I saw an American soldier reading his Bible, and I wanted to know more.
I grew up in Iraq as the third oldest of eight siblings. My family was untraditional. My mom was Muslim, and my dad was Catholic. They didn’t force any religion on their children, in part because they didn’t take religion very seriously themselves. My father was a wealthy businessman, so we lived comfortably in a large house, blessed with several vehicles, a housekeeper, and more than 250 sheep.
When I was around eight years old, my father’s business began to struggle. The stress from his work made it unpleasant to be around him. He started drinking and hanging out with people who were a bad influence. About a year later, he was getting into trouble with the police on a regular basis. He would end up going to jail roughly 20 times.
His final stint in prison came after the government found out he hadn’t completed his three years of required service in the Iraqi army. He had joined the army for a year during the Iran-Iraq War, but then he ran away.
As punishment, he was sentenced to one year in an underground prison, where he endured complete darkness, except for two minutes above ground each day. There was no shower, and food and water were scarce. Broken from suffering, he grew desperate and cried out to God.
And sure enough, God began profoundly changing my father’s heart. My family noticed a huge difference when he returned from prison. He became a hard worker, less selfish and an overall happier man who always had a smile on his face. As an example, one week after his release, my father and I went shopping for clothes. We ran into a man wearing tattered clothing who was obviously homeless. My father had compassion for this man and, stripping down to his underwear, gave away the clothes he was ...
Professor uses Dr. Seuss as a case study.
There are a lot of books and articles that help prepare God’s people for working in other cultures. Most of the material provides insights into cultural difference and for understanding how to adapt to, interact with, and share the gospel with those from another culture. The perspective is usually that of understanding the cultural other. In this article, I am turning the reflection back on self and one’s own culture.
For years, a major company promoted its products with the tagline, “Don’t leave home without it.” The goal of the propaganda was to convince the consumer that the best way to deal with money while traveling was by using their products, originally traveler’s checks and then a credit card.
With their products you could go anywhere. I am paraphrasing their tagline to “Culture: You can’t leave home without!” The lesson that I want you to remember is that no matter where you go, your culture goes with you—for good or bad. The goal is to enable you—whether as a short-term or career missionary or as a church member connecting with a different culture at work or across the street—to use culture for good rather than having culture become a barrier in God’s service.
The starting point is to recognize that we all have a culture. One common tendency is to think that others have culture (usually seen as exotic) and we don’t. Another perception is that culture refers to particular aspects of life, usually the arts. I recently drove by a sign for a city’s “cultural district” probably referring to aspects of art, music, museums, and theater. In this mindset, a cultured person is focused on the arts of say NYC, or better yet, ...
Small town pastors are doing big things for God’s Kingdom.
I recently introduced my daughter to the 2006 Pixar movie Cars. Sorry, if I’m ruining the movie for anyone, but it has been out since 2006, so tough. The movie follows a race car named Lightning McQueen who ends up stranded in a small town off Route 66 called Radiator Springs. It wasn’t until I was watching the movie, for what seemed like the thousandth time, that I noticed the great work Pixar put into showing how society sees these towns and how special these rural towns once were and can still be today.
The town of Radiator Springs represents the state of many rural towns today - on the verge of being a forgotten ghost town. Once a booming stop along a famous highway that connected the east to the west, now very little traffic drives through these towns due to new interstates that bypass the town or big industries moving out to larger, more central, cities.
The main character in the movie, while stuck in the small town performing community service, spends half the movie complaining about his talents being wasted working in the town, while neglecting to see the importance of doing anything to transform or restore the small, rural community.
I believe this has been the attitude of many pursuing vocational ministry. We treat rural areas like a place to get gas as we drive through, rather than a place to call home. Growing up outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, I spent most of my life church planting in smaller rural communities with my family. I can remember driving the old Route 66 highway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, passing through run-down forgotten downtowns where people use to gather, seeing collapsing houses that once brought life into the community, and stopping at the few remaining gas stations that have survived ...