On being alert and taking simple action to avert a catastrophe

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

I read a fascinating news story about how, through being alert and taking simple action, a woman named Donna Hubbard was able to save a young boy from exploitation, and possibly from injury or death.

This alert airline employee on a flight from Honduras to the United States noticed a couple carrying a child who was sweating, lethargic and appeared to be in pain on her flight. According to Reuters, “After take-off, Hubbard and her crew spoke to the man and woman separately, who gave different names and ages for the boy. Hubbard told the Thomson Reuters Foundation she was suspicious that he was being trafficked, kidnapped or even being used as a drug mule.”

Most importantly, she did something about what she observed. She notified the pilot who radioed ahead for police to meet the plane upon its arrival.

Trafficking and human slavery statistics are overwhelming in our modern world. According to the Global Slavery Index, 46 million people globally are living as slaves, trafficked into exploitation, sold for sex or trapped in debt bondage.

That statistic is hard to believe. After all, didn’t we rid the world of the scourge of slavery through the work of William Wilberforce in England over two hundred years ago and with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 in the United States?

Obviously not. Today, slavery exists out-of-sight, but often in plain view in our own towns and cities. In fact, there is more slavery in the world today, including in the United States, than at any time in history, including before it was banned in so many countries.

I became fully aware of that when I read the incredible book Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It by Dr. David Batstone who is an ethics professor at the University of San Francisco.

Dr. Batstone tells the story of eating frequently at an Asian restaurant in the San Francisco area. It was one of his favorite places which contributed to his shock when he heard it had been raided after authorities discovered that most of the employees there were trafficked slaves.  His book is an excellent starting point to help us understand the extent and terror of this world-wide scourge.

Unfortunately, this horrendous crime is all around. But, many of us may have the opportunity to intercede and rescue a child, a woman, any person from this criminal, cruel treatment.

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of being alert to what is going on around us.

CNN offers these suggestions, especially to those who travel, whether by airplane, or along interstate highways:

Warning signs:

1 — A traveler is not dressed appropriately for their route of travel.

You might notice right away that a traveler has few or no personal items. Victims may be less well dressed than their companions. They may be wearing clothes that are the wrong size, or are not appropriate for the weather on their route of travel.

2 — They have a tattoo with a bar code, the word “Daddy.”

Many people have tattoos, so a tattoo in itself is obviously not an indicator, but traffickers or pimps feel they own their victims and a barcode tattoo, or a tattoo with “Daddy” or even a man’s name could be a red flag that the person is a victim.

3 — They can’t provide details of their departure location, destination, or flight information.

Traffickers employ a number of tools to avoid raising suspicion about their crime and to keep victims enslaved. Some traffickers won’t tell their victims where they are located, being taken, or even what job they will have.

Because victims don’t have the means to get home or pay for things like food, they must rely on traffickers in order to get by, forcing them to stay in their situation.

4 — Their communication seems scripted, or there are inconsistencies with their story

Sometimes traffickers will coach their victims to say certain things in public to avoid suspicion. A traveler whose story seems inconsistent or too scripted might be trying to hide the real reason for their travel and merely reciting what a trafficker has told them to say.

5 – They can’t move freely in an airport or on a plane, or they are being controlled, closely watched or followed.

People being trafficked into slavery are sometimes guarded in transit. A trafficker will try to ensure that the victim does not escape, or reach out to authorities for help.

6 – They are afraid to discuss themselves around others, deferring any attempts at conversation to someone who appears to be controlling them.

Fear and intimidation are two of the tools that traffickers use to control people in slavery. Traffickers often prevent victims from interacting with the public because the victim might say something that raises suspicions about their safety and freedom.

7 – Child trafficking

A child being trafficked for sexual exploitation may be dressed in a sexualized manner, or seem to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A child may appear to be malnourished and/or shows signs of physical or sexual abuse, such as bruises, scars, or cigarette burns.

All it took on the airline flight was the concern of Ms. Hubbard and her willingness to call in help. But it is going to take much more, from each one of us, to uncover and eliminate this torture: encouraging public officials to take action, participating in or contributing to one of the many organizations that work to alleviate the suffering, reading and being informed, keeping alert as we travel or shop or eat out, and praying.

I pray that each of us can be aware and be ready to step in and take action to save a life from slavery.

***

For more information, check out these websites:

http://news.trust.org/trafficking/

https://polarisproject.org/

https://www.notforsalecampaign.org/

https://www.ijm.org/ (A Christian organization)

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer wish to receive these announcements, please let me know at that same email address.

Hi Ho Silver or Let Us Bow Down in Worship? Which will it be?

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

An article in the local newspaper highlights a new church forming in our town. It’s a “Cowboy Church” which caters to those who either are or dream of becoming a cowboy or cowgirl.

Nothing wrong with that. Churches are finding great success in leading people to the Lord by targeting specific interests and serving a niche clientele. After all, the majority of churches that Polly and I have served have focused primarily on expatriates and third-culture people.

And this one does just that. “You have people that have never owned a horse or gun but they sit and grew up watching Bonanza and the Lone Ranger,” the paper quoted the new pastor as saying. “If you’ve got a Western or country heart, then the…Cowboy Church is the place for you.”

That sounds fine, as far as it goes. But what really got my attention was the statement that the service “will end with a gunfight reenactment.”

Wait a minute. A gunfight reenactment? I’m sure the folks at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina would want to see that. Or, perhaps not. One of their services ended with a gunfight a few years ago that left nine people dead.

Now, this isn’t a launch into the gun-rights debate, though there may be some hints here and there.

It’s more a concern about what worship is all about and the blatant misuse of entertainment in what should be a God-focused experience, not people-focused.

(I have written about this topic before. See here, here  and here)

For the life of me, I cannot understand how a reenactment of a gunfight has any place in a service of worship.

Lest we forget, the audience in our worship is the Lord, not the congregation. The actors (worshippers) consist of the people in attendance, and the direction of the action is Godward, not human oriented.

From the opening prayer to the Bible readings, the praise music, hymns, readings, the preaching of the word, the time of commitment, the baptism, the sharing of communion, the closing prayer and benediction, all are elements of worship that are directed toward God and designed to please Him and only Him.

When we dilute what we do with distractions, interruptions, and, yes, entertainment, when we finish the service with something other than a focus on God and his saving power through Jesus Christ, we are missing the whole point and are attempting to please ourselves rather than worship our powerful and almighty Lord.

From Psalm 96:1 we read: Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

That does it, powerfully, honestly, and completely. We don’t need anything else than that.

 

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer with to receive these announcements, please let me know at that same email address.

Seen it all

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

Sometimes I think I have seen it all, then the Lord puts something in my path that makes me just shake my head in amazement.

        I thought I had seen the worst when I came to know Martha Carina a number of years ago. She lived in Quito, Ecuador’s worst squatter settlement, in a wooden shack precariously balanced on a rock high on the mountainside overlooking the city. The first time I visited her house the family had only wooden platforms but no mattresses on which to sleep. They had few blankets, no food, little clothing.

        Later, thanks to the generosity of a few contributors, Martha Carina and her family lived in a simple, but to them, palatial cement-block house on the same site, but more firmly anchored to the ground. They ate simple meals and Martha certainly looked better. I saw her several months later and occasionally over the years and was pleased that she was healthy, growing, and lived near a newly forming evangelical church.

        Then I walked the streets of Mexico City one day a year or two later, visiting street children. One group, junior high age, proudly showed us their hole under a viaduct where they lived in unspeakable filth. As we talked, some wandered or turned away to take a sniff of glue while others just breathed it in unashamedly in front of us.

        We joined them and some LAM missionaries for a meal on the worn grass near where they lived. They heard a Bible story and were encouraged yet again to accept Jesus Christ as their savior and turn their lives around. It takes many Bible stories and a good deal of prayer to reach such difficult youth.

        It wasn’t too much later that I joined a group of Christian lay people on a cold, rainy night in Quito as they worked with street children living in the city’s sprawling Carolina Park. They too are ministering through food, clothing, Bible stories and love. The children shivered as a cold wind blew down the street chilling all of us to the bone. But what startled me there was to learn that there were two-year old children living in the park, some with their mothers, others depending on a band of other two to four year olds to protect and nurture them. I guess people dump off children in the park in the same way they abandon pets when they no longer want them.

        Yes, I thought I had seen it all until I walked on a municipal garbage dump in Mexico City. We had to close the car windows to keep the flies out, the stench was nauseating, blowing plastic bags circled in the air like vultures. In the midst of all that stinking, festering garbage and the rabid dogs were people, God’s people, raking, sorting, and living in that trash. Families with children earning five dollars a day for 15 hours of work, seven days a week. They were surrounded by cardboard and plywood shacks in which they live along with disease, and the ever-constant smell.

        Yet, on that dump, home to 3,000 people and, a pastor told me, one of Mexico City’s smaller dumps out of dozens, Christians are ministering, sharing the word, bringing people to know the Lord. Most of the people who live there came from troubled backgrounds in other towns and cities, I was told. And, many of them, once they came to know Jesus Christ, picked up and returned home to new lives.

        Indeed, the Gospel brings hope and new life to children in squatter communities, street kids and garbage dump dwellers. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (II Corinthians 5:17 NIV).

        Amidst the pain and suffering, the aimlessness and lostness, people of God are reaching out in the name of Christ to bring that hope and to transform their lives. I praise God that He has given us the opportunity to see His work in Latin America.

This article was adapted from the book, Inside Track, Latin America Through the Eyes of a Missionary Journalist which is available for sale from Amazon.com.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer with to receive these announcements, please let me know at that same email address.

Seminary training: crucial or a nice option?

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

Just because I went to seminary doesn’t mean that I think every pastor must do the same.

But, I do think it isn’t a bad idea and that any pastor will benefit and be a much better, more accomplished, deeper servant of God if he or she does.

However, according to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor many of today’s new pastors are rising up out of their home church and moving into the pastorate without the kind of formal education and shaping that an earlier generation not only wanted to do but, in some cases (such as mine), was required to do.

The Monitor explains, “What’s emerging…is an example of a quiet but revolutionary shift under way in American mainline Protestantism. Across the country, hundreds of long-established congregations are finding new roles for laypeople as the churches undergo a fundamental change from full-time to part-time clergy.”

The newspaper goes on to explain that one of the main motivating factors for this shift is the declining size of many traditional, Protestant churches which are no longer able to afford a full-time, seminary trained pastor. Thus, they are turning to lay members to assume the responsibilities on a voluntary or part-time paid basis to keep the church open.

The article also demonstrates that most American churches did not have full-time pastors until the early 19th century. And, in that era, many home-grown pastors had no formal theological or seminary training.

Yet, they did well, pastored effectively, and the churches prospered and grew.

One has to praise the Lord for that, and to recognize that God can call whomever He desires and infuse that person with His Spirit to guide, train and build him or her as an effective shepherd of the people.

However, it’s not just traditional denominational churches that are shrinking which are looking for local, untrained leadership to guide them into the future. Newly planted, independent or non-denominational churches are also starting up with dynamic leadership which has little or no training or experience in theological study, homiletics (preaching), counseling or even church administration.

As I observe the numerous newly-birthed churches popping up all over our part of the country in old grocery stories, school auditoriums, strip malls and other previously-used facilities, it is notable how many of their leaders are good people who are struggling to be theologically solid, trained in ministry skills, and effective in reaching out evangelically to those who are seeking a spiritual home.

I do have to express my concern, however, for churches and pastors where the leadership is sorely lacking in the totality of training that a theological degree offers. By that, I mean a full degree that is designed to train men and women for pastoral service from an accredited seminary or Bible college.

Why do I think this is so important? Because seminary or Bible college training produces pastors and other church leaders who are well-versed in biblical studies, theological doctrines, Christian pastoral counseling techniques, psychological and sociological training that provides a broad understanding of the milieu in which they work, homiletics which trains in the areas of sermon preparation and delivery, church organization and management, church history, missions studies and so on.

When pastors work their way through a full seminary training program, they go to churches prepared, seasoned by contact with other seminary students and caring professors, and professionally capable to leading their flocks with care, quality and compassion.

And it’s not just the classes and the books that are important. Equally crucial are the informal insights, nuggets of information and wise guidance that comes from educated, experienced professors who bring a life-time of service and knowledge to the classroom.

Many of the gems of wisdom that I picked up in seminary came in response to a student’s question or an off-hand comment from a professor that wasn’t in his notes, but came to mind in the context of another discussion.

Seminary today doesn’t mean that a family has to pack up and move a thousand miles away for three years. Many degrees can be obtained online or in seminary branches that are popping up in major cities around the country.

However it is done, churches and pastors can better assure that their leaders are adequately trained by providing them with an education offered by qualified teachers in accredited seminaries or Bible colleges.

The local church and the Kingdom of God will be blessed when we provide the highest quality, educated and trained leadership to our churches.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer with to receive these announcements, please let me know at that same email address.

Welcome to our church–if you can find it; On not playing hide and seek with church media information

 

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

While this article was written with the many international churches we have visited and served in mind, the principles apply to any church in our own countries as well.

Imagine the frustration. A couple arrives in a major Asian city with plans to attend an English-language international church on Sunday morning.

They have done their homework—they looked up the time and location of the Sunday morning service on the church’s website and arrived at the announced hotel with plenty to time to find the room, grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and settle in for the morning service.

Except, they discover after asking several gracious hotel employees that the church has changed its weekly worship to another hotel some distance away and the service has moved from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

How frustrating. And, while it may sound like a little thing among the myriad of activities and planning events during the week, it is major to someone visiting in the city who has taken the time to look up a place of worship only to find the information is out of date.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. While it happened to us about four years ago, just in the past year Polly and I ran into two similar problems while traveling in China.

We had planned ahead and looked up an on-line list of English-language churches in that vast country and noted those that we might attend while traveling.

The first Sunday in a large southern-Chinese city we arrived at a hotel to find that the congregation had moved several months earlier to another facility a few blocks away. We were able to rush there through the rain, arriving late for the service.

Several weeks later in a large western Chinese city, using the same list, we searched for a hotel that was listed as hosting a similar English-language church. This time we weren’t so fortunate: the hotel had been torn down to make way for new construction and we couldn’t find anyone who knew where the church was currently meeting.

One would think that with all of the modern technology that makes travel easier and finding hotels, restaurants and even churches so much simpler, church visitors wouldn’t be left standing on a street corner wondering where to go.

Part of the problem may be that church staff or leaders are not monitoring their media presence closely enough and that the frequent turnover of members, leadership and pastors, especially in international churches, results in social media presence being ignored or forgotten.

So, as a gentle reminder to all church leadership, here are some suggestions to enhance your communication.

  1. Keep your media exposure up to date, even if it means changing it every week. Make sure you are meeting at the time and place listed. In a church with many visitors, offer a google map or some other visual help in finding your location. If you change the time or location of worship, even for one Sunday, be sure to list it everywhere including web site, Facebook page, city-wide or fellowship-wide lists, newspaper advertising and even any publicity posted around the city in schools or other gathering places.
  2. Make certain that your information on lists is updated regularly. This includes the various denominational, fellowship or regional lists such as, English-language churches in “your city”. For international churches, many of which change location and worship times more frequently than do the churches back home, regularly check your listing on those in the guide at the end of this article.
  3. If your church has a new pastor or office personnel, make sure that the church website is updated and that any listings of those positions being open are removed from the web. There are numerous listings for pastor searches that have been on the “vacancies” list of the Network of International Congregations for several years. Check it out and remove yours if the position has been filled. The same with other online job boards where position vacancies can continue to be listed for years if you don’t remove them.
  4. If someone develops a website for the church and runs it as a donation, welcome that contribution but make certain to obtain the address and password as soon as it goes online. I have been familiar with at least two international churches which continue to be featured by rogue website started years ago and for which the church has no way to access it to give it an update or eliminate it.
  5. Provide church location and worship time information on your telephone answering service. Too often we have called a church on a Saturday to inquire about Sunday services only to find a litany of “push one, push two” responses which is of no use when the office is empty.

Unfortunately, even with diligent work in any church to keep people informed, there will always be those who…as a person said to me in one church I served…are illiterate!

I challenged that when he said it to me. After all, we had several PhDs in the church, dozens of people with master’s degrees and most were college-educated. “How can you say that?” I asked.

“Well,” he replied. “Every week we send out an electronic newsletter telling people what is happening, we print a weekly bulletin that we hand out, we put all of the announcements on a Power Point and screen it before and after the service, and we make several announcements at the beginning of the service. And yet, people still say they don’t know what’s going on. I figure they must all be illiterate.”

Despite all of our good efforts, perhaps he has a point!  But, for those few who can read, let’s make sure that what they see is up-to-date and accurate.

 

Internet sites with information about international churches:

Network of International Congregations: http://internationalcongregations.net/

Missional International Church Network www.micn.org

Association of International Churches of Europe and the Middle East www.aiceme.net

International Baptist Convention   http://ibc-churches.org/

Fellowship of European International Churches   http://www.feic.org/feic-churches/

Global International Church Network http://www.globalicn.com/ (Warning, as I prepared this list, this site carried a notice that it had been infected by Malware)

International Christian Fellowships in China http://bicf.org/en/resources/international-christian-fellowships (Note, several listings here are no longer correct)

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com. If you no longer with to receive these announcments, please let me know at that same email address.

Wisdom From the Waiting Room; What I Learned While Getting my Tires Rotated.

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

It’s amazing what we can learn while waiting for something to happen.

I was in the waiting room of a tire dealer recently and picked up a one or two-year-old copy of Reader’s Digest magazine. As I thumbed through the pages I ran across one of those bottom-of-the page fillers which gave me some astounding, and disturbing, facts.

Fact number one: Movie popcorn costs more per ounce than does a Filet Mignon steak. So, that explains the credit card charge recently when my wife took our granddaughter to see a movie. The goodies cost more than the film.

Fact number two: In a three-hour National Football League game, the ball is in play for only 11 minutes. Now, if you figure the average minimum ticket for an Atlanta Falcons game at roughly  $78, that adds up to a little over $7.00 for each minute of actual play. And, that seat is definitely not on the 50 yard line.

Now, here is the one that got me. Fact number three: If you have assets (including your house) of over $77,000, that puts you into the wealthiest ten percent of the world.

Seventy-seven thousand dollars doesn’t sound like a lot, compared to the millionaires and billionaires that we read about in the newspapers. Why, it is likely that most readers of this blog own a house worth more than that, let alone retirement plans, savings accounts, a car or two, and the list goes on.

Yet, even with that amount, most middle-class Americans are in that elite ten percent, while NINETY percent of the world would be classified as not among the wealthiest.

In contrast, then, this very recent article in early March, 2017, from CNN  is so very revealing.

Read just a few of the highlights:

Somalia and three other countries (Yemen, South Sudan…and northeast Nigeria) desperately need aid to save more than 20 million people from starvation and diseases, the United Nations said.

“We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN,” UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said….

“Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease….”

In Somalia, more than 6 million people are in need of food assistance — more than half the population.

Drought, impending famine and the presence of terrorist group Al-Shabaab have left the country and its people in a desperate situation.

South Sudan, where a famine was recently declared, has more than 7.5 million people in need of assistance — more than half of whom have been displaced, according to the UN.

In northeast Nigeria, “famine looms for over 120,000 people,” the UN’s World Food Programme said.

And in Yemen, more than 7 million people are severely food insecure, the UN said….

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a similar appeal this week, warning that the crisis facing Somalia has been “neglected” by the world.

“Let’s not forget that each one of these people is an individual case of extreme suffering,” he said.

“There is a moral obligation for us all to do everything we can to support these people.”

Reporting on the same problem, the Washington Post  said: It is the first time in recent memory that so many large-scale hunger crises have occurred simultaneously, and ­humanitarian groups say they do not have the resources to respond effectively. The United Nations has requested $4.4 billion by March to “avert a ­catastrophe,” Secretary General António Guterres said last week. It has so far received only a tiny fraction of that request.

Now all of this alarming news is not presented to send the reader on a guilt trip. But it is a reminder that there is a pressing need for us to reach out to those in such dire straits through the many not-for-profit organizations that are working to alleviate the impending disaster.

While governments are retreating from helping the neediest by reducing aid, the onus falls on those NGOs, Christian and secular, which work in the refugee camps, the war-torn villages and the relief centers which reach out to help those who face certain death.

So, as we read this disturbing news, what can we, you and I, do about it? Here’s a link that offers a variety of ideas. 

For me, I’m glad I ran across this article. It makes me think, pray, act. I invite you to join me.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com.

It’s Time to Quit Talking to Ourselves

By Kenneth D. MacHarg

It was good to see an article in a recent issue of the Guardian Weekly which pointed to the pioneering work being done by Prison Fellowship Rwanda to bring reconciliation to that country which still suffers the psychological pain of a mass genocide 22 years ago.

What was refreshing, in addition to the delicate but successful work of the agency, was the recognition by the Guardian reporter that the efforts are being carried out at the hands of a Christian organization.

The two villagers form part of a pioneering community of 54 families living in the reconciliation village of Mbyo, one of six set up in Rwanda’s rural regions by a non-profit Christian organisation to promote healing after the brutality of the 1990s.

The project was launched by a local NGO called Prison Fellowship Rwanda (PFR), which identifies people and families in need of housing, regardless of their actions during the genocide.

All too often when I read religious news I find that it is critical or skeptical or just down-right condemning of the church and Christian beliefs and practices. Seldom do I read an article that reports positively on the efforts of the church worldwide to serve the needs of others, improve society or reach out to troubled, lost individuals.

Instead, I read either news pertaining to the on-going cultural wars, or self-serving public relations which primarily serves as a way for the church or Christian organization to pat itself on the back (and, not so coincidently, to raise funds). What these press releases amount to is Christian churches and organizations talking to themself about what they are doing, rather than reaching out and letting the public know what God is doing through their ministries.

And, with the exception of the occasional excellent article in community newspapers highlighting the work of churches to reach the homeless, hungry or addicted, most of the actual news concerning Christian ministry goes unnoticed.

With that, then, comes the perception that churches aren’t doing much to alleviate the concerns of the poor, the persecuted, the refugee or their more traditional evangelistic outreach.

While many will blame the media for overlooking or ignoring the good work of Christians around the world, much of the blame must lie on us for our negligence in letting the world know.

Bruce Buursma, who was a religion writer for a number of newspapers including the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Chicago Tribune, once said that religious news that media outlets are looking for occurs where the interests of the religious community intersect with the interests of society.

That is the key for those of us who serve congregations or work for a mission or Christian social service agency. What we do is of interest to the media, and does intersect with the needs, concerns, struggles and interests of society. But reporters aren’t mind-readers. Someone has to let them know.

And that’s the job of the church or agency—to be proactive at sending news-worthy information to local and national media outlets; to be thinking about an angle that those media would want to see that would attract them to cover your work; to begin to discern what we are doing as a church/agency that is different, addresses societal needs, and does meet the intersection of society’s interests and concerns.

Does it work? Yes, but not most of the time. However, during the five years that I was writing about what the Lord was doing in Latin America through missionaries of the Latin America Mission, while I never had one of my articles published by a major news organization, I did receive inquires from such places as the Associated Press, the New York Times, The Miami Herald, The Los Angeles Times, several Los Angeles TV stations, the Canton (Ohio) Repository, and others. Each was seeking contact information for missionaries who could help them as they wrote their own stories.

While 90 percent of what a church or agency sends to secular media outlets will likely not be used, that which is used will go a long way to informing the skeptical, secular audience that followers of Jesus Christ are relevant to the needs of society, and are working to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our Lord. (Micah 6:8)

ADDENDUM

Here are some articles that provided excellent coverage and could have been sent to media outlets as a lead for them to develop their own coverage.

These two were written by my good friend, Ralph Kurtenbach, an excellent journalist working with Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB) in Quito, Ecuador. The first demonstrates the ground-breaking work of a missionary doctor in helping to eliminate river blindness in several South American countries. The second reports on the on-going struggles in the indigenous tribe in Ecuador that made news in the 1950s through the murder of five missionaries.

And, here is a recent piece from a daily news service which shows Christian ministry in a war-torn part of the world. Should security concerns permit, more Christian groups working under such difficult circumstances should be actively making their labors known.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site. Those comments posted through the button on this page will be posted if appropriate. Comments sent directly to me are welcome and I will respond, but they will not be posted. To receive notification of future posts, please click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or write to missionaryjournalist (at) gmail (dot) com.