Bhutanese Take On Technology Abuse and Relationships in the Short Film "One Day"

Today I want to commend a group of young Bhutanese creatives who are seeking to make a positive difference among the Bhutanese refugee global community through film-making.  The short film entitled "One Day" is clearly a beginning effort by a group that is just becoming acquainted with the medium.  However, they take on a very important issue (i.e. how social media and technology impact personal relationships) and they do so with clarity.

I hope you will watch "One Day" and share it with your friends.  Also, I encourage you to visit the YouTube Channel of Tassie Bhutanese Entertainment and encourage these youth.  Personally, I believe that Bhutanese-Nepali young men have a natural penchant for the creative arts and that this may be a very significant sign of hope for their future.

By the way, if you are unfamiliar with the unique genre of Nepali cinema, you will find certain things rather shocking.  For example, their is a rather unexpected scene of violence that non-Bhutanese viewers may find laughable or otherwise unappealing.  However, I found that it rather fits very well into what I've come to expect in Nepali films and is actually a kind of powerful symbolism to communicate the destruction that social media sites can wreak on family relationships.


On Muslims Coming to Christ

I've recently read through a wonderful series of posts over on the Circumpolar blog (one of my absolute favorites).  In the series, Warrick Farah, one of the brightest missiological minds hiding out with me in cyberspace*, explores the phenomenon of Muslims coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  His series is super insightful and a true must-read for those involved in missions among Muslim peoples.  Rest-assured, I will be passing it around to my teammates.

Here are few of my favorite insights from the Circumpolar Series:

1. "Conversion" to Christ tends to be a gradual and incremental process for Muslims.  Here's a quote from part 1 of the series: 

The overall experience of Muslims, however, is that conversion is a gradual process that takes place over many years (Haney 2010, 68Larson 1996a;Teeter 1990, 307-308). Gordon Smith notes that Muslim conversions to Christ “do not tend to rest or pivot on a decision or a particular act of acceptance. Rather, it has been well documented that these conversions are slow and incremental” (2010, 84). Qaasid cannot point to the moment of his conversion, but he knows he is a disciple of the Messiah. Thus, conversion is a process that transpires over months or years. The sometimes apparently sudden decision to “follow Christ” is only one essential step in this process.

I hope that this insight will be an encouragement to those who have become discouraged because they haven't seen "fruit" in their ministry among Muslims.

2. Farah points out in part 5 of the series that identity is a much more complicated issue that the typical debate surrounding "insider movements" and contextualization.  I think there is a lot of room to develop this idea further, but the fact that the series at least raises the issue is very helpful.  Here's a potent quote:

Identity is far more complex and dynamic than is unfortunately portrayed by many evangelicals on all sides of the issues. Layers of identity abound for people in every culture, and belonging to multiple traditions is a reality in today’s globalized world.

I would hesitate more than Farah does in quoting Rebecca Lewis and Georges Houssney in a way that makes them appear to be equal opposites in the debate on insider movements.  Positions aside, the level of argumentation and research simply isn't the same between these two.  I'll leave it at that.

3. I love the insights related to Muslim women coming to Christ.  Farah guesses that 80% of Muslims who come to know Christ are men and calls for much more research and evangelistic emphasis to be directed towards Muslim women.  Wow! That should deeply encourage all kinds of women who have been considering missions.  You are needed!  I should also point out that the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today is the Syrian refugee crisis (expected to total 4 million externally displaced refugees by the end of 2014) and that this has heavily resulted in the displacement of Muslim women.  There is a heavily female human tidal wave of Syrian refugees now flooding the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere.

Farah's most compelling insight in part 7 of his series is that Muslim women who come to Christ are greatly influenced by stories of Jesus's affirmation and positive treatment of women.  This clearly calls for missionaries to emphasize such stories in their evangelism of Muslim women.  

[*By the way, if you haven't noticed, there is a tremendous amount of really great missiology that is being done in the non-traditional realms of blogs and other social media outlets.  As traditional missiology publishers struggle to transition from print to digital/online formats to keep up with the times, a solid cadre of excellent missiologists have produced and are producing truly top-notch resources that are being heavily consumed by all manner of missionary practitioners.  Besides ... ah hem ... myself ;-) ... I love reading CircumpolarIndigenous JesusTallSkinnyKiwiThe Long ViewThe World is Our NeighborhoodAcrosscultureFaithful Witness and Missiologically Thinking.  You have any favorites that I've missed?] 

[Photo by Rifqi Dalgren]


Urgent Need! Help us Replace Gloria's Stolen Laptop!


Gloria Katusiime serves as a part of the Trinity International family as the Exectutive Director of Endiro, a business as mission endeavor based in Kampala, Uganda that is using the vehicle of coffee shops to generate financial support for ministries that are rescuing HIV/AIDS orphans and transforming "child-headed homes" with the hope and wholeness of Jesus Christ.

Support Gloria Now!

In the coming months, you will hear a lot more from me about Endiro and Endiro Coffee as we launch our third coffee shop, re-launch our website and social media sites, develop our newly established board of directors, and explore ways to bring the incredibly delicious Endiro Coffee to North America.  But for now, we need some urgent help:

A couple days ago, Gloria's home was broken into and thieves stole a bunch of stuff.  Most important among these items was her laptop which is vital for managing the business and ministry components of Endiro as well as for staying connected with people through email, Skype, etc.  I was saddened to hear about this and with Gloria's birthday coming up next week (shhh ...), I wanted to make every effort I could to replace her old laptop.

Children perform at Young Achiever's School
So, I have set up chance for you to make a safe and secure, tax-deductible donation online at Trinity's main ministry website.  My goal is to raise $700 for Gloria as quickly as possible and get it to her by the end of the month so that she can purchase a good, new laptop for her work.   Again, since Gloria and Endiro have officially become a part of the growing global Trinity International family, you gift is fully tax-deductible in the United States.  Just follow this link to give now!

Thanks so much for supporting the new and growing work of Endiro.  I think you will be very excited about what it coming in 2014!


Reflections on the Past Decade of Missiological Research

Recently the International Bulletin of Missionary Research came out with their latest review of doctoral dissertations for the field of missiology.  This is something that they try to do every decade in order to try to understand trends and possibly to identify gaps in missiological research.

Okay ... so most of you are probably asleep right now.  Sorry.  This is something that I'm interested in and ... well ... ultimately, that's what I write about.  It's not like any of you are paying for this.  ;-)

Anyway, I read through IBMR's review and had some random thoughts that I felt like sharing.  Here you go:

1.  I notice that it is still the case that the overwhelming majority of doctoral projects focus on the past hundred or so years of missions.  Roughly 85% of "historically-oriented" dissertations focus on the period of time since 1800 meaning that we continue to understand very little about the first 1,800 years of mission history.  That's a problem, I think. Because, you know, history is really important.

2. There are a couple interesting nuggets about gender in IBMR's report.  In particular, three-quarters of the dissertation authors were men.  The article points out that with about half of all missionaries and more than half of the world's church members being women, this signifies an important under-representation in the field of missiology.  I want to register my personal surprise given the fact that most of my classmates at Wheaton College who were earning the MA in missions and intercultural studies were women.  It was like 4 out of 5!  But then again, whenever I'm hanging around at missiology society meetings, it tends to be a bit of a boys club.  I'm not sure what exactly is going on here.  Are women just more interested in getting to work than in research and lecturing?  Thoughts?

3. Only 3% of dissertations had a primary focus on the unevangelized world -- i.e., where missions and missionaries are needed most.  That seems sad to me and kind of wasteful.  We've long been saying that only 1 in 10 missionaries works among the unreached and this research fact makes me wonder if part of the reason for that is that too few teachers of mission are focused on pioneer missions.  If there is a hidden bright light here, it is that a number of dissertations were focused on the unevangelized living in diaspora in the so-called "World C" (evangelized) nations.  Does this reflect the fact that diaspora missiology is catching on as a new pioneer missions priority?  Does it reflect a move of the Spirit in the Church and the world to complete the Great Commission through the movement of people from everywhere to everywhere?

4. Finally, I was kind of surprised to see that over 1500 missiology dissertations were written during the past decade (roughly the same period of time that I have been involved in missiology).  Of course this doesn't count missiology dissertations completed as a part of a D. Miss or D. Min degree.  Does this mean that there are about 2000 new missiology "doctors" out there?  And if so, what are they doing?  Are they all battling for the seemingly small number of teaching positions available?  Since I still don't have a doctorate, should I be nervous that when I finally do get around to it that I won't be able to land a professorship?

Read the full IBMR report here.

[Photo by AstronomyBlog]


The Baptism of Lord Jesus: iBenedictines Blog

Today, according to the traditional church calendar is the Feast of the Baptist of the Lord Jesus.  Not something that gets recalled a lot in (ironically enough) my Baptist circles.  However, I love this story and especially the rendering in Matthew 3.  Go and read it today and then click over the today's very important post at the iBendictines blog.  Here's a quote:

iBenedictines: "It is a reminder that life is not to be measured in length of years or in achievements, as we usually consider them, but in fidelity to vocation. The Baptism of Jesus marks the point where he definitively accepted the public phase of his mission, but there was no denial or denigration of what had gone before. The ‘hidden years’ are just as important for our salvation as the last three.

Each one of us is a vocation, called and chosen by the Lord to live in this particular place, at this particular time. Everything we do is, potentially at least, a means of attaining the holiness to which we are called. That knowledge is both a great freedom and a great responsibility As we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, let us ask his help in rededicating ourselves to his service — in the way that he chooses rather than the way we would choose for ourselves."

[Photo by Negrisima]


I'm Calling on the Bhutanese Refugee Community to Stop Killing Yourselves!

With now over 70 thousand Bhutanese refugees in the United States, the suicide rate among them remains staggeringly high.  A recent article published in the Wall Street Journal (India) called attention to this problem.

American Dream Becomes Nightmare for Bhutanese Refugees - India Real Time - WSJ:

report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal U.S. government agency, published in Oct. 2012, stated that in the three years to Feb. 2012, the rate of suicides among Bhutanese refugees resettled in America was 20.3 per 100,000 people.
This rate was almost double that among the U.S. general population and exceeded the global suicide rate of 16.0 per 100,000, according to figures from the World Health Organization.

Now, I greatly appreciate contributing author, T.P. Mishra, continuing to raise awareness on this important issue.  However, practically every article I read on the topic seems to get lost in some confusing points.  Let me elaborate:

1. The title here (American dream becomes nightmare ...) is very misleading as it suggests that somehow coming to the United States has created a suicide crisis.  However, as the article itself points out, the suicide rate of these people in the refugee camps was as high as it is now.  Coming to America, hasn't resulted in more suicides.  It simply hasn't improved the situation.

2. These articles always end up talking about the pressures of resettlement including culture shock, employment stress, relationship problems, and other financial difficulties.  However, they usually fail to mention that these pressures are faced by practically every other refugee group entering the U.S. and the Bhutanese commit suicide as startlingly higher rates than other refugees.  That is to say, while resettlement-related issues may be cited in any given case, these alone cannot be blamed for the suicide as they are experienced by other peoples who do not commit suicide.

At the end of the day, the Bhutanese community must be willing to ask the really difficult questions about how suicide as a viable option for dealing with problems has become deeply embedded in the psyche of the people.  Every Bhutanese refugee that I know (over the age of 20) has personally seen one or more dead bodies hanging from trees in forests near their camps.  I have seen several Nepali-language films in which a main character commits suicide and in which this act is not condemned by the film but rather seen as somehow noble, good, or rational.  And there is an undercurrent of spiritual ideas which suggest that those who commit suicide can enter the realm of ancestors and even be worshiped as household deities.  This last idea is not what may be considered "mainstream" Hinduism/Buddhism/Christianity but is a subtly influential folk belief that may be responsible for giving people the idea that suicide is not an "escape" or an "end" but rather a means of rectifying problems (more on this idea in chapter 5 of my book Ethnographic Chicago).

I encourage the Bhutanese community leaders (now various kind of community organizations have formed in practically every city where Bhutanese refugees have been resettled), to adopt the following initiatives:

1. Reject an introverted and culturally isolationist posture towards Americans who want to help and other diaspora groups and instead welcome strong partnerships with others in seeking to solve this problem.  God has not created a world of isolated peoples cut off from one another but has created us for cross-pollination.  The Bhutanese will not solve this problem alone.

2. Seek to create community-based preventative counselling opportunities for those who have personally witnessed, attempted, or considered suicide (this will be almost everyone).  Get people talking about it honestly especially with experts who are trained not only in mental health but also in cultural anthropology.

3. Publicly reject and criticize any media (songs, films, etc) which portray suicide in anything other than a tragic and immoral light.  Call upon musicians and actors/actresses to condemn suicide publicly.  (Like performing artist Wilbur Sargunaraj recently did.)

4.  Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian spiritual leaders should engage together in interfaith dialog towards the development of a joint statement about suicide which can confront and condemn the folk beliefs which penetrate and influence EACH faith group.  Surely, the pundits, lamas, and pastors can all agree that suicide is a violation of God's will and desire for his children which are created in his image and endowed with great value.  Suicide is a violent act of murder which is sinful in God's eyes.  It is never the answer to the problems that we face in life.  Such as joint statement should also suggest concrete ways of dealing with stress and depression such as through spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation and Scripture reading as well as through investing in important relationships and by seeking help from community and spiritual leaders, qualified volunteers and trained professionals.

[Photo by Mlhradio]