The 6 Toughest Adjustments for New Missionaries

The life of a missionary can seem very exotic and exciting.  It often is; but it is also one of the  most stressful jobs in the world.  What could possibly be stressful?  Try this:  Constant fundraising pressure, low salaries, never being able to just live in your own language, being on the road constantly, dealing with cultural differences, watching your children have challenges in foreign school systems, separation from family and loved ones, living or traveling in high-risk locations where danger is always present, the pressure to prove you are worth the money to your donors, constant high-intensity people interaction (across cultures no less), and relentless Spiritual Warfare.  These are just some of the examples that make being a missionary, a very hard job. High rates of depression, spiritual dryness, marriage problems, and dropping out of missionary service can be attributed to these factors.  It is far different than visiting a country for a few days, weeks, months, or even a couple of years.  It alters your life permanently and changes you and your kids forever.  

But there are 6 particularly difficult things about the job that require a maximum paradigm shift for new missionaries; especially couples.  Being able to make the adjustments to these six different ways of living can mean the difference between staying on the field and leaving prematurely and burnt-out--even horribly wounded.  

1) No routine is the new routine   

We often get asked, "What does your typical day look like?"  That question is usually as impossible to answer as "Where are you from?"  Nothing is less routine than the life of a missionary.  We could be doing ministry one day, traveling to mission-fields the next, catching up on budgets and paperwork another day, and communicating with donors on yet another day.  We could be hosting a group for a week or two on end, or stuck at the offices of foreign governments trying to get our paperwork straightened out.  Then there's the constant need to update through newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, and Skype so that donors feel like they know what you are doing.  Once every few years, we have to completely upend our life and spend 6 months or a year on the road visiting a different church in North America every 4 days or so.  It never stops.  Life is never routine on the mission-field for most missionaries. Your life of predictable, comforting routines is over.  

How to survive #1:  We have to give up hopes of normalcy.  For most of us, it will never happen. Life is always chaotic and unpredictable.  The highs will be high, the lows will be very low.  And it will always be like that.  So, a life of mini-routines has to be established.  It could mean always trying to have dinner as a family (when at home), or taking a predictable family vacation together at a set-time every year.  Exercise, quiet time, and meditation/prayer will be vital to keeping sane. But overall, the expectation for the normal life has to be dropped.

2) It’s not a job for individuals; it’s a family job.

For some people, it's important that they are viewed as an individual that is a successful professional in their own right.  But being a married missionary means that my job and "my career" becomes "our job" and "our career."  The amount of things that have to be done are too much for one person, and your life and work are interwoven and overlaps in hundreds of ways.  One of you may have to always do the newsletter and social media, while the other plans the logistics of a work-camp.  Then you both have to host the work-camp and that could involve or displace your children!  The couple will always be linked to each other and viewed as "one unit."  We even call missionaries, "units," because you are never really hired as an individual.  You are always a couple, indeed a whole family (if kids are involved) that will be doing the job together.  

How to survive #2:  Understand that this is not the job for you if you need space from your spouse and want to be a professional in your own right.  Unless, you have very separate jobs, which is very rare, your life will have to be integrated with that of your spouse.  Make sure that specific job duties are clear and play to each others' strengths.  Learn to communicate extremely well as a couple and make sure that you find ways to give each other space, even if that space is severely limited.  

3) Your communication as a couple will grow or decline exponentially on the mission-field.

Being a missionary can be very hard on marriages.  The success of the missionary couple will often come down to how well the two communicate with each other.  Everything has to be processed:  the ministry, the fundraising, the managing of finances, communication with the home office and supervisors, how to raise the kids internationally, and many other things will test a couple's ability to make decisions and plans together.  The pressure of this will either give you a very close marriage based on excellent communication or will break down the couple's friendship and communication.  You will get much better or much worse at communicating as a couple.  

How to survive #3:  Work on your communication skills and develop your emotional-intelligence (E.Q.).  Personality assessments can be extremely helpful in understanding the many subtle differences that you and your spouse may have.  And make sure to pray together and for each other.  

4) It’s always a sacrifice:  You lose a lot!  

Yes, you do get to have some pretty exciting experiences and have a front-row seat to what God is doing in the world.  But as a missionary, you lose a lot.  Salaries are low, your family will be far away and may be very bitter that you are choosing to raise the grandkids overseas.  You may never fully fit-in to your home culture again (if you are long-term), and your children will not have the same affinity for your home country as you do if they genuinely grow up on the mission-field. Neither is it a glorified job, or even one that people will understand very well.  Your physical health may take a real hit from the constant high-level of stress.  And your health may never be normal again.  

How to survive #4:  Remember the quote from Jim Elliot, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."  We don't do the job for glory, safety, or comfort.  We do it because we have a call to serve God; and there is a high cost to that call.  Being a servant is not glorious or showy.  And Nobody should expect it to be easy. You truly lay down your life.  

5) Whatever your weaknesses are;  the mission-field exposes them quickly.  

Are you a worrier, over-confident, temperamental, prone to anxiety, sensitive to temptation, have anger-management issues, dependent on security, co-dependent on someone, afraid of suffering and sickness, lazy about spiritual disciplines, in a shaky marriage?  Whatever your weaknesses are, it will be quickly exposed on the mission-field and Satan, plus the stress of the job, will continually poke your sensitive spots.  You will need to go through a massive process of refinement, or you will succumb to your weaknesses over time.  

How to survive #5:  Make sure that you are a self-aware person. Honestly, identify your strengths, weaknesses, and ask others to help you to honestly see yourself.  Take personality assessments, and reflect on the things that have tripped you up in life.  Counseling can be very helpful.  Pray that God will reveal to you areas where you need guidance.  

6) The nebulousness of the job

How do you measure success on the mission-field?  Usually people want baptisms, converts, or exciting projects like feeding the poor or helping orphans ("more photos please!")  But many of us do not have jobs that can be so easily quantifiable.  Furthermore, some of us are called to sow, others to water, others to reap the harvest.  God decides that; we don't.  For many people, the nebulousness of the job becomes a very stressful part of the life.  "Am I really making a difference?" "Have I achieved enough?"  "Was today productive?"  "What if my ministry doesn't last or the new Christians don't make it?"  "What did I do today that shows I am making a difference?" "What about all the things I do that don't make it in the newsletter?"  "Will anybody know or care?"  Especially for those coming from corporate jobs where targets and goals are so easily measurable or jobs where tasks are clear and routine, the missionary life can be a killer.  

How to survive #6:  For most missionaries, the job is always out of our control and tasks and success can be very random.  "Success" is truly hard to measure and it's all God's work anyway.  It is not a job for people that need that kind of constant affirmation and public validation.  One has to take the job in faith that God is using your sacrifice to make a difference in the Kingdom.   And the question becomes, "Do you have a call?" Not a mystical, spiritual voice from God appearing, but rather, is something in you making you feel like this job is something you must do.  That you won't feel released by walking away from it?  The answer needs to be "yes," or you are in real trouble.  

Before you dive into missionary life, think about these 6 paradigm shifts that will require difficult adjustments. If you are already on the mission-field, hopefully this essay will help make sense of why it can feel so challenging and how to respond.  Most of us would not give up our experiences as missionaries for the world (literally).  But, it truly is a call and a sacrifice.  Be wise, alert, and humble and you can not just survive, but thrive.  

Is Christian Persecution/Genocide Real?

Is Christian Persecution as bad as some are saying world and is Christian Genocide really happening?

The short answer is "yes."  We are currently living in a time of global Christian growth, but also of ramped up Christian persecution.  A 2011 Pew Forum study found that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world with problems in 130 countries (The U.S.A. is not one of them, sorry to disappoint).  In the Middle East, the number of Christians has dropped to just .06% of the World's total.  That is a 20% decrease in the last 100 years in an area that was once the center of Global Christianity before it shifted to the West. In the world today, there is both Hard Persecution and Soft Persecution.  Both make life very difficult for Christians.

Hard persecution entails blatant attempts to kill, torture, and extinguish Christians and their churches.  In some countries, like North Korea, this has been going on for decades.  The persecution is brutal and an entire family and all their relatives will be wiped out if one Bible is found hidden in a home.  Christians in North Korea are killed or languish in the world's worst and most brutal prison camps.  "Genocide" is a strong word, but ISIS in Iraq and Syria have a scorched earth policy.  Unlike Al-Qaeda, they decided that they would establish a Caliphate that ruled by terror intentionally and that meant wiping out other religions and Islamic sects.  Christian communities are being decimated in Iraq and Syria.  

The bombing of Christians in South Sudan is both anti-Christian and ethnic.  We see the same thing in northern Nigeria.  Pakistan and Bangladesh are both places where Christians are routinely attacked violently just for being Christian.  There are many cases of Hard Persecution currently around the world.

But there are also places that are much more subtle in their way of persecuting Christians.  It may involve making it near impossible to open churches, or keep buildings open.  It may be changes in laws that make it hard to register Christian communities.  In some countries, you may not be considered employable if you are a Christian.  "Christians Need Not Apply" can literally be found on the door.  Just earning a living can be difficult in some of these countries if you are a Christian. Or Christians may be spied on or monitored at all times.  Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and surprisingly, even Western Europe have places where things are intentionally made difficult for Christians.  Try opening a church, getting a building permit, registering a denomination, opening a bank account etc.  It can all be made very difficult in these countries where the goal is to eradicate Christianity under the world's radar.

India is currently an example of a country that practices both Hard and Soft persecution.  Under Prime Minister Narenda Modi, India is passing laws making it more difficult for Christian missionaries to enter the country.  Not adverse to stoking Nationalism, Modi encourages (or looks the other way) as fundamentalist Hindu groups plan the complete eradication of Islam and Christianity.  Overtly, there are Christian villages, churches, and pastors routinely attacked throughout the country.  India's many religions have co-existed remarkably harmoniously in the world's largest Democracy, but that is now being challenged and Christians are targets.  

As for the United States, what Christians here are experiencing is a loss of privilege and blind-trust in their intentions.  That is not the same as Christian persecution.  As one who has spent times in truly persecuted communities around the world, it rings very hollow when Americans claim that they are oppressed.  Even in England things are more difficult for churches.  All American religious groups have tremendous freedoms and options, and that is thankfully preserved because of its clear separation of church and state.  It is these other nations where church and state co-mingle and create persecution and kill the dynamism of religion where persecution truly exists.  Other countries should be so lucky as to have America's "persecution" problems.  

Believe it or not, civilizations (even Western Civilization and its secularism) owe a lot to religion.  The persecution of Christians or any other religious group does not help the world.  While that is a subject for another day, what is clear is that many innocents are being hurt, terrorized or killed. Christian persecution is real and it is a danger to the world entire.  It behooves Christians to never themselves be the ones doing the persecuting and stand by those that are persecuted.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rise of Trump, Populism, and Global Political Chaos

As of this writing, it looks like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be the most likely nominees for the general election for President of the United States.  Maybe not.  Regardless of whether these two make it to the general election or not, there will be plenty of people that feel angry, left-out, and as though politics has failed them when the eventual winner is announced.  That much is inevitable.  The bigger, more nuanced (and thus ignored story) is that our ever-integrating, globalized world is becoming more complicated than our simple, slow-moving, non-progressive political governments can handle.  Whether it is the well-established countries like the United States, Germany, or the U.K., or transitioning emerging nations like China, Brazil, and India, or marginalized laggards like Iran and North Korea--globalization is presenting problems that our political systems cannot solve rapidly.  What we do have is anger, the internet, and media.  In many ways, the rise of Donald Trump exemplifies a global problem.

In my 2006 book, "Passport of Faith" I wrote the following:

"Each period of hyperglobalization demands a radical amount of change and adaptation.  New world orders form that seemingly connect the world together.  In these periods, people and governments turn to religion, nationalism, and ideology to help them cope with change....this can be a counteraction to globalization." (p.277)  

I wrote that the most likely visible symptoms would be: Islamic terrorism, poor economic choices by global powers (Europe, the United States, and China), shaky alliances, great power rivalries, an extreme divide between Rich and poor, and nationalism (p. 271-278).

Today, 10 years later, all of this is visible, whether through the continued expansion of ISIS, the stock market collapse in China, the E.U.'s anemic growth and political turmoil, renewed rivalries between the USA and Russia, the huge wealth gap between rich and poor everywhere, and the rising nationalism visible in places as diverse as Hungary, France, India, China, and the United States.

TRUMP AS THE MODEL OF POPULISM

All of this may best be exemplified by Donald Trump, a billionaire who openly flaunts gaming the political and financial system.  He bought politicians and took advantage of America's huge corporate welfare state through generous bankruptcy laws.  A Republican, he has mostly espoused Democratic political ideas in his life and still today, he  does not model conservative moral values through his language and behavior, has little awareness of religion, and is capable of changing his position on most any subject even within a single interview.  None of this matters, however, because he challenges the political system promising that the regular man will take back control of the government (and thus be able to find easy solutions for this complicated, fast-changing, globalized world).  That is populism, and there are variations of Trump in Turkey, France, the Netherlands, India, and many other countries.  They promise and overthrow of the current order and promise a return to happier times.  They are vague on solutions, but convince the people that it can be done.  That is enough for them; forget the contradictions. They look the other way because it feels good to be validated.

What Trump, ISIS, and many other individuals and movements have are not coherent ideas or actual solutions, but cheap mass communication.  It is now easy to promise a perfect Islamic Caliphate (or a United States that closes its borders to its biggest trading partners but somehow stays wealthy), to a large group of people around the world and you can develop a following.  If the Republicans had not started with 19 candidates, and were a party based on conservative political philosophy as opposed to populist ideology, Trump would not have made it far in the political race.  His actual positions and ideas are totally incoherent and don't really consistently represent anyone but Donald Trump himself.  But because the party has become a source of constant anger, the  most effective, angry communicator with the most air-time was inevitably going to come in first.  Compared to Trump, other potential populists looked boring.  

What quickly happens is that the anger and promises of solutions become more important than the actual logic and plausibility of what the populist is saying.  Consequently, Trump can suggest insane things like cutting off trade with China and Japan (two countries in severe economic turmoil that actually bring a lot of profit and even open factories in the United States), or deporting millions of people (which would not only be logistically impossible and economically damaging, but would be an national and international embarrassment).  You can hold competing views that cancel each other out:  "We should get out of the Middle East.  I said it was a mistake."  "I will bomb the hell out of ISIS."  You can even behave poorly by making fun of a disabled-person, make jokes about menstruation or killing members of the free press."  In Trump's case, you can even talk about "Making America Great" while suggesting things that would trample on the Constitution.  None of it matters.  What matters is guaranteeing a simple solution:  "You will have high wages" (even though the global economy has fundamentally changed).  "We will win all wars and never face terrorism ever," (even though it's impossible to actually stop random acts of terrorism).  "We will never have to be dependent on immigrants ever again" (even though borders can never really be completely guarded, and immigrants create start-ups, start businesses, and do jobs locals won't do. A lack of immigrants is actually the greatest pre-cursor to the downfall of a civilization).

A Need to Adapt to Seismic Shifts

The problem is that neither China, India, the United States, the European Union countries, nor ISIS, nor any other political movement in the world will be able to truly respond to the 21st Century challenges without a massive amount of painful adaptation.  China is in an economic free-fall.  The government of the Chinese Communist Party will play the part of Trump and increase military tensions with its Asian neighbors, create show-trials and purge its wealthy, and call on the people to love China above all else.  Modi will do it through Hindusim and prejudice.  ISIS through the promise of a new golden era of the Caliphate.  U.K. leaders may do it by leaving the E.U.  Hungarian leaders by building a fence around the entire country.  Greek leaders by embracing Marxism.

But populism reduces problems to a level so simplistic that it is useless.  The reality is that China is in trouble and has to get beyond simple manufacturing and create a domestic market that consumes instead of saves.  Furthermore, China will have to learn to compete with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and other nations that are going through the same transition into cheap manufacturing that led to their rise.  There is no easy solution. Neither the USA nor China can prevent other countries from wanting what they have.  Neither is it a zero sum game (China wins-USA loses).

Brazil and India, like China, are going to have to respond to the political demands of the emerging wealthy and middle-class that globalization has created.  Because the more upward mobility there is, the more the citizens demand their governments to open up in transparency and efficiency.

The United States will have to re-invent its economy so that local communities drive innovation and commerce, while government pays off its two credit card wars, rebuilds the nation's infrastructure, and reforms the financial system.  It also means, Americans are going to have to self-educate themselves, develop new skills, go to trade schools and self-invent jobs that can't be outsourced to computers, robots, or cheap labor countries.  It will be painful because this is a seismic shift.  Be wary of the populists who tell you that it is as easy as voting for a Democrat, a Republican, for Islam or Evangelical Christianity, or for Marxism or hyper-Capitalism.  Sorry no easy answers that avoid personal responsibility and community effort.

What should the Democratic and Republican debates have been about?  Alternatives to traditional university, the danger of weak infrastructure, the challenges and benefits of automated jobs and robotics,  the role of taxation in a Democracy, the new forms of manufacturing that are emerging in America, the need for educational reform to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset:   These are issues that deal with actual adjustments that need to be made in the 21st Century.

Instead, we get simplistic discussions that demonize immigrants, calls for more expensive wars, calls (from Hillary Clinton) for more of the same, and belligerence toward our greatest trading partners.  None of this deals with the core issues, none of this will help the people who believe they are being saved and heard.  Politics (especially under the baby-boomers), is now extremely dualistic, hates nuance, and views cordiality and working together with contempt.  Until this generation that grew up immersed in counter-cultural cynicism is truly dis-empowered, there will be lots of room for Trumps, Clintons, and Palins.  

A Bumpy Road Ahead

Because the United States is inherently entrepreneurial, shockingly self-reflective, and addicted to problem-solving, fifteen years from now, the United States will have re-invented manufacturing, dominate in global trade, and punished and shamed its populists.  But for now, the US, Europe, China, India, and many other places around the world will be addicted to easy answers and choosing one incomplete side over the other incomplete side.  In an age of extreme democracy where Facebook users make up one of the largest "countries" in the world and where hatred and simplistic thoughts can be globally transmitted in a second, the irony is that the long-term solution will only come from the bottom-up, when individuals demand more of themselves, thus demanding more of their government representatives.  The problem is not really Trump.  The problem is us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tribute to Sharon Skaggs

The longer I live, the more I think life boils down to two things:  strength of character and love.  

We lost our Mom suddenly and unexpectedly this past week, and more than anyone I have ever met; Sharon Skaggs exemplified these two things.  Her strong character meant that she was exactly who you thought she was, and who she said she was.  There was no disparity between the public Sharon and the private Sharon.  The kind, graceful, gracious, smiling Sharon that you saw in public, was exactly who she was behind closed doors.  And as far as love is concerned, she had no enemies and showed love to all equally regardless of their status.  Sharon, unlike most of us, was who she needed to be every day in the exact same way. 

Although she was a baby-boomer, born in 1947, she was really more like someone from “the Greatest Generation.”  She shunned showiness, she cared not for material things, she prized loyalty and consistency, and she didn’t know “rock” from “roll.”  She missed Woodstock, but she was born on a different farm in South Dakota to very godly Germanic farmers who believed in hard work, godliness, and keeping true to your word.  There was no bragging or pursuing success for personal gain; it was all about serving others and doing it with a smile.

Sharon’s smile may be the thing most remembered about her.  She was always smiling to everyone equally.  It was a big, beautiful smile that her daughter Jamie inherited.  The above picture (taken by Keli Oldham on Sharon’s last trip to Egypt) is perhaps one of the only photos you can find where she was not smiling.  She never complained about anything, including the loss of her husband to cancer in 1993, and she was always an optimist.  That optimism would serve her well working with troubled youth in Washington State at a ranch, or as a missionary for 10 years in Cairo, Egypt enduring the chaos of the Sadat assassination in 1981 and many other trials that would come her family’s way.  She raised two children, Byron and Jamie, to have the highest moral integrity, and she blessed people throughout the five continents that she traveled and worked in throughout her life.  

She was an administrative genius.  She was great with numbers and excellent at administration—especially dealing with complicated, detailed issues.  These skills helped her rise in the Church of God mission-agency to the highest levels where she worked until she retired.  Sharon was a wealth of knowledge on extremely complicated matters having to do with the CHOG’s international work.  There were complicated histories, numerous policies, the challenges of dealing with different governments and red tape, and yes; an infinite amount of church politics to navigate.  In addition to that, there were lots of numbers and accounts to master and difficult people to work with.  The reality of all of that was hidden behind the warm smile and the unflappable external demeanor.  The amount of knowledge regarding the Church of God’s international efforts that has now passed away along with Sharon is staggering.  It is lost knowledge and it is not replaceable.  She knew THAT much!  One of the most knowledgeable people on the subject of the International Church of God just passed away and she was so humble, some think she was never anything more than an administrator.  

I honestly do not believe the mission-agency would exist if it were not for Sharon Skaggs.  There were years upon years in which she put in infinitely long work-days beginning at 5:00AM and leaving at 12AM.  For years, she was the first to arrive and the last to leave the office.  We worried that she was literally working herself to death.  We had to beg her to slow down for fear of losing her.  The stress was extremely intense, in what is already one of the most stressful jobs in the world.  Very few people knew about all she endured and the amount of time and effort she made to keep things running in difficult times.  It was often  a very thankless job, but she never expressed bitterness or sought recognition.  When she was finally honored upon her retirement, she had to be tricked into it and was surprised to find both Jamie and Byron there to celebrate her decades of hard-work.  How much did those years of extreme stress age her body, I now wonder?  And how many said “thanks?”  

Perhaps it’s a moot point, because Sharon could never take a compliment.  Like her parents, you did what you had to do, and you didn’t seek recognition.  But she certainly could give compliments.  From troubled youth, to hurting widows, to everyone in between—Sharon was a smile, a friend, a non-judgmental comforter.  She was drawn to service, even in retirement.  At Children of Promise, she was an administrative miracle worker—as always.  She loved to volunteer at the Park Place Church of God food pantry, and upon moving back to the Pacific Northwest, she was already getting put on mission-committees and finding places to help others.  She couldn’t sit still. She had to help others and be useful.  

 Fortunately, she made some key international trips in her final couple of years.  We were able to spend two holidays with her:  one in Ireland and one in the Greek Isles.  Both times, she loved being able to sit back and let us do all the planning and work.  She deserved it.  Little did we know that this would be our last time with her on holiday.  She also was able to see Byron and his family in Egypt as well as visit her dearest friends in Cairo.  Once again, who knew that it was a farewell?  

For us, the loss is huge.  Sharon was the fourth member of our family.  No matter where we lived:  Hong Kong, New Haven, Berlin, the Black Forest—she found a way to be there.  Every birthday and anniversary remembered, every accomplishment celebrated, every grandkid loved to the extreme.  She was our biggest fan; providing the unconditional love that children need from their parents.  After her husband Russ died, she poured her life into work, but it was always her family that mattered most.  Her parents, her in-laws, her brothers and sisters, her kids and grandkids—she would drop everything to tend to their needs.  They were her pride and joy.  Her last Facebook post was of her grandkids.  How very appropriate and unsurprising.

I noticed that it’s hard for anyone to talk about Sharon without talking about themselves.  That's because she always made the conversation about you, your accomplishments, what made you special.  She was the embodiment of humility.  But to say she was a simple farm girl misses the complicated life that she led.  It was her strength of character and her love that made it all seem so simple, so modest, so humble.  Only those who knew her very well knew the extent of her experience,  talents and genius.  It was not a theoretical knowledge which can easily be gained from books:  it was concrete knowledge borne from massive international experience.  

That knowledge was most apparent when she helped hurting missionaries—which was her true passion.  Book knowledge and academic knowledge were nothing compared to the intimate knowledge that Sharon brought regarding life on the mission-field—the way it actually is, not the way we imagine it to be.  Many deeply wounded people found their healing in conversations with Sharon.  Whether it was the pain of losing a parent while serving overseas, or having problems adjusting to a difficult foreign culture, or missing your favorite American food—nothing was belittled by Sharon.  Yes, she knew the intricacies and complications of mission-fields, but she will be most remembered for understanding the intricacies and complicated lives of missionaries and those who live and work overseas.  Yet another treasure of hers that we have now lost, and will not easily be replaced.  

I’ll never forget when I first met Sharon.  She was intimidating, believe it or not.  Her husband Russ was in the final stages of cancer and Sharon was dealing with it all with such dignity, class and grace I was completely stunned.  There were times I would actually watch her, completely speechless, and in complete awe of her strength in that situation.  I had just nursed my own mother through cancer and was reliving it through Jamie’s experience, and here was this woman, Sharon, who was completely in control.  I’m sure there was, crying and breaking down—but I never saw that.  I saw her 100% committed to the task at hand—carrying for her dying husband and her family.  It took me years to feel comfortable around her after that impressive display.  She was on another level.  

Of course, in time, she did become my mother and filled that enormous hole in my life.  I’m sure she knew she filled that, although we never talked about it.  I liked to tease her, especially on Facebook, about her meth addiction, her penchant for cocaine, her drinking, and her stints in rehab.  It was all irony, of course.  She was the most controlled, disciplined person any of us had ever met.  And she was the most dependable person we ever met.  Mom.  

We just received mail from her here in Germany.  She sent it the day before she died, most likely.  It was filled with things we needed, things she was helping us with, a Time Magazine for us with Angela Merkel on the cover (and a note), plus a personal card—the contents of which will remain cherished and private.  That is what I will miss the most, how she was always there.  How after my parents were long gone, through death or geographically removed from my life—she stepped in and became the parent I needed daily.  I will miss how committed she was to her grandson and how she played the role of the only constant relative he had in his young life.  I will miss how natural it felt to have her in our home, in our family, in our life.  But what I will miss the most is watching her relationship with Jamie.  How close they were, how much alike they are, what great girlfriends they were to each other, and how they shared the same sensibility, talents, personality, and smile .  Their friendship was so much fun to watch and she was so very proud of Jamie.  I cannot imagine them apart.  I do not want to imagine them apart.  That is what hurts me the most.

Of course, life for Sharon was never the same since Russ died.  But there was never an ounce of self-pity or acting lost.  My only comfort is that her separation from him no longer exists.  That the stresses, trials, and disappointments of this world no longer matter.  She leaves a massive hole in our lives that will never be replaced.  Ever.  There was only one Sharon.  So graceful, so kind, so very serious, and so quick to smile.  She is our beloved mother who earned that title not just biologically or through marriage, but through love and character.  She lives in us and is with us always.  And although she could never take a compliment, I pray that her ears are ringing today with this eternal message:  “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  Well done, indeed.  We will love you always.  

Remembering Sharon Skaggs

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Sharon E. Skaggs

January 9, 1947 – January 8, 2016

 

Sharon Elaine Skaggs passed away unexpectedly in Salem, Oregon on Friday, January 8, 2016. Born to Ed and Marilyn Gossen on January 9, 1947, she lived a full life characterized by her service to others. Sharon grew up on a farm in South Dakota and, after graduating from Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon, financially managed The Double K Ranch, a non-profit organization providing alternative care to troubled teens in Washington State. From 1981 - 1991 she and her family lived in Cairo, Egypt serving the church community throughout Egypt. She was a loving caretaker and primary support for her late husband in his battle with cancer from 1988-1993. After his passing, Sharon continued serving others, working in missionary care through Global Missions (now Global Strategy) of Church of God Ministries in Anderson, Indiana. She served in many roles including Living Link Coordinator, Director of Personnel and head of Finance and retired in 2011, having served the organization and the greater church for 30 years. Sharon served on the Children of Promise Board of Directors for 15 years.  She also served on the staff of Children of Promise for much of 2015.  Even in retirement, Sharon was actively involved with the local food pantry and traveled internationally as a volunteer for Children of Promise.  Sharon recently moved to Salem, Oregon to be closer to family. She had already begun to serve in another local food pantry and anticipated more international travels.

Sharon is preceded in death by her husband, Russell Skaggs, parents, Edwin and Marilyn Gossen and in-laws, Wilbur and Evelyn Skaggs.

She is survived by her son and wife, Byron and Jennifer Skaggs of Cairo, Egypt and daughter and husband, Jamie and Patrick Nachtigall of Badenweiler, Germany as well as three grandchildren, Jonathan and Aubrianna Skaggs, Marco Nachtigall, five sisters and brother, spouses, sister-in-law and numerous nieces and nephews.

 Occasions to celebrate the life and legacy of Sharon Skaggs:

Memorial Service: Saturday, February 6,1:00 pm at Mt. Scott Church of God, 10603 SE Henderson Street, Portland, OR

Memorial Service: Monday, February 8, 1:00 pm at Park Place Church of God, 501 College Drive, Anderson, IN; Visitation following in Bessie Byrum Lounge

 Cards for the family may be sent to: 1416 Cunningham Ln S; Salem, OR 97302 USA

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages memorial gifts to the organizations Sharon loved and to which she committed her own time and resources:

 Children of Promise

P. O. Box 2316, Anderson, IN 46018 USA

Online giving: http://www.echildrenofpromise.org/

 

Park Place Church of God

Designate: Park Place Food Pantry

501 College Dr, Anderson, IN 46012 USA

 

Global Strategy, Church of God Ministries

Sharon Skaggs Memorial Contribution – for the sending of new missionaries

P.O. Box 2420, Anderson, IN 46018 USA

Online giving: https://cgm.formstack.com/forms/cgm_gm_single  (drop down menu at bottom)

10th Annual Patty Awards: Top 10 Books of 2015

It's time for the 10th Annual Patty Awards, where I give out the awards for the best books I've read in 2015.  All of the big stars are walking onto the Red Carpet.  Is that Meeno Pelucci of "Voyagers" fame?  Look, it's Don Rickles and Sally Struthers!  And there's Nancy McKeon of "the Facts of Life."  Truly an astonishing Red Carpet Crowd.  

Well, it was a very eclectic reading year full of really good books.  There was no real theme this year, it was a hodgepodge of things with an attempt on my part to read more fiction.  And so we begin:

10)  The Terror by Dan Simmons.  A novel about a maritime Arctic expedition that goes horribly wrong in the mid-1800's.  Based on real experiences of arctic explorers, this is a novel about a supernatural enemy, and even more frightening, the unbelievable hardship caused by being stranded in Arctic conditions for years aboard a foul ship.  Very entertaining and surprisingly educational about life at sea.  The amount of suffering these sailors endured in those voyages is amazing.    

9) Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga by Stephen Davies (408 pages):  A classic rock biography of the life and decadent times of Led Zeppelin.   Obviously for hard-core Zep fans only, and even then, proceed with caution. 

8)  China's Second Continent:  How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa by Howard W. French (269 pages).  An extremely well-done look at Chinese investment in African resources, land, and infrastructure.  By traveling to various parts of Africa, French fleshes out how the new Chinese influence and "colonization" looks very different from region to region and country to country.  Excellent in its balanced and nuanced view of China's influence in Africa. Both the positive sides and the negative sides of China's influence are exposed. A crackin' read!

7) A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison (Kindle version).  The largest global survey of Islamic people groups and their mass conversions to Christianity.  Garrison shares true stories from every part of the Islamic World of Muslims turning to Christianity at an unprecedented rate.  The number of conversions and Islamic people groups choosing Christianity over Islam has been exploding since 9/11.  A highly-recommended overview of something you never hear about:  The growth of Christianity and the shrinking of Islam in the Muslim world.

6)  The Epic of Eden by Sandra L. Richter (259 pages). The Old Testament in the Bible is very misunderstood, misinterpreted, and complicated.  Much of this is due to the fact that this is Ancient Hebrew literature which is concerned with the issues, styles, language, and genres of Hebrew Literature, not Western-style literature.  This is a Freshman-level introductory book to the Old Testament that does an excellent job of introducing the main themes of the Old Testament in a way that is very easy to understand and helps it to all make sense.  

5)  The Sicilian by Mario Puzo (Kindle version).  A story that takes place between "The Godfather I" and "The Godfather II" while Michael Corleone is hiding in Sicily after avenging his father's shooting.  The story revolves around a Robin Hood-like bandit causing trouble for the Sicilian Mafia in the 1940's.  Full of action, but also a fascinating look at the very unique Sicilian culture. Sicily is colorful and mysterious, and this book is a great way to learn about it.

4)  The Almost Absolutely Nearly Perfect People: The Truth About the Nordic Miracle by Michael Booth (393 pages).  I absolutely loved this book that seeks to find whether the Socialist, Democratic Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland) are really as great as people think. Booth is a British journalist that lives in Denmark who is not only a great writer but also very funny.  The book shows the good sides and the dark sides of each country, but overall---yes, life in Scandinavia is very good compared to the vast majority of the world's nations.  What is remarkable is not only how similar each country is, but how very different they are as well.  How history, culture, and geography shape a nation is a subject that always fascinate me, and Booth does his homework.  While he doesn't shy away from their problems:  high cost of living, divorce rates, immigration issues, etc.,--the overall picture that emerges is of societies that try very hard to provide the most important services for their people so that they are free to pursue their own goals. Everything I hoped the book would be!

3)  The Cartel by Don Winslow (Kindle version).  The sequel to one of my favorite novels of all time, "the Power of the Dog" which tracks the rise of the U.S. War on Drugs in Mexico.  An angry DEA agent and a rising drug lord face off again, but this time in an era of globalized drug trade, Los Zetas, and the anarchy of a Mexican state dominated by competing cartels.  Just as good as the first novel and based on real events that are taking place now.  It shows you what  mess the drug war is.  

2)  A Kim Jong -Il Production:  The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power" by Paul Fischer (Kindle version). Super-riveting true story of how South Korea's most famous Director and Actress were both kidnapped by Kim Jong-Il to jump start North Korea's fledgling movie industry.  As is true with any book about North Korea, reality inside the Hermit Kingdom is as bizarre as humanly possible.  The portrait of their life inside North Korea and their desire to escape is a total page-turner.  It is often hilarious to read about how absolutely poorly made North Koreans films were.  It is also tragic and frightening and, well...utterly insane. This came so close to being number one.  

AND THE WINNER IS....

1)  The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD (Kindle version). Finally, a book that explains why your extended family is so screwed up and why your Uncle is crazy.  This is a must-read for anyone from a dysfunctional family, anyone who has struggled with depression, anxiety or trauma, or anyone wanting to understand where psychotherapy is headed.   Trauma could be anything from divorce, being fired at a job, or more severely sexual, emotional, or physical abuse, war,  rape, car accidents, abandonment or other life-changing traumatic moments.  Van der Kolk began studying trauma by looking at Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder in Vietnam veterans.  This led him on a journey to understand how traumatic events in our lives affect us psychologically and physiologically.  He explains the ways that our bodies act out under stress and how disorders develop.  He also chronicles the various ways that medics have tried to deal with this from the rise of antidepressants and SSRI's like Xanax and Prozac, to EMDR therapy, Yoga, and many other techniques.  Each chapter is divided into smaller sections so it is not a difficult book to read.  The author makes complicated subjects regarding neurology and neuroscience very easy to read.  This is a book that will give you a ton of "aha!" moments and explain a lot about you, your family, your friends, and the world we live in. I can't recommend it highly enough--especially to those that have endured significant trauma in their lives or work closely with people that have.    

Honorable Mention: 

Fate is the Hunter by Ernest Gann (383 pages):  Memoir by a pilot who worked during the rise of the airline industry when planes were just being understood and crashes were not at all uncommon.  Gann flies people, mail, and war supplies in the 1940's and sees a huge majority of his fellow pilots and co-pilots die. He has near-disaster after near-disaster as the science of aviation has not been perfected and you learn as you go.   It's a reminder that the extremely safe air travel we have today came at a huge cost.  Many accidents happened and many people died in order for corrections to be made that now enable us to fly almost without fear of anything going wrong.  

The Beast:  Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail by Oscar Martinez (Kindle version).  A journalist from El Salvador hangs out with Central Americans trying to get smuggled across the U.S. border.  The journey is extremely deadly as human-trafficking, drug-violence, and robbery and rape threaten migrants at every turn of the trip.  Unlike what Donald Trump suggests, the border is already extremely hard to cross and getting more difficult every year.  These true stories of people's attempts to escape the violence in their homelands is tragic.  

Biggest Disappointment:

Matterhorn:  A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Malantes.  A much acclaimed novel about young soldiers fighting in Vietnam and all the complex realities they have to quickly figure out in order to survive.  Technically, it's great and educational, but I just found that I didn't care about hardly any of the characters.  

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by the Abridger Institute.  Also very acclaimed, this books is about the importance of creating an organizational culture that has a high E.Q (emotional intelligence), which we intentionally try to do at Three Worlds here in Europe/Middle East.  I thought the book sucked however, because the whole book is based on a fictitious company that is already full of high E.Q. employees and they are trying to help their new low E.Q. employee.  This is not helpful since the vast majority of companies and organizations are filled to the brim with low E.Q. employees and bosses.  So if the point is just to say E.Q. is important organizationally, okay.  But if this book is somehow supposed to help the poor sod stuck in a low E.Q. environment, forget it.  The question is how to get the power to change it.  That is much more difficult.  

Next Year:

Well, that's it.  The big stars are heading home and the limousines are pulling out.  We'll be back next year for some more book reviews.  Up next year:  A two volume biography of Elvis Presley, a journalists look inside the NFL, A biography of Christopher Columbus, A Christian novel about a Roman Centurion, a Novel of the Civil War, and books on Russian history.  Thanks for joining us at the Patty's.  See you next time!

 

 

Announcing 3W Leadership Network

Our Three Worlds Team is very excited to announce the creation of the 3W Leadership Network which will be launched in Interlaken, Switzerland October 26th-30th, 2015 with a special Young Leaders Forum. The 3W Leadership Network will enable young Church of God leaders in the Europe/Middle East to be in constant contact and do ministry together across borders in a way that has never been done before.  It raises the level of inner-connectivity to a whole new level and will be a source of encouragement, synergy, strategy, and dynamism for the whole Europe/Middle East Church of God Region.  

1   Who will be attending the Young Leaders Forum?

The goal is for this network to be run and sustained by regional leadership.  We are inviting an initial group of young leaders from the following countries: England, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, as well as the USA and Canada to begin with. The vast majority of these young leaders speak 3 to 4 languages. Nearly all of them are fluent in English. They range in age from 20 to 45. Samir Salibi of the Paris Church of God, Sarina Hennig of the Church of God in Hannover, and Laszlo Debreceni of the Church of God in Hungary will be the regional leaders of 3WLN with assistance from the 3W team.

One of the goals of 3W and of this new 3W Leadership Network is to work closely with Church of God congregations in North America as they deal with new post-Christendom realities. We hope the success of this network will have a direct impact on the Church of God globally.

2   What is the 3W Young Leaders Forum?

In a 2008-2010 global study of the Church of God commissioned by then General Director Ron Duncan (Mosaic), it was found that three key challenges the Church of God faces in almost every Church of God country in the world are: 1) Lack of young people in church and in ministry. 2) A lack of support for pastors and people in ministry under the age of 35 and 3) A lack of inner-connectivity and extreme isolation due to the Church of God’s emphasis on autonomy and its lack of functioning structures to bring direction, vision and unity.

In the 21st Century, it is vital that there be new generations emerging in ministry, young people filling our churches, and clear ways for the church to create cross-cultural synergy.  Mechanisms have to be created to sustain a higher level of networking and coordination.

Our Three Worlds team desires to create the first ever multi-national network of CHOG leaders under the age of 45. The 3WLN (Three Worlds Leadership Network) will encompass 16 countries in the Europe/Middle East and bring together all key youth leaders biennially (for training, encouragement, and synergistic regional strategizing). The network will be a source of camaraderie, synergy, ideas, and support. Camaraderie is particularly important and isolation is particularly deadly. In many of our countries, the percentage of Evangelical Christians is between .25% and 4%. Many of our young people have never been in a room with more than 5 or 10 Evangelical Christian youth. Events that bring them together are enormously inspirational and healing in a way that North American, Latin America, and African Christians cannot understand because the European and Middle Eastern cultures are so deeply secular and/or hostile to Christianity. The question is whether this effort can become exponential and sustained over the long term, and 3WLN is meant to do that for this region.

3   Where is the Forum? 

The first meeting is planned Monday, October 25th – Friday October, 30th at the Credo Center in Interlaken, Switzerland.  This location is ideal for the initial event as it allows everyone to meet and stay together in one central location. Many of the young leaders are able to drive to Switzerland, saving on transportation costs. Others will have low-cost carrier options into Zurich, Basel or Bern. The Forum will be a platform for establishing further interconnectivity and regular interaction via the web, regular forums, 3W Seminars, conferences, youth camps as well as opportunities to attend each other’s ministry events.

4   What is the Format of the event?

The Conference will feature a combination of spiritual, exemplary and testimonial sessions. Representatives from different regions will have the opportunity to share the challenges and successes of their ministry in their home countries.  There will also be break-out sessions focusing on youth ministry, pastoral ministry, and music ministry.  Matt Anderson, Preaching Associate at Crossings Community Church in OKC, will be the keynote speaker throughout the event and messages will also be delivered by Ken Oldham (3W- The Middle East) and Daniel Kihm (3W- The Netherlands). There will also be a Q&A session, as well as a Roundtable Discussion on the purpose and vision of forming a network.  All the events are are structured to bring about new friendships and lead toward a commitment service that will challenge all of us to raise our level of commitment to each other and to the Lord in ministry.  It will be a powerful event.

5   Actions of 3W Leadership Network (3WLN)

The October Young Leaders Forum will be an initial meeting for young leaders throughout the region. From this meeting, we hope to create an ongoing 3W Leadership Network (3WLN). This network would be a commitment to further interconnectivity and regular interaction via the web, regular forums, 3W Seminars, conferences, youth camps as well as opportunities to attend each other’s ministry events. The network will assist in the development of local youth programs, young singles and young married couples programs in each country. This will be the first international group of young leaders in the Church of God that will grow up doing strategic, coordinated international ministry together across multiple countries, knowing each other, having regular contact, and changing the world for Christ.

6   When will 3WLN meet in the future?

We hope that the 3W Leadership Network will informally bring together all key young leaders at least biennially for training, encouragement, and synergistic regional strategizing.  Individuals and small groups of the network will also support one another’s ministry events. For example, Italy leadership will be joining Bulgarian Youth Camp in 2015 and UK Young Leaders plan to attend Budapest Lectures in the future. 3W Seminars may also be offered in their home countries.  The delegates in Switzerland will be able to decide at a special roundtable session how they would like to move forward.

7   Funding 3WLN

We do not want to foster financial dependency and we hope to create something that can be as self-sustaining as possible. However, churches in Europe tend to be very small (10 to 30 on average) and have very few resources.
Our desire is to cover expenses in several ways:
1) Grants
2) Three Worlds Ministry Budgets
3) 3WLN member contributions
4) International countries contributing to support their young leaders
5) North American Church of God Partnerships/Sponsorships

8   How can my church be involved?

Many of the leaders who have been invited come from small congregations in Europe/ME and may have difficulty with paying the cost of room and board or travel expenses. The cost of Room/Board for the full week is $350. Travel expenses may vary depending on if delegates require flights. If you or your church would be interested in sponsoring an individual or delegates from a specific country please contact us at pj@three-worlds.com . Gifts of sponsorship can be sent online or through Project Link -  NextGen Fund (42.30401). Make checks payable to Church of God Ministries and indicate the project number and “3WLN” on the memo line.

Church of God Ministries
c/o Project Link
PO Box 2420
Anderson, IN 46018-2420

3W Seminars: Children and Family Ministry

This month, Three Worlds is excited to host a team from County Line Church (Auburn, Indiana) to lead seminars in Paris and Rome on Children and Family Ministry.  The team includes Nathan Tatman, 3W Roundtable participant and Mission Advancement Pastor, will be joined by Mary Ellen Rayle who is County Line’s Kids Ministry Pastor, and Chelsea Buckwaler who is the Kids Ministry Assistant.  The team will present the seminar at the Church of God congregation (Eglise de Dios) in Paris on March 21-22, and then again for Italian Church of God congregations in Ostia on March 28-29.

 

Joining the presentations in Paris will be Ken and Keli Oldham, 3W Middle East.  The EDD in Paris was planted by Michel Fegali, a Lebanese graduate of the Mediterranean Bible College, and it consists largely of believers from Lebanese, Egyptian, and other Arabic speaking backgrounds.  The congregation worships in French and Arabic each week, but their children’s ministry is offered only in French.  The EDD pastoral ministries have recently been handed over to a young Lebanese born believer, Samir Salibi.  The Oldhams have been getting to know and encouraging Samir via Skype video conferences over the last year.  With the work the Oldhams are doing with congregations in Egypt and Lebanon, and the weekly children’s ministry program they offer to Egyptian children in English, this is a great opportunity to begin creating relationships for future partnership and mutual support between the Church of God in France and the Middle East.

 

We asked each of the County Line team to answer a question about the upcoming seminars for this post; here are their questions and answers.

 

Nathan, as a Missions Advancement Pastor who has been actively supportive of the approach of 3W in Europe and Middle East, what excites you most about the future of the Church in our region?

"I am very excited for this next season of ministry and church life within the Europe and Middle East Region. Over the last four years I have seen exponential increase in connectivity amongst churches and leaders, a hunger for partnerships with pastors and churches in Europe, Middle East, and North America, the next generation of leaders adding a voice to the local church, and health beginning to permeate in these congregations. The church in North America must take notice of what is happening as we are in the midst of seeing God do some amazing work in and through His people and the local churches. I believe the foundation has now been laid for these next years to see these once struggling churches and isolated leaders to flourish in the gifts, abilities, and ministries that God has designed for them." 

 

Mary Ellen, your approach to Children's Ministry is family-centered; what are one or two things you hope to encourage or inspire the congregations in France and Italy to do as they minister to the next generations?

"One of the best opportunities the Church has to reach more people for Christ is through children and families. I am looking forward to meeting with the congregations in France and Italy to share my passion about the great power we have when the family and church unite in shaping  faith development and nurturing spiritual growth.  I want to encourage them to think about creative and meaningful ways to include children in their worship and church life.  I hope leaders will consider prioritizing ministry to children and families in their planning with the potential of impacting more people for Christ.  And ....we hope it is fun!  We are bringing some engaging ideas for Bible stories, memory projects, crafts and games that will help all of us, kids and adults, learn to look with fresh eyes and listen with understanding ears."


Chelsea, you are the youngest on the team presenting next week; what are you most looking forward to experiencing as you interact with Christians in these different cultures?

"I am so excited for this opportunity and eager to see how God brings everything together. I can’t wait to meet and build relationships with the people in France and Italy. God has placed on our hearts Bible stories, activities, and teaching methods to share about Children’s Ministry. Although we are coming to share with other church leaders from different cultures, I know that we will be learning from them how they do ministry and interact with each other.  I am very thankful and honored to be a part of this workshop and look forward to sharing my heart for family and children. I have grown already through preparation and prayer over the last several months. God is amazing and doing great things and I can only hope to be a light to the people we meet in Europe." 

 

Three Worlds is so thankful for the partnership and support offered by congregations like County Line.  We are hopeful for the seminars in the next two weeks, and we want to invite you to pray with us for the equipping and inspiration that will take place in each location.  Pray also for the Church throughout the region to intentionally, creatively, and powerfully work to pass the faith on to the next generations.

3W's Fight Against Sex-Trafficking

The problem of sexual slavery and sex-trafficking has exploded around the world in the last 15 years.  New technological inventions, open-borders, conflict, and the ease of travel at the beginning of the 21st Century  has made it easy for sexual slavery networks to erupt around the world.  Approximately 20 million people are caught in sexual slavery and 98% of those trafficked are women and children.  Three Worlds works in three regions where the problem is particularly acute:  Western Europe (home to street prostitution and many brothels), Eastern Europe (the source of many of the trafficked women and children), and the Middle East (where conflict and refugee migrations are making it easy to prey upon women and children). Becoming involved in the fight against this scourge was not an option, but absolutely necessary.

Berlin is one of the most international and open cities in the world.  It is also a city connected to many of the networks involved in sex-trafficking.  The number of red-light districts has increased from 2 to 7 in just the past couple of years.  Five years ago as part of her ministry on the Three World's Team, Rhonda Philips (3W-Berlin) began working at a cafe that provides food, shelter, counseling, and friendship to women working as prostitutes on the streets.  The vast majority of these women are working the streets against their will.  It is common for women from Eastern Europe to be promised work as domestic helpers, nannies, or other jobs in Western Europe, only to find that they have been tricked and forced into slavery.  In some cases, "boyfriends" lead them to Western Europe on a romantic vacation and lead them to apartments where they are repeatedly raped, enslaved, given a crushing debt to pay-off and have their families  back home threatened.  Others were forced into slavery or captured as children and have been living on the streets ever since.  

In the past few years, Rhonda (who has spent more than 20 years on the mission-field and can converse in English, Russian, Hungarian, and German) saw her role in the cafe increase.  Over the years, there were women that longed to escape and who did with the help of Rhonda and her friends at the cafe.  It became increasingly clear that what was needed was a long-term shelter; a place where the women could safely escape their pimps, get off the streets, and begin the process of rebuilding their lives and returning to their homes.  Surprisingly, Berlin--a city of 4 million people, is not remotely prepared to provide this kind of shelter to victims.  

Rhonda's dream of creating a shelter became a multi-denominational reality in a very short-time.  A talented team assembled around Rhonda and includes Josh and Audrey Weiger (3W-Berlin) our newest team members.  Rhonda, Audrey and the rest of the team began the process of registering a new non-profit in the city of Berlin and it is called Pink Door (see website).  The speed at which this has come about has been a God-ordained thing.  The need is immense and the amount of women wanting to escape (and the danger) has increased dramatically in the last couple of years.  Everyone understands this is a tremendous need and the city of Berlin needs faith-based organizations to help fight the problem.  Even a local mayor of a suburb is wanting the Pink Door project based in his town.  In November, Pink Door's official registration as a recognized Non-Profit was granted.  We are now at the phase of finishing up the writing of the business plan (which has already been steered considerably by Audrey Weiger), applying for funds for the project and beginning the training of the staff.  We will first open an office in the city, which will not only be an "office," but also a counseling center.  Our target date for opening is late Spring 2015.  The shelter will come later in Fall 2015.  

Meanwhile, Rhonda and the team continue to minister to women and see them accept Christ, escape from slavery, or receive love with no strings attached.  They are also assembling a team to go into the brothels!

Pink Door is just the beginning.  It will provide more opportunities for our ministry partners to serve the women, furnish our shelter, and fund this safe-space.  With our regional network, our dream is to continue building on Pink Door by helping with job-training, re-location back home, impacting a new generation with scholarships for women and children, and even assist the women in starting businesses.  The first step, however, is creating a safe space where the life of sexual slavery can be left behind.

The team that has been assembled is outstanding, the need is great, and the strategy is wholistic and long-term.  Three Worlds is looking for individuals and churches that want to help fund these first key years of the shelter's expenses, or women that are willing to work as volunteers in the near future, and people that want to contribute to invest in the new life of these women.  If you or your church are interested in joining our 3W team as we launch Pink Door, please go to the CONTACT US page and write us a message.  We will respond immediately.  We can't do it without you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Weeks in the Life of the 3W Team

Is there a way to help the Church of God be more inner-connected, more effective at creating support for people in ministry, and a more intentional way of engaging people?  Our Three Worlds team believes that the answer is "Yes," and we have designed our whole Europe-Middle East strategy and team to achieve those goals.  So four years after the team was launched, how is Three Worlds doing?

Just in the past two-weeks, you can get a glimpse at how effective the team approach has been.  Last week, Daniel and Christy Kihm moved into their new permanent house in the Netherlands.  They were helped by 3W Teammates the Philips (3W-Berlin) and XZ Berlin intern Catherine Groeber from Germany.  Previous interns have come from the U.S.A, Hungary, Singapore, Spain and other countries.  Just a few days before, Christy Kihm (3W-Netherlands) had been busy setting up the first ever Europe/Middle East European Youth Network which will meet for the first time in Interlaken in October of 2015 bringing top youth leaders from 16 countries together.  Audrey Langford (3W-Liverpool) is also the co-organizor.  

Now the Kihms take a group from the Netherland CHOG to Belgium for the annual Paris Church of God Retreat which was moved to Belgium this year to welcome French-speaking people from the Netherlands.  Among this group, will be a number of French-speaking Africans that are part of the Church of God in Europe, including Kenneth Morikang of Bulgaria/Cameroon, Emmanuel Zivo of Germany/Senegal and many from the Geleen Church of God which includes people from the Congo, Ivory Coast, and Angola. An "Africans in Europe" network is starting to take a form which could lead to lots of exciting possibilities both in Europe and Africa.  

Meanwhile, Kelley Philips (3W- Berlin) and Ken Oldham (3W-Middle East) went to Frankfurt, Germany to meet with the National Ministry Leader of the German Church of God to make sure that the excellent relationship between Germany CHOG and USA CHOG continues to grow as we expand our inner-connectivity in European-Middle East ministry.  Relations have never been better between the two countries.  Three Worlds team members will be presenting at the next European Theological Meeting in 2015.  Ken Oldham now sets off to co-organize the tri-annual Budapest Lectures that were started in 2012 along with 28 year old National Leader Peter Kiss. and 33 year old Pastor Laszlo Debreceni.  The Budapest Lectures are open to all CHOG people.  This latest set of lectures will be the first led by the Russians from Chelyabinsk and will have attendees from Lebanon, Bulgaria, and Hungary.  Previous presenters have been from the USA and Germany.  

The Simpsons (3W Bulgaria) were at the at a 3W Seminar in Rome for the Italy Church of God, which was in partnership with Healthy Growing Churches Network and County Line Church of God (Auburn, Indiana).  It's part of our Italy Expansion Initiative which has helped launched 2 church-plants and preparing for a third as well as a new, highly-innerconnected Italy youth-group.  The Simpsons now prepare to meet up with Ken Oldham in Budapest along with a group from Bulgaria.  

The Langfords (3W Liverpool) just landed in the U.K to take up residence in Birkenhead, England, reaching out to youth in one of the countries most difficult and economically-depressed urban areas.  

Last, Patrick (Regional Coordinators) was in Western Canada and Ohio meeting with regional partners that are interested in supporting this healthy way of missions continue to expand in Europe and the Middle East.  While not every team member is mentioned in this past 2 week summary, all of them are constantly doing this type of work.  

Everyone works for the common good and women are highly-empowered on the Three Worlds team and are often the key leaders.  Keli Oldham (3W-Middle East) travels to the region on her own without Ken (and drives through Cairo traffic)!  Our most important 3W event ever is in the hands of Christy Kihm and Audrey Langford, and Rhonda Philips is spearheading the establishment of the Pink Door for women caught in sex-trafficking.  These two weeks are an accurate snapshot of how the Three Worlds team is trying to help the Church of God at the dawn of the 21st Century.  It's a new day in the Europe-Middle East Church of God.  This is a totally new approach and we are glad to see God blessing it.  Thank you for supporting our team!

Patrick Nachtigall's New Book: "In God We Trust: A Challenge to American Evangelicals" is Coming Soon


Patrick has written a new book that deals with the americanization of Christianity the future of the United States, and how American Christianity looks when viewed through the prism of historical and global Christianity. It is an eye-opening look at the way American culture and myth has formed what we think of as "Evangelical Christianity." 

 

The book suggests that there are three gods that have always dominated American Christianity:  Religious Freedom, Radical Individualism, and Materialism.  A combination of historical amnesia and an obsession with apocalypticism has created a form of Christianity that is very americanized and exported all over the world.  "Caught between triumph and apocalypse" American Christianity veers from cultural arrogance to deep pessimism about the future of the country--a pattern that has existed for more than 400 years.  

 

The book also deals with the rise of non-Western Christianity and geo-political questions such as the rise of China, Russia's renewed threat, and the rise of Islamic terrorism as well as making predictions about America's political, economic, social, and religious future. Heavily documented and intentionally citing many Christian and evangelical scholars, the book makes a powerful case that the American church needs to re-examine itself at this point in history.  You will never look at American Christianity in the same light again, but you will walk away with a more Globally-minded, historically accurate view.  The book is released in November.  Order now

here.

 

 

NOVEMBER 2014

Why Care About Missions in Europe? These 10 Answers May Surprise You!

What kind of response do people get when they decide to support ministry in Europe? Here are some samples:

"So you are going on a ministry trip to Paris? Yeah, right!"  

"A work-camp in Italy?  You mean a vacation right?"

"I'd rather go to Africa or someplace where they need Christianity."

"The Europeans had their chance. I'm going to support a place where Christians have never heard the Gospel."

These kind of responses are what some people receive when they decide to help the Lord's work in Western Europe (Eastern Europe is a different story, associated as it is with poverty and communism).  But when people respond this way, they are showing their ignorance about the current state of Christianity around the world.  Here are some reasons why you should care about missions doing work in Europe:

1) Non-Western Growth vs. Western Decline: Today Africa has over 390 million Christians (3/5ths of the continent), Brazil is the 2nd largest Evangelical nation in the world, China is experiencing the fastest growth of Christianity in history.  Many of the places where the West concentrates its missionary efforts have an abundance of churches, leaders, and resources.  These countries are now sending missionaries to the USA.  In Europe, however, the church struggles in isolation, but is full of sincere Christians needing help to make an impact in their communities.

2) They have not heard:  For many Europeans, it has been 4 generations or more since there was a religious believer in the family.  Many countries in Europe saw widespread religious belief disappear after World War I, or at the latest, World War II.  So this means that even the elderly may not have ever heard the Gospel message in any form.  Shouldn't they get a chance to hear or is the Gospel only for non-Europeans and North Americans?

3) Europe is pagan:  The "Christianity" in Christian Europe has been greatly exaggerated.  Through most of Europe's history, it has mostly been a pagan society with people following superstitions and local religions that were sometimes incorporated into a state religion.  Even Calvin and Luther complained about the few people that were actually involved in the church in a serious way.  The very fact that Christianity was institutionalized by Emperor Constantine set up the foundation of Christendom which would limit the dynamism of Christianity.  Europe needs genuine Christian movements as opposed to state-sponsored or forced Christian initiatives.  

4) What we learn doing mission in Europe can benefit the American Church.  At Three Worlds we see how quickly the U.S.A. in particular is entering into a post-Christendom atmosphere.  As  America secularizes, we feel that the work we are doing and what we are discovering in the European context can be of use to the American church.  You should care about Europe because the next generation in the U.S.A. will look like Europe.

5) The rate of born-again Christians is small.  In many European countries, the Evangelical community is less than .25% of the population.  That is less than a quarter of one percent!  It means that we are literally talking about a few thousand people in large countries like Poland, Italy, or Czech Republic.  Very few people are sharing the life-affirming gospel of Jesus Christ.

6) If European Evangelical churches close, they may never re-open!  In countries like Greece or Bulgaria, you cannot take for granted any Evangelical church that has the permission to be open.  Local laws and the state church can make it extremely difficult to own property, register as a legal church, or bring in missionaries.  Even if a church is down to 10 people, it may be vital to keep it open or else there will be no way to get back into that particular European country.  In many places where the Church of God operates in Europe, we cannot afford to let churches go under.  This is also true in the Middle East.  Our registration as the Church of God is golden in most of these countries and cannot be allowed to lapse.  

7)  There are many lonely Christians in Europe trying to stay encouraged as they are vastly outnumbered.  Most churches, pastors, and believers in Europe are very lonely and desperate to connection to any other believers.  Unlike many believers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, European evangelicals are extremely isolated not only from other Evangelicals (a given), but even people of any kind of religious persuasion whatsoever!  And few churches in North America bother to connect to lonely Evangelical churches in Europe.  

8) There are not enough workers, experts, and helpers in European churches.  Because churches are small, it is not always easy to find people that are talented at church management, children's programs, youth, theology, and many other areas that North Americans take for granted.  We need North American churches to pass on their talents and skills to our sincere workers who are eager to learn.  

9) Because it's Not About You and Your Image. Let's face it.  Some people love going to poverty-ridden places because it seems much more dramatic and sacrificial.  But we are called to go to those that have never heard.  Jesus says nothing about the conditions or geographical location, but rather teaches us to go the whole world.  That includes Western Europe.  There is poverty in Europe, (particularly Eastern Europe), but it is the spiritual and eternal poverty we should focus on above all else.  

10) Because the world comes to Europe:  Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Athens--all of these places put you in contact not only with the locals but with people from every continent.  Many of these cities are filled with people that would love to attend evangelical churches for Latin Americans, or West Africans, or Chinese, or Koreans.  Globally connected as they are, it's easy to impact the rest of the world with the Gospel when reaching international people in Europe for Christ.  

Consider the importance of investing in the church in Europe.  We need your skills, talents, and resources.  It is a gorgeous continent that has a lot to teach us not only about Christian history, but about the whole world in general.  Three Worlds is committed to making a big difference in Europe and using that to touch the world.  Won't you join us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

3W Team Keeps Growing

SPECIAL 3W NEWS!!! The Three Worlds Team keeps growing! We are so thrilled to announce that Josh and Audrey Weiger (and baby Emma) are joining 3W to work regionally in Europe and the Middle East based out of Berlin, Germany.

The Weigers... will be continuing to develop the emerging 3W Europe/Middle East youth network and pay particular attention to lending strategic support to youth workers and youth groups in the region while creating a new level of inner-connectivity.

Audrey will be joining the Philips in Berlin as 3W seeks to expand its ministry to women and children caught in human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Their motto is: “Love God, Love People.” They are passionate about bridging generations, building up young leaders, equipping others to fulfill their God-given dreams, and using business as mission to provide for God’s people.

“We enthusiastically accept the call to join the Three Worlds team."

Audrey was born in Ohio and worked recently for Anderson University admissions for eight years. Her undergraduate work in communications (public relations), Christian ministries, and German, as well as her MBA, were done through Anderson University. She has studied in Austria and teaches at the Anderson University School of Business. She ran a nonprofit organization, Bound For Freedom, with friends from college, making and selling handmade journals. Proceeds went to organizations that supported women with HIV/AIDS and women emerging from sex trafficking.

Joshua was born in Maryland and moved to Alabama at the age of eight. He’s pastored students and families at Park Place Church of God for seven years and brings innovative ideas and superb interpersonal skills to youth ministry. He also has served as a 3W Seminar speaker in England and France. He completed his undergraduate studies in Christian ministries at Anderson University and interned in two youth ministries and with the International Youth Convention, helping to plan and coordinate IYC 2008.

Audrey and Joshua are the parents of the delightful Emma and are expecting their second child in the fall of 2014.

You can support them by giving to PROJECT # 42.10094 at Church of God Ministries. We hope to have them on the field by the fall of 2015. Pray for them as they begin the difficult fundraising process.

Josh & Audrey.jpg

Introducing 3W America: Seminars for the American Church

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We are excited to announce "3W America."  These are 3W Seminars that are meant to be held in the North American church when we are on home-assignment.  It is another way for us at 3W to add-value and give back to the North American Church that supports our work.  The topics will be relevant to the North American church and will share what we have been learning as we face ministry in the complicated 21st Century global environment.  The more we can share and exchange ideas, the stronger all of our churches will be.  Our Three World's team is committed to serving the church in North America as well as the Church in Europe and the Middle East.  Below are our first dates:

 

SEMINAR TOPICS 2014-2015

1)  The Three Worlds of Christianity:  The Changing Face of Christianity in the 21st Century

Christianity is growing and changing at a dramatic speed.  This seminar discusses how global Christianity is present in three worlds 1) Traditional 2) Post-Christendom and 3) Non-Western and the challenges and opportunities that rapid Christian growth and rapid Christian decline bring, as well as how to engage the church in the future.  (90 Minutes)

2) Is Europe's Past, America's Future?  The Challenge of Secularism in America.

Christian belief seems to be in rapid decline in the United States.  Why has secularism grown so rapidly and how does American secularization compare with Europe's secularization over the past 400 years?  (90 minutes)

3) Developing an Effective Mission-Strategy for Your Church

How do you create a global missions reach for your local church?  This seminar covers how churches can learn to effectively engage with other countries and with missionaries.  It helps churches understand how to help without hurting, how to have proper expectations, accountability structures, how to maximize their churches skills, and most importantly, how to leave the countries stronger than before.  (2 hours)

4) The Challenge of Missionary Life:  What You Need to Know

This seminar helps the American church understand the life of missionaries, their challenges, the pressures they face, and how a church can better and more thoroughly support the missionaries they support.  Also useful for those considering being missionaries. (90 Minutes)

5) Is the Middle East Blowing Up?  Understanding Recent Events

The Middle East has entered into its most destabilized period in decades.  What is happening in the world of Islam and how frightened should we be?  This seminar examines the growth of Islamic Fundamentalism, the challenges various countries in the Middle East are facing, the effects of persecution on Christians, the conflict between the U.S. and other nations. (90 minutes)

6) What's Going on with 3W?  A Comprehensive Look at the 3W team in Europe/Middle East

A country-by-country and missionary-by-missionary look at the ministry being done by 3W team-members in 16 countries throughout Europe and the Middle East. (90 minutes)

7) Mosaic:  The Future of the Church of God

The Church of God (Anderson, IN) is at a critical cross-roads.  This seminar is based on the findings of a two-year global study of the Church of God presented in the book "Mosaic: A Journey Across the Church of God."  An overview of the global Church of God is presented as well as the top challenges facing the Church of God are discussed in detail.  The seminar also discusses how the Church of God is well-configured for the trends of the 21st Century. (2 hours)

Churches that host 3W America Events are invited to choose 2 for a Saturday presentation, or Friday night or a Sunday night.  Some can be in done mid-week.  3W America weekends can provide a lot of useful information for the local church, or the State or District.

Contact  Patrick Nachtigall for scheduling and details.  

 

 

Is this the Beginning of World War III?: Making Sense of 2014

As Russia faces off with the West and terrorism hits the skies again, the news looks increasingly bleak around the world.  The European Union is fragile, much of the world is in a recession worse than the one hitting the United States, China's presiding over the world's largest financial bubble, North Korea acting increasingly erratic, the Middle East is spinning into chaos, and Latin America's two-decades of stability look to be coming to an end.  Is this the beginning of World War III?  Is something unusual going on, or is this just the result of too much satellite T.V. and our having got used to a Post-Cold War era of peace?

First of all, much to the disappointment of Apocalypse-predictors everywhere of all religions, even if we enter into a period of extended chaos, life-expectancy has never been higher, infant mortality never lower, the poor never wealthier, nor has the world been as free from international and domestic conflict than it is now.  If you had to pick a century to live in, this is the one.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were far scarier in the 20th, 19th, and 18th, Centuries.  

What is happening, is that we are seeing the inevitable counter-action against the latest wave of hyper-globalization that I wrote about in 2006 in my book "Passport of Faith."  Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the speed of global integration on the cultural, economic, technological, and political levels has been unprecedented.  While some form of globalization is always occurring throughout history, this is an era of hyper-globalization of which we have only seen two previously (the Age of Exploration and the Industrial Revolution).  "In this era we have seen the birth of the Internet, the shrinking of the microchip, the establishment of new nation-states, the growth of immigration, the creation of mega-cities, the integration of world financial markets, and the practicality of satellite technology.  At the same time, these rapid changes are responsible for new challenges and dilemmas in the medical, environmental, financial, political, and social spheres. Cloning, the homogenization of cultures, global stock market crashes, the disintegration of nation-states, environmental degradation, and the rise of transnational terrorism all remind us that globalization brings benefits as well as challenges.  Globalization always demands radical change and adaptation." (p. 258 Passport of Faith).

That rapid, large-scale change causes global instability eventually, even though the foundation is being set for an era of greater prosperity and stability in the long-term. In POF, I spoke of the counteraction to globalization that would come and that it would involve competing ideologies, a new divide between rich and poor and lead toward shaky alliances, imperial overstretch, great power rivalries, an increase in terrorism, and anti-Capitalist movements.  Today 8 years later, I suggest that the prediction was accurate and in 2014, we can see 3 key global trends that are threatening to cause the counter-action to Globalization that is now ushering in a period of instability.  They are:  1) A Clash of Fundamentalism 2) Disillusionment with Democracy and 3) Severe Wealth Disparity.

1) A CLASH OF FUNDAMENTALISM

Samuel Huntington was much criticized for his politically incorrect article and book "The Clash of Civilizations: the Remaking of the the World Order" which predicted that in the Post-Cold War era, we would see religion and cultural differences re-assert themselves.  He spoke of new fault lines between the Orthodox East, Islam and it's neighbors, and the West.  The war in Yugoslavia in the early 1990's was a foretaste of this.  

Huntington has been proven right in many ways, but what is becoming clear is that--in general--nationalism and fundamentalism has become a response around the world to globalization's rapid change.  It is not just Islamic Fundamentalism that is having  re-awakening, it is Hindu Fundamentalism in India, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel with Netanyahu government following suit, and Christian fundamentalism from Uganda to the U.S.A. making itself known.  Fundamentalist movements are often fueled by time of rapid change and modernization.

There is political fundamentalism as well.  The polarization of the U.S. Congress is mirrored in a number of countries.  Germany is increasingly divided into two, and India is seeing its political system paralyzed.  Thailand, like many countries, is divided between the rural class and the more urbane, wealthy class.  Leftist extremists are making a comeback in Latin America,  Right-wing extremists are gaining traction throughout Europe, both East and West. Even in peaceful Scandinavia, the 2011 Norway shooting by a right-wing extremist broke our image of the Northern countries being peaceful places of tolerance with no division.

The largest and most volatile Fundamentalist division is between Islamic movements and their non-Muslim neighbors (as Huntington predicted) and between Muslims themselves.  This division includes everything from a Sunni-Shia divide, to Fundamentalist Islam against Liberal Democracies, Fundamentalist Islam against secular regimes in Islamic countries, and division between Fundamentalist groups themselves.  

It is very likely that the path toward "peace" in the Middle East will only occur after a period of "Christendom-like" religious wars in which theocracy is proven to be an unmitigated disaster and Muslims come to reckoning with the need for a division between church and state.  Since this idea is not inherent to Islam, this civil war within Islam may long and bloody.  

We will continue to see fundamentalism and extremism grow throughout the world.  But extremists and fundamentalists make lousy governors, so many economic and democratic gains will be lost as these regimes take over playing on the nationalistic fears and fear of change of the general populace.  

2) DISILLUSIONMENT WITH DEMOCRACY

The next area of the inevitable counter-action against globalization that is becoming very clear is "disillusionment with democracy."  After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the assumption was that Western-style Liberal Democracy had triumphed over communism.  The first two decades did see a democratic wave sweep the Earth.  By 2007 there were 123 elected democracies, up from 40 in 1972.  Since 2007, another 69 or so have been added.  Some have been complete surprises:  Russia, Burma (Myanmar), South Africa come to mind.  

But the past few years have seen democracy rejected, rolled-back, or corrupted to such degrees that widespread disillusionment is settling in.  Russia's experiment was pretty short-lived, the Afghanistan and Iraq experiments in Democracy are widely accepted to be a disaster now, Turkey's leadership has increasingly turned its back on Democracy after leading much of the world in economic growth and development, Greece is seeing extremists win votes, and the E.U. is becoming a symbol of a non-democratic trans-national organization issuing directives from above.  Meanwhile, the US has become a model of paralysis, lobbying, and financial recklessness over the past 20 years--never saving for a rainy day and always assuming problems can be postponed and delegated to future generations.  

China has opted to keep its democracy very limited (only at local levels) and its central government has been able to accomplish a lot more than countries like India or the USA that have to go through a messy political process to get anything done.  The downside for China is that the rising middle-class is demanding more a say over their daily lives, and issues like corruption and environmental degradation are infuriating the average Chinese and leading to emigration.  

Then there is the Arab Spring, where democracy has been messy and violent.  From Libya, to Egypt, to Tunisia and Syria--democracy has been far more fragile than people had hoped.  It's too early to give up on democracy in the Middle East, but one thing has become very clear:

Democracy needs healthy institutions to flourish.  When there is no Civil Society, no common sense of national identity, and no national institutions present, the choice quickly becomes anarchy and disintegration and/or authoritarianism.  The U.S. experiment in Afghanistan and Iraq after September 11th, 2001 has become a textbook case on the limitations of a country like the United States being able to create democracy out of thin air.  It required an almost mind-blowing amount of naivete to believe that a country like Afghanistan--addicted to war, marginalizing women, and comfortable with the use of children as sexual objects--could somehow become a democracy after a short-invasion, some financial assistance, and a puppet leader installed.  

3) SEVERE WEALTH DISPARITY

It must be understood that liberal democracy and free-market economics as has been practiced in this recent period of hyper-globalization have eradicated diseases, created a middle-class, integrated women in the workforce, and raised living standards faster than any other system in history.  This is something I have witnessed first-hand in more than 70 countries and I could literally give hundreds of examples of how this is true.  However, as I've consistently argued since 2006 (in two different books, and a fourth to be released this year), the potential for dangerously high levels of wealth disparity is very real. 

From Nigeria, to Peru, to Ukraine, to the United States, there is a global elite that is emerging that not only has greater wealth than everyone else, but has an enormous level of control over the economies of entire countries.  With smaller groups of people and a handful of corporations dominating economies as different as Russia's and the United States', this version of Capitalism doesn't look too different from China where a handful of government families and the few state-owned businesses they have run the country.  The lines between Liberal Democracy and oligarchy have become increasingly blurred in the 21st Century and people around the world are noticing.  Both Ukraine and Russia which are at odds from this suffer from a democracy that is really beholden to a few wealthy people that have the freedom to use the state's money and industry to enrich their coffers.  But we saw the same thing in certain Middle Eastern countries and in Latin America.

While living standards have raised over-all, the amount of money that globalization generates overwhelms and easily gets too centralized in the hands of few.  Brazil is a good example.  Under President Lula, Brazil's economy did improve dramatically and a new Middle-Class and wealthy class emerged.  The wealthy, however, became extraordinarily wealthy.  All this wealth doesn't always trickle down in the ways people would like to think.  It doesn't stand to follow that the needs of society are developed sufficiently.  This is what the recent protests in Brazil were about:  the government can invest in large showy projects such as hosting the World Cup and Olympics, but basics like bus service don't improve.  As in Ukraine, Russia, Venezuela, and many other countries--the people wonder--"Where does all the money go?"  In the United States, our recent financial windfall did nothing to change the extreme amount of debt college kids are racking up with their 8% government loans, but large corporations that go bankrupt and nearly collapse the economy do not have to pay even 1%.  

In the same way that airlines now have two classes:  Luxury for the global elite, and poor-service economy--the countries are themselves becoming like this.  There have always been classes on airplane.  But today, airlines base their entire service on the jet-setting, wealthy, elite--even if it means that half-of a 747 is taken up by 40 seats.  The whole airline and aircraft is built to cater to those 40 while 360 see no evidence of much effort made for them.  This is how many around the world feel from Brazil to Iran to the U.S.A.  

Wealth disparity when it gets to a certain level, can cause huge problems--even for the wealthy themselves.  It is not sustainable for very long.  As time goes on, more and more generations will have grown up seeing this stratification and they will have no problem reigning in capitalism and globalization.  If free-market champions and supporters of Liberal Democracy don't want to see extreme solutions to the problem (such as a resurgence of class-warfare and Marxism), then it will be up to them to address these issues in concrete ways striking the middle-ground between hyper-capitalism and sclerotic re-distribution that stifles wealth.  The temptation in an era where fundamentalism, disillusion with democracy, and severe wealth disparity are so present will be to resort to cheap-shot name calling, demonizing, caricatures, and disengagement.  This would be an enormous mistake and cost us greatly.  

The world is not ending, but it is returning to its more natural, complicated state.  The years 1991-2008 were a peaceful aberration and the counter-action to globalization is beginning in earnest.  There is nothing that a U.S. President (Republican, Democrat, or Independent) can do about it.  It is an unavoidable part of the process.  The limitations of wealth-generation minus healthy governing institutions is becoming clear from East to West.  Brace yourself for a bumpy ride.

 

If you liked this essay, my new book:  "In God We Trust?  A Challenge to American Evangelicals" will be available this summer 2014 and released this Fall! Stay tuned for details.