Reminiscing With Mr. Bean

<I wrote this post back in 2015. At the time we were under stress from some financial changes. One can read some sadness and stress in the post, but some hope as well. I am happy to say that now in 2017 we understand better that God is good. We are surviving… and sometimes even thriving. I still enjoy the post. To quote from Philippine Independence leader Jose Rizal (1861-1896), “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.”>

mr_bean_cartoon_teddy_cat_irma_gobb_mrs_wicket_mr_bean

I was changing channels here in Baguio City, Philippines, when I heard a very familiar tune, the theme song of Mr. Bean… the Animated Series. This is a cartoon adaptation of the Mr. Bean character portrayed by (of course) Rowan Atkinson. Unlike the live series, the animated series has a happy tune played, incongruously, in a minor key.

When I hear the song, I am filled with dread. This happens every time, but I generally let it wash over me without a lot of thought. But today is a day when it is worth reflection.

Almost 11 years, I quit my job as a mechanical engineer. We sold our house. Our home church offered to help support, but not enough to meet our needs. We arrived in the Philippines in March 2004, and stayed for 1 week in a palatial hotel room in Manila. We felt out of place in such luxury, even though a relative was paying for it. We moved up to Baguio and stayed in a two room apartment for two weeks with all five of us squeezed into one room. We lived on ramen noodles (particularly instant bulalo). After two weeks, we moved into the seminary. We lived in a tiny space, semi-divided so that our three children could be in one tiny space separated by a sheet from the “living room” where Celia and I slept. During the day that was our tiny living space. For five Americans who lived in a 2000 sqft house on a half-acre lot, this was quite a drop in living standards. So we were living in less than 10% of living space, with 75% drop in pay, without knowing really what we were doing.

Eventually we got a TV. We had no cable and could only pick up a few local channels, most of which, were not really our form of entertainment. One show that we did like to watch that we could get was the cartoon version of Mr. Bean. Our children were young and it was something we could watch as a family. I don’t remember feeling the stress from that period except in a few situations. But when I hear the tune from Mr. Bean, the feeling of stress, depression, and uncertainty returns.

I have decided to reminisce because some of the situations are coming full circle.

  • In 2004, we were massively underfunded, drawing down our savings to survive. In 2015, we will be seriously underfunded again, unless things change. In 2016, most likely, we will have to return to the US because of lack of support.
  • In 2004, we had no cable TV and we are now disconnecting cable as a cost-saving measure.
  • In 2004, we were not sure what we will be doing as missionaries. Even though we know what we now want to do (pastoral counseling center, and seminary teaching), our situation is such that we really don’t know what the future holds.

Those are the somewhat negative side of things… but there is a positive side as well.

  • In 2004, we really had to put our trust in God— a trust that bordered on foolhardiness. So many Asian missionaries dive into missions in (nearly) hopeless situations, acting on faith.  In 2015, we need to put aside our faith in finances, and put it in God.
  • In 2004, we had to be quick to say YES to opportunities to serve. In fact, God brought us into medical missions and other things. It is easy to fall into a rut. Things in 2015 will force us to to get out of our “comfort zone” as well.
  • In 2004, we were new and could probably have benefited from missionary member care support. In 2015, we now provide missionary member care support for missionaries in Southeast Asia. However, the financial situation actually helps us understand the perspective, in some way, the deep financial problems experienced by Asian (especially Filipino) missionaries.

We are doing okay. God is with us… and I guess Mr. Bean is as well.

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The Filipino Mindset on Wealth: An Opinion

Muling Silang

Happy New Year!

I just want to make this first post one that really piques my interest. It’s about how most of us think about wealth.

No, I did not do a comprehensive survey on this topic. This is just based on my observation, which I believe you can verify via your own as well. Two recent events (one national, and one personal) have suddenly made me ponder on how we Filipinos think about wealth. Anyway, if I have the time and energy later on, I might do a full blown research on this.

The first event is when the grand jackpot prize of Philippine Lotto crossed the half-billion-peso mark. Suddenly, lines to buy a ticket grew astronomically.

Via: 4.bp.blogspot.com

From this event, we can see that there are literally throngs of Filipinos wanting to get wealthy. Who wouldn’t want that half-billion added to their asset? However, the method of…

View original post 441 more words

A Pause for a Bit

It feels strange. I haven’t put anything on this blog for a couple of weeks. Frankly, I have had to redirect my thinking time into some other things:

  • Working on my Book for Cultural Anthropology students in the Philippines (“Ministry in Diversity: Cultural Anthropology in a Multi-cultural World”).
  • Working on a book with my wife and some others at our counseling center,. It is a foundational book for community and clinical pastoral care. Again, the focus is on Philippine ministers.
  • Looks like I am going to be teaching a course in “Church History” at a nearby Bible school as a module. This is new to me. I love church history (admittedly odd for an Evangelical) but it will still involve considerable preparation.
  • Our financial situation is taking a rather startling (negative) change… so looking for new opportunities that allow us to keep serving at or near our present situation.

Once I am done with the first draft of the anthropology book, I will probably put some excerpts here. But until then, will let the 500+ posts here stand on their own.  Thanks.

No “Preachers” Please

I have been reflecting on the term “pastor” in the last few months. Part of it is because sometimes people here call me pastor (even though it is not a title or role I seek), but also because our group promotes, trains on, and writes about “pastoral care.”  Not all Christian groups use the term pastor, of course. Some use bishop. That is a perfectly good word, but I don’t care for it because it has commonly be redefined in terms of hierarchy. Some use “priest” or “vicar.”  I don’t care for that because it suggest acting as a necessary mediator between God and people. Some groups use the term “apostle,” I have real problems with that because the NT idea of churchplanter/missionary gets replaced with a totally disconnected idea of authoritative (or even authoritarian) denominational boss.

However, the term I like least is “preacher.” I know that preacher is almost never thought of as official title… but it is a common term and most people would understand immediately who is being meant by the term “preacher.” An obvious problem I have with this is that one’s occupational title is narrowed down to a narrow role, there is a tendency to redefine the occupation in line with that role. It may even be that people will will select that occupation based on the role. I used to be a mechanical engineer. If the occupation was renamed “computer drafter” there would be a great deal of confusion since the occupation would now be primarily titled by only one aspect (not even the most important aspect) of the occupation. It is also possible that such a role may start attracting people who like drawing on computer out of proportion to those who may be best suited for the role.

Symptomatically, I see this problem with the term “preacher.” I took preaching in seminary and I remember the instructor saying that he believed that “preaching” is the most important role of a pastor. I liked (and still like) our professor, but I don’t believe it is Top-5… maybe not Top-10. Additionally, for a pastor at our seminary, he is required to take 3 preaching classes, 2 ministerial leadership classes, 2 music classes, 2 Christian education classes, 1 missions class, 1 pastoral care class, 0 dialogue classes, and 0 apologetics classes, Of course, one can take electives… but the priority of the class requirements certainly suggests the priority given to preaching.

I would like to suggest otherwise.

1.  The term pastor is tied to the Biblical metaphor of the shepherd. The central concept is caring not preaching, and leading not talking.

2.  In this post-modern age, dialogue is a more important skill than preaching. Listening is a more critical skill.

3.  In dealing with people of other cultures (even cultures in one’s own neighborhood), the key skills are anthropological… particularly “participant-observation.” Interaction and observation or more important skills.

4. The best pastors I have seen show definite concern and care for their membership… as well as the community around them. Some of these pastors are perfectly fine preachers. However,, often the best preachers are unempathetic social misfits. <This one hits close to home for me considering my general lack of social skills.>

5. Mentoring (a relational/modeling function) is more effective in holistic transformation than discipleship, and discipleship (a teaching function) is more effective than preaching (a proclamation function).

Clebsch and Jaeckle saw four basic functions of pastoral care:

  • Guiding (a teaching/helping role)
  • Healing (a caring/helping role)
  • Sustaining (a relational/comforting role)
  • Reconciling (a relationship/healing role)

Pastoral care does not fully define the role of a pastor. There are many things that pastors need to do that does not fall within the general concept of pastoral care. However, if one was to prioritize the functions of a pastor, I would have to suggest topping it off with “pastoral care.” Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that the title pastor should be replaced by “pastoral carer.” But it would be better than “preacher.”

 

 

James and the Giant NGO

James 2:1-7

     1My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?  (HCSB)

In church, one should not show favoritism. One should not give special status to those with money… those who can fill the church coffers. I was a member of one church long ago in which the top layperson was also the richest (by far) member. But, in truth, he was a godly man. I was a member of another church (also long ago) where the top layperson was also the richest member. When he did a big moral error… he was allowed to remain in his high position in the church without repercussion. But, in truth, he was a diligent worker in ministry. I was a member of yet another church long ago, where the top layperson in the church was the richest member. But later leadership changes led to his having lesser influence… and he moved to another church to have more influence.

I feel that I have seen enough of this pattern to identify it. There are people of wealth who will seek out a church and use their financial power to encourage the membership to give them special power and influence in the church. I believe doing such is a clear violation of the above passage in James… noting that doing so is based on evil motives. However, the passage arguably draws from Leviticus 19 and verse 15 makes it clear that one should not show favoritism to the poor over the rich either. Both are corrupt behaviors. We treat all classes of people as being equal before God and before the church.

This is difficult when it comes to missions. Years ago, when I was working in Virginia Beach, I had a “grunt job” in one of the largest Christian organizations in the world. One time I was helping out as a server for a gathering of the top 100 donors for this organization. These people were treated like royalty. Is this right or wrong?

When we did medical missions here in the Philippines, we would seek financial donors. Those who were donors were given special honor on the banners and reports, even though they did far less ministerially (usually) than the hosts and the team members. Is this right or wrong?

We set up our organization here, Bukal Life Care. When were were getting ready to put together the Board of Trustees, we were told that we should select rich people and people with power in the community. Actually, we did not follow that advice. We sought people of common heart but of diverse backgrounds. I think that was the right decision. But our group has always been on a “shoestring budget” (American slang for VERY little money). Actually, we would need to borrow shoestrings to be on a shoestring budget.

So what is right? Should mission agencies seek DEEP POCKETS? Should they give the rich prominent roles in their organizations? Should material prosperity be honored over a servants’ faithful attitude of service? (I don’t buy the argument that prosperous people are more godly than nonprosperous people. Both the Bible and observable reality contradict this.)

I do think that many organizations do things wrong… seeking money over godliness. Still, it seems like there is an important and godly place for fundraising. Additionally, receiving money should also mean accepting a certain amount of accountability from those who give. I don’t have the answers. I suppose, truthfully, I hope we stay small enough never to really have to face this issue. Being small, however, won’t necessarily solve this problem. As James noted, the problem comes from selfish, evil motives. All organizations can fall into that trap. Every organization, I believe, must examine its own corporate heart and motives first before addressing money (and vision) issues.