Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: June, 2006

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Here’s a little visitor we had above the door to our bedroom last night:

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Right now, I’m watching Charlie Rose’s interview with Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. I’m just blown away by so many aspects of this story. Warren Buffett said that he and his wife decided many years ago that they would give their wealth to society, long before it was apparent how large that fortune would be. He pointed out that those who are going to spend their money ought to give their wealth now, but those who are going to compound their money ought to give their wealth later. The Gates Foundation is projected to save 10,000,000 lives in the next 10 years just through one vaccination program. That just blows my mind! Whatever we may think of these individuals, it’s hard to fault their stewardship. And, at least on the surface, they seem completely sincere and of pure motivation. Another thing that interested me was that both Gates and Buffett commented about times in their lives when the other one had given them a book. I guess it really is true that “leaders are lifelong learners.” This is why I’m kind of passionate about this library project. I want the students here at the Bible school to have a library that will really inspire them to read and learn and keep on reading and learning.

We had a good discussion in missions today about the importance of prayer. It made the kids giggle nervously, but we stopped in the middle of class and prayed for “kings and all those in authority,” especially those who were involved in the persecution of the church. I have the feeling it was the first time most of them had done that.

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Going to Manila this weekend meant that I wasn’t totally prepared for class today. Tiffany had to go to the market, and I was struggling to finish a PowerPoint for missions class while keeping Elijah entertained. They ring the bells about 10 minutes early, so I was really pretty stressed. I got it done just after Tiff came home, and I got to class almost on time. I guess it’s a good thing that I have that class on our back porch.

Today, we discussed the first chapter of Acts. I’ve made the point before in other venues that Acts 1:8 seems to indicate that one of the primary purposes for the giving of the Holy Spirit is to empower us for witness. Our tradition has often perhaps overemphasized the purifying work of the Spirit to the detriment of His empowering work. We talked a little bit about what Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth mean to us today in the Philippines, both geographically and culturally. I had each of the students state their cultural background (a bit of an eye-opener, actually) and then think of another Philippine tribe that was similar yet different and then of another tribe that was very different. I hope that I’m instilling in them at least a bit of the idea that God’s plan from the beginning was a universal faith. I can’t always tell, but I think they’re starting to get it. We’ll see how much of it sticks come exam time, or more importantly, when they’re out in the pastorate.

I had to go to the bank to withdraw some missions funds to pay for my airline tickets. While I was in Urdaneta, I also needed to pick up some baby wash. I decided that I had time to get a massage while I was there. I think my masseuse was also running the front desk, so it took longer than usual. Then I ran over to the supermarket to get the baby wash. I picked it up and went to the “8 items or less” lane. This is perhaps the most abused idea in the Philippines. The people in front of me had a cart. Two spaces farther up in line was a lady who had maybe “80 items or less.” After fuming for a while, I finally went up to that lady and asked her if I could go ahead of her, since I only had one item. She agreed. Then the cash register tape was messed up, so anyhow . . . an hour late getting home for lunch.

I finished up my notes on Plato for philosophy class, but I didn’t get to him today. I decided that I would give my students a little oral quiz to see how they were tracking with my lectures. There were 15 questions, and the scores ranged from 2 to 15, with an average a little bit over 8. So, either I need to make some adjustments or they do. We talked about Socrates’ apology, trial and death today. I can’t agree with everything Socrates said and did maybe, but I think I agree with his central theses: “The unexamined life is not worth living” and to live virtuously is the highest good.

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Going to Manila this weekend meant that I wasn’t totally prepared for class today. Tiffany had to go to the market, and I was struggling to finish a PowerPoint for missions class while keeping Elijah entertained. They ring the bells about 10 minutes early, so I was really pretty stressed. I got it done just after Tiff came home, and I got to class almost on time. I guess it’s a good thing that I have that class on our back porch.

Today, we discussed the first chapter of Acts. I’ve made the point before in other venues that Acts 1:8 seems to indicate that one of the primary purposes for the giving of the Holy Spirit is to empower us for witness. Our tradition has often perhaps overemphasized the purifying work of the Spirit to the detriment of His empowering work. We talked a little bit about what Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth mean to us today in the Philippines, both geographically and culturally. I had each of the students state their cultural background (a bit of an eye-opener, actually) and then think of another Philippine tribe that was similar yet different and then of another tribe that was very different. I hope that I’m instilling in them at least a bit of the idea that God’s plan from the beginning was a universal faith. I can’t always tell, but I think they’re starting to get it. We’ll see how much of it sticks come exam time, or more importantly, when they’re out in the pastorate.

I had to go to the bank to withdraw some missions funds to pay for my airline tickets. While I was in Urdaneta, I also needed to pick up some baby wash. I decided that I had time to get a massage while I was there. I think my masseuse was also running the front desk, so it took longer than usual. Then I ran over to the supermarket to get the baby wash. I picked it up and went to the “8 items or less” lane. This is perhaps the most abused idea in the Philippines. The people in front of me had a cart. Two spaces farther up in line was a lady who had maybe “80 items or less.” After fuming for a while, I finally went up to that lady and asked her if I could go ahead of her, since I only had one item. She agreed. Then the cash register tape was messed up, so anyhow . . . an hour late getting home for lunch.

I finished up my notes on Plato for philosophy class, but I didn’t get to him today. I decided that I would give my students a little oral quiz to see how they were tracking with my lectures. There were 15 questions, and the scores ranged from 2 to 15, with an average a little bit over 8. So, either I need to make some adjustments or they do. We talked about Socrates’ apology, trial and death today. I can’t agree with everything Socrates said and did maybe, but I think I agree with his central theses: “The unexamined life is not worth living” and to live virtuously is the highest good.

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The past couple class sessions of Missions 1, we have been doing a study of the book of Jonah. We were looking at chapters 3 and 4 today. Two things really struck me funny as we were reading chapter 4. One was the place where God asks Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” And Jonah has the gall to answer: “I do.” The vine was a pure act of grace on God’s part, but Jonah just assumes ownership and is greatly offended when God takes the vine away. The other thing that made me laugh was the phrase “God provided a worm.” What I had never noticed before was what a beautiful object lesson the whole story of the vine and the worm were. The book of Jonah is just filled with an intertwining of the themes of God’s sovereignty and His grace. For example, we see God’s plan to judge Nineveh, his power over the weather, and his control of the fish’s behavior up against his grace in giving Nineveh a chance to repent, giving Jonah a second chance to go to Nineveh, etc. Anyhow, you come down to chapter 4 and you see God act in sovereignty and grace to provide a vine (just to make Jonah comfortable) and a worm (to make him uncomfortable?). Jonah is sitting there fuming about God apparently changing his mind. He’s mad that God repented of his threats toward Nineveh, and now he’s mad that God repented of his provision of shade for Jonah. You can almost picture the people of Israel reading this book. Chapter 1: “That stupid guy. Don’t you know you can’t run away from God.” Chapter 2: “Ah, this sounds like the Psalms. Now, he’s acting a little more like a prophet.” Chapter 3: “Um, I’m getting a little uncomfortable. Why isn’t God destroying the Assyrians?” Chapter 4: “What a moron. Won’t he ever learn that . . . hey . . . what’s going on here? This book isn’t about Jonah after all, is it? It’s a book about me, about my racism, against my hoarding God to myself, about . . . uh oh.” And it closes out with that great question: “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” I’ve seen Jonah; I’ve been Jonah. God help me!

I preached in chapel today. Our theme for the month is “What on earth am I here for?” which is bad grammar, but Rick Warren used it, so I guess that sanctifies it. Anyhow, there have been a lot of perspectives shared this month, but I decided to focus on the idea that I am here on earth to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Yeah, that’s not original to me. Anyhow, it was a sermon about worship, and it was a little different from my usual style, a little more teen-friendly, I hope.

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My dad is in charge of a new missions group at our home church, so he asked me last night for some input on what makes a church a good supporting church. Obviously, prayer support and financial support are our most basic needs. But what can a church do beyond that? I think of the church that does the best job of helping us feel like real partners. They send us their church newsletter. Twice a year, they feature us in a Sunday morning service. Last month, they did a live phone call with us during the service. They also feature our ministry in their newsletter that month. They remember us at birthdays and Christmas. They have a notebook in their church building, containing our newsletters and photos. During the months when we are the focus, they put a box for cards, letters, donations, gifts, etc. Although we’ve only been to that church once, they feel like a second home. Dad asked me about whether people sending letters was an encouragement or just adding the burden of answering them. I think we always like getting correspondence (even via e-mail). It’s good if the person doesn’t expect a lengthy personal reply. If they send an e-mail, it’s easy to at least jot a few quick lines back.

He also asked about guidelines for work teams. Here were my ideas:
Come for a long time, not 5 days (especially if jet lag will be involved).
Come with the attitude of learners.
Come to serve the local people, not the missionaries.
Come prepared to leave your comfort zone. That means, eat the local food! Get out of the mission house, etc.
Monetary gifts are always appreciated, but the people really want to build a relationship with you. Don’t just foster dependency. Get to know the people and then let God direct you as to whether you ought to give something or not.

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I don’t teach any classes on Thursdays, so I thought this would be the ideal time to go get my car repaired. I knew it probably wouldn’t start, so I went and recruited some students to help push the car out of the driveway. Actually, I recruited one student, who recruited someone else, who recruited four blind guys. Anyhow, they pushed the car out of the driveway and halfway around campus, but I couldn’t ever get the engine to catch. So I sent a student in search of jumper cables and texted someone to see if he had any. There were none to be found, but the student returned carrying another battery. We disconnected my battery and then came to the realization that the replacement battery was too big to fit into my vehicle’s battery compartment. Finally, I went and got Pastor Alex, who was just leaving to teach a class; he dropped everything, though, and came with me, bringing along a length of electrical wire. With that wire and a couple of vise-grips, he improvised jumper cables and hooked my vehicle up to the battery sitting on the ground next to the car. After a couple of tries, that got me started.

I drove to Carmen, where the mechanics seem to have a rather unorthodox and, I think, unreliable method of testing electrical components. At any rate, they recommended a new battery, and, crossing my fingers and praying that my alternator is still good, I bought one. I had it installed and drove home. Tomorrow morning, we’ll find out if that was the problem.

I finished the Powerpoint for my missions class tomorrow, and then headed back to the library for more work on the card catalog. The task is even more dismaying since the students have arrived. They disorganize the books as fast as or faster than I can organize them. I talked to the librarian last night about implementing a new policy. Currently, students are supposed to reshelve their own books. This is NOT working. Hopefully, we are switching to a system where the assistant librarians do all the reshelving. I don’t know, though; some of the current reshelving seems to be more malicious, than accidental. The card catalog will be basically useless if we can’t get the students to put the books back where they belong.

We had our first chapel service tonight, and it lasted about 2 hours. The faculty was supposed to sing the special song, but we didn’t practice in advance at all. They announced what the song was as we were heading up to the platform. I had never even heard the song before, so I peeled off and watched Elijah instead.