Sunday, May 27, 2012

Exciting news

I received some exciting news over the weekend.

Regular readers will be aware that I'm involved in a program training pastors in a very isolated and disadvantaged part of the Latin American world. I've been travelling there regularly to help a developing network or tutors teach the MOCLAM courses.

Last week, two of the tutors travelled to the remotest and poorest part of the island (8 hours drive away from a famous American naval base) to spend a week teaching a new group of pastors. News from the week is that the pastors loved the material and are wanting more. They studied each night accompanied by the local frogs and I'll soon be receiving their exams. My informants tell me the marks will be great!

It would be great if you could pray for us as we try to work out the complicated logistics involved in keeping these enthusiastic pastors fed.

(The photo is a local family heading off to church)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My experience of "internet church"

I was unable to go to church today (an eye infection that would make you weep probably wasn't the sort of fellowship my friends were after) so I decided to give "internet church" a go.

Each week our church broadcasts our two services live. All you need to do is go the website of the church, click the link, and hey presto - there it is.

The technology setup is pretty simple. A single camera, an audio feed and a relatively high speed broadband connection.

So what was it like?

*The quality of the video and audio was fine. There were probably 4 or 5 "freezes" of 1 or 2 seconds during the 2 hr broadcast, but thats about it.
*No fancy broadcast technology was needed. A strategically placed video camera and a direct audio feed made everything fine.
*I could hear everything that happened at church - the sermon, Bible reading, singing, announcements. This means I know what is going on, I was able to hear the testimonies which people gave, and if I have the chance to talk to people from church later in the week, I'll be able to say something about the sermon.
*It was much better watching it live than watching a recording. I wasn't tempted to press pause and go and do something else.

*I was an observer rather than a participant in the singing. Even if I was brave enough to sing along (which I'm not, I think I'd feel a bit weird doing that) I couldn't see the words on the screen.
*I had to twiddle my thumbs while the 'welcome time' happened.
* there was no chance to speak to anyone before, during or after church. ie: no fellowship.
* no one had the chance to speak to me.
* not being there meant I didn't have the opportunity to spontaneously serve (like help a Sunday school class whose teacher has not turned up)
* I didn't have the opportunity to give money. Sure I can 'make up' next week, but will I remember?
* the opportunity for the random or strategic ministry conversation didn't happen.

In the long, I think it was useful but it wasn't church. Rather than being an active participant, I was a consumer or an observer.

As I read passages like Ephesian 4, Hebrews 10, 1 Corinthians 11, it seems to me that personal proximity (ie: being there) is critical for "doing church". I find it difficult to imagine how I can serve others, be served by others, build others up, encourage one another as the day approaches .... if I m sitting by myself in front of a screen. Maybe I could tweet or blog or facebook or whatever about the experience, even setup some sort of online community, but still, it is nothing like the real thing.

I guess I was thinking about "extreme moments" like a funeral or a wedding. Would you want your wedding or the funeral of a friend to be an internet affair? Of course not. There is something significant about presence, proximity, being together. God designed us to be relational and communal creatures, and in my humble (and perhaps dinosaur-ish) opinion, electronic "community" doesn't cut it.

Today I didn't have a choice whether to go or not. But if I did, I think that 'internet church' is not a viable option. We need to be people who are in the habit of meeting together (for real)!

Friday, May 18, 2012

For aussie readers

Dear Aussie readers,

We are really grateful that there are many generous people in Australia supporting us as we live and work in Mexico. We are here as missionaries with CMS-Australia, and rely on CMS to pay our rent, put food on our table, send the kids to school - all that sort of good stuff.

During May and June CMS is having their annual appeal, which aims to raise $1.4mil. This money is used to pay people like us, and their expenses, so we can continue to minister in places scattered all over the world.

Can I encourage you, if you think world-wide mission is a valuable activity to contribute to this appeal. Doing so is easy - just go to

I know many of you already support CMS, and thank you for your support.

If you are not a regular financial supporter and are prepared to give a one-off gift - thank you. But can I also ask you to consider giving regularly. Unfortunately the expenses we incur come for all 12 months of the year, not just during May and June - so regular giving would certainly make life easier for those who look after the finances of CMS.

On the page above you can see an option for regular giving.

Thanks again for your support.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monterrey violence again

You might have seen over the last day or two reports of some pretty horrific violence in Monterrey. When I was browsing my four favourite news sites yesterday, the events on the highway between here and Reynosa (the US border) were the top story on all four. 

 Over the weekend local police discovered 49 mutilated bodies that had been dumped on the side of the road. It seems the work of one of the local cartels, and there is a possibility the victims were illegal immigrants trying to get to the US for work. Whoever they are - they are people, and this is a horrific crime designed to intimidate and scare people.

 But unfortunately, there was something 'normal' about this. Yes, the numbers of people involved was large and the brutality horrible, but it is kindof what we are used to here. It is a sad fact that we are living through a violent time. In the press conference following the discovery, one of the investigators made the point that this is the work of criminals on criminals. There are not innocent people involved in their day to day business. That is true - and despite all the violence and cartel activity, for your average citizen here doing the shopping and going to work - life carries on. And so it does for us - albeit with a lot of heavily armed security driving around the streets.

School is normal, work is normal, church is normal - all the stuff of our life is normal. Its just that we get confronted with these headlines pretty regularly.

 2012 is an election year in Mexico. Obviously, security is a pretty big campaign issue for all groups involved. We need to be praying for wisdom and peace for Mexico, especially in these months of tension.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sometimes it is the simple things...

I had a great conversation with a guy yesterday. I've known him since we have been here in Mexico, and he called me to see if we could meet up. So we did.

He wanted to tell me lots of things - but in the end, what it came down to was that he thought he had finally "got ministry". By that he meant, he thought he'd finally worked out what ministry was about.

The great news is I think he had too!

He told me that he'd worked out that ministry is about service. Simple as that.

He'd just spent a year or so in another country, and the church he attended there did a really good job of caring for him and discipling him. During that time, because he was the recipient of so much good ministry, it really opened his eyes to what he might be able to do for others.

So now, he wants to serve. He's trying to use some of the skills he learnt overseas in terms of leading Bible study and equipping others to read the Bible for themselves, and he's helping at a friends Family Centre. All great stuff.

I had to dash off before we could finish the whole conversation, but we're now planning how I might be able help him keep walking in his newfound understanding and excitement for ministry.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A book recommendation

I'd like to recommend a book  - possibly a first for me.

"God's Good Design" by Claire Smith (published by Matthias Media) is an excellent discussion of the passages that fuel "the women's issue" debate.

Claire writes as someone who has clear and well articulated views, and provides the careful and thorough exegesis needed to back up her conclusions. Her presentation is technical without being inaccessible, precise without being academically stratospheric. In short, she is carefully sitting under the text, not over it.

And deliberately so - by conviction, but also because of history. Claire helpfully puts these passages in the context of the feminist movement(s) of our modern times, and in the process shows us why our initial reaction to some passages in the Bible might be to wince or dodge. There are some fascinating vignettes from those 'outside' our culture and how they respond to these passages.

While examining each key text, articulating the differing views and presenting arguments for and against the various views, we are left in no doubt where Claire's colours lie - and that is a good thing. She is a clear and careful voice in an often muddied and emotionally charged debate.

She also writes compassionately and with great experience in addressing pastoral issues like marriage and domestic violence.

I'd highly recommend it - as a resource for your own study and understanding, but also as a reference for "those" passages when they come up in Bible study or discussion.

What's more - you can get it as an e-book! (I did!)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Safe arrival

We are very thankful that we have arrived back safely in Monterrey.

 The journey was long, but without incident. I think the only problem is that we may have left a novel one of us was reading on the plane (which in the category of what can happen on international travel isn't too bad.) All 11 suitcases, 5 packpacks and 3 violins made it happily.

 The trip was very long - on the flight from Sydney to Dallas we were watching the inflight tracker to see if we would hit 14,000km. We only made it to 13,997. That takes a long time, but everyone was comfortable. It also meant that the 1.5hrs to Monterrey seemed almost instant.

 We had a slightly longer discussion with the immigration officials than we expected, but there were no problems. We'll just have to sort out a visa a little bit quicker than I thought.

 Everything in our house is fine - some kind friends cleaned it for us and made our beds which was a great blessing. And, the car is cleaner that it ever was in our possession!

 We've already enjoyed some advantages in terms of knowing Spanish and how things work. After just one visit to the office, I've already had the phone and internet connected. One visit only! That has got to be some sort of record. (Although I now have to go to the bank to get a new card - it really would be a record if that was done in one visit.)

 Now all we need is for our body clocks to feel normal and to get used to driving on the right, and we'll be ready for action!