Sunday, December 30, 2007

Costs, Contributions and Convictions

Early in the year I was in Asia to speak at some leadership conferences. I had not been home for Christmas, I had picked up a fever and over the meal table I had felt so isolated by not being able to speak the local language and chat informally with people. Then, to rub salt in the wounds, I got an SMS message from one of my relatives saying, “It’s nice to be some people jet-setting around the world!”

Early in December I arrived one night at a Kolkata hotel and the manager said, “Who are you? We weren’t expecting you.” I said I had booked online, the money had left my account and here is my receipt number. The manager said he had no room and there was a medical conference in the city so my chances of getting accommodation were slim. This was an early Christmas lesson in the experience of “No room in the inn” but amid my desperation I was counting my blessings that I was not accompanied by a very pregnant wife!

After a wonderful time at a conference e my visa did not come through for the second leg of my visit to India so I re-jigged my return flights and accommodation and headed for home. At Delhi, the plane failed to arrive and after waiting for seven hours when it could have landed the fog descended and people on our flight were stranded without food, water and hotel accommodation for 20 hours.

These have been some of the low points to illustrate a little of the cost of crossing borders and moving into new cultures.

The benefits and highlights have, however, far outweighed the discomfort. There have been many this year who have given of their time and expertise at conferences, graduations, in lectures and in listening. There has been much joy in the giving, new insights in communicating and fascination in thinking through how timeless truths might apply in different and changing circumstances.

Some of the people this year that have been visited by Theologians Without Borders personnel have been living in extremely poor conditions, with few material resources and little of the technology that seems like essential equipment in modern teaching institutions. Some visits have been made to communities that are displaced and detained and among people who lost their passports when they were fleeing for their lives. The warmth of welcome, the joy on their faces, the vibrancy of their faith and the eagerness to learn are gifts that make such a partnership so worthwhile.

Thank You
It has been intentional that Theologians Without Borders would commence slowly, while we sorted out our processes and so as not to raise expectations unnecessarily.

At the end of this year I want to thank you for your interest and support.

In the words of the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold, I share with you this affirmation:

“For all that has been—thanks!”
“For all that is to come—Yes!”

Dr. Geoff Pound
(Chair, Coordinating Committee for TWB)

Image: This looks a beautiful place and it is, until one realises that this is home for thousands of people who are displaced and detained.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tales of a Theologian Crossing Borders

I have recently returned from speaking at an annual conference in Manipur, North India. The hospitality was generous and the people were responsive, appreciative and questioning.

I had been asked to give five addresses but this ballooned out and there were several extra things I had to do on the hoof.

I was glad that flights meant that I arrived early and as someone had left a doctoral thesis in my room I was able to learn the story of the coming of Christianity to South Manipur and the development of the Evangelical Baptist Convention (now in its 59th year). I found I could put snippets of the story into every address and this helped me to understand better the people and be both affirming and questioning of their culture.

In 1904-5 during the Welsh revival, Watkin Roberts of Caernarvonshire in North Wales went to these meetings and became a follower of Jesus. To add to his spiritual development he supplemented church attendance with conferences and in 1907 he attended a convention in Keswick and responded to the need for Christian workers in Mizoram, N E India.

When Roberts got to Mizoram he gave out basic medical supplies and literature. A woman in Wales sent him a gift for his own use but he used this to purchase 104 copies of John’s Gospel in the Lushai (Mizo) language. He gave these to every chief in Mizoram but one copy reached the chief in neighboring South Manipur. The chief read the booklet and was entranced. He wrote on the flyleaf these words, before sending the book back to Roberts: “Thank you for this gift. Please come yourself and tell us more about this book and more about your God.” Watkin Roberts took this as a Macedonian Call—‘Come over and help us!’

Roberts arrived in the Senvon Village, South Manipur and taught people for only ten days. Two Manipureans went back with him, became Christians and then he sent then back. The work was far from easy and there was severe persecution.

It was my privilege to share with people over these last few days and to meet people of the Paite tribe whose churches now spread from Manipur to Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Myanmar, Mizoram and even as far as Delhi. The vigor of the churches was impressive and the seminary community was making great strides.

Three things that were important 100 years ago and are necessary today:
* The willingness to cross the borders when one hears the call, ‘Come over and help us’.
* The light and life that comes from the Scriptures.
* The ministry that empowers the locals.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: It was a joy to share in the annual Commencement Service.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Theologians Without Borders Update

Updated Opportunities
It is good to report that the ‘Colombo Calling’ opportunity (CTS) for an OT teacher has been filled, as have all of their other needs for teachers in 2008.

The request for teachers to do a short term in Myanmar is still current. A letter this week indicates there is a renewed level of safety for travelers at the moment.

There is an ongoing request from this ‘Small Country with Big Opportunities’

I get a phone call each week from this group who would love to have a ‘South Indian Visit of Encouragement’ asking, “When are you going to send us a team?” If you went as a group it might be mutually beneficial as this pastor and his group discovered.

This invitation still stands in the country of Sierra Leone.

The Doctorates in the Jungle is progressing well in a refugee camp, thanks to the assistance of the Asian Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary.

An OT teacher is going early in the new year to teach in a Bible School located in a refugee camp. Some members of his family will be accompanying him and looking to ways they can make a contribution.

There is a lot more going on in the way of planning, dreaming with groups and consultancy in different parts of the world.

Thank You
Many thanks for your interest and support.

I am very grateful to those who have or who are serving as a TWB volunteer

Thanks to those who have sent me (without any commitment) their completed ‘Expression of Interest’

Do pass on the word about TWB and help as you can.

Dr Geoff Pound

New Resource for Decision Making and Discernment

A big part of the match making process of TWB is discerning the right person to meet the specific need.

Discernment is also a major part of the teacher’s work with prospective and current students when giving course advice and guidance about vocational preparation and directions.

The discerning readers will have seen that one of the new links on this web site is to an online book entitled, Making Decisions: Journey in Discernment.

It is a work book with 40 individual reflections, 7 group studies and other resources.

See how people around the world are starting to use this book.

If you are part of a seminary, please make it available to prospective students and current students by putting it as a link on your web site.

Dr Geoff Pound

Front Cover: Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment

Theologians Without Borders: Can You Help?

How You Can Help
If you have a personal page on your organization’s web site (see this example), please spread the vision by putting a link to TWB

Please put a link to TWB if you have a personal web site (like this one)

If you see some opportunity posted on this site for a specific teacher (e.g. Missions, NT, Leadership), please make the request known to people with this teaching specialty.

If you think there could be a time where you can serve as a TWB, do fill in an Expression of Interest form and send it to me with your CV.

If your seminary is in need of a teacher do tell me and I will get the word out.

Dr Geoff Pound

Monday, November 12, 2007

Colombo Calling Again!

Old Testament Teacher

A statement and invitation has already been posted on this site requesting an Old Testament teacher.

There has been some interest and enquiries but nothing definite. This call is therefore being sounded again!

The need is urgent and the dates are looming fast.

Please circulate this need among the OT teachers in your networks.

New Call: NT Teacher
The Colombo seminary in Sri Lanka is also requesting today a New Testament teacher.

There is some flexibility in terms of the theme of the course. It could well be the Gospels or Pauline texts and theology.

There is also some flexibility in regard to dates for this intensive.

The earliest starting date is the 11 January and the latest starting date is the 22 February 2008.

The preferred dates are 1-9 February 2008.

Lecturers are expected to be at the seminary in Colombo for at least nine days (although only expected to teach on five days).

More information about the structure of the course and the level are available from me at geoffpound[at]

Please let NT teachers know about this request through your networks.

Geoff Pound

Image: Colombo—the skyline of the Fort area with the high towers of the World Trade Centre.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Short-Term Teaching in Sri Lanka

A specific and urgent request has come for a teacher to teach an Old Testament course in a seminary in Sri Lanka.

Their greatest need at the moment is for a lecturer who will be willing to spend around 10 days at the seminary and teach for 36 hrs in this period which straddles two weekends.

The dates given are 1-9th February 2008 but there is flexibility and it could be run in January or even later.

This course is part of a Masters programme.

While the urgent need is for someone who can teach a course in OT studies, the contact person has said “they would not decline offers for people who could teach NT.”

Do contact me for more information if there is any possibility of you being able to help.

Geoff Pound

Image: Satellite map of Sri Lanka

Monday, October 22, 2007

Myanmar: Same Place—Different Times

In an earlier post I drew attention to the need and opportunity for a capable teacher to undertake a 1-2 week intensive in Myanmar.

A further request has come asking if others might visit in September 2008 and in November 2008.

The task is to teach in the areas of Christian mission, leadership and the church.

Do write to me without any commitment on your part of you would like more information.

Geoff Pound

Image: Myanmar

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Fair Dinkum Aussie—Filipino Partnership

I have just received a letter from Aussie pastor, Russell. He wrote an earlier posting entitled, ‘No Theologian but Usable None the Less’ about leading a team to China and then other teams to the Philippines.

I think Russell’s leadership to his church to be practically involved in the Philippines is a great encouragement to other teams to be involved elsewhere e.g. see opportunity described in ‘South Indian Visit of Encouragement. As I note below, these opportunities are different from the requests for theological teachers.

Russell has just had a team of ten returning from the Philippines. They had a wonderful time. Only two of them had been there before. The network of churches that they visit stretches from the far north to the far south. For one person in the team it was a time of significant spiritual renewal. Russell’s people have visited these churches for the last four years.

Most of the team belonged to the church music team and they ran music seminars with the youth in all three churches that they visited.

The team took some gifts such as cell phones, new furniture and a washing machine. “They were blessed out of their boots.” [Wonderful Aussie lingo!]

Russell has invited and sponsored the Filipino pastor and his family to Melbourne next year on a reciprocal visit. One of Russell’s church members the other day offered one air fare as a result of his suggestion and today someone else offered another airfare.

When I asked Russell for more details he said:

“All the people in the Melbourne team were from our church. I did not lead the group this time [Russell has had several family weddings on his plate recently]. The leader of this group was one of my elders who went with me two years ago… Another guy who went with the team has travelled with me several times to China and the Philippines.”

I asked about how long it took for the team to prepare for this trip and what the preparation involved. Russell replied:

“We started planning for the trip in February this year. We had a weekend retreat for some bonding. I went and spoke about some aspects of visiting another country: manners, culture, food, health, etc. I also shared with them about what to expect when they came home from such a trip. Things like, not expecting everyone to be as excited as they are, so be patient with them. Another person spoke about the principles and practicalities of teamwork. They learnt some Tagalog songs before they went.”

I asked about the finances and Russell said:

“They met as a group four times I know of to talk about finances and fund raising. They did some great fundraisers. One was a curry in a hurry lunch. They raised just on $550 one day after church in about 30 mins selling home cooked take away curry lunches. It was delicious. They met on the Sunday night before they left on the trip. One of the Filipino people in our church hosted them and they tried some local cuisine. It was a real fun night. They also got online and pre booked all their seating together on the plane. They then were able to check in the fast lane. Our church put about $3000 into the trip to subsidise each person and we helped buy some gifts for the team to give.”

Any thing else to share?

“The guys all spoke Saturday night at Church and then Sunday morning at Church. They spoke for about 40 mins altogether with each person taking the microphone and telling us their highlights. The church was very touched by what was said. I encouraged the church to invite the members of the team around for a decent chat about what happened on the trip. Many appointments were made after the service with people still hanging around at 1.00 pm, one hour after the serviced concluded. It was great.

It would be a first for the Filipino pastor and his family to visit Australia. He is very blessed by the invitation. On the Sunday it was announced in their Church, the church went nuts [Aussie expression for crazy; excited].

This is a wonderful expression of Theologians Without Borders. It is team work by those that go as well as by those who are part of the support team from home. It speaks of genuine partnership and an ongoing relationship of mutuality and friendship. This was a visit of ordinary people who love Jesus and the benefits are continuing.

Do let me know if your church is keen to explore a similar partnership.

For more about the vision of TWB click here.
To learn more about the sort of people needed click here.
To write with an expression of interest click here.

Be aware that while we are receiving many requests for theological teachers we are also receiving requests for visits of encouragement akin to what Russell and his teams have been doing.

If you would like to know more from Russell, who with his church is building up useful expertise, do write to me to put you in touch and Russell will be keen to tell you more.

Geoff Pound

Image: Melbourne [look how blue the Yarra River is!] and the Philippines.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What Bill Clinton Thinks About Theologians Without Borders

Bill Clinton’s new book, ‘Giving’, is bound to be succeeded by ‘Giving II’ as the first volume bulges with inspirational and innovative examples of how ordinary people are giving.

I hope the former President will include a couple of pages in ‘Giving II’ on Theologians Without Borders, as an innovative way for people to give.

Here’s what Bill might write (based on his principles and quotes in ‘Giving’:

TWB is not an organization focused on the obvious giving of money; it’s about giving skills—theological teachers giving their expertise. As I said in ‘Giving’, “One of the greatest gifts anyone can give is a useful skill…. [and] education is the ultimate skills gift.”

I love the way TWB offers opportunities, not only for theological teachers but for other people with various gifts, to join in the team or to go as a librarian, an accountant an IT expert or with some other gift and make a difference. This resonates with that quote of Martin Luther King Jnr. that I mention in my introduction: “Everybody can be great…. Because everybody can serve.”

“When I left the White House, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life giving my time, money and skills to worthwhile endeavors where I could make a difference.” TWB is strategically suited for those who retire from theological teaching and pastoral leadership to continue to make a difference.

TWB is a good example of the giving of time—anything from a few days of teaching to six months or longer. I said in ‘Giving’: “While we don’t have all the same amount of money, we do have access to the same twenty-four hours in every day. Nearly everyone can carve out some opportunity for giving. The gift of time can sometimes be more satisfying and more valuable than money.” (p32)

For too long seminaries and churches have generally been perceived, and have been in reality, institutions that are asking for money. It is encouraging to see through TWB that seminaries and churches are moving “from getting to the giving business.” (pxi)

Apart from the good that theologians will do, this is terrific modeling for their students—when teachers leave their offices and classrooms and go to serve in another country. Perhaps they could take a group of students with them and share the teaching experience and (believe me, I’m no theologian but) why not make this an experience that the students can take for credit towards their degree?

I said in ‘Giving’ that, “the modern world, for all its blessings, is unequal, unstable, and unsustainable. And so the great mission of the early twenty-first century is to move our neighborhoods, our nation and the world toward integrated communities of shared opportunities, shared opportunities, and a shared sense of genuine belonging, based on the essence of every successful community—that our common humanity is more important than our interesting differences.”(p4) TWB gives a superb opportunity for genuine partnership and the stewardship of resources in an enterprise that is expensive. It is heartening to see the way TWB is committed to addressing the uneven distribution of opportunities to learn truth and be equipped for ministry.

TWB is an example of what I have devoted an entire chapter to addressing in my book—the gift of a model of giving. The ‘…without borders’ suffix suggests that TWB is following the example of Doctors… Reporters…and Clowns Without Borders. This is a model that others have given to you and as I said, “Why reinvent the wheel?”

In my book I have another chapter on ‘Gifts that Keep on Giving’ and the fine example of Heifer International, an organization that gives cows and goats that keep reproducing offspring that can be donated by the new owners. There is a very real sense in which the gift of teaching becomes multiplied. You will find that students receive your learning and become inspired to do likewise.

Geoff Pound and echoes of Bill Clinton in Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World (London: Hutchinson, 2007).

A full review of this fine book is at:
‘Jon Stewart and Clinton Talk about Bill’s New Book, ‘Giving’, Reviewing Books and Movies.

Image: Double billing at an AIDS summit.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Small Country—Big Opportunities

I have received a new request this week from a Baptist seminary in a small country in south Asia.
The need is for short-term volunteer theological teachers in a seminary and possibly taking training seminars into the regions.

This does not mean you need to be teaching in a theological College at the moment or necessarily a Baptist. You could well be a graduate student wanting to try your wings or you may be a seasoned pastor whose church will be glad to see you go for a while, will keep your salary going while you are away and pay your airfare (hopefully a return ticket!)

There is great flexibility with this request. Teachers would be welcome in a variety of periods from 2 weeks to 5 months (visa permitting) and anytime throughout the year, except December and January don’t appear to be convenient.

They could do with teachers in various disciplines, although when I pressed the Principal, he said there is an urgency in the areas of Bible, Leadership, Church Administration, Baptist Distinctives and the Church (Ecclesiology).

For more info do email me:

Geoff Pound
Chair of Coordinating Committee

Image: South Asia.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

South Indian Visit of Encouragement

There is a new opportunity for a person (preferably with a small team) to go to South India.

This would be a 1-2 week (there is flexibility) visit of encouragement in word and deed.

The request is for someone/s to go in December but there is flexibility on timing—December, February, March…

From December to March it is winter and as such it is easier for those in cooler climates to visit India at this time.

I am choosing not to post specifics on this public notice board so do email me if you are interested to explore (this does not commit you) this opportunity further.

Geoff Pound

Image: South India.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Theologians Without Borders: Some Key Documents

On this site there are numerous postings about international needs and opportunities for teachers and speakers.

There are also some enduring documents in the archives to which I want to draw your attention.

These will be of special help to newcomers to the TWB site.

Introducing Theologians Without Borders (the vision).

Expressions of Interest (fill out this form and send it to me to register your interest and passions).

By all means lurk through the early postings to read of opportunities and stories of people who have served in significant ways.

Geoff Pound

Image: “stories of people who have served in significant ways.”

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Teachers Needed for Sierra Leone

An opportunity is emerging for volunteer teachers (food and lodging provided) in a seminary in Africa’s Sierra Leone.

The needs are many but the urgent priorities include these subjects:
* Christian Education
* Missions
* Leadership Training

These are short-term opportunities ranging from 2-3 weeks for leadership training and a month for intensive courses in other subjects.

This is an enthusiastic institution which offers courses in holistic Christian development, sociological research, and since the civil war. they have been offering a major component in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution.

The best period would be sometime in the first half of 2008.

Do write to me if you wish to register an interest (without commitment) and would like more information.

Geoff Pound

Image: Sierra Leone.

Friday, September 21, 2007

OT Teacher Exploring Possibilities

An Old Testament/Hebrew Bible specialist has a sabbatical in the first part of next year (2008) and is exploring the possibility of spending some of this time teaching in another country.

If you are stationed in a seminary and have a need for an Old Testament teacher (prophets and narrative in particular) in that period, send me an email and I can put you in touch.

Geoff Pound
Coordinator, Theologians Without Borders (BWA)

Image: Hebrew Scriptures.

Opportunity in Myanmar/Burma

A request has come from a seminary in Myanmar/Burma for somebody to teach in the broad area of Mission, Church Planting, Christian Leadership and Church Administration. Also some preaching would be appreciated.

There are no minimum academic requirements insisted upon for this person.

The time when this volunteer would be most welcome is the first two weeks of December 2007.

The location is some distance outside of Rangoon.

If you would like more information, do send me an email and I can supply this and put you in touch with the Seminary President.

Geoff Pound

Image: Map of Myanmar/Burma (click to enlarge)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Books and Borders

You may not be able to serve across the borders in a teaching capacity at this stage but you can help by sending books across borders to enrich somebody’s theological education.

Rod Benson (pictured) is a pastor, teacher and Director of the Centre for Christian Ethics at Morling College, Sydney, Australia. In addition Rod runs a book ministry called ‘Living Libraries’. He has many good books suited to undergraduate/graduate seminary studies and some funds to pay freight costs in sending them overseas. Most books donated to ‘Living Libraries’ come from retiring pastors or pastors moving from house to a retirement village.

‘Living Libraries’ is a vital ministry. Here is a more extensive description with the details of how you might be involved.

‘Living Libraries’ was established by Dr Roger Kemp as a partnership between Australian Baptist churches and training institutions in countries where theological books are at a premium. ‘Living Libraries’ is a joint venture of the Centre for Evangelism and Global Mission (CEGM) and Global Interaction Australia (GiA). Rod Benson coordinates the project from Sydney. Roger Kemp continues to advise on suitable recipients based on his extensive knowledge and networks in many countries.

Many students in Bible and theological colleges around the world have little or no access to even basic textbooks.

The idea of ‘Living Libraries’ is simple: collect suitable books (new and used) from people, churches and other agencies and send them to people who need them.

Where possible, they also seek to provide other assistance to colleges, such as subscriptions to periodicals.

So far ‘Living Libraries’ has sent over 8,000 books to 14 locations in nine countries!

How can you help?

Donate some of your own books

Ask family and friends to donate books

Make ‘Living Libraries’ a ministry of your small group

Encourage your pastor to adopt ‘Living Libraries’ as part of your church’s commitment to world mission

Give money toward postage and packaging

Pay for a journal for a specific college

Suggest a possible recipient

Offer to pack and record books for sending

Pray for overseas colleges and students

Who to contact?

Contact Rev Rod Benson at Morling College (email Rod Benson or phone +61 0412 421 678).

Send books to ‘Living Libraries’, Morling College, 120 Herring Rd, Eastwood, Australia 2122.

Make cheques payable to ‘Morling College’ (clearly marked for ‘Living Libraries’).

Remember the Parchments
Confined to prison, the apostle Paul in a letter says, “Remember to bring the parchments—send the books!” It is hard to think of doing theological and biblical study without having books—good quality books. However, when money is in short supply the book budget is often the first thing that is cut. Assisting in “Living Libraries” is a strategic way of enriching people’s theological development.

Geoff Pound

Image: Rod Benson, “Living Libraries”

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Taking a Blogging Break

I am taking a break for a while, during which time I am not proposing to put regular postings on this site.

If special needs and opportunities come up I will certainly ensure that they get posted.

By all means trawl through the archives of this Theologians Without Borders site.

Let me recommend that a useful method is to use the ‘Search this Blog’ function at the top of the page for tracking down articles on subjects of interest.

Geoff Pound

Image: On the seventh day...?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Kerala Calling: Come over and Help Us!

I have received a request from the India Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in the Kottayam District of Kerala, India.

Principal Dr. K. Jacob Kurian has provided full details of the need and opportunity but in brief it is to teach a Module Course in Historical Theology.

The proposed dates for the teaching of this module are 27th to 31st August and 3rd to 7th September, 2007 at IBTS for 4 hours (an hour being 45 minutes of classroom work and 15 minutes of weightage for study in the Library.

This is a first year M.Th. (in Theology) class and is designed to trace the development of doctrines through church denominations, spiritual movements, and Christian leaders.

Students hail from Baptist, Brethren, Pentecostal, and Episcopal churches. In India today Dr Kurian says, “Students need to learn to discuss controversial issues, speaking the truth in love, enabling their own churches to grow evolving from within with freedom of expression and without spoiling the fellowship, without compromising on principles in the name of tolerance and broadmindedness, and without syncretism.”

The class will be comprised of very mature students able to assimilate deep truths.

The students have various Indian native languages as mother-tongues but the medium of instruction is English. No translation is provided or needed. English grammar and vocabulary are taught incidentally, not formally as a separate course.

If 27th to 31st August and 3rd to 7th September, 2007 are inconvenient another option is from 5th to 9th and 12th to 16th November, 2007.

The Seminary is in a rural setting with excellent campus facilities. It’s a 2-hour drive from Kochi Airport on the South-west coast of India.

The Seminary is accredited by IATA (International Association for Theological Accreditation). IBTS is an arm of the India Baptist Convention which is a member of Baptist World Alliance.

IBTS will meet the expenses of the resource person for travel from the airport to Seminary on arrival, from Seminary to airport for departure, boarding and lodging.

Further details not included in this posting have been received. If you would like more information and/or would like to express interest, please write as soon as possible to:

Geoff Pound
Convenor, TWB Coordinating Committee.

Image: Map of Kerala with location of Kochi and Kottayam District. Click on it for enlarging.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Cochabamba Calling

A letter to Theologians Without Borders has come from President Marcelino Tapia of the Baptist Seminary in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

He is requesting a Bible and a Missions professor.

Their semesters run from July to October and from March to June.

It would be an advantage to be able to teach in Spanish, but they can provide a translator until you learn the language.

The seminary is related to the Canadian Baptist Mission and is recognized by ASIT, which is a regional theological accrediting association.

The level of studies is at BA which is called licentiate; so a master’s degree would be the level required for a teacher responding to this opportunity.

Seminary classes are held early in the morning and in the evening, because all students have to work to support themselves.

The seminary can help by providing housing for couples or singles that teach, at a minimum cost.

Cochabamba is a city in central Bolivia, located in a valley bearing the same name in the Andes mountain range. It is the third largest city in Bolivia with a metropolitan population of more than 800,000 people.

Cochabamba is known throughout South America as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ and ‘The Garden City’ due to its warm temperatures year round and abundant well kept parks. It is a city with an attractive climate.

If you have an interest or would like more information please send me a note at:

Geoff Pound
Convenor, Coordination Committee, TWB.

Image: Cochabamba city.

Friday, May 25, 2007

“I have never enjoyed teaching (and learning!) so much.”

This is a story about a trio of Australians who in 2005 went to make a contribution in Bangladesh and some of their reflections about what they received and gave.

The Participants:
Rev Chris Barnden, Graeme Barnden, Keith Dyer (pictured at right).

Chris and Graeme were missionaries in Bangladesh for many years and both speak Bengali; Chris Barnden is now Director of Ministries with Global Interaction and Dr Keith Dyer teaches New Testament at Whitley College, the Baptist College of Victoria.

In the text below, Chris writes in the normal font, and Keith responds in italics.

The Trip
The trip arose out of a number of general conversations that Keith and I had had, where I invited him to come with me to Bangladesh. In my position with Global Interaction, I regularly visit the countries and people where Global Interaction staff are, or were present, and love to take someone with me as an opportunity for them to expand their horizons, as well as become better informed about what Global Interaction staff are doing in cross-cultural ministry. . .

I confess I had some reservations about going to Bangladesh — I’d seen enough misguided development projects and other missionary disasters (amongst a lot of good stuff too, I hasten to add) during my years in the Solomon Islands. I wasn’t worried about encountering a different culture and roughing it a bit, and I knew I would get on fine with my travelling companions, Chris and Graeme, but I guess I expected to be a bit disillusioned with all that I saw in the ‘Aid and Development’ capital of the world. I needn’t have worried — the grass roots transformation I saw happening in the Community Development programs caught me by surprise and dispelled any lingering cynicism. These people were for real.

I had harboured a wish for closer ties between Whitley and the College of Christian Theology in Bangladesh with whom I had worked for three years in the early ‘90’s. On the occasion of Whitley College’s centenary around that time, the College had made a donation as their gift to CCTB. I was looking for more of a partnership-type relationship, even if that simply meant opportunities for Whitley faculty to teach intensive courses in the Bachelor degree program that was still in its infancy then at CCTB. In the back of my mind was a hope that Faculty of CCTB might have opportunity to study at Whitley as a capacity building exercise in building up the theological teaching resources of the small Christian community of Bangladesh. The CCTB have recently implemented a Masters of Arts degree in theology, which disappointed me, because I believed that at least a MDiv program would have been better, let alone a MTh. I hoped that some interface between Whitley faculty and CCTB faculty would be a positive step towards that happening some day.
As it turned out, we only got to CCTB towards the end of our time in Bangladesh, and it was during their holiday time, so only a few faculty were present. But I was delighted to see the campus and meet the legendary Simon Sircar, not least a former doctoral student of mine, Rev Dr Pratap Gine, will take over as Principal from Simon. I was impressed with how they were building up their faculty and students through their links with Bangalore. It seems that the possibility of offering Masters units on their own Campus is not too far distant, and the
opportunities for visiting teachers to supplement these offerings are exciting. Theologians Without Borders might be just the thing we need to foster these ongoing visits and links . . .

I was excited when Keith was able to get time off to come with me because I knew of his teaching abilities, and I definitely planned to use him at every opportunity. I also sincerely believed that Keith would be blessed by diverse experiences of Bangladeshi culture.

Well I learnt a lot more than I taught, I’m sure. And my teaching would have been useless for most of the hearers without Chris’s translation (and probably all sorts of extra explanations he added to make sense of what I was saying). Graeme’s occasional one-liners helped enliven things from time to time also. I had a ball. The development teams were really switched on young women and men, and they were prepared to wrestle with the texts together with us, and with the cultural assumptions we all bring to our interpretation of the Bible.

Keith gave teaching in two different contexts – to groups of Muslim-background believers who, though they’d definitely had an encounter with Christ and they were well acquainted with the scripture, had not had any length of church or Christian tradition; and to groups of established Christians who had grown up in the Christian community, “Christian” in this context meaning the sociological and definable community named “Christian” as opposed to the Muslim community or Hindu community. While both groups may have included nominal followers, the second would have contained a greater number of nominal followers in the sense that, for many, they are Christian because ‘they were born Christian,’ and read the Bible because that’s what Christians do.

This was all very fascinating to me: to try and master the greetings (verbal and visual) for the Muslim majority, the Hindus, the Garos and other tribal groups, and then to observe how the believers within each of those cultures expressed their faith.

The first group listened keenly because they had never heard this teaching. They, by and large, are characterised by a keenness to know what the holy book says. After all, they had given allegiance previously to one holy book which they believed contained the words of God(Allah), and so had an intense expectation that God would speak through this ‘newly’-discovered book, and his messenger. Keith, whether by design or inspiration chose some apt passages to teach from, which were appropriate for the context in which he spoke. His sense of the thrust of the whole passage and the links from one story to the next within the passage were very helpful to a group who have been taught from childhood that a verse stands on its own.

Speaking with these groups was like visiting the Early Church believers before they accepted the nickname “Christian” (in Antioch). We talk about the “Emerging Church” in the Western context, sometimes, but for me these people embodied all the potential of a new movement of Jesus followers. To survive in their context they MUST NOT be “contaminated” by Western models of “Christianity” or Western immorality. Empowered by the spirit of God/Allah, they will find their own destiny as believers in Jesus, and it was a privilege to meet and share with them.

The second group found themselves listening more intently because they had never heard ‘this sort of teaching before!’ Keith took a series of stories that been put in the traditional ‘too-hard’ basket, and, using local and familiar illustrations or motifs, gently led the audience to a new understanding of what these stories were teaching.

In the second of two larger groups with whom Keith taught, a number simply didn’t understand what he was getting at, unused to looking at scripture in such a way. However, as I looked around the room (I was translating) there were a number of faces which lit up, showing that, perhaps for the first time where these passages were concerned, they really understood what Jesus was saying. It was as though they were discovering that Scripture is a living word and really is the source of daily instruction and encouragement.

On two occasions, these teaching sessions went almost all day (once because we were advised not to go outside during a general strike), but the enthusiasm, the humour, the earnest discussions all made the time fly by (not to mention the wonderful Bengali food). Again, I really don’t know about the value of my own words, but I know that the engagement with the Biblical text was genuine and vigorous, and that the value of having those who understand the culture and the language (or rather, both cultures and languages, namely Chris and Graeme), made the whole exchange of ideas possible. I confess that I have never enjoyed teaching (and learning!) so much as during those weeks in Bangladesh.

Many thanks to Chris and Keith for sharing their story from Bangladesh.

Geoff Pound

Images: The lower photo is of Chris at work in a sewing class.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Counting the Cost of Border Crossing

Norm Nix, the Director of Crossover Australia for Australian Baptists, has a son and family serving in an overseas mission situation.

Norm was recently asked to offer some reflections on what it was like for him and his wife Marjorie to be separated from his grandchildren.

In a superb article stocked with wise words Norm tells the story of a Baptist pastor who gave a stirring call and challenge to his congregation to serve God in countries overseas. To his surprise, the preacher’s son responded to the call. Afterwards the preacher said to him, “I didn’t mean you, son!”

It is a good thing to consider whether our words are in sync with our hearts when we speak publicly.

This story is pertinent when considering or commending to others the issue of short or long term service across the borders and into another country.

Source: ‘Grandparents and their perspective,’ Vision, Global Interaction, Melbourne, May 2007, 16.

Image: Norm Nix. Thanks for the story Norm.

Geoff Pound

Thursday, May 17, 2007

'Is it Possible to Get Doctorates in the Jungle?'

A Bible teacher in an refugee camp said to me a couple of months ago; “Is it possible to do a doctorate here in the jungle?”

Since that chance remark I have exchanged scores of emails with Dr. Lilian Lim, President of the Asian Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary (ABGTS) and her colleagues.

In recent days at their Executive meeting, the ABGTS agreed to make an official visit to the camp to discover ways in which they might be able to assist in offering training for the next generation of leaders.

The Bible School is large but it all happens, along with a parallel, Pre-University Diploma Program, with people who have no income, no passports, no freedom to travel to existing seminaries and in a place where the library is small. It has grown largely through the assistance of voluntary teachers who have traveled from their own countries to teach for an intensive or to stay longer. Thankfully they have a growing number of their own teachers who have gained basic and some advanced theological qualifications.

I am delighted that the ABGTS Executive spent two hours of their meeting discussing ways that they might help and concluded by responding positively and enthusiastically.

However this might develop, ‘Doctorates in the Jungle’ is a further, encouraging expression of Theologians Without Borders.

Geoff Pound

Image: The photo of this place which appears to be most scenic until you realize that this is a prison for displaced people. Location and context have intentionally not been named in this posting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Report from Asia

I have recently returned from attending a Church Leadership Conference followed by the Asian Baptist Congress in Chiang Mai, Thailand. These were wonderful events and involved bringing 1800+ people together from many countries over Asia.

There is an official report or two on the BWA web site at this link:

Baptist World Alliance-Asian Baptist Congress

I did get some good opportunities to speak formally about Theologians Without Borders but the main work was done on a one-to-one level. Email and web sites have a purpose but they can never achieve what is attained by sitting down and talking over some curry and rice or some Thai green tea.

You can get bombarded with business cards at these gatherings. The greatest challenge for TWB is to be strategic and to work out where to concentrate so that speakers for Pastor's Conferences and lecturers for intensive teaching courses are matched where the needs are greatest.

I received numerous ‘Macedonian Calls’—“Come over and help us.” I have gone back to these people, asking them to think carefully about what their needs are and making their requests more specific.

I would like to tell you the countries where these requests have come from but most are from places that are politically delicate and the posting of further details has the potential to jeopardise their ongoing work and our attempts to respond with short term assistance.

I am happy to say more by email so if you are interested in more detail please drop me a line.

It was also worthwhile chatting to people who may be interested to teach and speak beyond their own borders so the conference was valuable in this way.

If there is a possibility that you may be able to assist please go to the posting on this site called Expressions of Interest, paste this pro forma, fill it out on a Word document and send it to me. There is no commitment either way but you never know what might happen from such a step.

Geoff Pound

Image: Part of the contingent in Chiang Mai from Papua New Guinea.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Inspirational and Challenging Book

People thinking about investing time and money to help those with fewer resources will be encouraged and inspired by John Wood’s story of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.

A review I have written about this book is posted at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Geoff Pound

Image: John Wood—entrepreneur and founder of Room to Read.

Monday, April 16, 2007

'No Theologian but Usable none the Less'

Russell Drowley resonated with the Theologians Without Borders vision and wrote encouraging me in this new activity.

He has seen what can be done as he has made himself available to cross borders into China and the Philippines.

Even more importantly he has found great excitement and a strategic mission secret, when he has taken others from his church with him to share in Pastor’s Conferences. Thanks Russell for writing up your story. Read on with Russell:

Eleven years ago at the ripe old age of 41 I watched as all my worldly goods were packed into one single shipping container. What have I been doing all these years? For the past eight years my pastoral experience was a country Church in the Latrobe Valley about 140 kms east of Melbourne. Then I received a call to a Church in the inner North Western suburbs of Melbourne. At that stage in my life my most adventurous oversees travels were to Tasmania. A passport was something “other” people had. To my best recollections I had never even seen one. Wow, how things have changed.

Eleven years on I have just received my new electronic passport. Looking at my now defunct passport I counted 8 visa’s to China, one to the US and many other stamps of places in Asia including, Malaysia - twice, Philippines – five, and Hong Kong – five. How had this country guy with five kids now leading a suburban city church manage to do all that on a modest income? God only knows, and He certainly does.

My first trip to China took place in 1997 with a group of five other people. I enjoyed it very much and certainly wanted to return. Two years later I took my ever enduring wife who did not enjoy the cuisine of chickens feet and a fish head here and there. But we made contact with a Pastor in the underground Church in China and here is where my real adventure began. This young Pastor was working hard and my heart went out to him. I wanted to support and encourage him.

I had a dream to take this young Pastor from Hainan Island right down in the south of China to meet Pastor Samuel Lamb in Guangzhou, who is a well known underground Church Pastor. My wife and I had the privilege of meeting him in 1999.

So in 2000 I took Paul with me to meet Pastor Samuel Lamb. It was awesome. Now seven years on I have returned six times to meet with Paul and his Church family. I now conduct two to three days of teaching for him and he host’s other Pastors from neighbouring churches. I would need a book to tell you all the amazing stories about how God has used an Aussie Pastor to minister to these amazing people in China.

In 2002 a door opened for me in the Philippines. For the past five years I have worked in both China and the Philippines encouraging Churches and Pastors. Last year in the Philippines I preached my heart out thirty times in ten days in three different Churches. Couldn’t do that at home!

Every year now I take someone with me. The effect on the people I take is just amazing. They come home energized and so much more excited about their faith in God and all He is able to do in people’s lives. Our Church has benefited. Last year we gave 19% of our total income to missions projects both here and overseas.

If you are considering a trip overseas don’t hesitate. Just get that passport and your Bible ready and away you go. Do you need lots of letters after your name? Letters mean nothing to the people I’ve met in China and the Philippines. Most of all I believe they need our encouragement and affirmation and we are all qualified to give that.

Many Blessings.

Pastor Russell Drowley.
Hope Centre, Glenroy, Melbourne, Australia.

Image: Russell writes: “I have also attached a photo of some of my friends from Cabanatuan in the Philippines. You guessed it. I’m the one in middle at the front.”

Monday, April 9, 2007

Elephants, Theologians and the Bottom Line

I was visiting Thailand recently and was reminded not only of the fact that the elephant is their national symbol but the way this animal is loved. My visit coincided with National Elephant Day in Thailand and as a mark of appreciation the elephants were paraded and served a special ‘buffet’ of fruit and vegetables.

Throughout the world elephants are almost universally admired for their unique appearance, their intelligence and their amazing memory. Some reports of the 2004-2005 tsunami in Thailand noted the super sensitivity of elephants who, “went crazy as they bellowed, broke their tethers and headed upland,” a long time before the waves struck the coast. The number of proverbs relating to elephants is a sign of the qualities humans attribute to them. Writer and preacher, F W Boreham has an interesting essay on the way the term, ‘white elephant’ has come into our language.

An office I used to visit regularly had a sign on the window with these words:

“Getting things done around here is like mating elephants. It’s done at a very high level. It’s accomplished with a great deal of bellowing and it takes two years for anything to be produced.

Some recent research into the plight of elephants has highlighted the stress and grief facing these social animals when their relatives have been killed by poachers.

One of the innovative campaigns intended to raise public consciousness about the evil done to elephants is the [golden!] award winning Great Elephant Poo Poo Paper Company’. Elephant dung is collected and processed into odorless paper. One turd, they state, can be transformed into 25 large sheets of gift paper which they sell with other paper products through their online ‘Pootique’. The news of the award and this poo to gift paper business caused comedian, Jay Leno to get to the bottom line and remark, “I hope they provide self-sealing envelopes!”

Here is one fascinating glimpse into elephant behavior that is used to illustrate the cross cultural insensitivity of some human beings:

A person talking about her experiences of living in East Africa told a group of people what happens when a herd of elephants approach a water hole that is surrounded by another herd. She said the lead elephant of the second group turns around and backs down toward the water hole. As soon as its backside is felt by the elephants around the water, they step aside and make room for it and this is the signal to the others that the first herd is ready to make room and invite them to the water.

And then the person talked of how she and her colleagues had gone to work among a tribe in Eastern Africa and she confessed, “Unlike the approaching elephants we did not back in.”

Geoff Pound

Image: African elephants at a water hole.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

‘Come Over and Help Us!’

I have received a call from a South East Asian location for theological teachers.

This could be for one week (in which you teach an intensive), two weeks or three. It is very flexible.

In trying to pin the request down specifically, I haven’t been successful at this stage as they are ‘grateful for any assistance’.

The need is very great. The students are many. There are opportunities for sharing with a wider number of people in regular worship services.

The medium is English. The grasp of the English language varies from student to student. The students are hungry to learn.

You need to be a good communicator in another culture. You don’t have to be currently teaching in a seminary. You might be serving as a pastor in a church. Women and men are able to teach and preach in this context. You need to be versatile and ready to speak at the drop of a hat.

Accommodation is basic and challenging. Resources on the spot are scarce, although there is a good Internet service. Mobile phones work if you get in the right spot.

Bed, ‘room’ and mossie nets are free and local style food is provided. The nearest McDonalds restaurant is a five hour drive away, if this is important to you. A good coffee shop is a twenty minutes drive from this place.

There is neither pay nor finance offered for plane fares.

This opportunity will change your life.

For good reasons I do not want to put more details on this public notice board but if you would like to know more please email me at

Geoff Pound

Image: ‘Come Over and Help Us!’

Tuesday, April 3, 2007



Please copy and use these questions as a framework for writing your ‘Expression of Interest’ in serving as a TWB volunteer and email it to Geoff Pound, with a digital photo. Stretch out the template of questions to get the space you need for your reply.

If you would like to serve with a partner or a friend, please make this clear and get that person to answer these questions, especially if they are offering to serve.










If you are currently serving in a church or Theological College please comment on your freedom and permission-giver/s to take time out for an overseas assignment.









Please try and be specific about the window/s of opportunity you have and other periods when you know you would definitely not be free.


List the functions you think you could or would like to offer—preaching, administration, teaching, consultancy, pastoral care, building, fix it person, agriculturalist, cook, tutoring….

If you are a theological/Bible teacher or trainer, list the subjects and courses you could offer.

If you are offering to speak at a Pastors/Leaders’ conference, list the themes you would be able to address.

If the course or conference themes were left completely to you, list the things you would love to speak about at the moment.


List other details or questions you want to add.

Supply the name, role and contact details of two people who can give an honest and fair assessment of your (you and your partner/friend) suitability for service in a cross cultural, voluntary assignment.


After completing this form, please send to me-Geoff Pound (see email address above)-along with a digital photo. I will acknowledge receipt of your ‘Expression of Interest’.

Every effort will be made to keep your details confidential. They will be shared only with the TWB Coordinating Committee and denominational and seminary leaders who are seeking people to help them.

Please recognize that it may take several months to process so get your ‘Expression of Interest’ in early.

We cannot promise opportunities. TWB is about suggesting and recommending names to leaders who are looking for assistance.

Many thanks for your consideration and for making an offer of your service, gifts and time.

Geoff Pound
Chair of Coordinating Committee, TWB.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

TWB: The Type of People Needed.

Some people have read the information about Theologians Without Borders and have asked for further details as to the qualities of people who might teach and minister in different places where there are opportunities and needs.

When I have asked this question of people who have hosted visiting teachers in the past I have quickly heard stories of the sort of people who are not wanted! Reports like these:

“We had a well known theologian who came to us and then recommended that his friend come and teach in our seminary. He had the qualifications… the resume looked impressive but he was unusual. Relationally he was a disaster with our students and it left us embarrassed and picking up the pieces for months.”

“Our seminary invited a teacher who had a long record of serving in a Theological College. He just wanted to teach. He wasn’t interested in eating with us, fellowshipping with us or even meeting us to talk about the situation we were facing.”

If we have hosted a visiting teacher or preacher, we might all have one horror story of our theologian from hell.

The two snapshots highlight the importance of visiting teachers and preachers being people who are good relationally—wise with students and warm with their new colleagues. All this in addition to a lively relationship with God.

Even though Theologians Without Borders is about the giving of oneself voluntarily rather than going on a paid assignment, this does not imply that we offer people who are second-rate or do a second-rate job.

As at the Cricket World Cup, the teams representing their country are those who have proved their giftedness on their home soil, not those who have played in a mediocre fashion. Therefore, we are looking for the very best people who will give of their best to serve in another country.

We are looking for people who are not only able teachers and speakers but people who can foot it well in another culture—people who are adaptable, happy to do the unexpected, good listeners and are pastoral with those who are wanting to share their lives.

Sometimes the overseas stint can be seen as an escape from the difficulties we are currently facing. Harry Emerson Fosdick once gave an address entitled, ‘The First Mile.’ He said that while going the second mile seems to be the honourable and the exemplary, such a journey is only worthy if it follows the walking of the first mile well i.e. doing the basic tasks well and fulfilling those primary responsibilities at work and at home faithfully.

If you think you fulfil the requirements for a theologian who crosses the borders to serve elsewhere, do let us know of your expression of interest through sending us some information about you (questions will be listed in the next posting), a photograph and the name and contact details of two people who know you well and can give you a fair and honest commendation.

Please note: The information that you send or the name of anyone who is available or thinking about a possibility will not be advertised in public mail outs or posted on this web site. The material you send will be treated confidentially as it is shared with seminary and church leaders seeking assistance.

The pro forma with questions for you to cover in your letter will follow this posting in the next day or so.

If there are any questions you have about this process don’t hesitate to email me.

Geoff Pound
Chair Coordinating Committee for Theologians Without Borders.

Image: We are looking for “those who have proved their giftedness on their home soil.” Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist looking pleased after representing Australia well on West Indian soil, after clinching a convincing win against Bangladesh. [This illustration does not betray any bias as I was born in neither Australia nor Bangladesh.]

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Theologians: Give Yourself a Break!

Further to my last posting about Angelina, Brad and Theologians Without Borders, here is another article on the same theme.

This one, from Christian Science Monitor, How you can take a break and help others, does recognize the positive aspect of having a change of environment, a break, a sabbatical and how we might be refreshed as we help others.

Geoff Pound

Source: CSM, 9 March 2007.

Image: All the people! A picture from my recent visit to Kolkata.

Brad, Angelina and Theologians Without Borders

Is Theologians Without Borders yet another variation of dressing up the travel bug in an attractive religious guise?

A recent LA Times article, Tourists Go Extra Mile to Do Good, offers some reasons for the frenzy of activity in which people are using their holidays not to blob out on the beach but to build a house in Fiji with Habitat with Humanity or visit a refugee camp in Thailand.

It suggests that Brad and Angelina can be blamed for making do-gooding in orphanages a glamorous way to spend your holiday.

It postulates that the rise in retirees, heading off to distant lands with their work tools, is Tsunami driven. Writing out a cheque and sending the money seems boring compared with rolling up your sleeves and then seeing the look of satisfaction on people’s faces.

Whatever the causes, new travel groups and web sites are springing up to cater for the rise in religious or humanitarian travel. Those seeking to fly the second mile.

Theologians Without Borders is a volunteer movement with a new name. It is designed to match people possessing special skills with those wanting to benefit from their teaching.

The vision of TWB is not new. It is simply another short term expression of the mandate to minister in ever-increasing circles. It is another way of putting up a Macedonian megaphone to the lips of those who are saying today, ‘Come over and help us?’

The droves that are following in the footsteps and plane seats of Angelina and Brad give us a good reason to ask why we are doing it.

Geoff Pound

Image: Brad, Angelina and friends.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Introducing Lilian Lim

Meet Lilian Lim
Lilian is a Chinese woman, born and based in Singapore.

Formerly a teacher and journo (Straits Time), Lilian sensed a new call and undertook theological training first at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Singapore and then at Southern Seminary in Louisville, where she completed a Ph.D in New Testament and Theology.

Lilian has served as a pastor, a teacher, Academic Dean and Vice President of the BTS in Singapore.

Further a field she has served on the executive of the Singapore Baptist Convention, the executive of the Asian Baptist Federation, the Board of Directors for Global Women (USA), the Board for Medical ethics Review, Singapore and the Doctrine and Inter-Church Cooperation Commission of the BWA.

Lilian is passionate about training ministers of the word (men and women), integrating faith and the arts and the culinary arts.

Strategically Placed
With her detailed knowledge of theological education and church life among Baptists in Asia and as President of the Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary (ABGTS), it is expected that Lilian will have a strategic role in Theologians Without Borders. She travels extensively and she will help us to identify the opportunities and assist in the matching of personnel with posts.

In Her Own Words
In a recent communication Lilian says this about Theologians Without Borders and its vision:

“As the new millennium sails into its first decade, it saddens the world with large-scale disasters. The tsunami in Asia wiped out hundreds of thousands within minutes. What else do we need to strike us with a sense of the brevity of life?”

“At the Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary, we encourage lovers of God to live with a sense of purpose as we gather and make friends to share a common passion for the ministry of the Word. And as friends go by, we partner to learn and work together where we may be most needed, regardless of race, region, language, or gender.”

“The common tie that binds us is the yearning to fulfill our life’s calling and stretch our potential as we respond to stimulating challenges first in our own neighbourbood and then beyond.”

“Become a theologian without borders. Share your calling, expertise, & experience. Be adventurous, get out of your comfort zone, learn as you teach. Give and you shall receive, the Master Teacher himself declares.”

“Get connected with us. And connect us with your circle.”

Thanks Lilian for your encouragement.

Geoff Pound

Image: Lilian Lim.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Profile of a Theologian Without Borders

Sabbatical with a Difference
George Wieland is a lecturer in New Testament at Carey Baptist College in Auckland, New Zealand, with a background of pastoral ministry in the UK and work in Brazil. His sabbatical was due in the first part of last year (2006). Instead of heading for Oxford or Cambridge to spend his entire study leave in research and writing George sought and was granted permission from his Principal to spend some time in an overseas mission context.

Where To?
Where does one look for overseas opportunities in a different context and where one’s services are vitally needed? A good place to begin is with the leader of the Overseas Mission department of one’s Baptist Union and that is what George did.

George was quickly linked with the Director of Theological Training and the General Secretary of the Baptist Union in an Asian country, which we shall call V.[1] This led to an invitation for a month to teach in the theological school in V. Let George tell his story and identify some of the benefits of such an experience:

Benefits of Traveling
“On the way I visited other New Zealanders struggling with the challenges of urban mission in one of Asia’s megacities. This three day stop off provided an important and necessary transition.”

“Short as it was, this time in W hugely increased my awareness of the situations of life and the sorts of work being done by the staff there, and the visit gave them the opportunity to talk about what (and how) they were doing. One seemed to appreciate the opportunity to discuss theological issues arising out of their work, and another spoke of their need to be refreshed and replenished – again, mentioning specifically Biblical/theological input.”

“I stayed in the Guest House, meeting a youth team from the UK, a Canadian pastor and his family, and others. On the Sunday I worshipped in C Baptist Church and met several folk, including students at a city Bible College.”

“It was my first experience of W and I spent hours just wandering about, trying to capture some sense of the city and its life and people. Overwhelming at first. Sensory overload! But so valuable as a first step in moving from knowledge about to knowledge of W and its religious culture and human challenges.”

Getting Going
“I spent 4 April – 3 May in V. I taught courses on Luke's Gospel and Romans to a student group consisting of village evangelists from various tribes. Teaching was a challenge – requiring translation into the tribal language and sometimes into others as well, with no books except the Scriptures, blackboard and chalk the only equipment – but the students were very appreciative. It seems that teaching of Biblical subjects has been in short supply.”

“I spoke on Sundays at different gatherings…. Something of a revival had been going on there for a few months… but also a few things had arisen that were of concern to a local leader who seemed appreciative of the opportunity to talk these matters over.”

“There were many opportunities to talk at length with denominational leaders and others.”

“The last weekend of my visit was spent in village reached by an 8/9 hour journey… I was there as guest speaker at the annual assembly, speaking at the four main meetings on the topic they requested, "Growing in Maturity". This was a superb opportunity to get alongside people from various churches and parts of V, pastors, young people, etc., hear of their circumstances and experiences of faith and speak of the challenges they face and their hopes for the future.”

“It was a real privilege to meet two of the V pioneers, each now 80, who had been denominational leaders and had worked with the first New Zealanders who had been there. It was also encouraging to meet some young people who are doing training elsewhere but eager to serve their people in V.”

Building the Relationship
“For the congregations, theological school and the denomination's leaders in V, the visit represented a continuation of the link they have with NZ through the NZ Missions Department. As a Scot, I was very proud to be considered an honorary Kiwi, and introduced as ‘George Wieland from New Zealand’! The strength of affection and esteem for the New Zealanders is a great tribute to the excellent work done and relationships built by generations of people through to the short term teams in the last couple of years. The input through teaching, presentations and conversation during my visit was very warmly welcomed and seems to have been helpful.”

Teaching in a Different Context
“There was also much to process in terms of the contextualisation of Scripture and faith. Working through Luke and Romans in that very different environment and then thinking through what Christian maturity meant in that context generated fresh challenges and insights.”

“It was instructive to see forms of ministry and inter-church relating adapted to the exigencies of the situation, and to observe the ways in which several tribes with different languages and variations in culture could worship and work together…Fifteen tribes were represented at the assembly with the services switching between six different languages – differences in style (partly reflecting when and through whom the Gospel had reached each group) from translations of Sankey hymns sung in four-part harmony to new songs to indigenous melodies and, recent but growing, young people singing Hillsong worship songs in English!”

'Sweeter than honey; more precious than gold'
“I appreciated more than before what an inestimable gift a Bible translation is – the ability for the words of scripture to connect with and impact one’s thinking and living directly, giving continuous reassurance that these words are for you.”

The Gospel really Works!
“For me, as a product of Christian influence filtered through many centuries of Western culture and assumptions, it was startling to see the tangible effects of embracing Christian faith seen in a very short period of time, with cleaner villages, better health, valuing of education, improved housing, etc. From my own context in which church growth is slow, incremental and individual, seeing families and communities that have come to faith was very refreshing.”

“Time and again I found myself thinking, what if B hadn’t pressed on with that translation, and there had been no NT for the churches mushrooming in the 80’s and the communities continuing to come to faith today? What if the pioneers and others in their wake… had just not bothered? I’ve always believed that “your labour in the Lord is not in vain” but it was thrilling to have the chance to see such fruit from service in the (relatively) recent past, and I’ve come away with renewed desire to invest wisely whatever gifts and opportunities I have and work diligently.”

Ways We Could Help
While I was in V I heard many suggestions of ways in which those in NZ (and elsewhere) could continue to partner with those in V. Here are some, without necessarily suggesting that we should do all this, but so that you can know what some of the V folk would love to see happen.

1. Help to resource training for pastors
· fund teaching and other staff for the theological school
· help in constructing a curriculum and attaining accreditation
· help in writing courses
· regular visits from people who can teach block courses

“The churches have continued to grow and there is a desperate need for the pastoral care and teaching of all those believers.… They have neither the people nor the money to have a system of a pastor for each congregation... Instead, pastors are appointed and supported by associations, and the association gives each pastor an area or group of congregations to look after – anything from 10-20. Many of the pastors I met were worn out. They are constantly on the move, some of them in remote rural areas where they have to go on foot from one village to the next, and are able to do little more than make occasional visits to each congregation and then move on.”

“I’d heard of the great need for teaching and training but being there impressed on me the urgency and extent of that need.”

2. Help in resourcing the training of people in local congregations to teach and disciple
· Fund training trips into villages
· Write courses and materials

“There is a great shortage of people in the congregations (especially in the many congregations that have been founded recently) who are able to offer any sort of teaching to new believers. This inevitably leads to some who fall away, and groups being vulnerable to people or movements with strange ideas.”

3. Work with children
· Help with preparing materials appropriate to the context
Only a small minority of T’s congregations have anything specifically for children.

4. Encouragement and refreshment
· Visits from those who could lead retreats/conferences for T leaders.
· Funding for travel/costs of such events.

Immense Benefits
“I was told many times by the leaders at V: ‘Keep the visits coming. Short term team visits are such a boost to congregations. We want people who can teach at our theological school, people who can lead retreats for leaders, those who can speak at youth conferences and women's conferences.”

“I asked the GS if it wouldn't be better simply to send money! His reply was that of course money is useful but they cannot put a price on the value of personal links – encouragement to them, and valuable, visible international connections.”

If you have a sabbatical coming up and you are keen to spend some or all of it in an overseas situation, talk to your Overseas Missions leader or myself as Chair of the Coordination Committee for TWB. Send an email to George to get further tips.

Geoff Pound

Image: George Wieland

[1] There can be difficulties in naming countries, cities and colleges and in these case studies knowing these details does not matter. If you need to know further details feel free to contact George.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Saying the Word

It has been a delight to receive so many letters expressing support for the Theologians Without Borders vision. I am grateful to have received in these last few days several responses of ‘Keep me in mind’ if something comes up. Thank you to those who sensitively thought of someone else and forwarded the initial information to them. Some very positive expressions of ‘Keep me in mind’ came because others had sent them my letter. It is not too late for you to do the same.

Thank you also for your many questions, many of which I will try and get addressed through our future postings.

One mantra that has been repeated several times is, “I am not a theologian” or “I am not a great theologian” and then follows a summary of a rich experience of ministry experience.

We are using the word theologian generically, not to describe a teacher in theology as distinct from a Biblical scholar, missiologist, pastoral counselor etc.

The word and title theologian is being used to describe a Christian, a pastor, a chaplain, anyone who is seeking, knowing, studying and naming God.

Eugene Peterson writes a lot about the need to sensitively but surely name God when he states that much of contemporary church life seems to be about us and not about God. In a book in the Leadership Series on Special Services there is a wonderful article by Peterson in which he helps Christian celebrants to see past the nuts and bolts of the wedding service. Describing the chief role of the worship leader at such a service he says, “We are there to say one word—‘God.’”

I am also reminded of the importance of the word and work of the ‘theologian’ by a reflective article by Dr. F. W. Boreham.

“If I could have my ministry all over again,” F. W. Boreham writes at the age of eighty-six, after writing more than fifty-five books, penning over 3,000 editorials and preaching countless sermons over a span of almost seventy years. Whatever would he want to do differently? Whatever did he regret? Dr. Boreham continues:

“If I could have my ministry over again, I would talk more about God."

Take the Next Step
We are all called to be theologians. To communicate this one important word, by what we say and how we live.

I hope you, therefore, feel included in the vision of Theologians Without Borders.

I hope you might take the next step of being available to serve in places that are new and that sometimes appear to be risky.

Geoff Pound

Image: “take the next step… in places that are new and sometimes appear to be risky.”