Turning The Tide
... until ICM's Annual Banquet & Fundraiser
Can’t wait to see you then!
- We are now in Cameroon, teaching the DML Economics of Hope course to some key DML leaders from both Anglophone and Francophone areas. Cameroon is in its sixth year of civil war between the Anglophone and Francophone regions. The government refuses to negotiate, calling the Anglophones "terrorists" and the citizens on the Anglophone region (20% of the population) continue to have significant struggles. Hundreds of thousands are in Internally Displace Persons camps, or have fled to neighboring countries, or shelter in place in fear. The weariness of a six-year conflict can be seen in the faces. Those I met in 2017 from that area are fatigued, stressed, and losing hope.
[The only "good" thing that I have heard come out of this so far is that the Ambazonian fighters (as they are called) are requiring everyone in that area to "strike" on Monday in protest of the situation. If one dared to open their business, it would be torched. No one dares to go outside on Mondays, and parents have said that the whole family is under the same roof for an entire day which has caused them to grow closer!]
It's a good time to teach the Economics of Hope. Hope is critical to finding a way forward for everyone. We get up, we work, we take action because we have hope that there can be a result from our efforts. My experience in working with people in poverty for 25 years is that there is often a significant loss of hope in the heart. Our goal is first to affirm everyone's primary calling, including that of Jesus (John 12:27-28), which is to glorify God. By affirming this, we begin to lift our eyes from our current situation to something much bigger. Then we move to how to glorify God - we understand God to be a working, creative God who has given us the call as image bearers to work and be creative as well (Genesis 1:28 and 2:15). We study how economics works - government, education, and the church are there to support those in business, but primarily wealth creation (which is the opposite of poverty alleviation) are going to come from businesses.We need to ask, "What is in our hand?" We find this type of question many times in the Bible.
It is the question that Elisha asked the poor widow. In 2 Kings 4:1-7, Elisha asks, "What do you have in your house?" Then he tells her to go and leverage her relationships with neighbors for jars. He started with her oil and her relationships.
In Mark 6, we read the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 with a few loaves and fishes. But his first statements to the disciples, when they raised the issue of people being hungry, was, "You give them something to eat." They protested. Then Jesus said, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." He didn't try to solve the problem FOR them. He tried to solve the problem WITH them.
The difference between "for" and "with" is where we spend a lot of time. "Shut up and listen" is what we need to do!Much of poverty alleviation is building capacity. Breaking down poverty relating not just economics, but relational poverty, educational poverty, spiritual poverty, social poverty, and more. Social poverty is a very large factor of poverty in Africa, as entire genders, tribes, or people groups are not given equal/fair access to the very things that will allow them to develop their own capacity.
And so, we emphasize that the opposite of poverty is NOT wealth. It is justice. As justice is being sought, we need to work on helping every person see their own capacity, as image bearers of a working, creative God.
On Tuesday, we leave for Burkina Faso. We ask for your prayers for both Cameroon and Burkina Faso, where so many people are dealing with conflicts in these countries. May God heal our lands!
- During this current Discipling Marketplace Leaders trip in West and Central Africa, we will be in four francophone (French-speaking) countries: Togo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Cote d'Ivoire. While I learned a bit of French growing up in Canada, there is always extra stress when you are in places that speak very little English. We have to have all of our materials translated (and updated as we are always seeking to improve them), projectors projecting in both languages, translators, and more.
But of course, there are other differences beyond language. One of the differences has to do with the impact of colonization in these two areas. When working in Anglophone (English) Africa, we hear less and less talk about the impact of colonization (most of which ended in the 1960s). But in Francophone Africa, I still seem to hear a lot of references to the impact of colonization which seems to still be felt directly today.
I have placed a map of the countries that colonized Africa as of 1939 (also knowns as the "Scramble for Africa), and the major color in West and Central Africa is purple, which is France.
There seems to be good reason for the different realities today based on the country of colonization. France seemed to make an effort toward full assimilation, colonizing not only the economic resources of a country but also the culture. France desired to change the colonies at a much deeper level, from faith to dress to food and more.
English colonists tended to give much more freedom as long as English law was followed and loyalty was given to the King.
From those with whom I speak in Francophone Africa, this has had an impact on work and jobs. In Francophone Africa, because of the lack of freedom, people seem to be more risk-averse and less inclined to start a business. Also because of the lack of independence, success was found in finding work at an existing business and not working for oneself. There was a stifling of creativity, of flourishing, and of thriving.
This is not to say that things were perfect in countries colonized by the British, but it is one difference that seems to have trickled on through the generations!
Francophone Africa also complains that it has been neglected by the evangelical world. This is largely due to the low percent of Protestantism in colonizing countries of France and Belgium. Francophone Africa has been through (and continues to go through) significant violence in the past decades, with a great expansion of Islam as well.There is therefore great opportunity and great need. As the Lausanne Movement writes, "The future of the Church in the French-speaking world depends upon the Church in French-speaking Africa."
That is why DML has hired French speaking leaders like Dr. Sublime and Rachel Mabiala as our African coordinators.
That is why DML is focused on growing in and through Francophone Africa.
And that is why we covet your prayers so that we can continue to equip and empower the French-speaking Church.
During this visit we hope to connect with Campus Crusade for Christ in Togo and Cameroon, and with the Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire. Both are very influential ministries with the potential to carry the message of work as worship far and wide in the church gathered and scattered.
As we start a new year, there are new friends and opportunities that we would like to share with you as well!At the end of this week, we leave for West Africa where we continue our work in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Cote d'Ivoire, but we will also introduce Discipling Marketplace Leaders to a new country through Life Ministries Togo (Campus Crusade for Christ). Togo is a small country in West Africa, neighboring Ghana and Benin. Togo has a population of eight million, approximately 48% of whom are Christian, and the official language is French. [This means that this upcoming trip will be four French countries.] The economy in Togo depends mostly on agriculture, growing coffee, cocoa beans, and peanuts.
This year also sees some new members of the Discipling Marketplace Leaders team, whom I would like to introduce to you at this time.Brenda DenHouten joins us as our Community Outreach Coordinator. She lives in Grand Rapids MI and has many years of experience in working with nonprofits in communications, program and staff development, and development. She worked for many years with Resonate Global Mission and also worked internationally with a nonprofit in South Africa. She is passionate about building the church and seeing the flourishing of people around the world. We are thankful that she has joined the US DML team!
Dr. Sublime and Rachel Mabiala join us as our Africa Team Coordinators. Sublime is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rachel is from Detroit, Michigan and they currently live in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. They met at Fuller Theological Seminary where both were studying Missiology and International Development. Sublime has his PhD in International Development and Rachel is finishing her Doctorate in Business Administration. Their passion in their mission was to bring economic development to the local church and then they learned about DML! We couldn't ask for a couple that is more equipped to join in this ministry, bridging between theology and business!
Lastly, 2023 sees some new initiatives for Discipling Marketplace Leaders. We are excited to launch a new research project in Burundi, to study the impact of DML on youth over a five-year period. Secondly, we will be focused on digitizing DML in 2023, moving toward more social media and video spots instead of written documents. Lastly, while we focus on digitizing, we also want to focus on making sure that DML materials are available easier for oral learners.
Thanks to you, we were able to meet our challenge match at the end of last year and now we look forward to getting to work in 2023. Thank you for being part of this team!
- Happy New Year, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! I am trusting that you, like me, have been reflecting on 2022 and translating those reflections into some anticipations for 2023. Like any good SWOT analysis, there were strengths that need continued growth, weaknesses that need to be addressed, opportunities that need to be prioritized and pursued, and threats that need to be mitigated. These reflections are both personal as well as for Discipling Marketplace Leaders.
During the Christmas break, I had the opportunity to read a new book by R. Paul Stevens, called The Kingdom of God in Working Clothes, which is an excellent book (highly recommend!). If you have read this blog before, you have heard me mention the "sacred/secular divide" many times, relating to the chasm that exists in how we view the world.
But Stevens makes the statement that there is nothing secular. He says that everything was created sacred in Genesis one and two. Therefore, there is only sacred or desecrated. Nothing is secular. He says, "This world was created to be a temple for the presence and purpose of God...what was once one and whole has become divided and separated." The Oxford definition of "desecrate" is to "treat something sacred with violent disrespect." Stevens then reminds us that "integration as a Christian task, Apostolic mission, and a divinely given mandate to find everything in all creation unified under Christ, is simply to live and work sacramentally...finding God in everyday things...in the everydayness of work, worker, and workplace."
This restoration of sacredness, this pursuit of wholeness, will bring us to finding shalom. Shalom is full restoration or a fullness/completeness of all things. For us, at Discipling Marketplace Leaders, that means a restoration of our call to work. It means recognizing that there is nothing secular in our spheres of influence - there is only sacred and that which has been desecrated.
And we get to be part of bringing shalom. We are invited AND equipped AND mandated to do this. How exciting!
May God bless you in 2023 as you seek to bring integration to what has been separated, restoring sacredness into every place and space.
- Advent is a time of waiting. Waiting in a time of darkness, a time of longing. We see a picture of that in Burkina Faso.
Discipling Marketplace Leaders has two very strong leaders in Burkina Faso, a land-locked nation in West Africa, with a population of 21.5 million, one of the ten poorest countries in the world. This country has had a difficult year, to put it mildly. January saw a coup d'état with an army general taking over from the elected president due to slow-to-no progress fighting the continued terrorism by a jihadi insurgency which has caused the country to lose close to 40% of their land. This terrorist fight has been ongoing since 2015.
Unfortunately, this particular army general didn't have much success either, and was overthrown in a second coup d'état in September, just three months ago, by another military leader. Both coups were relatively peaceful, which is quite something.
But this particular army leader has done something different, acknowledging that the army of Burkina Faso does not have the resources or manpower to be successful against the terrorists, and therefore called for volunteer army at the beginning of November. They were hoping to have 50,000 civilians join but received 90,000 civilians sign up to join the fight. I'm told they are young men and women, middle aged men and women, and older men and women, from age 18 to 77 years of age. They were to receive fourteen days of training and then sent out.
Just pause and think about that for a minute. What would it take for a civilian to respond to such a call for service? What level of frustration, anger, sadness, despair would cause 90,000 people to put their own lives at risk after just 14 days of training? It tells you that the frustration and pain run very deep.
Our DML prayer team has been praying in earnest for Burkina Faso in this last week. I keep imagining an 18-year-old young woman who signed up under protest from her parents. She went in with lots of passion and energy, and now may be wondering what she got herself into, especially as she sees people who signed up with her killed in the line of battle. She is out there in a strange place, so far out of her comfort zone, maybe wishing she had never signed up. But abandonment is not an option, and so she presses on, wiping tears from her eyes as she feels overwhelmed but what she is doing.
Oh Lord, how we need you as the Prince of Peace.
This week on of our leaders shared that his home village is being taken over by the terrorists and needs to be evacuated - all 35,000 people that live there. They were trying to move them as fast as possible to Ouagadougou, the capital. He was able to get his parents and family out, but then comes the additional challenge of housing and feeding. More than 1.7 million people have been internally displaced in Burkina Faso due to this ongoing terrorism.
While I wonder at times how to celebrate Christmas in the midst of so much pain, I'm reminded that we are in the season of Advent, a time of waiting. This waiting happens in the context of darkness, as the need for Jesus is recognized and longed for. The world wants us to think that Christmas is all about lights and food and gifts, but that was not the environment in which Christ entered. And at this time, it's okay to sit in lament and ask, "How long, Lord? Will you forget [them] forever? How long will you hide your face...?" (Psalm 13)
Please join us in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Burkina Faso, that their voice of longing may be heard by the Prince of Peace and that 2023 may be a year where the citizens of Burkina Faso may return to a time of flourishing, able to do what God has given for them to do.
Within the space of about an hour the other day, I received two articles. One, from LICC, was called, "The Census Results: Should We Panic?" and the other, from Christianity Today, was entitled, "Finding Your Place in the Global Mission Field."
Both presented the same sobering picture and both provided the same exciting potential. The sobering picture is that the proportion of people calling themselves Christians is shrinking. The census data from the UK shows that those who self-describe as Christians dropped from 71% in 2001 to 46.2% in 2021. The historic role that Christianity has played in politics and culture is changing dramatically and it is obvious to most Christians around the world. COVID certainly played a part in that, but it isn't entirely the fault of COVID.
At the same time, both tell the story of the church changing the way we define missions, from global to local. It tells the story of missions in North America and argues that perhaps the church gathered has made the Great Commission too complicated. We have emphasized "going" by sending individuals or groups on short- or long-term mission projects to other parts of the world, rather than a local approach. The article in Christianity Today says this:Arguably, the most effective missionaries are the local pastors and Christians working day in and day out to minister to their communities. These local missionaries have organic relationships with the people in their care and a built-in knowledge of language and culture that allows them to convey the love of Christ effectually.
When you are local, you understand the language, the culture, and the protocol in order to be effective. It is easier and more cost effective to have every Christian be equipped to be the church every day of the week rather than raising support to send someone halfway around the world. While there is a growing awareness of the need for this equipping of all members, there continues to be a clinging to the old model of missions. We certainly have seen that in the work of Discipling Marketplace Leaders. Changing the paradigm of the church gathered to the church scattered is not fast or easy.
But changing this model could reverse the trends that we are seeing of the decline of Christianity in the world. Understanding that evangelism isn't something you do like a program, but rather it's the life that you live, can be transformational. We have the opportunity to fulfill the Great Commitment, Great Commandment, and Great Commission every day of the week while at our workplaces. And we have certainly seen that in Discipling Marketplace Leaders with testimony after testimony of what God is doing in and through His members when they are equipped to be the church in their workplace!
The article talks about the Lutheran Hour Ministries changing the way they do missions to include this. At DML, we continue to see more churches and denominations recognizing not only the potential but the need for this change, not only for the benefit of the world but also for the benefit of the church, both local and global. We believe in 2023, there will be significant movement in this direction in several key denominations in Africa.
God is moving His Church and is calling us to remember the purpose of our creation: to glorify Him by bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, little by little, day by day, for every person who claims Jesus as Lord and Savior.As we come to the end of this year, we look forward with excitement to what God seems to be doing in His global church. Our sixteen local teams are working hard across Africa, Nicaragua, and India to help this word go out. If you would like to share in this message going further, please consider a year-end gift to Discipling Marketplace Leaders. We have a generous donor who has offered to match gifts up to $30,000 through December 31st. We about halfway there right now and need your help to get all the way! Please join us or email me for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- This week the world's population reached 8 billion people. It is a marvel to see how rapidly the world population has changed in the last seventy years!
The very brief video below (30 seconds) shows how population has increased from 1.5 billion in 1950 to a projected 11 billion in 2100. It took all of humanity's history to get to 1.5 billion people in 1950, and then just 150 years to see it grow seven times that number. That is really amazing. By the year 2100, one in three people in the world will be Asian; one in three people in the world will be African; and the last third will be everyone else.
But as you watch the video, pay attention to what is happening in Africa. While almost every other geographic area in the world is decreasing in terms of population, Africa is growing rapidly.
When we ask people in Africa, "Is this a problem or an opportunity?" we are often met with a resounding, "This is a problem!"
To which we say, "People, made in the image of a working, creative God, are not the problem. They are the solution."But a few more facts yet. By the year 2100 (or now they are saying even sooner, 2080), the world population will begin to shrink. People are having less children and fertility rates are falling below replacement rates (think of two parents having two children - flat growth rate; once two parents have on average 1.8 children, declining population). And the world is getting older as there are less children being born and people are living longer.
The median age in the US is 38; in the UK is 43; and in all of Africa the median age is 17.
Where will we find the future work force? Where will innovation and creativity come from?
We see it coming from Africa. People, made in the image of God with creative capacity, solve problems. As populations grow, countries actually begin to flourish more, not less.
One of my favorite lines from the video series the Poverty Cure says this: "Human beings are not mere mouths. They are not like animals, getting up to search for their food every day. Human beings have been created for a much higher purpose. To take the world and move it forward."
It's time we stop seeing people as a problem. Let's get excited about what problems will be solved and what flourishing will take place in the next seventy years. And watch out for Africa. They will be the leaders.
- It was all we hoped and prayed it would be and more. The joy of being with each other in person again cannot be measured. Bonds that have grown deeper by regularly praying together allowed us to very easily and quickly feel safe with each other and have good and challenging conversations.
We laughed and cried. We prayed and sang. We celebrated what God is doing in the Marketplace across the world and marveled at the idea that He would include us in this work. We re-examined WHY we do this ministry. We re-examined for WHOM we do this ministry. And we brainstormed and shared best practices for HOW to do this ministry.We saw the work of the Tanzania team in action in a Masai village as well as a church in Dar es Salaam which has implemented DML in a way that is changing lives in the community. And we had fun. We went out to a game park for one day, filled up five jeeps and enjoyed the majesty of God's beautiful creation and creativity in animals.
Words can't express how thankful to God I am for the richness of this summit. Thirty-seven delegates from twelve countries arrived and departed with almost no problems. That, by itself, is a miracle! We had prayed for a spirit of wisdom and revelation for our time together, and God answered that prayer.
Words can't express how thankful I am to donors who supported this gathering. I admit that I struggled with the cost of the summit prior to the event. But I'm convinced that it was worth every dollar spent.
And I'm thankful for every DML team member who showed up. It is clear to see that DML is not just a program that these teams are doing but it is a lifestyle that they are owning and adopting within their own family, community, church and beyond. We heard story after story of these leaders making disciples who make disciples, and doing work as an act of worship. God has blessed DML with leaders who love God and love His Church.
God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good, and that is His nature.
- Our DML Global Summit ended on Saturday, and it was an incredible week. It was a very full time and I am still processing some of the things that we heard together as a team in our prayer and reflection times. So I will write more on this later, but we are so thankful that everyone arrived and departed safely, and for the precious unified fun, worshipful, strategic, and blessed time that we had together!
Morogoro, Tanzania is a very beautiful place, as you can see in the pictures.
Yesterday (Sunday), I went to visit one of the churches with whom DML is partnering (through the Full Victory Gospel Ministries). It was about ninety minutes of driving straight into the bush...except there was no bush as everything was dry from the current drought. Rains were supposed to start in October but as of November 6, there had been no rains yet. Everything was very, very dry.
The place we visited is far off the main road and just two years ago, there was no road. The road is mostly a sandy dirt path, and the cows that travel this road look very skinny. The population has been growing and most people are doing some sort of agriculture. The pastor of this church had the soil tested and is helping to show people to move away from growing maize and toward millet, sesame, and sunflowers, which grow better in the soil that they find there. The borehole that was dug (going down 120 meters) is producing a good amount of water but it is salty and therefore cannot be used on the plants.
Rain is needed. Please pray with us for rain to fall so that the farmers don't miss one of two short planting seasons.
Today (Monday) we start a DML foundational workshop for 400 pastors and church leaders from various evangelical churches in the Morogoro area. We thank God for this opportunity!
The church in the distance.
This water place is fed by the church's borehole and has brought peace to pastoralists in the area as they can have access to water. It has also been used for baptisms!To the right of the church, you can see where a new foundation is being laid for a bigger church as they are outgrowing this current church building.Testimonies were heard of those who have given their lives to Christ since this church started three years ago. Men who had multiple lives and were addicted to alcohol and drugs are now productive farmers, providing for their families.Most people are living in mud homes.
I just can't get over how big baobab trees are! They are humongous! The oldest baobab tree was recorded to be 2500 years old! Unfortunately many are dying now due to climate change.
As I flew on a very long flight from Chicago to Addis Ababa on Friday, I was unable to sleep and therefore got a lot of reading and writing done. One quote that I read jumped out at me: Christians tend to live their lives as oranges, not peaches. Since there are more mangos in Africa than peaches, I switched it: As a Christian, I need to live life as a mango, not an orange.
The quote makes sense. Oranges are segmented. They are self-contained. They have a rather strong "flesh" that protects the juice from inside each segment. Like oranges, we too compartmentalize our lives into segments. We create layers between them, often unintentionally, that keeps things neatly separate. From the outside, it looks like one cohesive unit. It's only upon peeling the orange, that you see the divisions.
Eating an orange is easy. The peel and rind come off relatively neatly with just your fingers. The segments keep your hands from getting sticky orange juice on them.
Mangos, on the other hand, are different. You need a knife to take off the peel. The inside pulp of a mango has no divisions. In fact, the pulp and pit are so connected that it is difficult to separate them. We had five mango trees in our yard in Liberia, and I don't remember anyone eating a mango neatly. Mango juice dripped all over faces, hands and clothes.
Christians (and all humanity in normal everyday life) segment our lives. These segments keep things neat and clean in their isolated boxes. Some of the segments that we have created in our lives are those that we believe are important to God. Some segments we do not believe are important to God.
The segments we believe are important include church services and activities, social action activities, evangelistic activities. The segments we do not believe are important are work, rest, leisure, sport and the arts.
We believe that the segments are real and even Biblical. But they are not.
Colossians 1:16 reminds us that "all things were created through him and for him." Colossians 1:20 reminds us that God expects us to bring restoration or reconciliation or shalom of all things to Him. This includes both material and immaterial things. And everything in life is connected - it's how it was made to be! You cannot do just one thing. There are ripples and impacts everywhere. And yes, that can get messy - but in good ways!
And so, we continue to discover new ways to explain the sacred/secular divide.
This week we are in Morogoro, Tanzania - thirty-seven of us from twelve different countries. We will learn how to be mangos. We will discuss new ways of how God is revealing to us His message about eradicating the sacred/secular divide. Our desire is to listen and engage together, sharing what we are learning about what works and what doesn't work. Our desire is that every person can hear this message in a way that will resonate with their own heart and mind in order to bring about whole-life discipleship, without segments.
Please pray for us during this time! Here are a few pictures of the arriving teams - there is great excitement to be together again after three long years!Uganda teamNigeria teamBurkina Faso AEAD team