Saturday, November 29, 2008
Check out the inspiring story of Melinda and Bill Gates who love to spend their time tackling the AIDS epidemic, visiting slums and hospices in India.
This article tells about:
* Donating $17.3 billion
* Warren Buffett pledging most of his $62 bill to the Gates Foundation
* Discovering the influence of Melinda’s school motto—“Serviam” (I serve)
Janice Turner, Melinda and Bill Gates: Saving Lives, Times Online, 29 November 2008.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Melinda Gates.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Link: Stories for Speakers and Writers.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: All part of the scanning and security saga at most international airports today.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
With increasing mobility and the rising tides of migration we are encountering people still heavily shaped by their first culture and their thinking largely framed by their first language.
To truly relate and appreciate people in our multicultural communities it requires that we continue to learn about the culture and the languages of others.
Barack Obama recognizes this increasing need for when writing The Audacity of Hope he says:
“That’s not the future I want for my daughters. Their America will be more dizzying in its diversity, its culture more polyglot. My daughters will learn Spanish and be the better for it.”
Source: Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (Edinburgh, London, New York, Melbourne: Canongate, 2007), 268.
A review of this book is published at Reviewing Books and Movies.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: “My daughters will learn Spanish and be the better for it.”
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
See these recent articles on culture and food on this site.
Obviously the length of a visit might well determine how much one decides to invest in learning the language of people where you might be teaching but it is amazing how using a few words of greeting can open up doors of acceptance.
Personality is a big shaper of our learning preferences and when it comes to how one tackles a new language, it is amazing the number of methods that abound.
Like many westerners I had years of rote learning and grammar exercises to pass exams for schoolboy French and Latin. Later learning in this style was done at greater depth and at a faster pace when studying (for reading more than speaking) New Testament Greek at seminary and Classical Hebrew at university.
I had the chance for learning language by immersion (without any books) when working with Samoans in a timber factory, leading a Hindi-speaking church in Fiji and serving in a Maori-speaking community in New Zealand.
Since living in the UAE I have studied Arabic in a formal class and later by using Teach Yourself methods aided by books and CDs to hear the Gulf Arabic dialect.
Right now I am brushing up my Spanish by using a most interesting and encouraging method—The Pimsleur Method. Here are one or two (promotional) statements that seek to identify the distinctives of this method:
This course is designed to teach you to understand and to speak the essential elements of your new language in a relatively short time. During each half-hour lesson, you will actually ‘converse’ with two people, using the type of language spoken by educated citizens in their everyday business and social life.
The Pimsleur Method centers around teaching, in the shortest time possible, functional mastery in understanding and speaking a language. You will be working on your vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation all at once, while also learning phrases that have practical use in daily life. It has been said that language is primarily speech. With this concept in mind, Dr. Pimsleur created his language programs on audio because he knew that students of languages would learn better with their ears, not their eyes.
Principle of Anticipation
Language by this method is taught, not by tedious repetition for Dr. Pimsleur discovered that learning accelerates when there is an "input/output" system of interaction, in which students receive information and then are asked to retrieve and use it.
Graduated Interval Recall
Dr. Pimsleur discovered how long students remembered new information and at what intervals they needed to be reminded of it. If reminded too soon or too late, they failed to retain the information. This discovery enabled him to create a schedule of exactly when and how the information should be reintroduced.
Not all languages are available to be taught by this method but when you are having a crack at a new language check out the Pimsleur Method. It is fun, effective. Muy bien!
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: “It is amazing the number of methods that abound.”
Monday, November 24, 2008
It is not the first time I have mentioned this need but I am following the tradition of the one about whom it was written: “And he said to them a third time…”
Furthermore, I have heard this week from my contacts in Vietnam about their desire for theological teachers and trainers to visit. A loud cry is being voiced: ‘Come over and help us’.
A Possible Scenario
The seminary there is training students (all part time) who are engaged in ministry all over the country. It draws students together for 3-4 days a month.
International teachers across a wide range of subjects are desired to supplement local teachers.
Probably an ideal visit would look like this:
* Teach a module to the regular students for 16 hours over 3-4 days
* Conduct a day of seminars as part of the existing continuing education program for church leaders.
* Visit to teach leaders and churches in a region away from the main centres (3-4 days or however long the teacher has to spare).
If you could only do one of these parts that would be fine. There is some flexibility.
The people are warm, the students are receptive, the churches are inspiring, the food is delicious and the needs are great.
I would love to receive enquiries about this opportunity for further details and completed expressions of interest.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Crowds of people riding motor bikes through Vietnamese streets.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
This quotation from Frederick Buechner (pictured) is the most Googled statement in my online book, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.
“Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Since I launched the book online one year ago (November 2007) more than 7,000 people have ventured on this site. I am not claiming that all 7,000 have read the book but the online mode certainly gives wide international circulation and accessibility.
Currently Being Published
You might be interested to know that Making Life Decisions is in preparation for traditional publication and will hopefully be available early in 2009.
Heaps of Stories
In addition to stories from Frederick Buechner, Making Life Decisions contains stories and statements from these people, many of whom you will recognize:
Karl Barth, Joan Didion, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Carl Jung, Thomas Merton, John Claypool, Judith Viorst, Sam Keen, Joan Chittester, Augustine, Richard Foster, Richard Rohr, Albert Schweitzer, Teihard de Chardin, Mrs Betty Bowers ('America's Best Christian'), Parker Palmer, Warren Bennis, Robert McAfee Brown, Abraham Hershel, Chaim Potok, Charles Handy, Neil Armstong, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Kosuke Koyama, Gregory Peck, F W Boreham, Graeme Garrett, Umberto Eco and Stephen Covey.
Even if you choose not to use the book for the purpose for which it is intended you will find in it more than 25 great stories.
Importance to Theological Education
I have written in the Introduction to this book about the connection between discernment and the business of pastoring and theological education:
“I would be rich if I had been given $50 for every time someone asked me the question (or a variation of it): “How can I discover God’s will for my life or in this situation?” As a pastor, this is the question I have been asked more than any other. Sharing the weight of this question and its consequences has been a significant part of the privilege of being a pastor.”
“When my vocational journey took a new twist in which I served as a consultant with Australian Baptist Churches, I came to see that the issue of corporate discernment is pivotal to local churches and denominations in discovering their unique personality and mission.”
“My path turned later in the direction of training and leadership, first as a lecturer and then as Principal of Whitley College, the Baptist College of Victoria, and I discovered that student interviews and course planning were vitally connected with matters of discernment.”
“In recent years I have relocated with my wife to the Arabian Peninsula and I am testing out new vocational directions. Daily we are being confronted with questions of discernment. This book, therefore, does not come as a last word on discernment because one never actually nails it as one might solve a Sudoku puzzle. The issues of discernment change from time to time and from person to person because they are about the dynamic way that God relates to each individual in their uniqueness.”
This is the book I wish I had had to give to the thousands of people who have asked me as a pastor and theological teacher about how they might discern God’s will in their life, their church or their seminary.
Link: Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: “The most Googled statement in my online book, Making Life Decisions: Journey in Discernment.”
Thursday, November 20, 2008
It was a great experience and we learned much. There were two special things that linger in the memory.
We visited Korea to begin talking about the partnership but the first four of our five days were spent mainly at meal tables eating kimchi and other delicious food. Our hosts set the pace and the agenda but we must have eaten a dozen meals and met all sorts of groups before there was any talk about what the partnership would entail. For Koreans, as for many cultures, the time-consuming work of building a relationship is fundamental to doing business.
Sounds of Chopsticks
On a later visit to Korea the commencement of our partnership was signed and celebrated in a worship service following which the senior staff and members of the board gathered with us for lunch in an upper room.
We sat around a huge oval table while students served cardboard boxes of food to our places. After grace I tried to strike up a conversation with one or two people nearby until it dawned on me that in the company of 30-40 people I was the only one talking.
All I could hear was the sound of chopsticks clattering and the occasional burp from somebody expressing their pleasure. I found it weird, a bit like my first experience of a silent retreat.
Enjoying the Kimchi Moment
I talked to someone about this later and they explained that in Korean (Confucian) culture there is a commitment to enjoying the present task, delighting in the experience of eating and not letting anything else become a distraction. As mentioned earlier, the eating of food is preparatory to doing business but the western idea of a working lunch or a business breakfast is anathema to the Korean mentality.
Food for thought. Got any more reflections to share on food and culture?
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Kimchi. You will enjoy plates of this national food if you visit Korea.
Monday, November 17, 2008
For me it starts when I leave my local airport where I often have my last ‘real’ coffee, ground with beans. I often find coffee in countries that I visit to be usually of the instant variety so I go on a ‘coffee fast’ and keep to tea. That being said it is amazing how the real stuff can turn up in the backblocks.
I have noticed going as a teacher to other countries that often those responsible for preparing and serving foreigners can get quite uptight. They are often not used to cooking western food and they are often under the impression that this is what they need to prepare for westerners. When I inform them that I am very happy eating what the locals eat they appear greatly relieved. I am thankful that I love different sorts of food, especially spicy food and curries so eating times provide some of the highlights of my international experiences.
I loved the Nepali food that I was served on a visit earlier this year.
Breakfast often involved a bowl of curried lentils (chana), sometimes some noodles, sometimes some slices of French toast, an omelet and always a cup of Nepali tea (it comes with milk and sugar).
Lunch and Dinner usually involved rice and plenty of it with a curry (one of bean, egg, potato or chicken). On a couple of occasions I had ‘buff’—buffalo meat which was tasty.
I was given a bowl of bananas and apples for my room.
I was invited out to dine in people’s homes and these were always wonderful experiences meeting people and see how the locals lived.
Eating Food and Acceptance
Eating the food of your guests is a big part of building affinity and rapport. It is taking part of their culture into yourself and is thus a practical sign of accepting them and all that they represent.
Testing Cultural Adaptability
In Malaysia one of the standard practices of the locals is to take foreign guests to the market and to buy them one of their fruits called durian (it is native to Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia). Even with the husk on the durian has a distinctive and strong smell. The flesh is an unusual mix of sweet and sour. The locals love to watch foreigners taste the fruit, make faces and go red because it heats up the body. It is not my preferred food but I enjoyed the experience.
If you are interested, check out the Wikipedia article on Durian and read the graphic descriptions by westerners (many of which are best not posted on this site!)
Delights of Cross-Cultural Experiences
Trying different food is one of the delights of cross-cultural travel and ministry. It can stretch your comfort level and reinforce your recognition that you are in another country.
So much culture is wrapped up and unwrapped in the presentation and acceptance of food and drink.
Eating and drinking gets lots of space in the Scriptures and many of the references point to the sacramental nature of this enjoyable pastime.
One of my favorite verses is on this theme:
“They ate and drank and they did see God.” (Ex. 24:11)
Doesn’t that thought start moving you toward the refrigerator?
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Some of the delicious food I had one night with a family in Kathmandu.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
“I've been meaning to ask you about TWB: Now that you've been at it awhile, how have you seen the ratio of opportunities to resources developing? Do you have lots more opportunities than teachers to fill them? "
"Lots more teachers than great placements for them? Or about equal numbers of both, but not enough money to bring willing teachers and opportunities together? "
About the ratios, it is weighted according to the old saying, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.’ (with the emphasis on the plentiful harvest). See below about my sense of ‘Encouragement’.
There have been many expressions of interest that have translated into worthwhile assignments by quite a few teachers but there are lots more requests especially from China and Vietnam at the moment. Some new schools are depending heavily on outside teachers because they do not have trained people from within their own country.
Here are two main challenges:
The first is getting the word out about the vision and opportunities—getting beyond the use of email and web postings and speaking one to one and to groups.
I am doing some teaching at Carson Newman (USA) in Spring 2009 and will be available to visit churches, seminaries and Pastor's groups in the USA and Canada to share the story. Let me know if you think of occasions where I could plug in.
I am also going to Lima in April to share with a gathering of theological educators and the annual meeting of Latin American Baptist church leaders (UBLA) to urge them to think of how the TWB vision might translate in Latin America.
A second challenge is financial. I think the financial downturn will cause many Americans and others to maintain the status quo, ‘batten down the hatches’ and not take on anything extra. Teaching in a needy country will quite possibly be seen as an extra.
As indicated previously there are quite a few people who have got the teaching talent and the time but not the cash to pay for an airfare. I would love to challenge those who do not have the time and/or are not equipped to teach to help pay for an airfare to send a teacher.
I am greatly encouraged by the increasing number of enquiries and people offering to teach. People at the moment are looking at opportunities for India, China, Sri Lanka etc but often for between 12 to 24 months from now. Some are planning a long way in advance because they have a sabbatical due in late 2009 or in 2011, because requesting seminaries plan for teachers a long way in advance or because they as teachers know that these international visits (especially where visas are required) can take a while to tee up.
If you’d like to get in touch with me (re questions, information, expressing an interest etc), send an email to me at geoffpound[at]gmail.com
Dr Geoff Pound
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I have asked to teach less so I can be available to visit theological students, seminary teachers, churches, groups of pastors and convention leaders throughout the USA and Canada, specifically to share the vision and challenges of Theologians Without Borders and stir up some discussion about how it might be shaped in your contexts.
If you live in North America and you have a conference or gathering in Spring 2009 where you think this could be a good opportunity for me to visit, speak, listen, do a workshop, give some lectures, please drop me a note with your idea at geoffpound[at]gmail.com
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Yours truly with a graduate (and his family) of the Bible School in the camp at Mae La, on the Thai-Burmese border.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I am also conscious that I am writing these postings in English which poses a barrier for many people for whom English is not their first language.
I am grateful to Rick Turoczy at ReadWriteWeb for publishing an article that has alerted me to the power of the Google Translate technology.
“If you're like most folks interested in technology, you likely have a feed reader full of hundreds of RSS feeds on your favorite topics. No doubt, they all have one thing in common: they're in a language that you're capable of reading.”
“But what about all of that interesting news and information that's written in languages you don't speak? Get ready to have access to even more information about your favourite topics, because now Google Reader leverages Google Translate technology to convert any feed to your preferred language.”
“To use the new offering, subscribe to any feed. Once subscribed, select "Translate into my language" from "Feed settings..." and the feed will be automatically translated to the best of Google's ability, based on your default language preference.”
“I tested the service against Cybozu Labs - a feed that comes through RSS in Japanese - and was pleasantly surprised. While a few of the characters remained, the majority of the content came through. Not only that, but the content was translated in a way that was legible and coherent.”
“While at first blush, this may seem to be a minor feature, it actually holds the potential to change the way people read feeds - and the feeds they choose to read. It will be incredibly interesting to see what non-English blogs start growing in popularity now that they're no longer hindered by limited linguistics.”
“But how will people find these blogs? That's the other thing that makes the translation feature so interesting: it appears to work on shared items, as well. Now, you can start reading and sharing information in any language with all of your Google Reader contacts - regardless of the languages they speak.”
“And once we start breaking down those language barriers and sharing ideas with more people, that may be a real step toward a truly World Wide Web.”
Have a try with Google Translate. I subscribed to Cybozu Labs in Google Reader and it translated perfectly for me.
Hopefully resources like this will break down the barriers of language.
Rick Turoczy, Say What? Google Reader Translates Any Feed into your Native Tongue, ReadWriteWeb, 10 November 2008.
Thanks to Rick Turoczy for this article which I have quoted here in full especially for non-English speaking readers of this web site.
Dr Geoff Pound
Monday, November 10, 2008
Speaking at a Web 2.0 Conference (November 2008) of people exploring the development of web-based communities, environmentalist activist, Al Gore, talked about the importance of clarifying your purpose.
He said that after buying a puppy for their young children many years ago, he and Tipper asked a dog trainer to come in and give them advice. Her first question was "What is the puppy's purpose? Is it going to be a watch dog, is it going to get the newspaper in the morning, is it for the children to play with?"
Like puppies, a project like Theologians Without Borders needs to have a defined purpose.
Overview in Many Languages
It you have forgotten the point of TWB or would like a refresher or a link to send to somebody else, check out the article in the language of your choice.
Theologians Without Borders (English)
Teólogos Sin Fronteras (Spanish)
Théologiens Sans Frontières (French)
Theologen Ohne Grenzen (German)
Teologi Senza Frontiere (Italian)
Teólogos Sem Fronteiras (Portuguese)
Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan (Tagalog-Filipino)
Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan (Malay Bahasa)
More Translations Needed
There are more translations coming.
If your language is not represented here do let me know and I can send you the English statement for you to translate, unless someone else has already started this task.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: “What is the puppy's purpose?”
Sunday, November 9, 2008
He spoke of the koru as a rich image for theological educators and others [You may have seen a stylized version of the koru on Air New Zealand planes].
Here is his excerpt:
The first image I want to draw to your attention is the koru. I think whether it is as a husband or a father, or a pastor, a lecturer or a Principal, the koru is the most animating image that I know.
I have planted one outside our front door and I love to go off to work citing it and allowing it to be part of the motivation for the day ahead.
Watching a tight, embryonic, furry ball gradually unfurl into something that is supreme in its elegance, its beauty, its perfection, its fullness and its breadth—I just think it is so animating in terms of working with people.
Mandate Wrapped in Furry Ball
And I think it is the Kiwi picture of one of the mandates for the church today. I think if the Bible was being written today in New Zealand it would be full of references to koru. After all, a core task of being a pastoral leader is to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature—fully unfurled—attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Pleasure of People Unfurling
I love watching people unfurl and within the communities of people to which I belong I like to see the people—the students, the staff—as a club of koru that are at different stages of unfurling.
The lovely Chariots of Fire statement [comes to mind]: “When I run I feel God’s pleasure.” When I participate in unfurling I feel God’s pleasure.
Leadership is about setting up ‘Operation Unfurl’. It’s the great blessing. Here are two observations:
Unfurling from Pain and Failure
Sometimes that furry ball is more crushed than it is embryonic. It is not just packed with potential but it is wrapped with pain, fear, failure and insecurity. It hasn’t opened up for those reasons and it is not uncommon in my life with students to see people in a fetal position as adults in terms of their growth.
One of the great joys is watching older students reengage with study having remembered their time at school to be full of failure and discovering that they have a brain. It is such a joy!
And then in more recent years the students have been younger and I sense that some come to training and they are crushed in spirit. Things haven’t gone well with parents and teachers and to be part of believing in people more than they believe in themselves is something that Barbie [Paul’s wife] and I have talked a lot about.
There are aspects of our cultural context that are rotten in my opinion—the fear we have of giving people big heads, the obsession about not allowing tall poppies to grow and the value of [being] close enough is good enough. I think for me the joy of visualizing what the end could be in someone’s life and then to be a small part of the means by which that end might be reached through encouraging and believing, advocating, praying, correcting—that’s the great joy and the great blessing.
Don’t Steal God’s Job Description
The other thing I would say is that the unfurling of the koru is not actually something that we do. I don’t go in there and reach into that tight, little furry ball and pull out that branch.
In our hyper-competent, over-resourced world, which is what we are, it is easy to steal God’s job description, get in there, feel the power and take control of people’s growth. I don’t think that this is part of our job at all.
So ‘Operation Unfurl’ keeps reminding me of the theocentric nature of leadership and mission. What will leadership look like if we believe that ‘I planted, I watered, I nurtured, I weeded and I pruned—but it is God who brings the growth?’ I try to create the conditions for unfurling. I try to make space and margins for God to do His thing.
I tell my preaching students: Recognize that people’s lives have been halted. They are hungry, angry and tired. Minister to that and let God bring the growth. That means being patient as God changes the seasons according to His timetable.
I think in recent years I have thought about what it means to be Trinitarian. Carry that image in our leadership, affirming diversity within the unity and [one sees] multiple leadership not singular leadership, relational leadership not hierarchical leadership, loving leadership rather than directing leadership, a shared leadership, a rotational leadership, a functional leadership—there is so much richness here that can help us to be part of people’s unfurling.
Source: Paul and Barbie Windsor, The Good, the Bad and the Blessed, New Zealand Baptist Annual Gathering, Palmerston North Central Baptist Church, 6 November 2008.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: The koru [click to magnify].
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Some of the teachers recently expressing an interest include a church historian and a theologian/Church historian.
There are more needs expressed and people who have offered to help.
Do let me know if you are calling ‘Come over and help us’ or if you can offer help.
Dr Geoff Pound
Monday, November 3, 2008
There are numerous inter-connected teaching points in various provinces all over the country.
These include programs at diploma, bachelor, and masters level.
In addition to all the basic subjects that provide the core of an MDiv there are various classes requiring teachers for courses in cross-cultural missions, vocational training, Christian education, and pastoral leadership.
Please consider committing one or two weeks in 2009 to teach in China.
The seminaries there have two semesters: March to June and September to December.
This is a great thing to combine service with sight seeing as it will bring you in touch with ordinary people and give you an insight into the distinctive features of the church in this ancient and developing nation.
How they do theological education in this country is probably quite different from your experience and to get a taste will challenge your thinking and your teaching in such refreshing ways.
In many parts of the world the question is, ‘Which seminary shall I attend?’ In China the question that is asked more often is, ‘Will I ever get the chance to have a seminary education?’
Do email me at geoffpound[at]gmail.com for more information, to discuss dates or about any other matter.
Please pass on this request to other pastors and theological teachers.
Dr Geoff Pound
(Chair, Coordinating Committee of TWB)
Image: A little of the drama I saw on my first visit to China.