Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kindle an Interest in Theological Literature

Bring the Parchments
I recently wrote about Rob Bradshaw (you can connect with him here on Facebook), concerning his ministry of making articles available online.

Subscribing to his web sites by RSS feeds or becoming his friend on Facebook will give you regular reminders of all the articles that Rob is kindly making available online.

Providing Books and Articles
Rob is also associated with Book Aid that provides Christian literature to areas of need. Check this site for ways of contributing to this ministry as well as learning how you or your seminary might receive books.

The British organization is a welcome addition to other individuals and groups that I have previously mentioned that are working to get books across the borders.

Some of these groups are finding that while the books are gratefully received it is becoming increasingly expensive and almost prohibitive to ship the books.

The Literary Future
I have posted articles elsewhere on web resources, wind-up laptops, Librivox and Moodle.

With an increasing number of reviews appearing about Amazon’s 2009 Kindle, one wonders whether this technology, accompanied by translation technology, will be a precursor to the shape of things to come in terms of making theological literature accessible.

For First Time Readers of TWB or a Refresher
A general introduction to Theologians Without Borders is offered in several languages at these links:
Theologians Without Borders
Teólogos Sin Fronteras
Théologiens Sans Frontières
Theologen Ohne Grenzen
Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan
Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan
Teólogos Sem Fronteiras
Teologi Senza Frontiere

If you can translate this statement into your language I would be keen to add it to this list.

Interested in Serving With TWB?
A good place to start (without making a commitment) is to adapt this Expression of Interest and send your information with a digital photo to me.

Dr Geoff Pound
Coordinator, Theologians Without Borders
Contact me on email at geoffpound[@]gmail.com or on Facebook.

Image: Books arriving via Book Aid to Nigeria and the Philippines plus a close up look at the Kindle.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Parallel Reflections With Doctors Without Borders

James Maskalyk’s experiences as a doctor without borders offer so many parallel’s with theologians without borders. His story is worth hearing.

James is a Canadian doctor who went with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on a six month assignment to the different world of Sudan.

The experience changed him as a physician. It changed him as a person. The time in the Sudan opened him up to the horrors of poverty, starvation and sickness in ways he had not discovered through reading and lectures.

He reflects on the way he could offer to his patients in Toronto the best health care in the world while in the Sudan he had to do his best with the meager resources at hand.

He speaks of the challenges of the experience, the things he found most satisfying and the benefits.

On his blog, James offers this advice which resonates with teachers contemplating a short term assignment in a needy part of the world where the resources are slim:

"Get Involved! The most important step, of the many along the way, is the first. Start, then all of a sudden you're on the road, and you draw it's map as you walk it."

Different Ways
To hear a 14 minute interview along with others who call in to speak about short term medical assignments, follow this link:

One Doctor’s ‘Six Months in Sudan’, NPR, 27 May 2009.

Read his blog: Six Months in Sudan.

Read the book that is based on his blog.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Dr James Maskalyk and his new book.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Theology on the Web

Problem
One of the struggles facing many seminaries, Bible Colleges and students around the world is getting the money to acquire good study material.

Part of the Answer
Rob Bradshaw, is seeking to address this problem.

Rob is a graduate of Bangor University and Mattersey Hall Bible College. He is passionate about Christian theology and church history and about making resources freely available for those who want them.

He is developing web sites with loads of rich resources and is aiming to eventually do this work full-time.

Purposes
The hub of his several web sites states the purposes:

To make high quality theological material available throughout the world, thus providing Bible teachers and pastors with the resources they need to spread the Gospel in their countries. This is achieved by:
1. Providing detailed bibliographies for Seminary level students and ministers.
2. Reprinting, in co-operation with authors and publishers, rare and out-of-print theology books and articles.
3. Providing, with the help of volunteers, translations of theological articles in a number of languages.
4. Providing a single cross-linked resource made up of five websites.

Five Sites:
BiblicalStudies.org.uk provides detailed bibliographies on each book of the Bible, as well as on hermeneutics, archaeology, criticism, language, etc. - in short almost everything connected with the Bible and its study.

TheologicalStudies.org.uk throws its net slightly wider, providing material on a range of theologies and theologians, as well as specific doctrines such as the Trinity, for example. The section on practical theology seeks to provide material on how theology is applied in daily life, in such areas as politics and ethics.

EarlyChurch.org.uk which will cover early church history until the the rise of the medieval Papacy (c.600 AD).

MedievalChurch.org.uk covers church history from the rise of the Papacy to the time of the Reformation.

Missiology.org.uk provides resources for students of Christian missions from the first Century onwards.

Cross-linking of subjects mean that a student studying baptism (for example) would be able to move from the baptism of Jesus, to baptism in the early church, the medieval church and then to how it is understood by a range of modern theologians.


Check out these sites, explore the wealth and get in touch with Rob.

Dr Geoff Pound

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Need for Cultural Dexterity

After writing an article about the Talents and Qualities Needed for teachers and speakers accepting short term teaching assignments I came across a phrase and a test that I want to add to the discussion.

In a forward-looking series of articles in this week’s Time magazine entitled The Future of Work, Janet Reid, managing partner at the Global Lead consulting firm speaks of this important quality:

"By 2019, every leader will have to be culturally dexterous on a global scale," says Reid. "A big part of that is knowing how to motivate and reward people who are very different from yourself."

‘Culturally dexterous’! Isn’t that a great phrase? Cultural dexterity is increasingly being a necessary quality for teachers in our multicultural communities. Cultural dexterity is a vital quality for theologians crossing borders into other cultures.

Cultural Dexterity Test
The following questions were asked recently in the UAE magazine TimeOut Dubai.

In China is it OK to belch and slurp your soup while eating?

Is it normal in Germany to use a knife and fork to eat sandwiches?

What happens if you turn up late for a meal in Germany but turn up on time in Spain?

Time Out Dubai has an interesting article on cultural differences, travel tips and how not to make too many faux pas.

Fancy Seeing the World but Afraid of Making Gaffes?, Time Out Dubai.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Time’s Cover Story.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Talents and Qualities Needed

From time to time I am asked about the type of person who makes for a good teacher or trainer in another culture.

Common Denominators
There is no one type but sometimes common denominators rise to the surface.

Earlier Response
In an earlier article I answered the question so let me give in headlines the qualities and attributes I highlighted then:

* Warmly relational
* Interested in people
* Good listener
* Wise regarding relationships
* Culturally sensitive
* Adaptable
* Lively relationship with God

Further
In the light of several more personal assignments and listening to the stories of others I would add these points:

Bags of Patience
Travel rarely goes smoothly. Perhaps I have had an unusual run this year but already I have had about six flights that were delayed, two of which necessitated an unexpected overnight stay. One was delayed because of excess snow, the other because of high winds. Sometimes the delays were caused because airlines created connections that were tight and unrealistic. Sometimes I missed flights because the amount of time needed to get through airport security and passport control was insufficient. Flight delays and waiting in airports when you are tired and jet-lagged is not much fun and it requires bags of patience.

Some letters from a person training youth pastors in another country at the moment offer a picture of long bus trips, often on vehicles that are crowded, not well ventilated and with drivers who seem to be in a hurry.

Flexibility
While you may have corresponded extensively with your host prior to leaving home, you may well be asked to change your teaching plans. Equipment you had hoped for isn’t available. The power goes off for several hours a day and your laptop’s battery hasn’t been sufficiently charged. It is 15 minutes before a worship service and you get asked to give the address. The ability to be flexible and adaptable is essential when moving in different cultures.

Crossing Cultural Bridges
Being sensitive to a person’s culture is one thing but walking the bridge from your culture to theirs is different. Perhaps this is nowhere better illustrated than in eating and speaking.

Your hosts and cook will often be anxious as to whether you like their food. When I have said that I want to eat what they normally cook and that I do not expect them to cook western food or special food, I often see their sense of relief.

To eat the food of your hosts is a way of accepting them, of sharing their hospitality and entering into their community. One has to be honest but to take their food and really enjoy it is stepping part of the way across the cultural bridge. Often to eat different food for every meal is tough especially when you are given large quantities because you are the special guest.

Being eager to learn and use some of their language (basic greetings) is another way of honoring their culture and affirming them as people.

Resilience
Yes, this is mentioned in the title of the new book by Elizabeth Edwards but I think it is an appropriate quality to mention here. Resilience is being able to bounce back like a spring that has been put under stress and pressure. To keep your bounce is a great thing when you are seeking to function amid the stress of a different climate, with different food, a different bed (and mosquito net) to sleep in and when everything is different and your space is limited. It is tough to teach with an interpreter when your pace is necessarily slowed, your jokes don’t work and your old illustrations fail to connect. To quote the title of another book, this one authored by Edward Said, there is great strain in feeling ‘out of place’ yet this is often the place where we grow and learn.

For First Time Readers of TWB or a Refresher
A general introduction to Theologians Without Borders is offered in several languages at these links:
Theologians Without Borders
Teólogos Sin Fronteras
Théologiens Sans Frontières
Theologen Ohne Grenzen
Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan
Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan
Teólogos Sem Fronteiras
Teologi Senza Frontiere

If you can translate this statement into your language I would be keen to add it to this list.

Interested in Serving With TWB?
A good place to start (without making a commitment) is to adapt this Expression of Interest and send your information with a digital photo to me.

Dr Geoff Pound
Coordinator, Theologians Without Borders
Contact me on email at geoffpound[@]gmail.com or on Facebook.

Image: “Resilience is being able to bounce back like a spring that has been put under stress and pressure.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Top 10 Travel Tips for TWB

In my letter to those enquiring about serving with Theologians Without Borders I make it clear that people must take full responsibility for themselves.

I am often asked for tips for things to take and matters to observe and I am happy to supply these if it is an area with which I am familiar. If I don’t know the country well I refer them to others who know the country and have a more recent knowledge of the situation.

Travel Tips
In receiving my new passport I was given a brochure spelling out some travel tips before take off. They come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in New Zealand but let me state them and encourage you to adapt them to your situation and nationality as they spell out something of the responsibility we must take upon ourselves. I have added some extra information in some of these points:

Find Out About Your Destinations
Research any travel risks, including those covered in the latest government advisories. For New Zealanders this is www.safetravel.govt.nz but every country will have their own version. Read travel guides (and as I said above ask people who have been there recently).

Check Health Precautions
Ask your health professional at least eight weeks before you go for advice on nay health precautions needed in the area you are visiting e.g. anti-malarial medication, yellow fever vaccinations. Often your GP will refer you to someone who specializes in tropical medicine. Some countries require you to supply a certificate indicating that you have had the necessary vaccinations.

Get Comprehensive Travel Insurance from a Reputable Insurer
Read the policy carefully to ensure it covers your personal circumstances and planned activities.

Register Your Travel Plans Online
This is so you can be contacted in an emergency or to be alerted if there are riots or bomb threats e.g. New Zealanders have a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) registration database. What is the equivalent in your country?

Advise Family and/or Friends of Your Travel Plans
Remember to send your itinerary and contact details to your family and friends. Make copies of your passport (main page and visa page), insurance policy, 24 hour emergency numbers and ticket details. Carry one set separate from the originals and leave another set with family or friends. Scan all these documents and email them to yourself in case you need to bring them up or send them online.

Safeguard Your Passport At All times
It can be difficult to replace your passport while overseas. Ensure it will remain valid for at least 6 months after your planned travel ends. Some hotels have a policy of demanding to keep your passport in their possession while you are there. I resist this arguing that I need it for ID (some countries require you to travel with it) and asking them to take a photocopy while I wait for it to be returned.

Contact Home If You are Near a Major Disaster or Incident
This will certainly help to allay the fears of your family and friends and may well be a source of information about the incident.

About Money and Valuable

Don’t rely on a single form of money—for example, take cash, credit cards and maybe travellers’ cheques. Take two different types of credit cards with you as it is amazing how many times one of the cards will fail to activate cash from the ATMs. Allow enough money to cover emergencies. Don’t keep all your money in one place. Get yourself a money belt. They cost $5 in Walmart and they can be uncomfortable to wear but it is a small-price to pay to prevent you from getting pick-pocketed. Keep passports and other important documents from appearing over the top of your pocket. Don’t be flashy with electronic gear. Leave your expensive jewellery at home.

Know the Location of Your Nearest Embassy

Obey Local Laws and Respect Local Customs
Your government cannot normally intervene in the judicial processes of other countries. Being a citizen of your country (even if you think it is the best country in the world) does not entitle you to any special treatment.

Find out about the local customs before you go. Many of these relate to how you dress. One of the most popular articles on my Emirates web site is entitled, ‘What to Wear in the United Arab Emirates.’ Put into your Search engine, ‘What to Wear in XYZ (the country you are going to).’

Venturing into USA even in Transit?
If you are not a US citizen and you are travelling to the US or even in transit there is a new law and practice that was introduced in January 2009. Travellers from many countries like the UK, Australia and NZ were previously part of the Visa Waiver Program. Now, such travelers are required to obtain an electronic travel authorization, no less than 72 hours, before you get on a plane or ship bound for the US. In most cases you will receive a response within seconds that your travel and American entry has been approved but you are encouraged to do this early.

For more information and do make application for an Electronic System for Travel authorization (ESTA) log on at the ESTA web site (it is available in at least 14 languages).


Please leave a travel tip as a Comment.

For First Time Readers of TWB or Take a Refresher
A general introduction to Theologians Without Borders is offered in several languages at these links:
Theologians Without Borders
Teólogos Sin Fronteras
Théologiens Sans Frontières
Theologen Ohne Grenzen
Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan
Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan
Teólogos Sem Fronteiras
Teologi Senza Frontiere

If you can translate this statement into your language I would be keen to add it to this list.

Interested in Serving With TWB?
A good place to start (without making a commitment) is to adapt this Expression of Interest and send your information with a digital photo to me.

Dr Geoff Pound
Coordinator, Theologians Without Borders
Contact me on email at geoffpound[@]gmail.com or on Facebook.

Image: Ten Top Travel Tips (Brochure from NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Great Need and Superb Teaching Opportunity

One of the Bible Schools in Thailand where several have visited over the years is looking for teachers who might assist them in their teaching programme.

While I have asked about pressing needs in the way of subjects that they would like taught, they prefer to work in a different way, asking who might be available and what subjects are they passionate about teaching.

The next academic year starts on June 7, 2009.

If you have two weeks (or more) to teach an intensive course in this next semester, this would be a very great gift to a school that lacks money but is rich in many other ways.

Do send me an email at geoffpound[@]gmail.com if you would like more information or would like to register an interest.

For Newcomers to Theologians Without Borders
A general introduction to Theologians Without Borders is offered in several languages at these links:
Theologians Without Borders
Teólogos Sin Fronteras
Théologiens Sans Frontières
Theologen Ohne Grenzen
Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan
Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan
Teólogos Sem Fronteiras
Teologi Senza Frontiere

If you can translate this statement into your language I would be keen to add it to this list.

Interested in Serving With TWB?
A good place to start (without making a commitment) is to adapt this Expression of Interest and send your information with a digital photo to me.

Dr Geoff Pound
Coordinator, Theologians Without Borders
Contact me on email at geoffpound[@]gmail.com or on Facebook.

Image: Time for a break between classes at this Bible School in Thailand.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Theologians Without Borders—A Disclaimer

In a letter that I generally write to people expressing an interest in serving on an international assignment through Theologians Without Borders I address the issue of responsibility.

I think this important matter deserves the widest readership possible.

Here it is:

Your Responsibility
Teachers agreeing to a short term international teaching assignment do so at entirely their own risk and responsibility.

While TWB was started under the umbrella of the Baptist World Alliance and continues to enjoy an affiliation and a prayerful interest from it, TWB works with seminaries and teachers from many different branches of the Christian church.

In no way is the Baptist World Alliance, Theologians Without Borders (including the coordinator) or any other church body to be held liable for loss of personal belongings, ill health or any other tragedy.

All responsibility belongs to the teacher who travels.

The teacher is encouraged to do the research about the country, to weigh up the risks of travel at a given time, to obtain the necessary documents (travel tickets, passport, visa, health and travel insurance) and to take the recommended inoculations, precautions, clothes and equipment.

For First-Time Readers of This Site
A general introduction to TWB is offered in several languages at these links:
Theologians Without Borders
Teólogos Sin Fronteras
Théologiens Sans Frontières
Theologen Ohne Grenzen
Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan
Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan
Teólogos Sem Fronteiras
Teologi Senza Frontiere

If you can translate this statement into your language I would be keen to add it to this list.

Interested in Serving With TWB?
A good place to start (without making a commitment) is to adapt this Expression of Interest and send your information with a digital photo to me.

Dr Geoff Pound
Coordinator, Theologians Without Borders
Contact me on email at geoffpound[@]gmail.com or on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Theologians Without Borders—An Example

Vision
The simple vision of Theologians Without Borders is about teachers crossing borders to teach in a seminary (usually intensively for 1-2 weeks).

But Also
It also involves teachers/trainers going to a country or region at the invitation of a group of churches (a Denomination/Union/Convention) and helping by speaking at Pastor’s Conferences, Church Leadership Seminars etc.

For Example
A New Zealand pastor is travelling this week to an Asian country to speak over a three week period at a series of conferences for Youth Pastors and leaders.

The original invitation was to speak at three conferences held in different regions of the country but I note from his itinerary that the task has expanded to incorporate speaking at a Youth Camp with 100 young people, speaking at three church services, giving lectures at two seminaries and having conversations with Church Convention leaders. The expanding schedule happens but as he said to me in a letter last week, “It is good to be doing extra—I’d rather be busy than underused.”

Share and Be Part of this Vision
Do pass on this vision to groups of churches that have special training needs and which lack the resources to pay for a resource person to come. The person I have mentioned above is one of the best in the youth training business.

Do let me know if you have expertise in a specific field of training and if you are keen to volunteer your services in this way.

Let the Church Be the Church
How is this visit being paid?

The Kiwi pastor accepted the invitation fully expecting to volunteer his services freely and pay for his own airfares. However, he has talked about this assignment with his family, friends, church and other contacts and invited them to support him in this training youth leadership venture.

They have gladly contributed finance. He writes: “All my support is raised and I have additional funds to gift to the Youth organization to assist with their costs [of staging the regional conferences]."

Even more than this, these financial supporters have been given his itinerary so that they can follow him and the people he trains, in prayer day by day over the next three weeks.

Some Key Documents about Theologians Without Borders
A general introduction to Theologians Without Borders is offered in several languages at these links:
Theologians Without Borders
Teólogos Sin Fronteras
Théologiens Sans Frontières
Theologen Ohne Grenzen
Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan
Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan
Teólogos Sem Fronteiras
Teologi Senza Frontiere

If you can translate this statement into your language I would be keen to add it to this list.

Interested in Serving With TWB?
A good place to start (without making a commitment) is to adapt this Expression of Interest and send your information with a digital photo to me.

Dr Geoff Pound
Coordinator, Theologians Without Borders
Contact me on email at geoffpound[@]gmail.com or on Facebook.

Image: “This training youth leadership venture.” (Courtesy Google Images)

Monday, May 4, 2009

What About Free and Open Theology Courses?

Open Culture, which seeks to highlight ‘the best free cultural and educational media on the web’ has recently (April 29, 2009) posted ‘The Big List of OpenCourseWare Resources’ which lists 500+ courses offered through universities and colleges.

I’m sure there is a range of quality represented in this list but some prestigious universities such as Harvard, MIT and Yale appear and there are sufficient comments and ratings to assist in an initial quality sort.

Free Bible/Theology Courses
I note that the religion section is rather slim or have I missed some?

There is a Podcast of the Historical Jesus from Standford and a highly commended Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) is one of the 250+ courses that Yale offers.

For some light relief Ricky Gervais (of the Office) Does Biblical Creation Stand-Up.

What other acknowledged courses might you add to this assortment of audio and video resources?

Why aren’t there more open courses available and what are the barriers to making these possible?

The comments beneath some of the postings suggest there are a lot of people who enjoy listening to courses while they mow the lawn, go for a walk or commute to work. Hopefully when some of these courses can be done for credit (as one of the comments suggests) they will become even more popular but the list is a reminder of the value of study in aiding education even when no diploma or degree comes at the end.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Courtesy of Change the Thought.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Teacher of Christian Education Requested for Nepal

Teacher Needed
A request for a teacher of Christian Education has come from a seminary in Nepal.

This could be taught intensively during the semester that commences in July 2009 but the preference of the President is for a guest teacher to come during the semester that begins in February 2010.

For more information or to express an interest do write to me.

Introduction to Theologians Without Borders
A general introduction to Theologians Without Borders is offered in several languages at these links:
Theologians Without Borders
Teólogos Sin Fronteras
Théologiens Sans Frontières
Theologen Ohne Grenzen
Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan
Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan
Teólogos Sem Fronteiras
Teologi Senza Frontiere

If you can translate this statement into your language I would be keen to add it to this list.


Interested in Serving With TWB?
A good place to start (without making a commitment) is to adapt this Expression of Interest and send your information with a digital photo to me.

Dr Geoff Pound
Coordinator, Theologians Without Borders
Contact me on email at geoffpound[@]gmail.com or on Facebook.

Image: I took this photo of a Nepali woman from the back of a motorbike when I was visiting Kathmandu last year.