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A Black Sister Kindly Schools This Old White Guy

A Black Sister Kindly Schools This Old White Guy By Shane Bennett
with Felicia Follum

How are you dealing with things? These are unusual days, aren’t they? My oldest daughter recently said, “When I complained a week ago about only talking about corona, I had no idea we’d only be talking about racism now!”

I suppose if you or someone close to you has COVID-19, that’s still a pretty relevant topic of conversation. Much grace and renewed health to you. And maybe you’re already weary of race talk. Can you bear with me for a few more words?

I’m wondering what God may be saying to you and me, to people like us:

  • We are people who love Jesus.
  • We are people who believe God created the races, colors, and cultures of the world for his glory.
  • We are overwhelmingly White.

If you are not White and read Missions Catalyst, thank you so much. I value your experience and would welcome whatever input you have time and inclination to give on this meager offering.

As for me, I grew up in about as bucolic a Midwest American setting as you could imagine. If my dad had shaved only his mustache, our family could have modeled for the covers of soon-to-come Amish Christian fiction. It was homogeneous, parochial, and safe, if a little boring.

I cut my cross-cultural teeth under the influence of Steve Hawthorne’s missiology which emphasized asking questions and taking the time to listen well. I’ve often challenged others to cultivate curiosity about peoples and cultures and to delay judgement, that is, don’t assume you’ve got things all figured out too early.

Maybe, like me, you feel you haven’t got this whole racial injustice thing figured out. I’d like to share with you some insights from a friend of mine.

Meet Felicia

Meet Felicia Follum. She’s an accomplished artist, helps lead her church’s mission efforts, holds two masters degrees, and was crushed on by more than one African migrant guy when we were on a short-term mission trip to care for Muslim refugees in Sicily a few years ago.

Felicia says, “Blackness isn’t my first identity, but it is an identity.” It deeply shapes who she is.

Leaving his restaurant one night, her biological father was murdered by the KKK. Just to be clear, she’s not 80 years old, recalling events from days long gone. Felicia is in her early thirties.

Sharing some of her personal experience, Felicia recounted a doctor’s visit for a sore tummy. The physician told her, “Given your demographic, statistically, you probably have STDs.” When Felicia insisted she hadn’t been sleeping around, the doctor replied, “It’s probably your husband then.”

Widening the circle, Felicia said, “I can’t think of one person of color who hasn’t been mistreated by police at least once.”

I asked her what White people might miss or not understand about their own situation. She said White privilege doesn’t necessarily mean you get more stuff or that your life is trouble free. “You still have trouble and deal with hard things. What White privilege does mean is that you don’t have blackness to deal with as well.”

What Can We Do?

Knowing how asinine it sounded, I asked, “So what is the solution to all this, Felicia?”

“First off, we’ve got to find a way to address problems starting young. 50% of Black babies are aborted. 70-80% of Black babies who are born begin life in single parent households. 90% of Black kids have more ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) than my White husband, Jim.”

“There are also actions White people can take now. And these would really work, if they’d do them.”

1. Learn

Felicia asks, “Can you name ten African Americans from US history and say one or two things about what they did? They’re there!” (For starters, check out Maggie Walker and the first missionary sent out from the US, former African slave George Liele.)

Why is it that the average American can only name three to seven? I don’t know about you, but I have a lot to learn.

Toward that end, I’ve started reading a couple of books. You can find many lists of books curated by smarter people than me, but here are mine. If you have read these or have already, I’d welcome a chat about them.

I think it’s also good to ask questions of your Black friends, if you have any. I have one. Of course, this is dicey and will not always work. Some Black people understandably don’t relish the newfound role of enlightening the light-skinned masses. Some, like my friend Felicia, are kind beyond words.

2. Listen

At lunch recently a couple of colleagues were discussing the protests, the riots and looting, the “abolish the police” ideas, and the assumed spike in crime that would follow. I kept mostly quiet, not sure what to say and accurately assessing that I lack the intellectual resources to poke a stick in that hornet’s nest.

While on the one hand I agree that people shouldn’t burn someone’s business or trash the car of someone who’s just trying to get home to her family. On the other hand, I can’t help wondering, “What motivates people to do things like that?” What is the “why” behind the action? Or maybe the “why” two or three layers deep behind the behavior?

Is it possible that I’ve only listened to people like me for so long I’ve concluded there is no reasonable motivation? There’s no valid claim for injustice. This is America, after all. Anyone and everyone can make good choices, if they just will.

Or maybe not.

Felicia says she currently has 40 text conversations underway with White people whose minds are being changed, who are seeing sin they hadn’t been aware of, people who feel like they haven’t listened to others. Yay for them and yay for Felicia. (No, I won’t give you her mobile number, because I’m selfishly angling for number 41!)

3. Engage

Felicia encouraged me and you, “Go to protests. You might not feel comfortable carrying some of the common signs nor espousing some of the sentiments. But most Christians would be okay with a sign that says, ‘do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.’ (A brilliant mantra for these days. Thank you, Micah!)

“Go beyond the sign and connect with some people. Ask good questions. For instance, ‘What are your beliefs?’ ‘What caused you to choose that sign?’ Say, ’I’m making a list of people to pray for. How can I pray for you?’ Then do it. Build the habit of asking lots of people how you can pray for them.”

Conclusion

What’s God saying to you about this? I feel mostly like I need to listen and maybe somehow validate other people’s experiences in a new way, perhaps only in my mind.

As far as action goes, I don’t know yet. Jesus set the bar pretty high when he told the synagogue that Isaiah 61:1 had been fulfilled in their midst and proceeded to confirm it by putting his very life on the line.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this, particularly what you’re reading, who you’re listening to and what God seems to be saying to you and us. Please respond on our website or social media, or just reply to this email.

EDITOR’S NOTE: George Floyd, Ravi Zacharias

Greetings,

Though we avoid reporting on stories already covered well elsewhere, we should acknowledge the death of George Floyd, the grief and anger many are feeling, and the violence that’s spread across the United States.

Likely you have also already heard about the May 19 death of Christian leader, evangelist, and apologist Ravi Zacharias.

With love and prayers,
Marti Wade

SENEGAL: A Church for the Wolof

Source: WorldVenture, June 1, 2020

On Saturday, May 30, 2020, we broke ground for a permanent place of worship. The story behind the ceremony for a new church building began years ago. After decades of missionary work, there are only about 100 Wolof believers [known Wolof believers in Dakar]. Out of those 100 believers, less than a third attend church on a regular basis. This breaks our hearts. When we spoke to some of them, they shared several reasons for not attending.

  • “It doesn’t feel sacred.” They desire a formal place of worship.
  • “It doesn’t feel Senegalese.” The worship style of most churches is imported.
  • “They can’t understand it.” It is in French instead of Wolof, their heart language.
  • “They can’t find it.” Many Dakar churches rent houses. The rented houses do not feel like a sacred place to worship. The rented houses are in obscure neighborhoods and are often forced to move every few years.

Because of this, we felt it was important to start a church, but we wanted it to be Senegalese. We desired to plant a church in partnership with our church association. After talking and praying with them for a long time, they finally came to us and said, “We need a church in Dakar for our young people. They are full of faith when they leave the villages for work or school in the city and they come back lost.”

We had a prayer of dedication for the land and the building on Saturday, May 30. On June 2, we [began] laying the foundations of the building. As we reflect on what God has done in the past, we see how God has paved our way.

» Full story explores obstacles they had to overcome. Let’s pray for the Wolof church to grow and draw more people to Jesus.

» Maybe you heard that a company in Dakar has developed a US$1, 10-minute COVID-19 test (Fast Company). Some at the lab have gotten sick, though, and one has died (The New York Times).

» More from West Africa: read a roundup of news and analysis of three violent attacks in Burkina Faso (Sahel blog) and read about children left behind in West Africa’s conflict-torn regions.

CHINA: The Red Dragon Rages

Source: Asia Harvest, June 2020

We believe the intense spiritual battle underway in China will be a turning point in the war between the light of the gospel and the forces of darkness in China. If God’s people endure and overcome, the revival fires that have blazed in China for decades may grow to a new intensity not seen before, with tens of millions more people coming to Christ.

The militant atheists who lead the Communist Party are terrified of this prospect. They are doing everything they can to stop the gospel spreading, which (ironically) they view as a virus. Official government documents have referred to the “Jesus Fever” infecting multitudes of people.

A few weeks ago (on May 3), the below video emerged of a typical house church meeting being raided in the city of Xiamen in Fujian Province. Six brothers who were identified as leaders were taken away and have not been heard from since. Pray not only for these brothers and sisters, but for the tens of millions of believers across China who are currently facing similar trials.

» See full story. Video is about 2.5 minutes in length and includes English text and subtitles.

WORLD: Seven Countries on the Watch List That Might Surprise You

Source: Open Doors, June 2, 2020

Each year when the World Watch List releases, there are many countries that you probably expect to see on the list because you follow the news. You know Kim Jong Un is a dictator, so you’re not surprised to see North Korea. You prayed about the Asia Bibi case, so it might make sense to see Pakistan on the list. You joined millions of Christians in prayer for Andrew Brunson’s release, so seeing Turkey on the World Watch List isn’t a shock.

But then there are other countries that might make you do a double take. Maybe the country is a tourist destination, known more for its sparkling beaches or incredible natural wonders than its treatment of believers. Or maybe the country is made up of Christians as its majority religion—how could such a place have a problem with Christian persecution?

And yet, these are countries that are oppressing God’s people, on the World Watch List for important reasons

» Full story highlights Maldives, Qatar, Nepal, Ethiopia, Colombia, Kenya, and Russia and shares ways to pray.

NEPAL: Breakthrough in High Places

Source: United World Mission, June 1, 2020

The Good News of Jesus Christ permeates even the furthest of places. Watch how God used Nepali partners to bring breakthrough in Nepal, reaching 40 people groups in 500 villages and training 2,000 Nepali leaders.

» See full story. Video is almost eight minutes long and beautifully illustrates key principles for reaching oral people, partnership, holistic ministry, etc.

» See also the Prayercast page about Nepal for ways to pray.

FREE EBOOK: Global Transmission Global Mission

Source: Operation World

Global Transmission Global Mission: The Impact and Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic, by Jason Mandryk. Operation World, 2020. 53 pages.

Earlier this year Operation World began sharing updates about the COVID-19 crisis in different countries around the world, eventually launching a new website with that focus. As a result, editor Jason Mandryk was asked to write a short opinion/editorial article about how the worldwide Church—and world mission in particular—was being affected by the unfolding global pandemic.

“Like many of us, I have been reading voraciously of late, and my understanding of zoonotic diseases, epidemiology, public health policy, quantitative easing, supply chain management, etc. has graduated from generally oblivious to dangerously sophomoric,” he admits. “However, OW has the privilege of being connected to Christian leaders and international networks in the spheres of mission, research, prayer, and beyond, involving people in and from virtually every country on Earth.”

Mandryk was unable to provide an article under the word limit and before the deadline—there was just too much to say. Hence this publication: a 53-page book with 80 points related to the global church, mission mobilization, missionary sending, mission field realities, media opportunities, and more. It’s a bit rough in spots, and of course the situation continues to develop. Still, very thoughtful and well-informed and includes supporting links.

» Download and read the whole thing. No registration required.

» See also OW’s new COVID-19 prayer site, which follows the Operation World prayer calendar but adds urgent, COVID-related prayer points from each country. You can find them on social media, too.

RESOURCES: Related to Mission Trips

Sources: Various

What’s going on in the short-term mission movement now that most trips are canceled? Missio Nexus did a survey of short-term mission sending agencies and published a report. Today (May 27) Missio Nexus will host an online discussion about this research and about COVID-19 and short-term missions in general. Sorry for the last-minute mention, but you can probably find the recording later.

Yesterday (May 26) The Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission did a webinar encouraging us all to ask why we do mission trips and if we can accomplish these purposes without people traveling. You can watch it on their Facebook page or on Vimeo, or find the recording on their website later. It’s called “You Don’t Have to Go to Give.” (No, the bottom line wasn’t “just send us your money.”)

The Upstream Collective is giving away a seven-page PDF download exploring how and why you might want to take your people on a virtual short-term trip. No cost, but you’ll have to give them your contact info.

See also this roundup of articles (including one of ours) about coronavirus and canceled travel from Rachel Pieh Jones.

TRAINING: Ignite Church Planting Movements

Source: All Nations

Do you know the mission agency All Nations in Kansas City? They focus on making disciples and training leaders to ignite church-planting movements among neglected peoples. And their excellent training is open to the whole body of Christ.

Early last year, All Nations started to offer free Ignite Online Trainings about once a month. These 90-minute sessions cover topics ranging from storytelling and loving Buddhists to sending and abiding in Christ. They also have a whole series on the DNA of movements.

They also one-day, three-day, and three-week training sessions that go deeper on these topics. Maybe you know someone who could use their three-day Church Multiplication Training. In the past these have all happened in Kansas City, but now some are also online. Popular sessions include a Storytelling Workshop and People of Peace: How to Reach Your Muslim Neighbors.

» Learn about upcoming Ignite training sessions or browse the archives of recorded sessions. Other offerings are under the tab “Train and Go.”

» Other mission agencies that have generously opened up training opportunities along these lines include Beyond (we’ve mentioned their “Nugget Trainings” before) and Team Expansion (now expanding their online learning offerings). If you are aware of others, let us know!

DEBRIEFING: 2020 Mini-Debriefing Guide

Source: Returning Well

I know, 2020 isn’t done with us yet. But maybe you or someone you love—like a missionary making an unwanted, extended visit to their home country—could use some help processing all that’s come our way. The folks from Returning Well have put out a mini-debriefing guide.

» Learn more or download the guide. You might also want to look at the book Returning Well: Your Guide to Returning “Home” After Serving Cross-Culturally.

EVENTS: Happening (Mostly Online) in June

Source: Missions Catalyst Missions Events Calendar

Event organizers canceled or postponed most face-to-face event on our June events calendar, but online events go on and have multiplied. I likely missed some.

Classes and Longer Training Events

June 1 to August 3, Kairos Course Online.
June 1 to August 9, Perspectives Intensive Course Online.
June 1 to October 4, Perspectives Online Course.
June 2 to August 25, Perspectives Virtual Course (out of Fulton, MD)
June 16-18, Sahara Challenge (Crescent Project; ministry to Muslims)
June 16-19, Support Raising Virtual Bootcamp (Support Raising Solutions)
June 16-24, Standards Introductory Workshop (Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission; making mission trips better)

Online Debriefing

June 22-26, ABIDE. Re-entry for global workers (TRAIN International).

Webinars and Short Online Events

June 3, Church Missions Leaders Peer2Peer Virtual Gathering. Topic: missionary care in light of COVID-19 (Missio Nexus, with Jeff Jackson).
June 9, Leveraging Youth Mission Trips for Long-Term Spiritual Growth (Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission).
June 10, CEO Thought Leader Briefing. Topic: Self-care for CEOs (Missio Nexus, with Roy King).

Conferences Now Online

June 4, Mobilization Ideation Atlanta (online). An annual regional event.
June 24-26, The National African-American Mission Conference. Annual event moved online and free this year.

Face-to-Face Events

We believe the following events are not canceled or moved online.

June 7-13, Perspectives Intensive (Schooleys Mountain, NJ, USA).
June 28 to July 24, Equipping for Cross-Cultural Life and Ministry (Union Mills, NC, USA). Provided by the Center for Intercultural Training. This class is full, but there are openings for classes like this in the fall. Also check out prefield training options from MTI and TRAIN.

Other Events

June 6-7, World Weekend of Prayer for Children at Risk.
June 20, World Refugee Day.

» View complete calendar. Submissions and corrections welcome. We will continue to make updates about canceled and postponed events.

SAUDI ARABIA: A Tiny Church Grows

The small Church in Saudi Arabia needs mature believers to translate Scripture and to lead churches.

Source: Mission Network News, May 7, 2020

The small Church in Saudi Arabia needs mature and committed believers to translate Scripture and to lead churches. “It’s almost like the early Church in the book of Acts,” says Abd Al Fadi about Christianity among certain language groups in Saudi Arabia. He works with Hijazi Arabic in Western Saudi Arabia, Najdi Arabic in central Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi Gulf dialect in the East.

These groups have few Christians. Finding mature and committed believers to translate [Scripture] is difficult. Abd Al Fadi says, “Sometimes they’re busy with a job or concerned about being caught by their family or the government.”

Even if the translators complete their work, that doesn’t mean it can be distributed easily. “It’s one thing to produce the product. It’s another to deliver it to the right church or group that can benefit from it.”

Abd Al Fadi asks Christians in the West to pray that Christians in Saudi Arabia will join together in house churches and that the right materials will get to the right people.

Most of all, pray that like the early Church in Acts, the Church in Saudi Arabia would grow and multiply. Abd Al Fadi says he hopes within the next decade “We will hear about many Saudi believers who are out in the open, doing media or doing ministry and partnering with others as well.”

» Full story includes links to more in a series about unreached people groups. Consider tuning in to join them (and others) online for International Day for the Unreached on May 31.

» Also read Five Reasons Why Google Can’t Translate the Bible (Wycliffe USA).

MIDDLE EAST: COVID-19 Lockdown Ignites Spiritual Interest

Source: SAT-7, via Christian Newswire, April 21, 2020

Amid strict coronavirus lockdowns, millions of people across the Middle East and North Africa clamoring for a spiritual and practical lifeline are finding help right in their own homes through television.

In the region where Christianity began but is now a minority faith, Christian satellite television broadcaster SAT-7 has seen viewer numbers surge and social media interest skyrocket since the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

“There’s an explosion of spiritual hunger across the Middle East and North Africa right now as people stuck at home seek real hope and real answers,” said Dr. Rex Rogers, president of SAT-7 USA.

“Millions of people in countries like Iran, Iraq, and Turkey are clamoring to see and hear in their own language what it’s like to be a follower of Jesus in a time of crisis,” Rogers said.

In coronavirus hotspot Turkey, where 99 percent of the population is non-Christian, more viewers have contacted the SAT-7 TÜRK channel daily in the past few weeks than any day in the previous five years since broadcasts began.

In Iran, another virus hotspot, viewers’ calls and messages to the live, Farsi-language Signal show—beamed into millions of homes across the nation—jumped to seven times the usual number last month, as Iranians rattled by the pandemic turned to the show’s hosts for reassurance and practical advice.

» Read full story.

» See also Tyndale: Bible Sales up 44-60% During COVID Crisis (God Reports).

IRAN: Christian Sentenced to Flogging and Prison

Source: International Christian Concern, April 22, 2020

On April 21, 2020, Christian human rights activist Mary Fatima Mohammadi received a suspended prison sentence of three months by the Iranian government. The sentence included a directive ordering Mary to receive a flogging of ten lashes.

Mary has come under significant pressure from the Iranian authorities over the years because of her Christian human rights activism. In the latest incident, she was arrested because she was present in the area of a protest where Iranians had rallied regarding the government’s downing of Ukrainian Airline Flight 752, [which is] highly sensitive in Iran.

After her arrest, Mary disappeared for nearly a month before she was discovered in Qarchak Women’s Prison, a jail with a reputation for various types of gender abuse. While there, Mary reported that she was beaten and suffered other kinds of mistreatment. She was eventually released on bail and charged with “disrupting public order by participating in an illegal rally.”

Her court hearing was initially delayed because of COVID-19 but took place on April 17. Iran’s Human Rights Activist News Agency (HANA) reports that during the hearing, the judge repeatedly questioned Mary about her conversion to Christianity.

» Full story includes responses from Mary and commentary about the prison system in Iran.

» See also Iranian Christians Sent to Jail, Unable to Afford Bail (Article 18).

LAOS: Christians Flee Destroyed Homes

Source: Open Doors, April 25, 2020

[Three] months ago, in northern Laos, three Christian families woke to the thundering voice of the chief in the remote village where they lived. As he stood outside their homes, the leader of the community they had been part of their whole lives announced that he and the entire population of the village were there to destroy their homes.

That day, these families lost their homes and their community—because they left the tribe’s religion to follow Jesus. The families fled together into a nearby rice field where they cobbled together makeshift shelters. Days later, the villagers found where they were and destroyed their “homes” once again.

A couple of days ago, we received an update from the local pastor of the families’ church. After relocating yet again into another village, these families have been told by that village chief they must move once more because they might “anger the spirits of the village.”

» Full story includes a picture, reports how Christians have stepped in to help this family by providing housing and other needs, and describes religious persecution in Laos.

» From another part of Asia, read Pastor in Nepal Re-Arrested on New Series of Charges to Keep Him in Jail, Sources Say (Morning Star News).

SIERRA LEONE: Growing in Trust, Finding the Path of Truth

Source: International Mission Board, May 19, 2020

A former missionary reflects on crisis of belief during civil war in Sierra Leone:

Each day we were in the war of Sierra Leone, God would address the trust issue with me. I wanted to trust God, but I was so upset! I had such doubts. Everything was out of my control. I was grasping for control by praying—or more like telling God how things should be or how I wanted them to be. God used a refugee as the hinge pin that not only swung me back but jolted me into real focus.

A few months after the rage of my trust issues and the war, I was asked to go to the refugee camp in another country where a young man from Sierra Leone came after he escaped a rebel attack on his village. He had seen his mother, father, and brother killed before he ran.

As Alsuine ran, he kept saying, “Allah, I think I am on the wrong path of life. I need to find the right path.”

Christian workers gave him a blanket and rice and told him he could come any day to hear a lesson from God’s Word. [At one lesson] the center director read him John 14:6 in English, saying, “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; no one can reach God unless he walks Jesus’ path.”

This truth hit him to the core of his being (literally translated in Krio, “it goes to the bone”). With enthusiasm, he proclaimed that the true and living God had answered what he was seeking in life on his path of escape from the rebels.

As if that wasn’t enough, he turned to me with the sincerest heart, eyes, and words: “If it wasn’t for the war in Sierra Leone, I would still be walking the wrong path.”

It was like a knife that pierced my heart—the hinge pin that jolted me back, as the Father said once again, “Do you trust me?” This time, with every fiber of my being I said, “Yes!” It was humbling. It was hard. It was a turning point of growth toward fully trusting God.

» See full story with pictures.

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