Tony and I have had the privilege of visiting many different countries (30+), many of them in a ministry/teaching context. Here’s what I love about international travel:
- Hearing incredible stories of how God is at work in different nations. Many of them cannot be publicly spoken of, but they help to raise my faith level and challenge me to believe that yes, God can do it here, too, as well as elsewhere around the world.
- Meeting indigenous people and learning about their lifestyles–including spending time in some of their homes.
- Having to depend on the Lord for many different things that I take for granted here–like is the water safe or should I brush my teeth with bottled water? (If in doubt, use bottled water!)
- Understanding a little more of the culture, politics, economics, etc of different nations.
- The sense of adventure–especially when some risk is involved. I guess the Lord created me this way– I don’t mind the insecurity of international travel. And I often find that God teaches me more during those times than when I’m comfortable at home.
- Learning how some believers live with persecution–they are among the most joy-filled people I’ve ever met.
- Eating what is set before me–sometimes delicious, other times, a little harder to cope with. I remember being taken out to breakfast where my choice was between pig’s intestine, pig’s trotter or chicken feet. (I chose the chicken feet–lots of flavor but kind of chewy!)
- Seeing the hunger to learn more that many believers in these nations have. They willingly sit through many hours of teaching per day. And we have to speak in a way that translates across cultures.
- Being challenged by the extreme poverty of developing nations. We have so much wealth in our Western nations. What can we do to help our brothers and sisters in these nations? (The answer may not lie in giving money!)
- It’s a huge privilege to see something of the countryside as well as the cities as we travel by car or taxi. Many countries (and their people) are breathtakingly beautiful. Is the country flat or mountainous? How do the people make a living? What can we learn from them? What obvious problems do they face? I love the the opportunity to visit the occasional tourist attraction too, like the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysee in Paris, or some of the temples in India.
Tony and me outside a Buddhist temple in Taiwan
Julie Ross, one of the co-authors of The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church compiled these scary statistics:
Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to release captives, to free the oppressed.
What should be the response of his body, the church, to these figures that represent not numbers, but people for whom Jesus died? What can we do? How can we get involved? What can those of us involved in the simple/organic/house church movement do?
Photo Credit: Rakesh JV via Compfight cc
You think you have it tough? I recently came across these figures on a site that encourages people to pray for various countries in the world. (Visit the site--it’s well worth the time.) All of us are aware of some of the injustice around the world, but these figures brought it home to me…
Picture the world as a village of 100 people.
- Six people (all U.S citizens) own 58% of the wealth
- 74 people own 39% of the wealth
- 20 people own the other 2% of the wealth. If you have a bank account (with any amount) you are among the richest 30 people
- 18 people struggle to live on $1 USD per day
- 53 people struggle to live on $2 USD per day
- 20 people are undernourished
- 15 are overweight
- One dies of starvation
- 20 people have no clean drinking water
- 56 people have no access to sanitation
- 80 live in substandard housing
- One person has AIDS
- One has a university degree
- Seven people have computers
- 67 are illiterate
- 48 people cannot speak freely of their religious faith
Of the 6.5 billion people in the world, 2 billion have never heard the Gospel.
In the light of this, how should we then live?
Photo Credit: Great Beyond via Compfight cc
Sometimes damage is done by well-meaning Christians giving their money in the wrong places.
Example: if a church planting movement is dependent on outside funds to pay their church planters, there is a natural (financial) limitation as to how many church planters can be involved. This will limit the growth of what is going on.
Some friends of ours in India encouraged all their local church planters (those not traveling to train others) to find a business that could support them and offered to help them get started. Unfortunately, other Western ministries came in and offered the church planters money to work with them instead. Effectively these people were "bought" by Western money. The churches they planted now counted towards the "success" of the ministry that paid them.
Giving can be a hand out or a hand up. It's the old picture of give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Now obviously there are some situations in which a person has no hope without a hand out, but there are many more where training in a skill would equip him to earn a living.
We lived in the East End of London for more than 15 years. In those days 92% of the housing was govenment funded. Many of the people who lived there had been on welfare for generations. A government handout had imprisoned the people in a life of poverty and dependence. Compare this, for example, to the microfinancing initiatives of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh which has transformed the lives of the women of that nation.
We need great wisdom from the Lord as to where our finances should go.