Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What do you expect?

I don't know where this might hit some of you. I guess it's like any of my rants in that I just like to ask the questions. Sometimes I have my own answers but this is not particularly for me. It's for those who have been giving faithfully to those who are called "missionaries." I personally I am thankful for those who believe in a great God that can take an imperfect hood kid and turn him loose on the world. Anyway I have always had to battle with living life basically on the donations of people. I did not grow up that way. I appreciate things that come my way. I believe in working hard for the things I get. I did not have a silver spoon in my mouth or could I afford to buy one. So trying to hang on the past four years of my life where I have lived off less than half of what I made in a year in the states is hard, to say the least. But my main point or question is, what is expected of me being a supported worker of God? Now I think people need to be held accountable for sure. By whose standards? Should every penny be scrutinized? Is there room for people to spend on cup of Starbucks coffee, or go out to watch a movie? Do supporters have the right to dig in to my life? Should I pressure my self to perform?

I don't know I have never supported a "missionary" before. I have personally felt and some I have witnessed, that churches or in some cases, individuals, or even missionaries have put pressure on missionaries because they support them financially. Again this goes without saying that there may have been reasons for some of these pressures missionary boards, churches, or individuals have put on people, who serve God out side of their country. But they are pressures. Are they valid? This does not speak of all people.

Counting how many I saved.
This is one of the first revolutionary ideas in my life as a Christian. My worth with God does not depend on how many people I got saved. Because none of us can save someone. I thought I read and believed in only one man who could do that. I can't count how many short mission trips I have been on, or heard groups who come back from one and share how many people they saved. How could you tell? They raised their hand in a tent, they said a magical prayer, they walked up to the preacher at the end of the sermon, they came to church next Sunday, someone laid hands on them, some of them fell when they laid hands on them,etc. I did every method I think several times before I was convinced. Without getting to much into it, we are all in a journey that is going somewhere with God. Everyone will be surprised about who will end up in Heaven or not. We can be accountable to the calling of God in our lives and our interactions with others. And the rest God handles. This one is not fair to expect someone to answer. And if you do, how many did you get saved then?

All the good things you do, smile.
Sadly I was once guilty of these things too. You know the great photo of the missionary holding the AIDS baby. A shot of the servant helping pass out food during a natural disaster. The saint aiding the homeless. God's heart is in it. They are good, and with the right attitude God gets the glory. But these are things you can capture on film to exalt God or exalt yourself.  I personally work in an environment where the people are already exploited. So you won't be seeing a lot of photos from me with the people I love here in Thailand. I remember in one of my trips to Swaziland, an AIDS affected country. This country already being over populated with well to do people, had even more people taking exploiting shots of helpless children for there well to do campaign. This one day having been in a particular village for months these foreigners came in, for 15 minutes took their shots, even one with a kid holding a sign that said "Please help", then drove away. My good friend, who was a native, turned to me and sternly said,"this is not a zoo." Exactly. How would you feel if people ran around taking shots of you in your most helpless moment? Or even more invading, if someone took pictures of you in your sin? Like some who have come here go on outreach to a bar and say to the women, "I know your are selling your bodies" or, "I am a missionary". And now let me take a picture with you so that people can see that I talked to a prostitute. Now pictures are, a very good way for supporters to see what, or who you are talking about. They are great for raising funds and awareness. I just don't think it's fair to demand it in every situation. You never know what type of work a person is in and taking their word is enough. I know we want to share stories, but what begins to happen is that you start to feel protective of people you minister to and don't want to share their life to millions of strangers. Besides, there are many things you can not capture with a photo. Like the building of a relationship in Christ.

Are you teaching them the right way to becoming Christian?
I think this one takes a lot of understanding from a western prospective. Again I was once ignorant of other cultures, and how God has created them uniquely to worship him. I once had communion with watermelon and soda once in a rural village. Did they miss out on what communion is? Maybe missed out on what the bread symbolizes to the Jews maybe, but the point is this is what was available, but their heart was to remember Christ. So take that situation and try to imagine the many Christian rituals, traditions, and what not, that we hold dear and try to replicate them in a situation like lets say, a third world, war torn country, where your dead if someone smells a Christian. I was always told that baptism was a public display of following Jesus. A heard a story from a seasoned church planter in South America, who after leading a young man to Christ, had him publicly display his faith. He was the only believer. He then got alienated by the village. Then one day they grabbed him and killed him. Not different from other stories of faith and persecution. This was not a hostile to Christian area. It was a ignorant read of culture. But the church plater learned a lesson. If I had him baptized inside he may have still been alive planting churches today. There are many things that will not go line by line by our western church rule book. You begin to realize how much we have added and don't necessarily need, in a reproducible church. This may be way over some of your heads. Maybe you think I am blaspheming. I was once asked If I planted a church who was going to pastor it? Because I wouldn't be qualified from a American seminary, or neither would any of the villagers, so I guess God is not allowed to have a church there. People will always have things to say, but God does not come in a box and neither does his people. Church is mentioned three times in the gospel. An assembly or gathering in the Greek. Let's start there before we put the walls up, the stage, monitors, guitars, pulpit, collection plate, etc.

There are more I have seen made God's humble workers turn into stressed business people. What should I show you? What do you want to know? Can I take day off? I wonder what Jesus did? I start and begin everyday with God. Pray for me, support me anyway you can. I don't want to pressure you in the same way.

Much Love.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Men > Women or Men = Women

This is more to encourage my brothers and sisters to live in community with in the kingdom of God rather to build a statement so that I can separate believers on an issue. We already have denominationalism, racism, socialism, ageism, sexism, and satan trying to kill and separate the body. I want to throw out some questions to stir up actions towards unity and not division.

This question came up during my weekly mens group. What is a man of God? I even started out by saying somethings about David. But quickly a paradigm shift would happen when a friend in the group ask the question."why wouldn't a women be able to do anything of those things he did?" Well, I guess she could?! A man described by God himself as a man after his heart. Yet there isn't anything particular that he did that a women couldn't have done with the power of God. Kill a giant with a sling. Lead an army. Become a ruler of people. We all know David messed up big time in his life time. But I don't remember people bringing that up when you here a sermon done on the greatest men in the bible. So there were times when he was very weak. In Hebrews 11 he is also listed in the Hall of Faith. Women have faith. David was courageous, strong, poetic, a leader, creative, musical, a warrior and a friend of God. All things women can be and are. So that begged the question what is it exactly that makes a Godly man. Maybe it's more fair to say that we are people who are Godly, but I happen to be a man. So that makes me a Godly man. And not that there are specific things pigeon holed into it. There are things that separate me as a man, but in the kingdom we are equal. I want to look at it from a female prospective.

That is just a process of thought. Now biblically is where is gets hostile.

1 Corinthians 11:3 says,"But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of everyman, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ."
The argument here is that the head in the Greek means something other than being in authority over. Some text and even my study Bible claims that the word means " the source of". Although there isn't really proof in any ancient writing that this is true. Where did it come from? And every time "head" is used in that context it means,"one in authority over". But what does that even mean in the context Paul is writing? Is he pointing to a system we should use in order to remain in harmony to understand submission, or a reason for one sex to rule over another?

Have most even factor in the attitude towards woman at that time? They weren't even allowed to publicly read, learn, much less voice an opinion in most societies. Some men would pray that they weren't women. It wasn't the fairest situation for women. How could they be anything else but submissive? Isn't it not the reason Jesus' interactions with women were so profound? This is something to understand when reading scripture that involves specific instructions to males and females.

1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul asked the women to be silent in the church. There must have been a reason. Again this is the same letter he is writing to Corinth. A specific letter to their situation. The women in Corinth must have really been causing trouble, so he feels the need to admonish them. But they had all kinds of trouble in Corinth. Again he is trying to help them answer their questions for their specific problems. Not that todays church couldn't learn something from his letter to them or that we don't run into the same issues.

Point being that we often take a letter that Paul wrote to a situation and make it theology. As someone once said, "we take our theology more from Paul's letters than from the life of Jesus." I agree. Suppose you were a baking company. If you wrote me a letter asking me how to bake a better cake because people have been complaining that it's not good, and I write you back telling you what mistakes you have made and what could make your cake more delicious. Do I take that same letter and show it to the pizza shop across the street and tell them how to make better pizza pies? No. Both want to feed, and both want to please, and both want to succeed, but they will obviously run differently. I hope you are not reading this with a closed mind. Not saying what Paul teaches is ungodly or wrong, or not of God. It's that we are error prone people. Misinterpretation or whatever, we can either look through things with the lens of Christ or our own. We humans have a crazy track record of taking any excuse to impose power over people.

Women were a part of God's plan. From Eve to Esther, to Mary. They were there when Jesus was born in the flesh. When the spirit came in Acts. They were persecuted. They were leaders, teachers, and prophets in the early church. Were they not apostles, and evangelist as well? And pastors... They can't be because, eh, huh? Oh yea, because Timothy says so right? Well he does say they must be men of...Where they not in the Jewish culture that didn't let the women do anything? Of course he is going to be talking to men. There is nothing that says a pastor needs to be a man. Women can die for the faith, but they can't have pastor next to their name? Aren't most of our mothers pastoral by nature? What if God choose a people who were in a Matriarchy? Just saying.

These are questions I asked because there is enough things I have followed because someone told me so. As I dig into the word, the character of God, Jesus' life, it breaks down more walls, stereotypes, traditions and judgments that I have blindly followed even in the church. Many of them started out with good intentions, but have turned into reasons for us to fight or over power. As I enter the kingdom mind it takes me out of the politics of the church building and lets me see freedom in his love and ways.

Men are generally stronger, faster, hairier, have a male productive organ etc. These are things that make me a man. What makes a women a women are fact as well. But in the kingdom of God it seems that he has made us equal. The world has a system that the kingdom does not follow. One of those horrible world systems is that men are greater than women or far greater in some societies. I personally believe God wanted to show us that in order for things to work in his kingdom there needs to be healthy submission. Like Jesus showed us towards the Father. I think he has chosen men to do that as well. But to use that argument to tell women who were made in God's image, beauty, authority, that they can't be as important to the body of Christ as men are made out to be, is not a good use of that submission.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fret? Who's fretting?


You know the month before was really rough for me. I sent a whole email about it. Well this month has not been better. And today it got worse. This officially is the bottom for me,(until it gets worse). So this month is worse than the month before, already.

My mom lovingly sent a very very very important package to the wrong address but didn't tell me that she did until last week. So the package had been sitting at the post office for two weeks. It contains cash gift cards, my third Visa check card I have had to send for, and other cool stuff like beef jerky, pictures of my nieces and nephews, and fluff. So I finally tracked it down and went to go get it today.

It was not close, but after driving my moto all the way to the post office some 20 minutes, the man that would help start a chain of events that would ruin my month was waiting there with his stupid grin. I had called this afternoon before I had driven over to ask them specifically if my package was there. They said yes, just bring your passport and you can pick it up. I came with my passport, and Work permit in a case together to pick it up. The fool of a man who was suppose to help me could not find the package, and instead of asking someone else he claims that it should be with the person who signed for it at my old house 2 weeks ago.(what the H-E- double hockey sticks is he thinking) I told them how could that be, when I had called this morning and someone said it was here. So he invites me in and now there are two more useless guys talking it over with me about where the package could be. Again I tell them that the package was said to be here. They don't listen and are convinced that it is with the person who signed for the package. Already angry that they could be so incompetent, I tried not to tell them all off and tell them how stupid they could be for letting someone else take my package that has been sent half way across the world so easily, and then not have a clue as to where is it, I shook my head gritted my teeth and took off for the old house I used to live in. Which was not close by either. Another 15 minute ride on a moto-bike later I finally reached the house and started collecting my things and get ready to investigate as to where this package could be. That is when it all got worse. I noticed that my other documents are in my moto carrying basket except, my passport, and work permit case!!! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!! That's what I said. The basket had broken off of it's weld, leaving the back of it unconnected. The work permit that I had so long waited, prayed, and waited, and waited for was lost, along with the other final piece of document that said who I was and the thing that allows me to be here. Gone. All the money, time and energy, gone. I took some deep breaths, remembering that I still had not even started to figure out where the package was. But knowing that with out my passport I couldn't receive it anyway.

After asking the neighbor that received my package, who had given it to the people who now live in the house, who had given it to the security guards, who had given it back to the mailman and who had brought it back to the post office which I started off in the morning in. NOT KIDDING. I could not tell you how out of it I was. I could not believe something like this was happening again to me. I drive all the way back to the post office, but now with a peace of paper from the guards showing proof that the box had been sent back to the post office with a specific person on a specific date. I go right back in the post office, straight to the back like I worked there, and got the attention of one of the three stooges. I show him the signed piece of paper, and tell him with all the patience left in me that this package has to be here. So he calls the guy whose name is on the sheet of paper. While he talks to the guy, he reaches on top of a computer where the package was, maybe ten feet behind the desk I was waiting at. !!!!!!!!!!! ANY, CURSE WORD YOU WANT TO PUT HERE. I felt just a little relieve to know the package was there. It was all mangled on one side but it looked like the holy grail to me. But then I had to ask the painful question. พี่ครับ ผมต้องมีหนังสือเดินทางที่ได้รับอันนี้ไหม. "yes, you need your passport." he said. I told him to wait while I checked the streets. and that I had just lost it. He looked at me weird but I had no choice.

Now the area I needed to cover was over 10 square miles,(yea impossible I know) so I just thought I would retrace the initial streets I left looking for the package at the old house. I rode around, stopping at every moto-taxi group asking if they had seen it, and left my number with at least one of them in case they found it. I did that for like 45 minutes. Then I parked the motobike back at the post office and decided to comb the main rode the post office is on. I went on foot. Again I ask each moto-taxi group and left my number. I even asked the lady who sweeps the streets. She pointed me at the mini police station underneath the highway. I walked there and he told me to visit the main police station in the area which couldn't be reached on foot. I asked the police officers if they had seen it, and he went on to tell me what I needed to do in this, "this is what you need to do, because I am your dad" voice. And he asked me, "Don't you have a Thai girl friend with you?" Nope, I forgot mine at home. Depressed, hot, hungry, dehydrated, and completely hopeless I returned to my bike after an hour. I popped my head back into the post office, and the same stupid grin of the man who started this whole mess was there looking at me again. It was then that I really wanted to tell him off. He was an idiot for sending me out in the first place when the package was there all along, and now both my passport, and work permit was gone, I waisted my whole afternoon, all my gas was gone and I still couldn't get my package! I asked if I could get the package if I had a copy of my passport, and he said no. No, huh. What the heck is the difference? Your gonna tell me your gonna be professional about that, but your useless when it comes to actually doing your job?!?! I didn't say a word. I wanted to kick his teeth in.

I actually rode back looking for the police station, but had no clue how far it was. It was miles until some thai friends of mine phoned me asking me if I needed help. I still hadn't found the police station, but one of my friends thought it wasn't smart, because I had no ID with me, and now I had no passport, or work permit. Thai law requires foreigners to be able to show these things when asked or face fines, deportation or imprisonment. I decided not to go. It had been 4 hours since I left to start this whole thing. I am so tired, angry, depressed, and done with this place. I have the equivalent of 2 bucks in my pocket, no ID, no passport, no work permit, no way to pay my rent, money I owe the lawyers in getting my work permit, and any other money I need to file a police report, get to the embassy, get new passport, work permit etc. I am emptied out. I can crash my bike, throw my computer out the window, and set my apartment on fire to finish it all off.

I started off this morning replying to a question from a friend from back home in Philly. He asked "define what brother means in Christ, we use this word so loosely?"
I typed back "I think when the early brothers use it, it was a term of endearment and to the amount of love, dedication and sacrifice they had for one another. Remember when Jesus asked the question," who is my mother and who is my brothers?" He points at the disciples and says "whoever does the will of my father who is in heaven is My brother, and sister, and mother." I know people say it to sound Christian, but your right, we should think a little more about what it means or what it takes to be called brothers and sisters in Christ. That means sharing in goods, wealth, time, relationship, etc. and love most of all."

I have that here in Thailand, Philly, Cambodia, Kansas City, South Africa, Chicago, and many other places all over the world. I am not worried about how it will turn out. It does not change who Jesus is. I know people who are in love with Jesus and they will support me. Those are my brothers and sisters, not just because they will help me, but because we all share in the will of the Father. They got my back. Frustrated, yes. Weary, yes. Weak, yes. Confused, yes. Hopeless, speechless, penny less, yes, yes, yes. The perfect recipe for miracles, testimony, faith, trust, hope, and love, in our Jesus Christ.

"Fretting rises from our determination to have our own way. Our Lord never worried or got anxious, because his purpose was never to accomplish His own plans, but to fulfill God's plans. Fretting is wickedness for a child of God." - Oswald Chambers

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Year in Review, a vulnerable post

I thought I would write a little about my thoughts on my first year in Thailand and experiences in Southeast Asia.

Now I could go any where with this. I could write about all the interesting things I have eaten in this part of the world so far. From snake curry to baby duck in an egg. I love the variety in Thai food. Thai food uses spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and flavors. Sometimes all in one dish. Street food has become very normal thing to eat since everyday Thai people, eat street food for the majority of their meals too. My favorite street food meal is probably rice noodles with, luuk chin(like meat balls), meat, with pigs blood. Before you think I am being gross I promise if you ate it and I didn't tell you what was in it, you would enjoy it. I also like other prepared rice noodle dishes as well. My times out living with families in the country side gave me full days of Thai meals. Which means you eat rice and egg at every meal. Plus your snacking all the time. Eating things like tamarind straight off the tree, or coconuts and bananas. Or if your up to it there are lots of bug like things to eat in your meals like; silk worms, baby shrimp, crickets, and geckos. Thai's love their vegetables too. They eat so many kinds of greens. One of the staple foods is papaya salad or som tom. And when you can eat this spicy with, lets say fermented fish, you are in! This was important to embrace this part of the culture since it is so much a part of life and people here. My stomach some days can't handle it, but my heart loves it, because I love Thai people. A way into Thai hearts is through your own stomach.

Of course I have seen very strange, well, not strange. Let's say different ways of doing things. I am not talking about just cultural differences, but also creative ways of doing things. Because I am so use to so many rules and laws in the States that when I see some thing like a car getting towed by some rope and tree limbs at first it's like you want to tell them how wrong it is, but after a while your like, "why not, there are no tow trucks here''. As far as I can tell anyone can set up a business anywhere. I have seen food carts open right outside of a seven eleven. People sell anything everywhere. I know where I can buy a sword, fruit, the first season of LOST, get my hair cut, and eat at a restaurant without taking more than 10 steps. Out in the country side the schools are so far for children to walk, but there are very few forms of public transportation. So here comes this little truck with like 12 people crowding the bed, and like 5 people of the roof. My last job in the states was working for a modular building company. When I see construction being done by untrained teens wearing flip-flops, no helmet, no gloves, or protective glasses using a jack hammer, I cringe. Traffic and the way people drive, by comparison to other developing countries, Thailand is pretty good. But seeing people drive the opposite way on a major street, or 5 people on one motor bike, or little to no traffic lights, still takes some getting use to. Precautions are great but a little too over the top in the states. Especially when you live overseas. But if there where all these rules it wouldn't work. All in all the way things work in this country works for me. Dangerous some times, yea depending on your point of view, but things get done here permit or not.

But what I really want to remember and share with everyone is that going after what God has called us to is hard, lonely at times, asks a lot of you, and is exactly as Jesus described it. Maybe your confused because we all know that, those of you who read this and believe in Christ as your savior. But this die by the day life, has become even more real to me. Please read the next couple of paragraphs with the understanding that I am being vulnerable of my real issues this past year and not just bashing people. I am always the first to be judged when I question others. I will now share some of my struggles in this past year:

Back home my family is going through changes. I have nieces and nephews now, but can't watch them grow up. They go out on family outings, eat Thanksgiving dinners, while I eat a can of tuna just me, myself and I. It hurts and it's hard. My closest friends celebrate weddings, babies, and birthdays. I hear about it, and look at pictures of them on facebook. I struggle some nights where I just sit alone in my apartment thinking of times of hanging out at Applebee's with friends, or playing in snow, or watching the Phillies game on t.v.. My last two years where full of traveling, but never settling anywhere until now. So it never settled in me that I would miss home. Now I do a lot. There I times which I think it would just be easier to be making disciples, helping the poor, loving my enemies back in Philly. I understand that culture. I speak the language. There are plenty of hurt people. But if it where suppose to be easy would it truly be giving up of something? What would I die to, if it was all nice and tidy?

And the spiritual warfare is alive. Spirits of perversion, greed, and power. People taking advantage of people because they are weaker or poorer. Teenagers piled into a room wearing miniskirts waiting to be purchased, homeless all over the streets and no aid, innocent children having their innocence stolen from them by men with sick pleasures, men transforming themselves into women because this world has tricked and hurt them, babies sleeping on the street with no playpen. But I am sure we have all seen these things, or experienced them. But most of you do not live there. Can you see their lives?

I almost forget sometimes that with all our great relief efforts, organizations and ideas, that none of that will change hearts in it's self. There is no NGO that has the power of GOD alone. Jesus needs to be there. Jesus needs to transform communities, build leaders, heal hearts, rescue lives. Good intentions do not saves lives from the gates of hell. I have become more cynical of would be do-gooders coming for just a peek of what life means here. Not willing to stay for the hard road ahead. There is a romantic, savior mentality with people coming here. You can't just kick a door down and save a child. Just because someone says a magical prayer in your week long mission trip, doesn't mean there lives are transformed. Are you sticking around to disciple and follow up? Did not Jesus ask us for our lives in serving him? If I am worth dying for is he not worth living for? You think it is suppose to be comfortable? The next struggle is yet the hardest.

I struggle with anger a lot here. When I see a young Thai girl or boy, hand and hand with a 50 plus year old western man, it burns me up. Or Thai women in the bars all over a customer thinking that "this white man is gonna solve all my problems", I really want to puke and punch someone. Because even this mentality is taught in some families. I can't stand the passiveness of a lot of the men here. How they take advantage of women and children. Yet they feel no conviction to take care of the needs of their families? They just drink and gamble money away. I can't walk into a brothel and just shoot the people running it. Or grab a guy by the hair and beat sense into him. It's not a movie, and Jesus would have something to say about that.

But along with the lows there have been great experiences. Things I never thought of being a part of. I have seen faces of children who were being sold by their parents to sex predators, now safe in an environment of love. I know people who sold them selves and now are sold out for Jesus Christ. And others who have never heard the gospel, whose faces light up when told and are filled with questions of, who is this Jesus? Communities untouched by the power of Jesus are now being transformed by a family who is standing for Christ in persecution. I have walked into really dark places. Places where only the devil and his workers would live. But I have come out safe only to share his love, good news, and to pray for people. And now as I continue to try to sew into the people here, I hope to see more miracles, more transformation, more hope, more sharing of his good news, more LOVE, more boldness to go, and never to look back. This new year I need to learn how to love sex tourist well, love ignorant rich people well, love those who oppress the weak well, love men in general without judgment well, love short term do-gooders well. So to not fight darkness with darkness, light can only light up a dark world.

Please forgive me brothers and sisters if I have offended anyone. But this is real for me. Everyone is accountable to God and not my opinion. I love all those who have been reading and following me, and even those who have not.

"Hate can not drive out hate, only love can do that..."
"Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates..."
" is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend..."
- Dr. Martin Luther King JR.