Wednesday, May 5, 2010

God Carries Out His Mission in and Through Global Migration

A recent article by a Latin American theologian I admire very much, Samuel Escobar, describes how global migration is surely a factor in how God is carrying out his mission in the contemporary world.  "Mission Fields on the Move" demonstrates that the extension of God's kingdom has always been carried out in a context where people have been on the move, whether it be due to economic realities or outright persecution.  In the Hebrew Scriptures God makes extensive provision for the alien and stranger.  For example, Deuteronomy 10:18-19 God's love for the alien is spelled out, and he commands the Israelites to love the aliens, for they, too, were aliens in Egypt.

Recent rhetoric that borders on xenophobia is not at all what the Lord God has in mind for his people.  Escobar makes three significant points in his article, after outlining how migration played an important part in the expansion of the gospel during the time of the early church.  First, he calls for Christian compassion and sensitivity.  Second, he recommends that churches should take a prophetic stance against the injustices and abuse that migrants often suffer.  Thirdly, he suggests that the church can see the global migrant movements today as opportunities for outreach.

Whatever the state may feel compelled to institute in the interests of its own self-preservation, we are called to love even our enemies.  If Lutheran pastors ministered to Nazi prisoners of war in concentration camps in North Dakota during WWII, it seems the church today can find it within itself to care for those who, for whatever reason, find themselves among us at this time in history.  Who can know how God can use us in such circumstances.

NOTE: Here is a statement from the president of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod and the Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Car on the issue of ministry to the aliens in our midst.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Faith and Globalization

Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology and Director for the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. In this video he introduces his students at Yale University to a course on Faith and Globalization. The topic is one that has interested me since I first read an article in the February 2002 issue of The Atlantic, entitled "Oh Gods." In that same year, Philip Jenkins' book, The Next Christendom, came out, which brought to our attention the great shifts in the "center of gravity" of Christianity that took place right around the time of the new millennium.

While Christianity continues to grow, at least in the "majority world," it is true that the potential for global conflict caused by religious forces continues to alarm many socio-political observers. As my colleague, Dr. Adam Francisco points out, it is one of the prime motivations for the militancy of the neo-atheists, who, unlike the old atheists who where content to sit back and chuckle at religious fools, have become much more "evangelistic" in promoting their message--that we could have a much greater chance for world peace if we could do away with religious beliefs.

In this video, Dr. Volf makes an interesting assertion, that our contemporary western culture is more about "a managed pursuit of pleasure, than a sustained endeavor to lead the good life." It would seem, that there is a conflict between the globalizing and secularizing influences of western culture, and the pursuit of a good life, "as defined by foundational symbols and convictions." At the same time, it is true that cultures and societies and nations and powers come and go, yet "faith" or "faiths" remain, he asserts.

He also points out how we must understand "faith," not as merely an idea or a belief that someone might hold to be true as an opinion, but for which there is no way of knowing whether the beliefs are really true; rather, when we speak about faith or faiths, they must be seen as a total way of seeing and understanding the world. Faith is foundational, or, as I would say, it is a worldview that governs all aspects of life and action.

It should be no surprise, then, that religion and globalization processes clash. And yet, Volf maintains, faith and globalization do not have to be seen as if they were in an adversarial relationship, and faith will continue as the motivating factor towards the idea of the good life, although he recognizes that sometimes those visions of good life, from one religious system to another, are in conflict.

I, for one, look forward to having the time to view most of these lectures as a way to gain a deeper appreciation for the interrelationship between the growing nature of Christianity worldwide and globalization processes. I realize I've gotten a little off track from the original intent or outline of the blog, but bear with me--I'll try to tie it all together.

Watch it on Academic Earth

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reports from Jacmel

As a result of our assessment visit, decisions were made 1)to mobilize medical teams to work in Jacmel, 2)provide medical supplies, food and water to Puerto Prince via land from the Dominican Republic, and 3)to send the same to Jacmel via sea from the DR. You can read updates on the relief efforts in Puerto Prince by visiting the blog of Rev. Matthew Harrison, executive director of LCMS Human Care and World Relief.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Haiti Report #6

January 27
Report #6

Dear friends,

This will be the last update for now on our trip to Haiti. Unfortunately I was not able to get to a computer since my last update up until now. I am in Miami on my way back to Fort Wayne.

In Port-au-Prince on Saturday we stopped at the church where Pastor Thomas Bernard is pastor. His building held up very well, although one long, high wall that runs along the playground area had fallen down into the play yard. You can see us standing above the playground on a balcony of the church talking about it. Pastor Bernard repeated many times how every member of his family, including himself, escaped being injured or killed only by seconds. His wife had just walked out the door of an office that was totally destroyed. He recounted similar stories for his children and himself. The same was true of the fallen wall at the schoolyard. It would have surely crushed many children had it happened when school was in session.

I asked Pastor Bernard how people in Haiti interpret the earthquake and how he ministers to them. I was able to video his response with my little camera. You can see it here on YouTube. There are many people who believe this happened because Haiti is a country where Voodoo is practiced. Of course, Jesus responded pointedly to those kinds of self-righteous attitudes (Luke 13:1-5).

We made arrangements to travel back to the boarder of the Dominican Republic with two Nissan Patrols and a truck. Missionary Ted Krey and his teammates were able to purchase about a ton of food, and the hospital in Jimani on the Dominican side of the boarder brought a carload of medical supplies. Upon arrival to the Haitian side of the boarder the convoy from the Dominican Republic crossed over to the Haitian side and we transferred the goods to the trucks that Haitians would use to transport the supplies back to Port-au-Prince and also Jacmel.

After the materials were transferred, we said our goodbyes to the Haitian pastors and members who traveled with us and crossed back into the Dominican Republic. You can see some pictures of our visit to Haiti at

It was after dark by the time we got on the road in the Dominican Republic, but we had about a seven-hour drive ahead of us. We needed to travel back to Santo Domingo, and then up to Santiago, where the LCMS Mission Team is located. The difference between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is dramatic in terms of the material progress of the nation. The roads were all very good; there were full-service gas stations with restrooms, snack shops, soda machines, etc. Around 2:00 a.m. we finally arrived at the hotel in Santiago, but it was hard to get to sleep. It was at least 3:30 a.m. by the time I was able to fall asleep.

On Sunday we had time to rest until 6:00 p.m. when we proceeded to the mission office for a worship service for the assessment team, the LCMS Missionaries, and several Dominican staff people who had also been in Jimani to assist at the hospital there. Rev. Matt Harrison preached a sermon of comfort and encouragement to us based on Mark 15. Later that evening, Rev. Ed and Cherie Auger arrived from the Cayman Islands where Ed serves as a missionary. They are long-time friends of ours and have years of experience in Latin America. They will stay in the Dominican Republic to lend assistance, at least for the time being. Surely they will add a great deal of knowledge and experience to the ongoing efforts to provide relief to Haiti.

Monday morning the entire assessment team met at the mission office with the LCMS Missionaries and Dominican staff to debrief on our impressions and the recommendations that we would make for those who have now to lead the relief efforts. There are immediate needs of food, water, medical supplies and temporary shelter (tents). The LCMS Mission Team is going to continue to provide these kinds of supplies to the Haitian Boarder to transfer to the Haitian Pastors. LCMS World Relief and Human Care is sending medical teams, beginning this Saturday. The first team will fly into Santiago, and then go by chartered flight to Jacmel. Additional teams will be going in the future. Another serious need is for spiritual consolation and encouragement. This is very important. We often think that if we can get food and water in, we have provided for their basic needs. But the emotional and spiritual needs is very great, not only for the hurting people in general, but for the Haitian pastors and leaders who are under the burden of having to minister under intensive stress and pressure.

The disaster in Haiti continues to unfold, and it will be with us for a long time. At least a year, and probably more like 3-5 years, as there is so much rebuilding that is needed. Pastor Kessa even believes that Port-au-Prince should be relocated to a new location where it can be rebuilt properly. It is hard to say how something like that would be implemented or who would lead such an effort. Right now I’m not sure who is in charge of Haiti. The U.S. military is there, the U.N. people are driving around in their Land Rovers, there are many relief agencies working there, but I don’t know who is actually coordinating efforts. The president of the country has been quite silent.

I thank LCMS World Relief and Human Care for asking me to make this visit with them, and President Wenthe and Dr. Rast for giving me permission to be away from my duties at the seminary for a week to do so.

To conclude, I want to say a word of deep appreciation to our LCMS missionaries in the Dominican Republic, the Dominican staff there of very capable and committed people, to the LCMS medical team that was working in Jimani, and especially to the Haitian Lutheran pastors who are working so hard and with such dedication to provide both spiritual and material aid to the people of Haiti.

(Note: Besides the photos that I have already pointed you to, I hope to post more of my own as soon as possible).

p.s. On Monday afternoon Missionary Danelle Putnam took those of us who wanted to go to a government home for severely handicapped children where Danelle and some of the members of the Lutheran church in Santiago are working. We were asked to spend time with the children, even just talking to them and caressing them, as many of them were lying in their beds, unable to move or communicate. We spent a couple of hours there just talking to the children, playing with those who were able, and visiting and encouraging the staff of the home. One child, who looked to be bed ridden, was just lying in his bed staring off into space. As Rev. Harrison went to his bedside and started talking to him, the child just sat up, grabbed him around the neck, and climbed up into his arms. I also spoke to a woman who was there to visit her son. Her son is severely mentally handicapped and is the size of a three year old, but his mother said he was 18 years old. The staff says that she comes every day to visit her son, but in the case of most of the children, nobody knows who their family is.

Again, the work of our LCMS Missionaries and the local Lutheran Christians there is impressive.

Haiti Report #5

January 24
Report #5

Dear Friends,

Much has happened since I was last able to make a report, but I will try to briefly summarize the past two days.

On Saturday we arose early in Jacmel to make the long journey back to Port-au-Prince and then up to the Jimani in the Dominican Republic. As we passed through Jacmel we saw again the great destruction apparent everywhere. Virtually everyone is afraid to spend the night in their homes and so tent cities are set up everywhere. As we were getting organized at Pastor Kessa's home for the return two U.S. Air force C130s flew directly overhead to land at the small Jacmel airport. I could see the JATO (jet assisted take off) bottles attached to the bottom of the wings, as the airport is rather small for such a large aircraft. They would be used for takeoff after the supplies were unloaded.

There was another aftershock Friday evening, which was not felt to strongly in Jacmel, but during the trip back to Port-au-Prince the additional damage to the mountain road we would need to take was clearly evident. In fact, the road was very close now to being impassable due to landslides and other places where the road was sliding away, down the mountainside. Again, passing through the town of Leogane the damage was extensive. On the outskirts of town we saw a huge U.S. Navy helicopter that had landed on an open field. Marines had secured the area and another large group was unloading the supplies. Everything was being done in an orderly manner so that all the people waiting in the parameter would get their share.

Port-au-Prince is still in disarray, but, at the same time, there are street vendors everywhere, and many people who seemed to be going about their business. Yet, still, in 3-4 piles of rubble we saw people gathered around digging with their bare hands thinking that there might be someone alive underneath. We drove through many areas of Port-au-Prince and for the first time we saw a large digger, operated by a man who appeared to be American, scooping up rubble and loading it into dump trucks. That is the only piece of heavy equipment we saw being employed during the entire day. The U.S. Marines seemed still to be active patrolling the city in their Hummers. Many U.N. Nissan Patrols and Toyota Land Cruisers were driving around, usually with one person behind the wheel in his/her air-conditioned chamber, but not carrying any supplies or additional people that I could see. There were places where we could smell the smell of dead bodies, but there was no way to get to many of the places it was coming from without heavy equipment.

I have to cut is short now because my time of the computer her is running out. I have some pictures that eventually I should be able to share once I get back to the U.S. There is still much to say about our return to the border with the DR. The courage of the Haitian Lutheran pastors is incredible, and the work of our LCMS and Brazilian missionaries is absolutely outstanding. We can be proud of the way they are responding. Today the assessment team is going to meet with the Mission Team here and discuss next steps for immediate action. Please keep this meeting in your prayers. There are many issues that need to be addressed.

God's peace,
Douglas Rutt

Haiti Report #4

January 23
Report #4

Hello all, this is what I received from Douglas tonight:

Today was a day that was beyond description. After meeting with Pastor Marky Kessa and Pastor Thomas Bernard, we headed together for Port-au-Prince. We were unprepared for what we would see there. The newscasts and other things we have seen on TV just do not do justice to the destruction and the death that we saw there.

We saw thousands of people living in what I would call refugee camps wherever was an open space, such as a soccer field, or even a cemetery. Most of the people have lost about everything that they have. Their only hope is to find food and water during the day at one of the locations that is passing it out.

I can’t even begin to count the number of buildings that were flattened like a stack of pancakes. We saw so many we almost became deadened to it and didn’t even take any more pictures. One can only imagine how many people are still buried in the rubble—surely many thousands. In at least five places people are still digging through the mess looking for their lost loved ones.

We passed refugee camp after refugee camp in the area around Carrefour on the way to Jacmel. Helicopters were taking some of the more critically injured to the huge hospital ship anchored a safe distance from the shore.

This evening we arrived in Jacmel only to see an equal amount of destruction. People spending the night out in the streets for fear of more earthquakes or aftershocks. We visited a camp on the soccer field here where thousands of people were preparing to spend the night. We then went on to one of Marky’s churches where about 100 people were preparing to spend the night. The faith of these people is an inspiration to us. Like Paul and Silas when in jail in Philippi, they were singing hymns and praising God for His goodness in Christ Jesus.

Aid in the form of water, food and shelter is still urgently needed here. My observation is that while we did awesome work bringing our US Marines here, the response of the international community has been rather weak. So much more is needed and could be done. Please support the efforts of LCMS World Relief.

We are overnighting in Jacmel.


Haiti Report #3

January 22
Report #3

Good Morning,

This is Deborah writing on Douglas's behalf. He called this morning to give an update.

They arrived in Jimani last night and spent the night in a big house that someone has lent to the relief effort. There were many doctors and nurses staying there also. They all slept on the floor. He said that missionaries Pastor Ted Krey and Walter Ries looked totally exhausted so please keep them in your prayers.

They crossed the border into Haiti a little before 6:00 this morning. It was a great blessing that the cousin of the vicar who works with the mission in Dominican Republic is the commander of the police station at the border. He has been a great help to them. They are currently waiting for Marky Kessa and others from the Lutheran Church in Haiti to meet them. They have heard they are on their way. They will meet and then decide what to do from there, they are less than an hour from Port-au- Prince.

He noted that there are many semi-trucks full of water, food and gasoline going back and forth across the border so help is getting to the people.

God's blessings to you all and please keep Douglas and the team in your prayers!

Deborah for Douglas