STUART TOWNEND: THE ONGOING GOSPEL CHALLENGE FOR TODAY’S WORSHIP LEADERS
THIS ISSUE: TOM WRIGHT, MUYIWA OLAREWAJU AND MARTIN SAUNDERS
“WHY I HATE RELIGION, BUT LOVE JESUS”
OUT OF AFRICA
Why has Jefferson Bethke’s video got 21m YouTube hits?
The Christian response to Italy’s illegal immigrants
THE FREE QUARTERLY MAGAZINE FROM BMS WORLD MISSION NEWS / COMMENT / MISSION OPPORTUNITIES / ARTS / INTERVIEWS
WELCOME I wasn’t followed. I didn’t have to sneak into the side entrance. I sang and prayed freely. I chatted openly to friends. My children learnt about Jesus too. Your experience of church last Sunday was probably quite similar to mine. And yet it’s simply not like this for millions of Christians worldwide who must meet secretly to express their faith. Find out more about the reality of the Persecuted Church today in our main feature. Also, read the views of a rich mix of well-known Christians, including Stuart Townend, Tom Wright, Fiona Castle and Muyiwa Olarewaju. And finally, our magazine’s former editor Jan Webb left BMS at the end of November after 23 years’ service. We are hugely grateful to her and pray for God’s blessing on Jan as she moves on.
SECRET CHRISTIANS Dreams. Visions. Prayers. There are some things that prison gates and barbed wire cannot keep out.
THE BIG INTERVIEW: STUART TOWNEND Using song to tell the old, old story: one of worship music’s biggest names speaks to Engage magazine.
16 RECEIVING THE STRANGER Homeless, jobless and hopeless – the thorny issue of Italy’s illegal immigrants, and the difference a little Christian love makes.
22 TOM WRIGHT
BMS World Mission PO Box 49, 129 Broadway, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 8XA
The popular New Testament scholar explores the subject of what happens when we die.
A RHYME AND REASON His video Why I hate religion, but love Jesus has stirred up controversy. But that won’t stop poet Jefferson Bethke preaching Jesus.
Tel: 01235 517700 Email (general): email@example.com Email (editorial): firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.bmsworldmission.org General director: David Kerrigan Managing editor: Mark Craig Editor: Andrew Dubock Regular contributors: Sally Buchan, Fiona Castle OBE, Nabil K Costa, Andrew Dubock, David Kerrigan, Katherine Mannion, Aidan Melville, Bekah Swanson, Jan Webb Guest columnist: Martin Saunders Design editors: indigoninja.co.uk and Pepperfish.co.uk Printed by: Halcyon Print Management, Tunbridge Wells, TN3 9BD The views and opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of BMS World Mission. Baptist Missionary Society Registered as a charity in England and Wales (number 233782) and in Scotland (number SC037767) © Copyright 2012 BMS World Mission ISSN 1756-2481 Printed on material from sustainable forests
MUYIWA OLAREWAJU The gospel singer, worship leader, radio host and television presenter tells Engage about his past hurts and future plans.
Sign up to receive Engage magazine for free four times a year at bmsworldmission.org/engage
BMS NEWS /news–blogs
POOR KIDS’ HEAD START
Changing children’s lives in 12 countries, and reaching over 100,000 families, the PEPE pre-school education programme has celebrated its 20th birthday. Started in Brazil in 1992 by then BMS worker Georgie Christine, PEPE set out to deal with poverty by helping disadvantaged children in slums reach their full potential and preparing them for primary school. The project is run by churches and totally integrated in the community. Mark Greenwood, BMS Regional Team Leader for Latin America, said, “Where there is a PEPE, children who would normally have entered primary school already behind colleagues now start on an equal footing – or ahead of colleagues”.
COMES TRUE SUPPORTED BY BMS, THREE ATHLETES FROM THE WEST’S POOREST NATION DEFIED THE ODDS AND COMPETED IN LAST SUMMER’S PARALYMPIC GAMES.
t was an unforgettable moment not just for Leon Gaysli, Josue Cajuste and Nephtalie Jean Louis but also for the whole of Haiti. The formation of its first-ever Paralympic team marked a moment of hope and pride following years of disaster, disease and political upheaval.
CASTING NETS IN KOLKATA Nail-varnish, cricket and prophetic painting were tools of evangelism used by a BMS Church Team from Andover on a visit to India. Enduring 42-degree heat, the team was able to help BMS partners in and around Kolkata engage in evangelism, children’s work and remote medical ministries. Andover Baptist Church’s minister,
Clive Burnard, preached about becoming fishers of men to a crowd of fishermen, 12 of whom gave their lives to Christ, whilst another team member, Maureen, prayed for 27 women and girls as she painted their nails. Team leader Andy Fitchet said it was “a privilege and a joy” to lead the church’s first team to India.
After suffering spinal cord injuries in the January 2010 earthquake, which took the lives of his wife and eight children, Leon was helped back onto the road to recovery by BMS partner Haiti Hospital Appeal (HHA). He appeared on Undefeated, BMS’ disability justice resource. In just over two years Leon went from victim to champion, and a late wildcard entry ensured his place in the handbike road race and time trial events at Brands Hatch. In the Olympic stadium, Josue and Nephtalie both took part in javelin and shot put events, achieving national best results. The three athletes appeared on ITV regional and national news and their achievements were broadcast on Haitian television. The team was brought to London by The Dream, a consortium of charities, including BMS and HHA, committed to improving sporting opportunities in developing countries.
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
SYRIA: CHRISTIANS PRAY FOR PEACE
© Areej Abu Qudairi/IRIN
A GROWING HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IS LEAVING THOUSANDS OF FAMILIES HUNGRY AND HOMELESS.
MEXICO: FIGHTING DRUGS WITH PRAYER An Arizona-based Christian group, committed to “mobilising the Church in fervent prayer for spiritual awakening and community transformation”, has been praying since 2008 for difficult situations on the US/Mexican border, especially battling in prayer against drug cartels. During June, BridgeBuilders International held a 20-day prayer and fasting initiative – the same month that, according to the newspaper Milenio, saw killings related to drug violence in Mexico fall by 17 per cent, compared to May. In addition, the Mexican elections took place with no reports of drug-related violence or election fraud and, during the period of prayer, many significant leaders within Mexico’s cartels were arrested. (Joel News International, bridgebuilders.net)
© Chuck Holton
esperate to protect their families from the effects of the war, many Syrian Christians are fleeing the country. The need to escape is intensifying as Christians are increasingly becoming the targets of opposition fighters, who perceive them as being loyal to President Assad. Since the conflict began in March 2011, over 300,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Syria, seeking refuge in neighbouring Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Tens of thousands are still fleeing Syria every month. A church leader in Aleppo said, “We are facing tough times. We have shortage of bread, food, medicine, kids’ milk… no fuel for cars, nor gas for cooking… The prices of food are five times more now and [for] two days we don’t have water… Most of the people are in a disturbed and bewildered situation and they don’t know what to do.” Lebanese Baptists, with whom BMS partners, together with other Middle Eastern Christians, are assisting the hundreds of Syrian refugees streaming across the border. They are also helping the displaced within Syria, providing food, medicines and psychological services. BMS has given a total of over £21,000 in relief grants. The Baptist Convention of Syria has approximately 600 members in ten churches. The largest Baptist congregation was in Homs, one of the cities where fighting between the government and opposition forces is most intense. Most Baptists have now left the city. (BWA, Barnabas)
NETHERLANDS: GOD RETURNS
IRAN: HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER ARRESTED
Dutch newspaper, Het Parool, recently carried the headline ‘God returns to the city’ and reported that 1,500 citizens of Amsterdam have joined ‘new churches’, with another ten of these churches planned over the next three years. © Breno Peck
Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, the lawyer who defended Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in his apostasy case, was imprisoned at the end of September 2012. He was the leading advocate in the defence case against Pastor Nadarkhani who was sentenced to death and imprisoned, awaiting trial, since October 2009. Pastor Nadarkhani was released in September 2012 when a judge lowered his charges from apostasy to evangelising Muslims. Mr Dadkhah, the co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, knew from when he was first arrested in 2009 that he faced the threat of a nineyear prison sentence for his past involvement in human rights issues. (Christian Today, WWRN)
New church groups have appeared widely since three Reformed churches added their support to re-evangelising the city. The Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics reports that 17 per cent of Amsterdam’s inhabitants see themselves as part of the Christian tradition. A professor for church planting and church renewal at the Free University of Amsterdam commented that overall the Church in the Netherlands was still in decline, but not as strongly as in the past. (Joel News International)
CAMEROON: ROAD SAFETY CAMPAIGN The ecumenical group Campus Crusade for Christ (CCfC) is advocating for better safety on Cameroon’s notoriously dangerous roads. In late summer 2012 the group organised a 200 km walk from Douala to the capital Yaoundé. Waving placards and chanting songs, thousands of young people said the march was to sensitise road users to the rising problems of road accidents on the country’s major highways. “God’s people are too precious for their blood to be spilled on the road every day,” said the CCfC co-ordinator. About 1,200 people die each year in Cameroon as a result of a road accident. (ENI)
CHINA: MARRIAGE FOR LIFE
© James Emery
A Christian marriage course has been approved for distribution and use throughout China. The authorisation came through the work of a children’s charity which pioneers foster care in China. The organisation’s founder believed that the training of foster parents created a wonderful opportunity to use the Alpha marriage course and marriage preparation course, as both the local and national government in China are keen to see marriage and family life strengthened across the country. There are currently 1.8 million divorces in China each year. (Joel News International)
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WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
POSTCARD FROM © Michael Foley
General Director, BMS
FOR ALL THE PAKISTANI TEENAGER WHO PAID THE PRICE FOR SPEAKING OUT ABOUT GIRLS’ EDUCATION Everyone loves a wedding – and the one we attended in Zimbabwe recently was quite a spectacle! The hall where it took place was a riot of colour, with shining white, lilac and violet satin drapes adorning the walls and tables. The seven bridesmaids and seven groomsmen added to the vibrant display, with their purple dresses, elaborate hair-dos and very dapper suits! The ceremony was much like an English one, but the exit from the church by the bridal party had a distinctly Zimbabwean feel, with the whole group enthusiastically dancing their way down the aisle! Once outside, the bridal party piled into cars and mini-buses, with some literally hanging out of the windows, and off they went for the photos. It’s quite common during wedding season to see vehicles decorated with balloons careering through the streets of Bulawayo, horns tooting, swinging across the road and doing celebratory u-turns at a moment’s notice! Weddings here are a big deal, with lots of pressure from family. The happy couple often go through weeks of intensive planning – this couple had a wedding committee that met weekly in the months leading up to the big day! Time they had a rest now…
Some years ago, deep in the forest region in the east of Guinea I came across a simple village hut. There was no electricity here, no running water. But there was a basic school in the hut, and the local children attended every day, in between doing household chores such as gathering water and firewood. I won’t pretend this school was wonderful. It wasn’t. But it held a valued place in the community. No one was arguing whether schooling was a proper thing to provide. In particular, no one was arguing that boys should go to school but girls shouldn’t. A world away you’ll find another story. A three-hour drive to the north of Islamabad brings you to Mingora in Pakistan’s Swat valley. This is where 14 year-old Malala Yousafzai lives – or used to live. Since she was ten, Malala (pictured above) had written a blog, initially lamenting the fact that she wasn’t allowed to go to school any more. The blog was posted on the BBC Urdu site and gained worldwide attention. In one extract she wrote, “I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box. Boys’ schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taliban have banned girls’ education.” That situation has since changed and girls were able to go to school again. But hatred for Malala lived on and, on 9 October 2012, on her way home from school, she was shot in the head by the Taliban. BMS has teachers in many parts of the world today because education is part of the abundant life that Jesus came to bring. As I write, Malala is being flown to the UK for life-saving treatment. We pray that her dream of an abundant life will be realised, both for her and her friends.
With best wishes
David Kerrigan is General Director of BMS World Mission
Brad and Ruth Biddulph BMS workers in Zimbabwe
HOW WILL THEY HEAR? PROMOTING CHRISTIAN MORALS AND VALUES TO BOTH TEACHERS AND STUDENTS IN THE MOST RURAL SCHOOLS IS A PRIMARY FOCUS FOR THE BAPTIST UNION OF UGANDA.
irty classrooms, pit latrines, murky water, a shortage of food and a lack of respect from teachers can all be common features in Uganda’s schools. However, it is not the lack of resources that is most concerning, but rather the complete lack of Christian understanding and education. How will these children become Christ-like adults in their communities if they have never heard the word of God? BMS supported partner worker, Juliet Hope Nantumbwe Galiwango, is answering this question through her work as the National Education Co-ordinator with the Baptist Union of Uganda. Her department’s mission is to facilitate, equip and empower schools to provide quality, Christ-centred education. Juliet travels across Uganda to visit all 103 schools that the BUU supports. Her main duty is to promote spiritual standards, primarily through training teachers in Christian principles. “It is amazing and encouraging to hear them testify of how their teaching and attitudes have changed,” says Juliet. The greatest transformation is the way children are treated. One teacher, Agnes, claims that before receiving training, she used to insult and smack the children if they made the
slightest of mistakes. “My teaching and attitude has greatly changed,” she says. “I have been transformed by Juliet’s training. I have dropped my stick and now treat my students as guests in my class.” Juliet’s work in training teachers about Christ-centred education is unparalleled. Without her input, most children in these rural villages would never learn about Jesus. Romans 10: 14 says: “How will they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” The children of Uganda will hear through people like Juliet.
3 – 6 May 2013 Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
FOLLOWING JESUS CAN BE DANGEROUS. PERSECUTION AND PRISON – EVEN DEATH – ARE VERY REAL FEARS FOR SOME OF THE WORLD’S BELIEVERS.
AS NICK PAGE REVEALS, IN SPITE OF OPPRESSION, GOD’S CHURCH IN THE ARAB WORLD CONTINUES TO GROW.
n the wall of the building in North Africa there is a text: ‘This church is my church, this church is my family’. In the room, some 30 Christians have gathered for a discipleship course with a difference. Because the main focus of this course is how Christians endure persecution. This is a training session for secret Christians. “My sons need this,” says Amir, a car trader. He has brought his 13 and 15-year-old sons to the meeting. “They need the contact with other young Christians. Besides our family, there are two other believers in the city where we live. We come together as a home church. We don’t have problems because we are Christians, but, I must say, we don’t have much contact with other people.”
For Christians like Amir and his boys – who are used to worshipping with only five or six other believers, and maybe no one of their own age – to be together with 30 others is a rare and refreshing experience. Eagerly they share their stories, their hopes, their dreams, talking till far after midnight. Amir’s eldest boy Hirsham already knows that he wants to study theology in the future. But this is a risky dream in a country where the dominant religion is Islam and where Christians are routinely harassed and persecuted. In many such countries followers of Jesus live their lives against a background hum of fear. It’s summed up by a grey-haired man at the meeting, who sits behind his two daughters. “We know that people are watching us,” he says. “That is the reason I used the back door of the church.”
BELIEVERS IN AFGHANISTAN “We will never know exactly how many believers there are in Afghanistan,” writes Carol who served in the country for six years. “Only God knows, but we do know that the Church is growing, through the work of his Spirit and through the lives and words of Afghan believers. This is in spite of the fact to be born an Afghan is to be born a Muslim and to change from that brings great danger, even death. “Christians can’t meet in a church building or in large groups; they can’t sing with windows open or have Bibles in their homes. They meet secretly in ones, twos or threes and in a different place each time, often outside. Some watch SAT-7, the Christian TV channel but, as most live with their Muslim families, they often do not have access to it. Few foreigners have contact with Afghan believers as it is too dangerous.”
Photo © Open Doors
RISK AND DANGER
‘Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison,’ it says in Hebrews 13: 3, ‘and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.’ The best estimate is that some 100 million Christians worldwide suffer daily discrimination and harassment, interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ. Every year Open Doors (opendoorsuk.org) produces a World Watch List: the 50 countries in the world where Christians face the most severe persecution. Three-quarters of the countries on the list are Islamicmajority countries as are nine of the top ten. Being a Muslim-background believer or ‘secret believer’ in a Muslim-majority country often means facing persecution from Muslim extremists, the government, their community and even your own families. These are the hotspots of world persecution: Pakistan, where the recent case of Rimsha, a girl accused of burning pages from the Qur’an, caused worldwide outrage; Syria,
where Christians are being targeted by rebel Islamic militias; Nigeria, where the extremist Islamic group Boko Haram attacks churches with bombs, bullets and grenades... the list goes on. These are the high-profile cases, of course. Elsewhere in the world there are many places where oppression of Christians is manifested as persistent, low-level, day-to-day discrimination. In such places Christians are denied housing, healthcare or legal representation. The best jobs are reserved for those who follow the state religion, meaning that Christians become poor and marginalised. Churches are closed down for no reason, pastors and leaders hauled into the police station on the slightest pretext. Bibles are scarce or non-existent. The overall outlook for Christians in these countries is hard to guess. The outcome of the ‘Arab Spring’ hangs in the balance: will it mean more freedom, or increased Islamisation? In some places like Syria, Iraq and Egypt, Christians have been caught up in the conflict and the Christian population has been decimated.
IN MY DREAMS I SAW YOUR FACE. YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL ME
WINTER 2012/13 | ENGAGE
BMS General Director David Kerrigan says we must take care in sharing persecuted Church stories He had received a call to come home quickly as his house was being attacked. On his return his wife was dead, killed by her family because she had converted to Christianity. Praying for strength to endure this tragedy, he knew that God was calling him to love his enemies. A year or so later he stood in a river and baptised the very men who had murdered his wife: their own daughter. The young man in this story is one of our partners and the persecuted Church is a reality many people who serve with BMS live with every day. But there are dangers even in the telling of such stories; dangers for both you the reader and we the writers. Firstly, there is a danger that a constant diet of persecuted Church stories breeds a fear of others. I have lived in both Muslim and Buddhist majority countries and have known countless kind people who did not share my faith. I have visited
more that 70 countries and have repeatedly been helped by acts of kindness by those who know little of Jesus my Saviour. They do not persecute the Church, but see it as a small part of their community. The danger? Watch for the corrosion of the mind by a constant diet of bad news. Related to this, there is the second danger that those agencies whose focus is on the persecuted Church feel pressured to report only stories of persecution and never the good news stories. If your ministry is based on motivating Christians to help those being persecuted then, by definition, those are the stories you must tell. The problem is, it isn’t always a representative view. Each story may be true but it may not be the whole truth. BMS is not exempt from similar pressures either. Mission ethics begin the moment our fingers touch the keyboard.
The remains of the Living Faith Church Damaturu in Nigeria, destroyed by bombings Photo © Open Doors
DREAMS AND VISIONS
Despite this, however, the Church is growing. That, indeed, is why Christians are seen as such a threat. And however many barriers the state erects against Christianity, the truth has a way of getting through. There are many instances where people in closed countries have become Christians through dreams and miraculous encounters. Rashid was a student at a Western university when he became a Christian. When he returned home to Saudi Arabia he started telling his family about it. But he told one relative in a public place and was overheard. A bystander reported Rashid to Saudi religious police, who threw him into jail. In the cell, his cellmate kept staring at him. At last he spoke: “You’re the man I’m supposed to talk to.” “I don’t think so,” replied Rashid. “I’ve been just thrown in jail for my belief in Jesus.” His cellmate was insistent: “In my dreams a man was shown to me. It was your face. You have something to tell me.” So Rashid shared the gospel with the man, who became a Christian. Dreams. Visions. Prayers. There are some things that prison gates and barbed wire simply cannot keep out.
Finally, back to North Africa and that covert gathering of secret believers. They are a mixed bunch. Some of them are new converts. Abbad is 21, and became a Christian some three months before the meeting. “Just after Christmas,” he says. “After that I spent most time in my room at home to read the Bible. I’ve finished reading the Bible six times now.” He has already paid the price for his new faith. He had to leave home. His parents stopped supporting him and he is surviving on gifts from a brother who is living abroad. Yet still, he is full of joy. “Of course,” he says, “I am here with my new family.” He points around in the small room and looks to all the others: “They are my family now, I am very happy.” Names have been changed and some locations cannot be given for security reasons. Nick Page is a writer and the author of some 70 books for adults and children. His latest title is Kingdom of fools: the unlikely rise of the early Church.
CONVERSATION Find us on facebook BMS World Mission Steve Legg says the Church needs to find new ways to connect with men in relevant ways. But do you agree with him? Like · Comment · Share Paul Bradley In general men are not in the habit of talking to each other about stuff as much as women. I often ask what would Jesus do and often come to the conclusion he would meet them where they feel comfortable, be that the pub or in the garden of the church grounds. Leroy Bowtell I think we have misunderstood church. Forget the building and think relationships and activities. Let the conversations flow from these and follow the Spirit.
BMS World Mission Clever or condescending: how does this year’s Christmas advert from Churchads.net make you feel? Like · Comment · Share Malky Currie Provocative. I think Christians are the only ones that’ll have an issue with it. But it’s not for them. Mark Thomas Creepy... but it will make a good sermon! Sue Hartley Embarrassingly bad. BMS World Mission Is it right that serious coverage of world issues is being overlooked by the UK media in favour of the Olympics? Like · Comment · Share Ronnie Hall Yes! Everyone needs a break from the doom and gloom, let’s celebrate the positiveness of these Games and then go back to our misery when it’s all over.
YOUR TWEETS Andy Fitchet
Loving this quarter’s Engage magazine! Great to see @ davidjudkins in it! Brilliant article on #whymendontgotochurch
Street Retreat UK
You have excelled again with Mission Catalyst – brilliant edition on ‘Mystery’.
@BMSWorldMission have a great #harvest resource called #Thirsty – used the film, the reflection, the prayer and the quiz went down a storm
Join the conversation at facebook.com/BMSWorldMission
Speaker and writer
THE C WORD TREATING CANCER AS A MATTER OF LIFE NOT DEATH
urvival rates for cancer have risen dramatically over recent years, thanks in part to intensive work from organisations such as Cancer Research UK. However, knowing that one person in three in this country will succumb to cancer at some point in their lives makes it something that we dare not ignore. From the shock of the diagnosis, through months of treatment and tests, to the all clear, it is known as ‘the waiting game’. Even the first sign of a headache or an unusual pain can cause you to think it might have re-occurred. I am glad that today cancer is an illness which is far easier to talk about than two decades ago. It was because of my initial ignorance of the subject, after my husband Roy had died of lung cancer, that I wrote a book as a ‘layperson’s guide’ to coping with cancer. * There is a skill in managing friends; helping them to help you. There’s a need for as much normality as possible between treatments and it is important to know how to cope with life again once the treatment is finished. It is also vital to be prepared for the day the specialist tells you he or she is sorry but there’s nothing more they can do to help and you are given weeks to live. I heard a comment, years ago, that I always remember: “You won’t find many atheists in a shipwreck.” You might cope happily when life is easy, but where do you turn when you’re drowning and clinging to the wreckage? Let go into the arms of the only One who can save you, not necessarily from death, but from the fear of it – and know the assurance of eternal life through trusting in him. “May you experience the love of Christ… then you will be made complete, with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3: 19)
WHERE DO YOU TURN WHEN YOU’RE CLINGING TO THE WRECKAGE?
* Cancer’s a word, not a sentence, Fiona Castle with Jean Greenhough (Hodder and Stoughton, 2000)
Fiona Castle OBE is an international Christian speaker and writer. Her late husband Roy was an entertainer and TV presenter.
twitter.com/BMSWorldMission and @bmsworldmission
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
THE BIG INTERVIEW
IN CHRIST ALONE WAS HIS BIGGEST ‘HIT’, BUT STUART TOWNEND DOESN’T REST ON HIS LAURELS WHEN IT COMES TO HIS RESPONSIBILITIES.
TOWNEND Stuart Townend has given the world many wonderful worship songs. With his songwriting partner Keith Getty, Stuart has shaped the understanding and worship of God for countless Christians. He speaks to Engage magazine about the pressure of influencing theology, artistic regrets and whether his wife ever gets jealous of God.
These days, many people get their theology more from the songs they sing than from teaching in church. Does that put a lot of pressure on you?
Yes, it does make me feel a sense of responsibility both in terms of the writing of songs and what songs I choose if I’m standing in front of a congregation. Am I really narrowing people’s understanding of who God is by always singing about a very narrow series of themes, or am I, in my worship-leading at my local church, presenting a broad picture of who God is? Am I not only talking about his love and faithfulness, but am I talking about his mercy, his justice, his compassion and his heart for the world? I think it’s important for all of us who are involved in church music to be thinking through those things and thinking: am I presenting a fully-formed picture of who God is?
Looking back, is there anything that you regret writing? I do get feedback from people. One of the things that happens is that because you reach a broad range of the Church there are relatively wide differences of opinion over particular theological issues. And so people will write to you. People who are very meticulous in terms of analysing every line to see exactly what it says. Have I ever regretted what I’ve written? There are a couple of times I’ve thought I should have been a little clearer in that or maybe I should have worked a little harder on that. But, these days increasingly, the process of lyricwriting does take a long time for me and during that process I am trying to see it from every angle to see whether I’ve made it clear what I’m trying to say and how that might be received. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes write something where I think: ‘actually you should say this,’ even though I know some people will disagree with it or some people might misinterpret it. Because I think the gospel is challenging to us. And if I can encapsulate something of the ‘radicalness’ of the gospel, that is a good and important thing to do.
Worship has become a big industry in Britain. Do you ever feel in conflict about being part of a unit-shifting business, or is it all perfectly good? I’m sure it’s not all perfectly good. There is an element of units shifted that gets songs out there. But ultimately it is about whether local worship leaders, musicians and church leaders choose those songs from week to week in the local church. Ultimately they make the decision: will this be a helpful song to my congregation? And for me that’s what it is really about. It’s about song-writing. So, although I create and record albums, the purpose of that is to try and get those songs out there so people can choose whether they want to use them in their local church worship. When the songs become part of the life of the local church and become helpful to people in the various things that they go through, that’s when it becomes critical. As in any commercial thing, there may be hype, but you can’t force it down people’s throats.
I WANT TO ENCAPSULATE SOMETHING OF THE ‘RADICALNESS’ OF THE GOSPEL.
Do you think congregational worship music is too narrow in theological or musical terms? I think on both counts we could be broader. In terms of content, I love what has happened in terms of the outpouring of new songs over the last 30 years or so. There are probably more Christian songs being written right now as we speak than have ever been written in the history of the Church. And I think it’s wonderful. But I do think, in terms of content, we can get quite narrow. Certain musical styles and certain themes can dominate. For example, I think there are a huge number of songs being written that are very much along the lines of ‘here I stand in your presence, Lord,’ very much focusing on the immediacy of the experience of worshipping. And I think that’s good and I think that’s valid. But we also need songs that focus our attention completely away from us, that attempt to describe what God is like, rather than just my experience of him. I think we need more songs that tell the story of the Christian faith, tell the story of what Jesus said and did and what’s in the Bible. Because, actually, our faith is not based on some vague concept of what God might be like; it’s based on human history, on things that actually happened on planet earth. So, I think things like that are important: certain themes that need to challenge us.
You naturally write a lot of worship music, but does your wife ever turn to you and say: “All this stuff about God is fine and well, but where’s my ‘Wonderful tonight’? Where are the songs about me?” [laughs] I can honestly say she’s never said that to me, no! I play songs for her, but they tend to be the worship songs, and if she thinks they’re okay, then they’re probably good. Whereas, if she is slightly more reserved about them then I think they’re not so good. I don’t know how my wife would react if I wrote a romantic song and played it for her. What would happen if she didn’t like it!
Interview by Jonathan Langley, BMS World Mission features writer and a curator for Threads (threadsuk.com)
Stuart Townend’s latest album, The Journey, is available from stuarttownend.co.uk along with details of upcoming performances.
Listen to the accompanying podcast at bmsworldmission.org/townend
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
GOD CAN USE YOU NO MATTER WHAT STAGE IN LIFE YOU’RE IN – AS THESE THREE ARTICLES HIGHLIGHT. FIRST OFF, LAURA-LEE LOVERING EXPLAINS WHY PERUVIANS CAN’T FIGURE HER OUT. After finding out where I’m from and my age, there are two more questions most commonly asked here in Amazonian Peru. Are you married? And, regardless of the answer, do you have any children? Questions not unusual anywhere in the world, except in Europe where a woman is rarely asked her age in public. What surprised me most is the regularity with which an unmarried, single woman is asked why she has no children. Young girls in the street look at each other, mildly perplexed by my response. So, for the record, I’m British, 31 years old, single and I have no children. Before coming to Peru in January 2012 as a BMS midterm volunteer, I spent about nine years wondering whether God really wanted me to go. I don’t consider myself to be archetypal missionary material – I’m not a preacher, teacher or nurse and I have an aversion to youth work. I’m an environmentalist, with degrees in biology and environmental science and a passion for God’s creation. Yet, after various short-term mission trips, I felt God draw me always to South America – Nicaragua, Chile, Panama, Costa Rica. All of these trips were good preparation for a general understanding of the ‘Latino culture’, the language and the questions. For many of the women here, becoming a single mum in your late teens is a common career option. Or if you’re a Christian, you get married young and have your first child soon after. I suppose I represent a strange third option. However it does mean that I can affirm to the young girls that I believe God would rather women had husbands before they had babies. And to the women, I can demonstrate having a worth before God and in his Church, which isn’t only based on having children. Praise him!
AGE IS NO BARRIER Kosovo: not necessarily the obvious destination for retired couple, Kitty and Sid. After two week-long visits to Kosovo, meeting the people and seeing the work, we felt strongly that we could, in some way, be of use here. A retired teacher and newsagent – and active grandparents used to mixing with adults and relating to children – we’ve been made so welcome. Also, older people are very respected here. We’re used to laughing at ourselves, which is really valuable when struggling to learn a foreign language at an age when you sometimes can’t remember your own. But the locals are so delighted when you try! What can older people bring out with them? Life experience, a listening ear and some timeout for others. We have had many inspiring, uplifting, emotional and frustrating experiences, and those amazing ‘coincidences’ that occur when God is involved. Whatever your age, if you want to enrich lives: ‘go for it’. We can show you at least two oldies who have been blessed in this way! Kitty and Sid, from Torquay, are spending a year as BMS volunteers in Kosovo.
A FAMILY AFFAIR Challenging but ultimately hugely rewarding: Pete Maycock’s guide to bringing up children overseas. Lizz and I came to Thailand as a couple in 2004. We’d been married for four years by then and our Thai friends thought that it was most unusual that we didn’t have any children yet. The level of public interest in our family plans was somewhat disconcerting! In November 2005, Abigail was born in Bangkok, followed by Jacob (2007) and Chloe (2011), both born in Chiang Mai, where we now live. Overall it’s been an extremely positive experience. Most Thais love kids and really don’t mind them being noisy or messy! Society is much more community-focused than the UK, which is great, but people freely get involved in how we choose to bring up our children! In many ways, our biggest sacrifices in being here involve our children. They don’t have easy access to grandparents and other relatives (and vice versa), they’re going through an education system quite different to the UK, and they are growing up as expat ‘third culture kids’. Of course, there are compensating factors – our children have a wonderful network of international friends, they are becoming fluent in a number of languages, and they have already travelled further and more widely than many people in the UK ever will. Living here in Thailand with our kids provides great potential for building and developing relationships that impact on people’s lives. Having a young family here immediately opens doors, breaks down barriers and creates instant bonds with others around us as we travel and meet new people. We’ve been able to visit families, become involved in their joys and sorrows. Being able to welcome others into our family home gives us a unique opportunity to hopefully to model what it means to live faithfully as Christian parents in a culture where that is sadly rarely seen. Any parents of young children considering mission opportunities overseas will naturally have a number of concerns and worries. That has been true for us. But I would stress that we have found parenting our children in a mission context to be an extremely rewarding and valuable experience.
CURRENT OPPORTUNITIES BMS is looking for people who are willing to work in the most marginalised and least evangelised parts of the world, sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom in the name of Jesus. We are looking for those who are able to serve both long-term (LT) which is five years-plus and mid-term (MT) covering two to four years. • Ministers, theologians and church planters (LT: Albania, Guinea, Thailand) • Development workers and project managers (LT: Afghanistan, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Guinea. MT: Nepal) • Social workers and mental health professionals (LT: Tunisia, Afghanistan) • Teachers and teacher trainers (LT: Afghanistan, Bangladesh. MT: Albania, Nepal, Bangladesh, Lebanon) • Doctors and medical professionals (LT: Chad, Tunisia, Afghanistan. MT: Bangladesh, Nepal, Lebanon) • TEFL/English teachers (LT/MT: China, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Guinea) • Administration, finance and technical support (MT: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal) • Engineers and business leaders (LT: Bangladesh)
REAL LIFE – NOT A LECTURE Go beyond what you learnt at university with BMS’ Development Intern Programme. We’ll give you vital hands-on experience of overseas development work, an opportunity to seriously enhance your CV for future employment and a way to deepen your faith, serve God and engage with his people. We want four students with an undergraduate degree or Masters in law, economics or development studies (or another related subject) to go to Uganda for six months from September 2013, with training in July. Find out more and download an application form at bmsworldmission.org/devinterns
Feel nudged by God to serve overseas? Find out more about our mission opportunities at
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
ORE M S I SSUE GAME. I S T GRAN OLITICAL CIAL I M M AN I ITALY’S P E SO F C H I T R F N O THE A PAWN IN EPORTS O NDREDS S HU TA NR RY’ S E O T U H S N J T N U THAN KAH SWA MPACT OF N THE CO ONTH. REBE IRITUAL I RIVING O EVERY M SP E AR SHORES L P AND O PE
magine going to sleep on a filthy mattress in an overcrowded tent – your face less than an inch away from the next person. The air is thick and heavy, smelling of sweat as no one has showered in days. You lie perfectly still, listening to the gentle hum of flies buzzing, and wonder if maybe this is all a dream. Did you really just flee your home country only to become trapped in another one? As you slowly drift to sleep you wonder about the family you left behind; are they still alive? But now is the time to think of how you will survive. Your few hours of sleep are quickly interrupted by the blazing hot sun pouring through the holes of your makeshift home. You clamber out of the tent, careful not to step on the countless bodies still trying to sleep before the tent becomes an unbearable sauna. There is no breakfast waiting for you, no shower and no clean clothes. You stand by the side of the road in the hope that someone will choose you for a day’s work. If you’re lucky you will get picked to do 12 hours of manual labour for less than the minimum wage. At the end of the day you make your way back to your tent, exhausted and defeated – defeated when you think that this is your life now. This is what you have to look forward to every day: exploitation, makeshift homes, a lack of sanitation and an ever-present uncertainty about your future.
For thousands of African immigrants, this is the life they face when their boats wash up onto the shores of Italy. Fleeing from war, political unrest, genocide, violence and famine, these immigrants have spent their life savings for this one journey – the journey they hope will change their lives forever. The journey is not an easy one. It involves an arduous trek to a port on the northern coast only, followed by a treacherous journey at sea. There is no telling where they will end up or whether they will see land again. In 2011 alone, over 1,500 migrants died at sea. Many of the fortunate ones land in Lampedusa – an island off the coast of Sicily. While grateful to see land, life in Europe is not what they hoped it would be. “We didn’t know Italy was like this,” says an immigrant from Burkina Faso. “We thought Italy was a country where we could find jobs. Now we see that it’s not like that, but we can’t go back home.” It comes as no surprise that these
An estimated one million African immigrants live in Italy. Around 640,000 of these originate from North Africa, chiefly Morocco. Of those immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, most come from Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana.
African immigrants have a fantasised view of European life. Coming from places of terror and violence there is no choice but to be hopeful. But, their first experience of Europe is an overcrowded detention centre. Many come with no identity documents so there is no telling how long they could be detained. They become stuck – forced to live life as an unwanted illegal immigrant, not allowed to move forward and never to go back. In these circumstances, life can seem bleak. Many immigrants find manual labour jobs on farms or factories, harvesting fruit or selling things on the streets. However, exploitation is a common problem and many immigrants never see a profit. Exploitation is not the only danger faced by African immigrants. With over 2,000 undocumented immigrants landing on European soil every month, the Italian government does not have the resources to keep a record of every one. This leads to disappearances and deaths going unnoticed and uninvestigated. Gangs and prostitute rings are common among the immigrants as they serve as a way to make money and protect themselves from those who make it blatantly obvious that they are not welcome. Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said in September 2012: “Italy is relatively generous in giving refugee status but very little after that”. He added, “The shocking situation of the estimated 800 recognised refugees and beneficiaries of international protection who occupy the so-called ‘Palace of Shame’ in Rome exposes the fate of deprivation that refugees often face in Italy.”
“They are scattered around the countryside living in old barns and other ex-dwelling places that are burnt out and condemned,” says David. “They have no running water, no toilet or washing facilities. They are dependent on the help they get from the groups like ourselves who collect money, clothes, beds and bedding.” The MacFarlanes are also involved in giving Italian lessons, so that, once the immigrants can speak Italian, they can apply for a visa which will enable them to move about the country more freely. “We want these men to have a good life,” says Ann, “one where they are not restricted in any way.” Another Christian response has come through Padre Carlo, a Catholic priest in Sicily, who opened his church’s doors to dozens of immigrants, providing them with a place to rest, to wash and to take solace. Despite opposition from parishioners who thought that the immigrants would defile the sacredness of their church, Padre Carlo insisted that they be given the same opportunities as any other citizen. He stuck to this principle even as he watched half of his congregation leave the church. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10: 27). Jesus proclaimed this as the way to inherit eternal life. Yet so many times we fall short of the second part. How often do we dismiss those people who are different from ourselves and write them off as the burden of someone else? These African immigrants are our neighbours. It is our responsibility, as Christians, to welcome them, to accept them, to help them and to love them wholeheartedly. The issue of African immigrants fleeing to Europe is not going to end anytime soon; the numbers increase monthly. The next time you meet an immigrant striving for a new life in a foreign land, how will you respond?
THEIR FIRST EXPERIENCE OF EUROPE IS AN OVERCROWDED DETENTION CENTRE.
THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11: 28). While there are some Italians who disapprove of the integration of African immigrants, there are others who are trying to ensure a safe and prosperous life for those in need. BMS World Mission workers Ann and David MacFarlane, are working in Rosarno, in the southern province of Reggio Calabria – a place where thousands of immigrants have set up a shanty town in order to be available for work during harvesting season.
Rebekah Swanson is a resource developer at the Global Refugee Centre in Colorado, USA, and visited Italy in April 2012 in her role as BMS World Mission’s intern writer.
BMS’ work in Italy dates back to the 19th century but, in more recent years, we’ve been sending church leaders to support the Baptist Union in Italy, and BMS Action Teams have provided a youth ministry in a country with the lowest birth rate in Europe. Find out more at bmsworldmission.org/italy
Photo of boat: © Giorgio Cardellini
Other photos: © No Borders Network
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
‘‘NEVER STOP PRAYING’’ (1 THESS 5: 17, NLT)
We would encourage you to photocopy this page, or to cut out the sections and use in your regular prayer times.
PLACES: Guinea “What makes you want to go back?” That question was put to BMS workers Simon and Solange Wood about Guinea on their recent home assignment. Guinea is a country plagued with political and economic problems and has a poor track record on human rights. Unicef reports that 63 per cent of the population live below the poverty line and access to health care and education is limited. In addition, Guinea is the least evangelised country in sub-Saharan Africa, with the evangelical Church constituting less that one per cent of the population. It’s a country in desperate need of a Christian response. That’s our reason for being there.
PRAY FOR: • Simon and Solange Wood: working with Guinean pastors to train church planters. • Eric and Sarah Harris-Bafende at the medical centre in Macenta (and their baby son Gabriel). Eric is a doctor and Sarah a project administrator. • Wisdom and guidance for national leaders.
PROJECTS: Big Life Ministries It’s hard to believe that, over 200 years after BMS’ first missionary arrived in India, there are still people in the West Bengal region of the country that have not heard the gospel of Christ. Fortunately, the legacy of William Carey lives on through the work of Big Life Ministries. Led by BMS Associate Team Leader, Benjamin Francis, Big Life is sharing the good news with the people of that region through church planting and evangelistic events. Many people have already come to faith as a result of this work, but there is much still to do, especially in the more rural villages and islands of the Sunderbans.
PRAY FOR: • Benjamin Francis and his team: for good health and strength as they travel around the region. • The people of the Sunderbans who have not yet heard the gospel – that they would be reached.
PEOPLE: Rebecca North Rebecca works at the Guinebor II hospital near the Chadian capital, N’Djamena. In her recent prayer letter she describes her work: “I have spent a lot of time with children with severe malnutrition. I support their mothers in giving their children enriched milk and other treatments to aid their recovery. While this is the part of my work I enjoy the most, it is also one of the hardest when a child dies. However, it is at times such as these that we are able to pray with the families and continue to work in seeking ways to improve our care so that hopefully fewer children will suffer in the future.”
Get regular prayer points and resources from BMS at bmsworldmission.org/prayer
PRAY FOR: • Rebecca’s relationships with Chadian staff and for language skills. • Families that suffer from malnutrition and for other patients at the hospital. • The continued work of Guinebor II hospital.
By Aidan Melville, sub-editor for the BMS Prayer Guide
REBORN IN CHRIST
HERE IS THE VERY MOMENT AT WHICH THIS NEPALI WOMAN’S LIFE STARTED AGAIN. Along with 14 others, she was baptised in a river set in the beautiful surroundings of the National Botanical Gardens in Godavari, an hour’s drive from Kathmandu.
on which caste they have come from or if no one in their family is already a Christian. In village life you may even become an outcast.”
“Becoming a Christian is not at all easy for a woman in Nepal,” says BMS worker Phil Rawlings, who took the photo. “Some have to give up their families completely depending
Please pray for this woman and all new Christians in Nepal – that they can be a light in their homes, so that others in their family will come to know Jesus too.
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
Have something to say about Engage magazine? Email us at email@example.com or write to us using the address on page 2.
It was the sub-title of the article by Fiona Castle, ‘A concern for carers’ (autumn 2012) – ‘understanding those whose lives are ‘on hold’ that immediately made me angry, though in the end I think there is much that is good in the article. But I would want to take issue with the idea that, for those who care, their lives are necessarily on hold. Indeed if this is what a carer feels, then society and the church have failed them badly. To be a carer, whether chosen or dictated by circumstances, should be honoured amongst us. Carers need to be listened to and support structures be available that empower them amidst their caring role.
I just wanted to express to you how much I am enjoying the new format of Engage. I enjoy all the articles, but one struck near to home in the autumn 2012 issue: Fiona Castle talks about carers and how we should look after them. I was the carer for my husband for four years, as he suffered with dementia. He died in December 2010, but I still recall how isolated I often felt. I am a member of a thriving Baptist church, but as I live several miles from the church, received very few visitors.
IF THIS IS WHAT A CARER FEELS, THEN SOCIETY AND THE CHURCH HAVE FAILED THEM BADLY.
I write as one who gave up full-time work to care for my father in the last five years of his life. This has been one of the most challenging things I have done, and I have valued the support of church and friends but my life has certainly not been on hold! With increasing numbers of frail elderly people in the population more and more of us will spend a season as a carer to a greater or lesser extent. There is plenty of room for better pastoral support for carers as they live out their loving commitment to another but let us beware of patronising comments that imply that to be a carer is of necessity to be less than fully themselves. Yours faithfully
Rev Ruth Bottoms
I have recently read an article in a national newspaper, highlighting the plight of many of our elderly people in the UK who are not given sufficient care. Professional carers are not given enough time to adequately cover the many basic requirements of so many of our old people. We send mission personnel abroad to serve those in need of their care, but we have a mission sitting right here on our doorstep.
Dear Editor Many congratulations on producing the new Engage magazine. I have been reading BMS magazines for some 60 years and, at last, here is a publication that I enjoy reading and find hard to put down.
Pastor Michael Mortimer
Read Ruth’s further reflections on this subject at bmsworldmission.org/carers We do not have space to include all readers’ correspondence that we receive and letters that are printed may be edited for publication.
Wanted: servant-hearted, flexible Christians with the skills and gifts to match our overseas partners’ needs and willing to volunteer from three months to two years.
“If you have skills that could be used overseas, then take a risk and step out into a new adventure.” Andy & Norma, short-term workers in Afghanistan
Join the adventure at bmsworldmission.org/shortterm
© Penny Mathews
Prayer Our father in heaven, thank you that I can call you father, just as Jesus did. Thank you for sending your son to earth, and that you understand everything I go through. When I feel isolated or weak or tempted, remind me that you’ve felt the same. Help me to approach you confidently. May I know Jesus’ humanity just as much as his deity. Amen.
The Word Jesus is fully God and fully man… yes we all know that. But what does it actually mean that Jesus was a person of two distinct natures, both essentially God and completely human? Why was it so important that his humanity was authentic, and how did he live that out?
Man of emotions | Priest Jesus was no automaton, but a fully emotional being. On seeing the grief of his dear friend at Lazarus’ death, his chest heaved from weeping (Jn 11). He was affected by life’s ups and downs, and so is qualified to understand our emotions, show compassion, minister grace, be our caring pastor and great high priest (Heb 4: 15).
Friendship and popularity | Prophet Jesus was the guy ‘sinners’ invited to their parties. He drew crowds of thousands, enjoyed the company of his best friends, and yet he spoke words that cut to the core. To the woman at the well, he accepted her hospitality but spoke directly of the lifestyle she must leave behind (Jn 4). Just like many Old Testament prophets who spoke the words of God with power and called people to repentance, he was killed for his message and claims.
What on earth did we do to deserve the Son of God who came to earth. Two thousand years ago, to save, to serve, not to be served? Nothing at all. Nothing in fact save sin and sin again, ten thousand times ten thousand. And yet in love he came and gave his life to save the sons of men, that we may live and have eternal life, and laugh and love and learn to serve the Lamb of God who lived on earth. He came to give and yet we take. Let’s make his sacrifice complete by our surrender at his feet, that he may take our lives and make sweet offering for another’s sake. We’ll please him with our sacrifice as we’ve been spared through his. Janet Carleton, Engage reader
Flesh that failed | King As a human in a natural body, Jesus experienced the usual patterns of dependency, growth, hunger, pain and death. But alongside this weakness he was also majestic (2 Cor 13: 4), the King of Kings, the Lord of the dead and the living (Rom 14: 9), holding ultimate authority over everything in the world and in our lives. If we ever find ourselves thinking of God as far off and uninterested in our lives, we can remember Jesus who knows our experience.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not
sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb 4: 15-16)
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE? Former Bishop of Durham, author of countless books, both popular and academic, theologian and leading New Testament scholar, the Rt Rev Tom Wright is one of Britain’s most influential Christian thinkers.
Photo © Alex Baker (www.studiojoslizen.com)
IN JUDGEMENT AFTER LIFE, PHARISEES AND RESURRECTION AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR MISSION: TOM WRIGHT TALKS ABOUT DEATH. You’ve written before that the apostle Paul’s background as a Pharisee meant he believed in bodily resurrection. How does that affect Christian thought? For many Evangelical Christians, often the word ‘resurrection’ simply functions as a metaphor for life after death or going to heaven. And really, when you examine the way the New Testament uses it, it’s not like that at all. There are lots of hymns which have instantiated this: ‘may we go where He is gone, rest and reign with him in heaven’. Excuse me, the reign is not in heaven. The reign is on the new earth, as it says in the book of Revelation. The point about resurrection is that it’s part of a very this-worldly view of salvation. God is going to redeem this
world. He’s going to transform this world. So, then, if great uncle Joe is persecuted for his faith and burnt at the stake, or whatever, when God makes the new world, great uncle Joe is going to have to be raised from the dead. Actually, the great Old Testament emphasis on the goodness of creation and on God’s love for creation and God’s celebration of creation comes right the way through that. When you put that together with persecution, horror, war and death, you’re going to end up with resurrection. Which is where [the Pharisees] do end up. However, the thing to remember is that what Paul articulates about Jesus’ resurrection is significantly different from anything that he’d believed as
a Pharisee. Partly because nobody imagined that one person would be raised from the dead ahead of time. It was something that was going to happen to all God’s people at the end. And Paul has it that it’s one person now and everyone else later. The resurrection of Jesus only makes sense within a Pharisaic worldview, but it also bursts the Pharisaic worldview itself apart. John Polkinghorne speaks of the soul being an incredibly complex bundle of information about who we truly are. Is that something that resonates with you? Yes. I am always wary about using the word ‘soul’ because, for generations, Christians have used it in a thoroughly
Platonic sense, which is without justification in Scripture. In Scripture where the word occurs it is used basically heuristically, just as a way of talking about who you really are in the presence of God. But it doesn’t define it as ‘the soul is immortal, you had it from all eternity and you will have it to all eternity’. In fact, Paul himself says only God has immortality and he gives it to people rather than everyone being born with an immortal soul already. So, the word ‘soul’ is quite a useful word for talking about the ‘real us’ which God looks after between our death and resurrection. I’ve heard Polkinghorne himself use the computer metaphor: that God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the software again. Fine. That’s another metaphor. We need to explore these possible ways of saying it while recognising that there is an appropriate reticence. We need to say something about this, but part of being creatures is admitting there are things that we actually don’t know, but towards which we can put up signposts.
like that famous misquote from the sermon 100 years ago: ‘death is nothing at all. Don’t worry about it’. And so the pictures of hellfire and judgement and that reaction to them are both there in ancient paganism. So, when Christians talk about judgement, we shouldn’t confuse it with those visions – which sadly has often been done. It’s quite clear that if the new creation is a creation in which God’s life and love will be fully and finally instantiated forever, then all the things which corrupt, deface, distort and destroy God’s amazing beautiful creation – including, particularly, his amazing beautiful human creatures – must be ruled out. And if people, including Christians, have bought into behaviour patterns or systems which have contributed to the defacing, destroying and corruption of creation, then God has to say no to that. Now, in 1 Corinthians 3, Paul has an image which is actually about Christian teachers who are building on the foundation: what sort of Church are you building? We can cautiously apply that to Christians in general, though Paul doesn’t do that. But if we do, what we see is a picture where he talks about the fire which is coming as a purifying fire and all the stuff that you built into the building which actually can’t stand, the fire is going to be burnt up. Though he then says: “yet he himself
THE RESURRECTION MEANS MISSION NEVER GOES INTO ENTIRELY VIRGIN TERRITORY.
There’s been a lot written recently about judgement after death. Some of us are quite reticent to talk about it and others focus almost entirely on it. What form does judgement take for Christians? It’s difficult to talk about judgement because those of us who are Western Christians have grown up in a world which still resonated with a lot of medieval stuff and a lot of Victorian stuff about hell and hellfire and demons torturing people. A lot of that language goes back in the first century, not to early Christian literature, but to the pagan literature of the time. And it’s very interesting that Lucretius, the great Roman philosopher who wrote De rerum natura (the great poem about Epicureanism) in the middle of the first century, did that as a reaction against Roman pagan visions of hell and postmortem judgement. He wrote it to say,
will be saved but only as through fire”, which, as a Christian teacher myself is a very, very scary thing. You think: “What have I been teaching people? What have I been doing? What kind of a Church have I been helping to build?” Elsewhere, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 and Romans 14 that we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ or of God so that we may each receive the things done in the body. Now, you can see that in terms of a kind of lining up for the Great Assize: “Okay you did the following 93 naughty things and 25 good things, therefore…” I don’t think that’s really what it’s like. We are all in the process of, by our choices and behaviour patterns, making ourselves who we are becoming. We are choosing to become a certain type of person and everything is cumulative. [Judgement is] God’s proper, truthful testimony to ‘this is the sort of person you have made yourself’. And that is very scary. Christians find it hard to talk about that because we believe in justification by faith. We believe that God has grabbed you by his grace, saved you, and Paul says, “therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ”. Nevertheless, the same Paul who says that also does talk about standing before the judgement seat. Somehow, if we are to be true to the balance of Scripture, we have to tell both of those stories at the same time. This article first appeared in Mission Catalyst, issue 1, 2013. Jonathan Langley, BMS World Mission’s features writer and a regular blogger for The Huffington Post, was talking to Tom Wright at Greenbelt Festival
is a magazine for Christian thought leaders. Challenging, informative and mission-centred, it is essential reading for the thinking Christian. To subscribe or find out more, go to:
bmsworldmission.org/catalyst Join the debate at facebook.com/BMSMissionCatalyst
WINTER ISSUE2012/13 3 | 2012 || ENGAGE ENGAGE
JUSTICE THROUGH THE
EYES OF A CHILD EVERYTHING I’D FORGOTTEN ABOUT JUSTICE, I RE-LEARNED THROUGH MY SIX-YEAR-OLD SON.
arlier this year, my little boy Joel raised over £6,000 for a relief and development charity. That’s about £5,950 more than I’ve raised through every sponsored swim, silence and famine of my life combined. How did he raise so much? Simply, he realised that injustice – poverty specifically – exists, and decided to do something about it. He planned his own sponsored run; we put something on my blog about it, and set out to raise his original target of £60. Here’s some of what Joel asked me to write on that blog: “I watched a video about people who are poor, and I want to help them… There has to be somewhere for them to live like a proper house, and I want someone to give them lots to eat… I’ve got so many toys at home, and they’ve got none. It isn’t fair that they drink dirty water, and we get clean water from our taps.” Then something amazing happened. Joel’s short dictated paragraph struck a chord with literally thousands of people all around the world. Overnight, fuelled by the support of comedian James Corden, he became an internet fundraising sensation. Within a couple of days, the bulk of that enormous sum had been raised. We all know evil exists, but sadly we can become desensitised to it. Sometimes it takes the shock of a child’s first exposure to injustice to provide the prophetic voice that shakes us out of our compassion fatigue. Joel inspired so many people – myself included – not because he grasped the idea that the world isn’t just, but because, in doing so, he reminded us that we’re meant to try to change it for the better.
IT ISN’T FAIR THAT THEY DRINK DIRTY WATER.
Martin Saunders is the editor of Youthwork magazine and co-founder of the Youthwork Summit. Follow him on twitter @martinsaunders
WEIRD AND WONDERFUL CURES
In Afghanistan, do not eat melon and drink tea at the same sitting or you will explode!
Also in Afghanistan, strap a cow poo to your stomach to cure diarrhoea!
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Pain cures from Peru 1: for chronic back pain, eat three to four raw eggs every morning and you’ll never have another day of pain!
Pain cures from Peru 2: put coca leaves on any part of your body that ails you. You often see people walking around with leaves stuck to their faces. To cure drought in Brazil, steal a baby Jesus from the arms of a St Joseph statue, without the saint’s owner realising. When the owner discovers the theft and who did it, hold a procession to place the baby back, at which point it will rain again. Pregnancy and childbirth in Tunisia: if you are pregnant, spend a lot of time staring at someone you like the look of and your child will be born with those characteristics.
Pregnancy and childbirth in Afghanistan: if your wife faints whilst giving birth, fire a gun next to her ear to bring her round!
In Nepal, heavy silver anklets straighten babies’ legs and aid walking.
© Jasleen Kaur
Also in Nepal, to stop babies blowing raspberries when you are feeding them take them into the rain.
If a Tunisian child has chicken pox dress them all in red. The red in the clothes will draw out the red of the spots and the child will heal quicker.
Thanks to Anne, Mark, Fran Gaunt, James Henley & Daveen Wilson.
AND REASON With more hits on YouTube than many international preachers and pop stars, Jefferson Bethke could be described as famous. Not heard of him? He won’t mind – he wants people talking more about Jesus than himself.
efferson Bethke is a Christian evangelist and spokenword poet who penned the viral sensation Why I hate religion, but love Jesus. Three days after its release this year, the video had received six million views, 64,000 comments and a whole host of responses on YouTube including: Why I love religion, and love Jesus too, Why I hate religion, and hate Jesus too and Why I hate religion, but love Jesus – a Muslim response. Jefferson is still young (22), but his spiritual fervour, natural evangelistic abilities and ‘way with words’ all come from a journey of “…trying to be good and earn God’s favour [which] didn’t work and trying to drown out my conscience with worldly hedonism [which] didn’t work either.” It was at college that Jefferson finally saw a God who I’d never seen before – “a God who was compassionate but also controversial. A God who died for my sins on the cross knowing full well I’d not want him most of my life… I grasped grace, fell in love and started following him.” And this is the God that Jefferson wants to tell the world about through his poetry. He has already gathered many fans through his poetry by making God feel accessible to a disillusioned generation. His style is young, fresh and easy to understand. He writes intentionally for “the college demographic… people on the fringes with God; people who have heard it the same way a million times; people who don’t feel loved by God or who think they have sinned too much.” What he wants from his poetry is that people will get “a deeper sense of God’s grace… and that people would see Jesus as more precious and beautiful than they had before”. However, despite huge support, Jefferson has encountered heavy criticism for Why I hate religion, but love Jesus. It has been argued that there are theological inaccuracies in his poem giving people a licence to hate church. Jefferson has
entered into a dialogue with his critics, accepting some of their wisdom but reminds us that Christian scholars were never his intended audience. Referring to his most famous poem he says: “Did I write it for theologians? No… Have I grown and accepted a lot of their feedback? Totally!” So, with the world (or over 21 million people at least) interested in his poetry and people ready to dissect his art, has Jefferson’s freedom in being able to write and perform what is on his heart been tempered? “I certainly feel the weight of it,” he admits, “but I also try to make sure that, regardless, I’m still writing for an audience of One.” Does he believes his poems are ‘divinely inspired’? Surprisingly he says: “I haven’t thought about it much to be honest. I’m always in the Word, fellowship, [my] church community etc and I think my poems spill over from that.” A very matter-of-fact and humble stance for someone who receives regularly emails like this: “I went back to church today... I didn’t go for so long because my trials left me with little-to-no faith and I felt ashamed for doubting God. But your poem helped me remember that the church is a place for the BROKEN!” Jefferson, through his poetry, is helping people find their way back to God and back to church. So, yes, go through his poetry with a theological fine toothcomb if you are so inclined, but perhaps it’s best to take DL Moody’s stance and say: “I like his way of doing evangelism better then your way of not doing it”.
“I’m still writing for an audience of One.”
Report by Sally Buchan, Engage magazine’s Arts Editor
Go to Jefferson’s website at jeffbethke.com or following him on Twitter @JeffersonBethke
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
Heaven is for real Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent Book
Thomas Nelson, £9.99
Review by Geneve Neil,
24-27 August 2012
Smartphone & tablet app
Rating: After a few years away from the scene, the attraction of Greenbelt 2012 for me was the music. Monday ‘folk day’ rounded off some excellent mixtures of styles and genres suitable for all, with Bellowhead as inspired final headliners – getting people dancing in the accumulated mud of several days. The festival continues its enormous breadth of music, talks and art – definitely too much for one person, always challenging and inspiring, occasionally surprising or infuriating. The partnerships with other organisations worked well: particular thanks to the Mothers’ Union for a great kids space and Christian Aid for a solid floor to their café! One wonders what the (as I understand it) evangelical founders of the festival would make of the now broadly ‘liberal inclusive’ feeling to the event, typified, in my mind, by Rev Richard Coles of Radio 4 fame, available at several talks. I’m sure they would recognise the openness and welcome to all, represented by the irrepressible stewards, undeterred by hail and lightening. They would surely cringe inwardly at bits of the Sunday communion liturgy, but approve of the brilliant all-age songs from Fischy Music. Greenbelt is 40 next year – still alive, still growing, still impossible to pin down. Try it yourself!
BMS Church Partners administrator
Rating: When CS Lewis talked about the claims of Jesus he said that they could only have been from a “lunatic, liar or Lord” – meaning what Jesus said was either crazy, misleading or true. The same applies to this book – is it either deliberately falsified or true? If it is true the implications are amazing! Heaven is for real is about Colton, a four year-old boy who becomes critically ill while on a family holiday. His father (whose perspective the book is written from) describes seeing the “shadow of death” on his son’s face. Several months after this harrowing experience Colton begins to open up about where he went during his near-death experience. Colton describes in amazing detail about meeting Jesus and being introduced to his great grandfather who had died before he was born. For his parents the real authentication comes when their son describes what they were doing in the hospital while he was unconscious and having surgery. Colton paints a vivid picture of eternity and, more than anything, just wants everyone to know that Jesus loves them. The messages are simple but if you need to get a glimpse of heaven through innocent eyes I would recommend this book.
Rating: There’s something surreal about a pop-up message asking you to rate the Bible when reading the scriptures. That’s exactly what happened to me recently when using YouVersion’s Bible on the iPhone. If BibleGateway changed the way we access the Word online, then Bible will revolutionise the way we read it on our mobile phones or tablets. A whole host of translations are available, including the latest version of the NIV. Many versions have an audio option that allows you to listen to the word as you commute to work. And it’s easy to share what you’ve just read on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Bible also offers a range of study plans to help you organise when and how to read scripture – a useful tool for the 21st century believer. Despite all it has to offer, I wouldn’t retire my leather-bound NIV just yet. The more popular versions such as the NIV and NLT require an active internet connection. The interface is also on the clunky side and some features require a YouVersion account. This allows you to create notes or add bookmarks, which is a nice idea, but can be a bit of a faff. Like BibleGateway, Bible is great as a reference tool but no substitute for the real thing. Bible is available for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone and other smartphones, as well as for the iPad. Review by Aidan Melville, BMS design technician
Hitting the iTunes pop charts at number 29 on its first day of release, Lynsey Berry’s eponymous EP has landed. Already a popular worship leader and session singer, Lynsey decided (thankfully) not to ‘cashin’ and create a traditional worship album but instead a collection of tracks telling of her real loves, hopes and heartbreaks – with not even a hint that, because she’s a Christian, life hasn’t been difficult! This debut EP bursts to life with the standout single Crossfire – a catchy pop/country ditty with a rousing chorus and anthemic “woah woah” punctuating an altogether loveable song. All this time is the other favourite track for me – a classic and emotive first-dance choice for any wedding that needs an alternative to Shania Twain’s You’re still the one. Lynsey’s voice is easy on the ear – a melodic, Radio 2-type favourite that would sit comfortably amongst Amy MacDonald and James Morrison on a playlist. The production and musicians are something of a music industry dream – with cowriter and producer Øyvind Aamli (Athlete, Kylie Minogue), drummer Troy Miller (Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson), bassist Chris Hill (Jamie Cullum) and strings player Liz Liew (Gnarls Barkley, Nelly Furtado) raising the calibre of a project that could have so easily relied on a local church ensemble. Let’s hope the album is not too far away.
Review by Malcom Edge,
Review by Sally Buchan,
BMS financial services team leader
Engage magazine arts editor
Five minutes with...
HIS GOSPEL BAND RIVERSONGZ SOLD OUT THE
HAMMERSMITH APOLLO AND HIS TELEVISION SHOW HAS 70 MILLION VIEWERS WORLDWIDE. MUYIWA OLAREWAJU TALKS FAVOURITE SONGS AND FATHERHOOD WITH LORETTA ANDREWS. Do you see yourself as a singer/artist or worship leader? A worship leader: I studied music but I find leading worship more fulfilling. You work in music, radio, TV and you’re a husband and father – how do you do it all? Without a doubt I could do none of it without the support of my wife. She is a very strong woman. She gets on with things and takes a lot of the strain. What’s been your highlight of 2012? Our album went straight into Amazon’s world music chart at number five but the high point has to be selling out the Hammersmith Apollo – the first time in two decades that any UK Christian artist has done that apart from Delirious. To see white people, black people, old people and young people all singing together was incredible! Of all the songs you’ve written, which is the most special? A song called Safe in his arms, which captures some of my own story. The last time I saw my parents was at the age of nine and they both died before I was reunited with them. Many nights, as a teenager in particular, I felt alone. At 16 I remember walking along Tower Bridge, looking at the Thames and thinking, “It’s all too much; I just want to jump in”. The lyrics in that song remind me that “I’m safe in his arms/I will see no harm”. What has fatherhood taught you about life and faith? One of the many things having children has taught me is the words of the song: “How deep the Father’s love for us,
how vast beyond all measure” because as troublesome as my son might be, I can’t get enough of him.
Do you have a favourite Bible verse? Psalm 27: 1 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear”. My father gave me that Psalm the last time I saw him and I didn’t realise then the impact or significance it would have for me. Favourite mainstream/secular song? At one of my lowest times I remembered thinking “this has to stop” and I knew it had to start from the inside out. I went into the bathroom and sang the Labi Siffre song Something inside so strong to myself. What are you excited about at the moment? My work on Premier Gospel Radio – Latin, Jazz and African… we’ve got it all! Also apart from Riversongz, I present a television show called Turning Point created by CBN in America. It’s said to have over 70 million viewers all over the world, which is exciting. After an achievement like selling out the Hammersmith Apollo, what could possibly be next for Muyiwa & Riversongz? We’re going to do a smaller, more intimate UK tour and then next year we might do the Indig02. Then I think the year after we might go for the arena!
Loretta Andrews is a freelance writer, radio producer and presenter
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
IDEAS FOR STUFF FOR
YOUR CHURCH BIRTHDAY SCHEME ACTIVITY
Party time! Work closely with your Birthday Scheme secretary to invite existing Birthday Scheme members, and potential new and younger recruits, to a weekend birthday tea party. Make the party relevant for the people likely to come and think creatively. Here are some ideas: •D esign a ‘What year?’ quiz suitable for your age mix of people, available from http://bit.ly/whatyear •D ownload and use the Birthday lifesaver game: bmsworldmission.org/lifesavergame
•P lay some birthday games (eg pass the parcel), which end up with a prize of some sweets •S how Birthday Scheme videos – Prescription for life or Inspiring smiles (see http://bit.ly/birthdayvideos) •T o give a party atmosphere order some BMS balloons from BMS Resources on 01235 517617 The most important thing is to make the party fun – whilst introducing a serious opportunity to be a lifesaver on your birthday.
BMS mission workers are not superhuman beings with amazing powers. They are ordinary people just like you and me, who have chosen to follow God’s call to dedicate their lives to helping others. All of us are capable of doing God’s work and giving hope to those around us.
You will need: The PowerPoint ‘Inspiring Hope’, downloaded from Issue 22 bmsworldmission.org/face Ask the congregation if they know of places where BMS mission workers are bringing God’s hope to? Once everyone has had a chance to answer, show the PowerPoint. These are just some of the situations in which BMS personnel are giving hope to the vulnerable, poor and hurting people of our world.
Encourage people to pray for BMS mission workers and for themselves. Remind them that if we have faith in God, he can give us hope. This activity is from the BMS all-age resource FACE
FUNDRAISING Plastic fantastic Thank you to all the churches that used thirsty for harvest. A special thank you to Kidlington Baptist Church who sent us this picture of their plastic bottle sculpture made by their young people.
Baking for BMS Congratulations to the members of Junior Outback at Halton Baptist Church – Lauren aged 11, Annie aged 10 and Luke aged 11! They raised £64.19 from a cake sale and donated the money to support the work of Scott and Anjanette Williamson in Peru.
MEET A… BMS 24:7 PARTNER
Our survey says… In 2011, we surveyed Baptist churches to gain a deeper understanding of how best to develop Link Up to better suit today’s changing needs. In the relationship survey we asked: ‘Does your church currently have a link mission worker?’ We discovered that 70% of respondents did have link workers.
Barbara Rainbow Who are you? I am a member of Charlton Kings Baptist Church, Cheltenham, where I am the BMS representative and church secretary. I work at the local university on the support staff. I’ve been married for 40 years and have two sons and four grandchildren.
Where have you been with BMS? My personal contact with BMS began when my minister challenged our church to get involved in mission and step out of our comfort zones. In 2001, I went on a Summer Team to Nigeria, followed by teams to Thailand (2002) and India (2004). In fact, I’ve returned to India on a Summer or Church Team almost every year since! BMS support and training is excellent.
Why are you a BMS 24:7 Partner? I became a 24:7 Partner in 2008 because I support all the ministries in which BMS personnel are involved and I particularly like BMS’ mission statement: ‘with people as our primary agents of change’. I think the work that BMS does is brilliant!
In February 2012, BMS Trustees approved the development of a programme to replace Link Up that would offer relationship opportunities to all churches and maintain existing, highly-valued relationships that are already part of Link Up. The emphasis with BMS Church Partners is on partnering in mission. We want to encourage an active relationship in which a church’s support in terms of prayer and funding actually delivers mission according to the church’s interests. Churches can focus their partnership through any mix of a region, ministry or people. In whatever way a church decides to express its focus, it will receive:
Also from the survey we learnt that: •6 7% of churches give BMS top or high priority in their commitment to world mission. • Churches’ principal motivations for financially supporting BMS are that they’re passionate about world mission; because BMS does world mission well and because they’re Baptist. • Top three preferences of communication from BMS are: speakers, mission workers’ prayer letters and videos on DVD. We really value opinions from people like you and began to develop our new programme BMS Church Partners using the feedback from that survey. Thank you.
•P rayer letters, blog updates and video messages from mission workers • Email updates on your area of interest •T he chance to request a BMS speaker to visit your church •A live feed from the BMS website, tailored to your mission passions BMS Church Partners is new and exciting. Find out more by visiting our website at bmsworldmission.org/churchpartners
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
BMS WORKER PROFILE Tasha Shemwell Aid worker and adventure-seeker Tasha Shemwell reveals her love of Shrek, slings and Celine Dion – and how God spoke to her through the Asian tsunami. Why Jesus? I heard God’s voice for the first time the day the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami hit Asia and just knew I had to go and help. As a non-Christian, I did some NGO aid work in south east Asia for eight months and returned home. I started to explore different world faiths and eventually found that the only thing that really made sense and got me excited was when I started learning about Jesus, and going to church. I made my commitment to Christ in 2009 and went on my first short-term mission trip to Asia in 2010. How did becoming a Christian change you? I have a deeper connection with people and my emotions have definitely been softened! I always said that ‘everything is for a reason’ when bad things happened – I now know that the reason is Jesus! I have a sense of peace that my life is valued by a greater being, and that it can be used to help others. You’re an occupational therapist: what motivates you to persevere when you have a challenging patient who’s not making progress? It depends on how you define progress. It can be frustrating to not see evidence of your hard work. However, I feel that there is a great power in spending time with people and listening. Sometimes this is where the therapy happens without us even realising!
There is a great power in spending time with people and listening. Why mission work with BMS? BMS was suggested by a mission worker in our church who said he thought I’d be perfect for it! Having always had a heart for overseas aid work it was a dream really to think I might be able to do it full-time, instead of coming and going doing short missions. Your son Archie was born in February 2012: how has parenthood changed you and your husband Sean the most? Realising that we are responsible for the life of another human being and how important it is to seek God in the decisions that we make. Having Archie to love has given me a closer understanding of quite how much God loves me as his child. Where in the world would you most like to visit? The bottom of the ocean! There is a whole weird world down there that we know nothing about!
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? A bungee-jump in New Zealand – 134 metres above the Nevis river! What new skill would you like to learn? How to stitch (a person, not some cloth!). What’s your all-time favourite film? Shrek – all of them. What would Sean say is your worst habit? Procrastinating (with packing and decision-making). What was the first CD you bought? I confess – I think it was the soundtrack to ‘Titanic’. Sky-diving or caving? Sky-diving Singing or dancing? Singing Pushchairs or slings? Slings A Chinese or a curry? Curry
Tasha Shemwell and her husband Sean are BMS mid-term mission workers based in Asia. They have a young son, Archie. Their home church is Chard Baptist Church.
Nabil K Costa
Lebanese Baptist leader
50 YEARS AGO
THE GNAWING PAIN OF
COWARDICE? WISE RESPONSES TO A FOOLISH FILM.
hey have it wrong! The movie trailer Innocence of Islam is in its entirety an act of cowardice, not bravery! Courage is when you’re ready to face up to your actions, not when you act foolishly, from a safe distance, and leave others to suffer the consequences. Praise God for Muslim leaders in Lebanon who were proactive in alerting their followers that those behind the film are not Christians, otherwise God only knows how bad a situation we would have found ourselves in. Praise God as well for those Christian leaders who were quick to condemn this act. In fact, a ChristianMuslim summit convened in Lebanon and the participants denounced the film and “stressed that violating the sanctity of any religion is a violation to all religions”. It is important to understand that religion in our part of the world is at the core of who we are. Our religion is part of our identity, our values… it is not something simple to attack one’s religion. Watching the resultant chain of reactions in the news brought to memory the words of wisdom of my parents as my brothers and I were growing up. Words such as: “Weigh your actions before you make a move”. Also, “Your freedom should not be at the expense of the freedom of others”. Scripture says it all: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1: 7). May the Lord deliver us from the latter.
RELIGION IS AT THE CORE OF WHO WE ARE.
Starvation is a harsh reality that millions of people worldwide have endured for centuries. With earth’s population constantly increasing, what can Christians do to help those suffering? It’s certainly not a new question.
an we as Christians forget the gnawing pain of hunger which daily attacks nearly two-thirds of the world’s peoples? The Hindu peasant is a typical sufferer, but he is only one of millions in India and Pakistan alone. They daily scrape an existence from the soil, and in a bad year when floods have devastated their land or drought has shrivelled up their crops, they die of starvation. Continual malnutrition makes them prey to every conceivable disease. For many like them there is no escape, no future save from an early grave. Our world is one in which the population is rapidly growing. Practically every time your clock ticks there will be another mouth to feed.” “The trek into Kibentele [D R Congo] begins early each Wednesday,
and by 9.00am the grass at the back of the house is crammed full of people. They are not quiet and orderly by any means; the adults push for first place, arguing in loud voices, while the children fight and quarrel and the babies yell. Hunger is not pleasant. When food distribution does begin, pandemonium reigns. Our property is disregarded as crowds mill up the steps onto the veranda knocking over flower boxes in the rush, or helping themselves to our dwindling water supply at the end of the dry season. No, hunger is not pleasant.” These are extracts from articles written by BMS workers G Prosser and Elizabeth Gill, and which first appeared in Missionary Herald, February & May 1963.
Nabil K Costa is the executive director of BMS partner LSESD, a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance and a trustee of BMS World Mission.
WINTER 2012 /13 | ENGAGE
AS A CHRISTIAN MISSION ORGANISATION WE AIM TO SHARE LIFE IN ALL ITS FULLNESS WITH THE WORLD’S PEOPLES BY: ENABLING THEM TO KNOW CHRIST, ALLEVIATING SUFFERING AND INJUSTICE, IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF LIFE WITH PEOPLE AS OUR PRIMARY AGENTS OF CHANGE – MOTIVATING, TRAINING, SENDING AND RESOURCING THEM.
The Persecuted Church, immigrants in Italy, Stuart Townend, Tom Wright & Jefferson Bethke - all featured in our winter issue of Engage magaz...