Fstop Loka Backpack (www.fstopgear.com)
Nikon D800 w/24-70 2.8 & 70-200 2.8 lens
- 77mm circular polarizer filter
- Charger & outlet adapter
- Lens pen and cleaning cloth
- HDMI cable for transferring pictures to computer
Ear buds for monitoring sound
MacBook Pro (& sleeve)
Juiced preamp (9v. battery)
- XLR cable to connect preamp to microphone
- Allen wrench to connect preamp to camera
- Mini-screwdriver for adjusting buttons on the preamp
Sennheiser ew 100 G3 hand held transmitter (2 AA batteries)
Sennheiser ew 100 G3 transmitter and receiver w/ lavaliere mike (2 AA batteries)
Rode boom mike â€“ hot shoe mount (9v. battery)
â€œdead catâ€ wind screen
Nikon SB700 Speed Flash (4 AA batteries)
Gitzo tripod & head (carbon fiber)
Think Tank cable organizer bag
So there it is, the whole drawn out retched account of a mission trip that went wrong. I took the previous blog entries, printed them out and turned them into the church staff. I was unsure if I should even post them, so I waited until they had an opportunity to review them, and to discuss the whole ordeal. There was concern and questions on my part. FBCV has such a strong record of missions and outreach, I did not want to damage that reputation with this story. Also, there may be people who would say, â€œsee, this is why we shouldnâ€™t go, but just send money insteadâ€ or â€œThis is why we should focus more on home missions.
After my discussion with the senior pastor and the associate pastor in separate meetings, their response was basically the same. Pastor Phil said, â€œsometimes when you try to help people you get taken.â€ And Pastor Macâ€™s response was, â€œI feel like we should tell the whole truth.â€ It is such a contrast between leadership who know the value of the truth, and those that don’t. I believe that this debauched trip teaches us several things and in the long run makes our missionâ€™s efforts even stronger.
When we work together we can accomplish more.
1. Â Cooperative Giving. The Southern Baptist Convention has the strongest missions organization (International Missions Board) and sends more missionaries than anyone else (and itâ€™s not even close).Â If you are a Southern Baptist, you should give to its annual collections of Annie Armstrong (local) and Lottie Moon (foreign). I guess thatâ€™s why they call it Cooperative Giving.
By cooperating in our combined giving we are able to do much more than individual churches working on their own. We tend to get caught up in the â€œred tapeâ€ and magnitude of the operation that we forget that at the end of the day there are missionaries on the other side of the planet that are depending upon us.
Also, churches have a tendency to want to have projects that they can put their names on, therefore, they tend to run parallel missions efforts to the IMB. I have learned that if we work with the IMB missionaries and support their strategic effortsÂ (instead of asking them to help us in our efforts) then we will have an increased potential to have a greater impact.
Our giving does not preclude us from going. We give to support missions and much of this giving goes to support the salaries and needs of the missionaries, but we are not paying them to do missions for us. Instead, they are laying the groundwork, developing a strategy, and building relationships with the locals, and we follow (â€œgoâ€) with encouragement, support, prayer, and â€œboots on the ground.â€ They lead and we give the muscle.
2. Â Institutional Memory. The lesson that I learned was not the first time that this scenario has played itself out. Instead of every church having to relearn lessons we could work with the IMB and its missionaries where we will be able to bypass these mistakes and life lessons and move on with an experienced organization and staff.
3. Â Cooperating Churches. I do believe that God calls churches, who have a unique and distinct personality, to reach out to specific people groups and regions around the world. But just as when nationally SBC churches cooperatively give toward missions they are able to reach vast amounts of people around the globe with the gospel, so local churches who combine their resources and people toward missions can do more as well. I have greatly enjoyed working with different churches in the Valdosta area on the mission trips that I have been on. Itâ€™s been amazing to watch God work as he brought certain people together to accomplish his will for a given period of time.
Persecution and Orphans
In 2006 Communist Insurgence killed a well known Hindu priest in Jaglaphur, India. The Hindu people blamed the local Christians for the death. What followed were weeks of persecution for Christians where hundreds of people were killed, many homes and churches were burned, and hundreds of children were left as orphans. Local pastors were targeted and the event escalated. The Catholic Church put pressure on Jaglaphur local officials when a nun was burned alive.Â A curfew was then established and the violence eventually ended.Â As dark as this story is, it gets worse.Â But before we see how the story progresses we need to go back in history.
A History of Corruption
IMB Missionaries have been going into the jungle â€œwildernessâ€ and cities of India for several generations. These early missionaries established churches and a method of spreading the gospel from village to village. The method looks like a spider web with a native planting pastor in the center, and as he plants churches the winding and expanding circles report to him, give him their monies, and look to him for leadership. So you end up with these â€œheadâ€ pastors developing a network of pastors and churches numbering in the hundreds.
With everything in life there is the potential for it to become corrupt and corruption filters throughout all of the Indian society.Â It has been such a way of life that it even affects the public education of itâ€™s children. In many Indian public schools, teachers teach only some of what is needed to pass state tests. Then they offer their services as a private tutor to teach paying students the other needed information to pass these state exams.Â So the only way for poor, illiterate, and uneducated communities to have their children pass these tests is for them to pay the tutors.
Some of these â€œheadâ€ planting pastors have learned that if you can plant enough â€œChristianâ€ churches then this is a great way to become wealthy. They have developed a hierarchy of lieutenants, sergeants, and others who progress in rank and income according to how many â€œchurchesâ€ they plant. There are also many American churches that are looking for opportunities to support â€œmissionsâ€ and if you can add the fact that they were persecuted then that makes for a great financially profitable opportunity. Indian pastors even travel to the US telling their horror stories of beatings and persecutions before naÃ¯ve congregations who buy the scam â€œhook-line-and-sinker.â€
The persecution and deaths in Janglaphur was horrible, but even more horrible is the fact that some are using that horrible event as a means of taking is huge amounts of revenue. And the story gets even worse.
Children and â€œOrphansâ€Â
As apart of our mission trip we were to do training for village pastors and were to visit two orphanages. When we arrived at the orphanage we were greeted with posters with our pictures on it and were told of how the children prayed for us everyday.Â Women washed our feet and children sang songs for us. They served us lunch and were given a tour of the facility. Let me tell you, I was hooked. (see previous blog entry).
I donâ€™t believe that this was a total lie, but we began to become suspicious when we contacted another church that was working with the orphanage as well. They had paid to have a well dug, only to be told that more money was needed. They told us of how they had given money for generators and buildings, etc. only to be told again and again more money was needed with no evidence or accounting of how the other money was spent.Â I specifically asked the local â€œheadâ€ pastor if he was working with any other churches and he said, â€œno, you are the only one.â€
Yet, my colleague has a picture of another American pastor and mission team standing in the very spot where I asked the question.Â Is this a pastor who feels the need to bend the truth in order to supply necessary supplies to the orphans? If so, why not just say, â€œI spent the money on food because it was needed over building bathrooms or a wallâ€, etc.Â Any church I have ever worked with would have understood this, and made changes.
We then went to do pastoral training.Â At the first training it went very well. Local pastors came in, asked questions, and we had a good session. At the time we gave the training we had no suspicion of any wrongdoing. But when we drove out to a remote orphanage and conducted the second training and visited that orphanage, something just wasnâ€™t right. There werenâ€™t enough beds for all of the children, and it just didnâ€™t look like someone lived there all the time, much less forty plus children and supervising adults.
We asked through a translator â€œHow many of you are pastors?â€ only two raised their hands. So we asked a follow up question, â€œhow many of you are Christians,â€ and only a few raised their hands. Not only were we not teaching pastors, we were not even teaching believers. So we shared the gospel several ways. Later, we even suspected that the children really did not live there and that people were hired to come in and act as â€œpastorsâ€ and their wives, and for children to pretend to be orphans. Â Did something happen to the original group of pastors and their wives, that the local native pastor felt the need for this subterfuge?
Why Did We Go to India?
How much of this is true, an outright lie, or some twisted cultural disguise of the truth I will never know. But there are too many red flags and too many complications for any ministry partnership to be possible. Â If there are any orphans, they are the ones who will suffer the most.
Imagine, men who may have even been persecuted for being a Christian now using that â€œblessingâ€ to sell the name of Christ and using children in this fashion is reprehensible.Â This trip has opened my eyes to many things. I do have a deep feeling of betrayal and disgust, but I am not bitter nor do I have a diminished desire to share the gospel around the world.
As I lay in the hotel room after all of this came to light I asked, â€œWhy did we come here?â€ â€œWhy would God lead us to come to this place and carry this expense only to be â€œflimflammedâ€? It took thirty-six hours of exhausting travel just to get there. Why?
It was at this point that we were able to have breakfast with the local IMB missionary and his director. They were able to help build in some backstory to the whole ordeal. We heard of how this was not the first time in this pastorâ€™s life that he had operated his ministries this way and on at least one occasion had suddenly left town â€“ disappeared when things grew too â€œhot.â€ I have a renewed appreciation for the International Missionary Board and the great value they give to churches seeking to engage in missions. We were able to spend hours discussing this event, and potential future works in India.
This is not the first time we have sought to go to a difficult regions and work with locals, only to discover the necessity of working with and through a local IMB missionary.
I do not want to give the impression that all Indian pastors are corrupt, or that all the churches are not genuine churches. I met several godly pastors who truly are seeking the Lord and his plan for India. They are hard working and love Jesus. They need our prayers and support in their ministries. But they are caught up in this twisting of greed and corruption, and some may not even know it (or know better).
Why did we go to India? I believe God sent me to see an entire lost country and the effects of a false religion upon its people, itâ€™s land, and all of life. With 80% of Indian society being Hindi, this way of thinking and religion filters down to all aspects of society. Itâ€™s cast system keeps people in poverty and fuels hate amongst groups of people. Itâ€™s philosophy discourages innovation, and in many ways the country stays in darkness.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The local IMB missionary said, â€œThere is a reason why there are â€˜unreached people groups,â€™ itâ€™s because they are difficult to get to.â€ India is an entire country of lost people who are going to hell by the thousands every day. Satan works to keep the gospel out, even to the point of creating a religion to keep the hearts and minds of people in darkness. He has even bent the hearts of local Christian pastors toward corruption.
IMB is doing a good work there because when we visited one of their pastoral trainings there was a distinct difference in the group of pastors we saw in the villages, and the ones they were working with. The main difference was their eyes. In the saved pastors eyes were a sense of joy for life, and an excitement over the gospel. Smiles were everywhere, and they were excited about going to their areas and sharing with others. God is working in India, and he has not forgotten them.
Will I ever go back? As of right now, I am exhausted, experiencing serious jet lag, and mending hurt feelings of being betrayed. I know I should not allow one man to keep anyone from an entire nation of lost people. So, I will rest, pray, and see what God would have me to do. Â I do know this, if God calls us to go back â€“ I will be working along side of an IMB missionary.
As I have experienced various cultures and have engaged them with a desire to share the gospel, I have come to realize that most things in life are not â€œblack and white.â€ What should be easy is complicated and convoluted by sin and the fall of man. The pastors that we seek to partner with are not perfect and have flaws, and the churches we want to support are filled with sinful and corrupt people.Â Even various personalities and the quirks of missionaries create communication and planning issues. It is a miracle that the gospel has spread to the vast places and tribal regions that it has so far.
Yet in spite of all of our flaws, sinful and corrupt natures, God still desires to use His people to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. Our own sin becomes hidden from our sight and even the culture that we live in becomes blind to it. So it is through immersion in another culture that you can easily see their sin, flaws, and areas that need improvement. But they also see yours, and if you are blessed you will be able to identify it yourself and be able to change it through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We must enter into missions with this understanding that we are not perfect, the people we partner with are not perfect, and surly those that have not yet hard the gospel are not perfect. We encounter Christians around the globe that are on a journey just like we are, yet are flawed just as we are flawed. With the greater good balanced with the fall of man in mind, we seek to be wise in the use of our resources, and through prayer we seek the face of God and His direction as to what we should do and where.
Therefore, when we partner with a ministry in various parts of the world, and even in our own â€œvillage,â€ we must have accountability. This does not mean that we do not trust men and women of God, but that we mutually understand that both parties are redeemed yet sinful. We do them a loving service so that they are less likely to be tempted to misuse resources and even have to plan out how and when it will be spent. There must be an accounting of monies spent, and how it is to be used. With communication and accountability trust will be developed.
Also with accountability people are more likely to support the need. If a well is needed at an orphanage, monies can be given for that purpose, but along the way there should communication as to the need, expected cost, who will dig the well, and evidence of completed work. When this chain of events happens, there is a much higher likelihood that future projects can the planned (like a dormitory expansion, walls around the compound, etc.) However, if this does not happen then we are left with innocuous questions like, â€œwas the well even dug?â€ â€œWas the money used for something else?â€ â€œis the ministry ok?â€
But because there is no communication or â€œshadyâ€ decisions are discovered then our minds may even drift toward accusative questions like, â€œwas the money used for the administratorâ€™s personal gain?â€Â When missional relationships get to this point, they often do not last. If they do, it is with an attitude of desiring to help children, orphans, lepers, etc., at the expense of dealing with a potentially corrupt system and ministry is greatly restricted.Â If we could get both parties to understand that because we ask for accountability (and that this does not mean that we question their integrity) it is for the purpose of being able to do greater ministry together. When we hold each other accountable, gently and lovingly correct each other, then various cultures can help the other grow in grace and the kingdom can be expanded.
Proverbs 27:17 â€œIron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.â€
There may be a time when communication is so broken, schemes have simply gone too far, and trust and accountability has degraded to the point that relationships must be severed. When this happens, it is sad because the ones who suffer most are those who need Christâ€™s love most (and typically they are children).