Pictures From Bolivia

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It’s a pleasure to share these photographs from Bolivia with you. It’s even more of a pleasure to have a photographer as keen-eyed and respectful as Danny serving on our team!

Here’s the most recent gallery.
Here’s their family blog.

Final Financials for A World of Hope

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This is truly staggering: A World of Hope has broken the $50,000 barrier! The final tally is $50,265! This money is earmarked for various country-specific projects in several different fields.

Well for example, it means that we have enough money for our team in Bolivia to drill roughly 100 wells in communities all around the country. Imagine the implications! Now countless people will have access to cleaner, safer water, and they won’t have to travel miles to find it! While physical needs are being provided, there is a great potential to build relationships, and introduce people to the One who can satisfy their spiritual thirst as well!

In Ukraine it means that we now have enough money to enable Life Discipleship Ministries (LDM) to continue on strongly. LDM is partnering with Dnepro Bible Institute, and offers counselling and counsellor training. Ukrainian believers have problems like all of us. They are benefiting from the life of faith and grace that is being taught in our EFC churches and supported by a counselling ministry like LDM. In the words of one of our missionaries there, LDM is a ministry complementing our churches in helping them to “learn to live and walk in victory.”

But what it really means is that you — our EFCCM donors — are faithful, engaged and excited about missions! This is testimony to individuals who are responding to God, and who want to partner with Him to change the world. I am personally very encouraged and inspired by that — it will be a pleasure to report on what God has in store for 2008 with the resources you’ve entrusted to us!

BuzZ Online Episode 9!

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Click here to listen to Episode 9 of the BuzZ Online!

All the way from Bolivia, Merle joined me for a quick interview at Home Office. We talked about El Candelero (the Candlestick), a coffee house that is unique in its area as an alcohol-free establishment. There is a difference between coffee shop and coffee house — to be quite honest a coffee house sounds a lot more fun!

The coffee house ministry recently gave birth to a church. And plans are in place to spin off another coffee house in a different area of Tarija. Cool things are happening!

Christmas Contrasts: Celebrations in Japan

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Christmas has so many unique meanings and interpretations around the world. As we reflect back on the end of 2007, I thought it’d be interesting and challenging to share some of them with you. Let’s start with Japan. The following is paraphrased from Ann, who has seen all of this firsthand for several years now.

Japan’s focus on Christmas is almost entirely commercial. Ironically, while seasonal carols that spell out the true meaning of Christmas are played regularly in stores, they are in English and so are incomprehensible to most shoppers.

Santa-san (Mr. Santa) is a popular figure of the holidays. The well-known military persona associated with an international fast-food chicken chain (just trying to avoid brand names here) is often represented with a full-size statue at the front door. During Christmas, he gets into the festivities with a full Santa makeover. That makes sense as chicken is a typical holiday food. Another festive food is what they call short cake: “a two-layer sponge cake, decorated with whipped cream and fresh strawberries”. (That actually sounds good to me — right now!)

As you may imagine, Christmas lights are also a big deal. Several of the large parks hold lighting presentations, and some towns even host lighting competitions. Twinkling lights and neon shapes of Santa, reindeer, snowflakes and even Snoopy(!) are used to adorn buildings and homes.

As it is a culturally recognised holiday, there is much opportunity for the church to put Christ back into Christmas. The film Nativity (in this case dubbed into Japanese) played in theatres all through December, and cooperative evangelistic efforts backed it up with tracts and booklets explaining its meaning and importance. There were also outreach to children, and church-hosted Christmas Sunday celebrations. In such a secular, materialistic culture, Christmas might be the best chance for the church to reach out with the truth.

“Our prayer for Japan is that each year, more and more people will find the delights of the Christmas season centered around belief in the birth of their Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Indeed!

Shards of Hope

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The picture we have of Africa is typically pretty bleak. It’s most often hard for me to even face the situations that our media presents to us, because they are mostly pretty accurate in this particular case. But sometimes little snippets of humanity sneak out between the cracks.

There’s a website that I want to share: check out Afrigadget. It’s one that speaks to me because it’s about indigenous and organic innovation. Perhaps this seems trivial when set against war, poverty, famine and disease. But I take a different view.

These people are inventing their way to a better life. What resonates with me is that the people on this site have their humanity restored to them. Their individual stories are important and valuable. Their contributions to their world are inspiring, not just to their communities, but to a host of others, even thousands of miles away! (They have so much to teach us about efficiency and simplicity!)

Every time I feel like there’s no reason to hope, God provides me with a little nudge to show me I’m wrong. And often it comes from pretty unexpected places.