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    Verdicks in Karamoja


    • Sat, 27 May 2017 18:03:55 +0000: Headless Chicken Alert - Verdickmoja
      Presently the phrase, “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” seems to typify too well our life. Certain seasons of life have this texture of frenetic, seemingly erratic activity. It changes our concept of need and rest, helps us to better understand our limitations and our abilities. And often drives you to […]
    • Tue, 18 Apr 2017 11:33:48 +0000: Easter Lamb - Verdickmoja
      “Are you having sheep in your place?” “No, there are no sheep on my side. You should ask Akol. He is the one managing that species.” And thus began my search for an Easter lamb. I had seen them grazing in the fields around our home, so I thought it would be easy. Three people […]

    Okkens in Karamoja


    • Mon, 08 May 2017 19:28:00 +0000: Our week - Karamoja Okkens
      nearby view from the boys' hike one day

      Ending our Saturday play with a bible story

      just a cobra

      dinner with the Verdick girls

      opening day even in Nakaale...baseball

    • Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:12:00 +0000: Photo Update - Karamoja Okkens

      beginning phase of the latest project

      Dead Genet

      more progress

      Spring piano recital



    • Mon, 29 Apr 2013 12:24:57 +0000: SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT! MAY NEWSLETTER 2013 - Serving Inkas
      It is our tremendous privilege to be able to share some exciting news with you today. Please read our latest news here: Special Announcement     Share on Facebook See how else we’re doing and how you can help: Join our team!
    • Mon, 15 Apr 2013 23:11:05 +0000: Fear, prejudice and preference - Serving Inkas
      Juan Pablo is a Colombian brother who is young in the faith.  He is passionate about evangelism and loves to preach on the street corners and on public buses. When I received an invitation to preach with him, my first instinct (Having finished seminary not too long ago) was to kindly redirect his misguided perceptions [...]
    • Tue, 25 Dec 2012 14:14:53 +0000: ¡Feliz Navidad….and some special news! - Serving Inkas
      Click below to see our Christmas card and special news: Click here if you would like to see the PDF version: GutierrezfamilyChristmas2012   Share on Facebook See how else we’re doing and how you can help: Join our team!

    The Gutierrez Gang


    • Fri, 20 May 2016 17:57:47 +0000: Learning from my child’s school - The Gutierrez Gang
      A few months ago, we decided to put our kids in Peruvian Christian school. That isn’t a sentence I thought I’d be typing, we were homeschooling our kids while on the mission field, and things were going well. But over the last few months we started realizing that despite Jeremiah being in soccer a few […]
    • Tue, 14 Apr 2015 00:53:25 +0000: A year later - The Gutierrez Gang
      This morning I realized that as of today, we have officially been back in Peru for 6 months now.  Which also means that it has been a full year since I last wrote on this dusty old blog.  Last time I wrote, I was big ball of nerves as we were gearing up to fly […]
    • Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:30:29 +0000: In 2 Weeks… - The Gutierrez Gang
      …We will be boarding a plane headed for the U.S.  It is hard to believe that the time has actually come for Simeon to have his big skull surgery.  It is something that has been on our minds and hearts for about 7 months now, something that was always in the distant future, but now, […]

    The Blairs


    • Sat, 06 Aug 2016 10:57:00 +0000: August 2016 - Mark & Dayna's Blog

      Warm…very warm…Summer Greetings from Beijing!                    August 2016

           We have just concluded the saddest part of our “Gathering, Growing, and Going” ministry here, saying good-bye to dozens of students going back to their homelands around the world. Yes, we praise the Lord that so many Biblically grounded, gifted, and well educated young adults will give their hearts and souls to make Jesus known in their nations and congregations! And, we have had a small part in helping them grow more like Him! But having grown to love them, it is hard to say good-bye. Pray for them as they settle – often the ‘shock’ of going back home can be surprising and serious! – and seek the next steps of their lives and ministries. 

      In the next couple weeks we will say hello to hundreds of new students who will Gather in our congregations and small groups! Pray that we will be ready! And that the Lord will bring many to Himself this coming academic year.

      In June we had a great trip “next door” to Almaty, Kazakhstan. It was a special joy to see our son Josiah and granddaughter Maylee.

      Please continue to pray for the Church in Central Asia. There is great opposition to Gospel from governments and Islam. It has now been 7 years since we moved to China, from living 11 years in Almaty. Sadly, Bible schools there have been ordered shut down. Opportunities for training leaders are few. Facilities of Kazakhstan Evangelical Christian Seminary are still open but usage is limited. (One of our friends led a conference for “Post-Abortion” recovery there the week we were in Almaty.) Local churches grow slowly but believers are growing in maturity. One “M” org had the largest number of Kazakhstani believers ever on mission trips throughout Central Asia and China this summer. Nearly 100 local believers were sent - and their churches have paid all costs! This is a sign of a maturing Church. For one week Mark taught a night course on “Biblical Interpretation” for an evening seminary program. Here were some of the students…
      In July we had a Beijing International Christian Fellowship Staff Retreat. We bused a couple of hours to Beidaihe – where the Great Wall meets the Pacific Ocean. It was a great time – team building, growing in the Word, relaxing, and encouraging one another in the Lord. 

      Our Green Team won Third Place…see why!?

      Dayna is doing a great job keeping Hawaiian traditions going in our church here. Terry, our faithful Church Administrator turned 30 a couple weeks ago. So Dayna and his wife, Joy, made 30 leis which 30 of our members presented to him at the close of our morning service. These leis were filled with lots of goodies, including some of Terry’s favorite snacks like Tea Boiled Eggs, Chicken Feet, Pumpkin seeds, and assorted pickled vegetables in foil packets…anybody hungry!? Lots of good eats here in Beijing! 
      Later this month we plan to travel to Indonesia for the Synod of the Holy Word Christian Church in Jakarta. They have graciously sent and support a wonderful pastor and his family to serve our Indonesian congregation here in Beijing. They have asked Mark to share with their pastors on “The Life of Believers in the view of the Book of Ecclesiastes” and preach in one of their congregations there.

      We hope to return to Beijing refreshed and ready for a busy Fall season of ministry. We will start the “new year” preaching thru the Letter to Titus, a great blueprint for the life and faith of the local church. We are planning some new ways to expand our ministry, more small groups on campuses, and Sunday “Lunch Time Talks” at a nearby restaurant following our morning services. We’re also working on “Welcome to Beijing” flash drive that we’re loading with information to help people land well – from medical care, great shops, tourist sites, how to get a driver’s license and where to buy plants to help clean the air in one’s apartment! We want our new coming neighbors to feel loved!  

      Thank you so much for your prayers and support that enables us to touch the nations from here in the Capital of the world’s most populous nation!

      Yours in Him who has all authority in heaven and earth, Mark and Dayna Blair

      Our Mission  Pioneers - 10123 William Carey Dr - Orlando, FL 32832 USA        
      (Checks should be made out to ‘Pioneers’ – with a separate note attached saying: ‘Mark and Dayna Blair, Beijing.’                         Electronic transfers can be sent to: http://www.pioneers.org/Give/AutomatedGiving.aspx )

      Our Blog  www.blairstan.blogspot.com  /  Skype  blairstan

      Our Ministry Beijing International Christian Fellowship www.bicf.org/zgc

      Mark just finished preaching thru the Gospel of Matthew:

      BICF Sermon App for Apple or Android: www.bicf.org/#app   (ZGC sermon tab)                  

    • Mon, 06 Jun 2016 10:42:00 +0000: Greetings from Blue Sky Beijing - Mark & Dayna's Blog

      Greetings from Blue Sky Beijing,                                                                June 2016
      If we grumble about the smog (and we do!) we oughta give thanks for the beautiful days the Lord gives us in this massive, amazing, city where Jesus rules. Here’s some of the ways we see Him working in the last several weeks….

      This is Graduation season here in Beijing. And for Mama Dayna its lei making and giving time. Here’s one of our church’s high school graduates. As more than 70% of our congregation are University students, we are busy with good-byes! Our church motto is “Gathering, Growing, Going” and about a third of our members leave every year. As they go, we are impacting the more than 70 nations they come from. With all the social media connections, we are able to help them transition even better. Just sent some Small Group resources to Mexico City…! 

      In April we attended the “Global Church, Global World” conference in Hong Kong. About 300 leaders from International churches gathered for this unique event, spanning denominational lines, united in Christ. It was so unique that Os Guinness and Ravi Zacharias put us into their busy schedules to come and speak. It was very encouraging. We co-led a workshop on “Integrating International Students & Returnees with International Churches: A Highly Strategic Interface” as you can see below.

      It was a privilege to share this workshop with two friends who have a lifetime of experience reaching International students. We have hosted them here and they spoke very kindly and enthusiastically about what the Lord is doing in our midst. We have an International church that would fall apart if the International students were taken away! They do “Go!” – sadly for us! – but we also get to see them “Grow!” We recently held a Ministry Leaders retreat in the hills surrounding our city; calling on the Lord of the Harvest to help us grow even more.

      Shortly after our retreat we added three more Deacons for our church. Two young (compared to us they’re ALL young!) fathers who have been faithfully serving our people for the last couple years one from China (now an American citizen) the other from Holland. And our new Deaconess is a PhD. student from Uganda. You can see all the Elders and Deacons as we prayed God’s blessings on the newest members of our leadership team.

      As I am preaching toward the end of Matthew on Sunday mornings we recently considered King Jesus’ commendation to those unsuspecting sheep who unexpectedly cared for Him in His hunger, and nakedness, and imprisonment. These words prompted our African Connect Ministry to go out and visit orphans instead of their normal gathering. They found “Sun Village – Beijing” one of seven in this nation where children of prisoners are loved and cared for. It was very encourage to learn how 20 years ago a woman who was a prison worker was so burdened by the children “orphaned” (some sent to relatives, others landing on the streets) when their parents were imprisoned. She, a devout follower of Mao!, got funds and facilities and has now cared for thousands of kids. Some of them – now University graduates – come back to help. So we were welcomed to come play, sing, and share Jesus with these kids…

      Thanks so much for your faithful support and prayers that keep us going strong here. We will be here for most of the summer, saying “Good-byes” and new “Hellos” in August.
      Dayna will help guide our Children’s Program’s (about 100 kids!) for several Sunday’s this summer. They’ll keep cool as they consider the Life of David, with an “Island” theme!
      Mark will co-teach our June Tuesday Training course on “Guidance - How to Follow God in the Choices of Life.”

      Later in June we get to see Josiah and Maylee in Almaty, Kazakhstan! Mark will teach “Biblical Interpretation” for a week in the Reformed Evening Seminary there. We look forward to seeing some of the brothers and sisters we grew to love during our 11 years of serving there.  May the Lord bless you as you “Gather, Grow, and Go” wherever you are!

      With love and prayers, Mark and Dayna Blair

      Our Mission  Pioneers - 10123 William Carey Dr - Orlando, FL 32832 USA                                              
      (Checks should be made out to ‘Pioneers’ – with a separate note attached saying: ‘Mark and Dayna Blair, Beijing.’                     Electronic transfers can be sent to: http://www.pioneers.org/Give/AutomatedGiving.aspx )

      Our Blog  www.blairstan.blogspot.com  /  Skype  blairstan

      Our Ministry Beijing International Christian Fellowship www.bicf.org/zgc

      Hear Mark’s current sermons:

      BICF Sermon App for Apple or Android: www.bicf.org/#app   (ZGC sermon tab)

    • Tue, 22 Mar 2016 10:26:00 +0000: Easter 2016 - Mark & Dayna's Blog

      Greetings from Beijing in the Name of our Crucified and Risen Lord!  
      Happy was probably not the word in our Lord’s mind during this most significant week in human history. As I now preach through Matthew, I am grimly reminded it was a week of insults, tough questions posed by religious leaders trying to trap Him, Satanic attack, betrayal, denial, torture – and then crucifixion!
      But during this Holy Week in Beijing we now rejoice in Him who died and rose again to save us! I (Mark) first heard – and believed – His Gospel at a YMCA Easter camp in 1972. I praise Him for so many years of His faithfulness and mercy. It’s my birthday week – twice – redemption accomplished and applied!
      Dayna and I are very happy to share His Great News in a church full of young people from around the world. Many already follow Jesus, and a number are coming to investigate His claims. Good Friday night members from USA, Uganda, Madagascar, Costa Rica, China, and Ivory Coast will reflect on His seven words from the cross. Choirs, dancers, and preachers are getting ready for our Resurrection celebration! 

      On Palm Sunday I had the joy of dedicating our grandson, Kekoapomaika’i, as his parents Nathan and Heather are here on vacation. In my other arm is Emmanuel whose parents from Nigeria are doctoral students and members of our church. 
       And since we’re bragging about grandkids, we’re proud of how well Maylee did this winter in competitions tearing down the slopes of the Tien Shan Mountains in Kazakhstan!

       Happy Year of the Monkey!
      For 15 days in February we shouted at one another in our small apartment as fireworks exploded outside our 29th floor window. Concussions boomed through the passageways between the 17 30-storey towers in our complex. The population of Beijing dropped by more than half during this period – just 10 million or so of us left here – while hundreds of millions clogged trains, planes, and highways around the nation to be “home” for lunar New Year’s Day. 

      Explosions every night, lots of rubbish every morning!! Yikes!

      During the Lunar New Year break 27 of our young adults from 15 countries spent five days considering their place in God’s
      global mission by taking the Kairos Course (www.kairoscourse.org ) hosted by our church. It was great to see them grapple with this well-packaged course’s presentation of the Biblical, Cultural, Statistical, and Historical viewpoint of world evangelization. 

       We had a nice Chinese New Year’s dinner in our apartment with some of our students from the Pacific islands. It is a joy to see them trusting God while so far from home.

       As our church is full of students, and focused on students, we must “ramp up” our ministry at the beginning of every Spring and Fall term. We usually begin with a Leader’s lunch, the rally and encourage the Team.  
      About 30 of us recently gathered to share, plan, and pray. As 82 Universities are in our immediate “Jerusalem,” we have a “front row seat” to see the Lord of the Nations build His Church. 

      Christy, one of the leaders of our Indonesian congregation, stands to introduce their new Pastor, Edy (with son Benjamin sleeping on his lap) and his wife Katherine capturing the moment. The Holy Word Church in Indonesia has graciously sent them to serve the nearly 100 Indonesian students we have. We’re praying for another 100…at least! 

       Deacon Daniel from Ghana urges more of us to show up on Sunday’s at 7:30 a.m. to help the Set-Up Team he leads. When he graduates in June with his Engineering degree (B.Sc.) we will not only lose a team leader, but a preacher, worship leader, and the guy who always can figure out what’s wrong with the lap top computer! He’s praying about where to do his Masters and Ph.D. – we’d be glad if it were right here in Beijing!

      In April we will attend this gathering of International church leaders in Hong Kong (http://globalchurch.info). We will team with Leiton and Lisa Chinn to lead a workshop on “Integrating International Student Ministry with International Churches.”
      And so the cycle of our ministry goes on – Gathering, Growing, and Going! Thanks to your prayers and generous support, we see dozens transformed from “raw to ready” in the service of King Jesus every year. And now in our 7th year of service here, we’re hearing from those we have sent off. They’re now moms and dads, Ph.D. students in Western nations, Professors, Government workers, pastors, even one woman is Vice President of her African nation!

      Who would ever imagine all that God can do in this most unlikely place. Truly He is the Risen Lord, ruling at the right hand of God.

      Yours in His Sovereign Grip, Mark and Dayna Blair 

      Our Mission  Pioneers - 10123 William Carey Dr - Orlando, FL 32832 USA                                               www.pioneers.org

      (Checks should be made out to ‘Pioneers’ – with a separate note attached saying: ‘Mark and Dayna Blair, Beijing.’ Electronic transfers can be sent to: http://www.pioneers.org/Give/AutomatedGiving.aspx )

      Our Blog       www.blairstan.blogspot.com

      Skype  blairstan

      Our Ministry Beijing International Christian Fellowship www.bicf.org/zgc

      BICF Sermon App for Apple or Android: www.bicf.org/app (ZGC sermon tab)


    • Thu, 06 Apr 2017 12:31:00 +0000: 20 More Things I Have Noticed Upon Returning to America - Gleanings from the Field

      About one week after our family returned to the United States after spending the last four and a half years living and working in Bangkok, Thailand, I wrote a blog about "20 Things I Have Noticed Upon Returning to America."  Those were my initial observations.  But now that our family is more than two months into our stay in the U.S, I have noticed a bunch of other things that I didn't run into during my first week here.

      Reverse culture shock is the gift that keeps on giving, and while I don't walk around every day feeling stressed, there are still a lot of things that make me think, "Well, they don't do it like THAT back in Thailand!"  Sometimes, that is a good thing.  Sometimes that is a bad thing.  But sometimes it is just neutral. Not good - not bad - just different.

      So, without further ado, here are...

      20 More Things I Have Noticed Upon Returning to America

      1. Static shocks!  You just don’t get that in a humid country like Thailand.  It makes me afraid to touch things.
      2. Marshmallow furniture.  Furniture so soft that you feel like your behind is tumbling into a bottomless abyss. 

      3. Heat lamps in bathroom. Not everyplace has these, but in the place we are staying currently, my wife is completely loving these red in-ceiling heat lamps to dry you after a shower.

      4. Unknown breakfast cereals. While visiting someone’s home for breakfast, my 7 year-old daughter asked, "What are Cheerios?” Looks like we have some cultural orientation to do.

      5. Telemarketing.  Ugh.  In Thailand I got 3 calls in 4 years.  Within one week of getting a mobile phone in America, I got 3-4 calls. Ugh.

      6. Soap at every sink.  It is awesome.  This may sound mundane, but up until recently I lived in country where you only get a soap dispenser on the far wall at the end of row of sink basins in a public restroom.  But here in America, no more awkwardly reaching around the guy at the next sink to get soap.  

      7. HUGE pickup trucks.  I didn’t even know they made pick-up trucks this big.  Some of these are so high and so wide, you’d think they were built to haul a tank. 

      8. Options!!!!   Choosing bread, ketchup, and other necessities has never been so complicated.  And for some reason, every processed food product needs to come in one million flavors, as if I really needed 15 varieties of Oreos to choose from.

      9. America LOVES gift cards.  Everyplace has a gift card to sell you, and at the supermarket there are racks and racks of gift cards for every store imaginable.

      10. Organic everything.  Or nearly everything.  And gluten-free is all the rage too.  Even places like Dominos Pizza has gluten-free options.

      11. No condom vending machines in public restrooms.  This is fantastic because I no longer need to come up with a vague, evasive answer when my son asks, “Dad, what does that machine sell?"

      12. Keyless cars!   I rented a car twice and both times we got a keyless car. I am starting to get used to it but it sure is weird.  It doesn’t feel right to not stick a key in the ignition.

      13. Cup holders everywhere!  I think the car we bought might have more cup holders than seats.

      14. Decaf coffee everywhere.  Almost no place in Thailand has decaf.  I asked for it once at the coffee shop I frequented in Bangkok and the guy at the counter just laughed.

      15. Americans are very informal and dress-down.  It is much harder to determine social status just by looking at what someone is wearing.

      16. Driving is so much less stressful.  People aren’t cutting me off all the time or running red lights.  The roads are big.  Signage is often clear and well in advance of where you need to turn.

      17. Sometimes the toilet paper is so soft and cushiony, it almost feels inappropriate to use it for its intended purpose.

      18. Starbucks is not just for the wealthy.  In American Starbucks locations, you find a fascinating cross-section of humanity with eccentricities, odd social manners, and weird ways of dressing.

      19. Most people are unaware that sticky rice is an entirely different variety of rice, not just regular white rice cooked differently.

      20. Seller beware!  Businesses are very careful to keep customers are happy, lest they are sued or have bad publicity.  It is often really easy to return things to the store.


      Sometimes people ask, "Do you feel settled now?" and I don't know how to answer that question simply. Even though we have been here two months and are no longer living out of a suitcase, I don't think we'll ever feel really settled (unless we moved back to the U.S permanently, I suppose).  I am sure there will be more cultural differences that my family and I will run into along the way during the remaining four months of our home assignment. There are lots of things that we are really enjoying about the U.S. but it doesn't quite feel like home. The phrase "Back in Thailand..." is never be too far away from our lips.  But then again Thailand never feels 100% like home because we are not Thai.  But that's okay.  Our philosophy is to enjoy where God has placed us for any given season because he has good plans for us where he has put us.

    • Sat, 28 Jan 2017 13:31:20 +0000: 20 Things I Have Noticed Upon Returning to America - Gleanings from the Field

      After spending the last four and a half years living and working in Bangkok, Thailand, our family recently came back to the United States for a six month home assignment (furlough).  My wife and I grew up here, though our kids have spent most of their lives (so far) in Thailand.  For all of us, however, there have been many new or not-as-familiar-anymore aspect of life in America to get used to. 

      Many people have heard of culture shock, the experience of unsettledness and uncertainty when you experience a foreign culture.  Fewer people, however, are familiar with reverse culture shock, the experience of unsettledness and uncertainty when you re-enter your home culture after being in a foreign culture for a long period of time.  But I can verify that reverse culture shock is a real thing because our family is experiencing it.  Although “shock” might be too strong of a word for it, there are certainly a lot of things to get used to again.  Here’s a list of several things that I have noticed this past week about life in the United States, after having lived in Thailand for a number of years.

      20 Things I Have Noticed Upon Returning to America

      1. Cars sometimes pro-actively stop for us to cross the road before we even step into the road.
      2. Plastic bags at the supermarket checkout counter cost 10 cents now.
      3. Roads are big and wide.
      4. It is VERY quiet at night - no construction noise, no racing motorcycles, no rattling of cars going over road gratings next door, no cat on the roof, no bumps in the night.
      5. Electrical outlets don’t spark when you plug stuff in.
      6. Things in homes are big and fluffy, very comfortable.
      7. Cars drive really fast in the U.S. It's as if they don't expect stray dogs or motorbikes to suddenly dart in front of their vehicles.
      8. Laws are really important to people here.  Governments are serious about enforcing even minor laws.  Statements like “It’s the law!” carry weight.
      9. It feels weird to have the steering wheel on the left hand side of the car.  I feel claustrophobic because usually I have a whole lot more space in the car on my left hand side.
      10. Pedestrians take their sweet time to cross the road as if cars are not even there. 
      11. It feels like every business wants you to fill out a survey.
      12. Washing machines are VERY big.
      13. Hot running water at every faucet. Ahhh.
      14. A pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream does not cost $12.
      15. Almost no median strips on the roads.  I suppose that this reduces the temptation to drive the wrong way in the breakdown lane, which often happens in Thailand.
      16. I almost don’t recognize my own children because they are wearing blue jeans, hats, mittens, and other stuff that I never see them wear.
      17. It is difficult to just buy 1 pen or 2 razors. It has to be 5 pens or 10 razors. It doesn't matter if you only want to buy 1. You gotta go big or go home empty handed… Oh wait, I just found a single razor. One brand, one choice for just 1 razor. But if you want 10 or more, there are tons to choose from.
      18. Food products at the supermarket have names as long as 18th century books, such as “Organic, No Fat, Non-GMO, No Oils, Sprouted Honey Wheat with Flaxseed.”  (this was a loaf of bread)
      19. Coloring books for adults (?!)

      My kids have also had some interesting observations about the United States.  Our oldest (10 yr. old) attended kindergarten here and was six when we returned to Thailand in 2012.  Our middle child (7 yr. old) was two when we went to Thailand after last home assignment and remembered nearly nothing of the country.  Our youngest (3 yr. old) was born in Thailand and this is his first time outside of Thailand.

      Observations from Our Oldest Child (10 yrs)

      • "There is a lot more Star Wars stuff to look at here"
      • "The most difficult thing to get used to is everybody speaking English"
      • "Everything is clean and orderly here. Why is that?” [I later pointed out all the trash scattered along the side of the road as we got onto the freeway. “See, America, has a trash problem too!”]

      Observations from Our Middle Child (7yrs)

      • "There is much more grass and trees here.  Why aren’t there any skyscrapers at all?"  

      Observations from Our Youngest Child (3 yr)

      • "There is no sprayer" [next to the toilet]
      • "Where is the rice?!"
      • "School bus!"
      • "I see a fire truck!"

      Overall, our family is really enjoying our time in the U.S. so far and have been blessed by many kind and helpful people who’ve given us rides, given us cold weather clothes, and called/visited to welcome us back.  And Dr. Pepper.  It was great to have Dr. Pepper again. It still feels weird to be here but with some time I am sure we will settle in and feel at home… probably just in time to leave again.  But God is good and He provides for his children, so we choose to look for and rejoice in his blessings wherever we go.

    • Wed, 28 Dec 2016 20:53:53 +0000: My Top 5 Books in 2016 - Gleanings from the Field

      At the beginning of 2016, I set a goal of reading 50 books this year.  It was an ambitious goal but I thought I could do it.  It turns out that life happened, 2017 is upon us, and I only ended up reading 36 books this year.  Not as much as I would have liked, but probably more than I would have read if I hadn't been aiming at 50.  Out of the 36 books I read in 2016, I picked my 5 favorites and have included a brief review of each.  These are not necessarily the best of books that were published in 2016, but are my top picks (in no particular order) among the books that I read in 2016.   Read one of them and maybe you'll find a new favorite! 

      The Way Thais Lead: Face as Social Capital

      This was an excellent, well-written book with lots of insight about the different types of "face" that Thai people (especially leaders) strive for... and fear losing.  The author draws out the implication for relationships between leaders and followers, and drives towards a conclusion that presents an alternative indigenous way of leadership in Thai culture that flies in the face of less noble (but more common) alternatives.  The author got his Ph.D from Fuller Seminary, but this book is very obviously for a general audience, so he stops short of offering any biblical or theological reflection on the topic of face and Thai leadership.  All the same, this was a very engaging book with lots of colorful quotes from Thai leaders.  It gives a good framework for understanding what is happening all around you in everyday social interactions.  It is a must-read if you live in Thailand.

        Buy from Silkworm Books (within Thailand)


      Miracles: A Journalist Looks at Modern Day Experiences of God’s Power

      miracles book cover

      Long-time “Christianity Today” journalist Tim Stafford says that he did not write this book as an apologetic to win over those who deny the possibility of miracles, nor did he write it to dissuade those who rejoice at every miracle they hear about.  Rather, he wrote it for people (like me) who believe in miracles but are skeptical about reports of miracles because they often turn out to not be true.   This book chronicles the author’s own search for understanding, combining the personal experiences of himself and others, a survey of the biblical data about miracles, interviews with various church members and ministry leaders, and critical reflection on all of the above.  The final chapter summarizes the author’s conclusions, the majority of which are solid and biblical, providing a hopeful faith-filled attitude towards expecting miracles, but is also grounded in a holistic view of God’s providence that emphasizes the various ways in which God works, both natural and supernatural.  His sections on the nature, purpose, and frequency of miracles are especially good.

      The one weakness of the book is that the author goes too soft on some extreme Pentecostal pastors and prophets who, in my judgment, go beyond the Bible and twist Scripture.  His desire to be fair and even-handed is commendable but he is too generous to various miracle ministries and ministers, even as he often goes on to express disappoint with their exaggerated claims and abuse of Scripture.  It seems that the author wants to counteract the unbiblical and unsubstantiated claims made by these ministers without turning off readers who like them.  The fact that this book was put out by charismatic publisher Bethany House tells me that the author’s target audience is broadly charismatic/Pentecostal and evangelical.



      The Girl in the Picture

      "The Girl in the Picture” is about a girl and her family caught in the midst of the war in Vietnam. The girl, Kim Phuc, was the subject of the famous war-time photo of a young girl running naked out of a village that had been hit by napalm.  It is a riveting, page-turning, biography, and gives a good window into what life was like for a normal family before, during, and after the war in Vietnam (not to mention an interesting picture of life in Castro's Cuba). I learned many details about the Vietnam War that I had previously just heard in passing but not really understood (such as the significance of the Tet Offensive).  Interestingly, when Kim grows up she becomes a Christian through a church in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), although this part of her experience makes up only a minor part of the narrative.  This book is a biography as well as a cultural and political history, and author Denise Chong gives a sympathetic and well-written account of Kim Phuc’s life and the global events in which she became an unexpected participant.  You definitely learn about Cold War politics in this book, but the author seems to do a good job of telling the facts without turning the book into a political statement.  It is Kim’s story, rather than a political agenda, that drives the narrative. 



      The Diffusion of Global Evangelicalism

      Covering post-WWII to the present, “The Diffusion of Global Evangelicalism” presents a panorama view of how evangelicalism has grown and changed from a largely Western, North Atlantic movement to a broader, more diverse global movement.  I greatly appreciated the scope of this book, providing balanced coverage of not only North American, but also British and Commonwealth evangelicalism, as well as other places in the world where English is used in Christian discourse.  This was a pleasant change from many books about evangelicalism that are American-centric. 
      I learned in greater depth about later 20th century leaders and authors that I had only heard about in passing, and was not very familiar with.  I particularly enjoyed reading about 1) how evangelicalism developed differently in Britain compared to the United States, 2) the watershed significance of the 1974 Lausanne Conference on World Evangelism, and 3) the tension between evangelicals (largely from the U.S.) who sought a narrow focus on “soul-winning” and those (largely from Latin America) who sought a more holistic definition of mission as applied to other areas of life and society. 
      An important theme which the author discusses at various points in the book, especially in relation to the hugely significant Pentecostal-charismatic movement, is the increasingly divergent streams of evangelicalism in the early 21st century that bring into question whether it is still possible (if it ever was) to identify a common core of beliefs which define evangelicals.   As regards evangelical identity, there is a big question mark as to whether or not the authority of the Bible (sola scriptura) will continue to be a hallmark of evangelicalism.  There are strong movements in many places around the world where following the leading of the Spirit as mediated through personal experience is prioritized over Scripture, and in many cases syncretized with an emphasis on this worldly health, wealth, and blessing as the core of the Christian life.  This is true particularly in areas of Asia and Africa where animism has an important role in the background and worldview of Christian adherents.  However, the author believes that reports of evangelicalism’s demise are premature and the movement as a whole has displayed an historical resilience and ability to redefine and refocus its center over the course of different eras.  It is difficult to say where evangelicalism is headed, but this book provides a good overview of where evangelicalism has been during the last 70 years. 
      “The Diffusion of Global Evangelicalism” is book 5 in is a series on the "History of Evangelicalism: People, Movements and Ideas in the English-Speaking World"  



      No Graven Image

      This is a phenomenal book but if I didn't know the author was Elisabeth Elliot, I might have guessed it was written by a cynical former missionary who abandoned the faith, or went emergent or something. "No Graven Image” is a novel about an idealistic missionary seeking to reach the mountain Indians in Ecuador, set in the 1960s. It gets right up in the face of just about every aspect of evangelical missionary sub-culture and its triumphalistic cliches and pat answers. The main action of the book takes place in the mind of the protagonist, Margaret Sparhawk, as her expectations of what a missionary should be and do are challenged by the realities of missionary life. She questions the unquestioned assumptions and party lines that missionaries (and their supporters) often employ. When the book came out, Elisabeth Elliot received severe criticism and it is not hard to see why. This was a devastating novel with a tragic ending, that bears reading by every missionary. Not every missionary will like it, however.




    ESL with Mission to North America: http://pcamna.org/esl-ministries/
    Blair–Beijing International Christian Fellowship: http://www.bicf.org/english-service
    Eby–Westminster Theological College & Seminary (Uganda): http://www.wtcwtsuganda.org/
    Phillips–Serge: http://www.serge.org/
    Zadok–HaGefen Publishing: http://www.ha-gefen.org.il/len/,
    Zadok–Christian Mission to Israel: http://www.cm2israel.org/
    Joshua Project: http://www.joshuaproject.net/
    MERF: http://www.merf.org/
    Mission to the World (MTW): http://mtw.org/
    MNA Hispanic American Ministries: http://pcamna.org/hispanicamerican/index.php
    MTW Network Magazine: http://mtw.org/Pages/RESOURCE_Network.aspx
    OMF International: http://www.omf.org/
    OPC Committee on Foreign Missions: http://www.opc.org/committee_fm.html
    Wycliffe: http://www.wycliffe.org/

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