14 Reasons for Poverty in Rural South Africa

[Please see followup post] Living in a rural African village for over a decade has taught me that poverty doesn’t come by accident. There is a reason rural South Africa is poor. Often, it stems from sin.

This does not mean the poor are always at fault. Ultimately, the Lord himself causes poverty (1Sm. 2:7; Dt. 8:17-18; Job 1:21). The poor will always exist on earth (Jn. 12:8). Jesus commended the godly church in Smyrna and they were very poor (Rev. 2:9). Many of those in deep poverty are honest, devout, and hardworking. Continue reading

Review: Silence

Shusaku Endo, Taplinger, 1969. 201 pp. Three of Five Stars

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 9.47.09 PMIs God silent in our suffering? The author implies “yes”, but Christians know better. God is not aloof in suffering. “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2Co. 1:5).

Written by a Japanese-Catholic, Silence addresses the troubled period of Japanese history known as “the Christian century”. By 1614, 300,000 “Christians” lived in Japan’s population of 20 million. But amidst the light, dark persecution prevailed.

Apparently a highly revered missionary, a priest named Ferreira, had apostatized by recanting his faith. A Portuguese priest is sent to find out if it is true and finds persecution himself. This is a novel about a young priest who, among excruciating persecution, is fighting to maintain his faith in God. The more he resists recantation, the more he asks: “Lord, why are you silent? Why are you always silent?” Continue reading

Review (pt.5): When Helping Hurts

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Moody, 2009, 230 pages 

Corbett_Helping HurtsFifth Concern: Short-term Missions

The first time I read the chapter on short-term missions, I really liked it. It encourages pre-planning, thoughtful use of money, and training. But the weaknesses became clearer over time. Here are two:

Critiquing Foreign Cultures

It is a healthy exercise to address not only the strengths in other cultures but also the weaknesses. If we agree that the gospel is not only able to transport our souls to heaven but also change everything about us, including the way we do business, family, education, and work, then we must also acknowledge that some cultures have had a greater influx of gospel intrusion within their culture than others. If the culture of Scotland was not superior to the culture of the cannibals on the New Hebrides when John Paton first landed there, then the gospel doesn’t mean much. Of course the Scottish culture was superior and we mustn’t be afraid to point this out. Christians must temper this with humility, prayer, and Scriptural warrant, but the deed itself is noble.

For example, suppose there is a godly Christian professor from the mountains of India who takes his wife and children to visit the US. As they sit in the JFK airport, they discuss the books they read on the plane and the goals they have for the trip. Then he calls his family’s attention to the American culture around them. “Do you see the families hardly speak to each other? He’s glued to the TV. She’s attached to her device. The 35 year-old over there has been playing video games for an hour. Rotten my children.” Who would fault such a scathing yet accurate critique of our culture? Who would deny this is healthy for his family?

The authors cannot bring themselves to point out the weaknesses in poor, foreign cultures. At one point they observe the different ways people view time. The monochronic view—which could just as easily be called the biblical view—“sees time as a limited and valuable resource.” This would be most Western nations. Where I minister, there is such a thing as “African Time” and anyone who has lived or worked in Africa knows about this.

A pastor from Zambia spoke at our church recently and he said: “What is this I hear about African time? Nonsense! You simply do not value time. You are sitting with your friends chatting when your neighbor calls and asks why you haven’t arrived yet with the shovel and you say, ‘Oh, I’m on the way’ when you know very well you are not on the way.’ African Christians should be ashamed of African time.”

It is common for pastors to give the starting time of church an hour before it starts so that people will arrive on time. But how do the authors define the alternative view: the polychronic view means tasks typically take a backseat to forming and deepening relationships.” Right. Can’t we acknowledge that actions take so long in the third world because time is not valuable? Weekly, I have church members slither into church an hour or two late. I guarantee they were not digging deep into their mother’s family tree. They over slept. They weren’t watching. Time is limitless. That is a weakness and we should call it such. There are weaknesses in every culture, some more than others depending on how aligned that culture is with Scripture. It is not judgmental or racist to point these out.

The purpose of STMs

The authors assume that STM trips will be social in nature and they rarely even mention evangelism or other gospel work. They then say, “[the STM trip] is not about us. It is about them!” (172) If the trip is social in nature, I agree. But what if the primary purpose in taking a one month trip to Senegal is to (1) see if you are compatible with the mission team (2) see if you are deft at picking up the language (3) see if the spiritual needs fit your goals (4) see if you are gifted to minister in that area. All of these goals are self-centered in a sense. Churches should keep a watchful eye on gifted young men and push them to STM trips with these goals in mind.

Missions Round-Up (July 5)

IS THIS THE TEAM FOR ME? – This article from Postings guides prospective missionaries with a series of questions to ask as they consider which mission field suits them best. Short on Bible but very practical.

NEW BOOKS ON WORLD RELIGIONS – Here’s a list of three books published in ’13 addressing Islam and other world religions. Everything James White writes is solid.

10 THINGS EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ISLAM – this article carries weight because the author served for twenty years in Central Asia.

CHOOSING MARRIAGE OVER MISSIONS – Here is a transparent account of the strain foreign missions can have on marriage and parenting.

GOD IS DOING SOMETHING HISTORIC – “The price these converts pay for their conversion has not diminished with the arrival of modern times. Qur‘anic prescriptions remain unflinching: “…if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them” (Qur‘an An-Nisa 4:89b). And these religious renegades are paying an incalculable price for their spiritual migration to Christ. Yet they continue to come. What began as a few scattered expressions of dissent is now emerging as substantial, and historically unprecedented numbers of Muslim men and women wading against the current of their societies to follow Jesus Christ. And it is only beginning.”