Why Poverty [Finalist, India] - PovertyCure Film Festival

My dear friend, Wilbur Sargunaraj has just been honored by the PovertyCure film festival.  His short film "Why Poverty" has been nominated as a finalist for several awards.  You can help Wilbs by clicking the link below and then "LIKE" ing the video (top right corner of the page).  Of course, I strongly recommend the Why Poverty film.  It is a funny, heart-warming, and powerful look at poverty in India.

After you have "LIKE"d the page, be sure to share it with others. Here is the link:

Why Poverty [Finalist, India] - PovertyCure Film Festival - Library - PovertyCure:

Blessings to you! I'm on the way to east Africa.


Za'atari Camp: Day in the Life (Syrian Refugees)

The following series of short films has been produced by the United Nations and does a good job of showing what life is like in the second largest refugee camp in the world.  I hope you will watch the following with your church, small group, or family and pray for the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.  After watching, please continue to learn about the crisis by clicking on keyword "Syria" below or by reading my key article, "Bracing for the Syrian Tidal Wave".


Al Qaeda in Kentucky: Another Setback in the Resettlement of Syrian Refugees

Recently some national media outlets have picked up on a story from way back in 2009 about some Iraqi terrorists who managed to slip through the cracks and enter the United States as refugees.  While shining light on this story will hopefully help to improve the resettlement processes in the country, I am saddened that it will also be used as another excuse to keep Syrian refugees languishing in camps.

During FY2013, the United States resettled only about 35 Syrian refugees and yet the conflict in Syria drags on.  It is expected that the total number of externally displaced peoples will swell to 3.5 million by the end of the year.   And now, in light of the current climate of disfavor towards President Obama's administration, the previously committed public commitment to resettle 2000 Syrian refugees in 2014 (just a drop in the bucket as it is) is being carefully walked back by State Department officials who now say that that number will be shared by several countries.  Which, given the fact that so many Middle Eastern, EU, and Latin American nations have already stepped up to resettle hundreds and thousands of Syrians, is to say that the United States hasn't really committed to anything.  This is a marked departure from the great, modern American tradition of being the world's leader in the resettlement of refugees.

As I prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family, my heart goes out to these people and I deeply and sincerely wish that the golden door of my country was open to them.  I pray that my fellow Americans will shift some of their concern about Obamacare and money and scary Muslims and a thousand other things to the side so that we can extend hospitality to thousands of Syrians who are now suffering in the midst of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

Below, you can read the story from ABC News on "Al Qaeda in Kentucky" -

Al Qaeda in Kentucky: US May Have Let 'Dozens' of Terrorists Into Country as Refugees - ABC News: "Several dozen suspected terrorist bombmakers, including some believed to have targeted American troops, may have mistakenly been allowed to move to the United States as war refugees, according to FBI agents investigating the remnants of roadside bombs recovered from Iraq and Afghanistan.  The discovery in 2009 of two al Qaeda-Iraq terrorists living as refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky -- who later admitted in court that they'd attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq -- prompted the bureau to assign hundreds of specialists to an around-the-clock effort aimed at checking its archive of 100,000 improvised explosive devices collected in the war zones, known as IEDs, for other suspected terrorists' fingerprints."

Also, check out this great series of short films from the United Nations entitled "Za'atri A Day in the Life" which gives you a terrific inside look into life in the largest Syrian refugee camp.

You may also want to check out other resources posted here on the Syrian Refugee crisis by clicking on the keyword "Syria" below.  Be sure to begin with the key article "Bracing for the Syrian Tidal Wave".

[Cover Photo by IHH]


Scattered Africa: Leaving in a Week!

A week from today I will be in East Africa for several days of surveying, learning and consulting with our ( ministry leaders in Ethiopia and Uganda who have founded some truly incredible ministries that the Lord is using in significant ways.

Goh Bright Future is our ministry in Ethiopia.  It is based in Addis Ababa and led by Talargie Tafesse who has been serving as part of our team for several years.  The heart of GBF is a focus on rescuing a generation of children who are growing up in extreme poverty often as HIV/AIDS orphans.  GBF has developed a holistic school in the slum that is providing education, nutrition and other basic needs.  Born out of this development ministry is a vision to multiply churches throughout Ethiopia.  GBF has begun church planting efforts with an initial group of 20 indigenous planters who have been trained and deployed to various parts of the country.

While in Ethiopia, my primary goal will be to survey the ministry first-hand and meet the team of local leaders who are running the ministry.  Additionally, I will be making logistical preparations for a more extensive trip in 2014 which we hope will include a training event for up to 300 church planters as well as opportunities to create some awareness films.  Also during next week's trip to Ethiopia, I will be evaluating the needs of the ministry and opportunities for creating more sustainable revenue streams for the ongoing work.  In particular, plans are being developed now to start a second school soon.

In Uganda, our work is led by Gloria Katusiime and is known a Endiro Coffee.  On the surface, Endiro looks like a trendy and popular coffee house in the heart of Kampala.  Dig deeper however, and you discover that it is actually an innovative effort to fund development and discipleship efforts among child-headed households in Uganda.  Cappuccinos and caramel lattes are being used by the Lord to meet educational and other felt needs of a generation largely orphaned by the HIV/AIDs epidemic.  As Endiro looks to the future, the aim is to not only start additional coffee houses, but also to plant churches throughout the country and even to engage diaspora peoples with the gospel.

As in Ethiopia, my primary goal in Uganda next week will be to survey the work first-hand and to prepare for a 2014 trip.  I am also eager to consult with Gloria on how to take steps towards engaging diaspora Hindus in Kampala and to consider ways to expand the funding base for the ministry by introducing Endiro Coffee to an American market.  A new location is scheduled to be opening during my trip, so I hope to learn a lot about the process.  As a bonus, I'm bringing several bottles of pumpkin spice syrup with me so that Kampala can enjoy some pumpkin spice lattes this Christmas.  And, if they'll let me, I'll slip into the Endiro kitchen and see if I can teach them a few tricks from my Waffle House days.

From a bigger picture perspective, we are seeking to develop a strong link between Goh Bright Future and Endiro Coffee.  The ministries are in separate countries, but are in the same region of the world and have very similar visions.  I believe they have much to share with each other in areas of business as mission, church planting and development.  TIBM is their common link and I pray that the Lord will cause the relationship to blossom.

For prayer:

1. Pray for a safe trip without complications.  Also pray that I would not get any health problems.

2. Pray that God will bless me with great fellowship during this week of travel.  I need it.

3. Pray that I will be able to hear clear direction and instruction from the Lord that will help me as a leader and helper in relationship to these ministries.

4. Pray for the ministries of Goh Bright Future and Endiro Coffee.  Pray for their leaders.  Ask God to deepen and expand their impact to bless more children, plant more churches, and engage more people in diaspora with the gospel.

Financial Support Welcome:

For the most part, I'm out-of-pocket on the expenses for this trip.  That is mostly due to being too busy in Chicagoland ministry to take time out for fundraising.  However, I could really use some support.  My expenses for the trip will come out to between $2000-$2300.  If you can give a gift of support of $10 or more, please visit our support site and make a tax-deductible gift right now.  Thanks so much!

[Cover photo by Brian Wolfe]


Million Dollar Donors

Photo by 401(K) 2012
I spent some time tonight perusing the Coutts 2013 Million Dollar Donors Report.  Hey, a guy can dream can't he?  It is an interesting read if you are leading a non-profit like I am (in my case, more of a non-profit network). Did you know that nearly 2,000 people gave million-dollar or more donations in 2012?

A couple things are sticking in my mind:

1. If I'm going to lead my organization to the next level in terms of support-raising, I will need to be able to clarify specific goals (both long and short-term) and determine a method of providing some kind of measurement of the impact of gifts.

2. I cannot accomplish item number one without dedicated staffing.

3. How do organizations avoid being controlled by larger donors? How to they maintain their vision at times when large donors try to steer them off course?

I also like the quote by Andrew Carnegie which is featured on the report, "It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place."  If that's true, I'm wondering if anyone out their would hire me to give away their money.


I think I like Pastors

The past two days, I've been crashing some networking meals that our state Baptist convention has organized for Chicagoland pastors.  Lunch yesterday mostly with Korean pastors.  Dinner last night with a bunch of (mostly) Hispanic pastors.  Today was lunch with about a dozen African American pastors.

As I drove home today, it just occurred to me that I really enjoyed the gatherings.  There was something kind of sweet about the time together.  You know, I've actually been in ministry for 16 years now.  That's not much compared to some, but neither is it anything to sneeze at.  And really, I only bring that up to say that I've been around a lot of pastors and I know that a lot of them are real jerks.  And, I can say that because I know that I am sometimes a real jerk.  No kidding, sometimes I'm very difficult to be around.

But, well, I am just saying ... I've enjoyed being with these Chicagoland leaders during the past couple days. I like the old guys who have put in decades of service and who look confused when you talk about "retirement plans".  I like the young guys who feel pretty sure that God can do anything and probably will through their new ministries.

One guy today mentioned that he had just turned 40 and had two sets of twins.  Another had to leave before the meal so he could be at the hospital when one of his church members was taken off life support.  Another said he retired at the age of 80 but began pastoring again at 83 because a church essentially begged him to take the pulpit.

These are kind of remarkable people.  I'm not talking about the crooks with the mansions and the bling.  That's not most of them.  And, I don't know where I'm going with this.  Just rambling, reflecting . . .


Google + Comments on My Blog

Friends, just a notice that I have disabled Google+ comments on my blog.  I have given Google a summer to get the system figured out, but they haven't  yet.  I do not get notifications whenever a comment is left via that system, so I'm unable to join in the conversations.  Of course, I alerted Google to my problem, and received no reply.

Anyway, if you have commented on the blog during the past few months, your comments have been automatically removed.  That makes me sad, but it was the only way.  Feel free to go back in and add those comments back, or just stay tuned for new content.




Bridging the Divide between Hindus and Christians

By Guest Special Guest Blogger -- Lachi Adhikari

It is my pleasure to introduce you to a young leader who is developing into a great thinker even as she learns to write in English.  Originally from Bhutan, Lachi spent most of her life living in a refugee camp in Nepal before migrating to the United States in 2009.  She is a devotee of Lord Sri Jesus who lives within the Hindu cultural traditions that she has grown up with and loves.  Also, she is my sister. -- Cody

One time I went to a Nepali church.  I saw a child recite a passage of scripture in front of a large crowd.  She was speaking God’s words, but sometimes she became confused and forgot. Her mom said that this happened because Satan was disturbing her.  When I heard this, I was shocked.  As someone who comes from a Hindu background, I know that most Hindu people think that Christian people often blame Satan for everything.  We Hindus don’t understand this this kind of thinking.  This is an example of the kind of misunderstanding that happens between Hindus and Christians.  Christians who want to share the Gospel* with Hindus must realize that there is much conflict and confusion between these groups.

Hindu people and Christian people have very different cultures.  For example, Hindus and Christians observe different festivals. Hindus celebrate Dashain and Tihar but Christians celebrate Christmas.  They also have different customs.  For example, Christian brides wear white dresses but Hindus always wear red.  Hindus believe you should burn dead bodies while Christians want to bury them in the ground.  Additionally, Hindus criticize Christians for eating pork and beef and Christians criticize Hindus for eating fried goat blood.  Christian people feel that Hindu people dress immodestly by often wearing American-style clothes, gold jewelry, henna tattoos, and more.  Those who want to share Christ with Hindus should avoid criticizing Hindu culture because of its differences and instead watch, learn and even join in as you gain understanding.

Hindus believe that Christians are low caste people.  That means that Christians are considered ethnically inferior.  High caste people will not eat food prepared by people from low castes.  They also believe it is wrong to intermarry.  When a Hindu becomes a Christian, they are often automatically thought to be low caste.  Even if they were born in a high caste, they will lose their caste.  Followers of Jesus should not react to this with anger or hatred.  Instead they should try to respect and love their Hindu neighbors.

Hindus do not like the way Christians communicate the gospel.  This begins with their form of greeting.  Nepali Christians greet each other by saying “Jaya Masih” (victory to the Messiah), but Hindus don’t understand this greeting and don’t use it.  Most Nepalis greet by saying “Namaste” (I honor you).  Furthermore, Hindus often feel that Christians speak in a proud and boastful way when they talk about Jesus.  Christian pastors are sometimes criticized for preaching loudly and shouting.  Also, Hindus feel that Christians speak rudely about Hindus and Hindu customs by calling them “Satan” or “satanic”.  Hindus don’t like to listen to this kind of speech.  When talking about Jesus or the Gospel, Christians should speak humbly and focus on clear and simple stories about Jesus or their own experiences with God.  They should not call Hindus “Satan” or speak rudely about Hindu practices.

Hindus are actually very interested in Jesus and the Gospel message.  However, their attitudes towards Christians often prevent them from listening.  If followers of Jesus will become good cultural learners, show love and respect to Hindus, and practice sharing the Gospel with humility then much of the misunderstanding and conflict will be resolved and they will find many Hindus who are willing to listen to what they have to say. 

[*The term "Gospel" is used here to refer to the central message of the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming of Lord Sri Jesus and how people can obtain fullness of life and salvation through Him.]


United Nations Reports: 232 Million International Migrants Globally (And other random thoughts)

Random Picture of Me Performing a Naamkaran Ceremony for a Nepali Family.
Has little to do with the article.
Okay, first, take a look at this press release from the United Nations:

They are reporting that the total number of people living in diaspora as first generation, international migrants is now 232 million!  That's huge.  That's 3.2% of the world! 

The same report says that while the United States remains the most population destination country, Global South to Global South migration is now on an equal footing with "southerners" going to the Northern nations. And there is now a new top ten list for host nations (replacing the now outdated one I posted here recently):

In 2013, half of all international migrants lived in 10 countries, with the US hosting the largest number (45.8 million), followed by the Russian Federation (11 million); Germany (9.8 million); Saudi Arabia (9.1 million); United Arab Emirates (7.8 million); United Kingdom (7.8 million); France (7.4 million); Canada (7.3 million); Australia (6.5 million); and Spain (6.5 million).


So, it is exciting stuff, to be sure.  People are on the move like never before and God is on the move among them.  During the next few days, I will be speaking on diaspora missiology first at a Dallas-Ft. Worth Diaspora Leaders Roundtable and then at the annual gathering of the International Society of Frontier Missiology.  I am excited about the opportunity to share and pray that God uses the time to influence these leaders for the sake of missions among scattered people.  I hope you will pray.


Also, if you have been tracking with us, you will have noticed that MoveIn and Trinity International Baptist Mission have just announced today that they are joining forces to launch MoveIn in the United States.  TIBM has two "MoveIn" teams that have already moved into "patches" and are engaging those communities with prayer and the gospel.  You will hear more about this development in coming days and weeks, but for now, I hope you will check out MoveIn and learn more about the vision.


By the way, when I'm on the road, I like to post to my "Scatterings" blog which is on Tumblr.  So, if you haven't added me on Facebook, you can check out that blog for pictures and updates from my travels.  Usually.  


Putting a Smile on Wakan Tanka's Face: Richard Twiss on Indigenous Liturgy

Here's a great, short film by The Work of the The People featuring the late, great Richard Twiss talking about indigenous liturgy.  Twiss was a radical, a giant, and a gift to the Church.  If you've never heard him or read him, take a look at this:

Oh that we could understand this message!

Hungry for more? Take a look at the following:

1. In Memory of Richard Twiss
2. On Syncretism
3. Making Men of our Fridays
4. More TWOTP films featuring Twiss


Bracing for the Syrian Refugee Tidal Wave: Preparation Points for Churches

Photo by United Nations Photo

The growing crisis in Syria is grabbing the attention of more and more people as the United States considers the possibility of a military strike.  In case you haven't been tracking this story very closely, let me suggest a couple great places to begin:

1. Infographic- Will Strikes End Conflict in Syria (Maps of World):  Not everyone loves infographics, but well-designed ones are very effective ways to communicate information.  I this one is really good.  As the title suggests, it puts the question of U.S. military involvement front and center rather than some of the other critical questions.  Still, I recommend it as a way to get caught up.  (Note: link is to my "pin" of the infographic).

2. Nine Questions about Syria You were too Embarrassed to Ask (Washington Post): If you prefer just a straightforward textual summary of the Syrian situation, here's an article from the Post that I thought did a great job.  

3. Infographic- Syrian Refugees:  Here is a simpler infographic published by PBS Newshour that focuses specifically on the refugee crisis.

Of course, the purpose of my post here is especially to inform and prepare the global Church (and especially the North American) to respond well to the situation.  Personally, I believe that the most important issue facing the followers of Christ with respect to Syria is the refugee crisis.  There are now more than 2 million Syrians that have been forced to flee their homeland and at least a million of those are children!  It has become the worst refugee crisis on the planet today and the Body of Christ must respond!

Indeed there are other critical questions.  In particular, many Christ-followers are now debating the pros and cons of military intervention.  Should the United States strike?  This is certainly the opinion of President Obama and his administration.  With evidence suggesting that the Bashar Al'Assad regime has used chemical weapons against civilians, certainly we must be asking God for justice.  It is not my desire to wade very far into this aspect of the Syrian conflict.  I have lived long enough to become very skeptical about the idea that violence and war can bring about anything positive.  However, I strongly believe that evil leaders should not be allowed to simply do whatever they want and to kill and oppress whomever they want with impunity.  On this, I have found a post from Jonathan Merritt to be especially helpful.  Merritt provides three "Christian" perspectives on the issue of military intervention.  It is a very good read.  By the way, I personally found the pacifist view to be the weakest in terms of its presentation in the article.  So, to give it a boost, take a look at the recent letter from Pope Francis to Vladimir Putin on the subject.

Now, back to my main focus.

How can local churches, especially in the US and Canada, prepare themselves for the potential of future resettlement of refugees from Syria?  At TIBM, we believe it is important to be aware of what has quickly become one of the worst refugee crises of all time.  We believe it is important to pray for the situation.  And we believe it is critical to prepare for the wave of resettlement that is very likely coming.

I am using this article as a launching pad or as a place for churches to begin their preparation process.  I'm glad you are reading it and hope you will bookmark it and return from time to time. I will update it as I learn more and as things develop.  Here you will find several critical considerations and key questions for you and your ministry to consider.  I will also post helpful resources at the bottom as I discover them.  If you have things to add, please mention them in the comment section.

The Scope of the Crisis
The Syrian refugee crisis is one of the worst in history.  Currently, more than 2 million people have fled Syria ( for neighboring countries and the United Nations is predicting that the number will surpass 3 million by the end of the year.  The main nations to which Syrians have fled include Jordan (500K), Lebanon (720K), Turkey (460K), Iraq (170K) and Egypt (100K). Officials in these nations report that they are completely overwhelmed by the massive numbers and need substantial help.

The Nature of the Crisis
The displacement of Syrians has stemmed from a violent military conflict in that nation that originated in 2011.  The struggle is essentially between government forces under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups which want to see him ousted.  The resulting violence has resulted in more than 100,000 deaths (mostly civilians) and the displacement of millions (for more on the death toll, see this helpful article from The Atlantic).  

Photo of the "Houla Massacre" by Syria Freedom. Over 100 people were killed, most of them women and children.
The United Nations has published a short video on the crisis which provides a heart-wrenching summary of how things stand right now.  Here it is:

Who are the Refugees?
Syria is a nation of more than 20 million people, the largest bloc of whom (14+ million) are Syrian Arabs. Other major people groups include Kurds, Najdi Bedouins, Alawites, Palestinians, Druze, Assyrians, Turkmen, and Lebanese.  New reports I have seen specifically have referenced Arabs, Kurds, Bedouins, Palestinians, Assyrians, and Lebanese as being among the refugees.  Additionally, smaller people groups have been mentioned including Armenians.  Religiously, greater than 90% of Syrians are Muslim. Some 6% follow some form of Christianity (54% Orthodox, 37% Catholic, 4% Protestant, 3% "other").  According to most reports, the vast majority of the refugees are women and children.

The Response by the Global Community
Syria's neighbors have largely welcomed the refugees but are totally overwhelmed by the numbers.  Jordan has reported a water shortage.  Turkey is pleading with Western nations to pitch in.  Still stories of great humanitarianism and hospitality have emerged.  The Kurds of Iraq have constructed multiple camps and expended millions of dollars.  Israeli Jewish volunteers have tirelessly served in Jordanian camps.  Cyprus has announced its willingness to receive as many as 200,000 refugees!  Sweden has recently shocked the world by announcing that it will grant "blanket asylum" to Syrians refugees!  Germany likewise has a plan to provide temporary resettlement to as many as 5,000 and reports are regularly coming from Italy of refugees arriving there by boat. 

Reports are now coming in of Syrian refugees flocking to Latin America.  Both Brazil and Columbia have welcomed 100% of Syrians who have applied for asylum.  Apparently, there are large Syrian communities already in Latin America (as many as 3 million in Brazil alone?!?!)

In North America, Canada has agreed to resettle high need refugees and the United States has agreed to open its doors to 2,000 refugees. Pressure is beginning to build from some quarters for Canada to resettle more than the thousand or so initially committed to.  

There are, tragically, other stories which highlight the darker side of humanity. Reports have come of Syrian refugees trying to cross into Greece by boat only to have their vessels intentionally capsized by the Greek coast guard. Hundreds have reportedly drowned as a result.  Many women and girls are being victimized in the camps as lack of security and high poverty is creating a human trafficking crisis.  Other reports are emerging of price gouging as refugees are being financially exploited.  In some cases, life in refuge is so bad that many are opting to return to Syria and fight.  They do so expecting to die, but, according to one Syrian refugee, "We would rather die with dignity in Syria than beg in Jordan."

Photo courtesy of BBC News

What Should we Expect?
It is pretty impossible to predict when and how many Syrian refugees will eventually be resettled in North America.  Canada has announced earlier this summer that they will be working with the UN to resettle refugees.  This initial announcement was of a "very small and discrete resettlement program" that will focus on refugees determined to be in high need.  I suspect that this will not exceed 1,000 before the end of 2013.  Additionally, pressure is growing for the government to create a special expedited program to process family reunification visa applications for Canadian-Syrians who have family members in harms way. With a population already over 100K, Canada's Syrian population could absolutely surge simply through normal immigration routes even without a special commitment to resettle refugees. 

In the United States, word has recently come that 2,000 refugees will be welcomed for permanent resettlement.  Traditionally, the U.S. is the largest recipient of refugees, often permanently resettling as many as all other Western nations combined. But the political climate now is tenuous.  Many Americans feel a renewed sense of fear and suspicion towards Muslim immigrants in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and the still unresolved debate over immigration reform has further complicated the scene.  So, we can expect that this process could be very slow and subject to extra security measures.  Whether or not the U.S. will ultimately increase that number is difficult to predict.

Back in June, I predicted that the United States would announce plans to resettle a small number of refugees from Syria sometime during 2013.  My guess was that the number would be higher (10,000), but I'm glad that even this small number has been announced.  I believe that this number has been floated by the State Department as a trial balloon.  I still believe that if things go well in terms of the public and political response to these efforts that we can expect a much larger announcement by early 2014.  There are a lot of variables, of course, and a tremendous amount of politics and public relations involved for the Obama Administration.  However, in a matter of months, media images of snow covered refugee camps and freezing Syrian children will likely call greater attention to the already desperate humanitarian crisis.  I still believe that churches and agencies should ready themselves for a resettlement effort in the United States as high as 100,000.  Additionally, as in Canada, family reunification visas will increase so that Syrians arriving via traditional immigration routes will go up.  Refugee resettlement of course will occur along the patterns that many of us have grown accustomed to.  Resettlement agencies will be used to facilitate the process and thus the Syrians will initially be resettled in areas where other refugee communities are located.  

The newest variable in this situation is whether or not the U.S. will engage Syria militarily.  I believe that this will impact the future of refugee resettlement, but I am not sure how.  Here are a few things to consider:

1. If the U.S. topples the current Syrian regime, what percentage of the displaced will be able to return home?  Will widows and orphans be able to return home?  What about those whose homes have been destroyed?  Whatever happens, I think we must accept the fact that many have become permanently displaced.

2. Will U.S. military involvement lead to a more generous resettlement effort similar to the resettlement of Iraqi refugees?

3. Will non-involvement mean that Assad completes his victory over the rebels and thus permanently displace those who have become refugees?

The following paragraph is maintained for archival purposes.  I think it helps us to understand the pressure points behind the U.S. resettlement announcement.  I wrote it in June 2013:

I suspect that Canada's recent announcement to resettle paves the way for the United States to make a similar announcement.  Incidentally, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has just publicly called upon the US to open their doors to Syrian refugees.  In a press release, Archbishop Jose Gomez said, "We have an obligation to help these vulnerable populations, including and especially the most vulnerable refugees: unaccompanied minors and those that have become victims of human trafficking." Gomez called the US the "world's leader in protecting refugees" and wants to see the country do much more in the face of this crisis.

Questions for Churches and Ministries to Consider:
1. Syrian refugees will not have spent decades in refugee camps like the Bhutanese or the refugees from Burma. They will not be as far separated from the horrors of war. How can we bring hope and wholeness to them? How will we address emotional, physical, relational needs?

2. There are likely to be larger numbers of fatherless families resettled due to two things.  First, over three-quarters of Syrian refugees are women and children (men being involved in the fighting).  Second, the UN is especially emphasizing the most vulnerable for resettlement to Western nations.  How will you prepare to address this?

3. Do you know where the nearest refugee resettlement agency is in your community?  If not, leave a comment below and I will help you locate it.  Have you begun a relationship with that agency?

4.  Have you begun or are you partnering with another organization to offer ESL (English as a Second Language)?  If so, how can you prepare your church/group to double your capacity for the number of students you can handle?  For related ministries which are attractive and helpful to refugees, consider how you can double their capacities within the next 2 years.

5. How much Arabic do you know? Have you learned anything about Islam?  Do you know where are the local stores and markets which sell "halal" products?  Prepare yourself now so that when Syrians come to your cities you will be better able to befriend them.

6. Do you know were refugees are initially resettled in your area?  Do you know where they tend to move to after 3-4 years?  Can you predict where resettlement will take place over the next decade?  Since new refugees often have transportation challenges (no cars or driver's licenses) are your ministries accessible to them?

Resources to Consult:

There are too many resources to mention.  For now, let me suggest a couple things:

1. The Latest on the Syrian Refugee Crisis:  Make it a point to check out the United Nations site devoted to the Syrian Refugee Crisis.  This site isn't being updated as regularly as I would like, so also check out  Surf with discernment through other sites realizing that there is an especially large amount of anti-resettlement sentiment against the Syrian refugees due to the fact that they are predominantly Muslim.  Additionally:

2. Missions and Missiological Preparation:  I recommend that you read up on diaspora missions (here and/or here) and consider taking the Perspectives course within the next two years so that you can gain a better sense of God's heart for the nations.  Regardless of what happens with this specific crisis, it is clear that the Lord is bringing many of the world's least-reached peoples to areas of the world where they suddenly have unprecedented access to the Gospel.  Followers of Christ should be embracing this growing phenomenon.


40 maps that explain the world

This is a cool article by the Washington Post.  If you care about global issues and global missions, you will find many of the maps here very interesting.  For example there are maps that show where foreigners are most and least welcome, maps that show which parts of the world are least racially tolerant, maps that show where people feel loved the most.  It's really valuable stuff.  Check it out!

40 maps that explain the world:


Master-less Plans of Global Evangelism

Image Courtesy of EMQ
In case you have missed it, my article from the July 2013 issue of Evangelical Missions Quarterly is now available for free at the Billy Graham Center website.  It is always an honor to be published in EMQ, and a double blessing to see that the BGC felt it was important for a broader audience to read.

I think this brief article can be described as the inner wranglings of a 30-something missionary who is perhaps seeing the last vestiges of his naivety die away. I am not, however, losing my idealism and conviction that we can and should do better.

So, the article is called "Master-less Plans of Global Evangelism" and you can check it out at the link below.

Hot Off the Evangelism & Missional Presses | Wheaton:
EXCERPT: To what extent can mission leaders today say that if God doesn’t keep his promises, then our plans and ministries will utterly fail? Have we created strategic fail-safes that allow us to progress toward or even accomplish our organizational goals even if our prayers go unanswered and God does not do anything particularly interesting? Have we become functionally atheistic in our mission praxis today?


Need some help friends!

Greetings friends and family!

Today, I need to make a special appeal for some bonus financial support. This summer (especially the last month or so) has hit us pretty hard with needed repairs to house, car, etc. Additional ministry expenses have also come up and, well, basically, we are just not doing very well financially right now.

Typically, I make requests for financial support toward specific projects such as international trips, etc. This time however, we need some special general support as well. Basically, we could really use about $2200 as follows:

1. $1200 would help us in light of the various repairs, etc that have come up including water heater replacement, related plumbing expenses, our car got hit while parked, and a few other things.

2. $1000 would help me a lot in making a trip beginning next week through several states. (1) I need to be in Arkansas for a training that will allow us to begin offering the Perspectives course in Chicagoland to raise up a new generation of missionaries. (2) I will visit Nepali disciples who are now living in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New York to encourage them and evaluate how to best catalyze them for making an impact in their new cities. (3) I will visit potential partners in Toronto who are looking at joining hands with us in various ways including church planting in Chicago and development ministry in Ethiopia and Uganda. Fortunately, my lodging prices are minimal (only 3 hotel nights needed) as I will be staying in Nepali and partner homes for most of the trip. Most of the expenses are associated with food and gas.

My prayer today is that many of you will click on and make a quick gift of any amount to support us (add a note like Lorances). Our online giving is set up through PayPal which we find to be still the safest and best system out there. All gifts are also tax deductible. If you prefer a more traditional giving option, you can always mail a check to us (let me know).

Also, we could use some additional monthly supporters. The longer we serve on the mission field, the fewer regular supporters we have. Currently we have less than 10 regular monthly supporters. So, while you are over at the website, you can set up a monthly gift of support for us on this page

Thanks again for all your support, prayer, and encouragement!

BREAKING: The United States Opens Doors for Syrian Refugees

Photo by Trocaire

Foreign Policy has an exclusive story posted yesterday announcing that the United States will open its doors to 2,000 Syrian refugees.  This follows a similar announcement from Canada just a couple months ago and daily news updates on how the humanitarian crisis for the refugees is growing more and more desperate.

Here is a quote from the FP exclusive:

The numbers are relatively small: just 2,000 refugees, compared to an estimated two million people who have fled Syria during the civil war. But it's a significant increase from the 90 or so Syrian refugees who have been permanently admitted to the U.S. in the last two years. And it's not entirely uncontroversial. The refugees, mostly women and children, will be screened for terrorist ties -- a process that could take a year or more to complete. 

If nothing changes from this initial announcement (which is unlikely), we can expect to welcome new Syrian refugee families in the first half of 2014.  My expectation, of course, is that there will be changes to this announcement.  After the November elections, I expect that efforts will be made to make the US public more aware of how winter weather is making the Syrian crisis more intolerable.  Perhaps by the end of the year or beginning of 2014, we may see a larger announcement.  The Church needs to get ready to welcome these new neighbors!

If this is your first exposure to the issue, please read my primer article: "Bracing for the Syrian Tidal Wave: Preparation Points for North American Churches" as well as my "Open Letter to Displaced Syrians".  If you are hungry for more, you can check out everything I've posted on the Syrian refugee crisis here.


Darshan: The End of the World and Modern Pessimism

Photo by Tom Godber
I've been studying this morning about optimism and it has led me to reflecting upon our present day fascination with apocalyptic themes in our films and TV shows.  A quick glance at the following Wikipedia list shows that we've produced more more apocalyptic films since 2010 than during the entire decade of either the 80s or 90s. And this isn't even considering TV shows like Revolution or Walking Dead.  What's going on? Does it matter?

List of apocalyptic films - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

My gut tells me that it matters at least somewhat and maybe it matters a lot.  For example, does this suggest that for all of our renewed awareness and interest in "engaging" issues such as human trafficking, world evangelism, climate change, poverty and hunger, HIV/AIDS, global terrorism, immigration justice, racism, and more that we are actually engaging in a rather pessimistic and hopeless way?  Do we engage as those who wish to do something good but who do not actually believe that good can reign?

With Nelson Mandela perhaps nearing the end of his life, I remember growing up in the 80s and being told in school and even by TV sitcoms that the racial walls of Apartheid could be defeated.  I remember watching President Reagan calling for Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down this wall"! And I remember watching people climb all over the Berlin Wall soon thereafter with sledge hammers tearing that thing down.

We see walls all over the place today.  And we raise awareness.

We see intimidating walls rising up around the world.  And we call people to become engaged.

But do we no longer believe that they can actually be torn down?


Darshan: Ministry Sanctuaries

["Darshan" is a Sanskrit term that can be translated as "viewing with devotion" or "lovingly reflecting". It is a form of meditation. But enough about that. I'm going to use it to mark out posts on this blog that are simply quick reflections. Different from news clippings or missiology posts. Do you get what I mean?]

This summer has been a tremendous challenge. As some of you know, health problems, busyness, etc. have been slowing me down.  In ministry and missions, indeed things can get overwhelming. Sometimes it becomes difficult to know what to do next. Often, I find myself doing one thing only to begin quickly doubting myself, thinking that I should be doing something else. Or perhaps ten other things.

This past week, I have found myself talking about the need for ministry sanctuaries. By that, I mean refuges in ministry that protect you from the clouds of doubt and the voices which tell you that you should rather be doing something else.  These are ministry activities that are so pure, so simple, so Biblical that doing them removes you from the worry of all that you are not doing.

Prayerwalking is one of those things. As is visiting and ministering to the sick. For me, blessing and dedicating babies is another.  When I engage in these things, I feel it doesn't matter what I am not doing. They are sanctuaries.  If you are in ministry or missions, you also need these kinds of sanctuaries.  And you need to visit them often.

Here are the two Nepali babies I conducted naming ceremonies for during the past couple weekends:


A Report on Suicide among Bhutanese Refugees

Photo by nahlinse
Here is a recent article reporting on a study conducted among Bhutanese-Nepalis on the topic of suicide.  Some of you will recall my post from earlier this year on this issue.  This article from Psychiatric Annals, says the suicide rate among the Bhutanese refugees is nearly double the US national average.

The article also provides a list of contributing factors, which is helpful. However, in my opinion, the big question remains as to why the suicide rate among Bhutanese refugees is so much higher than other refugee groups who experience so many of the same issues including poverty, PTSD, depression, identity loss, etc.  When I read the article, I want to ask the researchers what is unique about the Bhutanese!  In the end, the true answer may be something that this kind of research just can't get at.  I'm personally beginning to feel that there may be a "spirit of suicide and death" over the Bhutanese refugees - a kind of spiritual stronghold that needs to be broken.

Since I have readers from all kinds of backgrounds, I'm sure that will come off as very odd thing to say.  If that's how you feel, I welcome your thoughts one why suicide is so prevalent among these people - people I love so much.

Here's the article:

Suicidal ideation among refugees associated with resettlement issues | Psychiatry: "The annual suicide rate among those who had resettled in the US could be as high as 24.4 per 100,000, exceeding the estimated global suicide rate (16 per 100,000) and that among US residents (12.4 per 100,000)."


Don't Gross Out the World - International Dining Quiz

The link below is to a cool, flash-based quiz on international dining etiquette.  I love it and think I'll use it for training. Check it out:

That is all.


Well done, Heidi! We will miss you.

The Trinity International family is saddened by the loss of our friend, Heidi Schoedel. Heidi co-founded and led one of our favorite partner ministries, Exodus World Services which has been dedicated to mobilizing and equipping the church to love refugees for many years.  I have a great respect and admiration for Heidi who gave her life away for something bigger than herself. In devotion to The Lord Jesus, she is responsible for blessing thousands of refugees.  I hope I can finish as well as she did.

It has been a great joy for TIBM to partner with Exodus under Heidi's leadership and while we look forward to continuing our partnership, we will miss her. We sincerely hope that in response to her example many churches and individuals will look to get involved with Exodus World Services.  Here is how:

Exodus ministries:

Or you can make a donation here:

Read Exodus's letter on Heidi's death here:

The video we made with Exodus a couple years ago:


Ten Things Men and Boys Can Do to Stop Human Trafficking

Photo by Eric Parker
Here's a great post from over at the Ms. Blog Magazine by Jewel Woods.  I'm not familiar with Woods or the site, but I really like this list and encourage you to give it some thought.  I do know that the post is not written from a Biblical perspective, so there is opportunity here for Christ-followers to read, reflect, and recreate a list with a Christ-centered worldview.

When I was recently at the American Society of Missiology symposium on human trafficking, this was an issue that was raised front and center.  If we want to get serious about the problem of human trafficking, we must get serious about dealing with the demand.  While the government can legislate and NGOs can bring aid, rescue and aftercare, only the Church can deal meaningfully with the moral issue of man's demand for sex slaves.

I hope you will take the time to check out the full article at Ms. Blog Magazine, where Woods provides a lot of solid insight and explanation.  For now, let me just give you here top ten:

1. Challenge the glamorization of pimps in our culture.
2. Confront the belief that prostitution is a "victimless crime".
3. Stop patronizing strip clubs.
4. Don't consume pornography.
5. Tackle male chauvinism and sexism online.
6. End sex tourism.
7. Talk to men and boys about men's issues in male spaces.
8. Support anti-human trafficking policies.
9. Support creation of John Schools.
10. Raise sons and mentor boys to challenge oppression.

A great list, to be sure.  I would love someone out there to rethink this list and provide a Christocentric one.  Let me know if you have thoughts!


Ten Mission Priorities and Nine Urgent Needs

Photo by GlynLowe
By anyone's estimation, the task before us in world missions is a daunting one.  Even when one narrows it down to a single nation or city or if you look only one dimension of the gospel task like church planting, evangelism, or world hunger -- even then, it is very difficult to know where to begin.

Personally, I have been wrestling with the idea of priorities for some time.  How do we establish missionary priorities?  How does a mission agency, denomination, or church decide where to engage in missions first?  In coming days, I hope to share some thoughts on this and how we've made some specific application in Chicagoland.  For today, however, I wish to commend to you the work of a couple great missiological thinkers and friends who have attempted to create their own global mission priority lists.  Here they are with some commentary:

1. Mission Top Ten - by Tim Schultz
Tim provides a list of 10 nations or regions of the world most in need of "apostolic missionary work".  His list is heavily inspired by Operation World and includes places like Japan, Bangladesh, and Russia.  Tim also includes the United States especially because of diaspora movement which is bringing in large numbers of unreached peoples into the country.

2. Nine Urgent Needs for Additional Missionaries - by Doug Nichols
Doug has provided us with a different kind of priority list which focuses on various types or categories of peoples rather than specific geographical regions.  Here we see his call for more missionaries among unreached peoples, orphans, trafficking victims, Bibleless peoples and more.  Doug also lists diasporas as one of his top nine urgent needs.

You can find other lists like these around the web, but I have a great appreciation for these two examples.  Whether we are looking at the entire globe or a local city, missionary leaders must be able to look at their fields and prayerfully analyze them in this way.  Consider the following:

Who are the people groups who currently have the least access to the gospel?  Who have the fewest churches or believers?  Whom no one is trying to reach?

What parts (geographical) of your mission field are least-engaged?

In which parts of society are sin and Satan causing the most destruction?  How are people hurting?  How are they being oppressed?


Crayon Exegesis (Or Paint)

Photo by JD Hancock
And now for something completely different . . .

Actually, I was looking for some notes on an activity that I remember doing back in grad school a few times. I remember it being called "crayon exegesis" but it may have just been called "painting exegesis".  I will give credit to my friend and mentor, Rob Gallagher, but he may have ripped it off from someone else.  Who knows.  Anyhow, since I can't find it on the web anywhere else, I shall put it here.  Enjoy!

Instructions for Crayon (or let's make it finger paint) Exegesis:

1.  Set up -

  • Prayerfully choose a passage of Scripture ahead of time.  A narrative passage will usually work better for this exercise.  
  • Provide participants with printouts of the passage.  I recommend that the type face is as large as possible. Consider printing on larger sheets of paper like 11X17" or even larger if possible.
  • Provide participants with plenty of crayons, markers, or finger paint.  Colored pencils are boring.

2.  Begin your time together with prayer, worship, and one or two readings of the chosen passage.

3.  Explain to the participants that the purpose of this time is to reflect deeply upon this passage of Scripture, to begin to exegete it and to listen to what the Spirit of God is saying to them.

4.  Now begin to guide the group through a few readings of the text (alternatively, you may group the following into a single reading).  Be sure to insert prayer and silence as you go.  It is probably best to wait until the end before allowing any discussion.

First Reading - All participants will read silently and use the following colors to shade, highlight, or otherwise mark themes:

Red = passion, blood, anger, sacrifice
Orange = youth, immaturity, insanity
Yellow = happiness, friendship, ease
Green = Growth, nature

Second Reading - Again the participants will read the text and shade, highlight, or otherwise mark the following themes:

Blue = peace, serenity, quiet, purity
Purple = royalty, stature
Black = death, threat, darkness

Third Reading - Participants may now choose any other color and as they read silently through the passage again, mark the text with the following symbols whenever they observe:

Strength = I (vertical line)
Rest or Death = __ (horizontal line)
Growth or Nurturing = @ (swirl)
Action = / (forward slash for "advance" and backslash for "setback or failure")
Movement or Vibration = ~~ (wave)
Unity or Wholeness = O (circle)
Separation = Y (fork)

Final Reading - Leader should slowly read the passage aloud to give participants one last chance to reflect.  They may want to make additions based on the previous instructions.  They should also be encouraged to choose one last color and make any kinds of markings, drawings, short comments or phrases, or whatever they like.  

5. Supply participants with tape and post the creations all around the room.  Give everyone a few minutes to walk around and look at one another's pictures.  End with the following discussion followed by prayer for one another:

  • What new insights or observations did you see today in our passage?
  • What questions about the text do you have?
  • What do you hear God saying to you in His word today?