"The moment the word 'why' crosses your lips, you are doing theology."
—When Life & Beliefs Collide                

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Whole Church!



I don't use the word "miracle" loosely, but the description fits the story of this video.

Before Lausanne, I contact Elke Werner (Marburg, Germany), Lausanne Senior Associate for Women in Evangelism, to find out what was being done to champion women who are serving globally in a variety of ministries and how I might help.

I never dreamed where this would lead.

Elke serves as Lausanne Senior Associate for Women in Evangelism. She was putting together a DVD of resources to distribute at the Lausanne Women's Cafe. She planned to distribute 4000 copies. Elke was also given a plenary spot to highlight the importance of women and men serving God together and also to draw attention to the current global crisis involving the suffering and oppression of women as presented in works like Half the Sky. I offered to help.

One idea I suggested was a video to unpack for women the Lausanne call: The Whole Church taking the Whole Gospel to the Whole World!. I thought she might use it during her plenary presentation. That's when I learned she only had 8 minutes (!) to present and couldn't spare a second. I decided to pursue the video anyway for the DVD and, with support from the Synergy board, drafted a script and sent it to Nate Clarke of Fourth Line Films. Nate took my ideas to the next level and did a masterful job of translating ideas and words visually.

When I sent the video to Elke, this is the email message that came back:

I am so happy with your video! When I saw the three minutes on women I started to cry. I was so moved! What a great piece of art!

This weekend I will have to finish to work on my talk. And I decided to use the video for the first three minutes. It contains exactly what I had planned to say in the first three minutes (I timed my words and it was exactly three minutes I had planned to talk about women in need) and now I am so glad that I can rather "show" the audience what I want to say then just say it. I can build wonderfully on the content of the video and I am so thrilled about it!

Carolyn, words cannot say how grateful I am to you and to Synergy!!! What a great help, a wonderful working of the Spirit, a testimony on what partnerships can achieve. Again and again: Thank you!
The video went on the DVDs and for the plenary was translated into eight languages. It was shown Saturday during the Lausanne General Session and also on Lausanne's Global Links around the world! I told you it was a miracle!

Saturday morning at Lausanne I was a bundle of nerves, partly from empathy for Elke who was about to address the entire gathering of 4500 delegates and partly in anticipation of the Synergy video.

Since Lausanne, I've begun hearing how the video is being used in other contexts: an international ministry to Muslim women and at U.S. women's conferences.

At Synergy, we pray that the video will be widely used to mobilize women for the whole gospel and raise the alarm over what is happening to women worldwide.

You can be sure we'll be showing it at Synergy2011!

Looking Back



Now that the return trip jet lag is subsiding, I am making good on my promise to show the videos I couldn't upload in Cape Town with the Internet connection at the hotel. These drummers were a show-stopper. They kept up for a lot longer than the footage I captured, but this gives a taste of South Africa's thunderous welcome to Lausanne!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Home Again!

It is great to be home again after nearly 48 hours of travel and a 16 hour flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta.

I was greeted at the Boston-Logan Airport by a welcoming committee of one, who was eager to hear all the details! (Someone asked me if he had gotten any other offers. Hmmm... I may need to check on that.)

Jet lag is back again, no doubt compounded by a full and exhausting week in Cape Town. The whole Lausanne experience was unforgettable. There is so much to tell and so many things to process, I hardly know where to start. I will be blogging more about it soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Apartheid

I am still processing what I experienced today, and one blog post simply cannot do justice to today's pilgrimage into South Africa's Apartheid past and still-troubled present. I was part of a group of new friends from all over the world, who visited District Six of Cape Town and the Guguletu Township. A few reflections will have to do.

Our guides today were Methodist Bishop Peter Smalley (picture below with Dr. Joy Moore of Duke Divinity School, and me) and Dr. Moss Ntlha (also below) who have lived this story and are role models of whole gospel living. Peter worked with Bishop Desmond Tutu in the fight to end Apartheid and was chaplain to Nelson Mandela and other imprisoned members of the ANC. It was a privilege to be with and hear from these two godly believers.




Apartheid forced non-white South Africans out of their homes and communities (that's what happened in District Six) and into townships, breaking up whole communities and families, and deepening poverty and despair. The result? There are "no unwounded South Africans." The
victims of Apartheid, the perpetrators, and also those who failed to act. The efforts at reconciliation are heartening, but in many ways, South Africa's divisions remain deep although they are no longer mandated by law.

The Christian church is involved at all three levels--those who acted to end Apartheid were compelled by the gospel, Apartheid's perpetrators used Scripture & theology to justify their actions, and believers who remained silent were operating under an incomplete view of the gospel. Repentance has followed in many cases, but what has happened here (that has been and is being repeated elsewhere in the world) compel our sober reflection.


I am pondering some of of the deep questions that confront us all where injustice exists and human rights are violated. These are significant opportunities for us to explore the meaning of the gospel, what it means to be God's image bearers, and what it means to follow Jesus.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Images from Lausanne

I promise I'm not biased, but I must say the women speakers at Lausanne have been unforgettable. They have delivered some of the most powerful moments of the Congress so far.

First the 18-year-old Korean girl spoke. People are still talking about her.

Then today we heard a powerful message from Libby Little whose husband was murdered doing medical relief work. It was a feat of courage simply for her to get up in front of this audience when her grief is so fresh and raw.

She was amazingly composed (although we weren't) and showed true strength as she told of his communication with her, his final mission, of the desperate need for medical help and the people saying, "No one else comes to help us."

It was the second time the Lausanne delegates spontaneously rose to their feet in an endless thunderous response.

Demonstration of the powerful potential of believers' deeds of grace and mercy (that backed up her story) came through a long conversation I won't soon forget with a young man from Nepal. He told me the story of his conversion from Hinduism to Christianity--a costly decision for him. What turned the tide for him was experiencing grace from believers who welcome him when, out of curiosity he visited their church as a university student and when men (!) from the church cared for him (even washed his clothes) and nursed him back to health when he was nearly delirious with a 106 fever and all alone in the city.

His heart for the women students at the Bible college where he is principal was a big encouragement to me. I feel privileged to have heard his story.

Thought you might like to see some of the technology at the conference. Lausanne has broken records in South Africa for the volume of Internet activity and thrown my friend Amy Donovan into serious ezer-warrior mode to get things up and running. I don't know all the details, I only know she has done a super job in a difficult situation and with very little sleep. Simultaneous translators (like the United Nations) are at work during a session on Islam.

Tim Keller wrapped up with a sermon on the rapid migration of people into the city.I was so busy taking notes I didn't get a picture, but I did get a photo of the dancers that introduced his segment. They started in a garden and ended up in the city.

Latin America provided the evening finale with a song of hope that had the whole place jumping(except for rhythm-challenged people like me who don't know how).



Tomorrow, we get a day off . . . sort of. Several members of the Reconciliation group have an outing planned related to our topic. More on that tomorrow!

Buenas noches from Cape Town!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reconciliation

After today's focus on reconciliation, I can't help feeling a bit shell-shocked tonight. It's one thing to read stories of suffering and atrocities in books. It's another matter entirely to hear those stories from the people who lived them.

I heard two separate accounts of the 1994 Rwanda genocide where a million people were murdered in 100 days and of the struggles in the aftermath with God, with anger, and with Jesus' call and the desperate need to forgive. We've also had sex-trafficking and human slavery put before us, as well as racial, religious and gender oppression and violence, and HIV/AIDS.

The Dialogue Session I joined for the week has already proven to be a powerful eye-opener. The focus is on Reconciliation as the Mission of God: Christian Witness in a Word of Destructive Conflicts. Today was all about people's stories. The decibel of pain in that room was off the scale. These stories challenge my understanding of how the gospel transforms human relationships and how utterly broken we all are. Following Jesus is painful and costly because where evil and suffering is rampant and there are true wrongs and injustices, what he calls us to be and do violates our natural inclinations. But this is where Christianity stops being all talk and where through God's children the kingdom of heaven truly invades the kingdom of this world.

Pray that the impact of Lausanne will go beyond temporary shell-shock, and that real change and action will result from what we are learning this week. Pray that for me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lausanne Highlights!

The CD of resources for women is here, and we are handing them out right and left!

The CD includes the video funded by Synergy, which we will release online after Elke Werner's General Session message on Saturday. Elke (Marburg, Germany), whose heart for women is as big as all outdoors, initiated this project through her organization WINGS (Women in God's Service). The resources were contributed by different individuals and organizations and are intended to affirm and encourage women in ministry globally, where many are serving with little or no affirmation, and sometimes despite criticism. Anyone at Lausanne who doesn't yet have a copy can get one at the Women's Cafe on the 2nd floor of the Convention Center.

Besides the CD, other highlights today for me were: the German professor, Michael Herbst (University of Greifswald) who spoke on Truth as a Person this morning and unpacked how Truth looked in Jesus' life and ministry; Pastor Paco Amador's vibrant eye-opening challenge for the USA delegation to consider what God is doing through immigration; and the gracious tribute this evening to the large missing Chinese delegation who were not permitted to attend Lausanne.

But by far, the most powerful moment of the Conference came in the final moments of the evening's plenary session when an 18-year-old North Korean ezer spoke. Orphaned when her mother died of cancer and her father whose fate is unknown but was likely executed in North Korea as a Christian missionary for treason, she voiced her heart for North Korean and her determination to return there after completing her education. Then, weeping, she issued an impassioned plea for us to remember the people of North Korea. It was unforgettable and brought the 4000+ delegates to their feet in response. The applause wouldn't stop, and the Lausanne leadership had to bring her out again.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

South African Welcome!


This will be short, although the day was long.

Today was the official start of Lausanne. The day started early, but the opening ceremonies were tonight.

First was meeting the five people in my Table Group: an Ethiopian professor, a South African woman, a Chinese woman who was born in Singapore and now lives in the States, a Canadian pastor, and a Korean pastor. In the morning sessions we will be working our way through Ephesians together, but this afternoon we mainly were getting acquainted.

During the dinner break, South Africa came on strong with a thunderous (and I do mean thunderous!) group of drummers. I made a video, but it is over 500mg and will take all night to upload from here so will have to wait.


The opening ceremonies included a dazzling South African welcome. More video, and again too large a file. I'll take shorter clips in the future.

The highlight of the day was meeting several people with powerful stories of struggling to live out the gospel under terrible persecution. For several of them it has involved beatings, as well as the murder and genocide of loved ones and who are wrestling with anger, forgiveness, reconciliation, and Jesus' call to "Love your enemies." The discussion of "living out the gospel" takes on a very different tone when embedded in these very real and agonizingly painful stories. I have a lot to process.

So Lausanne is officially open. A very full week is ahead, and I am calling it a day!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

No Time for Jet Lag

Did I mention I was diving in "head first" today?

Wow! Five hours of Table Group Leader training about did me in.

The numbers are rapidly mounting, as more people arrive for the official start of the conference on Sunday. For someone who thrives on one-on-one conversations and being a writer who spends countless days in total isolation with my computer and occasional deer out my window, it puts me on overload to be in such a huge crowd of people.



Happily, there are plenty of opportunities for those individual conversations that keep me going, and I have had some lovely ones today.

A young man from the Congo absolutely lit up the room with personality and energy. The world could use more people like him! I finally got to tell Lisa Espinele Chinn about what is happening to the Synergy video she is in. She made an amazing and creative presentation to Table Leaders called "When Cultures Meet" based on Three Cups of Tea. Super speaker!

A woman from India spoke candidly of the struggles of being a woman leader in her country and also of her concerns of domestic abuse in Christian families. An Iranian pastor told me stories of the strength of the gospel against the combined weight of Islam and persecution. A male college professor was intently interested in what women are experiencing globally, what Christian women experience within the Body of Christ, and responded with a heartfelt, "Will you forgive us?"

Vonette Bright is here and as engaged and unstoppable as ever.

More of Katya (R), of course, a true kindred spirit. It made my day to spot Judy Douglass (L) and catch up with her. And I'm always glad to see Stan Gundry, Zondervan Editor-in-Chief, my advocate, mentor, and friend who helped launch my career as a writer, and whose brother, Robert Gundry, was my hands-down favorite college professor who definitely fueled my hunger to dig deeper into Scripture.

Tomorrow is another full day and the official opening of the Conference. The convention hall is massive with a sea of tables, and lots of practicing going on. I'm looking forward to meeting the five people at my table for the week's discussions.

Please keep Lausanne in your prayers!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lausanne 2010

I made it safe and sound to Cape Town late Thursday evening with lots (!) of other Lausanne delegates who flew from Amsterdam to Cape Town. I'm here representing Synergy at The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism, a historic gathering of evangelical leaders—some 4000+ from over 200 countries—here to discuss issues and opportunities facing the global church.

Lausanne doesn't officially begin until Sunday. It has already started for me.

From the flight out of Boston all through today, it has been one interesting conversation after another. Gordon-Conwell's Amy Donovan (already hard at work with Lausanne IT efforts) and LouAnn Stropoli were with me on the plane from Boston. We were joined in Amsterdam, by Katya Covrett, my Zondervan editor (staying in the hotel room next to mine), and dozens of other Lausanne delegates. Lunch today on the square with four women—a Canadian and two Americans with fascinating stories, and dinner tonight with Katya and Mark Russell, another Zondervan author. (If you aren't yet Mark's FB friend, you're already too late. He's reached the FB 5000 limit.)

Judging from today, great conversations just might be a cure for jet lag, although I take that back if this incoherent.

Best surprise so far? I bumped into the Asian woman who is a spokesperson in the Synergy video. I would have known her anywhere. More on that video later!

Tomorrow: five hours of training as a Table Group Leader. How's that for diving in head first?

Please pray for me and for this important gathering.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Nobel Prize for Love

Last night I went to bed heartsick after hearing about two people—Christian friends I love—whose loveless marriage is disintegrating and growing more toxic by the minute. Their story is not of a Blessed Alliance that has failed, but of one that never was, which doubly saddens me because they are both believers.

The ache was still strong this morning, so that the powerful story of love I heard on NPR's Weekend Edition nearly gave me emotional whiplash.

Scott Simon's report, "Sunlight that Transcends Prison Walls" was a moving portrait of Chinese dissident and writer, Liu Xiaobo, who yesterday was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Considering the crucial human rights issues Liu Xiaobo has stood for, the horrors he has witnessed (1989 Tiananmen Square), the price he has paid for his convictions (he is currently serving an eleven year prison sentence), and the anger of the Chinese government at the Norwegian Nobel Committee over this award, Simon's portrait of love was not what I expected to hear. He portrayed a man's deep love for his wife and the love of an ezer against which even prison walls are powerless—a love that truly is "stronger than death."

You should read (or listen to) the entire report.

From prison, Liu Xiaobo wrote these words to his beloved Liu Xia:
Sweetheart ... I am sentenced to a visible prison while you are waiting in an invisible one. Your love is sunlight that transcends prison walls and bars, stroking every inch of my skin, warming my cell, letting me maintain my inner calm, magnanimous and bright, so that every minute in prison is full of meaning.

Given your love, sweetheart, I look forward to my country being a land of free expression, where ... all views will be spread in the sunlight for people to choose without fear. I hope to be the last victim.

I am a hard stone in the wilderness, putting up with the pummeling of raging storms, and too cold for anyone to dare touch. But my love is hard, sharp, and can penetrate any obstacles. Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes.
Perhaps there should be a Nobel Prize for love.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In the Shadow of Mount Hood















Midnight, it is said, is the portal between this world and the next and is somehow in league with chaos, death, and mystery. It is the moment of dark visitations. So it was for me in December 2006. My sleep was interrupted by a phone call, and I was instantly shocked into full consciousness: My younger brother was trapped in a snow cave on Mount Hood, and an unyielding blizzard prevented rescue.

In the Shadow of Mount Hood:
Meeting God in the Mystery of Grief

by Frank A. James III
Published September 2010, Christianity Today