Monday, February 18, 2019

A Tribute to Bob's Mom, Lucille Cain Reed Mosher

As I travelled home from Cameroon on Sunday and Monday, I received a text message that Bob's mom, my mother-in-law of 29 years, was not expected to live long.  She had been given two weeks to live before I left for West Africa, and my prayer had been that she would last until I got home.  I got home on Monday night and on Tuesday morning drove through the snow/ice of a winter storm to Cadillac to see her.  I had the priviledge to sit by her side until she passed on Wednesday at noon.  It was an honor to sit with her, sing to her, read to her, pray for her, massage her feet, and wet her lips.  She was unconscious the whole time but I was told she could still hear.  In some ways it felt like a divine appointment that I was able to get back in time to have that precious time with her.

As the family has decided to just have a visitation service for her, I wanted to share my thoughts about this woman and decided that since this blog has been like a journal for me, I would share it here.  Maybe someday my grandchildren will want to know about their great-grandmother.

I met Lucille in 1990, the year Bob and I started dating and married.  At that time, Lucille was married to her third husband, Keith.  Her first husband, Bob's dad, died in a house fire when Bob was three.  They had four children together.  Her second husband was Bob's uncle and they had two children together.  Her marriage to Keith lasted more than 25 years.

Lucille was a bit of an enigma to me.  She was a very giving person - always making pies and cookies for people, helping to rake their yards, mow their lawns, shovel their snow.  She loved garage sales and was always picking things up for her kids and grandkids, or for neighbors and friends.  It was Bob's belief that because she had received so much after the house fire and her husband's death, that she wanted to give back.   I think it was just also a part of who she was and it helped define her.  But despite her love to help, she was not your stereotypical loving, giving person - not one for much flowery emotion or sentimental conversation.  She was a very no-nonsense, direct woman (if you knew Bob, that's where he probably got it from), and absolutely disliked talking about deep issues or emotions (and if you knew Bob, you knew that drove him nuts).  Her favorite response when asked about her thoughts or feelings on things was "I don't care."

Often, if we pushed subjects to deep issues, she would quickly begin crying.  Bob believed that was because she kept burying emotions without processing, and so it didn't take much prodding to get to the underlying emotions that were there.  I was privileged to do an interview with her when I was working on my MSW and I learned things about her that Bob had no idea about.  For a few minutes, I was able to lift that curtain to see the complex woman underneath.

Her faith was also a subject of debate between Bob and I.  She certainly was not a fan of "institutional religion" but Bob thought that she might have a private faith.  She acknowledged a belief in God but didn't go much further from what we could see.  Again, as she wouldn't entertain discussions of a deeper nature, it was difficult to have a good understanding of where she stood.

When Bob died, I wanted to do for his mom and stepdad what he would do if he was still alive.  And, even though I was in Africa much of the time, I tried my best to help out and visit as much as I could.  When I spoke to her on Tuesday, I shared what I thought Bob would say if he was there.  As I did, a tear came out of her eye.  I would love to think that she has now met up with Bob in heaven and that they are doing some catching up together.

Hannah and Noah lost their grandmother on Wednesday.  I hope they haven't lost their connection with their dad's side of the family.  Please keep them in your prayers as they process this loss in and of itself, along with the possible complications.

Keith, Lucille, and Bob - maybe all three in heaven, catching up together.

Lucille with five of her six children (2005).  Her daughter Brenda had passed away the year before (2004), and Bob died five years later (2010).  She is survived by four children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Frustrated Eagerness

"I want to tell you how this has changed me.  You need to hear the details."  She said this to me with an urgency, while sitting on the edge of her chair.  "The message that my work can be worship has been startling and invigorating at the same time.  I have taken it to my staff and they too are changing.  We had never even thought about the environmental bottom line before and now all of us are involved in caring for the environment.  But more than that, I want to teach churches about how to do better with their administration and finance.  They measure eve rything by the Great Commission, but do they not think that they will be held accountable for how they handled the money of the church?  They have not been trained in this and there is no accountability or responsible planning.  Can I use your materials to help train churches in my city?"

She went on for about forty-five minutes with her ideas and her excitement.  She had been has been involved with Discipling Marketplace Leaders since July of last year but her understanding and her commitment to the message is deepening.

She asked, "Are you okay with DML being used in this way?"  I answered, "This is not material that belongs to DML.  This is a Biblical truth from Genesis 1 and 2.  We don't own this.  This is for all of us, from our Heavenly Father to all of His children.  You should use this in the way that you feel called."

She is the owner of a microfinance bank in Cameroon, with four branches in large cities.  She told me the story of the almost $50,000 she had to pay to be registered with the central bank, having to submit and resubmit documents over and over for whatever reason they could find to reject her applications, until she finally had to hire someone to do it for her.  She has no receipts for the $50,000 that she has paid.  But she can now do the work that she believes God has given her, to be salt and light to a people who are hurting and struggling in a difficult environment.

Her home is in a city that has been closed due to a strike and she cannot return home until February 15.  All businesses have been forced to be closed for these two weeks.  She told me about the army trucks heading into her hometown while she and many others left prior to the strike starting.  News of shootings and killings trickled back to her each day while we were in trainings last week.  The stress of what is happening is just under the surface of the passion she feels in wanting to move forward with her calling.  Friday morning, news came to us that there were many arrests of Anglophones in Yaounde (where we were) as the trial of one of the separatists was getting under way at the courthouse.  Tension rose in the group, but especially with her.  She wants peace but also resolution.

The tension of the "now, but not yet."  We see the potential to live out an aspect of the Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," but we have to continue to deal with the fallen will of people around us.  We get excited to do our work as an act of worship, and then we are frustrated by those who prevent us from even going to work.

Romans 8:21-23  ...With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.

Here is a video that was put out last week about the struggle in Cameroon with the separatists.  It is a good video to watch to give an understanding of the challenges and how we can pray.  Thank you for reading and for praying.  We appreciate your support!

Monday, February 4, 2019

This Is Your Morning

I have left Liberia and am now in Cameroon.  I am writing this on the road (Sunday morning) as we are traveling from Douala, the business capital, to Yaoundé, which is the official capital.  After conversations for the first couple of hours, I spent the rest of the trip going through my notes from Nigeria, Liberia, and Cameroon, and making the updates, changes, and reminders from workshops and presentations.  This is a regular must-do after each trip as we debrief and make suggestions for how to have continuous improvement to this message that God has entrusted to us.

I read a comment that I had noted from someone in Nigeria at the end of a two-day workshop.  He said, “The Igbos (a tribe in Nigeria) have a saying that the time when you wake up is your morning.”  He continued, “I wish I had met DML before now, but now that I have woken up, this is my morning."
It is a joy to continue to see the lightbulbs going off for pastors, church leaders, and businessmen and businesswomen.  The most common phrase we hear is, “How did I miss this?”  I love that this is a forgotten truth from God, our Creator, and not something that we made up or discovered. 

In Cameroon, we held a microbusiness training in Douala.  It was supposed to be in Limbe, but the civil crisis has continued and it was declared that all people in the Northwest and Southwest of Cameroon were to strike from February 1-15 – that means no one should leave their homes, or they could come under attack (the map highlights in red the parts of Cameroon considered to be unsafe.  The goal from the Ambazonians is to take out the French leadership in those two areas.  They quickly changed the venue from Limbe to Douala, which is bigger and tends to be more peaceful, and then we were thankful to hear that they postponed the strike until February 5.  This allowed us to get out of Douala and into Yaoundé before the strike started.

The microbusiness training is designed for members of churches where the pastors have already done the Thirty Days in the Marketplace, but about half of the group were also pastors.  During our introductions I heard a new theme which must have come from our Cameroonian trainers:  The Church focuses on the 10% of members money and not on the 90%.  We need to train our members not only on how to use the 90% but also how to use their time and talent to obtain the 90%.  
In Liberia, I was delighted to meet my namesake whom we cared for during the first fourteen months of her life.  She is now 11 years old and a beautiful girl.  Below is a picture of Baby Renita and I in 2008, and then a picture that we took last week.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Man Started By Resting

On Saturday we left Nigeria and are now in Liberia, where we will do a DML workshop before I go to Cameroon and Dr. Walker goes to Egypt.  The Harmattan winds were thick in Nigeria as dust hung in the air, while the humidity in Liberia hangs thickly in the air.  I haven't been in Liberia since 2012 and I forgot how useless it is to do anything with my hair while I'm here - it just goes curly in the humidity.  Dr. Walker has never seen me with curly hair, while Liberians have never seen me without.  There have certainly been many changes in this country of nearly five million people in the past seven years.

While in Nigeria, we were blessed to be with many pastors and church leaders, engaging in theological discussions and debates about the theology of work and the role of the Church in discipling its members to do work as an act of worship.  We spent this last week working with an excellent team of trainers, who will help carry this work forward in Kaduna, Jos, and Abuja, as well as other parts of Nigeria.

Our DML team in Nigeria is led by Dr. Abraham Gaga and Freeman Okuru.  Both have been serving the Church and mission field for many years and are truly excited about the capacity of what DML can do to reclaim the marketplace (defined as the systems of business, government, and education) for Christ.  Both are implementing DML in their own church, which is always a great indication of someone who has taken this to heart and is able to influence leaders.

Dr. Gaga led in devotions regarding rest and, as I have felt a deeper weariness of late, I listened to this reminder with eager ears.  He spoke some truths that went deep into my soul.

First, he pointed out that God made man on the sixth day and then rested on the seventh day - something we all know - but he pointed out that man started by resting.  He said that we don't rest FROM work - rather, we rest in order to do the work.  He further pointed out that when we work without resting and listening, we may well work in vain.

It fits into what we teach in that Sunday is the first day of the week, rather than the end of the week.  Resting and listening in order to work, rather than resting as a result of the work.  It's a subtle but important shift.

I hope you are resting today to be able to do your work tomorrow.  And when you do your work, may you do it as an act of worship unto the Lord!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Back To West Africa

Image result for map of west africaThis Friday, I leave for West Africa.  It feels like we just left there (end of November).  Christmas was such a busy time with family and the days just flew by!

We will start this trip working with the Baptist Seminary in Lagos, where over 300 pastors and church leaders will attend our workshop.  We will then spend a day with the faculty and staff of the Baptist Seminary to explore how the Church can begin to shift from defining itself by its wall on Sundays to the people on Mondays.  We will then move to Kaduna, where we will have a similar discussion and workshop with the pastors and church leaders from the ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All) Church.  Finally we will move into a Training of Trainers for the DML Nigeria team to train both pastors as well as business people.  We are praying that this will allow this work to go on in our absence.

From Nigeria, we will move to Liberia.  It will be my first time back to Liberia in six years.  I'm sure many things will have changed.  I will only be there for a few days to do a two-day workshop with pastors and church leaders through REAP (Restoration of Education Advancement Programs), so there won't be a lot of time for visiting.  We squeezed this trip in following the two people from Liberia who joined the training in Ghana in October and are anxious to get this moving.

Image result for map of cameroonFrom Liberia, I will be heading to Cameroon, while my colleague, Dr. Walker, heads to Egypt.  I will be starting my time in Cameroon in the city of Limbe, on the western coast of Cameroon, where we will be holding a two-day microbusiness training.  From there, I will move to Yaounde, where we will hold another two-day microbusiness training, followed by a Training of Trainers to help support the work of DML Cameroon throughout the country.

Things seem to have settled down a bit in Cameroon in all but the Anglophone areas yet.  The Anglophone separatists have declared they are not Cameroonian but Ambazonian and have declared a new currency with for that area.  The President of Cameroon appointed a new Prime Minister yesterday and we will wait and see whether this will be a good thing or not.  Please continue to pray for this region and its ongoing struggles.

During this trip I will miss my son's birthday (he lives in Washington DC so I wouldn't normally see him anyway) and also my husband's birthday.  This will be the second year I miss his birthday and it may be a pattern.  I've asked him to change the date but up until now he has not acted on it.  :)  Additionally, I leave while my 90-year-old mother-in-law (Bob's mom) is having a significant increase in dementia and medical issues; additionally, my 89-year-old father, who has been on a locked floor for eight years with frontal lobe dementia, is also experiencing further deterioration.

I will return on February 11 and hope to catch up with everyone at that time. Thank you for your prayers, ongoing support, and encouragement. Our continued prayer is that the Global Church continue to discover how to be relevant to the world on a day-to-day basis with all members recognizing that work can be their act of worship.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Status of Global Christianity, 2018

This is the time when many of us look at statistics from the past year, personal, national, or international. In my study, I have been reading statistics about the status of Global Christianity, especially from 1900-2050, and thought I would share some of these with you.

Here are some facts from a report from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary:

  • Christianity is projected to hold its own in terms of percentage of the world.  In 1900 it was 34.4%.  In 2050, it is expected to be 35.3%.  Not much change in terms of percentage but the overall number has gone from 500 million to 2.5 billion today.
  • The number of congregations will have increased from 400,000 in 1900 to 9,000,000 in 2050.
  • The number of denominations will have increased from 1,600 in 1900 to 70,000 in 2050.
  • One number my husband might like:  Book titles about Christianity will have increased from 300,000 in the year 1900, to 14,500,000 book titles in 2050.
  • Personal income of Christians was $270 billion in 1900 and will increase to $200,000 billion in 2050.  This year, 2018, it is $57,000 billion. 

The history of giving as it relates to churches and Christians is also interesting.  Giving to Christian causes was at $8 billion in the year 1900.  It is now at $960 billion and is expected to go up to $3,300 billion in the year 2050. The Christian community has been very generous and faith-based organizations actually account for nearly 60% of US-based foreign aid organizations. 

What do churches give to?  Evangelism is definitely #1, with church planting right behind.  The chart
on the right shows the breakdown of average giving for churches.  For my particular study, it is telling that creation care is at the bottom of the list, while business as mission fares a bit better.

One surprising statistic in the middle of all the numbers was this:

Ecclesiastical crime:  in 1900, it was $300,000.  In 1970, it was $5,000,000.  In 2000, $19 billion.  In 2018, $63 billion.  In 2025, $80 billion.  In 2050, $250 billion.  The footnote to this statistic says, "Amounts embezzled by top custodians of Christian monies (US dollar equivalents, per year)."  Wow.  This seems to be about 7-8% of the giving received.

A startling statistic to read.  

So the Global Christian Church is giving at about 1.6% and of that amount, we are losing 10% to ecclesiastical crime. This is very sad as we know that the impact of this number is far beyond simply a loss of money.  It goes to the reputation of the Church and is a poor reflection on Jesus. [It makes the class that I teach in seminaries on Integrity and Finance so important, but also a definite sense of swimming upstream.  How I wish all seminaries would include a class like this in their curriculum!]

It tells us the capacity that we could have if we could unify ourselves better, commit to giving, and have better transparency and accountability in the Church.  We certainly have our work cut out for us in 2019 and beyond!

Let's continue to pray for wisdom for the days in front of us, as well as discernment and courage to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit!

We wish you all a blessed New Year in 2019, and pray that we may continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!

[To see the full report on the status of Global Christianity, click here.]