We have just completed the first week of our month-long training program. It has been a challenging but very informative week. Each morning, we have the opportunity to hear the life story of a different missionary. It is exciting to hear about how God has worked in others’ lives and used them around the world. We also had the privilege of spending two days learning from David Shenk about missions and the Old Testament and world religions. He is an amazing teacher; he sprinkles his lectures with many stories about places he’s been and people he’s encountered. He has learned so much about people and cultures through his studying and travel that he has gained the respect of many non-Christian communities around the world, particularly in his work with Islam. He explained how revolutionary just the first three chapters of Genesis can be for some cultures that have no understanding of basic human rights (created in God’s image) or marriage (husband leaves his parents and clings to his wife). It was so wonderful to sit and listen to story after story of lives revolutionized because of hearing and understanding these ideas that I so take for granted. His understanding of the Muslim faith is great as well and I found it particularly interesting when he shared that the Qur’an actually says that if the Muslim has a question, he should ask a Christian because they have the ‘former Scriptures’ (Torah, Prophets, and Gospels).
Friday we learned about missions and the New Testament from James Krabill. We looked at different ways Jesus changed how the Jews view time and worship as well as how the early church developed from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth. He emphasized the need for contextualization–changing how you tell the message of Christ depending on the culture/situation you are in. That discussion continued into the evening session on contextualized worship–a workshop Ted particularly enjoyed 🙂 –where we discussed worship and the arts in different cultures and how it can be used to share the gospel. This is especially important in this age, not only for cultures that are still illiterate, but also in cultures that have so much technology, that very little book reading is done anymore (texting, audiobooks, music, etc, etc). Sometimes drama and other art forms can be much more effective in spreading the love of God. God gives us enormous freedom in how we worship Him; allowing each culture to find the way that most speaks to their hearts is important.
The kids continue to do well. We hardly see Daisy and Cub throughout the day; they spent every free moment playing with the other kids. Rosebud has been doing great once we figured out how to best work feedings and naps. Chimp is struggling a little bit being away from mommy and daddy so much, but hopefully as they are able to get outside more this coming week and maybe even be with the older kids more, things will improve.
We are truly being blessed by this time to study and reflect on God’s plan for mission and the world. Tomorrow we are looking forward to attending a local Mennonite church that has a large Ka-ren’ population from Burma/Myanmar. The third Sunday of each month, they lead the service in their tradition.
On the where-are-we-going front, we are pretty much exploring just two options at the moment:
1. Helping to start a dairy-processing business in Korce, Albania. Currently, the majority of milk is acquired by taking used coca-cola bottles to a local farmer and having them filled with milk.
2. Managing EMM’s Guest House in Nairobi, Kenya, including a construction project.
We truly appreciate prayers as we continue to discern where God can best use us.