Monday, September 19, 2022

Praise and Prayers

 It's been a busy couple of weeks with my daughter, Hannah, getting married!  It was a beautiful day and I feel so blessed to have both of my children married to amazing spouses!  And both got married in the last four months, which makes this momma's heart so happy (and a little tired!).  I have included some pictures below although we don't have the photographer's photos yet.

Today I leave for West Africa, planning to first be in Burkina Faso and then going to Liberia.  In Burkina Faso, I have the great privilege to be the speaker for 3000 women from the Assemblies of God Church on both Thursday and Friday.  On Saturday, I will spend the day with leaders from the Christian Missionary Alliance (also a partner with DML), and then will fly to Liberia.  In Liberia, I will continue to work with Harvest Intercontinental Ministries Unlimited (HIM-U), as they roll out DML throughout their denomination.

From Liberia, I will fly to Minneapolis Minnesota, to join the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication annual forum, where we will be participating with Marketplace Engagement workshops.

The next few weeks will be busy, so I am asking for your prayers!  We continue to see movement as more and more people and organizations are catching a vision for how the church can be involved in the BAM (Business as Mission) movement.  God is moving among His people, and we are excited to be involved in that process.  

Please pray that we may aid that message and not get in the way of it.  

Please pray that our strategic planning with our partner denominations may grow deep so that every local church is engaged.

Please pray that the women of Burkina Faso, who have had a difficult year politically and economically, may be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to participate in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth in their various spheres of influence.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Labor Day: A Time for Appreciation

For much of my life, Labor Day meant a three-day weekend and a signal for season change.  It didn't usually go much deeper than that.

However, when I read the history of Labor Day, it's purpose is to "reflect our willingness to toil to improve our country through hard work."  Its goal is to honor and recognize the work and contributions of laborers to "the developments and achievements of the United States."  

To be honest, I haven't done much of that in the past during this long weekend.  But several years ago, as Discipling Marketplace Leaders grew in wisdom and knowledge about work as worship, that began to change.  And I realized that in many of our partner countries across Africa, who often celebrate Labor Day in May, they do take time to celebrate work.  It's not just a day off, but a time when people gather to learn, discuss, and pray for jobs.  

So today is an important day for DML because it is a day when we recognize all the work that people do across the globe to make our world function and flourish.  So much of that is unnoticed by us.  Yet each person and business contribute in some way, shape or form.  

One of my favorite videos to illustrate this is the video, I Pencil, which we show in most of our workshops.  It shows how many people are involved in making something that looks so simple.  Yet it takes an amazing number of people around the world to make that pencil.  If that it takes just for a pencil, think about items that contain more than four or five ingredients.  The web of how the economy works global is amazing, and while this video talks about an invisible hand guiding it, we know the owner of this Owner and Creator of that Hand.  

And so we thank God today.  In whatever you are doing this day, whatever you put your hand on or whatever activity you do, pause and reflect on those who created it who are made in His Image, using His good resources, for our flourishing.  When you eat, thank God for those who were involved from the field all the way to our plates.  And whatever you do for work, whether at home, in the workplace, or otherwise, thank God for the ability to join in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth by doing good work.  

Good goods.  Good work.  God wealth.  Below is a great summary of six practical principles for business.  Taken from the "Vocation of the Business Leader:  A Reflection" (Discatery for Promoting Integral Human Development).

Monday, August 22, 2022

Africa's Climate Paradox: Least responsible but paying the highest price globally.

We are so blessed to continue to have very rich prayer times with our Global DML team every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  And while those times are rich and community building, they are also challenging as we hear of droughts, floods, and tensions which often arise from economic challenges.  This week I heard of 137 farmers in one area who committed suicide in just the last month and a half because of crop failures caused by excessive rainfall.  Heartbreaking.

We teach about the importance of creation care, and we see many businesses increasing their understanding and purposefulness of being good stewards of creation.  But we can't control the overall climate, so the businesses and farms that we work with across Africa suffer, and all we can do is watch and pray.

According to a recent report put out by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Africa is suffering the most.  Consider these statistics:

  • Between 1960 and 2020, Africa only accounted for 3.3% of global emissions.  Asia, Europe, and North America have each emitted over eight times the carbon of Africa
  • In Africa, temperatures are increasing faster than the global average, and they are projected to continue doing so during the rest of the 21st century.
  • Africa is most affected of all world regions by droughts and second most affected by floods, with at least 215.3 million people affected over 2010-2022.
  • Climate change is forecasted to push an additional 78 million people into chronic hunger by 2050, over half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • In eight of the ten most climate vulnerable countries in Africa at least 60% of the working population are employed in the highly climate sensitive agricultural sector.
  • 39.7 million additional people in sub-Saharan Africa could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 due to climate change, more than in any other world region.
  • Since 2010, the number of protests and riots in Africa over water resources have multiplied by 40.
  • In 2020, 4.3 million persons in Africa were newly displaced by natural disaster events, accounting for almost 40% of all new internal displacement on the continent in that year.
  • While almost three-quarters of African countries have achieved SDG13 on climate action, no EU or North American countries is on track for achieving the same.
That last one is striking, isn't it?  75% of African countries HAVE ACHIEVED the sustainable development goals on climate action, while NO EU or North American country is even on track to achieve it.  

When the impact is imminent and the resources are not available to mitigate the challenges, changes are made.  But for those who don't feel the challenge as close to home, we don't.  Why have we not banned plastic bags in the US?  Why have we not banned Styrofoam?  We certainly have the ability to find alternatives, just as many countries in Africa have.  

This past weekend, I read a report that says that there is no longer any safe drinking water in the world due to "forever chemicals" or PFAS.  PFAS are used to make products resistant to oil, heat, stain or water, and can be found in food wrappers, non-stick pans, cosmetics, and more. One study said that 97% of Americans have PFAS in our blood, coming through drinking water.  The guideline values for PFAS have been declining for twenty years.  Rainwater is not only essential for drinking but also for agriculture.

For whatever the reason, we don't have the resolve to boldly make changes (and I have a feeling one of the major reason is the worshiping of "my rights" in the US over against loving my neighbor, or the good of the community).  And those with the least will suffer the most.  

May God help us learn how to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And as we continue to work with those doing business, from field to fork, please continue to pray for our partners and Marketplace ministers!

Monday, August 15, 2022

The Nounouma in Burkina Faso: When God Uses DML to Address Profound Cultural Issues

This week's blog comes to you from Pastor Theo, who leads the Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) team with the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination in Burkina Faso.  He writes:

In this quarter, despise security challenges, God opened doors for us to move forward with DML in a particular tribal group called Nounouma, about 200 km from the capital city of Ouagadougou, where several pastors and church leaders took part in the DML foundational workshop and Basic Business Training.

Within that tribal group, there is a strange practice that even Christians are involved in. Within a family, the wife would have her farmland and the man would have his own. Girls followed the mother and boys their father, and each kept their harvest of crops separate. During the farming season, the family ate the crops of the man and during the dry season, that of the women. There is strong division in the family and most pastors don’t question this established practice.

When we began our training, the matter came to light. This is not Christian - the two become one in all ways! A wise man from that village explained that it wasn’t always so. The tradition was a result of men getting other wives; from each of them would come a bountiful harvest and the women reacted to that by refusing to contribute to an increase that would help their husbands bring in a rival. 

Unfortunately, even after conversion, this inherited concept and practice continued among believers who do not practice polygamy.

By the grace of God, we addressed this divided “Great Commitment” (Genesis 1 and 2) practice which is neither healthy nor biblical. Praise God, even though others are still resistant to the truth, some of the couples in our meeting decided to consolidate their farmlands and work together.  

It is always thrilling to see how God can use common Christian workers in their workplaces to save others for eternal life.

This year again, we have seen a chain of people being saved. 

It all began with a lady selling water and juice in the market. After going through DML, she spoke to a young man selling soap in the market and he gave his life to Christ. More women were touched in the marketplaces as they meet this woman doing her business as mission. This woman got more converted than many established churches with programs. 

Now there is a gathering place for these converted men and women in the courtyard of the lady who began the process. The “Go and Make Disciples” is really effective as Christian workers do their business as mission. 

Pastor Theo illustrates the power of being disciples in every space and every place, as well as the power of equipping the priesthood of believers every day of the week.  We thank God for how God is using him to equip the saints and for the saints accepting the call to be ministers in the marketplace!  

As Burkina Faso continues to experience unrest, please pray for peace in that country!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

1.8 times around the world and climbing!

I am writing today from Harlingen, Texas, just a few miles from the border of Mexico.  

We were invited to come by an organization called Nation to Nation Christian University to film our classes in their studio.  Nation to Nation will be able to use the DML courses in their schools across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and we will be able to get these videos out to a wider audience as well.  Each filmed session is thirty minutes, followed by thirty minutes of discussion with a facilitator, as well as class work in application of the information.  

This has been a mutual answer to prayer.  Nation to Nation has been praying for courses related to the Marketplace, as most of their courses focus on the Bible and on community development.  At the same time, we knew that our two-hour videos were way too long for most people to sit through, but it was going to cost too much money to hire a studio and camera people for this work.  Voice over translation will also be done into key languages.  We will be doing three DML courses while we are here, for a total of about forty sessions.  

My face is getting a lot of makeup and my hair is getting quite the workout.  The Director, John, has taken the scissors to my hair a couple of times (not to mention my clothing for any stray threads) and has managed to keep things in place.  

This past week I received an email from Google Maps Timeline which informed me that so far this year I have traveled 1.8 times around the world.  It tells me that I travelled about 44,268 miles, to 25 countries/regions, 375 cities, and 1,645 places.  While it's a bit creepy that it knows that (!), it also is interesting to see those numbers.  It makes me a bit tired because I know that I still have two more international trips this year as well as some domestic ones, but more than anything it makes me incredibly grateful.
  • I am grateful to God for the amazing things I see in His world, in both creation (nature) and in His unique, dynamic people.  
  • I am grateful to God for the opportunities to join Him in the work that He is doing in His church around the world, as He continues to bring people together to reclaim the redeemed Marketplace.  
  • I am grateful to God for the people who have created airlines, cars, microphones, projectors, computers, internet, and more that allow this work to spread.  
  • I am grateful to God for the DML team and our implementing partners in so many countries who have a similar calling and carry out their work with integrity and passion.  
  • I am grateful to God for each person who prayers for our ministry and supports it financially, participating in helping people to grow their businesses and alleviate poverty, create jobs, and help work become an act of worship.

Lord, you are good and your mercies endure forever!

Monday, August 1, 2022

Jubilant Fields: Helping Creation Worship

Have you seen a jubilant field?  

We don't often recognize fields as jubilant but I'm guessing we can all imagine what a jubilant field might look like.  I imagine that it is growing healthy, strong, tall, with lots of fruit.  I imagine it stretching to heaven, a vibrant green, and waving in a healthy breeze. 

What about forests, singing for joy?  

We often quote "the trees of the field will clap their hands."  We can imagine trees waving together in unison in a forest, even while individual leaves are clapping their hands.   

In Psalm 96: 11-13, we see this imagery and it reminds us that creation understands worship.  And just as importantly, we get to help creation worship.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth.
       He will judge the world in righteousness
            and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Isaiah 35:1-2 gives us even more imagery:

    1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.

Wow!  The desert and parched land will be glad!  The wilderness will rejoice and blossom!  The crocus will burst into bloom and will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. 

As creation exuberantly and worshipfully responds to its Maker, we see God's exuberance as well:  an overabundance of seeds that are produced that will never germinate, leaves on trees that turn brilliant colors whether or not anyone sees them, species of fish hidden from sight deep in the ocean, flowers bursting in every field and place where no person is tending.  All of it is there to be enjoyed.  And it is part of a flourishing creation that worships God.  

Humans are called to help articulate creation's praise.  That's what we get to do through our daily work. We do it as we shape a tree into a chair or bed or violin.  We do it as we work in a field to produce food.  We do it as we take iron from rocks or copper from the hills and shape it into meaningful things to help people flourish (Deut. 8).  

But we remember Genesis 2:15 which says we WORK and CARE for creation.  We both serve and protect.  As you do both in this week, I pray that it will be an act of worship for you and that you in turn will see creation worshipping as well!