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.