Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Remember our siblings who suffer

I'd like to take this week to ask for prayer for a partner. Rev. Samuel Kargbo is a pastor in Sierra Leone who contacted us about starting a computer school to minister to the youth in his village. It's a dream fit, because our program is designed just to help a community like his start a small but effective school affordably and grow. However, soon after he started correspondence with Ray, our New Ministries Coordinator, ebola hit his village. They have been weeks in basically quarantine, trying desperately to contain the ravaging disease. He recently wrote Ray,

Your mails always give me joy and hope that my family has a host of brethren praying for us, especially during this horrible time of Ebola Virus epidemic.

We are employing your indulgence to remember the Ebola virus victims in your daily prayers. Some homes guaranteed are not properly taken care of. No adequate provision of food items and not even a proper security. A lot of them go out with in search of food, thereby passing the virus with those that they come in contact with in the public transport buses, in the market ...€ because they are not secured and no adequate food provided.

We have some kids that have become orphans as their parents have died from the Ebola virus disease. We also have some widows and widowers. The ebola virus has actually caused a lot of trouble among our people. Our small congregation lost five people, one man, two women and two kids.

Sam and his family have been experiencing illnesses which they cannot get treated because everything is being poured into stopping ebola. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia as they continue to suffer and strive for life. May the Lord rescue them from the hand of the evil one who attacks them with this disease, and then I pray for an opportunity to give them a chance for something better, power to implement long-term improvements in every facet of life, with TEN3 education.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

I would normally consider it most germane (I love that word) to wait until next week to put a "Thankful" post, but today I've been so reminded of my blessings that I'm overflowing. I am truly awestruck at just how good God continues to be to me. First, of course, there's that whole salvation bit – loving me enough to come to this miserable world where I am, to suffer and die to bring me life, to restore me from the fear and pride that enslaved me, to bring me into His wonderful life of love. That's enough to sing of forever. And yet He keeps making it more wonderful. He brings along my way so many precious people who give me sparks of His grace. He's given me the opportunity to learn—to read and think and understand things like the story arc, programming logic, stoichiometry, periodic motion, contentment, pedagogical principles, the effects of media on the family, and write about them. Then on top of that He's given me such an amazing opportunity to use the fantastic gifts and talents He's given me to be part of His Kingdom spreading among the rich, beautiful hearts of Africa. And as if that weren't more than enough, then He brought into my life one of His sons who humbles and challenges me with his devotion to the Lord, and who blows me away with how much he loves me.

How can it be that amid all this I sometimes still find myself sinking into doubts that tempt me to grumble? And how can it be that in those times, He sends me yet another reminder that His grace is unlimited ... like the couple who told me today they want to join my support team, though they're probably struggling with their finances even more than I am. Blown away again.

What can I do in the face of all this lovingkindness? Nothing but fall to my knees whispering, "God is so good. God is so good. So very good."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Church planting with computer schools

"That's not missions."

I've heard that more than a couple of times when I've described what I do or what I'm going to Africa for. Missions is coming into some grass hut village to play with kids, hand out clothes, and give a revival-style service so they all raise their hands to accept Jesus. At least that's what people seem to have in mind a real missionary does.

There are quite a few problems with this idea. While there ARE some great valid ways to do short-term missions, to do what I just described would be disastrous. Most people who have never heard the gospel don't speak English well, if at all. And wouldn't you be highly suspicious, probably even hostile, if a strange-looking group of people with loud equipment showed up in your neighborhood asking to talk to your children and telling you to convert to a strange religion?

Of course you would. Anyone would. "But that's how Paul did it," some might object. Yes, he did travel a lot of places and sometimes plant churches fairly quickly. But he had a lot of advantages going for him. Everywhere he went, people spoke Greek, a language he was already fluent in. Even though he was the apostle to the Gentiles, you'll notice he almost always started by preaching at Jewish synagogues, to people who already believed in the God of Abraham and knew the Scriptures. So it was a fairly simple matter to introduce Jesus as the Messiah they were waiting for. Then, when he did preach directly to Gentiles, it's evident that he was well-read in their poetry, philosophy, and history, because he used those in preaching to them. He knew their culture well enough to start where they were at, and when they did convert, they joined churches that had Jewish believers there who could teach them the Scriptures. There was a discipleship structure already in place.

With that background, I can explain how really our model is closer to Paul's than you might at first think. We, too, take advantage of our language being prevalent in Africa. We train people who are fluent in English, but encourage them then to teach classes in the local language when that will serve better. That way, we can reach potentially hundreds of villages speaking hundreds of different languages without our little team having to take the time to learn them all, which would be impossible. We also work with people who already follow God, equipping them to disciple new believers, in their own communities and in new territories.

But our starting point, rather than the synagogues or acropolis like Paul used, is with a felt need in Africa--education. Education allows missionaries to build relationships, and relationships are what missions is all about. As people learn to trust their teacher, they learn to trust the One in whom their teacher trusts. The teacher can learn the worldview and deepest needs of the students, and learn how from there to show them that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who can transform every aspect of their lives.

Therefore, we're praying now for missionaries to be able to take our Computer Training Outreach and use it for church planting. Say a Nigerian takes our CTO at a center in his village and gets excited about the gospel. Say he hears that churches need to be planted in a village in Rwanda. With 24 laptops, he could go start a computer school in that village, a self-sustaining center for teaching the Bible as the story of redemption. He's leading people to Christ and giving them the foundation for a biblical worldview. He could train both church leaders (hopefully having them sent to places with more advanced training, too) and people to run the school, and after a few years move on to a new village ... perhaps taking a few Rwandians along to learn how to do the same thing in new places.

Multiplying, sustaining discipleship. If that's not missions, what is? Please pray for the places that want to start these computer schools already (we're hoping soon to put specific school profiles on www.ten3.org), that they get them running and running well. Also pray for the students who will go through them, that they may become godly power users of technology, and Christian leaders, wherever God leads them, be it staying at home serving their communities or going to new lands to make disciples themselves.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Eternal thoughts

As we write computer courses, we consider how best to incorporate discipleship points for the students that the teachers can use. Sometimes it's exercises that require them to read and think about a Bible passage while applying a computer skill. For instance, in Computer Essentials, they practice their word processing skills on a document of Ecclesiastes. One thing they have to do is compose headings for the whole book. Other times, we just incorporate "Eternal Thoughts," tying some principle they had to practice on the computer to life in the perspective of eternity. Here's an example:

Eternal Thoughts, Programming & Databases 1, chapter 6, "Decisions"

Computers only make the decisions we tell them to. We have to tell them the conditions ahead of time. If this is true, do this, if not, do that. Human beings are much more complex in the way we make decisions. We'd like to think that we make all our decisions rationally, doing what makes the most sense and what we know is right. But emotions are also very powerful in our decision-making. Advertisers and propagandists know this, and make sure to send you the message that the decision they want you to make, whether to buy a certain product or support a particular politician, will lead to good feelings. They also try to make you feel bad if you don't make that decision. People's "gut reaction" also sometimes guides their decisions – a sense they can't explain that something is the right or wrong decision. Psychologists usually attribute this to perceptions we haven't consciously processed, memories we haven't consciously associated with the situation at hand, etc. Spirituality also influences our decisions – Satan will throw anything that he knows affects your decisions, whether it's reasons or fears or lusts or dreams, to try to tempt you. On the other hand, people who have walked with Jesus a long time develop a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit so that they begin to sense what is right even when they don't have enough information to base their decision on logic.

All these influences factor into our decisions, in a way that even we don't fully understand. We sometimes don't know why do the things we do. How then can we hope to make the right decisions? We certainly cannot just idly hope that whatever we decide will be right. We are far too prone to sin for that. The old saying that "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail" is true when it comes to sin. That's especially true for the sins that Jesus addresses in the sermon on the Mount about anger, retaliation, sexual sin, and worry. Those are sins that we commit when our emotions overtake us – we are usually not even capable of reasoning logically in the situations when we are tempted to these things. That's why it is very valuable to "program" ourselves ahead of time, that "if this happens, then I will do thus, no matter how I feel." If the decision is already made when we are capable of thinking, we can stand firm in it even when our feelings pressure us to sin.

Thinking these things through and deciding beforehand to do what is right can save us from a world of hurt. But we can't anticipate every temptation. That's why it is so important to be growing and walking daily in the Lord, seeking him in prayer and the Scriptures, disciplining ourselves to obey him in the small things, so that we are made to be more like him. As we do that, gradually our "first instinct" instead of selfishness will become to honour Christ.

Consider the following passages and how you are applying them in your life:

I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play." 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10, ESV

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

Ephesians 6, ESV