Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Most Christlike Man?

Just finished a fascinating biography of Mohandas Gandhi by Louis Fischer.  Published in 1954, this thing's been around for a while.  What really caught my attention was how Gandhi lived out Jesus' command to love our enemies.  I know it's a broad generalization, but I don't see this happening in our Western iterations of 'christianity' today.  Even among us missionaries, I see far more of "if you hose me, watch your back" than "let's go bless that guy who is trying to destroy our ministry."  Gandhi makes the following staggering observation:

Much of what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount.  And please mark my words, I am not speaking at the present moment of Christian conduct.  I am speaking of the Christian belief, of Christianity as it is understood in the West.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Perfect Day

photo Clive Gray
Monday, February 14, 2011.  Broke ground from home base at Sentani five minutes after the airport opened.  Landing at Eipomek an hour later, the sun had yet to penetrate the tight little valley and the airstrip was still in the shadows.  I met my friend Andrew there at the top of the airstrip.  The plan for the day is to move him to the village of Okbap, with a stop in Omban along the way--both airstrips in the Ketengban territory.

I need to pay more attention to my cargo manifests.  Beyond the four passengers I had from Sentani, I didn't actually know what I had on board the airplane in terms of cargo until we were off-loading in Eipomek.  Turns out I had a couple of kings in the airplane.  About a dozen boxes with no labels on them...they held the first portions of the Old Testament to be translated into the Ketengban language: 1 & 2 Kings.

We loaded back up and headed over to Omban.  Heading east, we're straight into the early morning sun that brilliantly illuminates the cloud deck below us.  I never get tired of the views this office affords.  Fifteen minutes later we're flying the amazing approach in the Omban valley.

We're here to drop off some of those boxes--freshly printed scriptures for distribution to the churches in the area.  Andrew also wants to check out his house--he hasn't been 'home' for a while and will be coming back here with his wife Anne in a couple of weeks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

On My Way

Matthew has always been my favorite Gospel...but the good Dr. Luke sure gives the reformed tax collector a run for his money.

Reading through the parable of the sower the other morning.  I would normally breeze past the parts about those deplorable people represented in the bad soil, though I might feel a bit sorry for them for a moment.  But this time, I looked closely at how Jesus described the hard path, the rocks and the thorns and looked for myself in these word pictures in Luke chapter 8.  Jesus' description of the seed that falls among the thorns was particularly piercing to me.

The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

Choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures.  I can see myself in that.  But I noticed something more on this read through, something I hadn't seen before.  I noticed that those of us in this category 'hear' the word of God, but as we go on our way we get swamped by the cares of this world.  Isn't that the crux of it?  We encounter God...and then?  We go on our way.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Church In A Very Small Place

Papua is one of the few areas of Indonesia that is considered ‘Christian.’  The local church I attend built a large new structure for the express purpose of being able to do ministry better.  I don't see how the cavernous structure has changed us much except that now most of us can't understand much of what is said from the pulpit because the sound echoes around the inside so badly.  I certainly don't see any evidence that we're doing ministry any better.

About the time our church building was finished, I had to make a quick trip to the opposite end of the archipelago and while there I stayed in the home of an Indonesian friend. This part of the country is definitely not considered 'Christian,' nor is it particularly friendly to those who call themselves by that name (three churches were burned to the ground just last week).  The evening I arrived, my friend had a ‘church’ meeting to attend and invited me along. I have no idea where we ended up because we drove for over an hour through dark, winding back streets until we stopped in front of a small unfinished house in a long row of small unfinished houses. My friend and I went inside, joining about 15 other men already there.  The windowless room had no furniture whatsoever.  Completely bare.  We sat along the walls on the concrete floor. We started with a time of worship.  It was  unbelievable.  A guy gently strummed a guitar and the rest of us sang softly--we couldn’t let anyone outside hear what was going on. Halfway through the second song a torrential rain started...we sang with chance anyone would hear us with the clamor of the rain on the tin roof.  My friend shared from the Word. Then they had a time of sharing their burdens with each other. It was only at this point that I realized that these men enjoying this sweet fellowship were a pretty eclectic bunch of Jesus' followers.  They covered the denominational and doctrinal spectrum: a pentecostal, a catholic, several evangelicals, a member of a liberal denomination...and I don't remember the labels for the rest of them. Because their own fellowships had no church buildings (and very few members), these guys met here regularly to worship.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dry Baby

My post on What They Didn't Teach Me In Flight School was a bit hard on babies as a demographic.  I feel like I need to balance things out a bit, especially in light of the fact that yesterday I got to hold this gorgeous baby girl in the village of Omban.  She came to me dry, and went back to momma dry...I guess she didn't get the memo.

There were a lot of babies at the airstrip at Omban yesterday.  In fact, we'd had three babies on their mother's laps on the short hop from Okbap to Omban...all of them dutifully screaming at the top of their lungs...they got the memo.  (Every missionary flight school needs a screaming baby simulator.  You may be able land an airplane on a dime, but can you do your pre-takeoff checklist while a trio of distressed babies do violence to your auditory system?) Out of all the babies at Omban, I specifically sought this one out because she's special.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Deepest Need

Reading through Luke now...what a treasure.  A week or so ago, I read that familiar story in chapter 5 about the paralyzed guy with the incredible friends.  At dinner, I read it to my son Cameron...right up to the part where these friends disassemble the roof and lower the paralytic down in front of Jesus.  I then asked Cameron, "So, what is this guy's greatest need?"

"He needs to be healed!" came Cameron's response.

"So that's what Jesus is going to do, right?" I asked.


"OK, let's keep reading."  Picking up the story again in verse 20 of the 5th chapter of Luke we read:

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."

This man's deepest need wasn't to be healed, but to be forgiven.  We need to sit back and think about this for a minute.  The man is obviously physically messed up.  He is obviously desperate for relief and healing.  But Jesus looks past the 'obvious' and sees a man who is paralyzed by sin, his soul limp and atrophied from being held in those powerful bonds for far too long. And so, Jesus heals his soul, right there on the spot.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What They Didn't Teach Me In Flight School

I love Papuan babies.
And they love getting me wet.
There are only a handful of schools on the planet specifically focused on training people to serve as missionary pilots.  I was fortunate enough to attend what many consider to be the best in the business.  The fine folks at Moody Aviation did a standout job of teaching us aspiring bush pilots how to keep the aluminum out of the ditches, and I can say with much certainty that part of the reason I'm alive today is because of the principles instilled in me in Moody's hallowed halls.

But...they didn't teach me everything I needed to know to fly successfully in the wilds of Papua.  Not by a long shot.  And so, in the interest of improving the quality of product that Moody produces, I find it my duty to produce the following list for Moody’s consideration in their ongoing efforts to provide the best education for young missionary aviators.  May future graduates be better prepared than I was to answer the following critical questions:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Beast Still Lives

I woke up the other day and discovered that I was in my forties.  No warning.  Just happened.  None of my so-called friends had the guts to tell me about it...felt like I'd been going through life with my fly open and everyone being too concerned about my feelings to tell me about it.

In any case, I'm finding that it's not too bad.

I love to wrestle with my son Cameron.  One evening recently, he was gaining the upper hand (another sure sign you're in your 40's is when an 11 year old can get the upper hand in wrestling) so I did what any dad in this situation would do.  I cheated.  I broke our 'no tickling' rule.  Saved my bacon.  As he gasped for breath, Cameron sputtered, "Dad, how can you be 42 and so immature!"