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Missions 101

A Son Apologizes for His Father's Crime

Jul. 21, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio
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14 Worst Types of Missionary Newsletters

Jul. 15, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

From Amy Walters at SEND.

1.    The Banker. Nothing but support updates and requests for money. Oh, and maybe a story about visiting a church and asking for money. “It’s not too late to join our team.”

2.    The Paper Cut. Focused mainly on the long, paperwork-filled process of getting legal documents, like visas or residency permits. As boring and painful to read as the actual process of gathering the documents and waiting in line. “The officials did not accept our documents (which is very normal for the first attempt, although it was over very small mistakes). However, to get a second appointment would mean waiting the next day in a long line (this whole process has been full of long lines all over the city for different steps) to see if the quota is still open. So, the next day Leon* waited in line for 5 hours, only to find out that no, the quota is closed. This means that we cannot apply for the temporary residency until after the New Year.”

3.    The Cluster Bomb. No communication for months and then a sudden rush of updates. Often this happens when the missionary needs something, like more support or home service is coming. “At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we will give another report about how wonderful our time was on our recent trip!”

4.    The Itinerary. Basically, a long list of activities, locations and events in paragraph form. The audience feels tired after reading it and bouncing from one place to the next. “We were able to combine visits to see Kim’s* father in Pennsylvania, children and grandchildren in Lynchburg, Virginia and Buffalo, New York to meeting friends and attending a new career conference in Ocean City, New Jersey.”

5.    The Treasure Hunt. Mostly filled with cultural tidbits and mundane details. But buried somewhere deep inside, like in a sidebar or at the very end of a long letter, is a great ministry story. [After nine paragraphs about other things] “Praise God for a girl in my class who has now received assurance of salvation.”

6.    The Novel. Anything longer than three pages. This usually happens because the missionary hasn’t written in months. “And one more thing…”

7.    The Christmas Letter. Almost entirely made up of family updates, with little or nothing said about ministry. Added bonus: long description and pictures of a recent family vacation to an exotic location. “Another family invited us to join them at a nearby resort.”

8.    The Cliff Hanger. A desperate call for prayer or help that is not followed up and resolved in the next letter.“Ended up in hospital, trying to find what’s going on. Our life here is but a moment, so easy to take it for granted.”

9.    Generic. As boring as the title, either from lack of interesting details or mainly focusing on day to day stuff. So general that it could be cut and pasted into anyone’s newsletter and still apply. “While at home, I did a lot of cleaning, sorting, and washing windows.” 

10.    The Shock & Awe. Too much going on, from too many different styles of fonts, to too many colors and clip art and photos and graphs and sections. The eyes don’t know where to look first. “Above: My fourth great-nephew and I pose for a comical photo on Thanksgiving Day.”

11.    The Snooze & Blah. No pictures. No colors. No graphics. Just words.

12.    The Judge. A negative assessment of the host culture, either subtle or blatant. “Is it possible to be both different and wrong?”

13.    The Gory Details. Goes into great detail about something incredibly gross or personal, like a recent surgery or explosive illness. Also could include pictures. “We could admire the iron in our toilet bowl.”

14.    The Bait & Switch.  Teases you with the promise of a great story but instead gets sidetracked with related but unimportant details. “So we landed in [the city], got in a van and rode out to join the teen camp that was starting the next day. 10 days later we took part in the English camp. The time at the camp definitely got us back into life here quickly.”

She offers to helpful tips here.

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Don't Say These Things At My Funeral

Jul. 14, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

From Chad Bird:

1. He was a good man. Don’t turn my funeral into a celebration of my moral resume. 

2. Chad...Chad...Chad. I don't want to be the focus on my own funeral.

3. God now has another angel. Heaven is not going to de-humanize me.

4. We are not here to mourn Chad’s death, but to celebrate his life. So-called “Celebrations of Life” do a disservice to the mourners for they deny or euphemize death.

5. Chad would not want us to weep. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. Those tears betoken a God who’s fully human, who experienced the sadness and grief we all do at the death of those we love.

6. What’s in that coffin is just the shell of Chad. What’s in that coffin is the body that was fearfully and wonderfully made when our Father wove me together in my mother’s womb.

Read the whole thing here.

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Five Spiritual Dangers of Missions Trips

Jul. 2, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Short-term mission trip season is in full swing. I was traveling in Asia and saw a few groups with team t-shirts in airports. So, with this in mind, Sam Towsend lists five dangers when taking a short-term trip.

  • Seeing everyone's brokenness but missing your own.
  • Overlooking the beauty of others.
  • Seeking people who deserve your service.
  • Thinking the mission trip fulfills your service requirement.
  • Making your mission trip story about you instead of God.

You can read the entire article for further explanation.

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Did You Know Extreme Poverty Is Declining?

Jul. 1, 2014By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

In a recent article by the Barna Group, their study found:

  • Based on current data from the World Bank, the percent of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has decreased from 52% to 21% over the last thirty years. If this trajectory continues, extreme poverty will be eliminated by 2030.
  • The Barna Group’s study also found that 84% of Americans admitted they were unaware “global poverty has been reduced so drastically.” The majority of Americans (67%) said they believed extreme poverty had increased over the last thirty years.

Why don't people realize this is happening? Barna found that:

  • 21% believe poverty is simply inevitable and will always exist. Because it will always exist, poverty couldn’t possibly be decreasing.
  • 20% don’t think enough people care about the issue for poverty to decrease.
  • 17% feel there isn’t enough of a collective global effort to reduce poverty.
  • 17% feel the problem of poverty is too big to be reduced.
  • 14% do not trust what they see as corrupt governments in impoverished countries.


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