Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Promise Kept (inspirational)

A nice inspirational story.


A Promise Kept

By Kristi Powers


In a world where so many lives are being torn apart by divorces and heartaches, comes a story of a father and a daughter, and a promise that was kept.

My father was not a sentimental man. I don't remember him ever "ooohhing" or "ahhing" over something I made as a child. Don't get me wrong; I knew that my dad loved me, but getting all mushy-eyed was not his thing. I learned that he showed me love in other ways.

There was one particular time in my life when this became real to me...

I always believed that my parents had a good marriage, but just before I, the youngest of four children, turned sixteen, my belief was sorely tested. My father, who used to share in the chores around the house, gradually started becoming despondent. From the time he came home from his job at the factory to the time he went to bed, he hardly spoke a word to my mom or us kids. The strain on my mom and dad's relationship was very evident. However, I was not prepared for the day that Mom sat my siblings and me down and told us that Dad had decided to leave. All that I could think of was that I was going to become a product of a divorced family. It was something I never thought possible, and it grieved me greatly. I kept telling myself that it wasn't going to happen, and I went totally numb when I knew my dad was really leaving. The night before he left, I stayed up in my room for a long time. I prayed and I cried-and I wrote a long letter to my Dad. I told him how much I loved him and how much I would miss him. I told him that I was praying for him and wanted him to know that, no matter what, Jesus and I loved him. I told him that I would always and forever be his Krissie...his Noodles. As I folded my note, I stuck in a picture of me with a saying I had always heard. "Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy."

Early the next morning, as my Dad left our house, I sneaked out to the car and slipped my letter into one of his bags.

Two weeks went by with hardly a word from my father. Then, one afternoon, I came home from school to find my mom sitting at the dining room table waiting to talk to me. I could see in her eyes that she had been crying. She told me that Dad had been there and that they had talked for a long time. They decided that there were things that the both of them could and would change-and that their marriage was worth saving. Mom then turned her focus to my eyes-"Kristi, Dad told me that you wrote him a letter. Can I ask what you wrote to him?" I found it hard to share with my mom what I had written from my heart to my dad. I mumbled a few words and shrugged. Mom said, "Well, Dad said that when he read your letter, it made him cry. It meant a lot to him and I have hardly ever seen your dad cry. After he read your letter, he called to ask if he could come over to talk. Whatever you said really made a difference to your dad."

A few days later my dad was back, this time to stay. We never talked about the letter, my dad and I. I guess I always figured that it was something that was a secret between us.

My parents went on to be married a total of thirty-six years before my dad's early death at the age of fifty-three cut short their lives together. In the last sixteen years of my parent's marriage I, and all those who knew my mom and dad, witnessed one of the truly "great" marriages. Their love grew stronger every day, and my heart swelled with pride as I saw them grow closer together...

When Mom and Dad received the news from the doctor that his heart was deteriorating rapidly, they took it hand in hand, side by side, all the way.

After Dad's death, we had the most unpleasant task of going through his things. I have never liked this task and opted to run errands so I did not have to be there while most of the things were divided and boxed up. When I got back from my errand, my brother said "Kristi, Mom said to give this to you. She said you would know what it meant." As I looked down into his outstretched hand, it was then that I knew the impact of my letter that day so long ago. In my brother's hand was my picture that I had given my dad that day. My unsentimental dad, who never let his emotions get the best of him, my dad, who almost never outwardly showed his love for me, had kept the one thing that meant so much to him and me. I sat down and the tears began to flow, tears that I thought had dried up from the grief of his death, but that had now found new life as I realized what I had meant to him. Mom told me that Dad kept both the picture and that letter his whole life. I have a box in my home that I call the "Dad box". In it are so many things that remind me of my dad. I pull that picture out every once in a while and remember. I remember a promise that was made many years ago between a young man and his bride on their wedding day, and I remember the unspoken promise that was made between a father and his daughter...

A promise kept.


Kristi Powers

NoodlesP29@aol.com

Copyright © 2000 by Kristi Powers

Write Kristi and let her know your thoughts on her story!


Kristi is happily married to Michael and they have three boys. Her writing appears in seven inspirational books, including many in the Chicken Soup series, and their own book entitled: Heart Touchers. Kristi is also homeschool mom and fills her "free time" doing youth ministry and loves her job as a CASA volunteer!

To read more of Kristi's writing visit: http://www.HeartTouchers.com

Friday, June 26, 2009

African churches and their response to unbiblical unions

Interesting article from Christianity Today. ...

What to Do about Unbiblical Unions
African churches seek a better response to polygamy than in years past as western churches address new same-sex marriages.

Jacob Zuma's recent election as South Africa's fourth president since the end of apartheid was a foregone conclusion. The question that captivated observers has been which of the Zulu traditionalist's several wives would be first lady: The media-shy senior wife? Or the middle wife who responds to reporters' questions with "Jesus is Lord"?

Zuma's election has raised the profile of polygamy, a mostly rural practice that has long been a challenge for Christians in Muslim nations, some parts of India, and many parts of Africa. Traditionally the practice of rich men with the land and money to support a large family, polygamy is now practiced by middle-class and poor men, said Isabel Phiri, a theology professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Experts say the African church isn't united on what should be required when polygamists convert.

"African-initiated types of churches will be more welcoming, and you'd probably find a number of [polygamous families] in their churches," said James O. Kombo, a senior lecturer at Daystar University in Kenya. "The mission-founded types of churches will tend to have none of that."

Earlier Western missionaries felt a need to confront polygamy at the point of conversion. During colonial days in mission churches, Christians in good standing would give up the status symbol and send away all but one wife, said Kombo. Such a painful decision often meant that men would choose family or social standing over church. Medical missionary David Livingstone's single convert abandoned the faith to return to polygamy.

Many African church leaders regret zero-tolerance policies for polygamous families of converts, saying that treating those marriages as invalid raises a number of problems. Besides absolving fathers of their responsibilities and leaving many economically dependent women out in the cold, it's theologically questionable to force new converts to divorce, said Sunday Agang, an ethics professor at Jos ecwa Theological Seminary in Nigeria and a John Stott Ministries scholar.

None of the polygamists in the Old Testament were condemned specifically for having more than one wife, said Agang. "[But] God said in Malachi, 'I hate divorce.' So which one should we go for?"

Phiri tells the story of a Malawian who left his second wife and children in order to be baptized, and whose church forbade him to directly contact or aid his family after their homeland was struck by famine. "This is an example where missionaries with good intentions did not have a proper solution to the issue of polygamy," said Phiri. "They're promoting divorce without responsibility for the children. That doesn't even sound biblical."

Many African churches take a position that John Azumah, director of the Centre of Islamic Studies at the London School of Theology, calls ambiguous. If a polygamous man from a non-Christian background converts, his family is fully accepted into the church, yet such men are often not allowed to take Communion, hold a leadership position, teach, or sing in the choir—though they can participate in the offering.

These measures offer a problematic shortcut for church discipline, said Azumah. "If we deny people Holy Communion on the basis of sin, it should not only be for the polygamous. To deny someone a means of grace as a form of church discipline—I don't see how helpful that is. … Lines should be drawn to be used as corrective lines for pastoral care to turn people around, rather than to turn people out of the church."

Agang said churches should not insist that new converts immediately send away their wives. "We should allow them to grow to know the Lord," he said. "We shouldn't make it a condition for their salvation, or we confuse the message of the gospel."

Kombo agreed. "Confess and begin your walk from where you are," he said. "You accepted Christ in that status. Remain in that status and be faithful to God. That would be faithful to the African situation."

Lessons for same-sex marriages?

U.S. churches may soon feel similar pressures: Eleven states now offer legal recognition to same-sex couples, and 12 allow them to adopt. Congregations will be confronted—if they haven't been already—with new kinds of non-traditional families who want to be part of the church.

Despite the similarities, such as marital vows, legal status as a couple, and sometimes children through the marriage, few African Christians are likely to see parallels between gay marriage and polygamy. This is partly based on Scripture and partly on culture.

Kombo said gay marriage and polygamy are not moral equivalents in Scripture. "They are similar in the sense that you could say they are against biblical norms and practice. But they are not breaking the same rules. I don't think that the same [response] should necessarily apply."

Homosexual relations are specifically condemned in Leviticus and the New Testament. But Mosaic Law seems to set regulations for polygamy among the Israelites without condemning it. Nor did God condemn polygamous men, said Phiri. "In the Old Testament there is polygamy, even [among] those people who were known as men of God," such as Joseph, David, and Gideon.


To read the rest of the article, click here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pastor's Notes - "Don't call it faith" and other ramblings :-)

Just posted my Pastor's Notes devotion. This one is an article by the late Fred Smith, entitled "Don't Call it faith" and some comments on his article, the man himself and mentoring.

I am glad that his daughter has a website up that has lots of his articles and thoughts. It's called Breakfast with Fred.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Winner of Sweeden's Got Talent 2009

Something light and fun to start the day with ... got a lot of visitation today so that is nice :-)

Presenting the winner - Charlie Caper ... a magician!!!. :-)

This I think is his first round performance. I like his signature moves. Great fit to his personality and smile.



Semi-finals performance



Finals performance


Ramblings ... a time when too many things are happening at once ...

A little disorganized this morning as too much seems to be happening at the same time. Not major things but too many little things that are like flies and mosquitoes buzzing around my ears. Very distracting. So ... its time to breathe in and out and do a little re-centering.... and blogging :-)

My new modem was waiting for me at my office doorstep (arrived in the mail and I had a wee bit of a problem setting it up. Now ti is obviously up and while the connection is not what it should be, at least I have enough speed to at least open my e-mail properly and can even blog. My phone line still has background static. Headache as I know this means that I may have "cranky internal phone lines" as sometimes connection is good, and at other times it is poor. It is hard to logically troubleshoot and eliminate one problem at the time when I am tired.

On Monday I came in to open up the church for the AV guy to check out AV system. Had some kind of blow out a few weeks ago and everything pointed to the cables which made no sense. So he went through with me as a sounding board step by step and we pulled all the cables out and tested them one by one, checked each point ... What worked before suddenly could work and then the next test had no signal etc. We even used 2 different notebooks and a desk top, new cables, direct links etc and finally we found the fault up in the ceiling ... an AV booster / splitter. What a headache!

My children's schedules are also messed up and it is a headache (thankfully my wife is back!) and the cold is making my brain numb. I have some wiring problems in my house (too many plug points connected to one or two circuits) so had a few shorts when we were cooking and putting on the heaters at the same time. So now need to look into taking advantage of the governments subsidies for insulation and heating.

Suddenly too ministry opportunities are rearing their heads and so its not easy trying to discern what to take on and what not to ... and winter means more people are sick and peripherals start skipping church! On the plus side it is nice to have calls asking me to visit rather than me asking if it was ok to pay a visit and I am not due to preach till 5 July!

It is good to keep busy but it has to be fruitful and I am aware that I have been feeling rather tired the last few days. Sign to slow down a bit. So I am glad Thursday night games are in recess. It is also good but a little unnerving that after weeks of postponement and adjustments due to various circumstances I start "informal coaching" of the junior table tennis team at the local High School. Glad that it is not starting today as originally scheduled. Had an interesting time watching the senior team at their first training session with their new coach (who will only be able to give them a few sessions as he is a busy university student). I am now a regular driver when the team needs to go outside the school for training.

It will be a busy week nevertheless as I have 2 home group meetings this week and a youth Bible study class. But it will also be fun as Saturday we have an International Connections meeting -a Texas Barn dance. An authentic Texas USA theme run by two Texans :-) Our church's part apart from helping with food is the line dancing presentation and teaching. (I will politely sit by the sidelines as you know I can't dance!)

Later today I have an appointment with the new TEAR FUND representative. He is making his rounds to meet his "constituents" :-) Sometimes when such ministry people request to meet up with me and when I talk with them, I wonder if it would be easier for me if I were in such a ministry (more focused in terms of job description). BUT then I quite quickly come to the conclusion that despite seasons of "confusion" and "disarray" I am in the right vocation. I am convinced that I am meant to be a ministry generalist. And as long as I have a church that is supportive of what I do I will be more than fine.

On Friday I will be having a meeting with the Training and Event Manager of The Project K programme, which is one of the programmes under the Foundation for Youth Development. I got a letter from her requesting help with a sausage sizzle fund raiser as due to the recession, funding for many programmes has had a short fall and therefore risk closure. As we chatted (on the phone) I brought up selling balloon sculptures as we talked about the request "Also if there is anything else that you can do to assist with raising funds for us please let us know." For me as long as my church allows me some time off to do this, it will cost nothing (since I will be donating the balloons) it seems to me a good opportunity to get to know people, raise the church's profile in the community and help raise funds for a good cause. Biggest issue will be whether I am taking on too much. It's tough to find the balance between being logical and reasonable and moving in faith ...

This morning I read an article by Dan Kimball (it's reproduced at the end of this blog) which helps me think I am on the right path in my ministry priorities and how I handle facebook etc. It relates also to my philosophy of life and ministry - my world view so to speak.... something I made a commitment to re-evaluate after getting feedback from my church's leadership committee on my "job performance review" (BTW, praise God it was a very positive and pastoral review)

I am excited too that next month our former Pastor will be running an in house seminar on "Developing a Christian world view". Been promoting this course as many of you know I am passionate about this subject. So I am planning to preach a sermon next month in conjunction with the launching of the seminar on "The importance of developing a Christian mind".
I am hoping and praying that we get a good turn out (as it is winter!) as I think that this seminar if understood and applied will help a great deal in our church ministries and growth ... and will also in an indirect manner help more understand why I do what I do :-)


Here's the article by Dan Kimball entitled: Do It, Don't Blog It
Is all the chatter on the web about missional church actually keeping us from being missional?
posted 6/22/2009

I was a guest speaker at a church, waiting for my time to go up to the platform. That's when I saw something curious. The staff person responsible for coordinating the worship service was busy typing away on her laptop. Perhaps a last minute change to the PowerPoint, I thought. But as I walked behind her, I saw that she was consumed with typing a message on someone's Facebook wall. It felt out of place to me, given that she was the person responsible for leading God's people in worship but she seemed mentally someplace else.

I had a similar experience while visiting a Christian college. Sitting in the back of the classroom, I noticed that about a third of the students were surfing Facebook or MySpace while the professor was passionately teaching the New Testament. He probably assumed they were busy taking notes.

I cannot be too hard on the worship coordinator or the college students. I've noticed the same tendency in myself lately. A few Sundays ago, I was heading home after preaching three times. I was tired and looking forward to opening my laptop and reading my favorite blogs in particularly ones focused on missional theology and leadership. Just then I received a text message from a friend. He was inviting me to a club to see a band with a number of non-Christians, including one I had been trying to build a relationship with.

I suddenly faced a decision. Do I go home and read blogs about being missional, or do I go to the club and actually be missional? It sounds like an easy decision, but it wasn't. In all honesty, part of me truly wanted to go to the comfort of home and just sit in front of my laptop.

That moment forced me to begin reflecting on how much time I spend on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other online social networking sites. I wondered, If I spent less time online, could I be spending more time building friendships? Have I become so consumed with reading about mission that I've forgotten to actually engage it? As these questions arose, I started to get uncomfortable.

Don't misunderstand me. I find blogs quite encouraging. I've learned a lot about missional living by reading insightful bloggers. I have even gotten reacquainted with non-Christian friends from years ago on Facebook. But in truth, the bulk of my Facebook time is spent conversing with Christian friends and other church leaders. And most of the missional discussion I read online does not include stories of people coming to faith, but theoretical definitions and debates about what being missional actually means.

Theories and definitions and debates are good, and they have their place, but could they be getting in the way of actually being on mission? After reflecting on my own habits, I concluded that in my life they were. I realized that I had subtly gotten drawn into the very thing I found so troubling about the Facebooking worship leader and the inattentive college students. I still read blogs and write one, too. But I'm trying to be much more intentional about finding balance and keeping my priorities right.

After wrestling with whether to go home and blog or go to the club and engage with my non-Christian friend, I finally came to the right decision. When I walked into the club, my friend saw me and immediately brought over a drink. We caught up on life, and after the show, he thanked me multiple times for coming. When his tour ends, we have plans to spend more time together. A friendship was deepened and an opportunity for the gospel was expanded, all because I chose to be missional rather than just blog about it.

Dan Kimball is the pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California.

Copyright © 2009 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Two pork pictures ...



Got these photos from Andrew. After posting my last post I remembered that I asked him to take some photos last week when I tried yet another style of seasoning. Mmmm... I love roast pork - makes me think of Obelix :-)

I took good advantage of Jennifer's absence to indulge in my cooking experiments ... and oh, Jennifer came back yesterday. so we are all readjusting to our normal schedules. Ah life is good.

Half a day with Dr. Haiwan


Some more photos from Vincent. When he arrived I took him to Jennifer's favourite restaurant. A small place called "KL Cafe". Had to have him try Malaysian food Auckland style.


Then for tea, I had him try NZ pork. This time cooked by me. One of my handful of roast pork experiments. Doesn't it loo good? This one is spicy roast pork using as part of the recipe some tandoori style spices.


We took a very quick drive to the local mall where I normally frequent so he could buy some manuka honey for Yit Min and Cheng Lok. And we shopped the way we both like - get in, find what you want and get out! Super efficient :-) I like the LynnMall - small but has most of what I need.

That was not the Manuka honey we bought though. The request was for 5+ so we bought 5+. The 16+ is very expensive stuff.

Then for dinner we planned to go to another Malaysian Restaurant, Bunga Raya. But it was closed so we walked across the road and tried out a NZ restaurant (Denny's). I have never eaten there before. Not bad food but service is so slow ....











Picture of my boys .... with their long hair :-)

Pictures of our house by Dr. Haiwan

Vincent kindly sent me the photos he took while he was in Auckland and Hamilton. Thought I'd post some of them up over the next few days starting now since I have 15 minutes before I have to got to church (AV repairman coming over).

The brown patches of grass is due to a recent frost.

Wonderful bus stop right outside. Only bad point is rubbish tends to overflow and often flies into the yard.


The side road in one of the pictures leads to my neighbour's house which is behind mine (originally same lot - sub divided property). We have very nice neighbours. A GREAT BLESSING.

You might notice too that we have no front gate. Most houses do not have gates.






Selangor Bans Christian Song (Allah peduli)

Catching up on my Malaysian news ... I knew this would come soon with all the objections on the use of the word Allah in the Bible and in Christian literature. It was the next logical step. It's a nice song, melody and simple but meaningful message.

The report taken from NECF Malaysia site

Selangor Bans Christian Song

Imposes fine of up to RM1,000

From banning Bibles to Christian publications, the authorities are now prohibiting songs.

The Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) has banned an Indonesian song which contains the word "Allah" to "prevent Muslims from being confused".

Anyone found playing or singing the song, "Allah Peduli" (God Cares), risk being fined up to RM1,000 under the Non-Muslim Religious Enactment 1988.

However, the ban is confined to Selangor as matters of religion come under state jursidiction.

MAIS chairman Datuk Mohamad Adzib Mohd Isa told the media on March 13 that the song by Indonesian singer Agnes Monica repeatedly used the word 'Allah' when referring to Jesus Christ and that the lyrics ended with words "Tak akan pernah dibiarkannya ku bergumul sendiri sebab Allah Yeses ku mengerti" (Will never be left alone to face my own anxiety because Allah Jesus understands).

Following the ruling, the Penang Islamic Religious Council (MAIPP) urged the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) to extend the ban to the nation.

MAIPP chairman Shabudin Yahaya said he had not heard the song but he had received reports that the lyrics touched on the sensitivities of Islam.

NECF Malaysia maintains that it will continue to use the word "Allah" as languages and words are universal property and should not be monopolised by any one religion or ethnic group. Furthermore, the word has been used by Christians and other religions even before Islam existed.

NECF asserts that one of the ways to resolve the issue is to get the various religious groups who use "Allah" in their Scriptures and faith - Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and others - to educate their followers on their unique understanding of the word according to their religions.

Different religion views and understands "Allah" in different manner and no one religion should impose its understanding of the word on another religion.

You can catch the controversial song "Allah Peduli" on youtube.com

------------

Here's the song :




Interesting comments by the person who posted up this video

*I've been receiving a lot of rude comments...
AGAIN,people!!!I did not upload this video to make you hate each other..so please...BE RESPECTFUL!!I mean come on...be more MATURE!!!
*I don't care about what you believe in, just be repectful. IF YOU DON'T LIKE THIS SONG, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO PUSH THE "STOP" BUTTON AND MOVE ON!!
*If you're arguing about the word "Allah" here, please listen carefully..it's pronounced "A-lah" not "Awww..loh", so don't be mistaken about that,please..
and also...the word "Allah" is just one of the words in Arabic. It doesn't mean that someone has to be a muslim to say "Allah",does it?'
what about the Christians there? They DO have to use the word Allah,right?I mean come on..that's their language...
*We,Christians, have been using the word "Allah" from centuries,Especially Indonesians. So why NOW? why do people argue about that now?
*Was that really necessary for them to ban this song knowing that the word "Allah" itself has been used by Christians since a long time ago?

"http://votecharles.wordpress.com/2009/0 1/22/the-word-allah-is-not-a-monopoly-of -umno/"

*For those of you who doesn't understand anything about this, please..JUST BE RESPECTFUL.
* there is NO USE to put rude comments here!!
my advice: CHILL OUT!!!YOU GUYS NEED TO CHILL..THERE'S NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT!!


common Question:
* Is Agnes Monica a Christian?
She's either a Christian or Catholic(that's what i know)



+ Lyrics
**************************************** ****
ALLAH PEDULI

Banyak perkara yang tak dapat ku mengerti
Mengapakah harus terjadi
Di dalam kehidupan ini
Suatu perkara yang ku simpan dalam hati
Tiada satupun kan terjadi tanpa Allah perduli

Allah mengerti
Allah peduli
Segala persoalan yg kita hadapi
Tak akan pernah di biarkanya ku bergumul sendiri
Sbab Allah mengerti

Allah mengerti
Allah peduli
Segala persoalan yg kita hadapi
Tak akan pernah di biarkanya ku bergumul sendiri
Sbab Allah Yesus ku mengerti

Sunday, June 21, 2009

World Refugee Day

UN's world refugee day was yesterday. Was too busy to post this yesterday so doing it this morning as I prepare for Sunday worship. ...

To help bring it mm closer to home ... roughly 10.5 times the population of NZ are refugees and 6 times the population are displaced within their own country. God have mercy!

Article from Aljazeera ...


UPDATED ON:
Saturday, June 20, 2009
05:47 Mecca time, 02:47 GMT

OPINION: REFUGEE DAY SPECIAL

Longer wars leave millions in limbo

More than 130,000 Somalis have been displaced following renewed fighting in recent months [AFP]

As we mark World Refugee Day on June 20, the number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution worldwide stands at more than 42 million - including 16 million refugees outside their countries and 26 million others displaced internally.

This overall total reflects global displacement figures compiled at the end of 2008 by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), but the number has already grown substantially since the beginning of this year with more large displacements in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia totalling well over 2.3 million people.

And there are more worrisome signs on the horizon.

While some displacement situations are short-lived, others can take years and even decades to resolve. At present, for example, UNHCR counts 29 different groups of 25,000 or more refugees in 22 nations who have been in exile for five years or longer.

This means that nearly 6 million refugees are living in limbo, with no solutions in sight. Millions more internally displaced people (IDPs) are also unable to go home in places like Colombia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia.

Refugee special



In Video:

Burundi's returning refugees
Refugees in Europe find it hard to fit in
Nomadic refugees flee Philippines fighting
Inequity of Haitian refugees in Mexico

In depth:

UN: 'wars displace record numbers'
Lebanon's Palestinian refugees
Witness: A strange kind of freedom

In addition to prolonged conflict and the increasingly protracted nature of displacement, we are also seeing a decline in the number of refugees and internally displaced people going home.

In 2008, about 2 million people were repatriated, but that was a sharp drop from the year before.

Refugee repatriation, at 604,000, was down 17 per cent in 2008, while IDP returns dropped by 34 per cent. It was the second-lowest repatriation total in 15 years and the decline, in part, reflects deteriorating security conditions, namely in Afghanistan and Sudan.

Last year, we also saw a 28 per cent increase in the number of asylum seekers making individual claims, with 839,000 people seeking asylum. South Africa was the largest single recipient of individual asylum claims with 207,000 applications, followed by the US with 49,600, France with 35,400 and Sudan with 35,100.

The global economic crisis, gaping disparities between North and South, growing xenophobia, climate change, the relentless outbreak of new conflicts and the intractability of old ones all threaten to exacerbate this already massive displacement problem.

We and our humanitarian partners are struggling to ensure that these uprooted people and the countries hosting them get the help they need and deserve.

Disproportionate burden

Some 80 per cent of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people are in developing nations, underscoring the disproportionate burden carried by those least able to afford it as well as the need for more international support.

It also puts into proper perspective alarmist claims by populist politicians and media that some industrialised nations are being "flooded" by asylum seekers.

Most people forced to flee their homes because of conflict or persecution remain within their own countries and regions in the developing world.

Thousands have been displaced in Pakistan following an army offensive in Swat [AFP]
Major refugee-hosting nations in 2008 included Pakistan, home to 1.8 million refugees before the Swat offensive in early 2009, Syria with 1.1 million, Iran with 980,000, Germany with 582,700, Jordan with 500,400, Chad with 330,500, Tanzania with 321,900 and Kenya with 320,600.

Major countries of origin for refugees included Afghanistan (2.8 million) and Iraq (1.9 million), which together account for 45 per cent of all UNHCR refugees.

Others were Somalia (561,000); Sudan (419,000); Colombia (374,000), and the DRC (368,000). Nearly all of these countries are in the developing world.

Unfortunately, however, we cannot say that generosity and wealth are proportional to each other.

As conflicts drag on with no political solutions, the pressure on many of these poor countries is near breaking point. They need more international help now.

Without it, UNHCR and other aid agencies will be forced to continue making heartbreaking decisions on which necessities must be denied to uprooted families.

Of the global total of uprooted people in 2008, UNHCR cares for 25 million, including a record 14.4 million internally displaced people, up from 13.7 million in 2007, and 10.5 million refugees.

The other 4.7 million refugees are Palestinians under the mandate of the UN Relief and Works Agency.

Less protection for IDPs

Although international law distinguishes between refugees, who are protected under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, and the internally displaced, who are not, such distinctions are absurd to those who have been forced from their homes and who have lost everything.

Uprooted people are equally deserving of help whether they have crossed an international border or not.

Internally displaced

26m IDPs in total with 14.4m under UN care
Colombia: 3m IDPs
Iraq: 2.6m IDPs compared to 2.4m in 2007
DR Congo: 1.5m IDPs
Somalia: 1.3m IDPs not including 2009 displacements

Source: UNHCR 2008

That is why UNHCR is working with other UN agencies to jointly provide the internally displaced with the help they need, just as we do for refugees.

My agency's caseload of internally displaced has more than doubled since 2005.

Displaced populations include Colombia with some 3 million; Iraq with 2.6 million; Sudan’s Darfur region with more than 2 million; Eastern DRC with 1.5 million and Somalia with 1.3 million.

Other increases in displacement in 2008 were in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Georgia and Yemen.

Just as the international community felt an obligation to spend hundreds of billions rescuing the international financial system, it should feel the same urgency to rescue some of the most vulnerable people on earth – refugees and the internally displaced.

And the amount needed is only a fraction of that spent on financial bailouts.

Finding solutions for more than 40 million people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution is difficult, but not impossible.

With the necessary political will and humanitarian support from the international community, we can ease the suffering of the world’s uprooted people and finally bring their exile to an end.

António Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, has been UN High Commissioner for Refugees since 2005.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera editorial policy.


Source: Al Jazeera



Friday, June 19, 2009

Christianized Version of the classic Nigerian scam

This e-mail escaped my spam filter ...
Looks like Nigerian scams have been exported to other African countries and taken on a "Christian" garb. *sigh* and *deep sigh*


From Mrs. Celine Ogaba
Address; lot 268 Rue de
Bingerville Cocody Abidjan
Cote d'Ivoire West Africa.
My Dearest,
Here writes Mrs. Celine Ogaba, suffering from cancerous ailment. I was married to late Mr. Robert Ogaba who was a reknowned cocoa merchant here in Abidjan. When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of $7.5 Million (Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars) with a Bank in Abidjan.
Recently, my doctor told me that I have limited days to live due to the stroke and cancerous problems I am suffering from. With this hard reality that has befallen my family and me, I have decided to donate this fund to you and want you to use this gift which comes from my husband's effort to fund the upkeep of widows, orphans and less-privileged individuals. I took this decision because I do not have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives are bourgeois and very wealthy persons and I do not want my husband hard earned money to be misused.

Awaiting your urgent reply.

With God all things are possible.

Your Sister in Christ,
Mrs Celine Ogaba.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Random ramblings on a day where almost everything has been "messy"

Not the best day organizationally for me ... My broadband has been giving me problems and finally Telecom agreed to send a technician over but they would not deal with me - long story but basically an elder had to arrange the appointment yesterday and they said 12 PM. So I had to reschedule my later morning visitation and shuffle around my work plans. Then the man turns up a few hours early ... but appointments already rescheduled. Then problem fixed with 4 options given for the next time problem occurs (which are all hassles and would cost money for the church). 20 minutes after the technician leaves .... problem reoccurs. Not his fault though as I think he was professional in doing his job but frustrating that the problem had to reoccur so fast! :-(

Of course I am also having horrendous problems with my MS Vista Basic. Some of my software (genuine) keeps freezing and having to reinstall. Even my firefox hangs every now and then.
So had to bother my church webmaster to make a proposal to solve the problems - which looks like needing to upgrade my OS (since we have a DELL PC configured for Vista and we are not sure if the drivers etc would work if he used XP Professional).

I never realised till recently how many man hours I have wasted because of a buggy PC. That is the only thing that comforts me at the thought of spending money on upgrades etc as it would make work much more efficient.

BTW, am blogging to clear my mind ... Oh and my evening appointment had to be postponed as well which adds to my rescheduling headache... :-(

Been working today on learning how to use Expressions Web 2. Not to develop my own website but just how to know enough to update, add on and modify my church website. In away this is much easier as I do not have to read the manual etc but learning new stuff takes extra effort. I am now basically focusing on accessing just the .htm files and working on editing (which is quite an easy task) and adding in tables and new sub sections on the same page. Bit frustrating as my PC is so slow that when I type in a word in a table cell, the letters don't immediately get entered - a lapse of a couple of seconds ....

Anyway hopefully in a few weeks I will be confident enough to learn how to upload the pages. So I am working on updates for July onwards ... :-)

In the news today ... Give Maori free access to University? I think the idea is pretty dumb. And I am glad that this morning after a TV interview, there were over a thousand responses and it seems just one for it. And many who were appalled by the idea were themselves Maoris.

I really hope this does not become too politicized and gets pushed through. If it does, NZ will be going the way of Malaysia. I do not see how someone who can't complete High School can expect to graduate on merit from University. Unless they have two separate academic criteria which would kill the high respect people have of the NZ universities. To me it has nothing to do with racism (as in trying to oppress Maoris). It has to do with merit.

I remember how last year an Uni of Auckland lecturer was in the news and accused of racism etc when he bluntly told a Middle Eastern student he would not give her an extension as she would not pass her exams as she was doing a Masters course but had a very poor command of English ... and their e-mail correspondence actually proved it. If I am not mistaken he got the sack ....

The sudden cold weather has also messed up my energy levels a bit. Yup, winter is really here. Brrrr... Children's after school activities too has been messy. Games, work, church stuff. I have even more empathy now for single parents as I am the sole chauffeur with Jennifer away. Cooking every day has been pretty fun but rather rushed as I have to cook to cater for every one's schedules so dinner time is really fluid.

But my weight is under control and in fact has gone down and that is good. Not that I am not eating well. I am eating extremely well since I get to cook stuff I like (which my sons also like!)... just more disciplined since it is winter and one can really out on weight in winter.

What have I been cooking and eating for dinner? Hmmm... since my wife went away ... Roast pork (2x), Spaghetti, Grilled lamb, roast lamb, beef curry, chicken curry, my baked chicken special, lamb soup, minced pork dish.... And no fish!! hahahaha even though Steven likes fish. And of course, one meal of pizza and a restaurant dinner courtesy of Dr. Haiwan.

Hey, someone from Phnom Penh dropped by my blog. I wonder ... someone from GOWW?
Ok, now to eat my sandiwch and get back to work ...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Lie to me" (but God will know) - Pastor's Notes

Just posted up this coming Sunday's Pastor's Notes. It's a reflection on lying (which is therefore about sin in general)


Picture is of the "Lie to Me" cast

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

SHOUT TO THE WORLD (Spiritual formation on the Run)

Been a while since I last posted my reflections of my Lectio Divina exercises using Alex's "Spiritual formation on the run". Been extra busy as my wife is still in Malaysia. Not too busy to do my contemplation as it is after all being done ... "on the run". :-) If you didn't get that, that's the whole beauty of this concept. You do not have to be disappear for hours in a quiet secluded place to get close to God and "practice the presence of God". But busy I have been as all the cooking and cleaning duties are now my domain so time to type is rather limited ... but more on that as it is related to this blog's reflection and ramblings. Ah ... Brother Lawrence would be smiling in heaven at hearing this .... :-)

Ok, first this is from chapter 16 entitled:
SHOUT TO THE WORLD

Elie Wiesel writes: One of the Just Men came to Sodom, determined to save its inhabitants from sin and punishment. Night and day he walked the streets and markets protesting against greed and theft, falsehood and indifference. In the beginning, people listened and smiled ironically. Then they stopped listening: he no longer amused them. The killers went on killing, the wise men kept silent, as if there were no Just Man in their midst. One day, a child, moved by the compassion for the unfortunate teacher, approached him with these words: "Poor stranger, you shout, you scream, don't you see that it is hopeless?" "Yes, I see;' answered the Just Man. "Then why do you go on?" "I'll tell you why. In the beginning, I thought I could change man. Today, I know I cannot. If I still shout today, if I still scream, it is to prevent man from ultimately changing me."

This short story from Wiesel has a powerful message for us as we struggle to live a Christian life or a life pleasing to God in the world. The world has a powerful and seductive influence on us. It knows the right buttons to push. Get this mobile phone and it will make you look sophisticated, techno-savvy and well connected. Drive this brand of car and the world will recognise you as a successful man. Do not leave home without this credit card because you are a well-travelled jetsetter. It takes a lot of effort and wisdom to resist the temptations of this world. Satan tempted our Lord Jesus with the satisfaction of fleshy desires (bread from stones), security from harm (angel's protection), and power and wealth (all the kingdoms on earth). And Satan is still tempting Jesus' disciples in these areas. Jesus taught that we, His disciples, are not of this world but are destined for another.


As new Christians, many of us were full of fire, shouting and screaming, as we tried to make people understand the danger they were in. We were like people standing at the edge of a cliff and shouting to others, "Do not walk over there. There is a cliff. You will fall over to your doom. Turn back:' And, to our astonishment and dismay, we discovered that nobody was listening to us. Nobody paid attention to our message. Nobody believed us. The people kept on walking and fell off the cliff. Soon we stopped shouting and screaming. Maybe we whispered a bit here and there. But as we stopped fighting the world, we became like the world. We were like someone swimming against a current. The moment we stopped swimming, we were swept back by the current.

I wonder how many of us have stopped swimming against the current and are even now swimming with the current. It is so easy to stop shouting and be with the crowd. Just relax a little here and there. A small white lie; a little stealing and cheating here and there. Nobody will know. We become insensitive to the needs of others. We eat, drink and are merry to excess.


The Christian life is a life of constant struggle. We struggle against our flesh, the world and Satan. We know that we cannot change man; only God can do that. However, we must always be on guard that the world does not change us. That will happen if we let down our guard and stop struggling against the world. So, brothers and sisters, let us continually encourage one another in our struggle. We cannot go at it alone; a piece of coal that falls out of the fire cools down very fast. Do not let the world change us.


-----
I really like Wiesel's story. And I like Alex's reflections in this chapter. I like the story as I can truly identify with it. And I like Alex's reflections especially that on materialism as this is one (of many many many many .... reason why I felt I should leave Malaysia and come to New Zealand.

Living in PJ and serving in a middle class (dare I say upper middle class?) church was killing my family. The pressure of finding the money to join in basic activities of the majority was just too hard. Too many heart breaking incidents ... like having my then 9 year old son close to tears because he was afraid that his friends would laugh at his RM 30 shoes (not cool and branded like the what others wore) was difficult for me. It was so hard not to capitulate and go for the RM 60 shoes that was more presentable (let's not even go near the RM 100 - 200 shoes) . But how could I live with myself if I bought my 9 year old shoes (in which he would outgrow in a year) that cost more than my working shoes?

In times like this (and I best not give any more example lest I be misinterpreted) I would shout (in my head and heart or else I might end up being committed to a mental institution) the values that I believe I should hold and ray my heart listens to my head. And every now and then when I cannot take it anymore I make myself unpopular by speaking to some parents or youth and tell them things like ... "Please don't buy your child a new car when he / she gets his . her driver's license." Or "Is it justifiable for you (a teenager who is not working) to pay RM 10 for a cup of coffee at coffee bean?"

Of course "nobody" goes to coffee bean anymore ... (it was that long ago :-)) and being the dummy that I am, I forgot that RM 10 was for the cheapest cup of coffee and only cheapskates like me would drink that. Yes, I went but someone paid as they wanted to chat with me over coffee and I bought the cheapest.
And of course there were times when a few youth would listen to me and refrain from certain things but most of this handful soon caved in under pressure.

And yes I knew after a few years that "nobody" is listening to me. They are just tolerating me BUT like the man in the story, every now and then I needed to "shout out" not so much for the sake of others but for my own sake.

Ok, better make it clear that I am not totally against going for buying branded goods, buying nice stuff for your children, taking fancy holidays and going to StarBucks (or is that place also not cool anymore - I don't know ...) etc. Just that have seen too many Christians being so used to such things that their spending and lifestyles I feel are way to excessive in comparison to other important things. As the world's lifestyle influences them, their walk with God clearly suffers (if not them, then their children).

But "nobody" listens to me anyway, right? LOL So I am "shouting" out extra loud for myself so that I will be forced to read what I blog one day should I go astray :-)

Side note:
End of this year I am taking my family when my mum comes for a visit for a nice holiday. Jennifer and I have saved up since coming and we are going to spend $2,000 holidaying. Of course there may be some who may be rolling on the floor laughing (ROTFL) because $2,000 may not seem much especially since prices of tourist holiday activities are so expensive. But for me it is a huge amount and in my spare time I have been working on the budget so I think we will manage. :-) And it has taken me a long time to get to this stage to spend money like this but I think we all deserve a good holiday as a family. I have learned from the example of some families here. They work hard, live simply, serve God and save up for family holidays. I think that is a good example of discipline and good stewardship.


So what have I been shouting about lately?
Basic disciplines! My children must really resent me for this but I need to shout (and often literally!) even if they do not seem to be listening.
The floor is not the place to toss their stuff, clothes (clean or dirty) nor rubbish! So hang up your clothes and keep your rooms tidy.
The dining table must be wiped clean after meals

When you have finished your drink, wash your cup, don't leave it in the sink and soak it with water! (What an irritating habit!)
Do your chores first before going off to play!

Let me know your schedules early and not inform me at the last minute.
That should suffice, right? :-)

And of course I tell them whether they seem to be listening or not that these are basic disciplines that will help them later in life. Because not to do them is just being plain lazy! Obvious my "shouting" is also for my benefit because the most embarrassing thing would be if I be lazy and my children get the opportunity to point a finger at me and say,
"Hypocrite!" :-)

One more side note ...
My church's former pastor, (a wise man in my eyes) commented on Sunday that there were some difficult things in the passage he was going to preach on that needed to be heard. That was the difficulty of preaching through a book of the Bible. You can't just only preach the nice encouraging stuff and avoid the tough stuff. I wonder too in my preaching.

Very few people like to listen to the rebukes and challenges in Scripture. But I must also shout these things if I wish to be a faithful preacher of God's Word. BTW, note that the famous verses of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says the following:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Notice that of the four uses of Scripture mentioned, rebuking and correcting are two of them? Food for thought?

A final note for now ... "shouting our loud" truths (as hard as it may be to do or hear) is not totally hopeless. I see changes in people's lives. For example, my eldest now that he has a part time job faithfully tithes and has decided to do it anonymously. My heart overflows with joy and thanksgiving to God. All my "shouting for years" on financial giving, responsibility, the importance of being generous, blessing others etc has reaped benefits.

So let us indeed keep shouting to the world (and ourselves) what needs to be heard for the glory of God.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Something politically incorrect and over generalized (if there is such a term) but so much truth within and so funny :-) I think that perhaps the Red --> Asians part should be changed to Red --> Malaysian Chinese !! LOL

Was sent to me by Dr. Haiwan a week ago- whom BTW, I had the pleasure of spending 2 days with catching up ....(BTW he is still in New Zealand - somewhere in Mystery Creek, Hamilton.. for FIELDAYS) Too tired to blog much about our road trip to Hamilton except to say I got soaked numerous times due to the rain. i also took 20 minutes or more to find my car (so crowded) ... and I had to do it in the rain too (for yet another soaking). But it was pretty fun in a strange way. Even bought an emu oil product for my wife ....



Key: Blue -->
Westerners Red --> Asians

(1) Opinion

cid:image001.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Talk to the point

Asians: Talk around the circle, especially if opinions are different



(2) Way of Life
cid:image002.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: individualism, think of himself or herself.

Asians: enjoy gathering with family and friends, solving their problems, and know each other's business.


(3) Punctuality

cid:image003.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: on time.

Asians: in time.


(4) Contacts

cid:image004.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Contact to related person only
.
Asians: Contact everyone everywhere, business very successful.


(5) Anger

cid:image005.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners:
Show that I am angry.
Asians: I am angry, but still smiling... (Beware!)


(6) Queue when Waiting

cid:image006.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Queuing in an orderly manner
.
Asians: Queuing?! What's that?


(7) Sundays on the Road

cid:image007.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Enjoy weekend relaxing peacefully.

Asians: Enjoy weekend in crowded places, like going to the mall.


(8) Party

cid:image008.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Only gather with their own group.

Asians: All focus on the one activity that is hosted by the CEO.

(9) In the restaurant

cid:image009.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Talk softly and gently in the restaurant.

Asians: Talk and laugh loudly like they own the restaurant.


(10) Travelling

cid:image010.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Love sightseeing and enjoy the scenery.

Asians: Taking picture is the most important; scenery is just for the background.


(11) Handling of Problems

cid:image011.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Take any steps to solve the problems.

Asians: Try to avoid conflicts, and if can, don't leave any trail.


(12) Three meals a day

cid:image012.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Good meal for once a day is sufficed.

Asians: At least 3 good meals a day.


(13) Transportation

cid:image013.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Before drove cars, now cycling for environmental protection.

Asians: Before no money and rode a bike, now got money and drive a car


(14) Elderly in day-to-day life

cid:image014.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: When old, there is snoopy for companionship.

Asians: When old, guarantee will not be lonely, as long as willing to babysit grandkids.


(15) Moods and Weather

cid:image015.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: The logic is
: rain is pain.
Asians: More rain, more prosperity


(16) The Boss

cid:image016.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: The boss is part of the team.

Asians: The boss is a fierce god.


(17) What's Trendy

cid:image017.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: Eat healthy Asian cuisine.

Asians: Eat expensive Western cuisine.


(18) The Child

cid:image018.jpg@01C93912.BDEED3F0
Westerners: The kid is going to be independent and make his/her own living.

Asians: Slog whole life for the kids, the centre of your life.