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Missions 101

The Pastor as a Father

Oct. 7, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

John Frye offers four pieces of advice:

  1. I tried never to shape their behavior by pulling out “your-dad’s-the-pastor-of-the-church” card. What salesman-dad pulls rank on his kids with his vocation? Or engineer, or school teacher, or baseball player? “Your dad is the pastor” is a dangerous and phony standard to use on children. Why? Because being a pastor does not equal being a good dad. Children can learn to hate everything about the faith under the pressure of living up to an artificial standard especially when their dad is an inadequate father.

  2. Julie and I risked erring on the side of grace rather than on strict, regulated family laws. We, of course, had standards and guidelines, but we would rather be known as gracious than as strict disciplinarians. Love and grace are risky realities in raising children, but in the long run they are worth it. This can be tough, though, because you don’t get a hand-book with each child. Every parent wants a “paint by numbers” guide to raising the perfect kid. And if they can’t get one from the Christian radio guru, they will make one up. I have seen children in the church, after being raised under and pressed down by strict “Christian” and moral laws, flee into apostasy when they got out on their own. Parents had an image that they wanted their children to match and never got to know the image of God that God had in mind in creating the child. So much parenting today is fear- driven, not grace- and love-driven.

  3. Julie and I believe that being faithful to each other is the most valuable legacy we can give our girls. Julie and I are very different persons (that probably goes without saying in view of the old saw “opposites attract”). We have had some turbulent times in our marriage and family life, but we both made a commitment before we had children that “divorce” would not be in our vocabulary. I recall an argument Julie and I had. I left the house angry and one of the girls came with me. I was driving and fuming inside. My little daughter looked at me and in a fearful voice asked, “Are you and Mom going to get a divorce?” My spirit broke. Our marital anger created insecurity in her heart. When Julie and I would "kiss and make up," as they say, our girls would swarm around our legs and hug us. A seminary mentor repeatedly said, "The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother."

4. I did use our family’s life periodically in sermons (and,yes, I did err sometimes in not getting permission first. But I learned). Here’s what one daughter thought of that (as a pro):
“I loved being the PK at Bella Vista [Church]. I loved that I might hear my name or at least a story about me in your sermon illustrations. I guess that was my inner actress getting a little fame. It made me feel special and it made me feel like what we were going through, what we’d accomplished or what we’d said was important. I loved it!” I wanted people to identify me and Julie and the girls as a family like their families with fun stories and deep sorrows. Thankfully, the church overall accepted that.

HT: Scot McKnight

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Should I Pass Out My Email on a Short-Term Missions Trip - Part 2

Oct. 5, 2016By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

Editor’s Note: This is a continuation on yesterdays post look at the impact of passing out your personal contact information on short-term mission trips. Jeff Athersone is a missionary of Training Leaders International and serves as Chancellor of African Renewal University.

This past month I know two Ugandans who sent out some heart wrenching emails to Americans who had recently served on a short-term team. One email was a prayer request for a young girl who was raped on her way home from church. The other email was from a young man who desperately needed surgery. Both emails tugged at the reader’s hearts so they forwarded the emails on to me asking how they could help or send money.

I have had this happen a number of times before so I am used to following these types of situations up. I have learned not to lead in with what I heard but instead just to ask how the person is doing. In each case both of the people I called were surprised that I was calling them and seemed surprised that I would think anything was wrong.

The reason being both were working on an email scam and didn’t know that I had seen their emails. Here is how it works.

1) The short-term visitor and national exchange contact info (email, facebook, etc).
2) A few messages are sent to establish contact and to thank the visitor for coming to Uganda.

3) The national reports a crisis that they are indirectly involved in to gauge the emotional response.
4) Final step, they report a crisis directly involving themselves.
5) Now the American is deeply involved and 99 times out of 100 the American asks "How can I help?" and the exchange of money begins. Notice that in steps. 1-4 there is absolutely no request for money.

At this point you might be wondering, “Is this really a scam?”

Even though there is no request for money I do believe it is a scam. When the national doesn’t report the situation to a national ministry or missionary on the ground you have to wonder “why are they not seeking help locally?” In a poor country like Uganda where corruption is the norm most of the people sending these emails are looking for a quick buck and that is why they are passing by the local ministries that can use their understanding of the culture and person to make an informed decision.

As a short term visitor one of the greatest things you can do is to empower the local church and local ministries by referring these requests back to them and asking them to discern what is the best way to help. The majority of the time money is not the answer but instead there is need for counseling and discipleship which isn’t a quick fix but it sure has better results. If the local ministry does agree that the problem is money the best thing to do is to give through the local ministry so that there is accountability and the person receiving help isn’t tempted to create more problems in the future to collect more funds.

When in doubt I always encourage people to turn the tables. If a Ugandan was visiting the US and they got to meet the people in your church would you believe that the people in your church could receive the best counsel, support and encouragement through emailing the Ugandan once they returned home? Or do you think that the staff of your church in the US is better equipped to handle the challenges facing the people in your church?

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Should I Pass out My Email on a Short-Term Missions Trip

Oct. 3, 2016By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio
Editor’s Note: Over the next two days we will look at the impact of passing out your personal contact information on short-term mission trips. Jeff Atherstone is a missionary of Training Leaders International and serves as Chancellor of Africa Renewal University.

Over the past 7+ years I have had the opportunity to host over 300 short-term visitors in Uganda at Africa Renewal University. We have been blessed to have teaching teams, construction teams, community outreach teams and curriculum development teams.

I always encourage the teams to exchange their emails with the management staff at ARU. The national ARU staff have excellent training in theology and development issues so they can help the visitors as they learn about cross-cultural ministry. By exchanging emails the relationships that were established during the trip can continue and a “peer relationship” between the two cultures can begin to form.

When the staff communicates with the visitors through email the discussion usually revolves around projects that we are working in partnership on with the visitors, curriculum that we are developing together and the sharing of resources on the web that we can both learn from. This type of “peer relationship” has been a very empowering exercise for my staff helping them to put aside the “colonial mindset” that many were raised in which taught them that they were inferior to Western visitors.

Although I encourage visitors to exchange emails with the people that they are “ministering alongside” I do not encourage them to exchange emails with the people that they are “ministering to.”

There are a number of hazards that come with this type of email exchange. One hazard is that this can lead to scams and frauds, which are common through email and I will address this in another post. The primary hazard that I wish to address today is that by exchanging emails you can actually have a negative impact on the local ministry.

We have experienced this a number of times where a visitor begins emailing a student of ours and the effects can be damaging to the development of the student. The visitor will often offer the student gifts or money that other students do not receive which can cause the students to become jealous of each other and can even bring competition between the students for the visitor’s attention.

The other problem with the visitors offering our students gifts and money is that our university training is helping to give students the skills they need to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. By offering the students these benefits the visitors are moving them back to the “begging culture” that we are trying to lift the students out of.

Aside from the offer of gifts and money the visitor’s emails are robbing the students of the discipleship relationships that are right in front of them. Email is a great tool but it can never replace direct human interaction for discipleship but too often nationals are more interested in emailing a rich visitor from the West rather than connecting with their national pastor or ministry leaders. The discipleship that I have seen effectively done through emails begins with a long-term relationship not just 2-weeks together on a short-term experience.

The exchange of gifts and discipleship might not be the key issues for other ministries but one thing remains constant – the nationals and missionaries on the ground will always have a greater understanding of how to minister to the people where they serve. That is why God has called and placed them there! The role of the short term visitor is a supportive role and should be to come alongside local ministries joining the Gospel- movement that is taking place on the ground.

Just because someone has spent two weeks in Uganda or even been on ten trips to Uganda that does not make them an expert on the issues facing Uganda. Be careful who you hand your email out to and make sure that your ongoing communication is a blessing to the ministry and people you came to minister alongside of.

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Short-Term Missions or Glorified Tourism?

Sep. 30, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

George Houssney, the President of Horizons, has written a helpful article on the strengths and weaknesses of short-term missions. Below are what he sees as negatives and positives. You can read the entire article here.

The Positives

1. A good percentage of short-termers end up going long-term. Some statistics claim 50%. Many would never go to the mission field were it not for these short- term opportunities.

2. Many gain a heart for missions, and they return often and/or become supporters, prayer partners, and mobilizers.

3. Short-Term mission trips are eye openers for many. It is one thing to read missions newsletters and reports, it is another to actually be on the mission field and see the poverty, the hardships, and the spiritual depravity of people of other cultures.

4. Some who have never witnessed back home become bold in witnessing when they are with a like minded team witnessing in a cross cultural context. This can even help them begin to witness when they return home.

5. Those who are hesitant because they are not sure about their calling use short-term trips to test the waters and see if career missions might be what God is calling them to?

6. Some cannot be career missionaries because of job and family considerations. However, they do want to make a difference, so they use their vacation time or a break from school to do something for the Lord, rather than spending it on themselves.

7. Many who go on mission trips come from affluent families. They are not used to doing dirty work. Manual labor gives them an opportunity to serve others and to experience hard work like they never have before.

After looking at some of the pros and cons of short-term missions, let us see what the Bible says about this.

Missions is a word that came out of the Greek Apostolos, a messenger who is sent to accomplish a certain mission. To better understand the meaning of Apostolos, we must look at the life of Jesus and the apostles, and what they did as missionaries.

Negatives and Drawbacks

1. Many who go on mission trips have no cross cultural experience and due to the shortness of the trip, they are sent with little or no preparation or training. As a result they are likely to behave in ways that are not culturally appropriate or sensitive. I have seen young men dress in shorts and women in tank tops in conservative countries where men and women cover the majority of their bodies. Young people also tend to behave immaturely, with coarse joking, flirting, and inappropriately touching others of the opposite sex. On the other hand, some come with their expensive clothes, expensive gadgets, computers, phones, ipods, Cd players, BlackBerries, and flash money around while people in the target culture cannot afford such luxuries. This results in either disgust or adoration of the missionaries. In either case, it is not healthy.

2. Many go on short-term mission trips in response to short-term guilt trips laid on them by preachers or missions speakers, who rightly challenge them to do something about the unreached people. For many, going on a short-term mission relieves them of their guilty feeling. Rather than consider a longer term commitment, they settle for a trip or two here and there. Some feel that they now have missions checked off on their "To-do in my lifetime" list.

3. Due to the excitement associated with going to a foreign country, some fall in love with the new culture and do not see beyond the facade of its external expressions. Rather, they become enamored by the culture’s music, folklore, dress, and lifestyle. In fact, some expect to see a much darker side of other cultures than they discover. As a result, they fail to see the lostness and spiritual depravity of people from the target cultures.

4. Recruiters who are anxious to sign up people for these trips tend to exaggerate how great these trips are. They raise the expectations too high. The result of unrealistic expectations is usually disappointment. Some expect to love the people in those counties but find out they are not as kind or attractive as they were promised. Some expect to see many people saved. They end up painting walls and laying bricks and hardly seeing any natives. Some return from a short- term mission disappointed because they did not lead anyone to Christ and they feel that they have failed and that they are not made for missions.

5. A percentage of those who have a positive experience on short-term mission trips end up returning for a longer term. They often discover that living in that country long-term is not as exciting or intense, so they get disappointed. They reason that if they had so much fun for two weeks, living there would be even better. By some estimates, half of those who go on long-term trips return home disillusioned. Long-Termers cannot maintain that level of intensity and excitement over a long period of time. It is like going on a honeymoon or vacation; you do not have to go to work, and you enjoy every moment. Then reality hits and you are back to real life, where there is work, tiredness, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and countless other things that keep you busy. Many missionaries expect that when they return full time and for a long time, they would have the same experience as they did when they went short-term. They end up disillusioned and frustrated. Some missionaries do not realize that just figuring out how to live in a foreign country takes up a huge chunk of their day. I know missionaries who have taken a year or more to settle down, spending time looking for a house to live in, furnishing the house, dealing with shopping, transportation and doing many more things.

6. Short-term trips are expensive. Once I was on a prayer walk trip in Morocco. Four hundred came from many parts of the world for the five day journey. I estimated that no less than one million dollars were spent on travel alone (400 X $2500). Some have argued that it would be better that we send this money to the mission field where it can make a much greater impact.

7. The impact on the national church is not always positive. Some churches are inundated by short-term teams that demand a lot of attention. This takes national pastors away from their regular routine and disrupts the ministry

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50 Worst Charities Ranked by Money Blown on Soliciting Costs

Sep. 28, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio
Here is an interesting report frin 2013 on America's Worst Charities was just released by the Tampa Bay Times. It ranks charities based on how much they spent on fundraising vs. what actually went toward fulfilling their mission. Below are the rankings. 

           Charity name Raised by solicitors Paid to solicitors % to aid
1 Kids Wish Network $127.8 million $109.8 million 2.50%
2 Cancer Fund of America $98.0 million $80.4 million 0.90%
3 Children's Wish Foundation International $96.8 million $63.6 million 10.80%
4 American Breast Cancer Foundation $80.8 million $59.8 million 5.30%
5 Firefighters Charitable Foundation $63.8 million $54.7 million 8.40%
6 Breast Cancer Relief Foundation $63.9 million $44.8 million 2.20%
7 International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO $57.2 million $41.4 million 0.50%
8 National Veterans Service Fund $70.2 million $36.9 million 7.80%
9 American Association of State Troopers $45.0 million $36.0 million 8.60%
10 Children's Cancer Fund of America $37.5 million $29.2 million 5.30%
11 Children's Cancer Recovery Foundation $34.7 million $27.6 million 0.60%
12 Youth Development Fund $29.7 million $24.5 million 0.80%
13 Committee For Missing Children $26.9 million $23.8 million 0.80%
14 Association for Firefighters and Paramedics $23.2 million $20.8 million 3.10%
15 Project Cure (Bradenton, FL) $51.5 million $20.4 million 0.00%
16 National Caregiving Foundation $22.3 million $18.1 million 3.50%
17 Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth $19.6 million $16.1 million 0.00%
18 United States Deputy Sheriffs' Association $23.1 million $15.9 million 0.60%
19 Vietnow National Headquarters $18.1 million $15.9 million 2.90%
20 Police Protective Fund $34.9 million $14.8 million 0.80%
21 National Cancer Coalition $41.5 million $14.0 million 1.10%
22 Woman To Woman Breast Cancer Foundation $14.5 million $13.7 million 0.40%
23 American Foundation For Disabled Children $16.4 million $13.4 million 0.80%
24 The Veterans Fund $15.7 million $12.9 million 2.30%
25 Heart Support of America $33.0 million $11.0 million 3.40%
26 Veterans Assistance Foundation $12.2 million $11.0 million 10.50%
27 Children's Charity Fund $14.3 million $10.5 million 2.30%
28 Wishing Well Foundation USA $12.4 million $9.8 million 4.60%
29 Defeat Diabetes Foundation $13.8 million $8.3 million 0.10%
30 Disabled Police Officers of America Inc. $10.3 million $8.1 million 2.50%
31 National Police Defense Foundation $9.9 million $7.8 million 5.80%
32 American Association of the Deaf & Blind $10.3 million $7.8 million 0.10%
33 Reserve Police Officers Association $8.7 million $7.7 million 1.10%
34 Optimal Medical Foundation $7.9 million $7.6 million 1.00%
35 Disabled Police and Sheriffs Foundation $9.0 million $7.6 million 1.00%
36 Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center $8.2 million $6.9 million 0.10%
37 Children's Leukemia Research Association $9.8 million $6.8 million 11.10%
38 United Breast Cancer Foundation $11.6 million $6.6 million 6.30%
39 Shiloh International Ministries $8.0 million $6.2 million 1.30%
40 Circle of Friends For American Veterans $7.8 million $5.7 million 6.50%
41 Find the Children $7.6 million $5.0 million 5.70%
42 Survivors and Victims Empowered $7.7 million $4.8 million 0.00%
43 Firefighters Assistance Fund $5.6 million $4.6 million 3.20%
44 Caring for Our Children Foundation $4.7 million $4.1 million 1.60%
45 National Narcotic Officers Associations Coalition $4.8 million $4.0 million 0.00%
46 American Foundation for Children With Aids $5.2 million $3.0 million 0.00%
47 Our American Veterans $2.6 million $2.3 million 2.30%
48 Roger Wyburn-Mason & Jack M Blount Foundation For Eradication of Rheumatoid Disease $8.4 million $1.8 million 0.00%
49 Firefighters Burn Fund $2.0 million $1.7 million 1.50%
50 Hope Cancer Fund $1.9 million $1.6 million 0.50%
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