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Love or fear?

Pastor in Congo:
Why haven’t the missionaries returned?…
In the past there were missionaries who loved us and accepted to suffer with us

1 John 4:18
Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear.” (NLT)

9.2m avoidable child deaths – what can you do?

It isn’t often that I get requests to post things on my blog, but World Vision have clearly understood how viral marketing works to the extent that they have employed the services of a ‘social media planner’. Tim Hoang asked if I could help get the word out about World Vision’s urgent appeal for 5,000 new British sponsors to help children in the developing world. For most of us this is out of sight and out of mind but that should not be so.

World Vision has identified at least five thousand children who need sponsorship in five sub-Saharan African countries – Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zambia – countries with among the highest child mortality rates in the world.

Launching World Vision’s Week for Children, British school kids gathered together to make a ‘high-five for health,’ urging members of the public to give just a little to make a huge difference in a child’s life. Each finger symbolises one year of a child’s life and the aspiration to get a child to the age of five. Sadly in 2009 each finger represents one of the five biggest killers of children under five: malaria, HIV and AIDS, pneumonia, measles and diarrhoea.

High Five
“We desperately need sponsors to help transform lives and are launching World Vision’s Week for Children to draw attention to the fact that 99% of the 9.2 million avoidable deaths of children under five occur in developing countries,” said Sharon McLeod, Head of Supporter Care at World Vision. “We are challenging 5,000 Britons to sponsor a child, for just 60p a day, which will change the life of that child and the life of that child’s community for the better in a real and lasting way”.

To understand the scale of the problem, data collated for World Vision by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), an independent not-for-profit organisation, shows a child in Sierra Leone is 43 times more likely than a British child to die between the ages of 0-5, while a child in Zambia is 27 times more likely to die before his or her fifth birthday than a child under five in the UK.

Sierra Leone has the highest rate of under-five mortality in the world. For every 1,000 live births, 262 – a quarter of all children – will die. Even if Sierra Leone were to successfully reduce current rates of mortality by two thirds, in line with the Millennium Development Goals, this would be 15 times the under-five mortality rate in the UK, where six children per 1,000 live births will die.

Through child sponsorship, World Vision focuses on improving the quality of life of children – often the most vulnerable members of poor communities – helping to meet their education, health and other basic needs. This may include things such as providing them with access to clean water, better nutrition, education, improved healthcare and economic opportunities.

“Children in the developing world urgently need our support now more than ever. By appealing to the British public, we can demonstrate that the act of sponsoring a child is one of the best ways in which Britons can help make a difference in the developing world today.” said McLeod.

To participate in World Vision’s Week for Children and become one of the 5,000 Britons to sponsor a child please visit www.worldvision.org.uk or call 0800 501010.

Google: evil = faith-based? #09ntc

I’m at the non-profit technology conference in San Francisco. I’ve just attended a session by Google on some of their non-profit programmes such as Google grants, Youtube non-profit channels etc. Based on AIM’s official non-profit status in the US AIM gets free Google Apps for education and we greatly appreciate the tool. However these newer programmes have added new criteria for non-profit elligibility. One of these criteria seems to be that the organisation’s membership must not be motivated primarily by religious faith. During the session I asked why this new criterion is being introduced. The four presenters were unwilling to give any response to my question but “we don’t set the criteria”. Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil” but it seems that Google are beginning to view faith-based motivation as evil. I’d love Google’s policy makers to read Times journalist and atheist Matthew Parris’ article about the difference that faith makes in Africa and reconsider.

Gates releases more bugs – with a very serious message.

YouTube Preview Image
Bill Gates did a nice job of raising the profile of malaria when he released mosquitoes at the TED conference – take a look here for a detailed report from Ethan Zuckermann 

Rwanda dropping French

It's not every day that African countries make huge language policy decisions, but today the BBC Africa news is reporting that the Rwandan parliament has decided that all education will be taught in English instead of French. It'll be interesting to see how this works out in practice. AIM has a number of people teaching theology in Rwanda at university level, I can't see that they will be switching to English until students are coming in with adequate English.

Real Missionaries?

We used to live in Africa and were known to lots of people as 'missionaries' though our contacts there were almost all Christians. We now live in the Bristol suburbs a long way from what many think of as the 'mission field', yet Bradley Stoke is probably more pagan than Abidjan. I work in an office staffed entirely by Christians. My work is focussed on mission in Africa, but my role in IT often seems quite far removed from reaching people with the good news of Jesus Christ. Although we now live in the UK, we are grateful to the Lord for those who have continued to give financially and pray for us. But the nagging question is still there – are we 'real missionaries'? Sadly I can go days or even weeks without really talking in any depth to someone who isn't yet a Christian. Margo at least gets to meet lots of not-yet-Christian mums every week at toddler group. How can we be real missionaries here in Bristol? Being real missionaries probably shouldn't mean spending more time at church or even more time at work. I preach evangelistic sermons sometimes, but mostly to the converted. Perhaps you who pray for us and give to our support are the real missionaries and we should be spending more time praying for you! We'd love it if you could update us on your situation and the not-yet-Christians you rub shoulders with every day in your mission field.

Kenya, BA and Bhete

Thanks to all who prayed for my recent trip to Kenya. By and large
I achieved what I went for and had quite a few other opportunities to
help individual missionaries with their IT needs. My overall impression
was that we in AIM have a long way to go in providing better IT support
for ordinary missionaries who don't work in our office locations. Would
you fancy a job travelling around Africa helping missionaries overcome
their computer problems? Let me know if you are interested.


Continued…
 

Thanks to all who prayed for my recent trip to Kenya. By and large
I achieved what I went for and had quite a few other opportunities to
help individual missionaries with their IT needs. My overall impression
was that we in AIM have a long way to go in providing better IT support
for ordinary missionaries who don't work in our office locations. Would
you fancy a job travelling around Africa helping missionaries overcome
their computer problems? Let me know if you are interested.

It turned out that Luke's sickness before I left was due to a urine
infection. Margo had a real struggle getting him to take some
unpleasant tasting medicine, but he seems fine now anyway.

I arrived back last Wednesday morning having actually managed to
sleep for about 5 hours on a night flight! This may have been because
BA's fancy new 70 channel video-on-demand in-flight entertainment
system crashed about five times before they finally switched it off –
(it did appear to be running under MS Windows). However my good sleep
probably had more to do with another recent innovation: someone should
award a Nobel prize to whoever invented those little cushioned wings
which fold down from the headrest on modern airline seats – not only do
they help you sleep, they stop you drooling over the person in the next
seat. One video BA did manage to show before the system crashed was a
ten minute presentation of the beds in Clubworld class – another way
of winding up passengers like me who will never afford that kind of
comfort.

Thanks to the Brigada
missions newsletter I just had a look at Gospel recordings website. If
you are interested in what the Bhete of Gagnoa language actually sounds
like then go to this page
and listen to one of the audio files listed at the bottom. The songs
aren't the best example of Bhete singing, but will give you an idea of
what it was like to be in a Bhete church. The site also has a good
article by a Wycliffe member called Evangelism for Computer Nerds which gives some insight into the world of mission IT.

‘High Speed’ Internet

When AIM decided to set up regional offices in Africa, we recognised that good communications links would be important to their function; so we specified that offices would need to have reliable high speed internet connections. My experiences over the last couple of days have demonstrated that 'high speed internet' is definitely a relative term…

Kenyan telephone lines, where they haven't been cut down and sold by an enterprising local, are notoriously noisy and unreliable so dial-up internet access via a landline is almost a complete non starter so many people do email via mobile phones. Web access isn't really practical unless one pays for a link to a wireless internet service provider.

The regional office I have been working with over these last few days knew that even the wireless ISPs are often not working and decided to go for a reliable option – satellite internet. For about £1000 a company came and set them up with a 1.5m dish and a satellite modem. Now they pay about £80 a month for a 'guaranteed' 64kbps connection limited to 1GB total traffic each month. For the non-techies that's just slightly faster than a dial up link in the UK and about 100th of the speed of the broadband connection I have at home for less than £20 a month.

Next time you complain about your connection speed, be glad you don't live in Nairobi and pray for us as we try to work out how we can get our secure web based personnel placement application to work over this kind of connection. Currently it takes at least two minutes to bring up some pages! The alternative is to move the office to another country.

Kenya Trip

{mosimage}Yesterday I (Paul) flew from Heathrow to Nairobi. I will be spending the next 8 days here in Kenya. I am here to give some IT support to one of AIM's new regional offices. Meanwhile, Margo will be at home with the four children. We would appreciate your prayers.

Over the weekend Luke wasn't well so please pray that he won't be sick again while I am away.

As we have mentioned before the mission is in the middle of a major
reorganisation. Thw new regional offices are absolutely key to good functioning of the mission under the new structure. I expect to be giving some training in our the use of
our new web-based personnel placement system. I will also be giving some advice on computer security, particularly in the context of countries where Christianity is a minority religion.

At the end of this week I have asked some of the people who do IT work out here to get together with me for a IT forum. This is the first time we have met here. Pray that we will have a productive meeting together.  My main objective for our meeting is to see how we can improve the support we give to AIM personnel using Information Technology here in Africa.

Towards Reunification

We heard from Eliezer that the UN forces are due to begin withdrawing from the buffer zone in Ivory Coast today to be replaced by a new united force combining government and rebel soldiers. The country seems to be moving rapidly towards reunification. Great news after so long.

It is good also to hear people talking about forgiveness. Rebel leader Guillaume Soro is asking forgiveness for the war he waged: "In signing the Ouagadougou peace accords with president
Laurent Gbagbo on 4 March 2007, we insisted that forgiveness is the
price we have to pay for peace, so as to make reconciliation and the
joy of living together again, possible."