Thursday, July 26, 2007

What's happening to missions mobilization?

World mission mobilizers are confronted by a bewildering array of opinions, facts, and new realities. Among them: The MARC Mission Handbook reports a leveling off in long-term missionaries. Patrick Johnstone of Operation World reports that 10,000 of the world's 12,000 ethnolinguistic people groups have church-planting teams.

Field missionaries describe extra work generated by short-term teams and fear the consequences of some inappropriate conduct by "prayer walk" teams.

The AD2000 and Beyond Movement reports progress toward church-planting movements among the unreached, while missiologists track increasing resistance among Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims.

Such trends, among others, point to a significant division among mission mobilizers and strategists, perhaps one of the most important shifts since the end of World War II. The increased emphasis on the challenge of unreached peoples has highlighted two major streams of action.

(More here)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Berber, Drawa of Morocco

Please pray for the ...

Population: 442,000
Language: Tachelhit
Religion: Islam
Evangelical: 0.00%

The Drawa Berbers inhabit the Dra River valley region of southern Morocco. They can be divided into three main categories: the farmers who live in the northeast (the Dades); those living along the northwestern tributaries (the Mesgita, Seddrat, and Zeri tribes); and those who live at altitudes of more than 6,500 feet. The Drawas live in a very complex social system. Their villages are usually overseen by the most powerful family in the village. This family lives in a community fortified, threshing-floor dwelling. The rest of the community lives in terraced houses crowded closely together. The nearby oases are usually dominated by their semi-nomadic Berber neighbors. The Berber languages have five main groupings and several different dialects. Except for numerous short inscriptions in ancient Libyan and a few modern religious texts, these languages have practically no written literature.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Drawas are mostly farmers. The mountain slopes in the vicinity are divided for pastures and gardens. The staple crop grown is dates, followed by barley. Date palm trees are very valuable and are considered as property. Various other crops are grown including wheat, corn, and beans. Some animals (cattle, goats, sheep, horses and camels) are kept as well. There is little industry among the Drawas; however, fishing in the Dra River and trading with nearby communities provide other sources of income. Many Drawas have been forced to leave their mountain homes to find work in the cities. Some have been employed in the phosphate mines, while others live in the slums of Casablanca. Although most do some type of manual labor, a few have become shopkeepers. Drawa villages still live according to a code of customary law known as kanun, which deals with questions concerning property and people. Inheritance is patrilineal, meaning that all rights and properties are passed down through the fathers. Over the years, many dynasties have tried to conquer the Drawas because of their importance in the trans-Saharan caravan trade.

What are their beliefs?

Prior to the seventh century, the Berbers had successfully resisted foreign invasions of Islam. However, with the Arab conquests of the seventh century, the Berbers were shattered. Some fled or were driven into the desert, while others submitted, becoming arabized in language and, to some extent, racially mixed. All embraced Islam, the majority becoming Sunni Muslims. Although the Drawas follow the Islamic fundamentals, there is still much intermingling with existing pagan beliefs. Consequently, Islam in North Africa is somewhat different from Islam in the Middle East. For example, orthodox Sunnis do not celebrate some of the main Muslim festivals. Also, the concept of baraka, or holiness, is highly developed in North Africa. The Drawas believe that many people are endowed with baraka, of which the holiest are the shurifa, or the direct descendants of Mohammed. Another class of holy people is known as the marabouts. Among some of the Berbers, the marabouts are considered to be different from ordinary men. They are believed to possess the powers of protection and healing, even after death.

What are their needs?

The Drawas, as other Muslim peoples, have never been successfully penetrated with the Gospel. At the present time, it is illegal for a Moroccan to become a Christian or to evangelize others. For this reason, there are no churches among the Drawa Berbers. In spite of this, there are a small number of known believers. While Morocco is closed to traditional styles of missions work, there are creative ways in which to enter the country as tentmakers. The illiteracy rate among Moroccans is less than 20%. Perhaps Christian teachers would have an open door into Moroccan schools.

Prayer Points:

  • Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Morocco and share Christ with the Drawas.
  • Pray that the Lord will raise up missionaries who are sensitive to the Muslim culture and can effectively disciple new converts.
  • Ask God to encourage and protect the small number of known Drawa believers.
  • Pray that God will raise up linguists to complete translation of the Bible into Tachelhit.
  • Ask the Lord to send Christian teachers to work among the Drawas.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Berbers towards Christians.
  • Pray that laws restricting the preaching of the Gospel in Morocco will change.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Drawa Berbers.

Text source: Bethany World Prayer Center © 1999.Used with permission from Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse
View Berber, Drawa in all countries.

Taking the Church Where It's Needed Most

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Lessons Can be Learned from Successful Cities

In the May 3, 2007 issue of "Economist" magazine there was an article entitled, "The Reinvention Test." The article was about durable cities and pointed the reader to the idea that successful cities must expect to go through several rebirths over time. Enjoy a portion of the article and then respond to my musing at the end.

"CITIES are durable. Most last longer than the countries that surround them, or indeed any other human institutions. But some thrive, whereas others merely mark time (Cleveland, Minsk, Pyongyang), go into apparently long-term decline (Detroit, New Orleans, Venice) or disappear (Tenochtitlán, Tikal, Troy). What are the characteristics of a successful city? The short answer is good government and a flourishing economy. But such attributes may come and go in the life of a metropolis. In order to be continuously successful, a city has to be able to reinvent itself, perhaps several times."

Harvard's Edward Glaeser describes how Boston has done this three times—“in the early 19th century as the provider of seafaring human capital for a far-flung maritime trading and fishing empire, in the late 19th century as a factory town built on immigrant labour and Brahmin capital, and finally in the 20th century as a centre of the information economy.” On each occasion, human capital provided the secret to Boston's rebirth. A strong base of skilled workers, writes Mr Glaeser, has been a source of long-run urban health.

Education was important from the first in Boston. But Mr Glaeser draws attention to other characteristics of the city that were present even in colonial times. It had a strong set of community organisations, because of its church structure, and something like the rule of law. It also had a tradition of “democratic egalitarianism”.

Law has been essential for urban life since Babylonian times, both because cities have usually been centres of commerce, and trade needs regulation, and because cities tend to draw different kinds of people, whose success in living together depends on common rules of behaviour. Democracy, too, has served cities well, providing a shock-absorber for changing economic times and a mechanism whereby immigrants can join the mainstream.

Immigration, or at least an ethnic and religious mix, has also been closely associated with urban success. As Joel Kotkin points out in “The City”, Chinese towns at the end of the first millennium AD showed the same cosmopolitan mixture as did Alexandria, Cairo, Antioch and Venice. Pre-1492 Seville, 16th-century London and 19th-century Bombay (now Mumbai) all contained a variety of different peoples, whether Muslims, Jews, Parsis or others.

Throughout history, cities open to the world have benefited both from an exchange of goods and from a trade in ideas from abroad. Japan, by closing its doors to foreigners, condemned its cities to slow marination in their own culture until the country's opening up after 1853. Today the burgeoning cities with the best chance of overcoming their difficulties are those in Asia and Latin America that can gain from globalisation. Africa's cities, largely excluded from this phenomenon, are winning relatively little investment, trade or entrepreneurial fizz from foreigners.

Some cities in the rich world, too, have been much more successful than others at exploiting globalisation. The ones that have done best are those that have plugged into global industries and been able to capture the headquarters or lesser corporate centres of globalised companies, especially banks and other financial firms, argues Saskia Sassen, of the University of Chicago. London, New York and Tokyo are pre-eminent in this, but some other cities—Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam, Chicago, Los Angeles, Sydney, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Mexico City—are not far behind.

Not every city can “go global” or will even want to. There are other types of raison d'être. One is simply to be a pleasant place to live and work, pleasant meaning different things to different people, of course. In the developing world most people would be delighted to live in a city that was prosperous and well governed, if that meant jobs were available, officials were honest, the streets were safe, housing was affordable and transport, sanitation and basic utilities operated to minimum standards. Even in rich countries not all these things can be taken for granted.

Mercer, a consulting firm, publishes a ranking of big cities each year based on an assessment of about 40 factors falling into ten categories (political, economic, cultural, medical, educational, public-service, recreational, consumer-goods, housing and environmental). Last year the top ten cities were Zurich, Geneva, Vancouver, Vienna, Auckland, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Bern and Sydney.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister organisation to The Economist, carries out a similar exercise (see table). Five of its top ten cities for 2005 were also in Mercer's top ten. All ten in each list, with the exception of Sydney and Calgary, might be considered rather homely, even dull. The cities that have done most to excite attention the world over—New York, Chicago and Los Angeles—are also-rans. Smallish countries mostly do well, and Australia, the most urbanised country of all, ranks notably highly, at least in the EIU list.

No list includes the ability to reinvent itself among the desirable qualities of a city. That may, however, be increasingly put to the test, for some people believe that cities have had their day."

Could the Church learn lessons from the histories of cities? If so, what might they be?