Thursday, August 30, 2012

On the road again

Tomorrow - I'm on the road again.

My main reason for travelling this time is to teach an Old Testament intensive course to IFES staffworkers in Bilbao, in the north of Spain. (The Spanish IFES group is the GBU) Some of their staff have been doing MOCLAM courses regularly, and for some this will be their first. I'll be seeing my good friends Derek and Jane, who are missionaries from Ireland and who are very quick to remind me about Australian sporting failures.

As usual, I try and do a few other bits and pieces while I'm travelling. This time I'll be having a meeting with the great people from Christianity Explored in London who are producing a Spanish version of the video resources to go with the printed material we already have. I'll also meet a couple of MOCLAM students in Barcelona and have a chance to meet and encourage / be encouraged by other CMS missionary families (Lovells, Whittens), and talk with them about how MOCLAM can help their ministry. Finally, I'm meeting with some people involved with the work of MOCLAM in a large Caribbean island and look forward to working with them on how we can keep the work growing in a very needy part of the world.

Lots of flights, buses, trains,early mornings, late nights and waiting, but as always, I'm looking forward to a productive time. (I'm also packing my running stuff in the hope of continuing my slow build up for the Monterrey Marathon in December!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Not having a home has some advantages

At Bible study last night we were reading Genesis 11 and 12 and talking about the movement of Abram from his homeland of Ur to Canaan. We did a quick "go around the room" and found that only one member of our group currently lived in the city of his birth. Two others were from different parts of  Mexico and 3 were from outside the country.

We talked a bit about that, and about how it can often feel like we're not at "home". For those of us from a foreign country, culture and language background, this is certainly an issue. I am reminded pretty much every day that I am not from around here - through a lack of understanding of the way things work, language failures, failing to understand the significance of certain events - all sorts of things. But then, when we go back to our original countries, we're not home there either. Things have changed, people have changed, things have moved on. Sometimes we can feel like we are homeless, citizens of no man's land.

But then when got talking about how that sense of "homeless-ness"can be a great advantage for Christians, because in many places the Bible reminds us that our hope is our future inheritance, and therefore we are now to live as aliens and strangers. ( eg: 1Peter 1:3-12, 2:11-12) We're urged not to be conformed and tied to this life, but to live lives that reflect our heavenly inheritance (Col 3:1-17).

Perhaps living as aliens in a foreign country gives us a headstart on understanding and applying these principles?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A week in Bolivia

I just got home from a week in Bolivia where there are many opportunities for training and encouraging  Christian leaders.

Here's a few highlights:

Adrian and Anita (CMS - part of the MOCLAM team, pictured) are now well settled in Cochabamba. They are doing really well at their Spanish studies and are teaching Creation to New Creation to a couple of their teachers from language school! There are good opportunities for Adrian to be starting a new CNC class with a few guys next month or so.

We met with representatives from a couple of different seminaries / denominational groups who are interested in using the MOCLAM courses as part of their curriculum. They are particularly interested because in Bolivia there are many people living in isolated rural areas for who studying at the seminary is virtually impossible. The nature of the MOCLAM courses makes study for these people a real possibility.

It was also amazing to hear about the "normal" life of a seminary student in Bolivia. For many of them, they have classes 6:30-8:30am and 7-9:30pm each day, and go to work in between so they can eat. They are really doing it tough.

In this context, an Australian guy, Nathan Spies, has started an organisation called 'Roots'.   Roots offers scholarships to seminary students so they can spend more time concentrating on their studies. They also offer mentoring and additional training. I was able to teach a one day seminar on Biblical Theology to the Roots group.

I visited a rural church in Tarija in the south of Bolivia. This church serves very poor people living in squats and reclaimed land around the city. It was good to hear of the challenges faced by such a different church.

Adrian, Anita and I had a great day discussing MOCLAM matters and brainstorming at the house of Andrew and Paulina Cox (CMS) in Tarija. Many ideas were developed and it was good to hear how the courses are being used in many different contexts.

I had a game of soccer at 2,600 metres above sea level. After about 3 minutes I though my heart might leap out of my chest it was beating so hard! (But I continued to play for the next hour of course - can't show signs of weakness you understand...)

One of the slightly odd things about going to Bolivia if there was a direct flight from Monterrey to Cochabamba or Tarija it would probably take about 7 hours (have a look at a map).
Monterrey to Cochabamba
But of course, there isn't a direct flight. In fact, my return trip was made up of 5 separate flights and took 29 hours door to door. I even got to have a happy reunion with my luggage 4 hours after I got home!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Warning ... Olympics rant approaching!

I love sport as much as the next guy - especially when my country wins. (And now I have two countries so the chances of that happening are increased).

But, isn't it time that we had a rational debate about sports funding in Australia. I mean, the figures seem a bit out of whack don't they. We have one of the largest teams at the games (from a pretty small country), the government funding that the athletes get would make any state school principal or overseas aid coordinator green with envy and our results aren't that great.

But even if we were winning a whole bag of gold medals, would it still justify the ridiculous amount of money that gets spent on elite sport? I think not.

There are those who say that success at the elite level encourages grass roots participation and therefore public health - but I think that is a myth that as been debunked. If you want to increase grass root participation, put the money into grass roots sport. Come to think of it, if you want to increase education and "smarts" in the community, put the money into schools and universities.

While we're on it - how come I have a HECS debt that I have to pay off, while someone who goes to the AIS doesn't? (and I reckon they have a better chance of endorsing shampoo or nutritional supplements that I do!)

I wonder if a sensible debate about sports funding can be held in Australia with out the "this will cost gold medals" argument dominating the headlines. I guess my response to that is "Ok - maybe it will, but does that matter?"

Rant ends. (apologies)