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Monday, 26 December 2016

Thoughts in a Foreign Land on Christmas Day

The year is 2016.  The fire-crackers and fire-works are going off in my city in Honduras.  Latin dance music is blasting from a home nearby and I am unable to tell if this sound is coming from next door or from the back of my house.  People are celebrating one of the most popular holidays in this nation.  Christmas, generally, seems to be about feasting with family, friends and strangers who become friends over the feast.
To the Christians, Christmas is about reflecting on the birth of Christ some 2000+ years ago in a town called Bethlehem.

Another Christmas weekend and I am home alone in a foreign land.  Christmas Eve was special to me this year. I usually wake up very early - as early as 3 or 4 in the morning.  It's one of the best times to be awake and have a conversation with God.  Sometimes, I just think about God and listen to worship songs.  But this Christmas Eve, I woke up exactly at 3:33am.  I immediately thought of Jeremiah 3:33. This last week has been intense; God has been waking me up with worship songs in my head and one time, with Aleppo as my first thought.

My first response was, "Yes Lord, I want to hear from You".  And for the next two hours, I was listening to worship songs and having an intense conversation about many things.  Yes, I multitask a lot.  Have always been a multitasker and I don't think that's going to change in a long time.

The radio station was playing We Three Kings of Orient Are and I pondered on how the three kings must have persevered in their travel from a great distant, bearing gifts in the hope of seeing the baby Jesus.  Obviously distance was not going to be an issue in their pursuit of what God had already planned.  This perseverance to discover and to see this new-born king is commendable.  Imagine traversing the vast desert over days to finally come upon a baby boy in a manger.

The distance we walk or run cannot be an issue in what God has already planned in our lives.  Some of us have traveled away from our comfortable homes to foreign lands which are yet to offer the kind of top-notch efficient customer services, clean toilets, safe hotel rooms...etc.  Some of us have traveled to foreign lands because our beloved homes have been destroyed and we have seen loved ones being persecuted and massacred.  Some of us continue to live the lifestyle of luxury in foreign lands.  And some of us are simply existing daily in a foreign land doing business.  All of us have one thing in common - we are in foreign lands to pursue something or someone which / who is already part of God's greater plan in our lives.

The journey becomes easier when we accept that even these foreign lands and its peoples rightfully belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings.  The journey becomes easier if there were 2-3 traversing along the desert - together with one goal to see the King.

In my journey, I am thankful to a few friends who  have been by my side to help me in every aspect of my life.  I am thankful that with their help and prayers, they allow me to see, be and share the King of kings to many others.  Yes, distance is not an issue for me - send me to the ends of the earth, O God!.

While distance is never the issue in the pursuit of God's perfect will, it does get lonely during this last week of December but I am never alone.

After all, the promise in Matthew 1: 23 still stands.  Jesus is the greatest reason for this season and He is God who became flesh and lived among us.  I thank God the Father for His grace, truth and the love shown to us through Jesus, Son of God.  With you, I celebrate the Main and Greatest Reason for the season.

May the Spirit of Christ be real to all of us genuinely seeking God during this Christmas season.

Rachel

+Distance is never an issue - seek God and close the gap.


Friday, 21 October 2016

Mutuality & Community - A Reflection of God

I wrote a blog a few days ago, referring to Dr. Jackie Roese's article, for GProConnext.  

I came across an article by Dr. Jackie Roese accidentally.  But I must say her writing resonates with me, and perhaps with other men and women of God.  This issue of women in leadership has been contentious for the longest time.  Why must it be so?  Coming from Singapore, one of the most educated nations in the world, it is extremely difficult for me to fathom that Christ-following women's leadership is limited to certain categories of the church population - mainly to children, youths and women.  Worst still, in some sectors of God's kingdom, it is expected that the woman follow instructions from a male leader.  Or put it another way, women can be leaders but there is a limit to how far they can advance in the kingdom.  
My interest lies in the faithful usage of gifts and talents given by God.  If a brother is far more gifted and better in serving in a particular capacity, so be it.  If a sister is better, so be it.  But they must have heard from God first and foremost and be approved by their leaders.  Herein lies the problem - what if a women is called to lead or to pastor or to preach or to teach? Would the male leaders in that particular church encourage her with whole-heartedness, even daring to equip her with the leadership and homiletical skills?  Would permission be granted to her to  "do all to the glory of God"? (1 Corinthians 10:31)
When I belonged to a certain Methodist church in Singapore, I was taken by surprise when my pastor invited me to preach at a Sunday worship service.  My first words were, "What caused you to invite me?" I could not believe that this elderly man actually invited me.  My then-pastor replied that he was praying for me and he believes that God asked him, "When will you give her the pulpit?"  He knew that he had to invite me and was doing so, out of obedience.  Praise God for his courage as since then, I have preached in many churches in various nations, sometimes seeing hundreds accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  All glory to God!
Frankly, we have been dialoguing and being politically correct (oh, those famous two-words for the season-'politically correct') and I have seen how dialogues can bring out the anger and indignation in a person.  Any topic to do with women is sensitive but we are not all about hairdos, fashion, shoes and handbags.  Or making coffee, getting files and folders, teaching art or hosting felllowships.  We think - we can think and we will think. We want to be able to reach anyone whom God assigns us.  We are here to glorify God with the love of Christ and by using our gifts and talents as best as we can.
My heart resonates with Roese's article because I have observed and experienced the misconceptions about Christian women in leadership, as have many other women I know.  And I especially like this quote from her article 3 Things Christians Get Wrong About Women Leaders: 
Within God's self, there is giving and receiving, affecting and being affected—mutuality. The creation of man and woman reflects the community of our Triune God.
There is not only mutuality and community in a Triune God, there is beauty in the entire concept of a unity that can only be achieved in the Lord Jesus Christ. In God's perfect world, we are called to rule the world together.  It is my hope that as Christians, we can bring some perfection related to the kingdom of God into an imperfect world.
In the same article, Roese says, "The Church is crippled by the male-female divide. Commentator Carolyn Custis James says, "When men are called to full-fledged Kingdom living but the other half of the Church is asked to sit on the sidelines, there is no Blessed Alliance, the Bride of Christ limps, and we misinterpret God's oneness."



Blessings,
Rachel

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Honest Responses: On Praying & Financially Supporting Missionaries

We are three-quarters into 2016.  It's that time of the year where most of us, missionaries or not, probably look into our budget and see if we have enough to move forward, whether we need to make some adjustments along the way and how we can possibly live within our means.

Most of my friends know that my ministry depends on donations given by cheerful givers.  Personally, I value the prayers of our intercessors and definitely appreciate the timely financial gifts that sustain Faith Ablaze International Ministries (FAIM).  But this time, I was compelled to find out some personal beliefs and thoughts about why some Christians would want to pray or give financially towards missionaries.  Here's a biblically based article written by David Peach that might interest you: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/importance-of-missions-7-reasons-to-support-them/ .


The assumption here is that both prayer and giving financially are ministries.  The following are honest responses from followers of Christ living in different continents, albeit mostly from Asia:


1.  Partnership with missionaries is an integral part of God's eternal work among the nations


Supporting a missionary makes one an integral part of​ a ministry. When one cannot participate in a mission work oneself, then supporting that mission work financially and prayerfully causes one to feel as much a part of that work as the missionary oneself. 

Myrtle T, Finland

I would be encouraging and be a part of the true missionary who is imparting the life-transforming Gospel to others.
- Jenipher O, Kenya

Hands-on involvement in new frontiers is not always possible for everyone but we can be partners in the mission field by supporting full-time missionaries through regular financial support (which shows a personal commitment to the missions and ministry in the long-run).
- CMK, Middle East

We participate in the expansion of God's kingdom through supporting those who taught us the Ttruth of Life (Galatians 6:6).

Rachel, Middle East

To let you know that you are not ploughing, planting and harvesting alone but you have those who, support you in other ways even though they are unable to be with you physically.

- AW, Singapore

We spend money on many things for necessities and our wants, which is not wrong but can, sometimes, be frivolous.  Ultimately, supporting missions is an investment for eternity.  If one's contribution can lead to souls being saved, then it's money well-spent.

- Calvin M, Singapore

Sowing into the ministry (of missions) is partnering in sowing and harvesting souls for Christ.  Behind a missionary, there must be a team of co-laborers.

- Daphne H, Singapore

It is partnering with missionaries.  It is also strategic that I can reach out through such partnerships to many nations which otherwise I would not be able to reach.

- Evelyn L, Singapore

So that the missionaries can teach and help others to understand the love, mercy and power of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

- JS, Singapore

I can contribute to the work of the kingdom by prayer and financial support of those who are called since I am not called to the frontlines.  Romans 10: 14-16 comes to mind.

- Kevin A, Singapore

Why pray?  Because we pray and hope that God will allow the little we give to become a part of His miracles and answers to prayers.

- TKT, Singapore

When one is approached to support a missionary or other ministries financially or through prayer, it is an invitation to join the mission itself.
- Cindy H, United States of America

Our prayers help sustain them through emotional and spiritual battles which they face daily...while our prayers hold them up spiritually, our financial gifts help provide for them physically.  Our gifts, no matter how small or insignificant to others, collectively amount to a 'big deal' for them....

Whatever little we can offer will amount to much, as we give it, trusting and believing that God will multiply it.  We need to spread the Word, and they need us to help them spread the Word.
- Patrick K, United States of America


2.  True disciples are expected to obey the Great Commission by supporting those called to the frontlines.

By supporting them in prayer and financially, we are doing what God has prepared us to do by being God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).

- Rachel, Middle East



The Lord expects this (action of praying and giving towards missionaries) from His children (Matthew 25:40).  It is a sign of being true disciples of Christ (1 John 3: 18)

- Reymund, Middle East

God commands all believers in Christ to give to those in need, especially to those in kingdom work (Romans 12: 13).

- Sandeep, Middle East

If I see the brother or sister in need, I would help (Matthew 25:40).

-  Caroline M, Singapore

It is God's Commission for all of us to disciple the nations.

- Evelyn L, Singapore

To support missionaries financially is an opportunity to participate in the Lord's Commission to make disciples of all nations.

- LBH, Singapore

To support the cause of God's divine mission through dear ones serving in the field.

- PI, Singapore

All believers are commanded to go to the nations (Matthew 28: 19-20).  One way of going is to support those who are serving in/among the nations.

- Karen H, United States of America


It's part of the great commission. We are to promulgate the gospel throughout the world. Others may not be able to go to certain areas, but they can support those who do go. Prayer and financial support are both important. Prayer seeks heavenly intervention, and finances meet needs so those on mission field, who sacrifice to be there, are able to do God's work in those areas. 
- Michael I, United States of America


3. Christian love through prayer and financial support for the missionaries is a blessing for all!

One can only gain blessings when supporting missionaries! 
- Myrtle T, Finland


There is a reward for supporting missionaries (Matthew 10: 40-42).

- Ato A, Ghana







If I care for those families already in the frontlines, I would help them abundantly with my prayers and my earnings as blessed by the Provider.
- Anu A, India

Supporting is actually a ministry in itself, one that stretches and affirms one's own faith.
- M.T., India

In God's family, we uplift one another in whatever way we can.
- Susheela M, India

Christians are called to different ministries and have different giftings.  There are those who are just givers and they receive blessings through their giving towards missionaries.
- Donald O, Kenya

Financially supporting the missionaries not only blesses them but blesses you!
- CMK, Middle East

We do so to glorify God but also to tell you that we love you.
- AW, Singapore

Because the missionary is a friend and I admire his/her person's love for God that he/she is willing to give up all.

- Rachelle T, Singapore

Giving specifically to the missionaries honors God as they are God's laborers who work hard  and they deserve 'wages'.  

- TKT, Singapore

It is a privilege for any Christian to pray and support a missionary because we love Jesus.
- Violet J, Singapore

In summary, I believe that if followers in Christ wanted to participate in the Great Commission even though they may not be 'called' to cross geographical boundaries, they CAN!  As most responses indicate, it is a privilege given to all to support missionaries and ministries with prayer and financial gifts.  Every little gift counts towards a collective blessing for the missionaries or ministries.

I am thankful to all those who were willing to share their heartfelt responses with me.  You encourage me with your words.  And I pray that many intercessors and senders (givers) will understand their role in being a great blessing to the nations. To God be all glory when giving and receiving are done in the love of Christ!

With the joy and love of Christ,
Rachel

Monday, 1 August 2016

Vlogging

I have travelled to so many nations and have a variety of stories to tell. I definitely like to see them in print.  So, vlogging or video blogging is something new.  

So, what's a vlog?  Straight from the online dictionary:
vlog
vlɒɡ/
noun
  1. a blog in which the postings are primarily in video form.
    "you can add travel vlogs to the growing list of travel-related material popping up on the Web"


We have set up a FAIM channel on YouTube.  And we just want to share our daily faith walk in Christ with the world, from wherever we might be.  I hope my team-mates get on the bandwagon too but no pressure, here.  By the way, nothing is professional - yes, no make-up or lighting.  It is as you see.  We are keeping it real.  Should God provide a capable volunteer videographer, We would definitely welcome the services.  Till then...

So, just for your praise pleasure - please do click on the following links, watch, like, subscribe and give God all the glory!

1. Goodness of God in India - videoed by Rachel Chindu

2. The Royal Riveria Houseboat Cruise - Gliding on the waters @Kumarokom, India

3. Testimony: God stopped the rain 01 August 2016

I think it's interesting that we began our first vlog in Mollywood, India - famous for their handsome actors and beautiful actresses in Malayalam films.

If you would like to post a vlog with FAIM so that others can praise our Lord Jesus Christ, please email me your link.  Together, we can get the world to praise Christ.



May all of God's goodness and mercies be yours today,
Rachel

Saturday, 2 July 2016

I See Ghana

Wow, it's been a long time since I blogged.  But I am remembering my trip to Ghana today and praying for this nation.




I was expecting some changes in Ghana since the last time I visited in 2015.  I was in for a shock and here are some thoughts that crossed my mind in these two weeks in May 2016:

The Good Thoughts
Thank God, FAIM Director for Ghana and his family have finally moved into their new home.

Thank God that the weather was not all that bad.

Praise God that I had some ministry opportunities.

Thank God that The Reading Club Ghana (TRCG) at Manhean Primary School, Tema New Town, and at Okyinsu, Eastern Region has begun.

Praise God that FAIM might be starting a 3rd TRCG in the Eastern Region.

Thank God that I finally found one honest, reasonable taxi-driver!

Thank God for the excellent seamstress who charges reasonably.

Thank God for the TV interview on ZTV Ghana - that was fun discussing about leadership.

Thank God that one small church and one big church honored me by investing financially in FAIM.  What a blessing it is to be helped by Ghanaians.

Praise God for a Ghanaian Christian taxi-driver who gave me a free ride on a short route.


The Angry Thoughts
I cannot believe how corrupted this industry is - when I googled on hotels in Accra, and most hotels were charging US$300+ for one night.  These were not your usual 5-star hotels too..sigh!

I cannot tolerate dishonesty - when taxi drivers charge you triply more just because you are an “obroni”.  And they actually try to ‘set you up’ by a series of complains.

So, why is petrol and diesel highly-priced when Ghana has its own production? Oh..is the production for export only?  That’s hitting hard on the Ghanaians with vehicles.

Why is life so difficult for the people?  Everything is highly priced by Ghanaian standards - vegetables, poultry, fish, water, electricity, oil, petrol, diesel, everything!


The Why-am-I-Not Surprised Thoughts?
So, I guess the Saudis and Turks are pouring in the money - after spotting a huge mosque in Accra.

Christian discipleship is still weak.  

Poverty mentality still exists.  I wish people would understand how rich their land is, how much God can provide.


The Compassionate Thoughts
Wow…that little boy needs a new pair of trousers for school.

You mean - it takes hours just to get home - when the traffic is really bad and that’s often enough.

The I-Hope Thoughts
I hope the churches would come alongside and help their own; that they will invest in the young students.

I hope that Ghanaians will be more generous in their giving - of their time, efforts and honor everyone who comes to serve them.

I hope that other churches will worship like some Ghanaian churches I have been too, where Christ is exalted and where it is not performance-based.

Dear God,
There is so much more to be done in Ghana.  Please raise godly Ghanaians to step out for You.  May Your spiritual healing flow into Your land, Ghana and into the Church of Ghana.  May Christian Ghanaians be known as Your disciples because of their love for You and for all whom You love.  May wisdom and discernment be upon Your church leaders as they serve You.  We come against the poverty mentality, the greed for power and wealth in Jesus name.  We release Your Power of love, grace, courage, self-control and sound mind into Your appointed leaders.

All we ask in the Lord Jesus Christ's Name and for Your Glory, Amen.


blessings,
Rachel



Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Righteousness and Peace Kiss

When eyes watch the horrors of bloodied bodies,
bomb-blasted trucks and cars,
when ears hear sounds of machine guns,
bombs and grenades,
the mind wanders on its own streets
till it comes to a corner and 
stands still.
Pausing for the moment,
thinking of lives lost,
of families broken and separated
from loved ones - tiny or not.
The heart has hands of its own,
and it feels like a tight clench,
as if the heart might stop
with unbearable pain
mixed with anger
at all this non-sense,
at all this cowardice of men
motivated by fear
that they refused to hear
even the cries of their own,
the nations moan and groan.

Terrorists may think that they have won,
won the fear of people but
what they have done,
is further instill
resolve
to love life,
resolve
to live life,
resolve
to expose their cowardice.
All around the people come together,
and in unity
resolve 
to live in peace.

In peace, you find kindness
towards each other,
regardless of race or religion.
In peace, you find security
with each other,
not caring about possible differences.
And as you resolutely march towards peace,
you may just find the very Source,
the Prince of Peace,
Emmanuel who has come to stay
for justice, for eternity.
So
stay the course of Peace,
and meet Righteousness for a kiss.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

A Reflection of Joy & Peace through Art




When I was in Israel, I took time to catch up on life with my Israeli friend Susie or Shoshanna as she is called.  I met her in Seoul, South Korea at Onnuri English Ministry where we were members.  And we were also part of the Intercessory team.

So, it was good to meet with Shoshanna in Bat Yam.  She travelled 1.5 hours y bus to join me for lunch.


I discovered that Shoshanna has been painting, working mainly with oils. 


She is interested to showcase oil paintings that have a Biblical theme.  She is passionate about expressing the joy and peace through her colorful paintings.



Do visit Shoshanna's Paintings.       


Shoshanna's paintings can be bought as originals or in prints.  These paintings are a wonderful gift to give away or to be personally appreciated.  Colors play a big part in her paintings.

You can contact Shoshanna through the link above.  If you are in Haifa, you might even want to meet with her.   Invite this Israeli artist to showcase her paintings at your next big church events.



Blessings of Joy,

Rachel




Saturday, 19 March 2016

Thinking Holy in Holy Land

Six years ago in 2010, I visited the Holy Land as part of a sabbatical gift to myself.  I wanted to step where the Lord Jesus had stepped.  My desire was fulfilled.

Wearing Palestinian Shoes
One of the key and first places I visited then was the little town of Bethlehem in Palestine.  I stayed with a Palestinian Baptist pastor's family.  They were hospitable and over tea, I asked a lot of questions about their life and culture.  I was familiar with Arab culture but even among Arabs, life would be different in different places.  Bethlehem came across to me as a city with people struggling with poverty.

On Palm Sunday in 2010, I joined a Palestinian Christian family to queue with hundreds of other Palestinians at the checkpoint.  We needed to walk through this long, closed corridor to get our identities checked.  Meanwhile, I saw young Palestinian families with crying toddlers waiting patiently.  I saw elderly frail-looking Palestinians hanging onto their canes, waiting patiently.  Young people, especially women were all dressed in their Sunday best.  All hoping to cross the checkpoint to Jerusalem to celebrate Palm Sunday.  Some families had even packed some food as they expected it to be a real long wait.

 I hate waiting; yes, I lack patience.  So, waiting two hours with my Palestinian Christian family was a chore.  But we waited.  Two hours into the waiting, we were informed that the checkpoint counters had been closed by the Israeli soldiers.  The pastor decided that we would not wait any more.  We would not be able to join the Palm Sunday parade in Jerusalem.

I had another experience where an Israeli Arab bus-driver purposely did not let me off near the East Jerusalem gate.  See, I needed to take a local bus to Bethlehem but many do not want to recognize the existence of a people called Palestinians.  Some address them as Israeli Arabs but how can they be when they do not enjoy the privileges and benefits of Israelis?  


When I left the Holy Land in 2010, I was a little disappointed, quite confused with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I will not pretend and say that I understand it all now. I think I was angry when I personally felt the non-compassionate treatment at the checkpoint.


Beauty of Israel

When I visited Israel in 2010, I was struck by the beauty of its land.  And yes, they are all not bad people.  In the bus incident that I mentioned above, one young, 16-year-old Jewess actually helped me to get the right bus.  
And when I returned to Jerusalem that Maundy Thursday, I prayed that God would help me meet a nice, loving Jewish family.  He answered the prayer.  I met a Jewish family by the Wailing Walls and we took a photo together.  They were polite and gracious.
I began to see that if people had a government that really cared for their advancement, things will be good for the nation.

And so, I began to pray for Jerusalem regularly and generally because God desires that from His children - Jew and Gentile.  But you see, I did not quite include the Palestinians in that prayer.


2015

For almost 5 years after my visit to the Holy Land, I prayed for the peace of Jerusalem.  To me, Jerusalem is Israel.  And especially in 2015, I stepped up prayer for the Jewish people, for the land of Israel.  I kept in touch with the news in Israel.  I hated that Palestinian Arabs (albeit non-Christians) were stabbing Jews.  How hateful and evil is this!

It seemed like the political agenda that both Israeli and Palestinian leadership expounded, boiled down to; "Whose land is this?" Sorry that I may have oversimplified this for my readers but I really am not writing a politically-charged blog here.   And jihadism seems to be real when a people deceived by lies begin to devalue life, whether it is their own or other lives.

I tried to listen to both sides but I admit that I saw every piece of news with Israeli lens, and this too, despite having more Palestinian Christian friends than Jewish friends.  Media is powerful and clever but God is wiser.

CATC 2016 
In God's great wisdom, He allowed me to befriend a Palestinian Christian Arab, my brother-in-Christ Rev. Dr. Jack Sara.  In a God-ordained encounter in Texas, just for 5 minutes, we connected.  Soon, I received an invitation to join CATC2016.  I mobilized prayer as I really, really wanted to attend this conference and I wanted to see the beauty of the Holy Land once more.  In reality, I expected to re-visit in 2017 or 2020 but I am so thankful that God provided through precious friends.  Within 7 days, I was signed up, bought my ticket, planned the itinerary to visit a couple of places.

Pre-conference responsibility
I was warned against attending CATC2016.  Friends who were pro-Israel, like me, were warning me of the lack of sound theology and its pro-Palestinian agenda.  It was all hearsay.
And it is easy to accept hearsay.
I did not want to accept hearsay and also desired to know about the truths.  And about a month before the conference, I embarked on a journey to read as much of the critiques that were written about the conference and the presenters.  It was my responsibility to know about fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  What if, like the apostle James wrote, I cursed those who are made in the image of God not just by words but by words in my mind??  This would be unacceptable in my walk with Christ.

For that one month, I kept praying and asking God to guard my heart.  I attended the conference, still pro-Israel, with fear and trembling in my heart.  But I also knew that God has allowed me to attend CATC2016 to experience His heart.

At the Conference

I was the only Singaporean here.  Most people came in groups or were couples.  It was really odd for me.  But I was glad that during my first dinner, an American pastor asked me to join the table with 3 other Norwegian brothers.  Still keeping an open mind, I walked away, perhaps, a little offended that it was pro-Palestinian talk.  Hit the email button to mobilise prayer for all at the conference and especially for my heart to remain guarded.
Worshipping Jehovah!

The next 3 days were simply glorious!  And here's why:
1.  We were Christ-centered in worship.  Oh, to see Palestinian Christians worshipping God and leading a multinational, multicultural and multilingual worship unto the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was just amazing.  There were people with different opinions about the Israeli-Palestine conflict but we worshipped in unity.  Isn't this what God desires? - Jesus prayed for unity (John 17: 21)

2.  Our devotional deliverer, Rev. Dr. Mark Labberton declared that "This conference has a deep sense of humble-seeking after God".  I could not agree more - this is what happened with worship and devotions.  We were exhorted to yield to the wisdom and truth found in the Scriptures - to practice the law of love, to accept all in the image of God, keep going to the people who are seen as enemies, engage with those who hurt.  This is counter-cultural!
God's kingdom principles are counter-cultural!  As our devotional deliverer reminded us, "The Gospel is not cosy and secure - it makes you do things that are different!"

Oh yes, the Gospel does make you do things that are different.  It begins with looking at one's own heart, thoughts and attitudes.  My heart was definitely changed.  Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac said, "Let's not be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, let's be pro-people".

3.  It was not just about extremism in the Holy Land but we also heard about extremism from African and North American perspectives.  We were enlightened about Boko Haram's history and ideologies by Prof. John Azumah.

4.  Each day, we had a 'conference poet', Lucy Berry who encapsulated the themes of the day's messages in an unique way.  You have to listen well to understand the profundity of a simple poem.

5.  I was so impressed with the brilliance and clarity of young Jack Munayer who spoke on the delegimatization of Palestinian Christians and the creativity of the young adults of a ministry of reconciliation, Musalaha.


I could go on about every presenter but I want you to see through my eyes and hear through my ears, and imagine it for yourself:
a. I saw a Palestinian sheikh greeting a rabbi.  Read Rav Hanan Schlesinger's journey to listen to the 'other' by clicking on this link.
b. I saw the love for people in the hearts of friends at the conference - Jew and Gentile.
c. I saw all peoples come together to honor the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
d. I saw cultural sensitivity as non-Christian Palestinians were invited to open the conference.
e. I saw the condemnation of Israel by non-Christians.
f. I saw the love for all people by Palestinian Christians.
g. I saw that Palestinian Christians bear the brunt of the stick even though they are not involved in stabbings and killings of Jewish people.
h. I heard the struggles that Palestinian Christians face daily.  The word "humiliation" was heard too often as they crossed checkpoints; as they stare at the walls that separate them from others and at times, loved ones); as they are treated differently from those in Israel.
i. I saw that many things spoken against the conference were in reality, the work of journalists, tweeters and reporters with a lack of integrity.  Some may not even have been at the conference. These promoters of falsehood have an agenda contrary to CATC which simply wishes to address injustices, promote peace and reconciliation among Israelis and Palestinians.  So many times, we were reminded that we (the outside-of-Holy Land- evangelicals) needed to exercise God's love towards both peoples.
j. I saw the many Christians and the handful of Muslims and Jews be polite and civil.  Respect for the "other" replaced humiliation at the conference venue - a much-needed sanctuary for healing.  We did not fight - we talked, we tried to understand various perspectives, we agreed to disagree.

6.  How about the Jewish Perspective on Religious Extremism & a Gospel Response at CATC2016?
Fr. David Neuhaus, just one of the Jewish presenters,  expounded that "the gospel response must be humble" towards extremism.  He exhorted the listeners to "root out own extremism" and repent, "to speak words that are profoundly prophetic" which is Good News, and "proclaim Him who is our Peace".
Extremism is violent - even Palestinian Christians and all of us agree to this fact.  Christians are not exempted from extremist thoughts and actions -think of the Crusades.  Jewish extremism is seen when mosques are burnt by radical Jews, fanatical nationalists who ignore the rights of others, settlers who are armed and go on a rampage against Palestinians.

I encourage you to listen to Fr. Neuhaus's full message.

Post Conference Personal Take-Aways
All human lives are valuable to God.  We are all made in the image of God.  Our sin separates us from God and from each other.  Our narratives are influenced by the different socio-cultural and theological lens we wear.  We need to give space to listen to each other's narratives.  We desperately need to know that God who loves everyone does not condone sin - extremism within our own heart as we reject the Gospel is sin.  So, we need to repent and ask for forgiveness.  In short, love the sinner and not the sin.  In a shorter manner, take time to listen; have a tea-break and chat.  Be a peacemaker and not a divider.

Did I agree with everything that everyone said, suggested or showed?  No, I did not.  I have my views but I have decided to learn abit more.  I owe it to myself to be responsible about this.  And so I picked up a book written by Dr. Salim Munayer and Lisa Loden, "Through My Enemy's Eyes" - probably an example of two authors from Palestinian and Jewish backgrounds who meet at the crossroads to help others negotiate the different thoughts.  I met both authors briefly and learnt through different sources that they are good friends who respect each other's views.

I did hope that there would be more Africans, Asians and Latin Americans.  Perhaps they would participate the next time.  May God bring the right people alongside regardless of nationalities or ethnicities or languages to be promoters of peace in conflict zones; to be light in the darkness; to bring hope among those seeking hope.

Greatest Disappointment
I was shocked at the viciousness of the media.  What happened to journalistic integrity?  I even wondered if the writer had attended this conference.  If he did, he would have seen the love, respect, peace and joy in our beings.  He would have witnessed the hopefulness of unity among Christians, Jews and Muslims.  Why not? Their forefathers lived together after all.

What utter nonsense to say that evangelicals rejected Israel!!  We did not reject Israel, not once.  Palestinian Christians or anyone of us from various nations never did reject Israel and we condemn terrorism, injustices and religious extremism regardless of which group might advocate these concepts and related actions.

My great disappointment was with the media that uses lies to fuel extensive readership.

When We Die. . .
Seriously folks, when we die, we are not taking any land with us - I am not taking a piece of Singapore with me.  In fact, all of us live on temporary land.  Our real home will be in heaven or hell.  So while we are on earth, how about caring enough not to fight about it?  Rather, let's expend our energy into building relationships and communities creatively and peacefully.

I believe that our Lord Jesus was more interested in unity among those in His kingdom.  I believe that we are called to love all people.  I believe that we need courage to call sin by its names and labels, and not condone it.  I also believe that we are called to stand for injustices which often do not align itself to the Scriptures.  I believe that all of us who are made in God's image have the grand opportunity to receive forgiveness and eternal life through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which was shed on the cross.  I believe that I am redeemed by this Savior who laid down His life for me, and the world.  I believe that we are created for God's glory to shine in and through us.

So, why then do we allow the sins of greed and power to overtake our hearts when we have the choice to live in peace, safety and unity?

One Final Question
The following photo of the Mediterranean Sea was taken last week.  Two different parts of the same sea, side by side.  One looks peaceful, clear and inviting.  The other has a barrier artificially built around it (so you can be safe in the waters).  Which do you like most?  The open sea or the one with barriers?  Both do not guarantee complete safety, so I would say, "learn to swim" in the open sea where there are no barriers.  Trust Jesus to be your Lifeguard in the open waters of life with your neighbors.


With blessings of Peace (in every language) in Jesus Name,
Rachel

ps/- I came across another great article by a rabbi.  Click this link to read.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Car Transaction the Honduran Way - One Female Foreigner's Perspective

God found it fit that a foreigner like me should wait at least 16 months to buy a car.  A big reason was that I did not have any funds for a car but I also knew that God wanted me to experience the local bus and taxi rides.  Needless to say, they were frustrating times when a reliable taxi driver would not or could not answer my call, or answered it too late.  It was also frustrating when I had to wait in the really hot sun for a bus.  After awhile, I got used to this way of travel.  I jumped into taxis when I was warned not to do that; I realised too late that my taxi driver had a scar on his face and this meant that I should not have got THAT taxi; and then, there was the 4am bus ride from Gracias, Lempira where I was the only woman in the mini-bus for a good hour before I saw another woman.

And after 16 months in Honduras, I finally searched for a car.  I would spend 30 minutes a day looking at various websites.  But my most trusted Honduran confidantes were my Catholic house-owners. I relied on both the husband and wife for their Honduran street-wisdom which helped me when I was looking for Cars # 2-4.

And so the search began:

Car #1, a green Ford Escape was alright except for a front bumper and air-conditioning that needs to be changed.  The moment I looked at the car, I knew it had been in an accident.  When I asked the owner about it, he did not readily confirm this.  Anyway, I decided that I did not want the trouble of getting the air conditioning repaired.

Car #2, a red Hyundai Tuscon that met every specific prayer point.  I felt good about this and would have bought it except that the Honduran seller brought me a black Toyota Corolla LE.  I dislike black cars, so I didn't even bother to open the door.  It was a straight NO.  My couple friend - the lady- accompanied me.  Of course, the seller asked me to consider another one but I disliked the "say-one thing-do another thing" attitude and decided that I did not want to deal with someone who could not bring me what he said he would.

Car #3, a gorgeous royal marine blue Toyota Corolla Sport which was a little high on the budget was the first car I test-drove.  My couple friend - the lady- accompanied me.  We are so like-minded in our observations, so this is not just my observation.

1.  When an appointment had been made, being in Honduras, we give some extra time.  What I hate most is when we made the appointment on time, and waited for half an hour, then made a call to find out that the seller is held up.  Okay, no worries, we ladies went shopping.  But we were disgusted that the seller did not even call ahead to inform us of the delay.  Small red flag.

2.  Two hours later, we receive a call.  The seller is ready to meet us.  I liked the car the moment I saw it. So, I test-drove it.  Felt really good.  Have I found my car?  The seller refuses to budge a single cent lower.  I said I think about this.  Another small red flag.

3.  My couple-friend and I talked some more and we agreed that the seller probably thought that we women only know how to pay but know nothing about cars.  We had a good time laughing about this incident.  I went home and researched about the car, spending a good two hours reading reviews, price ranges...etc.  I even called my dad for abit to talk about the car.  Both my friend and I had about five telephone calls from the seller that evening.  Another red flag.

4.  The next day, we met the seller again but not before he tried to get us to go to where he was, instead of meeting us at our convenient place.  Red flag big-time. I am thankful that I have a smart  friend who told the seller that he could sell his car to someone else.  We knew that this was part of the male ego playing up.  My friend explained that Honduran women generally do not negotiate a car transaction and this could be why the seller wanted us to 'run around'.  We had another good laugh.
We women decided that we would attend the evening meeting with her entire family.

Earlier in the morning, God had woken me up with two words "Air-bags".  So, I made a note to ask the seller about the air-bags.  What do you know? There was no air-bag on the driver's side! That was the large red flag.  

When the seller produced the papers, I noted that the car was registered to a lady but he claimed to be the owner and had a letter supposedly signed by the lady-owner that the car has been handed to him.  Anyway, I questioned the seller immediately and said, "Technically, the lady is the owner and this letter has no value as it is not official." The seller was taken aback.  Largest red flag- I detest even the slightest hint of dishonesty and refuse to feed it.
The seller immediately lowered the price of the car.  But I took it as an opportunity to tell him why as a Christian minister, I could not participate in anything that did not seem right or legal.

5.  As much as I liked this car, I had no peace in my heart, especially with all those red flags and the pressure exerted to buy the car, as well as the high-handedness of treating us women as if we were stupid and knew zilch about cars.

Some personal thoughts here:  Seriously, when did car transaction have a gender bias attached to it?  

 It's a great challenge when I come from a family where my dad has been so encouraging of his daughters;  when I was encouraged by my all-girls' school teachers to reach for the skies; when I was mentored by senior male military officers to excel in anything put forward to me;  when I have had only two male and 1 female Christian mentors in my entire ministry life; when my work and ministry experiences have always put me in a situation where more men are/were my colleagues, students and partners than women.  

So negotiating Car #3 really was an experience where God reminded me strongly of what is important to Him, how He continues to protect me and a reinforcement that my growth in leadership with the help of humble men is not a coincidence.

Car #4, It is already 2016.  
Finally, I found a car, another gorgeous royal marine blue 9-year-old Hyundai Elantra.  How this is found is another story - my sister-in-car-hunt (yes, the same faithful friend) was driving around our little city in her truck and spotted this beauty for sale.  She spoke to the Honduran owner, whatsapped me and two days later, after a green light from a trusted Honduran mechanic and some light negotiations, it was mine.  (officially mine today - 15 01 2016).
This transaction was so smooth that it was unbelievable...only God could give me that peace and favor.

1.  I had my Honduran driving license by now.
2.  I had the funds for the car (at least a substantial percentage).
3.  The former Hyundai car-owner spoke English and he was friendly, helpful and kind, and easy to talk too.
4.  The former Hyundai car-owner understood that I am not a salaried person and my way of getting funds was different, thus he was more flexible with how I could pay him.
5.  The former Hyundai car-owner treated us, two women, with respect and dignity.  We felt honored.
6.  Every administration was done within 4 hours!
7.  I felt a peace that only God could give me.  The Hondurans say tranquila.

Humbly, I want to say to female readers - there is nothing impossible for you.  You can do many things yourself.  Just rise up to your personal responsibilities.   If you do not know, find out - ask questions, do your research, find somebody to guide you along.

And to male readers - you have the strength and power to teach women so many things, so please encourage your female family members and friends to step out of their comfortable, cushy zones and challenge them to work alongside, on par with you.  Be enthralled when they fly, sometimes higher than you.

To my male mentors - Each of you have challenged and helped me, and especially gave me freedom to soar, grow and serve as a leader - thank you for having faith in me, trusting me with amazing responsibilties.

To my dad - so glad that you love your 4 daughters as if they are your 4 sons.  You let us fly!








Praising a Heavenly Father who held my hands through this tiny challenge,
Rachel