Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pastoral Vehicle

For nearly ten years of ministry, I drove these things (pictured). I now drive a bigger one of a different make. I felt that there were many advantages to such a vehicle. It was very useful (a load bed at the back), it was easy to get in and out of (easier than a car / automobile), it was cheap to run, parking was easy, I could wave to people in the street and easily talk to them from the cab -- and the reaction to this vehicle was warm in the townships. One also picked up all the sounds and smells around one. OBSERVATION: A minister friend near Cape Town followed suit, and bought one.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Traditional Meal

This is for friends in far places -- a photo of a traditional South African meal -- except that this is so tiny. An average portion might be three times as much. Do you recognise the afval? In English, offal. The sweet potato might be more familiar.

Bad Editing

Before I edit an article for publication, I read the whole article, so that I have all of it in my head at once. This may take some time as I seek to understand it completely. Then I edit, though not necessarily at once. Once in a while, an author will get in touch with me in the middle of the process and say, Here, take a look, I shuffled it around, or, See my changes to pages 3 and 5 -- or something of the sort. For me that may mean starting all over again, since I don't work in fragments. A few times, in such situations, I have said no, I’m not returning to this article.

Clinic Calamity

I took this photo of one of my brothers-in-law (meaning one of our generation) at Eerste Rivier recently, on Africa's south coast. This week one of our clinics issued him with the wrong medication. His wife found him "all swollen up" when she returned home from work, and he was admitted to hospital. He has since recovered. OBSERVATION: Elsewhere on this blog, I describe how we lost someone of the next generation up when a clinic failed to order their medication.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Church Report

In 2003, I wrote an expansive report on the Kiribati Protestant Church. I felt ‘a burden’ to write it. It was published by an English Dame, and for several years was the preferred report on the Church on the Internet. When therefore there was a revolution in the Church, just a few short weeks ago – with the Church ‘separating out’ into the Kiribati Protestant Church and the Kiribati Uniting Church – I wondered whether I had been a part of the equation. Probably, yes. Among other things, I was invited to participate in a Church boardroom on-line. OBSERVATION: I have been surprised by photos I have received. I have never seen such passion for the Church, not since my youth (an example above right). Yet I feel that I am not needed as a partisan. I simply share my own perspectives and encouragements, with anyone, from time to time.

Simplifying Sermons

Many years ago, I struggled to write more accessible sermons -- something which I aspired to. I therefore enlisted the help of writing analysis software, and aimed for Grade 7 for all my sermons -- ideally Grade 5 (Grade 7 is of a surprisingly high level). Finally I found that the software was no longer needed -- most of my sermons scored Grade 7 or lower -- and I wrote without it. OBSERVATION: In some Churches -- not least multicultural ones -- it is important.

Pacific Tragedy

I have regular, almost daily contact with the central Pacific. These are photos, posted earlier in the week, of a massive beaching of dolphins on the remote atoll Aranuka. It is less than five square miles in area, and less than a tenth of a degree north of the equator. I lived on this atoll as a boy. The people had never seen this before. They hugged the dolphins, jumped on them, tried to pick them up, did everything imaginable with them. Even if the dolphins could have been freed, I don't think there is an easy escape from that lagoon. OBSERVATION: In the last few weeks, this has been happening all over the world. It is described as "unprecedented". Some blame the West.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ministry Blog

My blog suffered a little damage this week, and it's a case of "it's not what you think". When I took a look, one post was an obvious candidate for what I shall call ideological offence. I removed the post in question, but may put it up again reworded. I have reworded other posts. OBSERVATION: This is in a sense an international blog. The top ten countries looking in during the last 24 hours lie on six continents. This week, my blog has taken a hit mostly in what are night hours in Africa. It has (mostly) escaped foreign censorship in the past by being a ministry blog.

Political Rally

I took this photo at an African National Congress (ANC) rally last week -- not as a supporter but as a visitor. I thought that, from the practical and technical points of view, it was very well done. It was a showcase for what South Africa can do. However, it unravelled disastrously at the end, with the crowd dwindling as parliament was derailed. The ANC can't afford to have too many situations like that. OBSERVATION: The unravelling, I think, showed that the ANC were not thinking realistically in the planning of it all. And to display a lengthy presidential address at a political rally, apart from seeming politically incongruous, was surely not a good fit. Incidentally I was surprised that, with enthusiasm, they all sang a hymn, and a man on the podium told everyone to go to Church on Sunday.


Many Churches, when they grow, strain to capacity and continue in a condition of strain -- or unfulfilled potential. It has been my practice to be proactive at such points. Do something. Change something. Lay it on the table. Make it happen. Don't just wish for it, or work within your present reality. For many ministers, this is primarily a question of faith. What does God want us to do at this point? OBSERVATION: Perhaps this is not as safe as straining to capacity, or failing to fulfill one's potential. Or is it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Russian Friend

There are many Russian readers of my blog. Hardly a week goes by without Russians being in the top ten among my 5000+ weekly readers. Some news therefore for my Russian readers: мой сын имеет русский друг. My son has a Russian friend. Her name is Lina. In fact she will be paying a flying visit to Moscow later in the month. You may click on the photo to enlarge. OBSERVATION: Girlfriends are commonplace, unless you received last instructions from your late mother, took exceptional and prayerful care, and first made a move in your thirtieth year.

Motivation For Ministry

A professor of mine, Bobby Clinton, listed nine motivating factors for ministry: • finishing well • the return of the Lord • one's giftedness • confidence in the power of the gospel • a burden to minister • the resurrection • handling God's Word for impact • the perspective of eternity, and • love for the Lord. My own most crucial motivating factors are not on the list. Near the top of my list would be, to put it very simply, God's faithfulness. OBSERVATION: What I personally see in Dr. Clinton's list is that God works in me, in my ministry. It is by and large an inward look, rather than outward. This would seem to be typically American.

1965 In Paradise

The year was 1965. I thought that I had landed in paradise, and that feeling never left me. It looks like Takeiti holding me here, in the evening sun on Beru. I don't know who it is with my sister. I last saw Takeiti in 2003, not many years before her death. One can tell by the clothes that I and my sister have on that this was early on in my parents' missionary assignment. OBSERVATION: But for my parents, while it also was a joy, it was hard. They did not have the same experience. The photo is damaged by heat and humidity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Clergy And Crime

Clergy and crime has been a much debated topic, in particular: should clergy report crime to civil authorities? This issue especially came to the fore when it became known how certain Churches had dealt with sexual abuse -- but not only that. On the one hand, it is (or was) said that there is the honour of the Church to think of, there is the assumption of confidentiality in counselling and confession, and there are criteria which the Church uses to judge things which differ from those of the world (and occasionally, crimes in the world may be virtues in the Church). On the other hand, from experience I think there are great risks involved in not reporting crime: clergy may overlook the motives of the crime (what is really going on), they may not guess the extent of it, they may not see the consequences (the big picture), and they may not be equipped to deal with that crime. Further, if clergy do withhold a matter from civil authorities, they themselves may become suspect. Nowadays, the law has caught up, so as to make certain reporting mandatory by clergy. OBSERVATION: Ideally, I think that civil and ecclesiastical (Church) processes should run parallel. Personally, I have tended not to report crime against me as minister -- but I am not sure I can recommend that. I have, too, received serious confessions and revelations -- an issue which may be more complicated than it seems. I have written about it elsewhere on this blog. There are some interesting considerations over at FCPEI.

Going Places

I happened upon this photo today, which I didn't remember existed. All three who are with me here went far in life. John Allison, on the left, became the editor of Opera magazine, Mirjam (my late wife) became an international director, and Joel Meier (my brother-in-law) became a leading phytiatrist. Among other things. You may click on the photo to enlarge. OBSERVATION: We don't often (or ever) hear the word phytiatrist, yet it may be one of the most important jobs on earth: plant doctor.