Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Gift of Interpreters

I wrote earlier about some key people who can make a TWB visit effective but there is another person who is so crucial—the interpreter.

While on some visits a teacher undertaking an international visit might be able to teach in their own language, so often one needs an interpreter so that the students hear in their own language.

This was apparent in my recent story about Litha who served as an interpreter at an Indonesian conference.

This was also the case on my recent visit to Nepal. The students at the College learn from teachers who speak in the English medium, however, in my first couple of days I wondered whether a lack of response to my questions was due to cultural shyness, an insufficient grasp of English or my foreign accent.

All my afternoon sessions with church leaders from different parts of the country was taught through an interpreter. I got tired teaching in three hour sessions but how much more tiring it must have been for the interpreter to be thinking on the spot in two languages.

It is an art speaking with an interpreter but it is just as important to have an interpreter who can make sense of your words and convey these with passion as well as the intonations. It is can be such an enjoyable work of partnership.

Such experiences have their funny sides. I was talking about a distorted view of the faith that is more concerned about rewards in the future than the realities of the present. I spoke about the former group as those who espouse the notion of ‘Pie in the Sky when you Die!’ The interpreter, who had spent much time in the English-speaking world, was familiar with the expression but he showed great amusement in informing the students about what I was saying when there does not seem to be a word for ‘pie’ in Nepali and the translation doesn’t have the same rhythm and rhyme!

So give thanks for those with the valuable gift of interpretation—people who came make up for your own deficiencies.

My favorite interpreter story is this one that comes from the experience of Eugene Petersen.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: This woman was one of my interpreters in Nepal—fast, true, enthusiastic and with a great sense of humor.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lilian Lim Standin’ in the Need of Prayer

Lilian Lim of Singapore has been a great supporter of Theologians Without Borders (see the article about her at this link) but she is currently in need of our support.

It was good to see Lilian in Prague (July) and hear her speaking about creative things happening in theological education in the Asian region.

Here is her health update in a letter I have just received:

“The day after I returned from Prague, my aorta ruptured. Since the rupture was at the arch near the heart, I was rushed in an ambulance for emergency surgery. Within hours, I was in the Operating Theatre where the surgeons worked for five hours to replace the torn 15 cm on the aorta with a synthetic graft. There was a 50/50 chance of a stroke after surgery - that was the best the docs could hope for.”

“Amazingly I recovered well and was discharged after two weeks. I am recuperating at home and doing a 3-month rehab programme with physiotherapists. My surgeons say the graft should give me a better quality of life. I am working hard towards that. Officially I am still on medical leave till end of October.”

If you’d like to write to Lilian and wish her well here is her address:

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Lilian Lim.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Can Teach, Have the Time but Can Anyone Provide Airfare?

Responding to a Posting
Earlier I wrote an article entitled “My Bags are Packed…” in which I identified the great and growing resource for Theologians Without Borders—retired theological teachers who have the teaching ability, years of experience, flexible schedules to serve in another country but not necessarily the cash for paying for the airfares.

I have had a letter from one theological educator who makes these points [this is my summary]:

“I'd like to respond to your ‘My Bags are Packed, I'm ready to Go’, posting…”

“I am a few years off retirement and eligibility for superannuation.”

“I love working and teaching in non-Western contexts.”

“I may cut back from fulltime teaching in the country where I live.”

“I would love to arrange my teaching work to allow extensive visits to teach somewhere in a needy place overseas.”

“I don’t have the extra cash for spending regularly on teaching trips to overseas situations.”

“If TWB (or some mission/relief agency) were able to offer "ticket scholarships" that could make quite a bit of time available for me to teach in the near future.”

“In short, what I am saying is that the possibilities might not only be among the already retired, but the partially employed.”

This is a good response for this direction potentially increases the teaching resources that could be made available to needy Bible Schools and seminaries.

I have been pondering my response to this writer and here are my current thoughts:

* If you are like me, you might find it easier to ask for money for other people than for yourself but why not try these possibilities? Why not speak to your local church or the other one that is more highly resourced around the corner, tell them about your vision, your invitation to teach and the cost of the airfare (and visa) and put it to them to consider your venture as part of their contribution to missions?

* Ditto to your national Missions Organization. Sending someone to teach classes in a needy country sounds like a valuable investment.

* This may not work for every cultural group but when I received an invitation to be annual conference speaker with Indonesian churches and also to run some Conflict Resolution workshops, I shared the news of this invitation with an Indonesian Church in Oz and asked them to pay for my airfare. They responded positively and generously, they also committed themselves to pray and when I was next in Oz I visited this church to thank them and report on my teaching and training ministry. Interestingly, this same church has recently sent their pastor back to Indonesia on a Missions trip.

Your Response?
I think the writer is saying that if there was some guarantee of financial help he may be able to confidently cut back his current workload to allow time for an overseas visit or two a year. To make it happen well it would be good to count on the possibility of TWB "ticket scholarships."

If you have been reading my posts you will know that I am seeking to visit countries to encourage churches and conventions to fund an airfare or gift some Air Miles for teachers with the time and expertise to make a visit.

If you have any creative suggestions as to how we might finance teachers like this letter writer (and a growing number of others) do let us know (by leaving a Comment or writing to me) and as always, finance and Air Miles for airfares are gratefully received.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: These people were part of an afternoon group I taught in Nepal recently. They are church leaders from all over the region who come together for a week each month. Why can’t they pay for airfares to enable teachers and trainers to come? Because Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia, where the annual average wage for the 20 million people is only US$200.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Some Key Players in Theologians without Borders

I am recently back home after visiting Nepal—teaching students in the College every morning (in English) and teaching lay church workers who had come together from all over the country in the afternoons (this had to be interpreted into Nepali).

Before I went I wrote and spoke to friends about where I was going and what I was going to do.

It was tremendous to have my local church behind me with their interest and prayers and I kept them up to date with a few letters from Katmandu.

It was heartening to have two people say that they wanted to journey with me in prayer for this visit. What a joy it was to sense there were others praying for me regarding specific features of this assignment!

One person wrote to me with some money saying, “I can’t go but you can. I can’t teach theology but you can. I am well paid and you are a volunteer—please accept this money to help you pay the expenses of the trip.”

The prayers, letters, money and cards were all visible expressions of the support of other key players in this TWB trip. This was no solo voyage. I told my Nepali students about the bevy of supporters who were supporting me in different ways and they were heartened to learn that people were remembering them and sharing in their learning and development.

One of the earliest theologians without borders once asked the rhetorical question, “Are all teachers?” (1 Cor. 12: 20)

Thank God that some have been appointed to be teachers but be grateful that others have been gifted to pray, encourage and give so that together we get the job done.

Join with me in challenging teachers to give at least a week of teaching and encouragement in a country like Nepal.

Encourage others that cannot go to gift the taxi fare to the airport, the airfare and visa costs or some much appreciated Air Miles.

I have a growing number of teachers expressing a desire to serve but who currently, are not being able to muster the funds for the airfare. Are you one of them? I’d love to hear from you.

I’d also love to hear from people who can give a fare and/or some Air Miles.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: This was the view from the building where training was held every afternoon last week in Katmandu. Rice fields in the foreground that I had to walk through to get to the training centre. Marvelous mountains in the background. Different shades of green. A visual delight especially when I live in a dusty city surrounded by brown mountains and the sandy desert.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Your Invitation to Subscribe to Postings from this Site

I’d love you to subscribe to postings from this site because:

1. It is free (unlike most subscriptions).
2. You don’t have to become a ‘member’ of this site.
3. I travel a lot and therefore postings are not always regular.
4. When you subscribe you will get an alert that a new article has been written.

Click on the Subscribe button (see pictured) to get article alerts coming to your computer via Google Reader, Bloglines, or however you manage your favorite web site feeds.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: This has become the universal Subscribe Button on most Internet web sites.

Creativity in Theological Education Paper Highlighted in Baptist Studies Bulletin

Grateful thanks to Baptist Studies Bulletin editor, Bruce Gourley for promoting in the September bulletin the paper and ideas that were first posted on this site at this page, entitled, ‘Creativity in Theological Education’.

The Center for Baptist Studies that comes out of Mercer University issues each month a free, richly resourceful EMagazine designed to ‘bridge Baptists Yesterday and Today’.

I am grateful to the Center for Baptist Studies for also highlighting on their Hot Issues and Resources page my Stories for Speakers and Writers web site that provides stories for communicators and my online book Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.

This free book, Making Life Decisions, was launched online in November 2007, has already been discovered by several thousand people and is being used around the world in churches, by small groups, couples and individuals.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Baptist Studies Bulletin Home Page.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Desperation on the Thai-Burmese Border

Many readers of this TWB site will know of the thousands of Karen refugees on the Thai-Burmese border; some will have visited one or more of the camps and several of you will have taught in the Bible School that is located in one of those camps.

I was in contact today with one of the teachers from the camp who gave this update:

“Since the [Nargis] cyclone victims have come to us asking for food and things like that… We [in the camp] are taking care of around 90 people at the moment, some people from the cyclone, some from the IDP [Internally Displaced People] areas.”

“I thought we would pick up only cyclone victims but I have found out that IDP families are also in desperate need. Through the help of some friends we could come up with regular rice supplies for them before the Thailand Burma Border Consortium and the camp leaders can come up with their immediate needs. The problem they are facing is with the rising prices so it is difficult for them to come up with food and things like that for the Nargis victims and the IDP's new arrivals.”

“They came to us, they narrated their stories and they cried. Sometimes the whole family cried. I did not know what to do with that.”

Please remember the displaced people who are still in the camps, especially the recent arrivals and those seeking to minister to them in their trauma.

The leader of the Bible School often writes asking when teachers might visit them, teach their classes and give encouragement to people in the camps.

Do let me know if you are able to visit and teach for a short period. Times are flexible in those parts.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: I took this picture from the car on the road which runs parallel to rows of makeshift homes (behind security fences) which go on for mile after mile.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Opportunities in South Africa

South African School
A call for help has come from a Bible School in South Africa that is in partnership for administrative and accreditation purposes with the South African Theological Seminary.

The School is located about 1.5 hours south of Durban, the nearest international airport.

The School (which is part of other training streams and strategies) comes together once-a-quarter for a training week, covering subjects over a three-year cycle.

Learners are encouraged to live-in, studying ‘in community’ with all lectures translated from English into either isiZulu or isiXhosa.

Classes are currently about 25 in number.

Students are almost all are from semi-rural African environments.

They hail mostly from evangelical denominations, some charismatic / Pentecostal – even one or two AICs.

The School is interdenominational.

The students enjoy an hour or so of exuberant worship/preaching in the early mornings and afternoons.

Since students are part-time, they attend the school for 5 days at a time, four times a year.

Teaching and Subjects 2009
Have a look at the 2009 schedule and see whether dates and the subjects might work for you but note that while the dates are firm the subjects may be juggled for a visiting teacher who can teach one or two classes in a week.

The 2009 dates and subjects as they look at this stage:

23-27 Feb (Romans, Other religions, Jeremiah)
4-8 May (OT Survey III, Hermeneutics, Galatians)
13-17 July (Ephesians, Homiletics, Prayer)
28 Sep – 2 Oct (Revelation, Doctrine and History of the Church)

Typical Teaching Week
Typically, each 5-day ‘week’ will have 29 lecture hours – two major subjects and one minor.

The Principal usually teaches one course and invites guest lecturers (with training and expertise) to take the other two.

In the February week 10 hours are allocated for Romans, 14 for Other religious systems, while Jeremiah has 5.

Most of the teaching would run from 08h00 to 15h00, with refreshment breaks.

There’s also a midweek lecture open to the public on the Wednesday evening.

Some teaching material has been made available to lecturers in advance, but teachers are free to use their own notes – in which case, the School asks for student handouts to be sent in good time.

Lectures will be translated into Zulu / Xhosa – and the African context should be kept in mind.

The hosting school will organize travel for visiting teachers to and from the airport at Durban.

Board and lodging will be provided by the hosts.

Next Step
If you would like more information or desire to be linked to the Principal of the Bible School do write to me [geoffpound[@]gmail.com.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: A photo of some of the learning community.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Discovering the Right Opportunity

First Things First
One of the first steps for a teacher or speaker who is looking at serving as a theologian without borders is to write an ‘Expression of Interest’ (adapting the questions I have identified on this template) and sending it to me.

This confidential statement gives me a better idea of the person and it provides useful information for a needy seminary wanting to ensure that the person coming will be a good match.

I usually write back with a few questions to help me be aware of what a person wants to do with their time and opportunity.

I received a response recently that focused some helpful hopes. I share these in the hope that it might help others to reflect on their motives and desires.

I’d Like to Make a Contribution
The person writes:
“I'd love to be able to make some contribution where a visit could be an encouragement to hard pressed and under resourced local believers.”

This is well put. Wanting to make a contribution where people are not flush with resources and teachers. The gift of encouragement to the ‘hard-pressed’ is just as important as the truths and insights shared in the classroom.

I Want to Learn
“I also want to learn about faith, discipleship and mission in contexts other than my own.”

This desire to receive resonates well with the apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome. At first he is thinking of his contribution to them: “I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—.” Then he catches himself and gives this corrective: “or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Rom. 1: 11-12)

It is good to be thinking about some lessons we would like to learn in another context. It is also important to be open to the surprising lessons that often come to us on these assignments.

I Want to Build Relationships
“…to build relationships especially where some ongoing connection and partnership might become possible.”

A FAQ I get asked concerns the value of a short teaching assignment of a week or two. Relationships build in the planning for the visit, the gathering of resources and information about the country and culture and the many letters sent and received in good Pauline tradition. But there are also opportunities for the relationships to develop afterwards and I have given an example or two in this recent post about Tim who continues to build friendships with people that he met on two separate visits earlier this year.

I Want to Become More Useful
“…and to gain knowledge and insights that would make me more useful as a teacher in my own country (including mission settings that would make me better able to help prepare people for mission, cross-cultural and intercultural ministry).”

This attitude of a teacher wanting to become better in craft and knowledge is vital for developing the right mental stance in the cross-cultural context. This desire to learn from the new students, culture, conversations and worship will be beamed strongly to all those who are encountered and they will sense it.

The power of a cross-cultural teaching assignment to make better teachers cannot be overestimated. Read this story from Keith Dyer that is entitled with his words: “I Have Never Enjoyed Teaching and Learning So Much.”

I’m Happy with an Interpreter
Working through an interpreter is usually par for the course in these ‘hard-pressed’ situations. Better get use to it and pray for a good understanding and partnership.

I Speak another Language
“I speak [a European language in addition to English]. This can be helpful. The seminary in Venezuela that is looking for a teacher has its classes in Spanish. If a teacher is available to go but can’t speak Spanish, they can provide an interpreter. But what a gift—to have a teacher like Stan Slade who is currently teaching a course, “en castellano.”

Sometimes a language gift can suggest a match with a seminary in a particular culture just as much as expertise in a certain discipline or area of training.

I Don’t Mind Roughing It
“I don't mind roughing it, and I was on the back of motorbikes a couple of times when I did some teaching in India.”

Where someone places themselves on the Comfort Spectrum is an important factor in the matching process. Sometimes requests come from places in hilly, remote areas where the climate is harsh. This is not the place for someone whose frame is delicate and whose health is iffy.

Requests have come in the last year from places where the beds are hard for westerners, where toilets are unlit and different from home, and where sitting on the back of a motorbike is the only form of travel. Other requests have come from places where the comfort levels are higher.

I Could Go Back for a Return Visit
“There's an open door to return to [XYX] and I'm maintaining contact with folk like the Principal there. I think it's likely that I will be back there at some point.”

There can be great value in building on an existing relationship.

I Could Do Something New
“…but the sabbatical may give the opportunity to build relationships with another group of believers… and expand my awareness.”

There can be great value in developing new relationships.

I’m Drawn To
“I'm drawn to the situation you describe.”

Despite the lack of information it is good to be attentive to the sense of being drawn to a particular country or culture and to ask what it is that you are being attracted toward.

I Have Got to Be…
“Looks like I'll have to be in [ABC] early October for a conference and in [DEF] in late November, so one option is to try to work in a trip around one or both of these.”

This is the factor of circumstances, open and closed doors, the practical matter of dates, the stewardship of associating events, developing an itinerary that makes for good travel and gains the best bang for the buck.

Divine Discernment
I’m grateful for this Facebook conversation with a person contemplating a new international assignment. I hope you find it helpful in creatively brooding over your future plans. So many factors to consider but ultimately we are assured that with divine help and our interaction “we may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12: 2)

Further Factors
Are there other factors that you have found to be important in discovering the right opportunity?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “This is the factor of… closed doors.” These doors I admired in Bratislava last Summer.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Count Me in Says Retired Professor

The increasing number of retired seminary teachers and pastors may well prove to be our greatest resource as theologians without borders.

Not only do such people often have the flexibility of time to travel but they invariably have great wisdom and a wealth of insight to share.

A retired seminary teacher in Western Europe has contacted me to express an interest in serving around and beyond his region.

He has had a lifetime of teaching, scholarship and writing.

He continues to be in demand as a conference speaker.

His training has fitted him to cover a number of theological disciplines such as church history (including Baptist history) and ecclesiology.

He has written on a wide variety of issues including inter-church and inter-faith dialogue, war and peace, freedom and justice and the intersection of faith, sport and culture.

This teacher is looking to undertake short assignments of up to one month at a time.

These assignments might include a mix of duties—teaching an intensive, conference speaker, ongoing education seminars for church leaders etc.

For more information and/or to be linked in conversation with this teacher, please write to me (geoffpound[@]gmail.com).

Dr Geoff Pound

Friday, September 5, 2008

Seminary Without Borders

How does a seminary keep in touch with its community, not just those who are scattered on campus but partners nearby, families at a distance and the alumni living in different parts of the world?

The International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS), which draws its students and teachers from all over Europe and beyond, has had a good web site for a while but they have commenced this Fall Semester by deciding to establish an IBTS Community Blog.

They hope their new Community blog will be “a place for expressing views on Baptist and baptistic life in general, as well as particular thoughts about Baptist life in Europe, IBTS, EBF, or BWA.”

“We hope to comment on books and theological trends, to explore issues of worship, our concern for the theology of creation care, the place of women in the life of gathering believing communities and generally to provide a space for interaction on important issues of being disciples of Christ in a world of rapid change.”

Chief contributors will be people from the residential community but they are inviting comments from further afield. Important in fostering their diverse sense of community is the conviction that “this blog site will not have the imprint of one person only. Women and men living, talking, reflecting, worshiping, praying and believing together will write and reflect together.”

Check out the IBTS Community Blog. See the annual picture of the community on campus, learn what they use to be on the cutting edge in terms of ecological lawn mowing, look at the lecturers, view the parties, squizz at the book reviews and reflect on the other activities and ideas that provide the glue for a vibrant seminary community.

How are you seeking to foster the community spirit of your seminary this semester?

Link: IBTS Community Blog.

Dr Geoff Pound (who visited IBTS in July while attending two conferences in beautiful Prague and stayed in the seminary’s Hotel Jenerálka which is wonderful accommodation).

Image: IBTS Community Collage

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Not Lost in Translation in Bali

In an earlier posting I profiled Australian, Litha Heshusius, who had volunteered to minister at a large conference in Bali of women from Indonesia and surrounding countries.

Among other responsibilities Litha was acting as an interpreter and I mentioned how Litha’s service was a variation on the Theologians Without Borders ministry.

The conference has been running this week and here is a brief progress report just received from Litha:

So far the conference has been great and inspiring.

The Minister for the Empowerment of Women and representatives of the Indonesian Women’s Department came and opened the conference, along with the representatives from the Governor, and the local Mayor.

It was great opening ceremony - sorry I couldn't send photos but when I get back I will.

I have met many people from 22 provinces of Indonesia. Every province has made their own cultural contribution in such ways as dancing and singing. I was very impressed.

The organizers work so hard including, Ingrid Subagyo (leader of Women’s Department, Union of Indonesian Baptists), who has done a marvelous job.

The speakers are Patsy Davis, Lorraine Walker and Chio Murakami and some from Indonesia.

The speakers have contributed wonderful messages and I have been helping with the translation.

Tonight I'll do it again, helping Lorraine with the translation and so please pray for us.

Tomorrow will be the last day, and I believe everyone has enjoyed the conference so far.

It is good to receive progress reports. Do pray for the speakers, organizers and interpreters as they conclude activities and for the ongoing working out of the Word as delegates return to their regions and countries.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: A picture taken when I conducted workshops in Indonesia as a TWB. Ingrid was my interpreter for the training conferences and workshops. She is second from the left in the front row. This workshop on Conflict Resolution was held in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city (7 million greater Surabaya) which is situated in the province of East Java.