Devil Dance

by Angie Washington on October 31, 2014

Halloween. Day of the Dead. All Saints Day. This week we observe the earthly and underworld of the spiritual realm. As I regale you with tales of Bolivia, rife with ancient connections to the other-world, consider the spirituality embedded in your dwelling place. Let us begin.

The Devil’s Uncle

I’ve visited Potosí in the mountains of Bolivia a few times. It claims the title of populated city with the highest altitude in the world at 4,100 meters (13,451 feet), a high place. It used to be filthy rich. Conquistadores stripped their silver mines bare then raped and pillaged the land. The duress of depressing poverty left only meager spelunking tours and an ominous statue of the Devil’s Uncle in every cave.

Residents visit the caves regularly to sprinkle on the statues coca leaves, cigarettes and other items to appease the bad tempered spirit. Nicknamed Tío his visage takes many forms prominently displayed throughout the shrunken city. The ignorance of the rage of the Tío is told to have led to the atrocious devastation Potosí suffered. The fear of his punishment grips the hearts of many Bolivians.

Some PG images in this music video filmed in Bolivia, shared solely for cultural context:

Devil Dance

A dispute caused by the actions of a Peruvian pageant contestant had leaders claiming that the ‘Devil Dance’ belongs to Bolivia alone. Called the ‘Diablada’ in Spanish, the dance interprets the fight between good (the arc angel) and evil (the Devil and the seven deadly sins). The dramatic costumes, flailing arms, and vigorous jumping dance steps leave a deep impression on the onlookers. Centuries ago Jesuit choreographers intended to send a clear message to the tribal people of the land that would one day become: Perú, Bolivia, and Chile.

This dance is kept alive as a devout remembrance of the powers in Bolivia. Many believe that to allow this brazen display of syncretism to be extinguished would signal the downfall of the nation.

devil dance

Blessings and Curses

One lady said to me, “I am a Christian, not a Catholic. Though, I do think it is important we observe cultural traditions so that our children can proudly carry on the Bolivian culture to the next generation.” She said this to explain why she practices the first Friday of the month ritual called the Q’owa during which elements are burned so as to fill the house or establishment with a smoke of blessing. The elements include coca leaves, tiny sugar statues, and dried animal fetus.

During this purification ritual one procures blessings from the Pachamama to ward off curses of all sorts, according to their practitioners.

Spiritual Warfare

These are only three examples of spiritual engagement in Bolivia: burnt animal sacrifices to the Pachamama, dances displaying deep seated beliefs of powerful principalities, and gifts laid before the Devil’s Uncle by people cowering in caves. I could go on. I imagine you, too, could share about the spiritual practices of the people of your nation.

Related articles:

Participating in the religious ceremonies of other faith traditions
This I Used To Believe
Can Nations Change?
Voice of the National ~ an uncomfortable conversation

Since the start of this blog collaborative people have requested articles on the topic of ‘Spiritual Warfare’. Due to the beautiful diversity of denominational and theological beliefs represented in our global readership we the editors have requested the team of writers avoid attempts to indoctrinate or persuade, thereby excluding people. Rather, we present what we believe and invite people to respectful conversations in hopes to promote encouragement and growth.

Coca: Repurpose or Eradicate

Bolivia’s top export is coca leaves. It happens to be the main raw ingredient of cocaine, though it does have many other uses. Some believe that eradication is the only solution for the evils produced by drug lords. Others are convinced that the crops can be repurposed for harmless uses.

Might these be two different approaches to the spiritual practices of the nations we serve?

We can enter with the belief we are called to eradicate evil and any evidence it ever existed. Like in Chile where the 31st of October is not Halloween but legally observed as the national holiday: The Day of Evangelical Churches and Protestants.

Or we can take the approach of repurposing, or redeeming, the spiritual practices. The famed story of the Peace Child shows us a missionary who saw the story of Christ in the practices of the tribes who would offer a child to establish peace. Salvation came to the people through the message of this tradition.

Ghost Stories

Under the influence of the oppression of evil spirits in your life and the lives of the people of your nation, what works? Let’s talk about it. Share your stories of liberation from the hand of the enemy. Share the practices which brought freedom.

photo credit: Bolivia Travel Site

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Avoiding Mission Drift

by Chris Lautsbaugh on October 29, 2014

We’ve seen Christian organizations publicly wrestle with change in recent times.

InterVarsity is facing this pressure to allow non-Christians to be a part of their leadership. This is resulting in them being banned from certain campuses. Will they change some of their core values?

World Vision battled with adopting new policies, leading to a back and forth battle as to whether this caused them to drift. Unfortunately this happened in full view of millions.

Even pawn shops have drifted. They were founded by the Fransicians as an alternative to loan sharks, designed to help the poor. Over time, pawn shop owners lost their identity and drifted from their purpose.

Could this ever happen to our charities?

Tale of two organizations:

Two organizations were founded by Presbyterian ministers to help sponsor children in need. One drifted.

Child Fund, formerly Christian Children’s Fund has nothing to do with Christianity anymore, while Compassion International has remained mission true.

Both Harvard and Yale started as Christian educational institutions set on developing Christian formation. Neither are today.

Mission drift is inevitable if you do nothing to prevent it.

We must take steps to actively prevent it. It is the natural course for organizations without focused and deliberate steps to stop it

Peter Greer is the president of HOPE International, a global faith-based microfinance organization based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He recently spoke at the Catalyst Conference I attended.

He has written a fantastic book, Missions Drift, which I highly recommend. All of the above examples are detailed this book.

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Missions True Organizations

“In its simplest form, Missions True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable (unchanging): their values and their purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.”

This does not mean Missions True organizations do not change, adapt, or strive for excellence. Jesus’ ministry looked different for different folks.

Young life started with barbershop quartets as an evangelism strategy. These would not be nearly as efffective today, so they adapted while maintaining their mission.

5 Things Missions True Organizations Do:
1. Recognize Christ is the difference.
2. Affirm that faith sustains them.
3. Understand that functional atheism is the path of least resistance. (becoming Christian in name only)
4. Be willing to make hard decisions to prevent drift.
5. Differentiates means from mission – changes to reinforce core identity, not drift from it.

The book details countless examples of this and how organizations can give themselves check-ups.

Greer lists 7 Steps to prevent drift (these are all entire chapters in the book.) I’ve detailed these to a greater extend on my website, NoSuperHeroes. Click here to read, 7 Steps for Preventing Missions Drift.

The book is a very encouraging read to those of us in faith-based missions and development. He shares an incredible quote from Matthew Paris, a confirmed atheist, who wrote the following in the British Times.

Now as a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGO’s, government projects, and international aid efforts. The alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa, Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”

Staying Mission True in our lives will bear fruit!

The concept of drift is not isolated in our teams. It happens organizationally, but also on a personal level. Countless marriages start out well and then drift, finding themselves in a entirely different place. Our personal walk with God and mission is not exempt either.

If you believe you are immune then you are the most vulnerable.

Let’s not be naive and bury our heads in the sand. Ask the hard questions.

In what areas of life and organizations are we at risk for drift? Where has it already occurred?

For more on this interesting topic, please visit missiondriftbook.com. Remember to stop by NoSuperHeroes for further discussion from Peter’s book on the topic of Missions Drift.

photo credit: Bev Goodwin via photopin cc

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Distractions and the Voice of Jesus

by Elizabeth Trotter on October 23, 2014

distractions1

Follow Me. Jesus whispered these words to me a few months ago. I was in church. It felt like He was right there in front of me, pointing His finger at me and saying, “Elizabeth Trotter? Yes, you. I want you to follow Me. You — just you — follow Me.”

Rarely does Scripture come to me fast, strong, and seemingly out of nowhere like this. I knew this phrase came from John 21, so I opened up my Bible and read it. I hadn’t been reading this story lately, and it wasn’t a story that had ever meant much to me before. So I knew I had to pay attention to this message from God.

Over the next few weeks, I read the story, and re-read it, and then read it some more. Because the truth was, I was distracted, and I desperately needed to hear its message.

One morning after the Resurrection, Jesus and His disciples are by the sea, eating bread and fish. Jesus starts talking to Peter and asks, “Do you love me?” Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus tells him, “Then feed my sheep.”

A second time Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” A second time Peter answers, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” And a second time Jesus tells him, “Then feed my sheep.”

Yet again Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter’s feelings were hurt, and he answered again, “Yes Lord, you know I love you. And again Jesus tells him, “Then feed my sheep.”

Jesus then tells Peter what kind of death he is doing to die. Peter turns to look behind him and sees John. Peter then asks Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what’s that to you?? As for you – follow me.”

I get distracted by so many things. I get distracted by feeling sorry for myself. I tell myself I’m such a terrible missionary because I don’t speak the language very well. I tell myself I don’t measure up, and I’ll never measure up. That I will never be good enough or worthy enough, and that everybody is rejecting me.

I get distracted by jealousy. I’ll see someone else who’s been given amazing ministry opportunities, and I’ll wish I had those opportunities. Why can’t that be me, God? Why can’t you let me do that? Why does she get to do that when You know I want to do it? Whether it’s teaching math and chemistry, or attending births as a doula, I can get distracted by what I don’t get to do instead of finding joy in what God has assigned me to do.

But the biggest distraction for me, by far, is controversies within the American church. Since I’ve moved overseas, I’ve kept up on hot-button issues in the United States. I tell myself I do this so that “I’m not out of the loop when I return.” But I’m not just informing myself when I read controversial blogs; I become emotionally embroiled in them.

I read what all the online voices are saying, and I become very worried over the direction of the Church. I have intense intellectual and emotional reactions to inflammatory blog posts. I formulate arguments in my head to combat them. ABC is right, and here’s why; XYZ is wrong, and here’s why. Surely that’s helpful, right?

Wrong. It doesn’t help. All it does is agitate and depress me. It distracts me from doing what God has already clearly told me I need to be doing with my time. Which means I’m wasting a lot of the time He has given me. It means I’m squandering His gifts.

Distractions, distractions, distractions. Not a single distraction is helpful for ministry, or my own personal spiritual life. Each distraction keeps me from doing what God has called me to do in this season of my life. When I get distracted by feelings of jealousy or inadequacy, or by worry over the future of the Church, I don’t have the time or energy to do any of the things He has called me to do. I cannot fulfill His purposes in my life if I spend all my time reading other people’s angry words.

The truth is, it’s not my job to guide the global Church. That’s the job of Jesus, and He can handle it. Hearing from God and writing out of my own relationship with Him does not in any way require that I be up-to-date on church controversies. It just doesn’t. I can follow Him without regard to what He is doing in anyone else’s life but my own. The truth is, I don’t have to know about religious debates in order to love my husband and children well, and to love women and teen girls well.

The truth is, I can do what God is calling me to do, right now, and I can be joyful in it, instead of being jealous. The truth is, I will never measure up as a “perfect” missionary or a ministry wife, because no one measures up — and that is actually the good news about Jesus’s sacrifice.

But when I’m distracted by any of these things, I’m not paying attention to God. When I’m distracted by these things, I don’t notice the person right in front of me. And I won’t be able to love them if I can’t see them. If I allow myself to be distracted, I won’t be able to follow the Greatest Commands to love God and people.

The day Jesus reminded me to follow Him only, I had been sitting in church, emotionally twisted over yet another American church issue. And I suddenly felt He was saying to me, “You – Follow Me. Stop turning your head to look at other people. Look at Me. Regardless of what anyone else around you is doing, I want you to follow Me.” In that moment, I realized I had been wasting my life on distractions. I wasn’t following; I was worrying.

Hearing the word of God on this issue made me re-evaluate my life. I can’t waste my time reading controversial blogs; instead, I must protect my time by staying away from online debates. I must say “no” to them — and I’m learning to. Refusing to read certain kinds of blogs releases me from the internal pressure to “save the American church.”

I must simply focus on what I can do, today, to serve God and others. I remind myself of Jesus’s words quite often. If I want to follow Jesus, then I, along with Peter, can’t look around at other people. I have to look at Jesus. I have to follow Him alone.

What about you? What has God already called you to do in this season of your life?

What distracts you and keeps you from fulfilling His purposes?

Is Jesus saying to you, today, “Follow Me”?

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selling books on ship

Look pretty normal don’t I? Ok, I admit I was a bit scrawny but I come from a long line of skinny people and it was 95 degrees with 90% humidity in the Solomon Islands, so it tends to curb the appetite!  My point is that you’d never know by looking at me that I was taking advantage of every opportunity to look at porn.  On the outside I was the “fearless Bible Translator bringing the Word of God to the Bibleless people” but on the inside I hated myself and was doubting that God could really love me or if He even existed.

So why write a post like this for all the world to see? Well, several friends have asked me how I feel about having my struggle with pornography out there for all the world to see now that Kay has published her memoir so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about that a bit.  There are two main reasons:

  •  Anyone can become addicted to porn, including people in ministry & leadership.

We should all know the statistics by now about how often pornography is being viewed by men and women.  But just in case you’ve forgotten, here are a few stats from Covenant Eyes that relate to the Church:

porn stats

The one that jumps out at me is that 75% of pastors don’t make themselves accountable to anyone.  I’m not really surprised though–obviously I chose not to be accountable when I was a missionary!  Even though I knew I needed help, the shame and the guilt along with the possible loss of a career were too much for me to overcome.

  • There’s too much shame about pornography in the Christian community

My desire is to see the Church become a place where we can talk about issues like pornography without freaking out.  A place where someone can share their struggles and know they are loved and supported and not viewed as some sort of sexual pervert.

“It’s a tragedy when churches shame people who are wrestling with sexual bondage. When we do that we become the priests of further condemnation instead of hope. We deepen the shame with the bony finger of a critical god, instead of revealing the open arms of a crucified Savior.”  Ted Roberts in Pure Desire

“The majority of the people I have counseled could give a long list of things they are good at. They also could state their character strengths and gifts. Most of them deeply love the Lord, but they didn’t understand that we are as sick as the secrets we hold.”  Ted Roberts

What can we do?

Make ourselves accountable.

Covenant Eyes is the software package we use.  We like it because it sends a report to the accountability partners we’ve chosen.  Our accountability partners are constantly aware of how we’re doing.  If we need help, it’s right there, already in place.

Here’s a great article that provides a step by step plan to get all of your devices set up for internet accountability.

Educate ourselves.

Be willing to read up on what’s really out there on the internet.  Covenant Eyes has a blog you can subscribe to for free, plus a ton of free downloads addressing the needs of men, women, and families.  Don’t assume it can’t happen in your house.  It can happen.  Be prepared.

Start talking about it!!!

Find people willing to share their personal struggle and recovery with your church.  And it doesn’t just have to be about pornography.  When people start honestly sharing their own struggles in any area, it helps create an atmosphere of acceptance.

Provide resources in your church bookstore or website.

Check out the Pornography Resource page on Kay’s blog for starters.

Encourage your church and mission agency toward internet accountability for all staff.

A pastor/missionary/__________ is just a normal person struggling with the same things that we all struggle with. Let’s not put them on a pedestal expecting them to attain some measure of sinless perfection that is impossible to attain.  There needs to be a safe mechanism in place for people in Christian ministry who struggle with sexual purity to get help BEFORE it gets out of control.

Special note to women readers

Since a lot of the readers here are women, I want to tell you that the point of talking about all this is not to freak you out and make your life miserable if you find out your husband is looking at porn.  The point is, to understand how common it is, to talk about it, to learn to manage it together, so that this doesn’t have to be hidden away in shame, where it can’t be healed.

Recovery is possible.  It’s a ton of work, for sure.  But it does happen.

Kay said for years that when she wrote her memoir, it would be called Pornography Saved My Marriage, because that was our experience:  after going through the pain together, after healing together, our marriage was stronger than it had ever been before.  In the end, though, she went with the title As Soon As I Fell.  It’s available now at Amazon in paperback and ebook format.  (Note: You don’t have to own a Kindle to read Kindle ebooks. Amazon has free apps for smartphones and computers.)

We’re also doing a book giveaway on her blog this week which will end at midnight (CST) on Wednesday, October 22nd.  Just subscribe to her blog and you’ll be entered.

Bio: Andy Bruner and his wife Kay are both TCKs.   After meeting in college they joined Wycliffe Bible Translators and spent from 1993-2005 working with the Arosi people in the Solomon Islands.  The Arosi New Testament was dedicated in 2005.  Andy now works for SIL International in Dallas.

I’m always happy to talk to anyone who is struggling with pornography.  If you want to contact me privately feel free to contact me at brunerfamATgmailDOTcom.

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the gift of a voice

by Kay Bruner October 20, 2014

“I feel awful.  Something inside me is squeezing me so bad I can hardly breathe.” With those first words of Letters Never Sent, Ruth Van Reken spoke straight to my TCK heart.  It was 1988, I was a senior in college, the book was brand-new, and for the first time in my life, somebody besides [...]

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Where is the God of Deborah?

by Marilyn October 17, 2014

“Where was the God of Deborah? Deborah, whose words ‘March on, my soul; Be strong!’ echoed God’s affirmation of the strength and leadership of women. Where was the God of Hagar? Hagar, who was cast out in a desert as hot as the one where I stood, certain she would die only to be met [...]

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Who am I really crying for anyway?

by Richelle Wright October 15, 2014

One day, I opened up my Facebook feed and right there was this picture: IF we’d stayed in Niger, our oldest daughter would be graduating from high school with this amazing group of kids representing at least seven different countries… June 2015. But we didn’t stay. God’s path for our family led a very different [...]

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safety on the mission field

by Sarah Goodfellow October 13, 2014

A few weeks ago we were robbed. The men came while we were sleeping and stole our tv, computer, and some cash. Thankfully no one encountered them and we are all safe. We were most disappointed to lose some of the pictures on our computer because we hadn’t backed it up in 3 months, but [...]

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No, Seriously, Laugh.

by Jonathan Trotter October 9, 2014

My dad was a dentist. And I’m not sure if it was all that time around nitrous oxide or what, but he loved to laugh. In fact, I remember many times, with babies screaming (there were five in diapers at one time in my house — long story, tell you later), he’d smile and say, [...]

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Please Don’t Feed The Monks

by Lisa McKay October 6, 2014

Tonight* my husband, Mike, and I took the little dog and walked down to one of our favorite restaurants in Luang Prabang from which to watch the sun set over the Mekong. While we were eating and watching the long-boats glide downriver in golden light, two tourists at the next table struck up a conversation [...]

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“Help! I’ve Fallen off the Pedestal and Now it’s Crushing Me!”

by Editor October 3, 2014

Pedestals. They’re built high and they fall hard. In this guest post Carole Sparks takes us into the anatomy of a fall. It’s not an easy story but the redemption is there and it is sweet. May you hear these words today and know that there is “no hierarchy in the kingdom.” You can read [...]

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Funny Things Third Culture Kids Say

by Rachel Pieh Jones October 1, 2014

Kids say the darndest things. Parents make the darndest lists out of them. Writers published the darndest lists of the darndest things those kids say. Sorry. Some of these are from my own Third Culture Kids, some are from others I know. I want to say before quoting them that I love these kids. I [...]

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