Monday, March 2, 2015

Islam in Short Shorts

Want to know how strict a particular Islamic society is?  Just look at the women.

During my time in Southeast Asia, I met many young Muslims who were clearly not practicing Islam as historically prescribed.  They were also doing things that are clearly listed as sins in Islam - sex before marriage, getting drunk, dressing immodestly, etc. Normally, the last thing to go, interestingly enough, was eating pork. I always say that it would make more sense to me to start with pork and work my way up, but I guess that's just me.

It's important for us to realize their incredibly difficult situation. There is no guarantee in Islam you can be forgiven even if you are perfect from today forward. Additionally, legalism has little power for inward transformation. So this idea in the gospel that you can KNOW you're forgiven is extremely attractive. I've literally seen people risk their lives for it. Personally I've never felt the gospel so relevant and palpably freeing as I have while sharing with Muslims.

I'm linking to the article below to provide some insight from a young lady desperately clinging to her Islam even though she knows Islam rejects her.  For those of you who are familiar with postmodern attempts to believe whatever they want and Christianity at the same time (a la the Emergent church), it may interest you to see a postmodern attempt to do the same with Islam. It just doesn't work and the attempt is sad to witness.

This article was posted on Facebook by a young Muslim girl I know. She's a friendly young woman who identifies with the writer.  She's also trying to reconcile who she is with Islam.  Please pray for my friend and for the writer as you read. Pray that she will remember the gospel she heard years ago through a student ministry and pray that she will believe. Also, pray for the millions of young Muslims throughout the world who don't know the grace of Christ and whose only choices seem to be radical legalism on the one hand and outright liberalism on the other.


The scenario I'm about to describe has happened to me more times than I can count, in more cities than I can remember, mostly in Western cities here in the U.S. and Europe.
I walk into a store. There's a woman shopping in the store that I can clearly identify as Muslim. In some scenarios she's standing behind the cash register tallying up totals and returning change to customers. She's wearing a headscarf. It's tightly fastened under her face where her head meets her neck. Arms covered to the wrists. Ankles modestly hidden behind loose fitting pants or a long, flowy dress. She's Muslim. I know it. Everyone around her knows it. I stare at her briefly and think to myself, "She can't tell if I'm staring at her because I think she is a spectacle or because I recognize something we share." 
I realize this must make her uncomfortable, so I look away. I want to say something, something that indicates I'm not staring because I'm not familiar with how she chooses to cover herself. Something that indicates that my mother dresses like her. That I grew up in an Arab state touching the Persian Gulf where the majority dresses like her. That I also face East and recite Quran when I pray.
"Should I greet her with A'salamu alaikum?" I ask myself. Then I look at what I picked out to wear on this day. A pair of distressed denim short shorts, a button-down Oxford shirt, and sandals. My hair is a big, curly entity on top of my head; still air-drying after my morning shower. Then I remember my two nose rings, one hugging my right nostril, the other snugly hanging around my septum. The rings have become a part of my face. I don't notice them until I have to blow my nose or until I meet someone not accustomed to face piercings. 
I decide not to say anything to her. I pretend that we have nothing in common and that I don't understand her native tongue or the language in which she prays. The reason I don't connect with her is that I'm not prepared for a possibly judgmental glance up and down my body. I don't want to read her mind as she hesitantly responds, "Wa'alaikum a'salam."

For the full article, click PRACTICING ISLAM IN SHORT SHORTS

Monday, February 2, 2015

Beeson alumnus Dr. Seth Tarrer on Theological Education as Missions

Global Voices 2015 got off to a great start as Dr. Seth Tarrer sharing about the importance of training international leaders.  Seth is a Beeson alumnus with experience living and teaching in Latin America.  He provides a great overview of the importance of the importance of providing sound theology in the areas of the world where the church is growing the fastest.  Currently, as Seth explains, the areas of the world where Christianity is growing fastest are also the areas where solid pastoral training is disproportionately unavailable.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tom Lin at Go Global

I greatly appreciated Tom Lin's testimony and challenge to missions during Go Global!

Tom Lin is the Director of the Urbana Missions Conference and Vice President of Inter-Varsity.  It was a privilege to get to know him while he was here.

Helping Porn Addicts

Last month we were privileged to have Michael John Cusick (Surfing for God) in the Global Center. In this training session he focused on equipping leaders to help people struggling with this issue.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Persecution of the Church in Wenzhou, China

Please pray for the church in Wenzhou, China.  I have been here and worshiped with these Christians just a few years ago.  At the time the feeling was that freedom for Christians was growing and would continue to grow.  It's difficult to see things going backwards.

In this CNN clip, the newscaster shows his newscast being blocked out live by Chinese television. Then he shows Chinese Christians beaten for protesting the destruction of their church.

The following article is from CNN:

Dramatic footage shows congregation battling riot police

Dramatic footage obtained by CNN shows Christians in the southeastern Chinese city of Wenzhou barricading themselves into their church to keep hundreds of riot police at bay and save their church cross from confiscation.
Since the beginning of the year, Communist Party officials have been demolishing churches in surrounding Zhejiang province, and removing crosses from tops of church buildings, ostensibly because they are “illegal structures.” However, the move is thought to be part of a crackdown on the growing popularity of Christianity.
The city of Wenzhou is a Christian stronghold.
Members of the congregation of the Salvation Church have been guarding the gates to the church for two months, reports CNN.
In July, the church’s CCTV footage captured police beating protesters and dragging them away.
“What the government here is doing is so barbaric,” said a local church leader Chen Zhi’ai to CNN.
Analysts say that the rising popularity of Christianity in China is seen as a threat to the Communist Party.
“Christianity has been growing very rapidly in China in the last several decades,” Fenggang Yang of Purdue University in Indiana toldCNN. “There is very little sign that it is slowing down.”
Christians in Wenzhou, a city dubbed the Jerusalem of China, say they are facing the worst suppression in decades and many residents are living in fear.
“The leaders think Christianity is a foreign religion and it is part of a foreign culture, which they define as ‘Western’ culture,” says church leader Chen. “They see our growth as an invasion of Western culture into China

Friday, September 5, 2014

First Chat Club of the school year

For the past two years the Global Center has hosted "Chat Club" - a time for Beeson students (or other Americans) to get together with Samford's international students for an informal time to making new friends and letting the internationals practice English.  Today is the first one of the semester and it just so happens to coincide with the day we received almost all of the furniture for our ongoing update of the Resource Room.

Both sets of students are doing great!  The internationals - many of whom are not comfortable with their English level - are engaged in conversation and the Beeson students are doing well too.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Formerly Unreached People Group Celebrates the Coming of the Gospel

Beeson alumni Chase and Kelli Reynolds were called to reach a remote and completely unreached people group named the Yefta people.  In January of this year they posted this story on their blog and I was completely amazed.  How many missionaries get to take part in a celebration led by the people they reached about the joy of the gospel coming to their people??

By the way, Chase will be here TODAY, SEPTEMBER 4TH, AT 12:10PM IN THE GLOBAL CENTER!  Come and hear his story firsthand!

As soon as the plane’s engine stopped, it was surrounded with war shouts and chants, bows and arrows, head dresses and painted bodies. When we opened the doors, two guys were standing there in full traditional Yetfa dress with their arms interlocked and others were shouting for me to sit down in their arms. Then they began to dance and shout and carry me towards the house. Kelli and the boys were behind being paraded and showered in flowers. The procession went along a narrow path lined with a long draping fringe of palm leaves that were decorated with flowers. When we got to the house the whole village was singing and dancing. They finally set me down on the front porch (having not let my feet touch the ground).

That’s how the celebration began and it only got better!
Not too far behind us Pak Abi – the Indonesian missionary primarily responsible for bringing the gospel to the Yetfa people – and crew arrived. They had the same reception, but with many more tears. Grown men, old men… men who prior to the gospel coming (and even after) shot and killed others for any opposition… were crying uncontrollably and embracing Pak Abi.

We were then left alone to get things in order around the house, but that evening a group of men came over to discuss the plans for the weekend. Before we left last time, I had sat down with a few of the leaders and discussed what we might do throughout the celebration. Then, after we came back to Sentani, they formed a committee and really went to town on the planning.

Friday was a focus on traditional Yetfa culture prior to the gospel coming.

Saturday was about when the gospel first came.

Sunday was about the present, particularly focusing on the emergence of God’s Word in their own language.

Friday began with a frenzy of activity. It began early with putting tarps on as the roof of the large, make-shift tent structure they had built. Then I met with the 17 Yetfa speakers who had each been memorizing one of the translated Scripture stories. This was what I was most anxious about! I had turned the task of getting that group ready completely over to Sion and Jeri. Everybody arrived fairly quickly and lined up in chronological order. And then it began… One-by-one they cited from memory their portion of the overarching story of salvation – from Genesis to Pentecost.
Chase baptizing a man in the Yefta tribe

I was in tears.
Although, along the way, I had heard and scrutinized every word in those 17 stories, I had never heard them as a single story. It was powerful! I was moved, even more so because we had worked so hard so that the stories were faithful to Scripture but also short enough and simple enough to be memorized and retold. They have a clear progression and message of salvation. I was so proud of how well they had memorized each story. I went home and told Kel that I could completely relax and enjoy the weekend now that I knew that that part of the celebration was covered.
After that we scrambled around the house getting ready for our guests to arrive.

Two plane loads of people who had been involved in (or represented organizations that had been involved in) the gospel entering the Yetfa area arrived around noon. The war dance and parade was repeated for each one. After the second plane arrived and dance ended, Bob Cochran, who has beenour primary consultant for the story set, was equipped with a traditional Yetfa bow and arrow and whisked away. He was given the honor of shooting (or being the first of about 10 people to shoot) the second of two hogs that they were cooking for a celebration meal.

That afternoon was fairly relaxed, although one of the videographers and I spent the rest of the day filming testimonies from others who didn’t speak in the service. They shared about the changes the gospel had brought about in their people. It was all done in Yetfa and was directed towards future generations who would not remember what it was like before God’s Word came. It was a preservation of the living memory, and the common themes were “We were in darkness. We killed people. We stole from each other. We killed people for stealing from us. We worshiped evil spirits. We didn’t know God. We were always afraid – afraid of trees, rocks, holes in the ground, bodies of water, spirits, people, nighttime. But when the gospel came,we stopped being afraid.”

That evening we had a special time of prayer for the first-time telling of God’s word through the stories we had worked on in their entirety!
The next day, after a night of heavy rain, I got up early for a last practice with the storytellers. When I got to the big tent, it had been nearly completely knocked down by the rain. I, honestly, thought that it was a loss and started thinking about alternative places where we could gather. About that time a few guys came up, then they began to call for others. Before I knew it, we were cutting things up, tearing the wreck apart, rebuilding it. Others were running out to the jungle to cut new wood to replace broken pieces, and in no time at all, the tent was as good as new. We gathered for the practice and everybody did great. We had prayer and then ran home to get ready.

The early part of the service was packed with songs and testimonies, but finally it came time for the stories. Then, for the first time, the wider community heard the story of God’s salvation clearly and carefully translated into their own language. When the last story was finished, one of the storytellers shouted out, “We have to tell others this good news!”, and all 17 storytellers ran out of the tent. Then Jeri preached a message based on a primary theme of the story set – ‘do not fear’.

For the full blog post, click HERE