Creation Care in Urban Mission

by David Gould, OMF International Facilitator for Creation Care

Fuel for Faith?

Akhai* had seen his three brothers die as a result of alcohol addiction, and he was afraid that the same thing would happen to him. Then one day his girlfriend Ulzi* persuaded him to go to church with her. He went to please her, but it changed his life – there he heard the gospel, and received new life in Christ. He no longer needed to drink. Akhai and Ulzi married and were led to serve those who wrestle with alcohol addiction in Mongolia, to offer them hope founded on Christ.

The Lord called Ben to go and work with them. Ben is a specialist in waste management, with a heart for mission. How can these two things come together? During his visits, Ben saw the potential to ‘up-cycle’ waste to provide fuel for sale, and he trained Akhai’s team to make and use the tools needed to process the waste. Akhai is a gifted evangelist and leader, and is starting similar work in other cities. By offering his skills, Ben is helping this ministry to grow and become self-funding. People are coming to faith, and churches are being planted. And the ‘fuel from waste’ project has modelled a cleaner alternative to burning coal, whose smoke is a major health hazard.

Common Ground

A sense of belonging in a particular place is shared by many people in East Asia. In Manila I met Kamal*, who had reluctantly brought his family to live there because he didn’t want his children “to grow up with guns”. His family’s land was in a part of the country where sectarian fighting has blighted many lives; yet he longed to return there. In his community in the city many are suffering from malnutrition, and he welcomed the friendship of a team who are offering training in nutrition for children.

Elsewhere in the Philippines, several urban communities have been displaced by sectarian
fighting, and have lost most of their traditional sources of income. An OMF team is planning a model farm near the city to help them develop sustainable food production.

In Bangkok people of different faiths are meeting to discuss ways of improving the health and welfare of those living in the urban poor communities. Promoting the use of simple water filters can be very effective, providing work as well as affordable, potable water, and opportunities to introduce people to ‘living water.’

Peter,* a gifted research engineer, is working in a university in a large city in East Asia, helping to develop more sustainable technologies, while seeking to be a witness to Christ among his students and colleagues.

These are examples of meeting people of other faiths on ‘common ground’. This can help to build trust and friendship, and so open doors for sharing the gospel. This gospel is good news for those who are lost without Christ; for communities who want to live sustainably in their land; for displaced people seeking a new life in the cities; and for all creation, which has been spoiled by human sin. The Bible has much to say about the connections between sin, environmental degradation and human displacement**. The remedy for sin, won by Jesus, the Lord of 1 creation, gives us the glorious prospect of the healing of all brokenness, and an eternal sabbath rest when God will dwell among his people in a renewed creation.

Migrant Workers

Every year, millions of people move to the cities of East Asia in search of work. Often this involves parting from their families and the gradual break up of rural communities. These migrants can be more open to receiving the gospel in the city; and some of those who come to faith may be called and trained to return home as self-funded church-planters. There they can share their faith while bringing new skills that can help people remain in their home communities. These skills might facilitate such things as sustainable fishing and animal husbandry; reforestation and ‘sloping land technology’ to restore degraded soil and grow cash crops; and eco-tourism that encourages the conservation of significant ecologies. Modelling and training in such skills can thus contribute to missional church movements in the cities.

The church is called to be signs of God’s kingdom. By practising, teaching and celebrating a life of sabbath rest in the land, we can be part of God’s plan to invite unreached peoples into his kingdom. There are many opportunities for people with technical skills and missional hearts to support church-planting ministry in the cities of East Asia. Are you being called to become, or to send out, a ‘migrant worker’ for Christ?

* Names changed to protect identities

** Gen. 3:17-19,23, 4:10-12; Deut.30:15-20; Hosea 4:1-3, Rev. 21:1-5 etc.

A fuller exploration of creation care in urban mission can be found in David’s essay ‘The Church and Sustainable Cities in East Asia’, in ‘Creation Care and the Gospel’, Edited by Colin Bell & Robert White (Lausanne Library, 2016).

For more details visit www.omf.org.uk

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Responding to the Refugee Crisis in Europe

The last year has seen a huge influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa into Europe, the majority from Syria, but including thousands of Pakistanis, Afghans, Eritreans, Somalians, and others. Transform Europe Now (TEN) work with nationals in 15 countries across Europe, and is one of the groups responding to the current refugee crisis. TEN’s partners in Serbia and Macedonia on the Western Balkan route have been providing food, water and other essential items for the refugees as a practical demonstration of the love of God.
Nesa Radeka, from the Novi Sad Nexus in Serbia shared the following story: “There she was, almost a shadow, or something you briefly glimpse out of the corner of your eye. She was thousands of miles from home. She was scared. She was lonely. She was running for her life.

“She was just one in a group of refugees ‘living’ in a camp located just outside the city of Subotica, Serbia. Our paths first crossed as we walked through the wooded area where the refugees were seeking shelter from the summer heat, and a place away from the police. The area was dotted with makeshift campsites; some with tents, some with a piece of plastic draped over some branches for shelter, some with nothing but the hard dry ground beneath them.

“Our presence was met with a mix of suspicion and joy. We had come here with members of another ministry to let the people know they could come to a nearby building to receive water, food, personal care items, and even baby diapers. Many quickly accepted the invitation, many were hesitant, but trusted the word of others who knew this wasn’t a trap.

“Our paths crossed again as she stood in line with over 100 others. She was waiting her turn to get to the table and receive a loaf of bread, water, 3 hard-boiled eggs, a bottle of shampoo, some hand wipes, and some cookies for her granddaughter.

“It was her eyes that told the story. In a fraction of a second you knew of the fear, the uncertainty, the physical strain of a journey through many strange countries and over more than 5,000 km, and her worries about the future. As she clutched the loaf of bread and bottle of water, suddenly, something changed in her countenance. Beneath the fear, anxiety, and fatigue you could see there was the faintest glimmer of hope.”

Nesa sums it up when he says, “Hundreds of thousands of refugees are expected to come through Serbia over the next few months. We want to continue to assist as we are able, be it through helping supply food and water, and (hopefully) rearranging the schedule of a medical team we have coming to include time to tend to these beautiful people at this most desperate time. We can’t help them all, but we will help all we can.”

For more details visit www.transformeuropenow.org

 

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‘Cultural Humility: Offending and Mending’ by Marilyn Gardner

Of all the difficult things we do in cross-cultural moves, finding places to live is near the top. We want to create space and place – we want to create home. And often our expectations are a planet away from our reality.

At one point while living in Cairo, we were hunting for a flat (apartment) on the island of Zamalek. After a day of searching in the heat and walking endlessly down dusty streets and alley ways, we were tired and had seen some of the ugliest apartments imaginable.

My husband and I were getting increasingly frustrated, feeling the cross-cultural disconnect of trying to communicate what we were looking for in a flat to what we were being shown. Precisely at this point we walked up 8 flights of stairs and, on a scale of ugly to uglier to ugliest we were shown the ugliest flat we had seen. Ever. Anywhere. When the man showing us this particular flat asked us if we liked it, my husband looked at him and said clearly “No. This flat is the ugliest flat we have ever seen.” With a toilet seat cover made of a deck of cards, a kitchen that resembled a tiny sauna, and mirrors all over the gaudy red bedroom, it was hideous.

In that moment, by the look on the man’s face, we realized he had insulted the landlord, mistaking him for the bowab, a man who guards the front door and asks for baksheesh (a tip) once a month. “You don’t like my flat?” He said in a loud and puzzled voice. We had the grace to pause and look at each other, suddenly realizing that we had committed a no-no in apartment hunting in Cairo – insulting the landlord. But we were tired and defeated, so my husband said emphatically “No – we don’t like your flat. At all. We would never live here. It’s ugly,” and off we went. Once back on the street we took one look at each other, and in the exhaustion of the day, burst into laughter. It was completely inappropriate given we had just insulted our host, but we couldn’t stop. The incident was only one of many times when we realized we had a lot to learn about living cross-culturally.

The reality of living cross culturally is that there are times when, despite our best intentions, we offend.  Sometimes it’s pure ignorance, other times it’s because we are tired, and still other times we are in a cultural conflict and don’t even care that we are offending. If we have never offended, then I would suggest that we have not crossed over those important relationship boundaries and are spending too much time with those who are exactly like us, rather than boldly engaging those who are different.

These moments of offense can be great for a couple of reasons.  One is that we learn from them — they are teachable moments in cross-cultural living and communication.  The other is that once we heal from the discomfort and sometimes painful residual effects, they make for great stories and we can learn to laugh at our mistakes.

I think it’s about offending and mending. We will offend. But one of the things we learn in the process is the culturally appropriate way to mend the offense in order to move forward in relationship.

Mending is often as simple as being willing to admit I am wrong and taking extra care and effort with the relationship in the future.  Other times it’s as complicated and lengthy as paying a visit and sitting in discomfort until the atmosphere thaws and we suddenly feel like all is made right. Still other times mending seems to take forever, or not happen at all.

But here’s the thing – there is no way we will get it right all the time. In fact, culture is so complex that it can take a long time to reflect, let alone understand, the cultures of our adopted countries. But if we don’t engage from the beginning, we will miss out on a lot of relationship building. And engaging with those around us means offending and mending, putting ourselves into postures of cultural humility.

Marilyn Gardner is an adult third culture kid who grew up in Pakistan and then raised her own 5 third culture kids in Pakistan and Egypt. She is the author of Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging and you can find her blogging at Communicating Across Boundaries.

OSCARThis is an extract from an article on the OSCAR website, copyright OSCAR, used with permission.
Read more at:
http://www.oscar.org.uk/oscaractive/articles/

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Serving with Latin Link in England

 
 

Serving with Latin Link

Guatemalan Pamela Sikahall is serving with Latin Link on the Latin Partners initiative and is learning much as she works with international students in England.

Being from Latin America and living in the UK has been challenging, taking me out of my comfort zone and helping me to grow. There are lots of things I miss about my culture that I never thought I would – the weather, the language, the greetings, the food.

At the same time I’ve learned so much. I’ve made some changes, such as having a diary and writing down meetings and my daily steps for the next five months. In Guatemala I hardly knew what I was going to do the next week! I’ve had to learn planning to function here. I’ve also learned that living in Christian community and culture is universal. I’ve made great friends whom I can call family, and I’ve learned that some of the stereotypes about British people are true – but not all of them!

Working with international students in the UK has been one the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Student life in a different culture and far from home, family and friends is not easy, and that’s what international students go through. We Christians need to share God’s love with them: some have never heard about Jesus.

The UK can be a lonely place. Most of its people have all they need and more, yet I’ve seen more depressed people in five months here than in my whole life back home.

Being a Christian is about showing love to people, which provokes questions. Why are
you being nice to me? Who are these Christians and why are they loving, happy people? What’s the relevance of Christianity to me? Sharing the gospel, reflecting God’s love and being like Jesus are universal acts that can show the answers.

For more stories from Latin Link, visit: www.latinlink.org.uk

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Hope for Muslims

 
 

A Story from the Horn of Africa

One day someone gave me an Injil (New Testament) and it was in the Arabic language! I was astonished because I had been told that the New Testament had been corrupted, but this was in Arabic and God would never allow Arabic to be corrupted, as that’s His language. So I took it home and began reading it that night. When I went to sleep I had a dream. I saw a minaret that had a broken speaker at the top which someone was working on. Then suddenly the entire minaret shook. I looked at the base of the minaret and saw a man with an axe trying to destroy it. I woke up feeling very shocked because when I saw the face of the person chopping the minaret, it was me. I had the same dream four times that night.

The next day I went to the man who gave me the Injil and asked him what the dream meant. He smiled and told me, “You are going to win many sheikhs for Christ!” I went and told my parents immediately of my decision to follow Christ. I lost my job (I had been the leader of an Islamic centre, responsible for training 300 Imams) and my father tried to kill me. Despite this, I was able to see 400 sheikhs come to Christ, 300 of whom have been baptised so far.

 
 

An Unprecedented Move of God

David Garrison travelled over a quarter of a million miles, meeting and interviewing about a thousand Muslim background followers of Jesus. He wanted to find out their stories and, in particular, what God had used to bring them to faith. From his painstaking and thorough research, and with extensive input from leading missiologists, he wrote a book entitled “A Wind in the House of Islam”. Here are David’s answers to some key questions.

What is happening in the Muslim world today?

From one end of the Muslim world to the other, Muslims are having dreams and visions and seeing specific answers to their prayers. Many talked to me about how they tested God and said, “If this is real, I’m going to pray and, if you’re really there Lord, I want you to hear this.” And Jesus began to reveal himself. They came to realise that to follow Christ was to follow a living Lord, and that realisation was the real turning point.

I believe, through the research I have done, that somewhere between two and seven million Muslims have come to follow Jesus just in the last two decades, which is staggering! God is at work in the Muslim world, frankly, in ways that we have never seen before.

Why are so many Muslims turning to Christ?
There are several contributing factors:

  • God is giving Muslim-background believers increasing boldness to talk about their new faith with their friends and family.
  • There are many more cross-cultural workers these days willing to go as families to these difficult places to share the gospel with Muslims.
  • Prayer is making a substantial difference. The 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim world during the month of Ramadan has now been going for 22 years, during which time more than 80% of all these movements have occurred.
  • The Word of God is being translated into the heart language of many Muslim peoples and being produced in video and audio format.

Why did you write the book?
Firstly, I wanted to document these movements with historical accuracy. Secondly, I wanted to encourage Christians who are fearful of or feel threatened by Muslims to consider God’s perspective. This is their ‘day of salvation’ and God wants to use us to love Muslims, to minister to them and to take the gospel to them.

I wanted to show the ways that God is at work in the Muslim world, because clearly something is happening that we haven’t seen before. The body of Christ worldwide can learn from the testimonies of the courageous men and women that I met.

Finally, I hope this book will be an inspiration to Muslims who are considering another way, that they might find truth, forgiveness and a living relationship with God.

In June David Garrison will be speaking at events throughout the UK. Further details soon at www.hopeformuslims.org.

This article was first published in the Frontiers Connected newsletter, which can be subscribed to here (www.frontiers.org.uk).

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Human trafficking

Measuring Human Trafficking in Europe – an article from Vista, communicating research and innovation in Europe europeanmission.redcliffe.org

What are the facts about human trafficking in Europe? This is a tremendously difficult question to answer for a number of reasons.

First, we need to be careful about definitions. It is vital to distinguish between irregular migration, people trafficking and forced labour. Not all irregular migrants are trafficked and not all forced labour or people trafficking involves migrants.

Second, population data in general and migration data in particular is notoriously unreliable. Though some European countries do count all those who enter through ports, airports or across land borders, many do not. Furthermore, without exit controls which count those who leave there is no easy way of identifying those who, for example, enter on a tourist or student visa and then remain.

Third, in the case of Europe, there is the added dimension of the freedom of movement under the Schengen Agreement. Once entry has been obtained to the Schengen area a migrant may move across national borders freely, making it very difficult to establish exactly where people are.

And finally, of course, when we talk about human trafficking, we are dealing with a criminal activity, where the people smugglers, the victims and those who wish to exploit them, all wish to avoid detection.

As a result getting reliable data on human trafficking in Europe is very difficult. Realistically, pretty much all the statistics are educated guesses. Take for example the following quote from a report1 entitled Towards Reliable Migration Statistics for the UK, prepared for a Select Committee of the House of Commons:

“The presence of uncertainty in migration and population estimates is well acknowledged. This uncertainty should ideally be reflected in the statistics in a measurable way, such as through probability distributions, which however may pose challenges to the users of migration data.”

So in every case, when considering a statistic about migration, forced labour or human trafficking, the word probably might be best inserted beforehand.

Forced Labour

The International Labour Organization estimates that globally about 21 million men, women and children are in forced labour, trafficked, held in debt bondage or work in slave-like conditions2. Forced labour is incredibly profitable. A 2014 ILO report estimated that the total illegal profits obtained from the use of forced labour worldwide amount to US$150.2 billion per year (€130 billion). Two thirds of this revenue is generated by forced sexual exploitation alone3.

Of these 880,000 live in the European Union, meaning that statistically, per 1000 inhabitants almost 1.8 persons in the European Union are in forced labour. 270,000 (30%) are estimated to be victims of sexual exploitation and 610,000 (70%) the victims of labour exploitation4.

However, only a tiny fraction of these victims are identified as such. Eurostat recently published their second working paper5 on Trafficking in Human Beings which revealed that over the three years 2010–2012, 30,146 victims were registered in the 28 Member States, perhaps one in thirty of those who are suspected to exist.

The research found that 80% of registered victims were female, and that, “the overwhelming majority were trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation (85%). Among registered male victims, 64% were trafficked for labour exploitation”.

The difficulty in handling the statistics must not blind us to the reality that right here in Europe many tens if not hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are living in slavery.

Jim Memory (ECM and Redcliffe College)

1. http://www.cpc.ac.uk/resources/downloads/JB_CPC_report_9.5.13.pdf
2. http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang–en/index.htm
3. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/publication/wcms_243391.pdf
4. http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—europe/—ro-geneva/—ilo-brussels/documents/genericdocument/wcms_184976.pdf
5. http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-is-new/news/news/docs/20141017_mid-term_report_on_the_2012-2016_eu_strategy_on_trafficking_in_human_beings_en.pdf

Vista is a free quarterly pdf download coedited by Jim Memory, Jo Appleton and Darrel Jackson, focusing in mission in Europe. Find out more at europeanmission.redcliffe.org.

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GOfest

Mobilise for mission through GOfest

GOfest is the UK’s largest mission focused festival, held over a weekend (19-21 June 2015) at the WEC headquarters near Gerrards Cross, Bucks.

This unique event is organised by a number of mission organisations and churches* working together to inspire, inform mobilise people of all ages to find their place in God’s mission as they discover his heart for the nations.

The theme for 2015 is:
Whole Life
Whole Church
Whole World

You don’t get much bigger than that and we’ll be focusing on the Gospel and how it is worked out in your life and the church around the world.

Whole life: What does it mean to live our whole life for Christ, not just Sundays? How can we integrate our faith every day of the week and obey God’s call to follow him 24/7. Seminars, challenging talks and lots of prayer and worship will help us find out.

Whole church: The church is much bigger than our experience of it in the UK. During the weekend you will share together with Christians from many different backgrounds and perspectives and listen to speakers from around the world including India, Brazil and S.E. Asia.

Whole World: We are all called to play a part in God’s mission in the world. What’s your part in it? Discover how you can get involved in many different ways – whether it is going on short or long-term mission in another country, working with people from other cultures in the UK, or praying and offering practical support.

In addition to mainstage speakers including Joseph D’souza, Rosalee Velloso-Ewell and James Hudson Taylor IV and a wide range of seminars there will be IHOP-style prayer and worship throughout the day, a GOconnect mission exhibition and Vocationzone and youth and children’s programmes. It is free to attend as a day visitor. Camping (with meals provided) is available on site at very reasonable cost.

Find out more and register at gofestival.info

GOfest is a Global Connections event, organised in partnership with Christian Vocations, Gold Hill Baptist Church, Gospel for Asia, Operation Mobilisation, OMF International UK, Redcliffe College, WEC and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

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The only way to beat poverty is through business!

Business as Mission Breakfast

“The only way to beat poverty is through business,” said one of the speakers at the Business as Mission – Explore New Paradigms event on 12th May in Bristol. Sixty men and women from business and (perhaps not so traditional) mission agencies had a great breakfast and heard two enthusiastic and encouraging practitioners.

Tim Simpson (UK Trade Centre http://www.uktradecentre.net) was glad to hear that “BAM is not about asking for money for missionaries, nor about using a business to get a visa into a country, and then using the opportunity to do anything BUT business.” He continued, “It is about helping to establish, and standing alongside those running, genuine and relevant businesses to meet real local need amongst the poorest and the unreached, whilst His people involved quietly example and overflow the Kingdom, and disciples are made.”

It was encouraging to hear that the false sacred-secular divide can be bridged. Business, is a large aspect of human experience and it is one that has it’s origin in the commands God gave humanity at the creation. Like the first century believers and many since it is through such activity we can bring the blessing God plans to bring, model what it really means to follow Jesus and give others an opportunity to follow their Saviour.

As an organiser I was delighted as God worked in so many ways during the event. New links were made that will lead to the blessing of Bristol and Beyond, be it ministry to sex workers in Bristol, working to see poverty eradicated or unreached peoples to have a demonstration of the gospel in both word and deed.

SWAN and Redcliffe College, Gloucester, are planning a follow-up workshop day, Missional business: home & abroad on Saturday 18th October 2014, facilitated by the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity. It will give you the tools to put missional principles into practice in your business, whether you are or are planning to work in a UK or overseas context. The day will include UK and overseas focused seminar streams.
It would be great to see you there!

Further details: Joanne Appleton jappleton@redcliffe.org

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