How Will We Know If Transformation is Happening

Stantheurbancheguy's Blog

We have already looked at Why It is Important to Look for Transformation and some broad questions that might be asked. Now let us look at Indicators, their definition and use.

The content on indicators in general comes from the article, Measuring the World. Indicators, Human Rights, and Global Governance by Sally Engle Merry,Current Anthropology, Vol. 52, No. S3, Corporate Lives: Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

Indicators are rapidly multiplying as tools for assessing and promoting a variety of social justice and reform strategies around the world. There are indicators of rule of law, indicators of violence against women, and indicators of economic development, among many others. Indicators are widely used at the national level and are increasingly important in global governance. Development agencies such as the World Bank have created a wide range of indicators, including indicators of…

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“Misteryosong Sakit sa Pangasinan”?

Guys… Calm Down for a Minute… Please…

In just the last few hours I have gotten over 4000 hits on my blog because of the supposed existence of flesh-eating bacteria in Pangasinan. Even though this sort of thing stuff is not really my thing (I write mostly on missiology and contextual theology), it has become a hot topic. I have always been a skeptic of this, and remain so. The person who describes himself as a prophet does not have a good record for accurate prophecies. Therefore, I would not consider him a prophet of God. However, on Bandila (on ABS-CBN) a short video came up about a flesh-eating bacteria in Pangasinan (thus the hits on my site). Actually, they say it is not known what it is… maybe leprosy… maybe psoriasis… maybe something else. Maybe known, maybe unknown. The cases are few and the research early.

I really have no idea what to make of it. I know there was the video (on February 24th, 2014) but I did not see it… just read some excerpts about it. I don’t see anything on the Department of Health (Philippines) website about such a thing. I live a little over an hour from Pangasinan and have heard nothing of this. I have friends in Sta Barbara, Pangasinan (a supposed center of this) and I have heard nothing from them. Skin diseases are pretty common here in the Philippines… so it takes awhile to figure out what is a problem and what isn’t (all three of my children have atopic dermatitis, which can be confused with other skin ailments).

If it is true, it will stand up to scrutiny. If not, it will disappear. Northern Luzon periodically gets scares… leprosy, leptospirosis, dengue (big problem), and meningo. Some are real problems that are reported, but some are more hype than help. The alleged prophecy says that the disease is supposed to spread out from Pangasinan to other parts of the world, so if it is real, you won’t miss it. If it isn’t real, let it go… it won’t be missed.

As Christians, let’s have just a wee bit of patience. Already seeing wild and weird responses on this on Another one with wild responses on both sides:

Either way, don’t go to blogsites (including my own) to check things like this… there is far too much of a tendency to pool ignorance and push an agenda. Go to reputable health news sources. Christians should not be tossed about like foam on the ocean by rumors and sensationalizing journalism. If the hype stands up to scrutiny, then fine–let it stand. Recalling the various doomsday prophecies in the last few years… it is time for Christians to GROW UP and analyze things first to see what is true and what is false… what is from God, what is from Satan, and what is from our own overactive imaginations.

I can’t predict the future (and neither can you) so just wait a bit and see what happens.

…or as We Think It Should Be.

Three beliefs about missionaries that I have heard that  I think are… at least doubtful.

1. Is it true that strong and successful missionaries are highly pietistic? Are missionaries more spiritual than others? I doubt it, but it is hard to define what exactly “spiritual” pertains to. But let’s consider two choices:

     (a)  Spiritual means more fervent in spiritual disciplines. That comes to us from Pietism. A more spiritual person prays more, reads the Bible more, worships more, meditates more, and fasts more than others.  Do missionaries do this more than others? Not that I have noticed. Missionaries tend to be more pragmatic in their faith… more task and service oriented. Now I do believe we need to have a healthy relationship with God. And I do believe that Bible study, prayer, corporate worship, and meditation (I am pretty doubtful about dietary fasting) are part of a healthy disciplined Christian life– in balance at least with other healthy parts of one’s life.  But if “spirituality” is linked to spiritual disciplines, I think it is safe to say that missionaries are not typically all that spiritual. ( If they are big on spiritual disciplines, they keep that area of their lives private.)

     (b)  But if spirituality is defined by spiritual fruit… what can one say? Are missionaries more spiritual than the average Christian? All I can say is… Hopefully.

2.  Is it true that only missionaries with a “real” missionary call will last? Personally, I doubt that is true. First, there is considerable doubt that there is such a thing as a “missionary call.” The most well-known such call was Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples to serve as apostles, “sent out ones” as well as Christ’s commissioning of Paul. But William Carey has made it quite clear that that call was, at least to some extent, a universal call, not a select call. And several others were called apostles in the New Testament that were not sent out at the word of Christ as far as we know. The calling of Paul and Barnabas for their first missionary journey was not actually by God. The Holy Spirit told the church to send out Paul and Barnabas. So the church of Antioch was actually the one that called Paul and Barnabas, as they felt led by God. For the second missionary trip, Paul took Silas while Barnabas took John Mark. It is not clear whether Silas was called in some sort of supernatural way or not. But there was clear disagreement as to whether John Mark was to go or not. But consider John Mark for the moment. Since Paul did not want him to go on the second trip, one may wonder the theological justification for that. It may mean that John Mark was allowed to serve as a missionary before without a “missionary calling,” or maybe it meant that Paul did not see a missionary calling as being forever. Just a thought.

Garry Friesen in “Decision-making and the Will of God” talked about the difficulty he had getting ordained as a minister of the gospel in his denomination because many in that denomination felt he had to describe some sort of mystical calling. Certainly he could have done what so many do… pull together a bunch of feelings and circumstances and declare that they constitute a “calling.” But he did not want to play that game. Many of the ministers in his denomination wondered whether it meant that he could not be ordained… that they were acting against the will of God Or maybe, if he could be ordained, would the lack of this “calling” mean that he would drift away when the going gets tough?

I don’t know many missionaries that have that sort of inflexible… forever… sort of calling. I don’t. My idea of calling is more like a path. I am following where God leads. I have served here in the Philippines for 13 years so far, and in all likelihood will die here. That is better than a lot of people who see divine calling more like a vocational prison.

Do people who believe in a  permanent Missionary Calling last longer than other missionaries? It is possible, but I suppose it would have to be researched. The idea that only those who have that (fairly doubtful) theological perspective will last seems to be patently false, however.

3. Is it true that people who are highly evangelistic at home are more effective missionaries in the field? I remember years ago I had applied to the International Mission Board (of the Southern Baptists) and that was one of their firm beliefs. The argument was that those who are not highly evangelistic in their home country would not be in the field, and thus would not be effective as missionaries in a foreign country.

Of course, there are two parts to that question.

     (a) Are those more evangelistic at home will be more evangelistic in the field? The answer to that is PROBABLY. I think that is true in most cases.

     (b)  Are more evangelistic missionaries more effective missionaries? This is much more doubtful. Foreign cross-cultural missionaries are almost always not that effective as evangelists… certainly less effective than local evangelists. The best missionaries are the ones who effectively train local leaders. Unless one can show that more evangelistic missionaries are better at training, the argument is quite suspect.

So for this third question, I feel I do actually have an answer. One’s behavior at home does flow over into one’s behavior in the field. However, since there are different types of missionaries, it seems doubtful that one particular ministry activity could be used to judge viability of future mission work of an individual. Additionally, a missionary learns and grows. What I do now in missions has little connection to what I did before missions. Faithfulness, willingness, and flexibility in service at home may be the best indication of viability of a potential missionary then any specific type of ministry. An evangelistic missionary may be more effective than other missionaries… or less effective. But since evangelistic missionaries are usually less effective than local evangelists, the most effective missionaries are likely to be focused more on training local leaders and ministers.

Attack of the Blue Beetle

I used to collect comic books. Most of my comics were from the 70s into early 90s. However, I do have a few much older comics. One of them is a “Blue Beetle” comic. Annoyingly, a kid who owned it long ago wrote his name on the cover. On the other hand, doing so brought it down to a price I could afford.

I never really got into the Blue Beetle as a comic character although he has been around for decades. I am more familiar with two spoofs of this character. One of those is “The Tick” from New England Comics (a character I collected quite faithfully). The other was the Blue Beetle from the TV children’s program in the 70s, “The Electric Company.”

The inspiration for this particular post comes from a particular skit on The Electric Company some 40 years ago. In it, the Blue Beetle, supposedly a superhero, is being asked for help from a number of different people with different needs. For each, he sings a little song. Here is the song:

“Oh, I would if I could, but I can’t, so I won’t–

Please excuse me if I don’t.

I want this simple fact understood.

I would, (Yes I would) if I could

But I can’t, so I won’t.”

I loved that song. But I got thinking about that. I was reading the story of Naaman the Leper in the Bible (II Kings 5). The story refers to a young girl (don’t really know how young), Naaman was a general of the king or Aram and has leprosy. It says in verses 2-3,

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. …

That’s pretty much it. Not a lot of information. But let’s be honest, if there was anyone who could embrace the Blue Beetle song, it would this girl. She was young where wisdom was seen as the possession of the old. She was female in a patriarchal society. She was a servant… slave… captive of war. She had no money or possessions that were her own. She was a foreigner in a hostile land. Yet she was able to save a life, help lead a person (and probably entire family) to God, and in some very real way reduce tension between two warring nations.

The fact was that she actually had a lot.

  • She had relationships with people in power… and in need.
  • She was in the right circumstances to help.
  • She knew something that others needed to know.

Often when people think they can’t do anything they think God is too small or too unwilling to help. On the other hand sometimes the individuals don’t recognize what they have… they sell themselves too short.

Perhaps a better song for those in ministry would be:

“Oh, I wouldn’t if I couldn’t, but I can, so I will.

With God I’ll do it still.

And I want others to sing it too.

I wouldn’t, (Yes I wouldn’t) if I couldn’t

But I can, so I will.”

Interesting Article in Christianity Today

Very Interesting article that challenges the stereotype of (Protestant) missionaries being pro-colonial, culturally insensitive imperialists. Doesn’t negate some bad history, but helps bring balance to a complicated topic. Article is in Christianity Today.

The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries

The Liar’s Club

Long ago when I was young (this was before cable TV and Internet) our house had one TV that received its signals from an antenna located on the highest point of our house. We got two stations very strong. One was an NBC affiliate out of Erie, PA. The other was a UHF PBS retransmitter in Jamestown, NY of a station out of Buffalo, NY. We got two other Buffalo stations (CBS and ABC) that were also relatively reliable. The other stations were more unreliable depending on atmospheric conditions. Of the unreliable stations, the best was a strong station (Global) out of Toronto, Canada. They had interesting shows on there at times and when the weather was good the signal could be quite strong.

Not tied to the TV show… but a nice image anyway

A show that I really liked back then was one called “Liar’s Club.” It was a game show. The game was simple, if a bit strange. There would be contestants, a host, and a group of “liars.” The four liars were apparently people of some regional fame (a bit like the celebrities on Hollywood Squares). The host would bring out an object (typically an invention) and show it to the contestants and then it would be brought to the four liars. The first liar would say something like this.

“This is a dehusker for coconuts. You know a lot of people here in Canada buy coconuts in the grocery story and they think that this is how they look in the coconut trees. But no. Coconuts grow high up in very tall coconut palms. When they are ripe, or when they are harvested they drop 20 or 30 or 40 feet and hit the ground. If they were like the way they are found in the store they would crack open losing the coconut water, killing the seedling, and causing the coconut meat to spoil. Coconuts have a thick fibrous hull that protects the seed. In places like the Philippines, people are trained to use machetes to carefully remove that hull so that the coconut meat and juice can be harvested. But back in 1903, a Dutchman living in Aruba came up with this device to remove coconut husks cleanly, efficiently and safely. You see the barrel here with the internal ridges and holes, several coconuts are put in there. Then the dehusker is turned on and as it spins it pulls the husk away from the shell. The shredded husks fall through the holes and are gathered for later use. Very quickly, the coconut is ready to be used or shipped to supermarkets here in Canada to be purchased and enjoyed. What you have here is a coconut dehusker.”

Then the second liar starts his story.

“Now you might believe this, but I have actually operated one of these. I had an uncle who was a vermiculturist. A vermiculturist is, and I know this sounds strange but I swear it is true, a worm farmer. In this case, my uncle was an earthworm farmer. I know a lot of people don’t know that such a thing exists… worm farming… but my uncle was and is one. He made and still makes a good living at it. Earthworm farming can be done for bait purposes, worms for sale to fisherman. They can be sold to home gardeners for composting. My uncle didn’t sell the worms but the castings of the worms, for compost. Composting materials are put into this barrel here with earthworms. The ridges inside and the holes through it are for mixing and aerating as the barrel is turned daily . Eventually holes can be used to separate out the compost castings from the worms and uncomposted materials. Its a simple device but it and a handful of worms has made my uncle a wealthy man.

Two more people would give their stories equally plausible or implausible. Then the contestants must determine which person is telling the truth as the other three tell lies.

So what you ask?

Suppose the object being described is… YOU. Suppose different people are describing what you are created to be for.

  • Suppose one says that you are made to love God and love people
  • Suppose another says that you are made to expand the work of your church/denomination
  • Suppose another says that you are made to serve God and His Kingdom
  • Suppose another says that you are made to fulfill your gifting
  • Suppose another says that you are made to do what your mission board tells you to.
  • Suppose another says that you are made to save people
  • Suppose another says that you are made to plant churches
  • Suppose another says that you are made to hasten the return of Christ 
  • Suppose another says that you are made to be led by the Spirit
  • Suppose another says that your are made to obey God’s commands.

All of these (or at least many of these) sound fairly plausible. Can you spot the lies?

America Proves It Isn’t So “Beautiful”

I have to admit that any contest on “patriotism” I would lose. I do believe in duty to country… but I see citizenship more in terms of pragmatism than pride (being a citizen of no nation is simply not a practical option). Still, the reactions over that commercial from Coca-Cola was weird. The fact that it is often the newbies (new citizens) that have greater patriotism or love of country than the old-timers (citizen by choice rather than by chance) should make one question the strange reactions to the ad. I am a US citizen only, while my wife and children are dual citizens (citizens of the US and the Philippines). I have seen stuff on the Internet of people who fear that dual citizenship is un-American and opens the door to terrorism and other things. Hardly likely. My wife speaks four languages fluently (as opposed to me who speaks 1 to maybe 1.3 languages). Can’t see how language says anything about patriotism.
For me, however, in the end, showing off how patriotic or nationalistic one is is a bit of a waste of time for Christians. Christians are dual citizens (heaven and earth). Since citizenship in heaven overflows any national boundaries, I HOPE that the over-the-top reactions did not come from Christians. But Christians lose perspective as fast as anyone else, sadly.

Loyola Digital Advertising [로욜라 디지털 광고]

During the Super Bowl this past Sunday, Coca-Cola exhibited their newest advertisement titled “America the Beautiful”. It is about one minute long and plays the song “America the Beautiful” sung in eight different languages, and showcases the diversity that makes this country what it is today. It also showed a gay couple, which was “the first Super Bowl ad to feature a gay family, according to GLAAD, a lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender media advocacy organization” (USA Today).

My reaction when I saw it: “that was lovely”.

Too many other people’s reaction: “speak English or go home”.

What in the world is wrong with this country? Why are we so ignorant to the diversity that makes this country so rich? Why do we think that it is actually OK to insult other ethnicities and assume that their being here makes our country “communist”?

“”We hope the ad gets people talking…

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Jerry, Jack and Lucy

I like old time radio (listening to OTR is one of the few things I do that might in some way constitute a “hobby”). One of my favorite from old time radio is Jack Benny.

Jack (born Benjamin Kubelsky) had a very interesting concept for a show… the Jack Benny Show.

Jack Benny was a real-life comedian with a real-life comedy show. The radio program was about Jack Benny and his friends as they prepare for and to some extent broadcast a radio program. This sounds confusing. It may be easier to recognize that there is a Real Jack Benny and a Fictional Jack Benny. There is a Real Radio Program and a Fictional Radio Program.

The REAL Jack has a REAL Radio Program. That Program has a FICTIONAL Jack (portrayed by the REAL Jack) who has a FICTIONAL Radio Program.

This may be a novel idea… but it is not  unique. To a lesser extent, Jerry Seinfeld (REAL Jerry) did a similar thing with the (REAL show) Seinfeld, where the REAL Jerry, a comedian, portrays a comedian, FAKE Jerry, who lives his life and prepares for different comic interviews and gigs (FAKE shows).

The interesting thing about Jack Benny (and to a lesser extent Jerry Seinfeld) is that he created a fake character who was considerably worse than his real self. The fake Jack Benny was miserly, vain, a wee bit effeminate. This character had little to do with the real Jack Benny… known to be a kind and generous person. Some individuals (like Phil Silver’s and his invented character Sgt. Bilko) have less differences.

There is a risk in doing this. At times, people confuse the real and the fake. Lucille Ball’s TV character Lucy Ricardo was played so convincingly that many people assumed that the character was the character of the comic actress. The similarity of name also probably helped in this confusion.

Now in a sense, all of us have this sort of thing. We all have a difference between the “Real Me” and the “Public Me.” One might say the difference between the Person and the Persona. In missions, there is an added one. There are personas for missionaries. One is the persona that the person has locally. The second is the person demonstrated to the supporters back home.

With the increase of social media and international communication, it is harder to separate the two personas. And in the Information age it is even more difficult to separate those personas from one’s actual person. That is probably a good thing for the most part. Christians are supposed to be integrated… having integrity… so there should not be a huge difference between these different facets of one’s being. 

That being said, all humans are incredibly incredibly complex. Any public persona will be a mere shadow of one’s entire self. There will be differences. However, unlike Jack Benny, most of us want the public persona (or dual persona) to be considerably better than our private self.

Is it safe for a missionary to admit weaknesses with local partners? Is it okay to admit them to supporters. Is it okay to live REAL?