Finally someone has taken the time and put all his energy into finding out the truth of the matter !
Missionaries, in particular, Anglo-Saxon Protestant (and theologically evangelical ) missionaries, have majorly contributed to the development and the democratisation of former colonial countries.
Read this article : Surprising Discovery about missionaries
It corroborates what I had heard years ago in Australia explaining how missionaries contributed to recording Aboriginal language and culture before it got lost in the westernisation of Aboriginal population. Their efforts to speak the language and to understand the mentality in order to explain Christianity meant that much valuable research was done.
Another interesting text : One Blood , by Dr. John Harris, Ed Albatross Books
(I have a second hand copy for sale if anyone is interested !)
Notice when reading the article, that the researcher, Woodberry, refers to the lesser, frankly negative influence of French mission work in French colonies. I can corroborate that information from my understanding of the French culture and history.
The question of work hours has often crossed my mind. How to define a working week for a missionary who doesn't have office hours, who is a pastor's wife and mother of three (albeit quite independent) children ?
I asked myself the question again as I headed out to our local Tuesday morning market. Ostensibly to do my weekly fruit and vegie shopping, to support the locals who work on the market and to buy local produce. This time I also had a coffee date with a friend I hadn't seen for a couple of months. We chose a newly opened local café which serves excellent coffee that they grind themselves and which they buy in a kind of Fair Trade and organically grown context. (BTW, these were the people who told me Aussies make the best coffee in the world !!)
So I answered my own question with "I'm combining work with pleasure" - housewife duties, support for my local country community and my version of friendship evangelism.
I left the house at 9:15 am and got home at midday ! It's not a big village and it's not a big market because it's Winter and only the locals buy at this market in Winter. No tourists, no steam train to bring them here, no weekend visitors (it's Tuesday, remember ...)
So why so long ?
Because you have to take the time to greet people. I found myself stopping every 10 metres to do the 'bises', the 3 pecks on the cheeks we give in this region as we meet people we know. And I asked about their health, their family, the latest news. We shared our sorrow at the recent tragic death of a couple killed in a car accident, commented on how many deaths there had been recently, talked about the morose economic climate, the death of the bee population, how warm this Winter has been and the prospects for the fruit season later on in the year ..... And here and there I put in a word about God - He knows why that couple died leaving 2 young children; He is in charge of the weather; man has forgotten he can't control everything and needs to remember God gave us the responsibility of caring for His creation. I was able to mention that there are a few activities linked to the World Day of Prayer (prepared by the Cuban women this year) and give dates to invite certain people...
I was a visible presence in the community, representing our local Evangelical Church, known as the local pastor's wife, affirming my place in this corner of France inspite of the fact that I don't come from here. Affirming also my concerns for the local community, expressing what I hope is an intelligent faith, showing compassion as a Christian and the legitimacy of our faith in the God of Jesus Christ.
So yes, I did work Tuesday morning .... and I enjoyed that coffee with my friend and shopping for my family.
Things have settled down in France since the dramatic events of 13th November, but there is a simmering of discontent, of insecurity. Suspicion quickly rises to the surface. The debate, common to many Western countries, around whether we should accept refugees and on what basis ? Should we accept M*lims since the threats come from I*lam ?
Christians are getting a break from suspicion and media negativity simply because these other threats have taken the place, but any sort of adhesion to a faith is seen as potentially dangerous because we could turn fanatic.
Interesting to read this extract from the Jeyachandran blog describing a big conference on Christian ministry in Universities:
"It was also sad to hear that in countries in Europe that we’d consider peaceful and open to the gospel, the University administration treats evangelical groups with suspicion while being open to other religions. One administrator told a Christian group that he believed they were only growing because they used manipulation and coercion. For me this was encouragement to fully take advantage of the openness to the gospel we currently have in Peru."
Blog post from 15 Aug 2015
We, in France, were touched by the expressions of support and sympathy. We Christians were surprised to see the acceptation of the campaign #PrayforParis. Only recently people would have reacted negatively or condescending. A little embarassed also that much Western media attention was on France when equal, if not more shocking, killings were going on in Africa.
However, I use these events and the current atmosphere to ask to to Pray for France : the name of a prayer campaign which was launched in France 15 years ago. A well-documented daily calendar helps you to pray specifically for current concerns, even to standing firm against evil, and in a spirit of praise to the Almighty God. If you are comfortable with French you can download the material :
If not the American ministry Impact France has translated the material and you can find it :
The Lord has raised an army of pray-ers. We praise Him because He is taking care of France's spiritual health. Thank you for your part in it.
I wanted to mention the tragedies in Beirut and Egypt as well, because, again, the media and social networks are giving a lot of air space to France. I often feel it's an unfair advantage France has over other areas of the world and I'm not comfortable with it. I consider France almost to be like a disobedient child when it comes to recognising the Creator God and the Saviour Jesus Christ.
Let us pray also that Almighty God will be able to reveal how compassionate He is to all those who have suffered in terrorist attacks and that many will reject this violence to turn towards the Living God.
This poem/prayer is circulating on Facebook - I'd like to keep it going in other circles.
Aussie friends send these words of encouragement to me today. It reflected our own thoughts on the subject, so I share them with you also.
They have said exactly what I have been trying to put into words. Our prayer, Pascal's and mine, is that people will fall on their knees and worship God. Many of our parishioners are on a different level of understanding and are talking against the refugees arriving, the North African population from former colonies.... not really questioning the moral position France has maintained since the Revolution ! as well as the militant secularism. So the verse we had at our women's retreat last week was very apt :
2 Chronicles 7:14
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Thank you for upholding us in France.
No time to write - too busy being busy !!
May - our Church Union's Synod. Lots of talk on the Vitality Pathway which I'm helping to put into place.
- organising the translation of the Vitality material
- preparation for my home assignment in Australia
- Vitality work in our church
- Christian counselling big time with a particularly difficult situation to accompany
- did manage to finish some spring-cleaning tasks :)
June - Next training session for the Evangelism Sub-Committee of the Union.
- as much of the material possible to be translated and the powerpoint presentations to be re-worked
- preparation for my home assignment in Australia
- all my kids have final exams for this last stage of their particular level in education
- and the garden ? No way ... although a couple of friends have given a helping hand.
In all of this, prayer is undergirding the activism so that it's not just activism. There is a purpose in this work. Praying for an open mind and spirit to be lead by the Spirit. May Your Kingdom come ....
Hope everybody had a special Easter weekend. We attended an ecumenical Good Friday service where P preached and I read 2 prayers at the local Catholic Church. Only one other member of our church attended....
Another important event this weekend was the depart of No. 2 son on a 3 week trip to Oz. He's safely arrived and welcomed into the bosom of the family; had first kangaroo sighting on the way home from the airport ! And hooked up with No. 1 son who came to join him on his Easter break from Uni. So we have No.3 at home with us and are experiencing the beginnings of 'empty nest'.... And this is when many Christian parents hope they have shared enough of their faith for their children to continue on the journey themselves. And where we pray that the Lord will meet them where they are at and continue to call them to follow Him.
Isn't that the essence of mission work ? Meeting people where they are at and sharing about our understanding of a wonderful God who gave Himself entirely in order to save us individually ?
Many know of Nick Vujicic - this Youtube interview is now circulating on F/bk. I really appreciated it because the interviewer has some very intelligent questions and because Nick meets her where she is at. He hardly speaks of God and Christ in our conventional Evangelical way, but his language is accessible to the interviewer and her audience. It's masterful, respectful and gives the right info. This is also true missionary work and I thank God for people with such ability.
We are accompanying several people on their faith discovery journey. Pray we can 'speak their language' and help them to connect with God. He will meet them where they are at.
“Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.” –Laurence J. Peter
Quote seen on a website: Tackling the Wicked Which's of the West.
Love the title already !
It's a forum to be held in the Western District of Victoria (Australia) in the town where I was 'brought up' spiritually speaking. It's where my supporting church is. A town five times the size of where I live and minister in France, but which is obviously (by the fact of this event to be held 18, 19 March) confronted by similar problems in the community.
But I just love the way Aussies tackle things with a positive and consultative attitude ... culturally, they face up to problems differently to the French.
However, the French are masters in the art of specializing ... and the above quote is also very fitting to their approach to problem-solving. Unfortunately, the French public often gets left out of the process and made to feel unqualified to discuss things which concern them daily, while creative solutions are knocked on the head because too complicated to implement or a challenge to the administrative hierarchy.
And, of course, this mentality permeates our churches.
Which is why I'm so excited about the Vitality Pathway which a dozen of our churches have started to follow.
It's all about facing up to the reality of our situation, understanding our internal culture, analyzing that church culture in order to see what is healthy and missional (and so to keep) and what is not (and so to change). My biggest work load is now going to be in the team which is accompanying churches along this pathway. And I'm alternately excited and pessimistic about the fact that our own church is on that pathway now. Excited because I know God wants us to be fully alive spiritually and gives us His Spirit as a living source ; pessimistic because I know this town and its attitudes and am not sure the people will allow change to happen.
But our God is the God of the POSSIBLE, so keep praying with us please!
January: a big month in France this year!
There are usually 2 different weeks which emphasize Christian Unity. The third week of January for the Catholics, Orthodoxe, Protestant and now Evangelical churches. Apparently, this effort has been around since 1908! This year's theme based on the meeting between the Samaritan woman and Jesus at the well (John 4) was prepared by Brazil.
The other is organised by the CNEF: a week of prayer by all Evangelicals. We don't participate in this one, since we are not close enough to other evangelicals in the region.
At our local level, we also organise an ecumenical Christmas celebration early January for the residents of the Aged Care Home in Lamastre. Three of the four communities in our town participate and a special support club organises bringing all the residents to the main meeting room and distributes Christmas gifts as well. In a militantly secular country, this practice is holding its own, especially in smaller communities where church culture is still very present. But it's one of the last bastions of 'free expression' where religious matters don't raise allergic reactions.
Then yesterday we were invited to attend the consecration of one of our Union colleagues who is now a part-time Army chaplain for the Reserve Army. He was 'prayed in' by other Christian military chaplains and the local pastor of our Churches.
In the light of recent events (terrorist attacks in Paris, massacres in Nigeria, attacks on Christian properties in Niger ...), these Christian unity events take on an extra dimension. We are witnesses of a Great God; we value diversity and now accept it enough to participate in these events together; we want to be visible and voluble in a society that has been trying to avoid public expression of religious beliefs; and we are making the most of this confused time where many are recommitting to the 'republican' value of 'freedom of speech, expression and liberty to choose one's belief system.'
There have been numerous calls on all Christian sides for the French Christians to be at the forefront of discussions on faith, respect, value of humanity, and then all the Christian core beliefs. The idea is that in this confused world, people need to hear about God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they need to find anchors in an ever-changing and now, for the French, dangerous world.
This month I've repeated the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer 3 times! Thank you, Jesus, for this prayer which allows your followers to experience a time of unity. And thank you to all those anonymous Christian leaders who worked on the Creed centuries ago, which still allows us to summarize our beliefs today.
Note to self: make sure we teach it properly to our young people so they know it by heart ...