Category Archives: missions

Reading 2012: In the Presence of My Enemies

I remember hearing about Gracia and Martin Burnham in 2001, when the New Tribes Missions couple was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf, Islamic terrorists in the Philippines. I also remember hearing of her husband’s death and her release, and then, sometime later, my alma mater’s in-person honoring of her faith (a couple of her nieces were on the dormitory staff) during her ordeal. Her book has been on my “want-to-read-list” since I heard of is publishing, but I never followed through until this month, when the book, In the Presence of My Enemies was offered free via Kindle (no longer available free Kindle download, although the first chapter is available to read here).

In the book, Gracia shares her early life and marriage to Martin, their 17 years of ministry as missionaries in the Philippines, their life there with their three children, and then the 376 days of their captivity (after being kidnapped while at a small resort where they were celebrating their eighteenth wedding anniversary). With only the clothes on their backs (which wasn’t much, as they were taken away in the early hours of the morning), they faced over a year of difficult travels, near starvation, absence of of basic sanitation and comfort, constant exhaustion and physical pain, false hope of release, gunfights, and even having fellow captives face rape and decapitation. In the end, all but one of the other captives besides the Burnhams and those who were killed were released. Martin was unintentionally killed by the gunfire of their rescuers, and Gracia wounded.

The struggles they faced were not merely physical. Gracia humbly and honestly recounts her spiritual struggles during their time in the jungle, one which allowed her to emerge believing in and testifying to the gracious and loving sovereignty of God. The book gives readers a glimpse into fundamentalist, Islamic-based terrorist groups, particularly the dynamic that comes to play when the militants are somewhat uneducated to their own religion and even the manipulation and hypocrisy that is used to force others to join.

After her rescue, Gracia was asked to return to the Philippines to testify against her kidnappers. Eventually, those who were not killed in subsequent gunfights, or who had not escaped, were imprisoned. In an ultimate expression of loving her enemies, Gracia writes these men and shares with them the Gospel. She has also started ministries to help provide financially for their families by buying some of their craftsmanship. As the pastor at our church reminded us this Sunday, many religions ask their adherents to “love their neighbors as themselves;” yet, it is one of the marks of true Christianity for one to love their enemies. Clearly, it is an evidence of God’s sanctifying grace in Gracia that she emerged from this ordeal able to truly love her enemies.

As a wife and mother who at times thought our family would be in a similar missions context, such a scenario is still only one I could have imagined. Yet, there were countless scenarios that placed Gracia in a position dealing with the same experiences many first-world Christians face on a regular basis.
As a young mother, I found this lesson from Gracia to be a helpful admonishment and reminder:
Poor Martin — he was so good to put up with my emotions. If we were in a gun battle and I was falling apart, he would say, “Gracia, this isn’t the time to cry. You’re wasting energy. You need to get ahold of yourself—you can cry later, okay?”
But he never reprimanded me for crying. It made me think back to earlier  days, when I was homeschooling the kids, and I pushed Jeffrey so hard to perform that he would burst into tears. On more than one occasion I had said, “I don’t want to see you cry, because you’re just trying to get your way.” I was really impatient and unfair with him.
Now in the jungle, I thought to myself, How would you feel if someone walked up to you right now and said, “I don’t want you crying, because you’re just trying to get your own way?” I promised myself that if I ever got back to Jeff, I would sit him down and apologize for pushing him so hard. He was actually a good student, and so were the other kids. I just expected them to be perfect little adults instead of kids who were learning to make their way in the world.”

The story is engaging, though at times difficult to read and imagine what the Burnhams and fellow captives faced. Gracia divides her story into 22 chapters:

Table of Contents:

  • 1 Seized at Dawn
  • 2 Bright Beginnings
  • 3 The Nicest Guy
  • 4 Rookies
  • 5 Toddlers and Traffic
  • 6 The Perils of Palawan
  • 7 Hospital of Horror
  • 8 The Threat
  • 9 Left Behind
  • 10 Surrounded
  • 11 A Song for the Jungle
  • 12 Justice or Mercy?
  • 13 September 11
  • 14 Wedding Time
  • 15 The Package
  • 16 Silent Nights
  • 17 So Close
  • 18 Ransomed!
  • 19 One Rainy Afternoon
  • 20 The Embassy
  • 21 Going Home
  • 22 Reflections

Links to Think: 03.12.12

Conversion and Conversionism – Mike Horton discusses conversion, the ordo salutis, and the reading list for his recent article, “What To Do When Your Testimony Is Boring.” I appreciate his highlighting a covenant view of children here in his explanation of conversion and conversionism (emphasis mine):

“Conversion is a biblical teaching wherein we learn that we’re not active in our regeneration.  However, activated by God’s grace, we repent and believe.  Repentance and belief are gifts, but we are the ones repenting and believing – this is conversion.  “Conversionism” (the conversionism in the evangelical church, with which we’re all familiar) is reductionistic in two ways.

First, it reduces the field of conversion to those who have no connection with the church.  When we treat conversion as always something radical and distinct from the ordinary means of grace in the covenantal nurture of Christian families and churches, we make void the promise “for you and your children,” (Acts 2:39).  Half of our missionfield—those covenant children already entrusted to our care—is cut off.  They are not Christians; they must become Christians outside the ordinary operations of the church’s ministry, in an event specially crafted to produce conversionsSecond, it reduces the time of conversion to a moment in the past.  In the New Testament, though, conversion is a lifelong process.  The question is not whether I repented and believed once upon a time.  My older brother isn’t walking with the Lord.  Nevertheless, whenever I have raised the question, he assures me that he is “saved” because he responded to an altar call and invited Jesus into his heart when he was 7.  There is no valid profession of faith today, but he was taught early on that none of this really matters.  Conversion—the daily call to die to self (repentance/ mortification) and live to Christ (faith/vivification)—is ongoing.  It is a life of conversion, however imperfect and incomplete, not a moment of conversion, that believers embrace by God’s grace.”

Russia in color, a century ago – The Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” highlights some amazing color photos from Russia around 1910. (These are amazing! Take a look.)

“Photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. He used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near true color images. The high quality of the images, combined with the bright colors, make it difficult for viewers to believe that they are looking 100 years back in time – when these photographs were taken, neither the Russian Revolution nor World War I had yet begun.”

Jesus is Coming Back When? – Joe Carter at the Gospel Coalition Blog gives a helpful overview of four main eschatological views.

I grew up in a Christian school where with few exceptions (including one really good exception), high school Bible classes consisted of filling up chalkboards with diagrams, and up and down arrows of when and how the end-times would play out. I also grew up being part of churches that frequently sponsored or held prophecy (which, of course, was specifically end-times prophecy) conferences, and grew up reading the Left Behind series (and watching the movies when they came out). Until college, I don’t think I even knew there were other views of the end times.

I continued under a similar eschatological teaching (no chalkboard charts or cheesy Christian pop novels, though; and we did discuss other views) throughout college and the church we were part of when first marriage, where a missionary’s support was dropped when he concluded he no longer held the same view. (Ironically, it was while studying through the last chapters of Matthew during our final months at this same church that I came to see how some of the other views could make sense.) Upon having to leave this church ourselves, my husband and I were both surprised on our first visit to a new church (where we now attend), and the pastor preached a sermon that briefly touched on end times views but stated clearly that he didn’t believe his particular view was the way, the truth, and the life. Since much of my life had been spent under teachings of dispensational premillenialism, it was helpful to read through this article.

Four Reasons Why Public Critique Does Not Invoke Matthew 18 – Rick Phillips offers insight on the frequent misapplication of Matthew 18.

“This demand for personal contact prior to public criticism of published writings is becoming almost ubiquitous these days.  We even hear complaints that public critique violates Matthew 18 unless there has private dialogue first.  Let me offer the following four reasons why this is completely wrong…”

Reading 2012: Ministries of Mercy

Timothy Keller’s Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road is a valuable expansion on both the why’s and how’s of loving our neighbors, particularly doing so through mercy ministries. After taking a closer look at both Jesus’ command to love our neighbors and the Parable of the Good Samaritan (in the Prologue and Introduction, respectively), Keller divides his book into two parts, each with seven chapters:  Principles and Practice. The first portion, Principles, is an in-depth study of the Biblical teaching on loving our neighbors through social justice and mercy ministry, while the second portion, Practice, focuses on the practical and technical aspects of practicing mercy ministry.


Four Types of People Who Would Benefit from Keller’s “Generous Justice”

In the introduction to Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, Tim Keller notes that there are four types of people who he hopes will read his book:

1. People who have a concern for social justice and have been involved in the volunteerism movement, but who do not let their social concern affect their personal lives.

[This concern] does not influence how they spend money on themselves, how they conduct their careers, the way they choose and live in neighbhorhoods, or whom they seek as friends. Also, many lose enthusiasm for volunteering over time.

From their youth culture they have imbibed not only an emotional resonance for social justice but also a consumerism that undermines self-denial and delayed gratification. Popular youth culture in Western countries cannot bring about the broad change of life in us that is required if we are to make a difference for the poor and marginalized. While many young adults have a Christian faith, and also desire to help people in need, these two things are not actually connected to each other in their lives. They have not thought out the implications of Jesus’s gospel for doing justice in all aspects of life. That connection I will attempt to make in this book. (xi)

2. The person who approaches the subject of “doing justice” with suspicion.

In the twentieth century the American church divided between the liberal mainline that stressed social justice and the fundamentalist churches that emphasized personal salvation. One of the founders of the Social Gospel movement was Walter Rauschenbusch, a German Baptist minister whose first pastorate was on the edge of New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen in the 1880s. His firsthand acquaintance with the terrible poverty of his neighborhood led him to question traditional evangelism, which took pains to save people’s souls but did nothing about the social systems locking them into poverty. Rauschenbusch began to minister to “both soul and body,” but in tandem with this shift in method came a shift in theology. He rejected the traditional doctrines of Scripture and atonement. He taught that Jesus did not need to satisfy the justice of God, and therefore he died only to be an example of unselfishness.

In the mind of many orthodox Christians, therefore, “doing justice” is inextricably linked with the loss of sound doctrine and spiritual dynamism. However, Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century author of the sermons “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” was a staunch Calvinist and hardly anyone’s idea of a “liberal.” Yet in his discourse on “The Duty of Charity to the Poor,” he concluded, “Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more peremptory urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor?” (xi-xii)

3. The younger evangelicals who have “expanded their missions” to include social justice along with evangelism, but who may have dropped attention to important theology. 

Many of them have not only turned away from older forms of ministry, but also from traditional evangelical doctrines of Jesus’s substitutionary atonement and of justification by faith alone, which are seem as too “individualistic.” These authors usually argue that changes in theological emphasis–or perhaps outright changes in theological doctrine–are necessary if the church is going to be more engaged in the pursuit of social justice. The scope of the present volume prevents us from looking at these debates about atonement and justification. However, one of its main purposes is to show that such reengineering of doctrine is not only mistaken in itself, but also unnecessary. The most traditional formulation of evangelical doctrine, rightly understood, should lead its proponents to a life of doing justice in the world. (xiii-xiv)

4. Those who charge that religion “poisons everything” and see Christianity in opposition to social justice. 

Recently there has been a rise in books and blogs charging that religion, to quote Christiopher Hitchens, “poisons everything.”

To such people the idea that belief in the Biblical God necessarily entails commitment to justice is absurd. But as we will see, the Bible is a book devoted to justice in the world from first to last. And the Bible gives us not just a naked call to care about justice, but gives us everything we need–motivation, guidance, inner joy, and power–to live a just life. (xiv)

Keller connects these four seemingly different groups as he concludes this portion of his introduction (emphasis mine):

I have identified four groups of readers who seem at first glance to be very different, but they are not. They all fail at some level to see that the Biblical gospel of Jesus necessarily and powerfully leads to a passion for justice in the world. A concern for justice in all aspects of life is neither an artificial add-on nor a contradiction to the message of the Bible. (xiv)


January February 2011 Reading 
Encouragement from the Dead and the Living.

Feed Reads Jan 9, 2010

Student Global Impact Conference MP3s Daniel and I were kind of sad to miss the 10th anniversary SGI conference this year, especially when his youngest brother returned and we saw his stack of books and conference notebook. Our pastor also spoke at the conference. So we were glad to learn that the audio is available on the Missions Mandate site.

Eclectic Culture Farm Living Off-Grid Daily Journal This family lives off the grid (no electricity) and works hard! This week they’ve been journaling their daily experience. They also started a new Master of the Land course where you can go and work on the farm and learn how they live off the grid. (Entrepreneurial genius–killing 2 birds with one stone.) I’d love to do that one day! If you’re wondering how they blog, they use batteries. Yeah, spelling and grammar are off here and there, but mine would be too if I lived off the grid.

Envelope System Tutorial Tutorial for some super cute budget envelopes if you use the Dave Ramsey envelope system. I think this would also work great to use with coupons for people (like me) who don’t like to take in the giant coupon binder and would rather have coupons in a smaller notebook or wallet. :)

Coupon for Free Fruit and Nuts with purchase at Earth Fare. Good deal if you live where I do.

To Wake Wanting Jesus Ann Voskamp shares lessons learned from her daughter’s desire to see baby Jesus. Make sure to follow her link about Laura’s epiphany journey. Sometimes evangelicals throw out the baby with the bathwater (the baby being the liturgical calendar), and miss out on many of the symbols and lessons that truly to point our minds to Christ.

10 Ways to Encourage a Missionary My friend Carrie posted 10 ways to encourage a missionary, as a shorter version of the annotated list found at The Gospel Coalition’s blog.

Goals for the New Year Carrie also has a great post compiling helps for the new year.

Not to Late to Read Through Your Bible This Year. Desiring God offers several Bible reading plans to help you read through the Bible this year. In the past, I’ve used the M’Cheyne schedule, but this year I am attempting to read the Bible in 90 days, and Daniel is reading through the Bible chronologically this year.

Feed Reads are one way I plan on cataloging great online reads I find. Doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with everything I read or the authors..