Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A prayer I don't want answered

If I'm going to fail
let me fail gloriously
let the sun darken
and the sky fall
let the wind howl
let the crowds pelt me
with words hard as hammers
and sneers that shrivel the soul
let my failure be rich in texture
symphonic and full
grand enough for posterity
and generous enough to cover the shame
of the countless paltry victories
the small everyday triumphs
no one but me
ever sees

Friday, October 12, 2012

Windows on cross-cultural servanthood

I have the joy of announcing another new book. The complete title is Windows on cross-cultural servanthood: A tribute to Betty Sue Brewster, and the entire book is available online as the current issue of the journal, Global Missiology,Vol. 1, No 4. Edited by Jude Tiersma Watson and Georgia Grimes Shaw, this is a different kind of festshrift to honor Betty Sue Brewster upon her retirement from Fuller Theological Seminary. Like Betty Sue, it’s unconventional and practical, a narrative record of the experiences of fifteen women who have given their lives to cross-cultural ministry. I contributed one chapter, as well as the preface, which I will reproduce here:

Preface to Windows on cross-cultural servanthood: A tribute to Betty Sue Brewster
This is a green book.  We chopped down no trees in order to produce it. In fact, it’s not even a book, strictly speaking. In contrast to the traditional “festschrift,” the editors decided early on to publish these essays as part of an on-line journal, thus making them accessible worldwide. Generosity is a green virtue.
There is another reason why we call this collection of essays green. We offer it in honor of Betty Sue Brewster, whose maiden name just happens to be Green. In some way all the writers reflect the influence of Betty Sue’s life and contributions.
A deeper reason for calling this volume green runs beneath the surface, an underground stream feeding its roots. I’m reminded of a song Kermit the Frog used to sing: “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Our family sang along with Kermit, partly because of a metaphor circulating in the missionary community, a teaching tool to help missionary kids understand and accept the tensions of living cross-culturally. David and Kristin found insight and comfort knowing that they were a unique combination of the culture they grew up in and called home (Bolivia) and the culture their parents came from (the USA) and drug them back to periodically on those unnatural vacations known as “furloughs.” It’s like what happens when you combine the primary colors, yellow and blue. You end up with green. Our kids came out neither totally Bolivian (yellow) or totally of the USA (blue).  They’re green. And while it may not be easy being green, it’s good. All pilgrims are green.
The metaphor doesn’t apply just to children of missionaries. All people who work incarnationally in cross-cultural mission become changed.  Incarnational mission is a concept and practice that Betty Sue and her husband Tom pioneered, practiced and passed on to following generations.  It’s a concept that is fleshed out in the essays in this collection.  It reflects the lives of people who have integrated home culture with the cultures of the world as they seek to live out Kingdom values in mission practice.  It reflects people who have become green.
There is yet another link to the color green.  You’ll notice that all the authors are women. This is intentional. Betty Sue championed women as leaders in mission. Granted, she did this in her own quiet, gentle manner.  But gentleness does not equate weakness. In the case of Betty Sue (and the writers of this collection), gentleness expresses itself in strength, identification, relationship, creativity, narrative and the deep values of the Kingdom of God. Some would say that these feminine traits are more naturally green—conducive to walking gently over the earth—than are the aggressive masculine traits sometimes associated with mission. These stereotypes bear more than a grain of truth (but are probably not fair to men).
At any rate, this is a green “book,” full of stories written by women in mission, encouraging us to walk gently, thoughtfully and respectfully as we journey cross-culturally. And it aptly honors one who showed us how.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Latin American Friends write

Bringing a new book to the light of day is similar to birthing a child. Both experiences spring from pleasure and pain, and both can involve intense labor. I labored with this book for three years, but it’s here and it’s beautiful. De encuentro a ministerio: la vida y fe de los Amigos latinoamericanos (From Encounter to Ministry: The Life and Faith of Latin American Friends) springs from a series of workshops on narrative writing jointly sponsored by the Friends World Committee on Consultation (Section of the Americas) and Northwest Yearly Meeting in 2009 and 2010.
Some 57 Quakers from Central and South America participated in the workshops, and 23 actually submitted their stories for publication in the book. These include women and men, pastors and lay persons, seasoned Friends and young people, experienced writers and some who are seeing their first publication in this book.  They come from Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and all represent a Latin American Quaker perspective on life and faith.
The stories sparkle. Although they represent a variety of experiences, similar threads weave through the text: a vibrant faith in Jesus, a commitment to hear and obey the word of God, and a shared fellowship as Friends. Gaby Maita (Bolivia) writes about her experience of Christian conversion in an animistic and hostile context. Ricardo Jovel (El Salvador) shares his story of finding faith through a series of crisis situations that began with a car accident. David Bercian (Guatemala) writes of God’s protection during a time of political and civic unrest. Teodoro Alanquía (Peru), the oldest participant in the workshops, writes of his conversion and ministry experience as one of the early believers in the Peruvian Friends Church. María Carcomo (Honduras) shares fascinating details of a year in the life of a Friends minister. These are just samples.
Monday evening in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, we dedicated the book in a small worship service. Four of the authors were present, and it was so good to share in their delight and sense of accomplishment. Our prayer is that the book encourage Latin American Friends with the beauty of their heritage. I’ve already begun on an English translation. I want English-speaking Friends everywhere to know these people and to sense the contribution that they bring to the Quaker movement worldwide.