Saturday, February 12, 2011

¡Dos años despues!

Dicen que el tiempo pasa... y no pasa nada. Pero si pasa...

Ahora que me doy cuenta de que llevo 2 años... ¡¡¡2 años sin escribir nada aqui!!!... pues como que asi no se puede ser responsable con quienquiera que visite por ahi.

No es que no haya publicado una diversidad de cosas. No, es que las he publicado en muchos otros lugares. Pero reconsiderando en este año 2011 muchas cosas, entre ellas la prioridad y necesidad de escribir, pues me decidí a tomar en serio este espacio.

Asi pues, regreso. A ver si esta vez con un poco de mayor disciplina podemos mantener el blog mas o menos con algunas notas interesantes que tristemente no podemos compartir en facebook.



Monday, January 28, 2008

Immigration and the Great Commission

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria . . . Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Acts 8:1, 4 (NIV)

Politicians, grassroots activists, religious leaders, vigilantes, talk show hosts, and newspaper columnists have all weighed in on what promises to be a crucial issue in this year’s elections: immigration. While this is hardly a new issue in American politics, it was catapulted into public visibility anew when hundreds of thousands of immigrants took to the streets on May 1, 2006 to advocate for immigration reform. This event, in part, has led to a backlash in anti-immigration sentiment, ranging from renewed efforts to pass new state and federal legislation to the more dubious activities of vigilante groups like the Minutemen Project. And, predictably, Christians have often jumped into the fray, attempting to use the moral weight of Scripture to tip the scales in favor of one side of the debate or the other.

While it is important for the church to theologically engage the political and social consequences of immigration, I am afraid that in the midst of our eagerness to do so, we have overlooked an important question: What are the implications of immigration for preaching the Gospel?

In the eighth chapter of Acts, we observe that persecution forced the early Christians to leave their homes in Jerusalem and flee to the nearby regions of Judea and Samaria (v. 4). Undoubtedly, many of the inhabitants of these areas were less than enthused about the influx of Jewish Christian refugees invading their territory. But Luke wasn’t interested in that aspect of the story. Instead, he shares how these persecuted Christians preached the word wherever they went and, a mere eight verses later, we learn that the people of Samaria “believed the good news of the kingdom of God” (v. 12). Theologically, this is a significant turning point in the book of Acts because for the very first time we see the early believers doing what Jesus’ commanded them in Acts 1:8—that they would be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This brief account from the book of Acts is just one of many examples throughout scripture and Christian history where migrating peoples became a major conduit for carrying out the Great Commission.

Unlike the early Christians who were forced to flee Jerusalem, most immigrants coming to the United States nowadays do so for reasons other than religious persecution. More frequently, they come in pursuit of economic opportunity. Some come seeking political asylum. And others simply wish to be reunited with their families. But regardless of why they come, the real issue is how God is using these immigrants to further the preaching of the Gospel message. The answer to that question is exciting, multifaceted, and deserves a detailed and nuanced answer—something that I cannot possibly offer here. Thus, for purposes of this reflection, I will focus on just one aspect of how: spiritual renewal.

Operation World reports that the spiritual heritage of the United States is eroding and the Christian Church no longer influences American life as it once did. In many respects, this spiritual decline signals that the United States is following in the footsteps of post-Christian Europe. Yet, at the same time, Operation World informs us of another important dynamic at work that we cannot ignore. Some of the fastest growing churches in America can be found amongst Hispanics, Koreans, Chinese, Filipinos, Arabs, and Iranians. Even as many of our churches are withering and dying, it seems that God is using the current influx of immigrants—many of whom are devout believers—to bring renewal and revival to the American church.

Prayer: God, please forgive us for failing to recognize your work amongst the foreigners in our midst. Help us to befriend, support, and nurture the congregations of our immigrant neighbors. Open our hearts and minds so that we can learn from them. Let our faith be renewed and revitalized as a result of their presence amongst us. Amen.

This item was previously published by the American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

American Baptist Leaders Visit Africa

From October 15 till October 30, American Baptist leaders will visit missionaries serving with International Ministries along with their mission partners in South Africa, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Follow their journey by reading their daily blog entries and see how God is using American Baptists as hands and feet of Christ.

The blog will provide on-the-spot reflections, experiences and images as the group visits with International Ministries (IM) missionaries serving as Christ’s hands and feet to some of the poorest parts of the world. The group will meet as well with their national counterparts, congregations and government leaders to see first-hand the faces of our neighbors, of our brothers and sisters in Christ, who live in economic jeopardy. You can find the blog at

This visit was organized by IM’s area director for Africa, Rev. Eleazar O. Ziherabere to connect with fellow Baptists in Africa, including the Baptist Community of Congo, the Baptist Convention of Zambia and the Baptist Convention of South Africa.

On the trip are: Rev. Dr. Reid Trulson, IM executive director; Rev. Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, National Ministries executive director; Rev. Sumner M. Grant, the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board (MMBB) executive director; Virginia Holmstrom, American Baptist Women’s Ministries (ABWM) executive director; and Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, ABCUSA general secretary. All will make contributions to the blog.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Tentative Theology of Mission

The following post is a brief, highly condensed outline of my understanding of the theology of mission. It is based on (1) my personal interaction with scripture, (2) my observations of how God has used others throughout the history of the church, and (3) my own experience in cross-cultural ministry. Depending on how much interest this particular post generates, I may choose to elaborate on each of the following points in greater detail at some point in the future.

At this point, I will not attempt a lengthy explanation as to why a theology of mission is necessary. Rather, I will simply point out that as Christians everything we do should be guided by the teachings of scripture and the task of world mission is no exception. Thus, I hope that this brief sketch provides a basic framework for understanding how we as the church should carry out the work of missions.

1. Mission is the vocation of the Church. Mission is a task that each and every member of the church is responsible for, not something that should be relegated to professional missionaries, pastors, or church officers. Whether we serve God at home, an adjacent neighborhood or community, or abroad, each of us should be able to find a role in which God has called us to serve. We may pray, give our time and talents, or provide financial assistance to the task of mission (Matt 28:18-20).

2. Mission is incarnation. Jesus Christ did not commute back and forth from heaven to conduct his ministry here on earth. Rather, he chose to relocate to earth so he could live and minister amongst us for the duration of his ministry (John 1:14; Phil 2:5-8). Likewise, many Christians have recognized that their ministries are most effective when they choose to reside amongst the people they hope to reach, even if that means leaving the economic comfort and cultural security of their homes and neighborhoods to do so. It is only by living side-by-side, in solidarity with the others that one can truly understand their needs and problems and, ultimately, the solutions that are needed.

3. Mission is evangelism. Evangelism is verbal proclamation of the Gospel message in such a way that it can be understood and responded to by a non-believer. Such verbal witness, however, is only meaningful to the unsaved when it is accompanied by the example of holiness lived out by those issuing the verbal proclamation. An affirmative response to the Gospel message results in one’s salvation, baptism, continued spiritual growth (discipleship), and eventually, a level of spiritual maturity in which the new believer conducts an active lay ministry of his or her own. In areas where churches are non-existent, insufficient in number, or culturally irrelevant, new church planting may result from evangelistic outreach.

4. Mission is social action. Social activism (Matt 25:31-46) seeks to address the broad category of human need. While human need is often physical and needs to be addressed by providing food, shelter, or health care, we must also recognize that much of human need is psychological and emotional, thus requiring different ministry strategies (eg: counseling, big-brothers/big-sisters, etc).

5. Mission is political activism. Political activism addresses the broad issues of how injustice is perpetuated through the social, economic, and political structures of society (Matt 5:9). Whereas a social ministry might provide food, clothing, or counseling, political ministry would seek to modify laws or improve economic conditions that perpetuate chronic social problems.

6. Mission is radical obedience to God. We must recognize that our obedience to God takes precedence over all other earthly priorities. Taking seriously the mandates of scripture may require us to give sacrificially, economically and otherwise. We may be called to live in a different country or even a different neighborhood of our hometown where our norms for safety and comfort will be significantly diminished. In some cases, we may find that obedience to God means that we must disobey the laws of man, resulting in fines, imprisonment, social ostracism, persecution, or even death (Acts 4:18-20). This aspect of mission is probably not popular among many of us today, yet history shows that all of these hardships have been routinely faced by Christ’s followers in all parts of the world.

In addition, Jesus’ teaching reminds us that we should “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt 7:13-14). In most cases, God does not call us to give up our lives but rather to give our lives to him as a “living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1). But how many of us have done that? How many of us have followed Jesus’ counsel to the rich young ruler and given everything we have to the poor so that we can serve him (Luke 18:18-30).


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lebanese Baptists Minister Amid Conflict

Bob Allen
Ethics Daily

Despite a year of political instability and strife, Baptists in Lebanon are proceeding this week with an annual conference aimed at bringing Christians from North America, Europe and the Arab world together to better understand Islam and the Middle East.

This year's conference, titled "Protestant Missions to the Middle East: A Reflective Pause with History," features papers on defining moments and approaches in Christian/Muslim relations and diversities and challenges facing peoples of the Middle East. Conference speakers are simultaneously translated via headset in Arabic and English, according to need.

Martin Accad, director of the seminary's Institute of Middle East Studies, said the conference provides an opportunity to "learn in an atmosphere of academic excellence and Christian love, going beyond the widespread stereotypes about the Middle East and Islam."

Click here to read the rest of this article.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Profile on Martin Accad, Arab Baptist Leader

Martin Accad, Dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (one of IM's national partners in Beirut, Lebanon), was a guest speaker at last summer's World Mission Conference in Greenlake, Wisconsin.

Michael Westmoreland-White of the Mainstream Baptists blog has written an informative post about Accad and the work that he is doing in both the Middle East as well as the West.

The profile on Accad is part of a weekly series that Michael is doing on Global Baptists.

Check it out! It's well worth the read.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Prayer and Personal Responsibility

We are often taught that if we pray hard enough and exercise enough faith that God will deliver us from all sorts of trials and tribulations in our lives--ill health, financial pressures, and even natural disasters. Undoubtedly, the "name it and claim it" ethos of prosperity theology that pervades so many of our churches helps to exaggerate our tendency towards this belief.

Yet what happens when the very trials from which we seek God's deliverance have been brought upon ourselves as the result of our own bad decisions. Perhaps, for example, I am praying to God to restore my health because I'm suffering from chronic heart disease. But for most of my life I have neglected to eat properly or exercise regularly. Likewise, I might be praying to God for financial deliverance while--at the same time--ignoring the fact that I routinely buy things I don't need, only rarely bother to balance my checkbook, and never attempt to pay off more than the monthly minimum on my credit cards. In such instances, can we really truly expect God's unconditional deliverance?

In response to Australian prime minister John Howard's recent call to prayer for the drought-stricken regions of that country, Kristine Morrison--an Australian Baptist--raises similar questions:

They point out that in the past decade of prosperity the government has not seriously addressed water management issues. John Howard is accused of failing to listen to scientific advice about water management and being without an alternative water management plan. His plea for prayer is reckoned by one correspondent to be reasonable only in comparison to being asked to slaughter a chicken.

Though secularists, these writers have proved alert to some of the dilemmas facing those who pray. Is it reasonable to pray to avoid the consequences of something that those who pray may have contributed to? Our squandering of water and our failure to be active in prompting our government to take water management practices seriously does compromise our approach to God. (Italics mine)
In other words, Morrison suggests that we really have no business praying to God for deliverance from the calamities in our lives if we are simply seeking to avoid the consequences of problems that we have contributed to. Furthermore, she goes on to point out that--at least in some instances--the so-called blessings of God on one group of people may, in fact, directly lead to more adversity for others.

The knowledge of the cyclic nature of rain patterns presents another difficulty for those who pray for rain. We know that higher rainfall in one part of Australia (or the world) usually means less rain in some other part of the continent (or the world). Is it right for us to pray for more natural abundance in our part of the world when other places, already suffering resource depletion, may receive less rain as a result?
So what, then, is the praying Christian to do?

First of all, we must remember that God is the creator of the entire world and the Lord of all who live in it. Therefore, we must exercise caution lest we inadvertently find ourselves praying for things that might be given to us at the expense of others. Secondly, and much more profoundly, Morrison suggests an approach that can be summed up in a simple word that is rarely, if ever, heard in the sermons of most prosperity preachers: REPENTANCE.
One writer to the Herald, clearly not a secularist, made a compelling link between the need for repentance and effective prayer. He advocated a day of repentance where the nation could acknowledge both God as the giver of rain and our dependence on the generosity of God to provide for all our needs to accompany our requests for rain. Many of us have prayed to escape the consequences of our actions. However, we can only do this when we express contrition and repentance for such actions. This important and significant aspect of prayer was omitted in our prime minister's call to prayer.
Wow! What a thought! If I want God to deliver me from my chronic health problems, perhaps I need to first repent of the poor lifestyle choices that contributed to those problems in the first place. Or if I am seeking financial deliverance, then I first need to repent of the poor money-management decisions that put me into debt.

Here it is helpful to remember that repentance, in the biblical sense, is not just about apologizing to God (or others) for our mistakes. It's about leaving old sinful habits behind and embracing new Christ-honoring habits. In other words, true repentance is like making a U-turn, a full 180 degree change in the direction of our lives. It is about walking away from the old and towards the new; dispensing of old eating and exercise habits and embracing new ones; and renouncing our old spending habits and making an effort to learn new ones. Or in the case of Australia's prime minister John Howard, repentance means beginning to heed the advice of environmental scientists and leading his government in developing more ecologically sound water-management practices.

A final caveat: While repentance is good and, indeed, required if we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, we should not make the mistake of thinking it is akin to some sort of magic formula or ritual that will guarantee God's favorable response to all of our prayers. God is NOT like a celestial ATM machine that will answer all of our prayers on demand. Nor should we forget that scripture teaches us that as believers we can expect trial, temptations and, yes, even suffering to be a part of the Christian life. That doesn't mean that we should stop praying or depending on God, nor that we should stop taking responsibility for our own actions--both personal and corporate. It just means that hardships--often for reasons unbeknownst to us--are a reality of our fallen human condition. And, as the Jesus himself once said, God "causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

This item was cross-posted from Doing Theology from the Caribbean

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Missionary Travel and Family Names

On the previous post, Dan introduced us to how ECI has raised awareness about global warming amongst Evangelicals in the US and how we could respond to these 21st century challenges. Picking up on this traveling subject, let me share our most recent traveling experience.

As of today, the Bonilla-Giovanetti family can travel outside of Chile again. Why so? Need some history and background. Today we got new passports and ID cards for our youngest, DJ, with the correct family names. Even more confused?

You see, when I was born in Puerto Rico I was named Miss Mayra Rebeca Giovanetti Garcia (1st name, middle name, father’s name, mother’s name). Twenty-four years later when Carlos and I got married, I became Mrs. Mayra Rebeca Giovanetti Garcia. Yep, all four names the same, only a change of title. It worked just fine while in Puerto Rico, until we begun our joined missionary traveling adventures…

Our first overseas stop was Israel. After three years of marriage, we had to prove to the Israeli local authorities how was it that we were married and carrying different family names. Hence when God moved us out of Israel and into the United States, I had my mind set to switching my family names to Carlos’ to ease processes for us and our future children. It was the right thing to do for those living in the States and Israel.

By our fifth wedding anniversary I had become Mrs. Mayra R. Bonilla. It felt odd, and Carlos was not comfortable with my decision. My mom warned me I would regret it like she had, but her reasons were those related to her divorce. I was not worried about an upcoming divorce and truly felt this was the right thing to do, so I slowly got used to being called Mrs. Bonilla instead.

Funny, my oldest brother was often called Mr. Ithier after his wife, when visiting her working site; and, my mom once again was called Mrs. Giovanetti while caring for that oldest brother while in the hospital in the States.

Years went by and children came along. Fortunately, the way the system works in the States, our son (born in PA) and daughter (born in FL) were registered as Bonilla-Giovanetti, hence carrying both our family names, father and mother as it is our Hispanic tradition. It was a done deal. Having changed my family name did not affect our offspring. That is until we moved to Chile. Little did we know what was ahead of us when we accepted to be missionaries to Chile and when the Lord blessed us with another child…

Five years after our daughter, and with two miscarriages in between, we were blessed with another daughter, a Chilean (by birth) daughter. Since all my US paperwork has Bonilla, all my Chilean paperwork also has Bonilla. My husband is Bonilla there and here. We went to register our newborn baby girl and our ID cards are requested. You are getting the picture, right? Dad’s ID number and last name—Bonilla. Mom’s ID number and last name—Bonilla. The baby was then registered as Bonilla Bonilla. It did not matter how we explained the situation, to how many officials, what arguments were used; the girl had to be Bonilla Bonilla because the computer assigned the family names based on the information on those ID cards. That was 2004.

We spent our US/PR assignment year with the sadness that our DJ had incorrect family names. You see, for Hispanics, having the same family name twice is equal to being an illegitimate child. She had a different family name than her older siblings. That was unacceptable. But we needed to return to Chile to fix it. Fortunately, we were assigned back to Chile and in May 2006 we begun the process to correct her registration information. For that we had to hire a lawyer. We chose the one with the weirdest family names so he would know what it is like to have foreign influence in your family tree.

Document after document, paperwork after paperwork, weeks and months after weeks and months, we had to provide new documentation. We had to request legalized documentation from Puerto Rico and even registered our Puerto Rican celebrated marriage here in Chile which documents my birth family names. We had to continue to wait until at last the judge declared our daughter, already two-and-a-half years old, is to be named Bonilla Giovanetti. Then came our requests of new and corrected registration certificate, birth certificate, and new pictures for a new passport and ID…

Today we have in our hands all these new and corrected documents that say she is Bonilla Giovanetti. End of the story? No… Now we have to correct her US passport and Social Security to match it for we had to use one Bonilla alone, as recommended by the Embassy. As for me, this has taught me a lesson: no matter where I am or my legal status, I am the same person that was born Mayra Rebeca Giovanetti Garcia. Steps to correct my paperwork need to wait until after our deputation trip to the States this fall because tickets already show Bonilla on them. I am still legally Bonilla but for practical purposes have resumed using my birth family names.

But we can now travel again. Since May 2006 until today we did not have a passport or an ID for DJ to travel with. Now we do. The details ahead seem nothing compared to what we have already been through. It will take time for all to get used to the correct names, but now our three children are Bonilla-Giovanetti, born of the same parents. DJ will not have to give explanations about any differences anymore.

Hopefully there is a lesson or two our children can catch from their old folks; and particularly our daughters will pay more attention to our voice and their husbands than I did to my mom and my husband when they warned me about this. So far, one dear couple has avoided these same difficulties for having an open hear to our advice. Hopefully by sharing our experience now, others will have more criteria to decide what is best in their own particular situation. This may be irrelevant to those in countries and cultures where the tradition is simply to switch family names, but for a family with Hispanic roots like ours, regardless of the country we live in, it is important to keep our tradition of two names and two last names in our legal documents, with both father and mother included and that is how we want to enjoy it.

It is interesting that our son’s literature materials include a book entitled “Children’s Missionary Library” that among others shares the story of Ann Hasseltine, one of the first female American foreign missionaries, a.k.a. Ann Judson—friend of Burma. It is always refreshing to read stories of our forefathers and foremothers in mission and to see how the storyteller emphasizes more on her birth family name than her being a Judson by marriage.

As for me, thankfully, my Shepherd knows me by name and I recognize His voice when He calls me. I rejoice in the assurance that my name is written in Heaven in the book of life… That is also our prayer for our children as they embark in their many own missionary traveling adventures.

Now, how will your family names change your travel plans, or how will your travel plans change your family names? You will only know when you experience it yourself!

Blessed journeys...

Mayra Giovanetti

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Missionary Travel and Global Warming

The recent efforts of the Evangelical Climate Initiative have done much to raise awareness about global warming amongst Evangelicals in the United States, challenging us to take action on this important issue. This initiative, of course, is fully consistent with the objectives of International Ministries' Go Global Strategic Plan.

One of the core mission principles emphasized in the Go Global Strategic Plan is Christ-like ministry, which is described as follows:

We believe that Jesus met human need with a holistic salvation, one that touched all aspects of life. Therefore, our witness to Jesus Christ also integrates verbal proclamation of the gospel with response to human need and care for the creation (p.8, italics mine).

Based on this principle, IM has developed the following vision for Christ-like mission:

Jesus preached the good news of salvation and demonstrated it with actions, and God's work of salvation will ultimately embrace not only persons but creation itself (Romans 8:19-21; Revelation 21:1). International Ministries serves as one of God's agents to make real the redeeming love of Christ in a world of personal sin, social injustice and ecological destruction. International Ministries focuses especially on ministry to and with the poor, seeking together with them the coming fullness of God's Reign (Luke 4:18-19) (p.12, italics mine).
Not surprisingly, one of several strategies that IM has derived from this vision is to:

Promote effective stewardship, economic self-sufficiency and the sustainable use of the earth's resources (p.12, italics mine).
So with these things in mind, I have been giving a lot of thought over the past several months as to what global warming means for me as a missionary. In particular, I have been challenged by two different op-eds (see here and here) that have raised serious concerns about the contributions of airline travel to global warming. The first reports that:

Carbon emissions from aircraft into the higher atmosphere are thrice as potent as those rising from ground level, (Ian) Jack writes. To slow the coming debacle, "because all we can do now is to modify the severity of the inevitable," he makes a radical proposal that we go virtually nowhere: "We would need to ration the carbon dioxide produced by traveling to an allowance of no more than half a ton a year for every human being alive today." That translates to 2,200 kilometers (1,320 miles) by car a year, with no air travel, or 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) by car a year with a round-trip international flight once every 15 years.
The second op-ed notes that:

Now two factors are conspiring to make airline travel a hot topic in the global-warming debate: If current trends continue, the number of airline tickets sold per year will double to more than 9 billion by 2025, according to a new study by the Airports Council International. At the same time, experts see no viable jet-fuel alternative to kerosene. While some modest fuel-conservation measures still can be taken, more and more people are concluding that fewer flights may be the only way to cut airline emissions significantly.
Assuming that this data is accurate, the implications for missionaries should be fairly obvious as we are highly dependent on air travel to do our jobs. At minimum, missionary families must fly round-trip internationally about once every five years or so as we rotate back and forth between home assignment and overseas assignment. But for a variety of reasons, these round trips often occur with greater frequency. During deputation, most of us are typically required to fly on a regular basis--sometimes several times per month. And back in our countries of service, many of us routinely host short-term mission teams that, for the most part, rely on air travel to reach us.

So as missionaries who are committed to the Go Global mandate for creation care and, more specifically, the recommendations of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, what can we do? I would suggest that we follow two basic strategies: First, we should ask members of our support networks to help offset the ecological impact of any travel we are required to do as missionaries. Indeed, we might even suggest that IM require that we do this as part of the clearance process before approving our work-related travel plans. Likewise, we should encourage short-term mission teams visiting our host countries to do the same. Evangelical author and speaker Shane Claiborne of the Simple Way offers some suggestions as to how this might be done:

Being mindful of the impact that our hyper-mobile pace and fuel use have on Creation, and of the fragility of the current patterns of consumption that have led to wars over natural resources and the degradation of God’s earth, Shane has a commitment to offset the ecological impact of his travel. There are two ways a group hosting Shane to speak can participate: either have a group of folks fast (go without) oil for a day the week Shane visits (a good guideline would be, at least one person go without fuel one day for every 100 miles Shane travels) -- this may mean something as simple as carpooling or biking to work or as imaginative as converting your car to run off used veggie oil ( –OR- (less exciting) you can add an additional $100 to the honorarium and Shane will donate that to a group dedicated to erasing the footprint his travel has on the environment. For more information on this, check out
Secondly, we need to work to reduce the level of travel we do as missionaries, period. Amongst other things, that means trying to reduce unnecessary travel between our host countries and the U.S. and Puerto Rico in between home assignments. Likewise, we might suggest that IM consider increasing the average length of an overseas term of service from four years to five, or even six, as a means of reducing the overall amount of international travel that we as missionaries must do. When we are serving on home assignment, we should work hard to schedule the bulk of our deputation assignments in geographically contiguous areas, thus minimizing the necessity for air travel. And when deputation assignments must be done in more geographically distant locales, perhaps we as missionaries should request additional travel time in between speaking engagements so that we can utilize alternative forms of transportation such as buses or trains.

These suggestions, of course, are just a start and I am certain that most missionaries will be creative in thinking of others. At the same time, I expect that there will probably be many objections as well. Indeed, even as I write these words my own inner self is voicing a multitude of excuses as to why I should just forget about all of this and avoid making my life more complicated than it all ready is. But then, I am reminded of the reality of our situation:

Just a few decades from now, people may look back at the early 21st century with both fondness and horror as the Era of the Cheap Airline Flight. They may wax nostalgic for the days when visiting distant relatives and taking vacations in exotic locales were easily affordable for the masses. But they also may be alarmed at how long it took the world to realize the havoc that unfettered air travel was wreaking on the world's climate.
Air travel was unheard of back when the modern missions movement began in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Pioneer missionaries such as William and Dorothy Carey and Ann and Adoniram Judson traveled for months by boat in order to reach their countries of service and, in many instances, spent years or decades abroad before returning home if they ever returned home at all. By the time air travel began to change the face of the modern missions movement in the mid-twentieth century, the earlier generations of missionaries had already succeeded in raising up strong national churches on every inhabited continent of the world. The challenges of global warming and the need to significantly reduce our air travel will undoubtedly change the face of the modern missions movement once again. The question is this: Are we going to fight that change? Or are we going to pioneer new ways to do mission in spite of those changes?

If our history as a mission society is any guide to the future, then my guess is that IM will figure out how to retool our methods so that we can stay on the cutting edge of mission even in the midst of the changes brought about by global warming. But more importantly, I hope that IM would not be alone in its efforts. Following the lead of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, I hope that other missions agencies would give their own use of air travel a long hard look in light of the realities of global warming and that, ultimately, they too would adopt specific policies and strategies on creation care. By the grace of God, may we all find new ways to continue advancing the kingdom for his glory!

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Welcome to Global Perspectives

As missionaries, we live at the intersection of multiple worlds—our home culture(s) in which we were raised and our host culture(s) in which we live and work. From this vantage point, we are cultural brokers, seeking to facilitate communication and understanding between people of all cultures. In this blog, we have come together as a group of American Baptist missionaries to offer our Global Perspectives on culture, mission, and world events. We hope that the posts on this blog will not only educate and inform, but will also challenge you to broaden your understanding of the world in which we live and help you to see the world from the unique cross-cultural perspective that we offer. Additionally, we hope that you will join us in dialogue by posting any questions or comments you might have about our blog entries.

Grace and peace,

Daniel Schweissing and Mayra Giovanetti
Co-Moderators for Global Perspectives

[DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or viewpoints of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (aka International Ministries) or its national partners, the ABC/USA, or the moderators of Global Perspectives.]