Archive for December, 2010

For These Days

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

        Luke 2:13 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

        In the Ozark Mountains there is an old legend that at midnight on Christmas Eve the cattle kneel in adoration of the Savior, who came into their stable many years ago. A part of the legend, however, is that they will not kneel if any human being is watching. This makes the story safe from prying, scientific eyes. We shall never be able to prove or disprove it by the evidence of our senses. That is the way Christmas is, an intimate, ultimate thing, which is ever beyond the eyes of our proud minds.

        It seems to me that there are really two Christmases, one, which we have made, and one, which God has made. There is the Christmas that we see on Every Street – Jingle Bells, lights on trees and houses, reindeer on rooftops, jolly old Santa Claus, and more toys than we’ve ever seen. This is not all bad, but it’s not the real Christmas. The real Christmas is seen in the Advent Wreath, the manger scene, the singing of Christmas carols, Luke 2, the Nicene Creed with its mystery eternally begotten of the Father, …true God from true God, and a child destined to know more poverty and sorrow than anyone ever.

        We don’t understand all that Christmas means. Only the cattle know if they really kneel to the Savior at midnight, and only we ourselves, in our hearts, can know when we are kneeling at the manger. My prayer is that we will be drawn closer to the real Christmas as the Savior beckons us to see with hearts of love.

        How has this Advent Season differed from others?

Advent 3 – - Do You See What I See?

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

        Isaiah proclaimed that the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. . . .

        The Christmas carol asks, “Do you see what I see?” We were sending Christmas gifts to our European children and grandchildren. Since our son-in-law serves in the US Air Force, we have been sending Christmas and birthday gifts to Europe for the past 8 years. The flag at the Post Office was flying at half-mast in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. The day that will “live in infamy” as spoken by President Roosevelt as the US plunged into the “war to end all wars.” Today, nearly 70 years have passed and we are still on the battlefields. Do you see what I see?

        As I pondered the half-mast flag and the impact of war on our planet, my mind raced to the Advent prophecies and especially the one quoted above from Isaiah 35.

        We can only imagine the scene of the blind suddenly experiencing the sense of sight or the incredible shock of hearing sound for the first time and wondering what was happening. Stiff immovable limbs becoming mobile and adult paralyzed vocal cords producing those first unintelligible sounds. Does the prophet expect us to envision these scenes along with a desert blooming and producing flowers and food?

        The Advent lessons teach that the Christ will come and defeat indifference, hatred, war, disease, poverty and hunger. Perhaps as the Christ comes to us we are to become catalysts of change. Changes that will burst forth from the tables of dialog and diplomacy.

        God calls us to move away from our comfort zones and the pools of mediocrity and dive into living streams of dialog, feasting with Christ and recognizing the presence of God in the faces of our enemies. More than anything else this venture will bring forth amazing results of miraculous dimensions. New insights of peace and harmony will replace eyes that have been blinded by policies of strife. Words of tranquility and love shall be a new sound to those having ears dulled with echoes of violence. Bodies trained to operate weapons of destruction will discover new ways of using their strength for service to God and each other. New voices of praise and thanksgiving will replace the cries of revenge and violence. Do you see what I see?

        “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19

Invest in Development

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Invest in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals

“Eradicating extreme poverty continues to be one of the main challenges of our time, and is a major concern of the international community. Ending this scourge will require the combined efforts of all, governments, civil society organizations and the private sector, in the context of a stronger and more effective global partnership for development. The Millennium Development Goals set timebound targets, by which progress in reducing income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter and exclusion — while promoting gender equality, health, education and environmental sustainability — can be measured. They also embody basic human rights — the rights of each person on the planet to health, education, shelter and security. The Goals are ambitious but feasible and, together with the comprehensive United Nations development agenda, set the course for the world’s efforts to alleviate extreme poverty by 2015. “                                                                                                                                              United Nations Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon

        We have developed a Pastors Seminar and Retreat Center in Ilula, Tanzania. We began the seminar at the request of Tanzanian United Methodist pastors in 2007. Many of the pastors serve churches without attaining adequate education. We have over the past three years, taught short term classes during two weeks in January in Theology, Bible, Missiology, Christian Education, Evangelism, and Stewardship. All evaluations have been excellent and we are continually challenged to offer more training opportunities. Two other pastors and a Bible professor serve as volunteer staff with me.

         The goals of the pastors seminar share ideology with the 1990 United Nations’ Eight Millennium Development Goals for which hunger and poverty are to be halved by 2015. This past January our classes included three women pastors and Lay Leaders, which embraces the Millennium Development Goal of gender equality. The Pastors Seminar is being expanded to include Vocational Training. The vocational training includes methods for increased agriculture productivity through poultry production, bee keeping, and new techniques of gardening. Another aspect of the technological training will include knowledge and training in Industrial Arts with the pastors learning techniques of carpentry.

         The churches provide basic leadership in the rural communities. With the pastors teaching the new techniques of food production and opportunities for employment as carpenters, the church community will lead villages and rural communities to attain the reduction of poverty and environmental sustainability in Africa as per the Millennium Development Goals.

         Ilula was selected as the location for the Tanzanian seminar because of its strategic location. It is the home of the Ilula Orphan Program and is located on one of Tanzania’s two improved roads nearly half the distance from Dar es Salaam to Zambia. A successful trucking industry has been established and provides employment for long distance over-the-road truck drivers from companies in Dar es Salaam and Zambia. The trucking industry has introduced long haul drivers to the area seeking food and overnight accommodations. The trucking industry has resulted in some new service opportunities for local employment. Unfortunately it has also been the cause of increase sexual activity between the drivers and local residents. The unfortunate result is the escalation of the HIV Aids virus which increases the number of orphans as parents succumb to the disease. Two of the Millennium Development Goals are to combat HIV Aids and assure that all children receive a basic education. The Pastors Seminar supports and works alongside the Ilula Orphan Program providing HIV Aids prevention and crisis counseling, and through Student Sponsor and Foster Family Programs is assisting with the education and care for more than 1200 HIV Aids orphans. We have added a medical professional on the Pastors Seminar staff to address how the pastors can effectively provide HIV Aids prevention and crisis counseling in their church communities.

         In July of 2010, after having served congregations for 37 years, I retired from parish ministry in the United Methodist Church of the Indiana Conference. I have made several volunteer-in-mission trips to Tanzania and other countries and am experiencing a strong desire to assist pastors in the Developing World to obtain the necessary education to lead their church communities. I plan to conduct two seminars in Tanzania in 2011 consisting of 2 weeks each. One in Ilula and the other in Kigoma, located in the western sector of the country. The inclusion of a seminar in Kigoma will decrease the cost of transportation for some of the pastors who travel across country to attend the seminars.

         I am extending an invitation for your corporation to invest in this International Level Training to help achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

         In order to provide one seminar we must raise the following funds: Transportation, food, books, accommodations, and supplies is $280 per student. The impoverished churches cannot provide salaries for the pastors therefore we raise funds to transport, accommodate, feed, and train pastors. The per capita income for Ilula and the Iringa Region is less than the equivalent of 50 cents per day. The transportation, accommodations, food, teaching supplies, and travel insurance for the teaching staff is $2825 each. Honorariums for interpreters is $300. Tanzanian Teaching Assistants in Agriculture, Industrial Arts, and an HIV Aids medical professional is $1200. Plans to increase the number of seminars to 2 per year and to extend some of the seminars to 4 weeks will require additional funds. To provide the funding for a 2 week seminar for 20 students, 4 teachers-professors, 1 HIV Aids medical professional, 4 interpreters, 2 Agriculture and Industrial Art instructors we must raise $20,425. This amount includes $500 per week compensation for teachers-professors. Thirty-four pastors and Lay Leaders indicated their desire to participate in the January 2010 seminar, however we could only raise funds to allow for an attendance of 20 pastors.

         Your investment is tax deductible. Please send funds to Emerging Mission Ministries, First United Methodist Church, PO Box 116, Fort Branch, Indiana 47648.

         In order to become more involved with Ilula Orphan Program, a mission ministry that is only 12 years old, includes 17 programs to help vulnerable and impoverished people, attained over 200 acres, has 49 employees, established a new church, animal husbandry, farming/gardening, sponsors over 1200 orphaned students, is building a High School, you are invited to come and visit us at Ilula, Tanzania.

         You may support the entire pastors seminar or any individual segment of the program. All responses will be itemized, recorded and posted for the benefit of the benefactor.

Pastors Seminar and Retreat program ____

Ilula Orphan Program ____     Students Tuition ____

 Instructors expenses ____      Instructors compensation ____

Construction of Pastors Seminar and Retreat Center ____

 

Thanks for your time and assistance.

John E. Windell

http://ilulaorphanprogram.org/

http://www.ilulaorphanprogram.org/web/iopfilm.html

http://emergingmissionministries.com/

 

The Pastors Seminar is held on property owned by the Ilula Orphan Program. We are planning to construct a Pastors Seminar and Retreat Center in Ilula on property that has been made available. Watch for details on the web site.

 

Advent 2

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

        She was a young twenty-something Native American. We were told to watch out for her. She was suspected of pan handling personal items from other volunteer-in-mission work teams.

        In chapter 11 the Isianic writer relates a radical scene of future peace. Leopards, goats, wolves, and lambs relaxing together as life-long friends. Lions and cattle enjoying a feast of nutritious straw. Children and snakes playing together in total fear abandonment. It reads like a page out of a make-believe story book.

        One of the Advent themes is hope. The prophet is describing a day of hope. A righteous hope that redefines fairness and justice in terms beyond comprehension.

        Our team was rebuilding a burned out Community Center at Shiprock near Four Corners. She quietly joined our team meetings. We invited her to eat with us. Meal times are always spiritual occasions with mission work teams. She was invited to join our devotions and discussions. She began to express her doubts and questions about faith. As the weeks came to a close she had become one of us, part of our team.

        Grace is amazing! The peaceful scene among former enemies posed by Isaiah seems like fantasy running amuck. The change affected by grace in the lives of people is no less dramatic. The entire message from God through Advent/Christmas is summed up as, “I forgive you.” She was there as we were departing, with a gentle smile, exchanging her address for ours. I’ll not soon forget her. We shared Christian love with hope and peace and watched as faith began to germinate.

        What is your hope for this Advent?