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Integrity Has a Price - Part 3

Jan. 28, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

It's 2 AM and I'm wide awake... usually a good sign that the day didn't go as planned.

Long story short... nothing happened.

The squatters argued that they were not served a notice to appear, which is a bit funny because their lawyer was in court on time and they were all standing outside of the courthouse (so how is it that they didn't know to appear in court - seems fishy to me)... so now the seller of the land has to provide a legal document (insert a technical name that I can't remember here) which states that he really did serve them notice.

Due to this technicality the judge delayed the hearing until April 3.

But here is where the whole issue of integrity comes in. We could have had the whole thinggavel1 taken care of today for just under $1,000 (remember this is a $100,000 land purchase so we are talking less than 1%). All we had to do was pay the judge and our case would have been heard.

I believe this is where the Western influence (or let's get more personal and say missionary influence) has added to the corruption in Uganda.

To a westerner "time is money" so it has become common practice to "pay" (insert "bribe") to speed up service. This happens with missionaries getting work visas at the Ministry of Immigration. It happens for missionaries seeking to register their NGOs (Christian organizations). It happens for missionaries who pay to get out of traffic tickets so they don't have to stand in long lines at the bank to pay the real tickets. It happens with couples who want to speed up their adoptions. The list goes on and on.

I'm not saying that all missionaries do this, but it is also more common than it should be among this crowd.

Our cultural (not biblical)  impatience has created a system that encourages corruption.

Part of me wonders if "being slow" has become the most profitable business practice in the developing world?

So today the squatters took a calculated risk and delayed the process. Now all eyes are back on us, the school with a mizungu (white) director. Will he bribe the court? Or better yet, will he pay us (the squatters) to stop fighting this case in court?

So here is the updated prayer list:

1) Pray that the judge, seller and squatters all show up in court on April 3 with all the legal documents filed correctly 
2) Pray that the judge grants us favor and makes his decision on the evidence
3) Pray that the squatters don't pay to win
4) Pray that the judge acts on his decision in our favor and sends his bailiffs to clear the squatters off the land
5) Pray that the squatters don't retaliate against the school or my family
6) Pray that the testimony of this purchase inspires our staff, students and everyone else involved to seek God's favor rather than paying for man's favor 

Show Comments   |   Leave a Comment  |  Tags:  missions, money, uganda, west, corruption, patience, integrity, arcc

Integrity Has a Price - Part 2

Jan. 27, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

For three days we are featuring posts from Jeff Atherstone and his experience two years ago trying to negotiate land for what is now African Renewal University.

It's the halfway point... just over a week since being asked for the bribe to settle the land dispute and a week left until the trial.

A number of you have been praying with us and are curious about how things are going.

It's been quiet, really quiet. This is normal and if I keep calling the lawyers, seller, judge or409053_6753035_lz anyone else involved I will look like the worried mizungu. Then they will get confident that I will cave in and pay the bribe, so it is true that Philippians 4:6 really works (be anxious for nothing) even for handling corruption.

But I did check in with our lawyers today and received some great news. The seller and judge are showing up to court on March 6 and they are both aware that we will not pay a bribe. This is great news because at least our case will be heard and then ultimately the decision is in the hands of the court.

Personally I feel more at peace about the whole situation than I have at any point in the process (prayer is working!). I'm also excited for the students and staff. I really believe that a strong stand against corruption will be a testimony for the institution and a legacy for the students to follow for years to come.

Show Comments   |   Leave a Comment  |  Tags:  missions, money, uganda, answer to prayer, arcc

Integrity Has a Price

Jan. 26, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

The next three days will feature posts from Jeff Atherstone and his experience two years ago trying to negotiate land for what is now African Renewal University.

It's no secret that corruption is a major problem in Uganda... on the world Corruption Perception Index we ranked #127 in 2010... which isn't as bad as Somalia at #178 but it still isn't anything to brag about.

What might be surprising to some who haven't experienced this type of corruption is that it is everywhere... the police, courts, government, church and business to name a few.
And today it is staring me in the face with a price tag beyond anything I have ever experienced.

Yesterday I was asked to pay a judge $1,000 which might not be much to some, but if I don't pay it, ARCC (Africa Renewal Christian College) could also lose another $100,000 (and yes, I am referring to US Dollars)!

First the good news! We found the owner of the troublesome land that I wrote about last June and agreed on a price for the land and drafted a purchase agreement with our board and lawyers in November,received all the funds and made the payment for the land in December. This last week the seller (after much prompting) filed a court case to stop the squatters from all construction, farming or any other developments. This is a great step.  Next, the squatters will face off with the seller in court. The seller (a lawyer) has all the proof required to show that they settled on the land illegally. The final step will be that the court will remove the squatters.

Here is the problem: even though the seller has the proof he needs to win in court, the judge is asking for $1,000 and the seller is demanding that I pay it!

If I don't pay it, the seller is saying that he will drag this case on as long as he wants (months, years, indefinitely), as a lawyer (and nephew of a well known politician) he is telling me that I have no choice. He can and will delay as long as he wants - pretty nice for a guy who introduced himself to us as a Born-Again Christian!

There is also an additional price. The longer this goes on the more problems we have with the community around us, because the illegal squatters all received their land from the local
Muslim mayor and he is doing his best to convince them that the Mizungu (white guy) will eventually get scared or impatient and pay them to leave. This also has a price! As soon as you start paying people who have broken the law to leave you alone, it invites new people to break the law in order to get money from you.

So, what do you do?

Sell your integrity for $1,000?

Risk losing the $100,000+ you paid for the land?

Risk threats from the squatters who still think they can get money from us (they have used poison to kill our animals in the past)? 

After a sleepless weekend and some great counsel from the ARCC Board, the answer seems simple: It is time to ask God's people to pray...

More on what happened tomorrow.

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Are Ph.D.’s Necessary for Theological Education on the Mission Field?

Jan. 20, 2015By: Philemon YongAuthor Bio

While pursuing my doctoral studies, I was often asked this question by well- meaning people: “Why are you getting a Ph.D. if you are only going back to work in Africa?” This question assumes that effective ministry in Africa does not require a Ph.D. This is a false assumption. Here are four reasons I believe more people should pursue Ph.D.’s before engaging in theological education overseas.


1.  Guarding the truth of the gospel entrusted to us. Paul says to Timothy, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘Knowledge’” (1 Timothy 6:20). The deposit entrusted to Timothy is the gospel and he was to guard it against what is falsely called “knowledge” (false teaching). The gospel in most mission settings remains undefined and false teachings are rampant. We know that the gospel has its roots in the OT (cf. Gal 3:8). Jesus made the point that his life and ministry could only be understood from the OT context (Luke 24:25-27). In order to understand the gospel and guard it against false teaching, as well as preserve it for future generations, one needs to study the Scriptures well. The pursuit of a Ph.D. enables the church to continue to guard the gospel. While Masters degrees are sufficient for ministry, they do not necessarily prepare one for the kind of research and writing needed to guard the gospel and defend it against errors. A Ph.D. prepares for this task. We need people gifted in research and writing to help the church on the mission field to fully understand the gospel and pass it on to others, so that it will not lose its message, and so that people will neither add to nor subtract from it. While seminary education at the M.Div. level is good, we remain dependent on the work of those who have invested their lives in research and writing as a means of serving the church.

2.  Evangelical Christianity is lacking in higher education on the mission field. Judging by the publications available in a context like Africa, it is clear that evangelicals have a long ways to go in keeping up with the theological debate that has been ongoing since 1960. There are endless number of books on African theology, Afrocentric hermeneutics, liberation hermeneutics, feminist hermeneutics, black theology etc. Many of these volumes carry teachings that are contrary to Scripture. Yet, there is no ready response to the arguments made by these liberal scholars. We end up with publications on African theology and interpretation that are not helpful for the church. Why the absence of a response? The authors of such books are Ph.D. holders, trained in the West, who have returned to Africa to make their contributions. They are the face of African theology from a liberal perspective. How is the evangelical church going to respond to this situation? It will take African evangelicals who have pursued graduate studies and are able to research and write in response. At the very least, we need Ph.D.’s on the mission field to respond to the growing scholarly contribution of liberal Ph.D. holders. We cannot possibly expect pastors, many of whom are holders of a bachelors degree, having been trained by missionaries with masters degrees or less, to engage the highly trained liberal scholars on the continent. Can we?

3.  The church in America proves that Ph.D.’s are needed if there are to be strong churches on the mission field. What do I mean? If there were no Ph.D. holders in America, what would the state of the church be? God has graciously provided us with gifted men and women who have invested their lives in studies so that they are able to do research and write on matters of Scripture. Their work and their publications are used by pastors and lay people for preaching and teaching in the local church. Take all of these men and women out and the evangelical Christian literature will shrink. Those with Ph.D.’s are helping the church to continue to hold to the truth of their faith. Commentaries, articles, and devotional materials are written by many who have pursued higher education. Seminary graduates, pastors, and other Ph.D. holders depend on such works for ministry. If this is necessary for the church in America, how much more for the church on the mission field?

4.  Leadership development. There continues to be a cry for well-trained leaders for the churches on the mission field. This absence of leaders is embarrassing given the long history of missionary presence in those areas. Yet, one can understand why such scarcity of leaders exists. It takes well-trained leaders to provide leaders of such quality. The absence of Ph.D. holders on the mission field meant that less-qualified missionaries were left with the task of building the church and preparing future leaders for the churches. That is an impossible task. If leaders of high quality and education are to exist in any context, it will require others with higher education to prepare them. How can a missionary with a master’s degree possible prepare scholars for the church in his area of service? Such scholars are sorely needed.

I would hope that the question will no longer be, “Why are you pursuing a Ph.D. if you are only going back to Africa” but rather, “Why are you going to Africa without a Ph.D.?” The church on the mission field needs Ph.D. holders who will prepare future leaders of the world-wide church, who are able to guard the deposit entrusted to them.

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Panta Ta Ethne - What is a People Group?

Jan. 15, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

In 1974 Christians were rejoicing that there were now believers in every country in the world. If the Great Commission was conceived as a geographic command to preach, then it had been fulfilled. It was at Lausanne in 1974 that Ralph Winter was the first to argue that the Bible did not primarily see the world in geopolitical terms, but instead conceived of the world as populated by ethnic blocks.

Today there are three organizations the produce data to help Christians understand the current status of global evangelism. They each define a people group differently. This is why you might see different organizations list different numbers of unreached people groups. Here are the three:


Joshua Project

Defintion: the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.

Number of People Groups in the World: 16,304

Number of Unreached People Groups: 6,748

World Christian Database

Defintion: Primarily defined along ethno-linguistic, meaning that a people group is usually defined by language.  Within a language group other factors such as race, tradition, history, and culture sometimes define a subsection of peoples.

Number of People Groups in the World: 13,611 people groups/621 megapeoples

Number of Unreached People Groups: 112 megapeople groups with no access to the gospel

International Missions Board

Defintion: an ethnolinguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by the various members.

Number of People Groups in the World: 11,571

Number of Unreached People Groups: 6,450

Show Comments   |   Leave a Comment  |  Tags:  unreached, missions
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