Mary T. Lederleitner: Cultural differences

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Mary T. Lederleitner: Cultural differences

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. John 17:20-21

“Cross-cultural partnerships are on the rise. They have become a primary method in which churches and organizations engage in global missions. Partners from different cultures and contexts start working together with the hope of accomplishing great things for the kingdom of God. Yet despite their noble dreams and aspirations, working through cultural differences that surround money can become overwhelming at times. Over the years I have witnessed often that these cultural differences about how funds are utilized and accounted for cause cross-cultural partnerships to become unglued. When this happens, many relationships are ruptured and the witness of Christ is hindered.”

Mary T. Lederleitner in Cross-Cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Mission (Downers Grove: IVP, 2012) 21.

Lederleitner is a respected colleague. I am exploring ideas in her book as part of a growing effort to understand cross-cultural partnerships as it relates to global generosity. Let me explain. If GTP connects the generosity of Christians with big challenges in countries, we must make sure partners use the funds in a way that exhibits consistency and transparency so that faithful stewardship fosters local generous giving and sustainability.

For example, our Palmful of Maize project is spreading across Malawi. It’s making the national news as community and tribal leaders is 6 of 28 districts (think 6 of 28 states) have embraced it.

Someone asked me this question recently. How much does it cost to spread it to another district? The answer is about $1,500. That pays for the gas to send team members to a district, covers printing, meals, lodging, and related expenses. When team members do this hard work, Sunday school teachers get trained and children respond in obedience. It has the potential to shape a society like Handful of Rice did in Northeast India.

So what’s my point today? It’s really a message to church and ministry workers. There is something bigger than rolling out this vision of rallying generosity in every Sunday school class in Malawi.

The bigger item is discipling the national workers to give an account for their stewardship and showing them that faithfulness with small levels of resources results in more coming in so that they participate in spreading the vision with GTP and not so much in reliance on GTP.  We get to do it together! Sure, we still need $17,000 to finish by 30 June 2022 to finish the Phase 1 rollout. But the cool part is, they will assist us in Phase two.

Here’s how that relates to the meetings in Cape Town. The new Regional Trainer for Africa will work with Country Representatives to spread trainings to help national workers move from dependency (relying on our support to get anything accomplished) to discipleship (doing the work with us as God supplies linked to their faithful participation with us with what they have).

This is a bold vision. If you want to support it, click to make a gift to GTP here. We are praying for 100 new givers and need 85 more before 30 June 2022 to inspire a major foundation to give us a capacity building grant.

And pray for us as our meetings have a spiritual aspect to attune to God, a social component to build strong bonds with each other, a strategic element to discern our faithful work, and a solitude element to sort our thoughts alone with God in our rooms. We are finding that discussing faithful work to be done with mutual respeect, feedback and accountability, helps us avoid allowing cultural differences to derail efforts.

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Jason B. Hood: God shaped shadows

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1

“If we are engaged in God’s work, ruling as His image-bearers, we should imitate the character He displays as He works. Divine compassion, beauty, holiness, and justice should be mirrored in the labors of God’s people. We imitate His knowledge, even if our knowledge is not of the same sort as His. The preaching and teaching of God’s work should lead to this imitation of God’s faithfulness, forgiveness, generosity, and righteousness. We do not imitate perfectly, and however impressive our work is by human standards, it is always a pale imitation of God’s magnificence. Our best deeds and desires are tainted by sin. Many of the characteristics possessed perfectly by God and appearing in His people are merely imperfect shadows–but they are God shaped shadows.”

Jason B. Hood in Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013) 40.

Adding a new staff member to the GTP team led me to read excerpts of this book when I woke up early today.

I have traveled to Cape Town, South Africa (pictured above), to facilitate a discernment retreat and orientation activities this week with Ereny Monir and Chris Maphosa to activate Gabrielle Fortunato to serve as GTP Regional Trainer for Africa.

This is both spiritual and strategic work. We want Gabrielle to imitate Christ while pursuing the mission of GTP.

In this kind of work, Hood reminds us that our focus should be imitating the “faithfulness, forgiveness, generosity, and righteousness” of God while realizing our efforts, which are tainted by sin, come into view as imperfect shadows, though they are God shaped ones.

I am realizing this must be reflected in my life first as President & CEO so the team follows my example.

Related to Africa, Gabrielle will facilitate trainings that aim to multiply faithful stewards to be God shaped shadows. They won’t be perfect, but they will aim to reflect the “faithfulness, forgiveness, generosity, and righteousness” of God to the watching world.

May God shape each of us into image-bearers who exhibit His compassion, beauty, holiness, and justice!

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John Greenleaf Whittier: Starvation and sharing

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9

“Starvation cannot be argued with; the gaunt spectre cannot be laid by speeches and resolutions. We must share our abundance of bread with the hungry. We are a great brotherhood, children of Him who our ancestors called the All-Father, and it is not for us to ask the old question of Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

John Greenleaf Whittier in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 892.

Starvation and sharing are on my mind as I flew over some desolate parts of Africa to get to Johannesburg where I overnighted, en route to Cape Town, South Africa.

These topics are also on my mind as the Palmful of Maize vision in Malawi continues to unfold.
The recent report from GTP project manager, Matthew Gadsden, and STUM (Sunday School Teachers United Movement) project coordinator, John Msowoya, brings hope for impact:

– Malawi is divided into 28 districts (like states in USA). Teachers and trainers have been trained by STUM in 6 districts so far.
– 17 traditional and cultural authorities have been reached from the 6 districts. All traditional and cultural authorities in 6 districts are very excited about the project and promised to be supportive of it.
– 72 zones (like counties within states in USA) have been engaged within the 6 districts.
– 432 Sunday school teachers and volunteers have been equipped.
– 60 pastors have been empowered. Pastors’ committees in all districts welcomed the project and STUM was encouraged that it is possible.

The main challenge this year for POM is that some parts of the country had a lot of rain and as well as other challenges linked to the roll out across the country. This challenge will present opportunities for generous sharing to help those whose crops did not do well.

In short, the church in the Malawi needs revival and the lost (whether they come from a Muslim or secular unchurched background) need Jesus. Many will be hungry soon. Believers will have the opportunity to share their maize and serve as their brother’s keeper.

GTP and STUM believe the effort will not only teach generosity to the children. It will serve as a powerful force of evangelism as those whose crops do well will share with the church. The church will dispense 80% of the collected maize to the poor within each district.

The other 20% will be split in half, 10% for administrative expenses, and 10% for missions, that is, spreading Palmful of Maize to other countries, like Zambia and Zimbabwe, for starters. If you want to join this nationwide effort, click here to make a gift to GTP.

To roll out this vision for growing generosity across Malawi, GTP invested $67,000. We got a gift of $10,000 and we have word that an African foundation will contribute $40,000. Please pray with us for God to supply the remaining $17,000. Thanks.

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Francis Quarles: Soul’s health

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

“If thou hide thy treasure upon earth, how canst thou expect to find it in heaven? Canst thou hope to be a sharer where thou hast reposed no stock? What thou givest to God’s glory, and thy soul’s health, is laid up in heaven, and is only thine; that alone which thou exchangest or hidest upon earth is lost.”

Francis Quarles (1592-1664) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 938.

Quarles helps us understand a profound idea. Giving contributes to the health of the soul. Think about it. God does not need our money, we need to give it. The more we give, the more we take hold of life.

I get as far as Johannesburg, South Africa, today en route to Cape Town to welcome Gabrielle Fortunato, the new GTP Regional Trainer for Africa. Part of her role is to facilitate generosity trainings.

Imagine the joy of helping remind people what what they hide here they lose and what they share richly will be found in heaven. Pray for fruitful meetings over the next 5 days. Thanks.

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Jane Porter: Redoubled Brightness

Happy are the people whose God is the LORD. Psalm 144:15b

“Happiness is a sunbeam which may pass through a thousand bosoms, without losing a particle of its original ray; nay, when it strikes on a kindred heart, like the converged light on a mirror, it reflects itself with redoubled brightness. Happiness is not perfected till it is shared.”

Jane Porter (1776-1850) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 358.

When we share happiness generously, it is not diminished but radiant with redoubled brightness.

Had dinner with Sophie last night. She’s the daughter every father dreams about. She shares happiness wherever she goes. I marvel at how she radiates the love of God.

I pray that is true of each of us today. That like mirrors we reflect happiness and joy.

I am headed to Cape Town, South Africa, today to orient a new staff member. I’m excited. It will take two days to get there. God help me share happiness with people on the way.


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Julius Charles Hare: Double

Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves. Proverbs 11:17

“You want to double your riches, and without gambling or stock-jobbing? Share it; whether it be material or intellectual, its rapid increase will amaze you. What would the sun have been had he folded himself up in darkness? Surely he would have gone out?”

Julius Charles Hare (1796-1855), an English author, in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 804.

The book of Proverbs teaches us that kindness and generosity have a positive impact on us. Those who give them receive benefit and not to do so brings not a neutral outcome but ruin.

This benefit is not about prosperity gospel, that is, giving to get monetary gain. It’s about sharing the love and blessings we receive and discovering something in the process. Double the return. Our proverbial balance does not go down, it goes up.

When we share we don’t end up empty; in God’s abundant economy He enriches us. If we are kind to a person in the morning and at noon, we are not impoverished by dinner time but made better through the process.

Hare echoes this reminding us that even as the sun was made to give light; likewise, we were made to share. Not to do so is both living in darkness and causes us to lose rapid increase.

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John Piper: Wealth, work, and reflection

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands.

This too is a grievous evil: As everyone comes, so they depart, and what do they gain, since they toil for the wind? All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. Ecclesiastes 5:10-20

“From a biblical perspective our work involves much more than our paid job as it includes such things as caring for others and caring for creation. Although we can bring an attitude of leisure to all these work activities, when we build non-work time into our schedule we need to remember that we need leisure time away from all these types of work and not just our job, and we also need to be open to leisure moments throughout the day. Furthermore, it is important not to overvalue our job activities, as these other work activities and our leisure activities are also important components of our life as Christians.”

John Piper in “Rethinking Our Relaxing” in Desiring God blog post 24 January 2016.

On my day of rest yesterday, I took time to reflect on work.

It may sound odd but I am realizing that I need to resist the temptation to which I have succumbed too many times. Namely, to work too much and to make work an idol, so I become a slave to it rather than experience the gift of playing my part in God’s greater work. Making this mistake leads to darkness, frustration, and affliction.

Solomon adds that workers seldom reflect on the days of their life.

Piper inspired me then to think about the important work that has nothing to do with my job, that is, caring for others and caring for creation. For some, generosity is earning income to have resources to give. But we can become consumed by work and wealth in the process, especially if we hoard it.

So what should we do as we start another week of work?

The lesson today for generosity is to ceasing toiling for the wind. Stop making work an idol as it can never satisfy. Stop hoarding wealth as there will never be enough. Instead, reflect and work in a holistic sense by doing our job and also demonstrating care for people and all of creation.

When we do this we will experience happiness and others will be blessed by our generosity.

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Caroline Matilda Stansbury Kirkland: A diffusive blessing and a reviving ray

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Isaiah 58:7

“Like many other virtues, hospitality is practiced in its perfection by the poor. If the rich did their share, how would the woes of this world be lightened! How would the diffusive blessing irradiate a wider and a wider circle, until the vast confines of society would bask in the reviving ray! If every forlorn widow whose heart bleeds over the recollection of past happiness made bitter by contrast with present poverty and sorrow, found a comfortable home in the ample establishment of her rich kinsman; if the lovely girls, shrinking and delicate, whom we see every day toiling timidly for a mere pittance to sustain frail life and guard the sacred remnant of gentility, were taken by the hand, invited and encouraged, by ladies who pass them by with a cold nod—but where shall we stop in enumerating the cases in which true, genial hospitality practiced by the rich ungrudgingly, with out a selfish drawback—in short, practiced as the poor practice it—it would prove a fountain of blessedness, almost an antidote to half the keener miseries under which society groans!”

Caroline Matilda Stansbury Kirkland (1808-1864) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 388.

I took Grace St. Catherine to gun dog school yesterday morning and snapped the new header photo. She’s only 7 months old and still figuring out what bird hunting is all about. The same is true for generosity. We get better with practice.

Speaking of practice, let’s think about what it might look like to practice hospitality this week not as giving a hand out that creates a dependency but a hand up that builds up a disciple. We’d prove to be “fountains of blessedness.”

Kirkland’s picture of “diffusive blessing” is envisioned by Isaiah the prophet. Essentially, the message to God’s people is this: our purpose on earth  is to share with other people who are hurting or in need in a way that builds them up.

Kirkland draws out the cultural trappings of the rich. They look down on the poor, while the poor do not judge but aid others as they know what it is like to suffer. With this thought she’s alerting us to check the attitude of our hearts.

This means we must share with others and practice hospitality ungrudgingly without cold nods or selfish drawback, knowing with peace that God will care for us. When we do we come into view as a “diffusive blessing” and a “reviving ray.”

When I think of a “diffusive blessing” I think of my mom, Patsy Hoag. She’s always sharing whatever she has with those around her. Pray for her please. She’s in the hospital in Florida with Covid and Afib. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Are you a reviving ray? This is the honor I extend to my wife, Jenni, today. The light and love of Christ reflect off her and warm the hearts of all she touches and literally revives them in lifegiving way. Happy Mother’s Day, Jenni.

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Mistakes

Examine yourselves. 2 Corinthians 13:5a

“Mistakes are great educators when one is honest enough to admit them and willing to learn from them.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) in Cancer Ward (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015).

This Russian novelist, Soviet dissident, and outspoken Christiain critic of communism helped to raise global awareness of political repression in the Soviet Union.

He was good at examining the social and political structures. He was also understood the human person.

Elsewhere he said, “The meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul.”

The lesson today linked to generosity is this: examine yourself with an honest and willing heart

Paul and Aleksandr would say, focus not so much on perfection or prosperity but on your mistakes and mindfulness to attend to the growth of your soul.

Mistakes are great educators that generously shape us and the world around us in ways that money can’t buy.

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Sophia Soymonof Swetchine: Melody

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

“Melody is thoroughly moral, and consequently free; it is the heart’s utterance, and follows and renders its emotions faithfully; when brilliant, it recalls our joys; when sweet and lingering, it portrays our rare and delicious intervals of repose; it sighs for our disquietudes, and sways beneath our sorrows, like a friend who shares them.”

Sophia Soymonof Swetchine a.k.a. Madame Swetchine (1782-1857) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 558.

I love this statement about melody from an influential Russian writer who spent her prime in Paris. It describes the life of generous people who share the burdens and sorrows of others. Their life is a melody. Reminds me of Lifesong by Casting Crowns. But for many of us, our lives may be more like a clashing symbol.

Notice three aspects of this description. Melody “renders emotions faithfully.” I wish I could do that. I am learning. It “portrays our rare and delicious intervals of repose” or those sweet moments of peace in life. And it “sighs for our disquietudes, and sways beneath our sorrows, like a friend who shares them.”

In that sense melody ministers to us by understanding us, granting us peace, and carrying our burdens. What difference did her life make? Many say that she shaped the church in France through her influence and writings. Not by power though, she made sweet melody and, you could say, people sang along.

Does your generous living appears as blaring music or a sweet melody?

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