Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Birth Celebration Rituals

On Monday our youngest daughter, Sara, gave birth to their third child, our fifth grandchild. I am almost never in the country for the birth of my grandchildren; I was even 1,000 miles away when Sara was born. So to miss the birth of the latest addition was not unusual.

We live in amazing times. After teaching my cultural anthropology class I went to my room and turned on my computer. I noticed that Sara’s Skype light was on and knowing it was 3:30 a.m. their time I suspected something was up. Sure enough, she was beginning labor and about five hours later little Sofia Rose Toombs was born: 3.94 kgs (8 lbs 11 oz) and 53.34 centimeters (21 inches) long. Three hours after they returned home, and the next morning for me, I was able to see the little pink bundle in real time.

The birth celebration custom in India is after the birth the parents and/or grandparents give badam burfi (almond candy), to friends and family. Being on the other side of the world and not near family I bought some badam and distributed the sweets to my students and staff members where I am teaching in Hyderabad.

Someone asked me what the custom is for celebrating birth in America. It use to be the father passed out cigars, but with the tax on tobacco being so high and it being a socially incorrect practice, I’m not sure what people do these days.

What birth celebration rituals are practiced in your country?

Nevertheless, welcome, Sofia, to this great thing called life. God has brought you into this world for His purpose and we look forward to seeing how He will use you for His glory.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Watch Your Symbols

On his visit next month to India, President Obama will not visit the Golden Temple in Amristar, the holy shrine of the Sikh in the north. The reason is because of a symbol -- a scarf, cap or handkerchief, to be worn on the head by both men and women who enter this holy site. Obama and his handlers are afraid of the perception that a head-covering might have from Americans back home, many which still believe he is a Muslim. Never mind most Americans don’t know the difference between Sikhs and Muslims; it’s the unfamiliar symbol that’s the issue.

Symbols are powerful tools of communication. Most people wear symbols everyday that identifies their religion (crucifix-Christians, turban-Sikhs, kufi (skull cap)-Muslims; their occupation (overall’s-farmers, suits-business leaders, scrubs-nurses and doctors; their social status (Wal-Mart-middle/low income, Dillards-middle upper, Neiman Marcus-upper income).

The first thing a Russian looks at when meeting someone is their shoes, women in India look at the fabric of another woman’s sari, kids around the world check out the kind of cell phone their friends have and of course the auto industry remains viable as people judge another’s status by the car they drive. By our symbols mankind are indeed walking/talking signboards.

A cross-cultural Christian worker must be aware of symbols and adopt or reject symbols based on knowledge of those symbols, not just having an emotional response. Though I would, out of respect, wear a covering into a temple, I might not receive tilak (red mark on forehead as a sign of blessing). I might touch the feet of a respected elder but not avoid touching a Dalit. Determining what symbols are culturally acceptable for believers to practice or accept is determined through observation and learning culture. It's a lame argument to reject a ritual or symbol based only on the fact that it is what Hindu’s, Muslims or Catholic’s do.

If President Obama had demonstrated an unequivocal faith in Christianity in the past perhaps he could wear a covering without worrying about what message it would send to his country back home. But politicians are very wary of symbols. Bill Clinton had to abandon the idea of riding an elephant when he was president visiting India because he didn’t want the Republicans to capitalize on the powerful symbol of a Democrat president rinding on the symbol of their party. And he certainly didn’t want to ride on the symbol of his own party, a donkey, for that image, too, would be used as a negative symbol around the world.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Missionary Family

I have been in the "business" of missions for 35 years. I have slept under mosquito nets, dined on monkey meat, been in war zones, nearly died of malaria, taught in over 40 countries, trekked some of the tallest mountains of China, forged swollen rivers in the bush of Kenya, fed hungry Africans in times of starvation and eaten in some of finest restaurants in Europe. From the coca chewing Quechua of Bolivia, to the flatbread bakers of Uzbekistan and the wine makers of Georgia I've seen a lot. I've been a pioneer church planter among the most unreached, established a non-formal Bible school and created one of the few missionary training programs in the U.S. I've conducted mission conferences before thousands and discipled missionary classes of five. I think missiologically but before those who know nothing about missions I must contextualize it to a level that anyone and everyone can understand.

Yet, with all that interesting background I have learned that what most people really care about is much more personal...FAMILY. While the click-in rate of a normal monthly E-letter hovers around 50%, the family update is read by 70% or more. So, with that, I send you the link to that which is most personal.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Results of Mission Knowledge quiz

Here are the results of the Mission Knowledge quiz, correct answer indicated by “√." How well did you do compared to others?

What country in Africa that has the highest per capita population of missionaries is:

South Africa 18.2%

Kenya 74.2% √

Uganda 7.6%

The highest percentage of missionaries come from,

America 39.4%

Philippines 30.3%

Korea 30.3% √

Though there are still more N. American missionaries, the percentage of missionaries to the Christian and general population is Korea.

The number one reason career missionaries leave the field from Old Sending Countries (America, Europe) is due to:

Health problems 25.8%

Marriage/family conflict 59.1%

Retirement 15.2% √

From REMAP study – The western mission force is getting old and we are not sending as many young career missionaries. Health problems was #4 in the study, marriage/family conflict #9.

The number one reason missionaries from New Sending Countries (Brazil, Korea, Philippines) leave the country is:

Lack of home support 78.8% √

Spiritually immature 10.6%

Children 10.6%

Spiritually immature #10 reason, children #8

Definition of unreached people groups are those:

Who are not yet Christian 7.6%

People who not yet Christian but live in a country/region where there are 5% or more Christians 6.1%

People not yet Christian where the population of Christians is less than 5% 86.4% √

The people who are in the unreached people group category have a population of:

1.2 billion 6.1%

2.7 billion 39.4% √

3.6 billion 54.5%

The percentage of missionaries going to unreached people groups is:

5% 81.8% √

15% 18.2%

25% 0.%

The percentage of resources (money and people) given to the world which has a Christian population of 25% percent or more is:

40% 16.7%

70% 25.8%

90% 57.6% √

My question is if we understand question 7, why are still pouring more resources into the most regions of the world?

A non-resident missionary is a person who:

Has no missionary experience but goes on several short-trips each year. 0%

Has missionary experience and goes on several short-term trips each year. 13.6%

Resides outside the country but works within certain countries or people groups where he/she once resided. 86.4% √

The average attrition rate (those who leave the field) among missionaries (old sending countries) each year is,

3% 1.5%

7% 19.7% √

13% 7 8.8%

The average is 7%, but there are some organizations that have a turn-over rate of 25% or more. New sending countries are just as high. 70% of the reasons people leave the field are PREVENTABLE, which means we need to a better job in screening as well as training/equipping.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mission Knowledge

So you think you know missions, really? Take this survey that is just above basic mission knowledge.

Check your score by going to the comment page AFTER you take the survey.


Here are the results from World Religion survey. Correct answer indicated with “√.” How well did you do with others who took the survey? Tomorrow’s survey will be on Mission IQ.

1. Holiest site for Muslims:

Jerusalem 2.4%

Medina 7.3%

Mecca 90.2% √

2. Hindus are:

Polytheist 61.%

Monotheist 0.%

Pantheist 39.%

3. Buddhist believe in:

Nirvana 97.6%

Heaven 2.4%

Purgatory 0%

4. The country that has the second largest Muslim population:

India 32.6%

Pakistan 27.9%

Indonesia 39.5%

5. Mohammed is considered by Muslims to be:

The last prophet 73.2%

The only prophet 19.5%

Great teacher 7.3%

6. The holy book of Hindus is:

The Koran 0%

The Vedas 79.1%

The book of Lord Krishna 20.9%

7. Buddhist believe Buddha was:

God 11.6%

Great teacher 86.0% √

Prophet 2.3%

8. The highest office in the Russian Orthodox Church

Cardinal 41.5%

Metropolitan 51.2%

Pope 7.3%

9. Sikhs are:

Monotheist 34.9%

Polytheist 30.2%

Pantheist 34.9%

10. Muslims are forbidden to:

Eat beef 12.2%

Smoke 4.9%

Drink alcohol 82.9%

11. One of the seven signs of a Sikh man is:

A dagger 65.2%

Sacred scarf 34.8%

Holy ring 0%

12. Buddhist pray to:

Buddha 8.7%

Their teacher 8.7%

Their ancestors 82.6%

13. Ramadan is a holy month for:

Muslims 100%

14. Sikhs worship at the:

Mosque 4.5%

Temple 54.5%

Gurdwara 40.9%

15. Of the worlds 6.7 billion population Evangelicals are approximately:

780 million 21.7%

320 million 43.5%

500 million 34.8%