Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Yearning to Contribute Significantly to Others

Yearning to Do Good
One of the things I have noticed since coordinating Theologians without Borders is the yearning that so many people have to do something significant and make a contribution to the lives of others.

This yearning has surfaced in many letters I have received. Here is one of the most recent:

“I'm currently working for XYZ - a good gig, but I'm looking for a different challenge and I reckon volunteering somewhere overseas would be the best thing I can do right now. Might be a long shot but I had an idea you might be able to give me some pointers, or put me in touch with some people who can tell me how to get myself out in the big wide world.”

“I'll go anywhere, do anything I possibly can - pretty keen to just knuckle down and get into it really.”

“So yes! With that rather determined note, any tips?”

Unfortunately TWB has a rather specific focus but I offered some pointers that involved a stock take of the man’s gifts and passions and starting to contact organizations that are looking for people with those talents.

CNN Honors Ordinary Heroes
When I received this guy’s sound out it was around American Thanksgiving Day and my wife and I had watched the annual CNN Heroes Program. It was inspiring to see ordinary Americans getting involved in a wide range of voluntary endeavors.

I said to my enquirer:

“Today on CNN (Thanksgiving Day) they had an inspiring program called CNN Heroes (check this out on their web site) Ten people doing ten very different things had been profiled and people could vote for their hero. In reality they are all heroes. It was so inspiring and I think even in these difficult financial days it taps into a deep need that we all have to serve. Many of the ten people have established organizations and most spoke to the audience challenging them to get involved.”

If you didn’t see the program it is screening again via CNN on Christmas Day but the stories of the people, their speeches and how others can help can be seen by online video. It is both informative and inspirational. A great resource.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Liz McCartney, who is helping residents rebuild their homes after Katrina, is the 2008 CNN Hero of the Year. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Melinda Gates Embodies School Motto ‘I Serve’

What would you do if you were married to one of the richest men on the planet? Holiday on your private island, swan around on a yacht, shop in Paris or gallivant around the party circuit?

Check out the inspiring story of Melinda and Bill Gates who love to spend their time tackling the AIDS epidemic, visiting slums and hospices in India.

This article tells about:

* Donating $17.3 billion
* Warren Buffett pledging most of his $62 bill to the Gates Foundation
* Discovering the influence of Melinda’s school motto—“Serviam” (I serve)

Janice Turner, Melinda and Bill Gates: Saving Lives, Times Online, 29 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Melinda Gates.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Travelling can be both Exhilarating and Stressful

Check out what the Milwaukee International Airport has created to aid departing travelers who are harried, confused and frustrated after undergoing scanners and X-rays.

Link: Stories for Speakers and Writers.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: All part of the scanning and security saga at most international airports today.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Living and Learning Amid Cultural Diversity and Many Languages

It is easy to think of ‘Crossing Borders of Language’ as something that is needed only when making international visits but for most of the countries where we are living, the world has come to us.

With increasing mobility and the rising tides of migration we are encountering people still heavily shaped by their first culture and their thinking largely framed by their first language.

To truly relate and appreciate people in our multicultural communities it requires that we continue to learn about the culture and the languages of others.

Barack Obama recognizes this increasing need for when writing The Audacity of Hope he says:

“That’s not the future I want for my daughters. Their America will be more dizzying in its diversity, its culture more polyglot. My daughters will learn Spanish and be the better for it.”

Source: Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Edinburgh, London, New York, Melbourne: Canongate, 2007), 268.

A review of this book is published at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “My daughters will learn Spanish and be the better for it.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Crossing the Borders of Language

If I was to name two keys to gaining acceptance with people of another culture, eating their food and speaking their language are areas which quickly rise to the top of my list.

See these recent articles on culture and food on this site.

Language Learning
Obviously the length of a visit might well determine how much one decides to invest in learning the language of people where you might be teaching but it is amazing how using a few words of greeting can open up doors of acceptance.

Language Methods
Personality is a big shaper of our learning preferences and when it comes to how one tackles a new language, it is amazing the number of methods that abound.

Like many westerners I had years of rote learning and grammar exercises to pass exams for schoolboy French and Latin. Later learning in this style was done at greater depth and at a faster pace when studying (for reading more than speaking) New Testament Greek at seminary and Classical Hebrew at university.

I had the chance for learning language by immersion (without any books) when working with Samoans in a timber factory, leading a Hindi-speaking church in Fiji and serving in a Maori-speaking community in New Zealand.

Since living in the UAE I have studied Arabic in a formal class and later by using Teach Yourself methods aided by books and CDs to hear the Gulf Arabic dialect.

Right now I am brushing up my Spanish by using a most interesting and encouraging method—The Pimsleur Method. Here are one or two (promotional) statements that seek to identify the distinctives of this method:

This course is designed to teach you to understand and to speak the essential elements of your new language in a relatively short time. During each half-hour lesson, you will actually ‘converse’ with two people, using the type of language spoken by educated citizens in their everyday business and social life.

The Pimsleur Method centers around teaching, in the shortest time possible, functional mastery in understanding and speaking a language. You will be working on your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation all at once, while also learning phrases that have practical use in daily life. It has been said that language is primarily speech. With this concept in mind, Dr. Pimsleur created his language programs on audio because he knew that students of languages would learn better with their ears, not their eyes.

Principle of Anticipation
Language by this method is taught, not by tedious repetition for Dr. Pimsleur discovered that learning accelerates when there is an "input/output" system of interaction, in which students receive information and then are asked to retrieve and use it.

Graduated Interval Recall
Dr. Pimsleur discovered how long students remembered new information and at what intervals they needed to be reminded of it. If reminded too soon or too late, they failed to retain the information. This discovery enabled him to create a schedule of exactly when and how the information should be reintroduced.

Not all languages are available to be taught by this method but when you are having a crack at a new language check out the Pimsleur Method. It is fun, effective. Muy bien!

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “It is amazing the number of methods that abound.”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vietnam Needing Teachers and Trainers

Third Time
It is not the first time I have mentioned this need but I am following the tradition of the one about whom it was written: “And he said to them a third time…”

Furthermore, I have heard this week from my contacts in Vietnam about their desire for theological teachers and trainers to visit. A loud cry is being voiced: ‘Come over and help us’.

A Possible Scenario
The seminary there is training students (all part time) who are engaged in ministry all over the country. It draws students together for 3-4 days a month.

International teachers across a wide range of subjects are desired to supplement local teachers.

Probably an ideal visit would look like this:
* Teach a module to the regular students for 16 hours over 3-4 days
* Conduct a day of seminars as part of the existing continuing education program for church leaders.
* Visit to teach leaders and churches in a region away from the main centres (3-4 days or however long the teacher has to spare).

If you could only do one of these parts that would be fine. There is some flexibility.

The people are warm, the students are receptive, the churches are inspiring, the food is delicious and the needs are great.

I would love to receive enquiries about this opportunity for further details and completed expressions of interest.

Dr Geoff Pound


Image: Crowds of people riding motor bikes through Vietnamese streets.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Most Googled Statement in My Online Book ‘Making Life Decisions’

Most Googled Statement
This quotation from Frederick Buechner (pictured) is the most Googled statement in my online book, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.

“Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Frederick Buechner

Over 7,000
Since I launched the book online one year ago (November 2007) more than 7,000 people have ventured on this site. I am not claiming that all 7,000 have read the book but the online mode certainly gives wide international circulation and accessibility.

Currently Being Published
You might be interested to know that Making Life Decisions is in preparation for traditional publication and will hopefully be available early in 2009.

Heaps of Stories
In addition to stories from Frederick Buechner, Making Life Decisions contains stories and statements from these people, many of whom you will recognize:

Karl Barth, Joan Didion, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Carl Jung, Thomas Merton, John Claypool, Judith Viorst, Sam Keen, Joan Chittester, Augustine, Richard Foster, Richard Rohr, Albert Schweitzer, Teihard de Chardin, Mrs Betty Bowers ('America's Best Christian'), Parker Palmer, Warren Bennis, Robert McAfee Brown, Abraham Hershel, Chaim Potok, Charles Handy, Neil Armstong, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Kosuke Koyama, Gregory Peck, F W Boreham, Graeme Garrett, Umberto Eco and Stephen Covey.

Even if you choose not to use the book for the purpose for which it is intended you will find in it more than 25 great stories.

Importance to Theological Education
I have written in the Introduction to this book about the connection between discernment and the business of pastoring and theological education:

“I would be rich if I had been given $50 for every time someone asked me the question (or a variation of it): “How can I discover God’s will for my life or in this situation?” As a pastor, this is the question I have been asked more than any other. Sharing the weight of this question and its consequences has been a significant part of the privilege of being a pastor.”

“When my vocational journey took a new twist in which I served as a consultant with Australian Baptist Churches, I came to see that the issue of corporate discernment is pivotal to local churches and denominations in discovering their unique personality and mission.”

“My path turned later in the direction of training and leadership, first as a lecturer and then as Principal of Whitley College, the Baptist College of Victoria, and I discovered that student interviews and course planning were vitally connected with matters of discernment.”

“In recent years I have relocated with my wife to the Arabian Peninsula and I am testing out new vocational directions. Daily we are being confronted with questions of discernment. This book, therefore, does not come as a last word on discernment because one never actually nails it as one might solve a Sudoku puzzle. The issues of discernment change from time to time and from person to person because they are about the dynamic way that God relates to each individual in their uniqueness.”

This is the book I wish I had had to give to the thousands of people who have asked me as a pastor and theological teacher about how they might discern God’s will in their life, their church or their seminary.

Link: Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “The most Googled statement in my online book, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Korea Kimchi and Kulture

Writing earlier about the way that crossing cultures is best symbolized by the receiving and eating of different food, I remembered some interesting episodes when my colleague and I were helping our College in Australia to enter a formal partnership with a seminary in Korea.

It was a great experience and we learned much. There were two special things that linger in the memory.

Relationship First
We visited Korea to begin talking about the partnership but the first four of our five days were spent mainly at meal tables eating kimchi and other delicious food. Our hosts set the pace and the agenda but we must have eaten a dozen meals and met all sorts of groups before there was any talk about what the partnership would entail. For Koreans, as for many cultures, the time-consuming work of building a relationship is fundamental to doing business.

Sounds of Chopsticks
On a later visit to Korea the commencement of our partnership was signed and celebrated in a worship service following which the senior staff and members of the board gathered with us for lunch in an upper room.

We sat around a huge oval table while students served cardboard boxes of food to our places. After grace I tried to strike up a conversation with one or two people nearby until it dawned on me that in the company of 30-40 people I was the only one talking.

All I could hear was the sound of chopsticks clattering and the occasional burp from somebody expressing their pleasure. I found it weird, a bit like my first experience of a silent retreat.

Enjoying the Kimchi Moment
I talked to someone about this later and they explained that in Korean (Confucian) culture there is a commitment to enjoying the present task, delighting in the experience of eating and not letting anything else become a distraction. As mentioned earlier, the eating of food is preparatory to doing business but the western idea of a working lunch or a business breakfast is anathema to the Korean mentality.

Food for thought. Got any more reflections to share on food and culture?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Kimchi. You will enjoy plates of this national food if you visit Korea.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Eating Food Across the Borders

Perhaps the crossing of cultural borders is no better symbolized than in the realm of eating food.

For me it starts when I leave my local airport where I often have my last ‘real’ coffee, ground with beans. I often find coffee in countries that I visit to be usually of the instant variety so I go on a ‘coffee fast’ and keep to tea. That being said it is amazing how the real stuff can turn up in the backblocks.

I have noticed going as a teacher to other countries that often those responsible for preparing and serving foreigners can get quite uptight. They are often not used to cooking western food and they are often under the impression that this is what they need to prepare for westerners. When I inform them that I am very happy eating what the locals eat they appear greatly relieved. I am thankful that I love different sorts of food, especially spicy food and curries so eating times provide some of the highlights of my international experiences.

Nepali Food
I loved the Nepali food that I was served on a visit earlier this year.

Breakfast often involved a bowl of curried lentils (chana), sometimes some noodles, sometimes some slices of French toast, an omelet and always a cup of Nepali tea (it comes with milk and sugar).

Lunch and Dinner usually involved rice and plenty of it with a curry (one of bean, egg, potato or chicken). On a couple of occasions I had ‘buff’—buffalo meat which was tasty.

I was given a bowl of bananas and apples for my room.

I was invited out to dine in people’s homes and these were always wonderful experiences meeting people and see how the locals lived.

Eating Food and Acceptance
Eating the food of your guests is a big part of building affinity and rapport. It is taking part of their culture into yourself and is thus a practical sign of accepting them and all that they represent.

Testing Cultural Adaptability
In Malaysia one of the standard practices of the locals is to take foreign guests to the market and to buy them one of their fruits called durian (it is native to Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia). Even with the husk on the durian has a distinctive and strong smell. The flesh is an unusual mix of sweet and sour. The locals love to watch foreigners taste the fruit, make faces and go red because it heats up the body. It is not my preferred food but I enjoyed the experience.

If you are interested, check out the Wikipedia article on Durian and read the graphic descriptions by westerners (many of which are best not posted on this site!)

Delights of Cross-Cultural Experiences
Trying different food is one of the delights of cross-cultural travel and ministry. It can stretch your comfort level and reinforce your recognition that you are in another country.

So much culture is wrapped up and unwrapped in the presentation and acceptance of food and drink.

Eating and drinking gets lots of space in the Scriptures and many of the references point to the sacramental nature of this enjoyable pastime.

One of my favorite verses is on this theme:

“They ate and drank and they did see God.” (Ex. 24:11)

Doesn’t that thought start moving you toward the refrigerator?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Some of the delicious food I had one night with a family in Kathmandu.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Theologians Without Borders and Some Qs and As

A friend from the USA wrote to me this week with some questions:

His Questions
“I've been meaning to ask you about TWB: Now that you've been at it awhile, how have you seen the ratio of opportunities to resources developing? Do you have lots more opportunities than teachers to fill them? "

"Lots more teachers than great placements for them? Or about equal numbers of both, but not enough money to bring willing teachers and opportunities together? "

My Answers
About the ratios, it is weighted according to the old saying, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.’ (with the emphasis on the plentiful harvest). See below about my sense of ‘Encouragement’.

There have been many expressions of interest that have translated into worthwhile assignments by quite a few teachers but there are lots more requests especially from China and Vietnam at the moment. Some new schools are depending heavily on outside teachers because they do not have trained people from within their own country.

Here are two main challenges:

The first is getting the word out about the vision and opportunities—getting beyond the use of email and web postings and speaking one to one and to groups.

I am doing some teaching at Carson Newman (USA) in Spring 2009 and will be available to visit churches, seminaries and Pastor's groups in the USA and Canada to share the story. Let me know if you think of occasions where I could plug in.

I am also going to Lima in April to share with a gathering of theological educators and the annual meeting of Latin American Baptist church leaders (UBLA) to urge them to think of how the TWB vision might translate in Latin America.

A second challenge is financial. I think the financial downturn will cause many Americans and others to maintain the status quo, ‘batten down the hatches’ and not take on anything extra. Teaching in a needy country will quite possibly be seen as an extra.

As indicated previously there are quite a few people who have got the teaching talent and the time but not the cash to pay for an airfare. I would love to challenge those who do not have the time and/or are not equipped to teach to help pay for an airfare to send a teacher.

I am greatly encouraged by the increasing number of enquiries and people offering to teach. People at the moment are looking at opportunities for India, China, Sri Lanka etc but often for between 12 to 24 months from now. Some are planning a long way in advance because they have a sabbatical due in late 2009 or in 2011, because requesting seminaries plan for teachers a long way in advance or because they as teachers know that these international visits (especially where visas are required) can take a while to tee up.

If you’d like to get in touch with me (re questions, information, expressing an interest etc), send an email to me at geoffpound[at]

Dr Geoff Pound

Thursday, November 13, 2008

USA Base in Spring Semester 2009

For approximately 12 weeks from the beginning of February 2009 I will be stationed at the Carson-Newman College in the USA, teaching undergraduates, leading a visit to a fascinating part of the world for an immersion experience, discovering ways to stretch horizons as an international visitor and continuing to coordinate Theologians Without Borders.

I have asked to teach less so I can be available to visit theological students, seminary teachers, churches, groups of pastors and convention leaders throughout the USA and Canada, specifically to share the vision and challenges of Theologians Without Borders and stir up some discussion about how it might be shaped in your contexts.

If you live in North America and you have a conference or gathering in Spring 2009 where you think this could be a good opportunity for me to visit, speak, listen, do a workshop, give some lectures, please drop me a note with your idea at geoffpound[at]

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Yours truly with a graduate (and his family) of the Bible School in the camp at Mae La, on the Thai-Burmese border.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Google Translates Articles into Your Native Language

I have worked to translate the basic information about Theologians without Borders into many different languages.

I am also conscious that I am writing these postings in English which poses a barrier for many people for whom English is not their first language.

I am grateful to Rick Turoczy at ReadWriteWeb for publishing an article that has alerted me to the power of the Google Translate technology.

Rick writes:
“If you're like most folks interested in technology, you likely have a feed reader full of hundreds of RSS feeds on your favorite topics. No doubt, they all have one thing in common: they're in a language that you're capable of reading.”

“But what about all of that interesting news and information that's written in languages you don't speak? Get ready to have access to even more information about your favourite topics, because now Google Reader leverages Google Translate technology to convert any feed to your preferred language.”

“To use the new offering, subscribe to any feed. Once subscribed, select "Translate into my language" from "Feed settings..." and the feed will be automatically translated to the best of Google's ability, based on your default language preference.”

“I tested the service against Cybozu Labs - a feed that comes through RSS in Japanese - and was pleasantly surprised. While a few of the characters remained, the majority of the content came through. Not only that, but the content was translated in a way that was legible and coherent.”

“While at first blush, this may seem to be a minor feature, it actually holds the potential to change the way people read feeds - and the feeds they choose to read. It will be incredibly interesting to see what non-English blogs start growing in popularity now that they're no longer hindered by limited linguistics.”

“But how will people find these blogs? That's the other thing that makes the translation feature so interesting: it appears to work on shared items, as well. Now, you can start reading and sharing information in any language with all of your Google Reader contacts - regardless of the languages they speak.”

“And once we start breaking down those language barriers and sharing ideas with more people, that may be a real step toward a truly World Wide Web.”

Have a try with Google Translate. I subscribed to Cybozu Labs in Google Reader and it translated perfectly for me.

Hopefully resources like this will break down the barriers of language.

Rick Turoczy, Say What? Google Reader Translates Any Feed into your Native Tongue, ReadWriteWeb, 10 November 2008.

Thanks to Rick Turoczy for this article which I have quoted here in full especially for non-English speaking readers of this web site.

Dr Geoff Pound

Monday, November 10, 2008

Remembering the Purpose of Theologians Without Borders

Puppies Must Have a Purpose
Speaking at a Web 2.0 Conference (November 2008) of people exploring the development of web-based communities, environmentalist activist, Al Gore, talked about the importance of clarifying your purpose.

He said that after buying a puppy for their young children many years ago, he and Tipper asked a dog trainer to come in and give them advice. Her first question was "What is the puppy's purpose? Is it going to be a watch dog, is it going to get the newspaper in the morning, is it for the children to play with?"

Like puppies, a project like Theologians Without Borders needs to have a defined purpose.

Overview in Many Languages
It you have forgotten the point of TWB or would like a refresher or a link to send to somebody else, check out the article in the language of your choice.

Theologians Without Borders (English)

Teólogos Sin Fronteras (Spanish)

Théologiens Sans Frontières (French)

Theologen Ohne Grenzen (German)

Teologi Senza Frontiere (Italian)

Teólogos Sem Fronteiras (Portuguese)

Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan (Tagalog-Filipino)

Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan (Malay Bahasa)

More Translations Needed
There are more translations coming.

If your language is not represented here do let me know and I can send you the English statement for you to translate, unless someone else has already started this task.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “What is the puppy's purpose?”

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Paul Windsor Highlights Kiwi Image for Theological Educators and Pastors

In an address to pastors and their spouses at the New Zealand Baptist Annual Gathering (6 November 2008), Paul Windsor, who is concluding as Principal of Carey College, spoke insightfully about the New Zealand koru (pictured).

He spoke of the koru as a rich image for theological educators and others [You may have seen a stylized version of the koru on Air New Zealand planes].

Here is his excerpt:

Animating Image
The first image I want to draw to your attention is the koru. I think whether it is as a husband or a father, or a pastor, a lecturer or a Principal, the koru is the most animating image that I know.

I have planted one outside our front door and I love to go off to work citing it and allowing it to be part of the motivation for the day ahead.

Watching a tight, embryonic, furry ball gradually unfurl into something that is supreme in its elegance, its beauty, its perfection, its fullness and its breadth—I just think it is so animating in terms of working with people.

Mandate Wrapped in Furry Ball
And I think it is the Kiwi picture of one of the mandates for the church today. I think if the Bible was being written today in New Zealand it would be full of references to koru. After all, a core task of being a pastoral leader is to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature—fully unfurled—attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Pleasure of People Unfurling
I love watching people unfurl and within the communities of people to which I belong I like to see the people—the students, the staff—as a club of koru that are at different stages of unfurling.

The lovely Chariots of Fire statement [comes to mind]: “When I run I feel God’s pleasure.” When I participate in unfurling I feel God’s pleasure.

Leadership is about setting up ‘Operation Unfurl’. It’s the great blessing. Here are two observations:

Unfurling from Pain and Failure
Sometimes that furry ball is more crushed than it is embryonic. It is not just packed with potential but it is wrapped with pain, fear, failure and insecurity. It hasn’t opened up for those reasons and it is not uncommon in my life with students to see people in a fetal position as adults in terms of their growth.

One of the great joys is watching older students reengage with study having remembered their time at school to be full of failure and discovering that they have a brain. It is such a joy!

And then in more recent years the students have been younger and I sense that some come to training and they are crushed in spirit. Things haven’t gone well with parents and teachers and to be part of believing in people more than they believe in themselves is something that Barbie [Paul’s wife] and I have talked a lot about.

There are aspects of our cultural context that are rotten in my opinion—the fear we have of giving people big heads, the obsession about not allowing tall poppies to grow and the value of [being] close enough is good enough. I think for me the joy of visualizing what the end could be in someone’s life and then to be a small part of the means by which that end might be reached through encouraging and believing, advocating, praying, correcting—that’s the great joy and the great blessing.

Don’t Steal God’s Job Description
The other thing I would say is that the unfurling of the koru is not actually something that we do. I don’t go in there and reach into that tight, little furry ball and pull out that branch.

In our hyper-competent, over-resourced world, which is what we are, it is easy to steal God’s job description, get in there, feel the power and take control of people’s growth. I don’t think that this is part of our job at all.

So ‘Operation Unfurl’ keeps reminding me of the theocentric nature of leadership and mission. What will leadership look like if we believe that ‘I planted, I watered, I nurtured, I weeded and I pruned—but it is God who brings the growth?’ I try to create the conditions for unfurling. I try to make space and margins for God to do His thing.

I tell my preaching students: Recognize that people’s lives have been halted. They are hungry, angry and tired. Minister to that and let God bring the growth. That means being patient as God changes the seasons according to His timetable.

I think in recent years I have thought about what it means to be Trinitarian. Carry that image in our leadership, affirming diversity within the unity and [one sees] multiple leadership not singular leadership, relational leadership not hierarchical leadership, loving leadership rather than directing leadership, a shared leadership, a rotational leadership, a functional leadership—there is so much richness here that can help us to be part of people’s unfurling.

Source: Paul and Barbie Windsor, The Good, the Bad and the Blessed, New Zealand Baptist Annual Gathering, Palmerston North Central Baptist Church, 6 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The koru [click to magnify].

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Some Current Opportunities

Check out some of the most current opportunities for service in China, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Venezuela and North East India.

Some of the teachers recently expressing an interest include a church historian and a theologian/Church historian.

There are more needs expressed and people who have offered to help.

Do let me know if you are calling ‘Come over and help us’ or if you can offer help.

Dr Geoff Pound

Monday, November 3, 2008

Giving a Week to China

An impassioned request has come for teachers and pastors who can teach in the theological education programmes in China next year.

There are numerous inter-connected teaching points in various provinces all over the country.

These include programs at diploma, bachelor, and masters level.

In addition to all the basic subjects that provide the core of an MDiv there are various classes requiring teachers for courses in cross-cultural missions, vocational training, Christian education, and pastoral leadership.

Please consider committing one or two weeks in 2009 to teach in China.

The seminaries there have two semesters: March to June and September to December.

This is a great thing to combine service with sight seeing as it will bring you in touch with ordinary people and give you an insight into the distinctive features of the church in this ancient and developing nation.

How they do theological education in this country is probably quite different from your experience and to get a taste will challenge your thinking and your teaching in such refreshing ways.

In many parts of the world the question is, ‘Which seminary shall I attend?’ In China the question that is asked more often is, ‘Will I ever get the chance to have a seminary education?’

Do email me at geoffpound[at] for more information, to discuss dates or about any other matter.

Please pass on this request to other pastors and theological teachers.

Dr Geoff Pound
(Chair, Coordinating Committee of TWB)

Image: A little of the drama I saw on my first visit to China.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Seminaries With No Internet and No Power

Further to the subject of ‘Technology Advancing Theological Education’, JT writes:

“I'm learning a lot from this conversation. However, my original post included the words 'wind-up' because 2 of the colleges I visited this year had no internet link and no dependable power either. Villages and towns in X and Y (the two countries involved) often have re-charging booths (primarily for mobile phones), but these are time consuming and costly by local standards. So what about where there is no power and no internet? BTW teaching was in English at these colleges.”

We are thinking about needing different types of technology for different types of seminary. One of Jennifer’s key phrases is ‘dependable power’.

In one seminary where I taught recently the power went off unexpectedly each day. In another country they had the concept of ‘power sharing’ where for 45 hours per week the power would go off for 2-3 hours at a time but the authorities kindly provided a schedule so you could plan cooking and emailing accordingly.

Which of the technologies that we have been discussing would work best where there is no power or dependable [electric] power and where there is no Internet connection?

For those teaching in many parts of the world where there is an erratic power supply and the Internet is still a dream, this subject of technology is of great importance. For those teaching where power supplies are dependable and Broadband Internet comes to your desk and classroom via wire or even wireless, this subject will help you to realize how fortunate you are!

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Teaching theology with no or little power!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Linking Together for Mutual Support

I recently received a good letter from a person who described himself as one who “has been lurking around the TWB web site for some time.” I laughed because I lurk around many web sites without leaving my card or a comment.

Another letter from a Dean of a Baptist seminary noticed the Link List on the side of this web site and said, “The name of our seminary is not in your list but we want to formally identify with the vision of Theologians Without Borders. May we have our seminary linked to the TWB site?” I wrote back to tell him that it was ‘Done’.

I would love other seminaries and training organizations to do the same regardless of your denominational affiliation or interdenominational character. TWB has no membership as such but a link on this site is a show of your interest and the list provides a growing directory and a quick way for others to discover web addresses and contact details of your seminary.

Please would you put a link to the TWB site on your personal web site (or Blog Roll) and the site of your seminary and/or church?

Darren Rowse, a former student of mine at Whitley College, is one of the foremost bloggers in the world and on his popular ProBlogger site he has oodles of articles on the promotional value of establishing Links with other sites. Darren has many more tips if you are looking for ways to make your web site effective.

Lurking to Linking
Do write to me (geoffpound[@] with the name and web address of your seminary or training institution so that it can be placed on this site.

Make the jump from lurking to linking in support of the visions of each other.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “Linking in support…”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Further Thoughts on Technology Advancing Theological Education

Michael Hanson, who is Vice Principal of Living Stones, a Church-based School of Leadership in New Zealand, has been following the recent conversation on this TWB site.

We have been recognizing the paucity of books in many seminaries and offering suggestions that bypass traditional books, including the use of inexpensive laptops, MP3s and reading books onto audio books by way of programs such as Librivox.

Michael wrote to me in these words:

“I was interested in your latest post about the OLPC (One Laptop Per child) project. My background has been in technology and I am passionate about education - particularly theological education, so I see the OLPC project as particularly exciting as a way to bring all this together.”

“I was at a presentation recently that was discussing the use of OLPC and Moodle. I expect that you are familiar with Moodle ( It is an opensource learning management system that is being used around the world by both large and small organisations for education and training. The project that is underway at the moment is exciting. Moodle is now part of the OLPC project and an area of development that is currently underway is to make Moodle available for offline learning. As you will be aware one of the challenges with the OLPC is that it is being used in areas where internet access is often unreliable and slow. This would make the normal approach to online learning that Moodle uses unworkable as it needs a good internet connection. The off-line Moodle project will allow Moodle to be used for learning purposes even if there is no internet connection. It will use similar technology to that used in the GoogleGears project ( to provide the core functionality of Moodle with or without an internet connection.”

“The application to theological education is exciting. Good quality material and learning could be made available through Moodle with or without an internet connection. If internet was available then interaction could occur through discussion forums etc but when no internet is available then individual learning can still occur. I know that many Bible Colleges and Seminaries currently use Moodle so to make course available would be very easy. Some work would need to be done to contextualise the material but I can see great potential with this.”

“I look forward to hearing if anyone has any direct experience with using the OLPC and how they see it working.”

I also look forward to hearing responses from readers.

Thank you Michael for your contribution.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Moodle, Google Gears, OLPC—part of the new technology that may enhance the cause of theological education.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Theological Education Through Books, Laptops, Librivox, MP3s and…

I am keen to keep a conversation on the boil, hence the resurrection of this buried ‘Comment’ and its transformation to new life in an article.

Tim Bulkeley responds to this post and this, which may be good to read to pick up the conversation thread:

IF you can buy the laptops at $200 AND IF it costs $20 for someone to transfer the data (say 500 books) to the laptop, AND IF it costs no more to transport the laptop than it would 6 printed books AND IF the six books cost < $35 THEN your pastor has 500 books for the price of 6.


But then half the village are illiterate, and the pastor is not highly literate either. So, why not record someone reading the books - like Librivox - then people will be able to bypass getting literate.

BTW I noticed this week that reading a quotation that uses complex language aloud to my class made it easier to understand, even for literate students...

An MP3 player that will hold 200 audio books costs only $50, and transporting 4 costs less than one laptop so you could provide 200 "books" to 4 pastors...

Double duh!

The question is can we convert the Western fettish for "books" into something more useful?

Thanks Tim! I think we are on the cusp of something important.

To read an expansion of this contribution check out Tim’s statement and the conversation bubbling on one of his sites entitled ‘Watering the Desert of Books’.

Do cast your vote in the TWB poll on the right-hand panel.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Some suggestions for transferring theological knowledge. Got any more?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Postscript to Sri Lanka Request

Further to the earlier request for a teacher in Sri Lanka, Jonas Kurlberg has advised that there is some flexibility in timing:

“The dates are flexible from mid-November to early December 2009.”

Please would you pass on this request to people you know who teach Biblical Hermeneutics.

Dr Geoff Pound

Friday, October 24, 2008

Specific Request from Sri Lanka

This is a follow up on an earlier request and posting at this link—check this out for more information.

Jonas Kurlberg (pictured), a teacher at the Colombo Theological Seminary in Sri Lanka, is looking for a volunteer who can teach a course in Hermeneutics.

The level is Masters as this is for an MA in Biblical Studies.

6th of Dec – 13th of Dec 2009.

If this is your specialty, you are free in December 2009 and you sense that this assignment has got your name written on it, do write to me at geoffpound[@]

Have You Voted Yet?
Have you cast your vote at my TWB poll yet? It is anonymous and will be more exciting than voting for the next US President! It is on the right panel and will take 10 seconds. No standing in queues for three hours!

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Jonas Kurlberg, administrator of the MA Programme. Jonas is from Sweden, he grew up in Nepal, has worked in the UK in Youth Ministry and is now teaching in Sri Lanka.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Transferring Knowledge in a Desert of Books

I am posting this recent comment to an earlier article on Creativity, Books and Theological Education as I do not want it to lie buried and unconsidered in the archives of this site.

The comment comes from JT who has contributed an article or two already to this site:

“In the three Theological Colleges I have visited this year the libraries were very sparse, due both to shortage of funds and lack of materials in the local language, though I was able to make good use of the Africa Bible Commentary (2006) which is in English.”

“It has occurred to me that one more long term answer may be to skip to the next generation of knowledge transfer and make use of something similar to the cheap wind-up laptops now being developed for distribution in third world countries by putting at least commentaries and classics in English on their hard drive. This would have the added advantage of getting more to the village pastors for whom TEE materials are the only resource.”

Many thanks for your thoughts JT. Anybody want to interact?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: A happy user in the One Laptop a Child Project (OLPC)

Monday, October 20, 2008

TWB Gets Poll Position

Have a look at the poll I have posted on the right panel.

It is related to my most recent post, Identifying the Barriers.

I am asking the question:

“What is the biggest barrier for you about being involved in a short term teaching assignment?”

There is a place where you can add a comment.

I would love you to take part.

Dr Geoff Pound

Identifying the Barriers

In a letter this week a person asked, “Does Theologians Without Borders have travel scholarships?”

I said we don’t have scholarships at this stage but I have been receiving financial donations and I am hoping for gifts of Air Miles.

A doctoral student in the southern hemisphere also wrote this week about TWB saying:

“I would be more than willing to teach in a needy country, but I would have a problem affording it financially. If… theology schools would pay for such trips to needy areas, I would be happy to go wherever to teach.”

Going to teach in a needy part of the world may not be your cup of tea. Not everyone is comfortable with cross cultural teaching but I am keen to identify the major barriers.

Chris Guillebeau in a post entitled, ‘Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel Around the World’ lists some of the barriers against such a proposal:

* I don’t have money to travel
* The rest of the world is dangerous
* I like staying at home
* I’ll do this kind of stuff when I retire

Which of these factors (and others) rise high as barriers as you consider the possibility of a short term, volunteer teaching assignment in a needy country?

Or adapting the words of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8: 37), “Here is an opportunity! What is preventing me from going to teach?”

As I get ready to embark on a visit to North and South America sharing the vision of TWB, informing people about the needs, challenging people to teach or support somebody else to go, I want to get a clearer idea of the factors preventing people from going to teach.

Can you post a comment or drop me a letter?

In particular, I am keen to know to what extent money is a barrier and, if an airfare was available, whether this would encourage you to volunteer your time and teaching talent.

Dr Geoff Pound
Email: geoffpound[@]

Image: “I am keen to identify the major barriers.”

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Web and CD Rom Resources for Theological Education

In an earlier post on the TWB site I spoke about the paucity of library books in many seminaries around the world and I asked what is being done to overcome some of these challenges.

I was heartened to receive an email and later a CD or two to review from Dr Bob Utley, a retired Professor of Hermeneutics at East Baptist Seminary in the USA.

There are many web resources that Bob has posted but he has put most of these in a nicely packaged CD Rom.

The web site is at this link:

Bible Lessons International

I have asked two biblical scholars (Tim Bulkeley from Carey College in New Zealand and Keith Dyer from Whitley College in Australia) to have a look at these resources and give a brief review.

Review by Tim Bulkeley
Bob Uttley is a Baptist Pastor from Texas, who trained at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and after nearly two decades of pastoral ministry prepared a DMin at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with a focus on hermeneutics. He has taught in a variety of contexts in the USA (and elsewhere as a visitor) most recently at East Texas Baptist University (Bible Interpretation, Old Testament, and Evangelism).

Over the years he has prepared written notes, audio and video recordings of Bible teaching sessions on almost all parts of the Bible. This material focuses on standard interpretational cues: Historical Setting, Literary Context, Grammatical Features, Choice of Words, Genre and Parallel Passages. Dr Uttley has tried to make these materials usable by students of different viewpoints and backgrounds, thus he tries to avoid endorsing particular viewpoints (on the whole, at least in the written materials – since the videos are addressed more directly to Southern Baptist audiences), while presenting evidence from the text which students can interpret for themselves.

In the Old Testament materials I looked at samples from Genesis (the book I am teaching this semester), Amos (on which I prepared the Hypertext Bible Commentary and Jonah on which I am currently working. The first chapters of Genesis provide a good strong test of his intention to avoid contentious conclusions.

The written notes are fairly thorough and detailed, and would provide a good resource for students. The audio and video resources are often recordings of teaching in churches and offer a simpler introduction to each book. These media have a folksy American tone, which may make them less useful in non-American contexts, while the written materials are more neutral.

The written materials are also deliberately neutral in their attempt to avoid contentious interpretations. So, for example in discussing the “days” of Genesis 1 (pp.18-19) seven possible meanings are discussed in a neutral way: Literal 24 hour period; Day-Age Theory; Alternate Day-Age Theory; Progressive Creation-Catastrophe Theory; Eden Only Theory; Gap Theory; Sacred Week Theory.

There are the minor inaccuracies that one should perhaps expect from an attempt by one person to prepare study material on the whole Bible. So, for example it is not true that “Amos 7:10-17 is unique because… it is written in the third person while other sections of the book are in the first person” actually only the vision accounts and the words of Amos quoted in the narrative in question are first person, the rest of the book is in the third person and speaking in the first person is reserved for the divine voice.

There will inevitably also be many places where any particular teacher will disagree with Dr Utley’s reading of the text. So for example I am quite unable to read Jonah as sympathetically as he does, and am convinced that the psalm in Jonah 2 is a thanksgiving, and therefore that “At this point he [Jonah] did not know that the fish was his means of deliverance.” But that is the case with any work which one points students to, unless one has written it oneself ;)

In summary this is a collection of helpful material that many teachers could find useful to give to their students, or indeed in contexts where library resources are scarce in preparing their classes. It suffers from the problems inherent in such course notes, it has not been peer reviewed, and so contains some mistakes. The work is copyright, so any teacher planning to reproduce the material ought to email for permission, it is a pity that a Creative Commons license was not used which could have permitted various sorts of defined use without the need to seek such permission. I would suggest that Dr Uttley consider granting a Creative Commons license (see below) to his material if he is serious about wanting to see it used more widely.

In view of the comments above I suggest:
· This material, at least the written notes, will be useful to many seminaries in situations were books are in short supply.
· There is other material of similar potential usefulness. E.g.
· A peer reviewed list of useful material would be a helpful starting point. Metasites (like, & ) are really well prepared and extensive, but not focused on material which can be useful for teachers in seminaries in non-Western contexts.

Many teachers will have such (though in most cases more specialized and less extensive) collections of material. If it could be made available with a Creative Commons license allowing reuse, and collected in one “place” allowing easy access, what a resource that would offer to supplement the occasions when a person can travel!
· The ideal license seems to me
o Attribution: ensuring the originating author and school get credit
o Noncommercial: ensuring the material could not be sold at a profit
o Share alike: allowing adaptation to different cultural, social and ecclesial contexts.

I realize that the last suggestion may seem utopian, given the fear many of my colleagues have of their work being “stolen”, however, I remain convinced that the terms of a CC license would ensure that any seminary which copied institutions like MIT (the first to adopt such an approach) would gain in reputation and “reach” in ways that would far outweigh any potential commercial loss. What is more such an approach would be more consistent with the Christian gospel and the social vision of the Hebrew Bible than is the current “what’s mine is mine and you must not use it” attitude!

Review by Keith Dyer

Some brief comments on the web/CD resources of Dr Bob Utley.

I think it would be fair to describe these resources as "conservative evangelical" in origin, rather than fundamentalist. Dr Utley speaks of Biblical "infallibility" rather than "inerrancy," but he also takes a very scholarly approach to the task of interpreting the Bible. He takes seriously the need to understand the context of the original text, and to attempt to put aside our "culture" and biases when we interpret the Bible for today (though we need to engage with that same culture also).

So it was a bit of a surprise for me to read the following statements about the Bible by Dr Utley.

1. I believe the Bible is the sole inspired self-revelation of the one true God. Therefore, it must be interpreted in light of the intent of the original divine author through a human writer in a specific historical setting.

"Sole inspired self-revelation of the one true God"?? -- doesn't the Bible itself teach us that God is also revealed through creation (Ro 1), through Jesus (supremely -- the Word) and through human conscience (again Ro 1)?

4. I believe that every passage (excluding prophesies) has one and only one meaning based on the intent of the original, inspired author. Although we can never be absolutely certain we know the original author’s intent, many indicators point in its direction.

Why insist on "one and only one meaning" whilst also confessing that "we can never be absolutely certain we know the original author's intent." Why not rather affirm that God's Word is a Living Word (2Cor 3), creating new meaning for each new reader in each new context. Why should we try to limit God to only one true meaning (and who determines which one it is)?

Apart from these reservations, I'm sure there is much of value in Dr Utley's on-line and CD commentaries -- particularly on the area of historical and grammatical analyses.

A sincere thank you to Tim and Keith for their responses and to Bob for sharing some of his creative work on making commentaries available and accessible.

What other ways are you acquainted with for making theological books available, especially to people teaching and learning in poor and restricted areas?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Dr Bob Utley

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Further on Zimbabwe

Further to my recent article is a letter from Asafa received today, (16 October 2008):

Dear Geoff

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and your thoughts about Zimbabwe especially at this time.

It was refreshing catching up with the memory of our time in Prague and the Z$50 billion dollar bill.

When I came back from Prague, there was introduced a new Z$100 billion dollar bill which lasted only for half a month before 10 zeros were slashed off reducing it to new currency Z$10 and the Z$50 billion dollar to new currency Z$5.

Since then inflation has skyrocketed to over 400 million percent. Two months ago we could buy a loaf of bread with the new currency Z$10. Today we need new currency Z$15000. I have never seen or heard anything like this in my life or read of it in history.

Your prayers for us are greatly appreciated and I have also enjoyed your articles and I am linking some of the BUZ theologians with the Theologians Without Borders website.

The Lord bless


Image: Worthless.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Theologians Without Borders Addressing Poverty in Education

Today, October 15 is Blog Action Day when thousands of bloggers around the world are uniting to discuss one single issue—poverty.

When I decided to address the issue of poverty today I thought of my friend Asafa who is a church leader in the country of Zimbabwe.

I caught up with Asafa at a conference in Prague in July. He was there only because he was given a scholarship to attend and he with another delegate from Zimbabwe spoke about the crisis that their country is in when the conference turned its attention to some of the trouble spots of the world.

One morning in the hotel lobby Asafa showed me photos of his family and church people. Then he showed me pictures of supermarkets where the shelves were completely empty of stock.

He had pictures of wells with members of his family queuing up, with scores of others, to get fresh water.

Asafa spoke of the people in his churches who were hungry and experiencing great fear amidst the political turmoil of this country.

Finally, Asafa gave me a gift. He took out his wallet and gave me a $50 billion note (pictured). Initially this was exciting! I have never held a billion dollar note in my hand before, let alone a 50 billion dollar note. Then he told me that this note would only buy a cup of coffee. In July 2008 the annual inflation rate had soared to 231 million percent. This note is worth even less now.

I keep this $50 billion note in my wallet. When I go to make a purchase I am confronted by questions about whether this purchase is absolutely essential. I am reminded that my woes, even the recent global financial crisis that has stripped away my savings for retirement, are nothing in comparison to the grinding poverty faced by Asafa and his countrymen and women every day.

Theologians Without Borders is a matter of justice. It seeks to balance up the resources of the world as they relate to theological education and access to learning. It is a way of enriching the lives of people and finding in our service how rich we become.

Since watching the Dow Jones index plummet to a record low last week I have wondered how this crisis might affect TWB and people’s willingness and capacity to travel to teach in a needy part of the world. I confess to experiencing feelings of paralysis, wanting to play it safe and maintaining the status quo rather than undertaking extra teaching tasks.

Yet, my $50 billion dollar note from Zimbabwe put my life into perspective. I am reminded that the Great Commission stands for all times, not just in times of material affluence.

One positive to come out of the financial crisis is that it makes us stand back and consider those things that are most important for our investment. Our faith, as Harry Fosdick reminded us, was ‘born and bred in a briar patch’. The upside down message that is ours can lead us like those Macedonian churches who were granted the grace of God, “for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” (2 Cor. 8:1-2)

As always, I would love you to write to me, filling in the details of your Expression of Interest to serve as a short term theological teacher. This does not commit you or me but it is the first step which then may lead to exploring opportunities, places, dates and teaching subjects.

Check out one of the most compelling questions in recent days that came out of such an unlikely arena.

It is posted at my Stories for Speakers and Writers site that offers regular resources for anyone in the communication business.

Do take up my invitation to subscribe to that site my clicking on the Subscribe button.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: $50 billion dollar note from Zimbabwe.

Further to this article is this letter from Asafa received 16 October 2008:

Dear Geoff

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and your thoughts about Zimbabwe especially at this time.

It was refreshing catching up with the memory of our time in Prague and the Z$50 billion dollar bill. When I came back from Prague, there was introduced a new Z$100 billion dollar bill which lasted only for half a month before 10 zeros were slashed off reducing it to new currency Z$10 and the Z$50 billion dollar to new currency Z$5. Since then inflation has skyrocketed to over 400 million percent. Two months ago we could buy a loaf of bread with the new currency Z$10. Today we need new currency Z$15000. I have never seen or heard anything like this in my life or read of it in history.

Your prayers for us are greatly appreciated and I have also enjoyed your articles and I am linking some of the BUZ theologians with Theologians Without Borders website.

The Lord bless


Monday, October 13, 2008

Karen Bible School and Churches Marking Important Anniversary

Further to my recent post on the displaced Karen people on the Thai-Burmese border is this update and invitation to all to attend some special meetings next year.

Rev. Dr. Saw Simon, of the Mae La Camp writes:

To all our dear brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Greetings to you all in the most precious name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from all of us here at the KKBC in the camps and the IDP areas.

Thank you so much for praying for us. The Lord answers our prayers and by the grace of God we were able to have our KKBC Board of Management Mid-year meeting successfully held from October 8 to 12, 2008 and concluded with a consecration /dedication service on Sunday, October 12, 2008 at 6:00 pm.

We are pleased to inform you that we are planning to have our Silver Jubilee/the 25th Anniversary celebration of the KKBC and the 23rd Graduation Exercises of the KKBBSC held from March 25 to 29, 2009 and would like to humbly and cordially invite you to come, visit, encourage and join and rejoice and celebrate with us during these special occasions and see what the Lord has done, is doing and will be doing for our Karen people. We want to be channel of blessings to others as we have been receiving God’s bountiful blessings throughout the years through our brothers and sisters around the world. May God bless you all and use you all mightily for the spreading of the Gospel and God’s Kingdom and for the ministry of helping the poor and needy brothers and sisters around the world.

“Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9.”

Thank you all so much and may God’s richest blessings rest upon each and every one of you.

Sincerely in Christ’s Service among the displaced people in the camps in Thailand and the internally displaced people in our own Land/Country (Kawthoolei).

Rev. Dr. Saw Simon

Principal of the KKBBSC/Secretary of the KKBC
Mae La Camp

This is a good opportunity for friends of the Karen and people who have not visited the camp to accept this invitation and remember the more than 150,000 displaced people who have been living in camps for over twenty-years.

Image: People walking across the bridge at one of the crossing points between Thailand and Myanmar.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Issues Facing Theological Educators Around the World

Eron Henry’s article on the Baptist International Conference on Theological Education (BICTE) is one of the many articles in the new digital magazine of the Baptist World Alliance. It puts into focus some of the common and particular issues that theological educators are facing around the world today.

In this article entitled,

The Baptist World Alliance held its seventh Baptist International Conference on Theological Education (BICTE) in Prague in the Czech Republic in July 2008.

Papers were presented covering various subjects, including the environment, and at-risk women and children.

Among the highlights of the meeting was the discussion on the state of theological education.

The gathering in the Czech Republic was a representative sample of mainly theological educators, but also authors, pastors, and denominational leaders. A number of the conferees wore two or more hats – some serving as pastors and seminary teachers, or as pastors and denominational leaders, some being all three and more.

It is clear that theological education is experiencing severe stress. In the United States, theological schools are closing, downsizing, or merging. The sheer cost of running a theological school and dwindling enrolments in some schools and programs are leading to retrenchment.

Yet, in other parts of the world – in South, Southeast and East Asia for instance – there is a lack of opportunity for training, and where there is opportunity, there is shortage of space.

Geoff Pound tells of the hunger of Christians in China to do theological work, attend theological school, and engage in ministerial training, and the creative approaches employed to ensure that students in this country get the training for which they yearn.

One Latin American theologian reported that the lack of formal ministerial training is so grave that 12,000 churches are without a formally trained pastor. Seventy-five percent of pastors in the region are not trained, and only 1,000 or so pastors graduate from theological schools each year.

Click here to read the ezine, 32 pages of news and information about the Baptist family around the world.

Please note that you will need Adobe Flash Player to view the ezine. The player can be downloaded for free here.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: One of the conference photos against one of the stately buildings of IBTS. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Karen Marking Twenty-Five Years of Witness in Refugee Camps

Many of the readers of this web site have visited Mae La or one of the other refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border and some of you have taught in the Bible School.

I thought readers would be interested in the meetings going on at present and the plans for the recognition of twenty-five years of meeting as churches in the Karen refugee camps.

Letter from the Karen Camps
Principal of the Bible School, Dr Simon, writes:

To all our dear brothers and sisters in the Lord around the world:

I am pleased to give you the following information about our Churches and would like to humbly request you to pray and help us in ways and means possible with you.

The Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Churches Board of Management Mid-year meeting will be held starting from October 8 to 12, 2008.

Praise the Lord that in spite of all the restrictions, difficulties and hardships we are facing as displaced people or refugees, the Lord opens the door for our pastors and church leaders from the IDP [Internally Displaced People] areas and more than 10 of them have safely arrived to the meeting place, the Kawthoolie Karen Baptist Bible School & College in Mae La camp.

Please pray that the Lord will bless our meeting as we will be planning for the celebration of the Silver Jubilee/ the (25th) anniversary of the establishment of the Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Churches in March 2009. We will also fix the date/s for the celebration and will let you know when it is fixed so you can come to visit, encourage and rejoice with us during this special occasion.

The Theme we have chosen for our Celebration is Genesis 50:20 – “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Please come, visit, encourage and join and rejoice with us during our Silver Jubilee celebration.

Sincerely yours in Christ’s ministry among the displaced Karen people in the camps and the IDP areas.

Rev. Dr. Saw Simon. KKBC/KKBBSC, Mae La camp.

Whether you have been there or not you are invited to attend the meetings in March 2009. The people cannot easily leave to come to your church and conferences but the presence of others at their gatherings will help them to remember that they are not forgotten and could serve as an act of love, hope and encouragement.

If you cannot attend, a letter of best wishes would be gratefully received. Do write to me for their email address if you have not got it.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Dr Simon at the entrance to his home and the school.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Teachers Requested for Sri Lanka

2009 Courses
A request has come this week from the Dean of the Colombo Theological Seminary.

He says:
“We need two teachers. In particular we are looking for someone who can teach a course in Hermeneutics. Other topics that we are interested in covering are Marketplace Theology, the Synoptics or Anthropology.”

The dates that he is looking at are:

17th of Oct – 25th of Oct 2009

6th of Dec – 13th of Dec 2009

Situation in SL
Jonas continues: “Things are well in Sri Lanka. The political situation is still unstable with the war raging in the North, but here in the South we have been spared major terrorist attacks in the last few months.”

To get a good feel for this seminary go to the seminary web site, to this link or take a look at this link with the articles, photos and videos that Tim Bulkeley from Carey, NZ posted during his recent assignment at CTS.

To express an interest or request more information, do send me an email at geoffpound[@] Tim (at the above link) is also happy to tell you firsthand what the experience in SL was like for him.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: A Group at CTS.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Further Key Players Aiding Theological Education

Further in a recent series on this site about key players in the TWB task is another group of people—those who go overseas on short assignments to teach English to theological students.

I was reminded of this by a person in NZ this week who wrote. “I met with a friend recently who went to Myanmar to teach English to theological students. The group who organizes this takes groups for 6 week at a time 2 or 3 times a year. I'm thinking of putting my name down for next year.”

The group does this under the auspices of Leadership Development International NZ (LDI), a group that Paul Windsor from Carey College, NZ is joining.

The ‘TESOL opportunities’ link on their web site reports on how this happens and opportunities to do this in the next few months in Yangon (16 teachers needed) and SAIACS in India (6 teachers needed).

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Teaching English in India (Google Images)

See other articles in this series:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Needing a Teacher in Church History?

I had a note this week from a retired teacher in Church History who continues to teach, research, write and preach.

He is an excellent teacher who makes the study of church history enjoyable, interesting and related to the present times.

He has taught classes where students have a basic grasp of the English language as well as courses from diploma through to doctoral levels.

He said if I hear of a seminary that is in need of a person coming to teach a course in church history or Baptist history/theology please run it by him.

There are many seminaries around the world where the faculty is small and teachers who are qualified in biblical subjects and theology have no great expertise in church history but have to cobble together a course to cover the need.

The offer of a church historian to visit and teach a course is a wonderful gift.

Do let me know if you have a need for a teacher in church history for a short term assignment.

Dr Geoff Pound