How Africans are saving the United Methodist Church

While the U.S. Methodist church leadership is filled with wolves in sheep’s clothing (one of the many reasons we left the denomination), the denomination is being salvaged by Bible-believing Africans.  Ironically and perversely enough, the Leftists in the U.S. tried but failed to deny voting rights to the Africans.  Via IRD News Release on Bishop Talbert’s Same Sex Nuptials:

Last year, the United Methodist Church’s governing General Conference voted by 61 percent to reaffirm its stance for traditional marriage and sexual ethics. Forty percent of the delegates were from outside the U.S. Over 35 percent of United Methodists now live in Africa, where the church is growing and conservative. Under current growth trends, Africans likely will become a majority in the denomination within the decade, a trend that almost certainly precludes the currently 12 million member United Methodist Church (7.4 million in the U.S.) from following other declining historically liberal Mainline denominations in the U.S. that have liberalized their sexual teaching. Dissident clergy like Bishop Talbert have responded by vowing defiance of the church’s policies.

The lack of church discipline that not only lets fakes like Talbert in but promotes them through the ranks to bishop is the root of the denominational free-fall.  Gutless Bible-believers stood by and valued their popularity more than the truth and let them come in and advance.

And it isn’t like they are just a little off theologically.  They openly rebel against the Bible and the Methodist Book of Discipline.  The current leadership of the U.S. church is too weak and fearful to do anything about it or openly supportive of their heresies.

People who claim the name of Christ and support “same-sex marriage” or say that homosexual behavior isn’t a sin violate the two greatest commandments.

  • By disagreeing with the clear word of God they show that they aren’t loving him.
  • By putting their popularity over the welfare of their neighbors with LGBTQ temptations they don’t love their neighbors.

IRD’s President Mark Tooley, a United Methodist, responded: “Bishop Talbert has not pastored a church since the 1960s and presided over imploding membership and schism as bishop in Seattle and San Francisco. As bishop and president of the National Council of Churches he was a divisive political activist who seemed to prioritize political causes over the church’s teachings and health. Neither he nor other dissident clergy, most of whom are also retired or preside over declining churches, represent United Methodism’s future.”

I’m with Bono on this one.

Via Bono: Only Capitalism Can End Poverty.

This is a great day. For years, Bono has been something of a pain, banging on about the need for billions of dollars in Western foreign aid to Africa. I have criticized him for ignoring the real source of African poverty – lack of capitalism – on numerous occasions.

But, unlike many who hate capitalism without reservation, Bono is open to changing his mind. Here is Bono giving capitalism its due recognition during a recent speech at Georgetown University. As the musician put it, when it comes to poverty “free enterprise is a cure.”

Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming.

According to the World Bank, global poverty is declining rapidly. In 1981, 70 percent of people in poor countries lived on less than $2 a day, while 42 percent survived on less than $1 a day. Today, 43 percent live on less than $2 a day, while 14 percent survive on less than $1. “Poverty reduction of this magnitude is unparalleled in history,” wrote Brookings Institution researchers Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz in a recent paper. “Never before have so many people been lifted out of poverty over such a brief period of time.”

Yes, we should still share with the less fortunate — preferably out of our own wallets.  But we must use good discernment with giving to ensure that it isn’t counter-productive.  Know the charities you support and ensure that they are really making a difference and are run efficiently and effectively.  Use good discernment and pray for wisdom!  But don’t forget that making people more self-sufficient may be the greatest gift.

For example, one of the reasons we love and support the AIDS Orphan mission in Kenya is that it doesn’t just cost effectively (literally $10/child/month) feed, clothe and educate these orphans (and the widows who take care of them), it also gives them life skills.  We met many kids who baked bread, sewed, did hair care, planted trees, etc. and made such good livings that they supported themselves and their siblings.  Their joy was contagious.  We feel blessed to be a small part of that and feel confident in giving to the program because we’ve seen it first hand many times and have gotten to know the leaders well over a number of years.

“We define poverty in an opulent way”

The title is from a must-read at Pyromaniacs: Open Letter to the #Occupy Movement.  It highlights our covetousness and greed in how we compare our state to the wrong standard.  Why does the (alleged) 99% in the U.S. compare itself to the 1% and affix the blame for all their frustrations there?  Why not compare themselves to the real 99% — the rest of the world, most of whom would love to trade places with the bottom fifth of the U.S. citizenry?

 

But check it out: the line where you and I would say is the line which designates the poorest of the poor is well above the per capita income of more than 85% of the world’s population.  It’s a level of income 80% greater than the per cap GDP of South Africa, 30% greater than Russia, and six times greater than that of India.

That is: we define poverty in an opulent way.  Compared to the UK in 1800, we have defined the crown of Western Civilization to that time down to a dirty little country which we would be offended to live in.  The great part about this is the punchline: it’s because we’re greedy.

That’s right: the problem is not that “they” are greedy – whoever “they” are (the bankers, the capitalists, the stock traders, but apparently not the movie moguls, the actors, the politicians and pop stars) — but that we are greedy.  We want things we didn’t earn, and we can’t imagine that we might have to live on less than we think we are entitled to.  We certainly couldn’t live on what the average Englishman lived on in1800, and may God forbid we have to live on what the average Russian or South African lives on today.  There was a time when we would say it isn’t “fair”, but today we say it’s actually an injustice — as if “justice” has anything to do with us getting something we didn’t actually earn.

I encourage you to watch this amazing video.  Incomes and life spans have gone up dramatically around the world in the last 50 years. We should be celebrating, not coveting.

Swahili

I find it very useful to learn and use basic phrases as much as possible when on mission trips. The locals seem to appreciate the effort and it is fun to learn new things. As my daughter noted, so many of them speak multiple languages compared to us.

We had some fun with the Swahili iPhone app when preparing for our Kenya mission trip. I created some .mp3 files in 2004 to help me memorize a few words and phrases and have shared those with others (“Learn Swahili with Neilie!”), but this app was much more thorough and entertaining – and, uh, higher quality (it is possible that I mispronounced a few words on the .mp3 files).

I am not making up the following examples:

Travel safety

  • Don’t shoot! (Practical, I suppose, but hopefully you don’t need that one.  And if you said it in English I doubt they’d think you were saying, “Yes, please shoot me!”  And my guess is that they won’t let you whip out your iPhone to double check the pronunciation.)
  • I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong (that doesn’t work for me in English, but maybe it will in Swahili)
  • Those drugs aren’t mine! (Oh, well, since they aren’t yours, carry on and have a nice day.)
  • There was an explosion

Food & Eating

  • I am a well known food critic in my country

At the bar

  • I’m not just saying this because I’m drunk

Flirting

  • I am a marine biologist (That was the only career listed. I assume that was just an example, but perhaps being a marine biologist is the premier gateway to getting dates.)
  • I am very rich
  • I am famous
  • Will you marry me? (seems like you might want to both be fluent in the same language before asking that)
  • I’m not a stalker (really!)
  • I’m not just saying this because I’m drunk (Apparently that works in multiple categories.  It is probably a good one for the workplace, too.)

Kenya 2011

This was my 5th trip to Kenya, my wife’s 2nd and my youngest daughter’s first. It was amazing to be able to share it with them, though it would have been 100% perfect if my oldest could have come (she had a dance commitment that worked out splendidly for her, and she is now a paid apprentice with a professional ballet company!). The whole trip was my daughters’ idea. We had talked about doing a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate our 25th anniversary and my youngest’s high school graduation, but the mission trip won out.

We helped construct an AIDS Orphan home, which is one of our usual projects.  The recipient is a 15 yr. old boy who cares for his nearly-blind grandmother and lived in a mud/stick hut.  Now they have a 12’x20′ two room home that will keep them dry and safe.  His parents and three siblings had died.  The local church has helped counsel him and he’s doing much better than he was.  He seemed to have some good friends.  He even helped with the construction.  The grandma was so quiet all week, then at the dedication she started jumping and singing in thanksgiving (something about being lifted higher by Jesus).

Part of the group saw the Hope Companion project, a terrific endeavor where orphans are given practical business skills to support themselves, sort of a Junior Achievement Meets Jesus program.  It gives the kids hope and us as well, because it makes such a radical difference.  This isn’t about handouts for multiple generations, it is about making them self-sufficient.  The U.S. could learn a lot from this model.  Whether it was sewing, baking bread or planting seedlings for sale each of these youths were now able to support themselves and often others.  One boy had 7 younger siblings he could now care for instead of having to beg from others who already didn’t have enough — plus he took on care for another orphan.  That’s convicting!

We visited a bush clinic where vitamins, de-worming, antibiotics, etc. were dispensed to a few hundred people.  Getting out in the community is one of the best parts of the trip.

I shared my leadership training (“great results / high employee satisfaction”) to the hospital management team.  Given cultural and language barriers I set low expectations for how it would be received, but it really seemed to resonate with them.  It highlights the techniques I’ve used to run successful groups with best-in-class employee satisfaction scores and remarkably low turnover (I really need to blog on it someday).  I’ve presented it at a few conferences in the U.S. and shared it in a session with managers where I work, but wouldn’t have thought that it would work in Kenya.  But in talking to the hospital CEO last year and hearing about their staff turnover problems, I realized that this was just what they needed to hear.   Good, basic management skills are universal.  I enjoyed adding Bible verses to the presentation and focused on the theme that if God had such high expectations for how Christian masters should treat slaves in the Roman empire, how much more so should Christian supervisors treat their employees well?

Our associate pastor had to cancel at the last minute, so I ended up giving a couple messages in his place. One was at the morning devotional for the hospital employees. Their scripture for the day was from Ephesians 5, starting with “Wives, submit to your husbands.” Oh, good, an easy and non-controversial topic!  I embraced it as a chance to talk about how many U.S. churches hate that passage and rationalize that Paul didn’t write it under the inspiration of God, and because of that they miss out on a beautiful passage.  Also, in that culture the men love that verse but tend to stop reading after that.  I noted that they need to focus more on the part about “husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.”

The other talk was a 20 min. sermon at the church in the Kawangware slum in Nairobi. That was a huge blessing. I figured the pastor would want something lighter, but he wanted me to include topics that they face like AIDS, domestic violence and poverty.  I preached on John 1:1-5, emphasizing Jesus’ deity, God’s sovereignty and how Jesus is the light to the world and uses us in his plan.  It seemed to go well.

Visiting Dennis, our World Vision sponsor child, is always a highlight for me. We’ve written him for over 13 years so he is like family to us. He is in college now and works very hard. He is an amazing young man with a passion for God.

We took 12 Proclaimer audio Bibles to distribute, and I was beyond thrilled at how well they were received.  I’ll blog separately on that.

In addition to the daily 15 min. services at the hospital, we got to worship there twice — in Maua and in the church in the Nairobi slum.  The services are a little longer (2 hours) but much more energetic than in the U.S.

The hospital in Kenya does amazing things to help the community, and they are extremely cost-effective.  They share the Gospel with all the patients.  They know how to reach the poorest of the poor.  They are hurting now with the food shortages.  If you want to help the hospital and community, click here.    Money goes a long way in Kenya!  For example, for only $10 / month you can feed, clothe and educate a child.

Miscellaneous things

Flight stuff: We flew on Emirates for the first time, with a 15+ hour flight to Dubai then a 5 hour flight to Nairobi. As we’d been told, the leg room was a little better than what we’re used to. Yea! But those long flights are still killers (“Let’s see, I’ve read, gone through all the pictures on my computer, napped, eaten a meal and a snack, and read some more, so we must be almost there . . . ack! 11 hours to go!”).

I took my laptop on this trip. It was a bit of a burden to carry all the stuff (it is a heavy one, plus the extra batteries and such) but I loved being able to write and edit pictures on the plane and when we had free time. That is always the hard part of returning. There are lots of things to catch up on after being gone 17 days, but my OCD nature (“It’s not just a disorder, it’s a lifestyle!” ™) makes me want to complete all the picture editing / uploading right away.  With Google’s Picasa software the various albums were all set to upload as soon as I logged in at home.

Ending the trip with a couple of days on a photo safari in the Masai Mara (where they film some of the Discovery Channel wildebeest crossing / crocodile videos) is a joy. Seeing God’s creation in such an un-touched way is just amazing.  No animals were harmed in the filming process.  OK, maybe one zebra.  Circle of life, baby!  Circle. Of. Life.

The “birthers” and the race card

I never cared about the birther issue.  I find it unproductive and annoying.  But Stan had a good post about motives. It reminded me of how quick the race industry*used the “birther” issue to paint Obama’s critics as racists.  But that means Hillary Clinton’s supporters, Michelle Obama, and the ambassador from Kenya were racists first.

group of disgruntled Hillary Clinton enthusiasts started the “Was Obama born in the United States?” question thing. It was fed by comments from people like the president’s grandmother who said he was born in Kenya and Michelle Obama who referred to Kenya as his “home country“. It wasn’t helpful when the ambassador from Kenya said that the president was born there. All of this fed the “birther” idea. Now, let me say up front that I am not a “birther”. To me it’s a moot point. I just don’t care. But what has fascinated me in this whole discussion has been the claims of motivationfrom the president’s supporters. You see, even though it was people from his Secretary of State that started the question and even though it was people like his wife, grandmother, and the Kenyan ambassador that fueled it, it appears that the only possible motivation for “birthers” is racism. That’s right. No one could suggest this stuff if they weren’t racists at heart. And without even batting an eye, the secret motivations of the heart have been easily and cleanly extracted and shown for all to view.

Anyone using the birther issue as a claim of racism against Republicans is ignorant of the origins and/or the real racist, who uses race to divide people.

*which includes false teachers like Jim “the Gospel is all about wealth redistribution” Wallis and race-baiting Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie