(Re)reading mission in light of the Bible

I’ve been published again!

Martureo — The Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection recently published an article I wrote on The Bible and the missionary imagination after colonialism.  

In my article, I drew on my life exprience in what might best be called “an inbetween space”. I am from a place in the North that used to send missionaries to countries to the South and to the East. And yet I had a place of my own with people from another place–one that put them on the receiving end of missionary projects from the North–in their efforts to follow Christ into His mission.

My article also drew on the story of NT Wright, controversies about his work, and how those controversies have played out in Brazil and in the USA.

Out of those experiences, I found stories that reveal the effect of some “structures” that remained in effect after colonialism was dismantled. Surprisingly, those structures make it difficult for Christians to actually listen to the Bible. Too often we use the Bible to make it say what we want it to say. The structures have another related effect: they name some people as needy and other people as the ones that God somehow needs so he can meet their need.  

My story is about people who let the Bible examine them and their practices. Its about how when they let the Bible do its work, they were pushed into service for the good of others, rather than worrying about how to “defend the faith”.  

The article is in Portuguese, so I have included here an English draft version of my article

Join us in making changes…

I tell people I commute to Brazil.  Mapa-Mundo-AtualAnd sometimes I do, and sometimes I work from the USA focused on the work of Martureo–The Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection where I am Executive Coordinator.

How does Martureo work?

Martureo influences the perspective and efforts of thousands of Brazilians who bear witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, and all his teachings, around the world and in every sphere of society. In 2018 Martureo did this in three significant ways.  We offered Continue reading “Join us in making changes…”

40 years of unfinished projects. Thanks for sticking with us!

The story of more than 40 years of our life with Latin Americans came together in a very special way in 2017.

During the second half of the year, I learned important lessons.  Those lessons reminded me that we don’t walk through life alone.  This story would not have happened without you: Continue reading “40 years of unfinished projects. Thanks for sticking with us!”

Year end giving in my 40th year of Christian service.

I am not sure how I feel about the heavy traffic of e-mails I get with Christmas greetings mixed with an appeal to me to give money to everyone’s favorite charity.

I admit it is part of the system that has defined “missions” from the American church to the rest of the world and that we have done some good.  This system has made it possible Continue reading “Year end giving in my 40th year of Christian service.”

Martureo

In late April, I started a new job in Brazil.  I am now the Executive Coordinator for Martureo:  the Brazilian Center for Missiological Reflection.

Marcos Amado founded Martureo to produce resources Brazilians need to assess their experience in global mission and chart a course for the future.

When Lois and I went as missionaries to Brazil in the 70’s we believed Brazilians should not so much receive missionaries as send them.  Over the next few decades that is exactly what happened.  A movement of Brazilians in global mission emerged and grew. Continue reading “Martureo”

On living a charmed life—gift #1—thanks to you!

Lois and I have been entrusted with gifts and privileges over the years.  Such things may come ultimately from God, but they are delivered through people like you.  Two special gifts  came this month and reminded me why we say “entrusted.”  We get gifts so we can use them responsibly.
The first gift was when we found an old recipe book of Brazilian recipes from a women’s meeting on our first visit back from from Brasil.
Let’s go back a few steps:  Before we got married, we decided to be missionaries.  A year after tying the knot, we moved to Brazil — 25 and 23 years old!
Leaving for Brazil

We started our family in Brazil, and then raised our daughters in Guatemala.  Some people thought we were really dedicated—giving away our lives—but we always thought we were on the receiving end, getting many more good things than we ever gave up.

The recipe book, and the prayers of friends
The first gift I got this month was an old recipe book with only five recipes.  It’s old, and typed on a typewriter.  We aren’t exactly sure when this little booklet was made. The introduction includes language that often made us feel uncomfortable because it implied that we were doing something particularly special.  It also made Brazilians out to be poor and needy, and our friends in Brazil were very much like us.  Sometimes our friends nurtured ideas of Brazil that was might have been more consistent with the Amazon jungle than with the very urban context of the two cities we lived in.  Not only was the jungle 5 hours away by plane, the cities we lived in were amazingly modern, in some ways beyond what we had experienced in the USA.  São Paulo (15 million people then) was enormous and an industrial powerhouse .  Curitiba (3 million) was a great city to live in, and a global standard setter for good urban planning.
What made this booklet a gift was also in the introduction.
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Something more important than the mis-conceptions about who we were and where we lived, was the willingness of our friends to make special efforts to pray for us.  We were the privileged ones because we were on the receiving end of the prayers of many more people than anyone we knew.  Many still pray for us.  We get all the benefits.
Its mysterious to some, but God seems to pay attention when people turn to him and cry out for help on behalf of others.  We were those “others” for whom our friends cried out to God.  It’s not like bad things never happened to us.  But it is true that the bad things never STAYED bad.  People we hardly knew kept talking to Him about us.
I have attached a link to the entire cookbook.  It has five great, and simple, recipes for Brazilian food that we still love to this day.
How to use this gift responsibly?  I think the answer is hidden behind the second gift I received recently, and I will post about that in the next couple of days.
But using this gift responsibly begins by saying THANK YOU!
You have made a huge difference in our lives.  All the joyful pictures and family joys that we post on Facebook, are because of you.  The skills we have now and use to serve others — Lois helping students at the High School to find their way to College, and me, standing as an ally for Latin Americans as they enter a world of conflict, oppression and need in the name of Jesus , so that they can offer blessing and well-being and encourage others to follow Jesus—these are special skills and we have them because you gave us a context in which to grow and develop them.  Thank you.

Thinking about what drives me….

I am intuitive

I am at home in Latin America

I am very aware of the world and its issues:  politics, economy, geography, travel

I am a networker—a connector of people

My people skills include:

  • Listening
  • Affirming goals and visions of others, helping them turn those into effective action.
  • Able to say: “I am on your side.”
  • Encourager.  I take Barnabas’ ministry as my model.

I am usually workin on multiple projects and to think and plan strategically about several at the same time.

I get involved in visions before they turn into projects (i.e., before they become concrete), and I can work on them until they turn into proposals.

I have good insight into political and administrative relationships, combining savvy with a definite impatience for getting through to resolution.

Change is a big part of who I am and the way I live.  I am adaptable.  I want to change the world.  I am idealistic and process oriented.

I am comfortable among the very poor and I have not found it difficult to slip in an out of politically tense situations.

I grow by connecting.  Latin American Christians have changed my life.