Saturday, October 4, 2014

Diversifying Your Bookshelf

You asked, so here it is.  I put together these book recommendations with the help of some amazing women I met at the CCDA conference.  I haven't read all the books on this list, but I have heard some of the authors speak in person, read their blogs, or listened to lectures they have given that are available online.  It is a strategy I use to keep up with diverse perspectives even when I can't keep up with my ever-growing reading list. Some of the books are new to me, which just means that my reading list is now even longer.  =)

I also wanted to include a few authors from the Global South.  Pedagogy of the Oppressed is one of my favorite books, and not just because the author is Brazilian.  =)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Seek the Welfare of the City

*with John Perkins outside the convention center*

Jeremiah 29:4-7 
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."
The central passage for the the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference this year was Jeremiah 29, which also happened to the be one of the central passages for Northside Church's retreat earlier this year.  I've spent a lot of time camped out in this passage so far in 2014.

This post could be about of lot of things related to the CCDA conference.  I could write about God's provision and the ways I was encouraged, restored, and challenged.  I could write about the new friendships I formed with people seeking the flourishing of their cities in the name of Jesus Christ around the United States.  Instead I am just going to share some of the words from speakers I heard that challenged me or made me think.

First, in morning Bible study, Coach challenged everyone to read books by minority authors, and not just John Perkins.  Take a moment now and think of the last book or article you read that was not written by a white man.

While at Eastern, I was assigned lots of writings by a diverse group of authors, but I must admit that recently I have been reading books that are typical for a member of a PCA church, namely those written by Tim Keller.  I accept the challenge for myself, will you consider also adding some minority authors to your reading list?

And now for some quotes, or actually paraphrases.  My notes are not awesome because there was so much good stuff being said.

1. Holes in the gospel have accommodated racism and bigotry.... Ain't no room in the gospel for racism, but we have accommodated it. - John Perkins

2. People ask me, "What is the relationship between the gospel and reconciliation?" That's what the gospel is, fool!  - John Perkins

3. We are part of the sin we are preaching against.  - Theology Panelist

4. The veneer that we call reconciliation creates deeper damage.  - Rehabbing Reconciliation Workshop

5. Please beware of paternalism, the sneaking enemy of true flourishing. - Ruth Padilla DeBorst

I could keep going, but those are just a few for your consideration.  If you live in Richmond, and want to hear more, I'd love to get together, preferably over coffee.  =)

Lastly, check out the CCDA worship team including David Bailey and several others from Richmond praising God in Spanish.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Blog Title: I Know My Guide

I created this blog just after I was appointed as a missionary to South Sudan with World Harvest Mission, hence the name: 

Immeasurably More WHM

and the description: 

Engineers like to measure things, and I am no exception.  In my sin, I continue to try to put God in a box and define what He can accomplish.  In God's grace and mercy, He continues to show that He is IMMEASURABLY MORE.  

I wrote that description eight years ago (yikes)! 

World Harvest Mission has rebranded to Serge: Grace at the Fray, and I am in a new season of life in the Northside of Richmond.  

It was time for a change.  

I went the quick and simple route for making this change, which may cause problems if anyone has saved links to any of my previous posts.  It also means that all my previous posts can be accessed easily from I suspect that most of my readers are friends and family, so I don't think it will be a problem.  =) 

The new title comes from the song  "His Love Can Never Fail," which was a team favorite in South Sudan. I sing the first verse in my head often, and it is written on a kitenge wall hanging in my room.  

I do not ask to see the way 
My feet will have to tread; 
But only that my soul may feed 
Upon the living Bread. 
'Tis better far that I should walk 
By faith close to His side; 
I may not know the way I go, but oh, I know my Guide. 

The new title is also more transferable, so no matter where God guides me in the future, I can keep the same blog title!  This is a very desirable feature for a global nomad/TCK with two occupations listed on her LinkedIn profile.    

Monday, July 14, 2014

Being A Misfit

A few weeks ago I had to get fitted for a respirator for my new job.  At the doctor's office I had the following conversation with a nurse.

Nurse: What is your race?
Me: What are the options?
Nurse: African American, Mexican American, and Caucasian.
Me: .... None of those apply.
Nurse: So what is your race?
Me: I usually choose Latina or Hispanic. Is "other" an option?
Nurse: No.
Me: Can you leave it blank?
Nurse. No, it is required to continue with the test.

In the end, I let the nurse make a choice after I explained to her my background. I'm really not even sure which she chose since she looked at how her choice impacted the results of my baseline lung capacity test.  With only those three options, A LOT of people were excluded.  My background isn't even that complex, and I couldn't figure out what to choose.

Checking a box on a form seems like a simple thing, but not having a option to choose can make you feel like a misfit and out of step with the norm.  I have grown to embrace and really even love many of the things that make me a misfit.  However, in a season of trying to navigate lots of transition, I appreciate moments when things make sense and when I feel like I fit.  One of those moments was being reunited with many former teammates as we celebrated John and Jenn's marriage. We misfit together.  =)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Three Years Ago

On July 9th, 2011, I rejoiced. It was a distinct privilege to be in South Sudan on its very first independence day dancing, praying, and celebrating with a new nation.

I danced upon injustice with men and women from many different tribes united in their joy.

I heard a dear friend share a scripture for a new nation urging the country to have hope and rebuild on the strong foundation left by the church in South Sudan. 

Job 14:7-9

“At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant."

Only three years later, the Fund for Peace named South Sudan the world's most fragile state.  The BBC reports that 4 million will face critical food shortages in the next month.  By many accounts, the development gains made by the new nation over the last 8 years since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 have been lost in the space of less than 8 months. 

The reality of how much has changed in so short a time grieves my heart. Yet I know that the hope I had on South Sudan's independence day is unchanged.  I have hope because my Savior defeated death, because of the power of the Cross.  And I know that there are many faithful South Sudanese Christians proclaiming the Gospel of Peace even now as they face new trials.  So I still pray boldly and ask that you also continue to pray.

Jennifer shared this prayer on her blog and I will echo it here.  

"Please pray for God's peace in East Africa. Meaning real peace, real dealing with fear, protective reprisals, greed, hate. Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda all need the Gospel that breaks down dividing walls of hostility, that gives people true harmony in diversity as the many tribes reflect God's infinite complexity and yet also God's trinitarian unity." 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bishop Bismark and Rina in Richmond!

*Goodbyes at the airstrip on my last day in Mundri, South Sudan.  
There were smiles, but there were also tears.*

*Just six months later at my sending church in Richmond, Virginia*

Our primary ministry partners, next door neighbors, and most importantly, dear friends, are in Richmond, Virginia! 

There will be a dessert reception at WEPC on Sunday, June 8th at 6 PM in the Fellowship Hall.  

Bishop Bismark will also be preaching at WEPC on June 15th.

If you live in the Richmond area, I strongly encourage you take advantage of these unique opportunities to meet Bishop and Rina and to hear Bishop preach.

Seriously, this is an amazing opportunity for those living in the Richmond area.  The church in America has a lot to learn from the South Sudanese church.  

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Change and Rootedness

A few days ago one of the leaders of the community group I attend called to discuss some changes that are going to happen in the fall.  While I have only been a part of this group for a few months, they have been meeting consistently for three years. In the middle of the conversation, I was again reminded that change has become my norm.  I'm used to the pattern of diving in deep with people for a season fully expecting that the community dynamics will change soon.  Don't get me wrong, I long for stability, but since I first got on a plane to S. Sudan in early 2009, I have lived with a revolving door in my primary community.  Plus I'm an ATCK.  I'm used to change.

At Northside Church's annual retreat a few weeks ago, the speaker, Tim Rice, spoke on the topic of rootedness.  He described some problems that can arise when there is significant transience and instability in community and ministry.

A lack of rootedness:

  • Makes it difficult to get traction on deep systemic problems
  • Undercuts trust and relational ministry
  • Leads to a focus on programs not people

Tim boldly said that "given the need of the hour, our generation needs to be rooted unless God makes it very clear he is calling us somewhere else." You can make long-term plans if you are rooted, even plans that span across generations in a community, and that is what is needed to seek the shalom of a community.

I was encouraged to hear Tim talk about rootedness in the U.S. context, particularly after studying the benefits of stability in international development ministries.  I agreed with so much of what Tim shared, but it was also hard to hear in this season of life for me.

*teak tree in S. Sudan with new shoots emerging from old roots*

After leaving S. Sudan in November, I pursued rootedness.  I had no idea where God would lead me, but I did know I wanted to make a long-term commitment to a community for many of the reasons Tim outlined at the retreat.  After exploring MANY different paths, God brought me back to Richmond, VA, and in particular, to Northside Church, a church plant that seems to be collecting returned missionaries.

Northside is about intentional community.  Having experienced the kind of really hard but really good community forged by missionaries living cross-culturally, I knew I wanted more of it.  Of course, community life will look different in the Northside of Richmond since we aren't all living together in the 100+ degree South Sudanese heat with no AC.  Let me assure you that the sinning against one another increases with the heat.  But even in Richmond, a group of people can live in close and intentional community in such a way that they are sinning against one another but also repenting and forgiving one another, growing in grace and Christ-likeness.

It is worth repeating.  Community life is hard, but oh so good!

What makes the idea of rootedness hard in this season is that God provided a job in water and wastewater engineering that is a great fit for my skills, but it involves significant travel.  I am used to travel, but it means that I am writing this post now from a hotel room 300 miles away from the place where I long to be rooted.

I am thankful that God brought me from the missions field to a group of people in the Northside of Richmond that are pursing rootedness and intentional community.  Even if in this season I cannot be rooted in the way that I had hoped, I am thankful that this group of people considers me theirs and prays for me even when it has been weeks since I was able to attend community group.

Ultimately, the stability I have longed for as I crossed oceans repeatedly and said goodbye A LOT can only truly be found in God, eternal and unchanging.  I am His and He is with me no matter where on this plant I happen to be calling "home" at the moment.   That is good news for everyone, but especially for this global nomad, returned missionary, ATCK that can't write the word "home" without using quotes.

And for now the fact that I hung my tapestry with notes from my Fall 2011 WHM S. Sudan teammates on a wall opposite my world map means that the Northside of Richmond is "home".

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Easy Answers

When I meet new people and they ask me simple getting to know you questions, I often get overwhelmed. In this last season of transition, answering those questions was particularly complicated to the point that friends who know me well sometimes stepped in, breaking the awkward silence and summarizing for me.  =) 

Stranger: "Where are you from?" 
Christine: "Well.... Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, Brazil, but most recently South Sudan... I'm a TCK... Nowhere... I've lived a lot of places..." 
Stranger: "Isn't there an active conflict in South Sudan?"
Christine: "..."

Stranger: "What do you do?"
Christine: "Well...I'm a missionary, community development, facilitator, water engineer...." 
Stranger: *insert several follow up questions here*

*Visiting the city water system in Lui, South Sudan*

But now, for the first time in a long time I have simple, easy answers to getting to know you questions.  I just started a new job, so now when I introduce myself I can say "Hi. My name is Christine, and I'm a water/wastewater engineer from Richmond, Virginia."  The End. =)  Of course, there is more to that answer, like there is for most people, but the simple version is a good representation of this new season of life for me. I enjoy sharing my story and talking about South Sudan, but sometimes I just want to have an easy answer and pay for my groceries. =)

I'm thankful for the new job God has provided, and I'm thankful that at least for now, I have easier answers to basic getting to know you questions.  I'm also thankful for great friends who know me well and know the much longer versions to those questions!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Opportunities of a Job Search

My job search could be just that, a job search, but recently I've been considering what I might miss if I walked through this season on autopilot. I spend a large part of my days reading job descriptions, writing cover letters, and networking.  But the real story of this season thus far has been about my community in Richmond.

My church community has loved me so well in this season of unemployment.  I've had countless conversations with people who have taken the time to ask for details on the type of jobs I'm seeking.  I have had friends refer me to hiring managers.  I have had friends who have listened to me share the difficulties of looking for a job in the middle of a big life transition.  I have had friends take in to their home with amazing hospitality and generosity.  I have had many friends speak an encouraging word when I was discouraged. I could go on and on.  =)

God's provision and love for me in the midst this season of unemployment has been truly amazing.  God has not yet provided a job, but he provided an opportunity for my community to love and serve me and for me to receive that blessing. God also provided a reason for me to reach out and share my story with as many people as possible as I network in search of a job when my tendency in the middle of hard transition would have been towards solitude.

Everyone's experience of unemployment is unique, and mine certainly isn't typical.  I don't know how long this season of unemployment will be, but at this moment, I'm thankful for this season of unemployment even though there are many things that are hard about being a job seeker.

Excerpt from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom:
"Thank You," Betsie went on serenely, "for the fleas and for--"
"The fleas!" This was too much. "Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea."
"'Give thanks in all circumstances,'" she quoted. "It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are part of this place where God has put us."
And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.
If you haven't read The Hiding Place, I highly recommend it, and you will get to whole story of the fleas.

I've been sharing about my own experiences as a job seeker, but this post would feel incomplete to me if I didn't mention that work is a complex issue. In particular, when someone says work, they often exclude all the work done in society that doesn't produce taxable income.  Work is a part of a person's identity as made in the image of God and is big topic. Too big for my blog.  =)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fireless Cookers and Informed Giving

I am a BIG fan of appropriate technology solutions, particularly when they are created by the end users themselves.

Today on Amazon there was a story about a product called Wonderbag with the tag line "one of thousands of innovators changing the world on Amazon." Of course, my interest was piqued, and I had to learn more.

Immediately I thought, "Hey, I have something remarkably similar in the trunk of my car." At the moment, I don't have a kitchen, so my car has become storage.=)

Mine is handmade and was purchased several years ago from a Kenyan woman.  While there are some design differences, they are remarkably similar products.  The Wonderbag definitely allows for more flexibility in pot size, which is a plus. The engineer in me wants to do a side by side comparison of heat loss over time.  =) Our team has used fireless cookers like mine to make yogurt, cook beans, and keep food warm for years.  

The fireless cooker is not a new idea.  Appropriate technology solutions to global problems are being used by smart and resourceful people around the world, and sometimes they make it to U.S. markets and are called a great new innovation.  I don't know if I would call it innovative, but I do highly recommend fireless cookers! 

It really is a fabulous cooking tool, and you can probably make one yourself for a lot less than $50.  If you would like to purchase a Wonderbag because you aren't crafty and Amazon delivers it right to your door, go for it!  But if you are purchasing a Wonderbag because the idea of having one donated to a family in Africa appeals to you, I suggest you do a little research first.  It took me about 15 minutes to find the answers to these questions online.  

1. Where are the bags manufactured? Who is being employed to make the product? 
2. Is there follow-up for those who have received a free Wonderbag to ensure proper usage? *
3. Did they do their homework? Are they measuring results? **

I'd love to know a whole lot more about their theory of change, sustainability, and local markets, but finding answers to those questions would have taken longer than 15 minutes. =)

But it really doesn't take long to find out the basics, and you don't need a degree in International Development be an informed consumer and giver! 

And if you are waiting for the part of the post where I tell you if buying a Wonderbag will make a difference, it isn't coming. Wonderbag may have a positive economic, environmental, and social impact on the community.  Or it might not. I don't know enough, and even if I knew everything I wanted to know, it would still be hard to make that kind of definitive statement.  But there are best practices out there including manufacturing locally, following up especially when things are given for free, and measuring results.  

Want to make your own basket? Here is one design that is very similar to my own basket, but there are MANY others.  


*Keeping food at lower temperatures for extended periods of time can increase bacteria growth, which is great for making yogurt, but not great if you are serving a meat dish and don't heat to the proper temperature.  

**Measuring impact (including spiritual metrics for Christian development practitioners) is often extremely challenging, but worth it in my opinion.