In memoriam: James Rutz

In 1996, a coach at our kids’ school handed our son, Jon, a small brochure written by Jim Rutz. It had a lion on the front cover, and was about a different kind of church that Jim envisioned and called “open church.” Our hearts resonated with the message, because it described a kind of church that we had tasted back in the UK but had searched in vain for here in the States.

It was a joy to meet Jim shortly after this when he organized a conference to discuss these ideas (with the Dunns from New Zealand). Jim quickly became a firm friend. We loved his quirky sense of humor (his home had cartoon characters on the blinds), his hunger to know more of Jesus, his loyalty to his friends. He was generous to a fault–the videos that our son, Tim, made for House2House were only possible because of Jim’s generosity.

Jim started an organization to promote the ideas behind open church–a church where Jesus was the leader, all of us were participants, the Holy Spirit was the MC. He held conferences around the country that many of us who were later involved in the house/simple/organic church movement attended.

We were part of a different group with Jim that met for several years with no vision and purpose except to wait on God and hear what he said to us. They were extraordinary times, and Jim was an integral part of them. Jim stayed with us in our home several times, and we had the privilege of staying in his amazing home with spectacular views over Colorado Springs. We’ve had many a conversation about the Kingdom lasting late into the night.

Jim’s book The Open Church touched many lives and was perhaps the forerunner to the house church movement in this country. His other well known book,  Megashift: Igniting Spiritual Power impacted people around the world, demonstrating (with copious citations and footnotes) that Jesus still works miracles and heals people today.

It was with surprise and great sadness that we learned two days ago that Jim had gone to be with the Lord he loved and served with all his heart.

We’ll miss you, Jim, but rejoice that you are now in Jesus’ presence, face to face with your Lord. One day we’ll meet again….

Jim Rutz

Who leads your church?

The key skill to making disciples and planting churches is an ability to recognize God’s voice. Do we know when he is speaking to us? Can we distinguish his voice from our own thoughts? Many of us have learnt how to do this on an individual basis, but how many churches put into practice the fact that “we have the mind of Christ”? Together we can hear his plans and directions for us. Is Jesus the one who leads your church? The church that meets in our home is in a transitional phase. We have become a very close-knit group over the time we have met together. We are now fairly sure that the Lord is leading us to multiply out into various different groups with an emphasis on reaching out to those who do not yet know him. So last Friday, when we came together, we set aside part of our time together to listen to him about the future of our church. God spoke clearly. Each of us spent time on our own listening to Jesus and asking him the question, “Jesus, what is your vision and plan for us as your body?” When we came back, some had pictures,others had a series of words, there was a clear passage of Scripture. And there was a common theme. Although we need to spend more time weighing what the Lord said to us, the general sense was very clear. We will need to ask the Lord more questions about how to put into practice what he has told us to do, but “we have the mind of Christ.” Listening

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The fascinating pairing of men and women in the Gospel of Luke

I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Kenneth E. Bailey recently. The title, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels is an accurate description of the contents. Bailey has spent decades in the Middle East and he brings a very different perspective on many stories and ideas—such as the parables of Jesus, the Beatitudes, etc. It’s a book well worth reading.

I came across this throwaway comment in the book:

In Luke’s Gospel, I have identified twenty-seven cases in the text of the pairing of men and women.

This was an intriguing idea I had never heard before. In a quick skip through the Gospel of Luke over a period of about an hour, I found fifteen of them. Here are some examples:

Chapter 1:
An angel appears to Zechariah before the conception of John the Baptist
An angel appears to Mary before the conception of Jesus

Zechariah’s prophecy
The Magnificat

Chapter 2:

Simeon and Anna in the Temple.

Chapter 4:

Jesus gives the example of Elijah and the widow, and Elisha and Namaan—both Gentiles–one a man and the other a woman.

The healing of a demon-possessed man and the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law.

Chapter 5:

The parables of a patch on a garment and wine in new wineskins

Chapter 7:

The healing of the centurion’s servant and the raising from the dead of the widow’s son

Chapter 8:

The deliverance of the Gerasene demoniac and the raising from the dead of Jairus’ daughter

Chapter 15:

The parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost sheep

 

There are so many of these examples that I wonder if it has to have been a deliberate policy on the part of Luke. Fascinating, huh? What do you think?

The key skill we need to multiply disciples

There is one key skill that each of us needs to develop if we want to multiply disciples.

I was spending time with the Lord one morning, watching two squirrels play a game of tag in the oak tree outside my window, when, out of the blue, a thought came to mind.

“You are to walk Oltorf.”

Oltorf is a street about a 20 minute drive from our house. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, had no reason to ever go there.

The end of that story was a church built out of the harvest in a low income housing project on Oltorf.

As I mentioned in the last post, the job of the disciples in Luke 10 was to listen to Jesus and do what he said. If we want to see multiplying disciples and churches, then we need to learn to do the same.

But how do you hear God?

The first thing to understand is that God wants to communicate with us. Following Jesus as a system of rules and traditions is merely religion. Jesus wants to have a vital, living, vibrant relationship with each one of us. Living that way becomes an adventure! In John 10, Jesus tells his disciples, “My sheep hear/recognize my voice.”

I could be in a room with 100 people all speaking at once, but I would instantly recognize Tony’s voice–and not just because he has a British accent. I recognize his voice because I delight to spend time with him. There’s no one on earth who I would rather be with. It’s the same with Jesus. As we develop intimacy with him, we recognize his voice amidst the myriad of thoughts going through our minds.

Perhaps the best pattern I know of listening to God comes from Mark Virkler. I first read his book, *Dialog with God* probably 30 years ago and it’s formed the basis of how I hear the Lord ever since. He describes a four step pattern:

1. Free yourself from distractions
2. Focus on Jesus
3. Listen for a flow of spontaneous thoughts
4. Write them down.

For me, the “flow of spontaneous thoughts” often comes as an idea, apparently out of nowhere, like the idea that I should walk Oltorf. I’ll find myself thinking, “Where did *that* come from?”

Sometimes I see a picture, often very fleeting, but that encapsulates an idea that God then elaborates on. For example, one time in a gathering I had a picture of ball moss (a kind of moss that attacks trees in Texas and eventually kills them.) The Lord spoke to the group through that picture that we should get rid of distractions and things that are seemingly small and inconsequential but that were choking our spiritual lives.

Sometimes God speaks through a word of Scripture. In our business, for example, we’ve several times found ourselves guided in how to pray by a story or book from the Bible.

Occasionally God communicates through dreams, or prophecy.

At this stage you don’t try to judge what you’ve written down. Later, you can weigh what you wrote against Scripture. I try and do this several times a week. Mostly, what I write down is Scriptural, encouraging, but nothing out of the ordinary. But sometimes, God speaks incredibly clearly and specifically.

When we’ve learned to hear his voice in times set aside for doing that, then we can hear his quiet whisper:

“Go sit down next to that person on the bench over there.”

“Prayer walk this apartment complex.”

“This is the people group you will be working with.”

“This coffee shop is to be the place where you hang out.”

“That person needs prayer–her husband has just left her. Go start a conversation with her.”

Listening to God, recognizing his voice so that we can respond in obedience, is the main, key skill we need if we are to multiply disciples and plant churches.

Key
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A successful pattern for multiplying disciples

It’s 2001, and Tony and I are in India where we are speaking at a conference. Another of the speakers is from India, and he’s someone we’ve wanted to meet for a long time because we’ve heard that he’s in the middle of an extraordinary, multiplying church planting movement. So in every break, I take the opportunity to pummel him with questions.

One of the first is this: “Where do you find the principles that are leading to the extraordinary growth you are seeing?”
His answer? “They come in Luke 10.”

In fact, it doesn’t matter where in the world you go, if you ask the people who are seeing exponential church multiplication, they come back to this same passage.

So let’s take a look at Luke chapter 10. Note that there are similar principles discussed in Luke 9 and Matthew 10. It seemed to be Jesus’ modus operandi when reaching out to places he hadn’t yet visited. We’ll meander through these verses over a series of blog posts.

*The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.* (Luke 10:1)

Often when we train people, we’ll have them study this passage looking for four symbols: a question mark (is there something you don’t understand?); a light-bulb (what was an “aha” moment for you in this verse, something that seemed to make things come clear?); an arrow (what do you need to do or change in order to obey this verse?) and an ear (who do you know who needs to hear what you’ve been learning? Who will you share it with?)

Here are some of the points that usually come out of verse 1.

1. Jesus chose 72 others. Who were they “other” to? The twelve (see the beginning of Luke 9). So in all, he had 84 disciples he was working with.
2. He sent them ahead of him to all the towns and places he planned to visit. If Jesus sends you somewhere, for example, if you change jobs, or move house, it’s because he wants to touch the new workplace or neighborhood via you.
3. He sent them out in pairs, not in large numbers. Often, when an established church is trying to reach a new neighborhood, they send out a team of people including a musician, someone who can teach, people to take care of the kids etc. That wasn’t the way Jesus operated.
4. Why in pairs and not alone? For support and accountability.

Jesus had a plan for that area and a strategy for reaching it. He sent the disciples out—“You two can go to this village. You two will meet someone at an inn on the road to this city….”

What did the disciples have to do? They listened to Jesus and then they obeyed him.

Does Jesus have a strategy for your area? Of course!
How do we find out Jesus’ strategy? We listen to Him and we obey him.

multiplication

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A Christian response to same-sex attraction

Sadly, we Christians are renowned for our negative attitudes.  According to David Kinnamen in his book, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters, we are thought of by ‘outsiders’ (ie those who are not involved in church) as firstly, antigay (91%), secondly, judgmental (87%), and thirdly, hypocritical (85%).  This is a tragedy!

As Christians, we cannot just bury our heads in the sand when it comes to the topic of same-sex attraction. This issue is here to stay, and we would do well to think it through. I’ve heard, “Love the sinner but hate the sin” many times, but I still wonder, how would Jesus react?

You may disagree with me, but when I was sent this video via Luke 10 over the weekend, I was moved and inspired. Jordan Bunch originally produced it for CenterPeace, an organization I had not heard of before. It is the most sensitive and best response I have yet seen.

What do you think?

 

What in the world is God up to?

God is doing incredible things all around the world.

  • There are probably more Christians in China now than members of the Communist Party.
  • In Asia, the T4T training has resulted in more than 1.7 million baptisms over the past 10 years.
  • In India, a Hindu nation, one house church network with which I am familiar, is seeing around one million baptisms per year.
  • Now seems to be God’s time for the Muslim world. In one nation we know, there are thousands of house churches. In another area of the Middle East, there is a movement that has more than12,000 house churches.
  • A Buddhist nation has seen more than 110,000 new believers in the past 10 years.
  • In 1991, when the Communists lost control of Mongolia, there were maybe 4 or 5 known Christians. Estimates are that now, just over 20 years later, there are around 100,000.
  • In Africa, Rolland and Heidi Baker have seen more than 10,000 new churches formed in Mozambique and the surrounding nations.

A few years ago, all of this would have seemed impossible. We may not be seeing huge numbers here in the West, but God is on the move in much of the rest of the world. Most (not all) the examples I’ve given here have occurred with disciple making movements/church planting movements. In these movements, the emphasis is on what is going on outside of the traditional church building. Ordinary believers are making disciples and leading small groups that eventually meet as churches.

I know that numbers are not everything, but they are an indication of what God is up to. Several years ago, Wolfgang Simson did a survey of the largest churches in the world. If you include networks of churches that meet in homes, then numbers one through 19 are networks of house churches and number 20, at the time of his survey, was Paul Yonggi Cho’s church in Seoul, Korea.

Throughout the world, God is using ordinary people—just like you—to start churches. What is there to stop you doing the same?

Dandelion seeds

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To all the ladies: forgive us (Brandon Chase)

This last weekend, we had a round table in Dallas based on our book, The Black Swan Effect. It was an extraordinary time, with a sometimes overwhelming sense of the Lord’s presence. God spoke to us clearly. The climax of the day was a powerful time of ministry led by Brandon Chase, where on behalf of men, he spoke to women, “Forgive us!”  Many of those present were profoundly touched, healed and set free. Brandon blogged about what he shared and has graciously given me permission to use his post. 

Having now run several of these round tables in Texas, the team now feels ready to offer them in other parts of the country. If you’re interested in facilitating one in your area, please get in touch with me.

Here’s what Brandon shared:

As I think back upon my life, and spiritual journey, it is not a stretch to say that a majority of any fruitfulness can be traced to Seeds of Sisters that were planted in me:

  • I can remember from my earliest years, as a boy, running into the room where my Great-Grandmother, Granny, lived with us. She would either be doing one of two things, watching Geraldo, or reading her beat up Bible. She would routinely scoop me up into her lap and tell me about Jesus.
  • As a pre-teen, when the rest of my family had stopped attending “church,” for some reason, I would often want to go, still. My Grandparents, and in particular, my Grandmother, Maw Maw, would make sure that I was there.
  • I love both of my parents, and respect them deeply. But I was always closer to my Mom. It was with her that I would spend hours on baseball road-trips, and evenings into the early morning – talking about life and all of its dimensions.
  • My greatest failure in life involved hurting my greatest love, my bride. Gloriously, it was in the healing after-effects of this where I really came to know Jesus for the first time. It was in His eyes of Grace, through my wife, that I saw Him.
  • During this same time frame, the person who was single-handedly most impactful in pointing not only me to Jesus, but both Marie and I, was our counselor, Beverly Ross. She was Christ incarnate to us, and we are eternally grateful.

All of these were “Spiritual” in the sense of growing me into a knowing of God, but none were in the context of how we have commonly seen “ministry” or “church.” But it was, however, Life.

I see it as no coincidence that I am a Daddy, raising two Ladies in the Kingdom.

A little more than a year ago, I wrote what amounts to a letter to them, in which I expressed my heart, a Father’s Heart, for them in the context of their Life in this Kingdom, the Church. When I read it back to myself, it dawned on me that I also see this as Father’s Heart for all of His Daughters. I have a lot of new readers since I wrote that, so if you haven’t, you may want to take a minute and do so now.

I have a dream, and my dream is Jesus.

He has a dream, and His dream is you.”

This is my heart for my daughters, and this is my understanding of Father’s heart for His Daughters. But, I know this hasn’t always been your experience, or reality. Sadly, more often than not, it has felt like what my friend Kate Wallace poetically wrote recently. It has felt like a box.

…I came to you, and you met me

You loved and cared for me

You grew me and taught me

You fashioned me and called me
 
And I took what you had given me and went back to the place I had first heard about you

I was filled with anticipation – what would they have me do?
You had given me so many gifts
 
Perhaps I could speak about you

Perhaps I could teach others to follow you

Perhaps I could spread your message to the world

Perhaps I could invite others to your table, to take part in your supper
 
For they had always prayed for you to raise up people of my generation

They had always said how desperately your Kingdom needed more voices, more hearts, more hands, and more feet
 
So, with anticipation I presented myself to them

Only to be confused by their response
 
For when I offered them this voice that you had given me

When I offered them these hands that you had strengthened

When I offered them these feet that you had guided
 
They gave me a box
 
They gave me a box in which to keep my passion

They gave me a box in which to store my wisdom

They gave me a box in which to put my words

They gave me a box to hold my hands and my feet
They gave me a box and they told me it was your “will” for me as a woman
 
When I asked if they had a box that fit a bit better, they told me to be happy with what you had given me

When I told them you had given me things that wouldn’t fit inside the box, they told me I must be mistaken

When I asked if there was anything else they could offer, they told me the box was a perfect place to keep my questions…

Ladies, I know that many of you would say that you feel this. That this has been your experience, your reality… your pain.

I want you to hear, I need you to hear – that what has caused your pain is not right. It is not ok. It is not your fault.

On behalf of all of the Brothers throughout the Church:

I confess, that we have believed a lie, we have been deceived away from Father’s Dream for His Daughters, our Sisters – one of inclusive inclusion in His Oneness of co-equality, co-creativity, and co-reign. We have instead accepted an un-reality of separation. We have caused you much pain.

I repent. On behalf of Brothers everywhere, we choose to change our mind about Father, about you, and about us. We agree with Dad that He has included all His kids, male and female, into His Family, equally.

I ask for your forgiveness. On behalf of all the Brothers, we desire reconciliation. We desire unity, togetherness, inclusion, co-___, Oneness. We desire for The Box to be forever dismantled.

Earlier, I stopped short of including the finale of Kate’s poem:

…And so I come to you
 
Me, and everything you have given me

Me, and everything you have created me to be

Me, and everything you have called me to
 
And the box
 
I’m a bit bruised from trying to fit inside of it
 

And now that I’m standing in front of you, I realize that you don’t want me to
And I see that I have a choice
 
I can keep this box they have given me and throw out all the things that don’t fit

I can ignore the time I spent with you, the gifts you have given me, the calling you gave me

I can dismember my soul in order to fit into the dimensions of the box

I can live for them and let their box define me
 
Or
 
I can trust the way you made me, the way you prepared me, the way you called me

I can lean on you for guidance and walk in the footsteps of brave women who’ve gone before me

I can live fully alive in you and trust that you are a God who is bigger than the box
 

I can set the box down and walk away

I can live for you and let you define me
 
They gave me a box – and called it yours

You offer me freedom – and call it mine
 
So I take the box

And put it on a shelf

And label it history
 
Then I take your hand and we walk away, because life with you is far better than life in a box”

Here’s the beauty of the Gospel – The Box died with Christ on the Cross.

What we hear as the Good News is that all are included, equally, from before time.

We are all created in the image and likeness of God. We exist in the Fellowship of the Divine, together. This is our Objective Reality.

But we’ve been living a lie.

The Fall veiled our Reality – and moved us into an existence of un-reality.

This un-reality of “the knowledge of good and evil” is hallmarked by fear, the need to control, shame, hiding, scapegoating, comparing, desiring what another has, defining….separating.

This un-reality created boxes – one of which was rift between man and woman.

The essence of religion is mankind working, efforting to get back, to get right with God.

Religion (wrong tree) creates “right/wrong,” “in/out” – it says man is greater than woman, in authority over woman, can do things for God that women cannot.

Religion is existing in an un-reality in our minds of separation from God… and from each other. And we’ve read all of this into our Bibles and understanding of who God is, and what He has for us.

But – the Lamb…

The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. We all died in Christ – therefore, so did the Box, so did the comparisons. So did the un-reality of separation.

We all are raised in Christ, and in Him live. The veil of un-reality in our minds has forever been torn so that we can subjectively experience and manifest what objectively, eternally always has been, and already is.

We are One with Divine (Father, Son, Spirit) – and One with each other.

We share THEIR image and likeness. We have been reconciled. It is ours now, to be in our reconciled Truth (reality) with and in God, and each other. We must reconcile in our own minds the Truth of our inclusive inclusion in Trinitarian Life.

So…..

I want to practically, and supernaturally practice this ministry of reconciliation, together.

Ladies… If you have never had a man, a Brother, confess for the wrong, the pain, the sin committed and caused toward you – I am that man. I stand in the gap on their behalf. I confess, that I have believed and acted out of un-reality toward you.

If you’ve never seen repentance from a man, a Brother, who has made you to feel “less than” in the Body – I am that man. I stand in the gap on their behalf. I repent. I change my mind. I see, believe and will live from Divine Oneness and Inclusion in the shared image and likeness. I turn away from separation from each other, and choose to see the Divine imprint in all humanity, especially the female form.

Finally, on behalf of all men, I am the man who humbly asks your forgiveness. That, together, we move forward in Unified Oneness – in Love – that a hungry and broken and watching world that is still living a veiled un-reality – may see and know that our Father is Love, that by our Love of one another, we too, are Love – and that in seeing Love, they too would know Him – Love – within.

Then I take your hand and we walk away, because life with you is far better than life in a box.”

Our Life, our Reality, is in Him, with Him, One with Him. There is no Box, only the lie of a Box that has been allowed to be told, and lived in. The Truth is, we can only Really exist, together. I need you. You need me. We need each other. We are better (The Best), together. As we take His hand, let us do so hand in hand, unboxed, and walk with Him… with each other.

I love you. God bless you.

///

Brothers, I urge you, to ask Holy Spirit about the Ladies in your life. Consider your legacy and lineage. Consider what you’ve seen, what you’ve experienced, what you’ve done. Then, ask Him to show you what they have seen, experienced, and had done to them. In His mind, weare reconciled, One. If you can see that, it may be yours now to supernaturally allow space for that reconciliation to be subjectively received, experienced, manifested. In my experience, this starts with your humble confession, repentance, and appeal toward forgiveness and unified Oneness.

Freedom!

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Commercial fishermen in the Kingdom

Jesus told his disciples who fished for a living, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Commercial fishermen are disappointed if, when they pull in their net, there is only a single fish flopping about.  They hope and expect to catch multiple fish at a time. Remember Peter’s dejection when he’s fished all night and caught nothing?

It’s interesting to note that in the Book of Acts, there are only two people who become followers of Jesus as individuals—Paul and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Everyone else becomes a disciple as part of a group.

  • Following a vision, Peter visits Cornelius who has gathered together a group of friends and relatives in his home. When they are all filled with the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by their speaking in tongues, Paul gives orders for them to be baptized. (Acts 10) A whole household follows Jesus in a single day.
  • When Paul goes to Philippi, he speaks to some women at the riverbank. Lydia opens her heart to Jesus and she and her household are baptized. (Acts 16: 11-15)
  • A few days later, Paul and Silas are jailed. A massive earthquake sets them free, but when they don’t take the opportunity to escape, the jailer invites them to his home where they share the word of the Lord with him and his household. Again, the whole household is baptized. “He and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.” (Acts 16:16-34)
  • When Paul finds a group of people (about twelve men) in Ephesus who have only been baptized with John’s baptism, he baptizes them and prays for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6)

What’s the difference? How did those early followers of Jesus get these results?

Jesus had taught his disciples how to be “commercial fishermen” for the Kingdom–not in the sense of making money, but in the sense of bringing in a large catch.

All around the world, God is using this pattern to bring in a massive harvest. Why not here too? We’ll look at how this works in later posts.

Catch of fish

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A Mongolian Dream

Mongolia is a landlocked country. The dream I had while we were there was therefore all the more surreal.

In the dream I was with a small group of people. As I handed them a book, I told them, “This is a book on how to become a commercial fisherman!”

End of dream.

The dream grabbed my attention in the way that only God can do.

The first thing I realized was that when Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” he was talking to commercial fishermen. They would not have been thinking rod and line to catch a single fish, but large quantities of fish.

As I skimmed through the Gospels the following morning looking for all the accounts of fishing, I noticed that apparently different kinds of fishing were mentioned. Sometimes the disciples were fishing in deep water, other times in shallow. Sometimes they let their nets down, other times they cast them out. There were specific nets that only caught larger fish. It was obviously a skilled profession.

A few days later, we traveled to India where we work with someone who trains church planters in the primitive fishing villages of the state of Andhra Pradesh. So I asked him about how these villagers fished. He informed me that there are several different kinds of fishing there. Sometimes they use something like a butterfly net in shallow water. Other times they’ll have a boat go out and lay a net in a circle which they pull in. Sometimes two boats will have a net several hundred yards long that they will again throw out in a circle and pull it in. This last is known as a seine or drag net.

On arriving home where I had Internet access again, I looked up the Greek word for fishing net as used in the New Testament. To my surprise, I found that different words in the Greek are all translated as fishing net in the English. But in the Greek there is a word for a net like a butterfly net, another for a fishing net in general, and still another for a seine or dragnet.

Hmm… Interesting.

Perhaps the most relevant one comes in the verse Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind

This kind of net is a dragnet—it’s even translated as such in the NASV.

So what is the relevance of this?

I’m planning to write another book in “The Simple Guide” series on how to become a commercial fisherman in the Kingdom. So, while I will continue to write about women in the Kingdom, many of my blog posts over the next month or so will be on this topic.

Mongolian boy

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