room to bring their missions committee (and other invited guests) up to speed on the Lord's work in Ethiopia. Yes, the tricolor hat in the foreground is Ethiopian. The young lady had spent a week in Addis Ababa this summer!
When Tom and Diane's granddaughter Kate heard about our eyeglass ministry she couldn't wait to start sewing cases. By Sunday morning she had sewn dozens of them. Way to go, Miss Kate!
On Sunday I taught from the Bible and Becky showed our pix. Many items were donated for Ethiopia, including protein bars, eyeglasses and cases, and even two sets of crutches for the clinic. Wonderful.
Then it was back to Dallas, where Mrs. Lapsley had found a suitable place to hang her new quilt.
What was our message on this trip? That Becky and I are just like you. We are not "professional" missionaries. We're just everyday people who work for a living like you do and who use the Lord's provisions to further his kingdom around the world. Repeatedly we pray that God would show us what is the BEST use of our time, our energy, our resources as a married couple. And it is truly exciting to see how God has laid the same vision on the hearts of His people all over the United States. Nothing is too hard for the Lord! That's why Becky and I do not do "fund raising." The work is the Lord's, and He will provide for His work. Our job and our joy is simply to share with others the glory of the Lord's work in Ethiopia so that they might join us in praising Him. There is one Lord, one church, one authority, one Spirit, one throne, one kingdom. If we live for anything else -- home-education, elder-led congregationalism, age-integrated philosophy of ministry, full quivers, you name it -- we have failed Him. Let us live as stewards and not as owners. Let us have Great Commission families, Great Commission marriages, Great Commission churches, Great Commission seminaries. Let us rely completely on God's almighty power, His unchangeable love, and His infinite wisdom. Let's surrender our hearts afresh to Him for His blessed service. Maybe we could follow the example of one lady and give money to the Lord's work in the name of our relatives at Christmas. It doesn't have to be for Ethiopia either. As God lays a need upon your heart, obey Him. Walk through the doors He opens. Get your hands dirty washing others' feet. This is what the kingdom looks like. And it is beautiful to behold. Amen?
Tuesday, September 9
6:42 AM We're back! And what a great trip it was. The Lord exceeded our expectations in every way. Full report tomorrow. Right now I'm off to school, then tonight I lecture in Raleigh. Hope to talk to you soon.