Monday, June 29, 2015

A Fabric of Hope in Kenya

Through Extreme Response and Samford's GMS program, I have been blessed with an internship of nine weeks in Nyeri, Kenya. During this internship, I will be working at a rescue center for orphaned or at risk children. This wonderful home is called Belwop, which means: Better Life without papers. The home is run by a beautiful woman named, Veronica Mumbi. Veronica believes that "It is the best thing in the world to know what you are created for."

As soon I arrived to Nyeri and hugged the woman I had been emailing for the past two years, I could see Jesus in her. We embraced as if we had known each other our whole lives. Veronica is an amazing woman. I cannot wait to learn everything I can from her these next few weeks. As she began her story, she told me how she moved from job to job but she was never satisfied. She felt that God was calling her to something more. She just did not know what that was. 

Veronica simply said, "Yes" to God's plan. Children began coming to her through other people that were in very bad living conditions and Veronica opened her home and heart to help them. Now she is "Mum" to over 40 children and counting. She has built a school for them. Now, they are provided with a stable home, food, clothing, and eduction. However, most importantly Veronica shares Jesus with these children. They can have hope, joy, and peace despite their past circumstances because Jesus lives inside their hearts. 
I have learned so much just in these few short days and I cannot wait to see what God shows me next. At Belwop, I help out with the school on the compound that opened in January. So far, I have been teaching class 4, or 4th grade. However, Veronica has a new dream. 

God has recently placed on her heart women who have suffered from rape and abuse. She built a safe house for these women called, The Hope House. Here, the women receive food, shelter, healthcare, and counseling. Someone kindly donated sewing machines to the Hope House a few months ago. Veronica came up with, Fabric of Hope. Through this project, the girls would be able to see dresses and learn a skill to help them make a living on their own when they leave the Hope House. Unfortunately, Veronica does not have the resources to provide a seamstress for the girls to learn. For a mere $175 a month, a local seamstress could be hired full time to help these beautiful women regain their sense of self-value and to begin to rebuild their lives. While I am here, I hope to raise awareness about this situation and encourage people to give if they feel lead. This is an overwhelming task for Veronica, but I believe that where God guides, He will also provide. 

- Samford University student, Anna Boldt

Gay Marriage and Missions

Christian leaders who are pushing for "tolerance" and acceptance of gay marriage are often using the desire to reach the younger generation for Christ as their justification. In this narrative, they are the ones who genuinely care about people knowing Christ and those of us with a traditional understanding of marriage are the ones who care more about rules and tradition than people. There are good arguments against this other than what is below.  There is one hole in this argument, however, that is very rarely, if ever, discussed:

The majority of the global population.  

This is especially relevant to the task of evangelizing unreached people groups.  Yes, there are changes that are happening on a global scale when it comes to the acceptance of new views of sexuality (Pew Research), but there is still a large divide between Western and non-Western nations on this issue.  The 10/40 Window, which is home to the large majority of unreached peoples, is filled with societies solidly against the acceptance of gay marriage and other new understandings of sexuality. 

So when it comes to Christian leaders pressing for acceptance of new views of sexuality, where is the burden for the unreached peoples of the world

Does anyone think that our increasingly "open views" are removing obstacles to the gospel among Muslims?  The reality, of course, is that the rest of the world is watching - often in disgust - what is happening in the West and are very worried that our immorality will continue to spill over into segments of their societies like it has been for decades.  They can't be convinced that this is a "new move of God" regarding how sexuality is to be understood.  They simply put it into the category of a long list of problems that have been transferred through media from our country to theirs: gang violence, bulimia, disrespect for parents, rampant sex outside of marriage, and a general devaluing of the importance of family.  For a brief picture of what this disgust looks like, consider the backlash over Facebook's rainbow flag profile pictures

One of the misperceptions missionaries have to combat upon entering one a Muslim or other traditional society (one that I had to deal with myself) is the belief that almost all Americans are Christians.  In other words, when a well-known celebrity claims to be a Christian and is soon afterwards in the news for public drunkenness, adultery, arrest, etc., the conclusion is that this is what all Christians are like.  Therefore, they are not only uninterested in Christianity.  They are appalled by it.  

Missionaries coming from churches who conduct gay marriages would only confirm this misperception and strengthen the voices of local imams warning people against the message of Christ.  

So while the call to reach people for Christ is used to lead people towards new views on gay marriage and transgender teachings in America, those who are making this point have little concern for the majority of unreached peoples of the world. This shouldn't really be surprising since many of these same leaders don't believe that whether or not people hear about Jesus will have any significant influence on where they spent eternity.

No doubt there are many of you reading this who are agreeing with the main point and yet have become quite frustrated with the reasoning being employed. You may be saying, "Shouldn't we simply focus on obeying with the Scripture says instead of trying to figure out which view of sexuality we think will reach people?" "By trying to see which way the moral wind is blowing and following suit," you're thinking to yourself,  "aren't we displaying a complete lack of trust in the power and sovereignty of God?" 

You are correct.  

The reality, of course, is that compromising on the truth of scripture never leads to true conversions.  See the history of liberalism and mainline churches.  See the recent history of the emergent movement that attracted many followers who identified as Christians already but led to very little true conversions where people surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord.   It seems that those who want a god who encourages them to do whatever they wanted to do anyway actually don't want the God of the Bible at all.  They eventually figure this out and, at best, become nominal Christians.

Speaking of the rest of the world, we need to also keep in mind the persecution of our fellow believers in other countries.  Yes, in light of the Supreme Court decision last week, the realities of potential persecution have risen for all of us.  Yet there are believers all over the globe who choose to follow Jesus knowing it will potentially mean complete rejection from society, violence from their own family members, torture from their government, and maybe even death.  Quite often the missionaries who reached them have been funded and paid for by Christians in America.  

Isn't it ironic that some of those who paid the missionaries to go are already shrinking back in the face of such little difficulty?  

Consider the words of the Apostle Paul, who was so overwhelmed with the message of grace and the freedom found in the gospel that he would not compromise any part of it in order to avoid persecution or a strain in his relationship with a newer generation of Christians:  "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:9-10 ESV)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Do You Believe in God? Paynes in Czech Republic

Stephen passing out bingo cards to 6th graders in 
PelhÅ™imov, Czech Republic.  Not only was bingo 
a helpful tool to teach English, but with the learning 
came much laughter and competition.
My story actually takes place on our very first day of teaching.  The night before Meredith was up most of the night with an upset stomach, so I went to teach by myself the first day.  In the class of 9th graders, rather than introducing myself, I suggested the class ask me questions to get to know me.  Questions you might expect were asked: How old are you? Where are you from?  What do you like to do in your free time?

After answering about 10 questions of this type, I asked for one more before we started the lesson.  A guy in the back of the room raised his hand, and asked, “Do you believe in God?”  I replied with a simple, “Yes,” but then I asked him the same question.  He said he did not.  So I asked the rest of the class, “Do any of you believe in God?”  All 25 students said they did not.  The question is vague of course; I mean, about which God are we even talking?  But that is beside the point.  I knew the statistics of Christianity in the Czech Republic, so I wasn’t surprised by their response.  But in that moment, statistics became people, people traveling to hell.

After class, I wanted to know why that student asked me if I believed in God.  I caught him going out the door and asked, “Of all questions, why that one?  You could have asked me anything, but you asked if I believed in God.  Why?”  His response is what I hope you find encouraging.  He answered, “Because there was an American here last year (whom he even remembered by name) that said he believed in God.  So I wanted to see if you did too.”

Be encouraged that when you leave the mission field overseas, the words you spoke remain. Remember this!  Every place God has taken you to share his gospel remains a place where the gospel seed was sewn – that is, if you actually proclaimed it.  So when others come along, God continues through them what he began with you.  It is ultimately God’s work after all.

- Stephen Payne

Meredith Payne (Stephen's wife) is teaching a class of 7th graders in PelhÅ™imov, Czech Republic.  She became  a celebrity in the schools (we were the only Americans in the city), as many students got selfies with her afterwards.

Monday, June 8, 2015

SU Students in East Asia

Our team is doing well and loving it here and no one is sick so far! We arrived on Sunday May 24 at 6am after a 14 hour train ride! It was an interesting experience to say the least. We spent the first week sitting in on English classes meeting students and helping them out with their English lesson. After class the students we met always took us to lunch or dinner. We made a lot of friends this way. Everyone is so friendly here to us. It's like we are famous-random people on the street take pictures of us everywhere we go. 

     Our time so far has consisted of a lot of shallow conversations and even more games of uno. This sometimes is draining, but we know that this what it takes to build relationships here and once we have relationships with the students they will be more open with us and more likely to want to know about the things that are important to us. 

    This rest of our time will look more like our second week. In the morning we are tutored by some students in their language-this is important because it shows them that we care about them and are interested in their culture which goes a long way in this country. It helps us learn how to communicate and find our way around better. Then we go out to lunch with the students. In afternoons we try to make plans with the students to get drinks, play cards, see their dorm or have them take us some place in the city. 

On Friday nights from 7-9 we help the foreign teachers with English Corner where students can come talk to us to work on their English. A lot of students have to come to this for class once or twice a semester. 

On Tuesdays from 3-5 we hang out at a certain place in the library and we have told some students that they can come there to talk with us or play card games. Word spread like wildfire that there are Americans in the library waiting to hang out. It was a hit this past week and I left with my favorite conversation I have had yet. 


     Nancy asked me if I felt pressure in high school. I told her a little because I want to work hard and do well but I know that that is not the most important thing in my life. She said that she doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. She said that in this society people just work to make a high income and so they can live a happy life but they cannot live a happy life. I explained to them how we always have a goal we want to reach and how we think it will satisfy us but when we reach it, it never does and we are left wanting more. They agreed excitedly when I said that-like they understood exactly what I meant. Lucy said a sense of achievement and friends satisfies her but then the satisfaction goes away. Nancy said she couldn't think of anything that satisfies her. I told them I had found something that does satisfy me completely and is not temporary. 

    They asked me what it was. I was able to tell them I am a follower and that my relationship with the father is what satisfies me. I told them about the hope I have as a follower that this life is not what I live for. That there is life after this life where there is no pressure, no stress, no tears, only joy, and that is the life I am living for. Please lift up Nancy and Lucy with me. That they would realize their longing for this life and that the father would reveal Himself to them so they may come to know this hope to which He has called them.

    It's amazing how in America I get nervous to talk about the father with someone who is not a follower but here I long for that freedom. 

    Please continue lifting up our team unity, for the students we are meeting, and for patience for us during the seemingly shallow conversations and game playing and to believe those things are making an impact.

Sent in by Mary Prater

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Missiography today!

Today is Missiography - the event!  While you are welcome to browse the pictures and stories anytime this week, we're having a "meet and greet" today at 12 - 1pm.  Come and browse the photos, have some snacks and drinks, and ask a photographer or two about their photos.

Missiography is simply a picture and a story that illustrates a global need and/or world Christianity.  Students, faculty, and staff are invited to share their stories and pictures.  This is our third year to have it and it's always been one of the more fun and meaningful things that we do.  Please join us!

In the Global Center we have a selection of photographs from Jon and Tanya Parks - Beeson alumni and missionaries to the Roma people.  You may know them as "gypsies" - the Roma people, not the Parks :) 

A Samford employee has shared some pictures of a great uncle who was a missionary to Thailand (Siam) and had to abruptly return home - only to make their way back on the Titanic!  You'll have to come and meet her to find out if the family survived :)

In the Divinity School main hallway

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Theology and Missing the Forest...

John Piper's recent article entitled, "Is Theology Your Idolatry?" reminded me of a sermon I heard at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003 from Danny Akin entitled "The Danger of Loving a Theological System More Than Your Savior."  In this sermon, Akin responds to a rude anonymous comment from a hyper-Calvinist.  

Both of these are great messages for seminary students, in particular, who are spending a great deal of concentrated time studying theology.  As those of us involved in seminary education become convicted of certain theological positions, we can begin to become very uncharitable towards Christians who disagree with us at any point. We can also completely forget the primary goals of the Christian life which can be obvious to even the newest of Christians, but lost to those who are missing the forest for the trees.  

From John Piper: Is Theology Your Idolatry?

We have often loved what we’ve learned about God more than God himself.
The Bible warns us about the dangers that come with our knowledge of God, especially for the theologically refined and convinced. “You cannot serve both God and theology.” Good theology is a means to enjoying and worshiping God, or it is useless.
Has your theology turned into idolatry? Has your knowledge of God ironically and tragically drawn you away from him, not nearer to him? Here are nine questions that might help you diagnose theology idolatry in your own heart and mind.
Click HERE for the rest.

Monday, March 9, 2015