June 2015 Update

sabbatical noun: a period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research, etc.

Although this was not in our plans it seems it might be what God had in mind for us and what was needed. As much as Rolf misses his students and being in China being home has been a good thing. He has been able to do some catching up with family and friends. We attended our youngest grandson’s 8th grade promotion and as far as we can recall it is the first promotion or graduation of our 5 grandchildren that he has been able to attend!

In May we celebrated our 43rd anniversary TOGETHER for the first time in years. We rode the train downtown to Chicago and met friends who had graciously invited us. After spending the afternoon walking enjoying the sights of the city they treated us to dinner. It was a wonderful day with delicious food and great company.

We will be heading west next month for our oldest grandson’s wedding in Utah. While there we will take some time and visit with some friends and enjoy some of this great country we live in. Also we will be seeing our oldest granddaughter – and I know many of you will find this hard to believe, but ready for this….who will be making us great grandparents in August!!

Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
This summer we will be hosting 2 families through the Hospitality Homes Ministry that we belong to. The goal of this ministry is to provide opportunities for those who are on the front lines to “come away” with Jesus and get some rest and to be restored. The first family coming is a pastor, his wife and adult son. They will be coming in July when we are out west. They stayed with us last year so they are familiar and know the “layout” and really will be able to enjoy a quiet place.

The second guests we have coming is a couple with a baby and 3 year old. We have never had anyone stay for more than a week so after some prayer and consideration we decided to accept this request from them to stay for a month in August/September! They are missionaries from China on home leave (might have helped in our decision!). We would ask for PRAYERS for them and for us that we can provide the place they need to get that rest and restoration and that we won’t need rest and restoration after they leave!

Lastly, we ask for PRAYERS for Rolf. He has had some shoulder issues and therapy did not work. He will be having a MRI to determine if it can be “fixed” with a shot or if he will need surgery. Obviously we don’t want to have to go through surgery so please PRAY for healing.

We are grateful to you our team for your love, support and prayers. We thank you for taking the time to invest in us and what we do.

Leave a comment

Filed under ministry updates

Memorial Day 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Memorial Day 2015 01

Leave a comment

Filed under american culture

April 2015 Update

It has been awhile since you last heard from us. Meanwhile we did take that 2 week get away in March. We drove to Florida and stayed with Sherri’s brother and sister-in-law in their beautiful new house in Gainesville. We enjoyed being with them and being able to wear shorts and sandals, doing some kayaking, going to concerts and being able to be outdoors – even with some alligators! We were also able to spend a few days with friends in Bradenton, a day with other friends in The Villages and Sherri spent the night with a longtime friend in Hernando. So all in all it was a great time away!

We arrived home in time to spend Good Friday and Easter here and to be able to worship and celebrate at our home church. A celebration it was of the bright hope and promise we have in Jesus. It was the first time Rolf was home for Easter in many years and unfortunately family was not and so we rejoiced in the resurrection with a quiet day with our grand dogs! We hope God’s perfect love and amazing grace gave cause for celebration for you in how ever you spent your day.

” Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 NKJV

Rolf continues to stay in frequent contact with many of his students. We received some very good and encouraging news from one of them not too long ago. After Rolf left apparently a couple of the students watched the “Jesus” VCD that he had handed out at the Christmas dinner and were asking questions asked about what it all meant. She invited them to go to church with her to learn more and they did and have continued going…(Matthew 28: 19,20) disciples making disciples, YES, that’s what it is all about! We trust there were others that also watched the VCD and may be asking to themselves “what does this all mean” and for whatever reason, maybe fear…..have not asked anyone or don’t know who to ask.

Please PRAY the Holy Spirit makes God’s presence known to them and they will seek and find Him. PRAY for the two already going to church that they will give their lives to Christ and continue to grow.

Rolf is also still in contact with the owner of the school where he was teaching. They are talking about the possibility of Rolf teaching in the fall at another school he owns about an hour away. Of course Rolf’s heart desire is to be able to return and we hope that is also God’s will for us. So please PRAY for us as we continue to “trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding.” As we wait we will enjoy the summer and spending time together and with family and friends.

THANK YOU for your love and prayers, partnership and support. We are grateful.

Leave a comment

Filed under ministry updates

He Is Risen

easter-sunday-jesus-resurrection

Peter Williams, PhD gave this video lecture on the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Following the lecture, responses are given by Dr. David Fleming, Dr. John Monson and Mark Lanier. The end is comprised of a time of Q&A with Peter Williams.

Luke 24 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Has Risen

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.

9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The Ascension of Jesus

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

Footnotes:
Luke 24:13 Or about 11 kilometers

easter resurrection-day_14273623231

Leave a comment

Filed under american culture

Counter Culture

Counter Culture 01

Counter Culture
By: Erich Bridges, IMB’s Global Correspondent

It’s hard not to “offend” people these days, especially if you actually “believe” what the Bible says about “right, wrong, sin and salvation.”

Fearing the loss of friends, being dismissed as irrelevant, or worse, being called intolerant, many evangelicals jump on the bandwagon of popular social-justice causes, but lapse into uncomfortable silence on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Some quietly abandon biblical positions on controversial issues altogether.

That path eventually leads to a deeper surrender, however. Because the entire foundation of biblical morality, not to mention the biblical basis of Christian missions, rests on the most “offensive” claim of all: “the gospel itself.”

“The most offensive and counter cultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty,” writes IMB President David Platt in his new book, “Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Persecution, Abortion, Orphans and Pornography. “

Counter Culture 02

Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that “God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before Him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to Him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in His love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from His lordship will suffer everlasting death.”

That claim, and the idea that God became a man, died on a cross and rose again to embody it, is foolishness at best, anathema at worst to postmodernists, atheists, secularists, Muslims and other subsets of humanity comprising billions of people. It is increasingly costly, even dangerous in certain places, to proclaim it. Some cultures consider it blasphemy; others call it hate speech. That’s really nothing new if you peruse church history.

The main question for self-proclaimed Christians, Platt suggests, is this: “Do we believe this gospel?”

If we don’t, we should reconsider whether we really follow the Christ revealed in the Bible. If we do, everything else we believe and do must flow from it. We don’t get a pass on the toughest issues engulfing culture today, nor do we get to pick which ones to address. We must counter them all with the revolutionary, uncompromising love of the gospel. Hence the title of Platt’s book.

Counter Culture 04

The gospel is an “equal-opportunity” offender, as Platt has discovered in his personal spiritual life. He says God convicted him of his own silence about racism and abortion, among other issues. That’s why he’s speaking to other believers now.

“I sense a trend in the church among evangelical Christians — particularly younger evangelicals, but really broader,” he observes.

We have this tendency to pick and choose which cultural issues we’re going to stand up and speak out on and which we’re going to sit down and be quiet on, usually based on those issues that are most comfortable and least costly for us to speak out on. It is right for us to speak out against poverty and sex trafficking, and I’m thankful for increased awareness of issues like that and the way people are speaking out on those issues.

“The danger, though, is if we speak boldly on issues like that, but then when it comes to issues like abortion or so-called same-sex marriage — issues that are much more likely to bring us into contention with the culture around us — we’re much more likely to be quiet. Before we know it, our supposed social justice actually becomes a selective social injustice. … The same gospel that compels us to combat poverty compels us to defend marriage. The same gospel that compels us to war against sex trafficking compels us to war against sexual immorality in all of its forms.”

That kind of consistency won’t win us many popularity contests, but if we back up our words with lives of grace, truth and loving action, we will change culture rather than surrendering to it.

Why court controversy so early in his tenure as IMB leader? Platt began writing the book several years ago, while he was pastor of “The Church at Brook Hills” in Birmingham, Ala. He submitted it to his publisher well before his election by IMB trustees last year. But he remains convinced the time is right for its message to an American church facing fundamental challenges.

“I trust that the Lord led me to write this and knew exactly where I would be when it came out,” he told IMB missionaries and staff in a recent message. “Further, I am completely convinced that these issues are not just American issues … these are global issues … . I want to use any platform the Lord has given to me to strengthen the church in this culture in order that we might send out and support brothers and sisters into other cultures with rock-solid confidence in God’s Word and with wisdom to apply the gospel to these pressing social issues.”

Only servants with that kind of confidence can make a real impact on the world’s lost, who suffer from the worst injustice of all.

“The greatest injustice in the world is the fact that a couple of billion people still don’t have access to the gospel,” Platt says. It is the gospel alone “that has the power not only to change cultures on this earth but to transform lives for eternity.”

“Let’s get down on our knees, then get up from our knees and do whatever it takes, no matter what that means, to set the sails for God to empower limitless missionary teams who are making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached people for the glory of His name.”

Will you “fast, pray and give” to see this “vision” fulfilled?

Counter Culture 03

Leave a comment

Filed under workplace insights

Toxic Work

Finals-paysposter2NOWFINAL

The documentary “Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics” follows the stories of young Chinese workers in factories making products for the world’s leading electronics brands.

Heather White and her team spent the past 18 months in China documenting the “chemical poisoning” among workers and the serious “injuries” workers received during the production of cell phones.

Teenage workers become “gravely ill” from contact with the carcinogenic chemical “benzene and n-hexane,” which have been widely used in the production of “smart phones and other electronics.”

Toxic Work 01

The film, shot below the “radar” in China offers an unprecedented opportunity to meet the young people who are paying the “true cost” of cheap electronics.

The film documents “unacceptable” working conditions throughout “massive” electronics factories in China and the growing “global movement” calling for sweeping change.

The original “trailer” has been viewed by over a million people on YouTube, sparking a “media” campaign with articles in over 400 “newspapers” worldwide.

In a country that “produces” over half of the billions of “cellphones” currently owned worldwide, the “disorganized” status of the electronics industry seems to have “risen” hand in hand with the production of “mobile” devices.

While the film features its share of “undercover” sleuthing, camera crews are “rarely” allowed behind factory walls, the documentary “focuses” on the stories of workers, the majority of whom are teenagers “suffering” from illnesses caused by contact with “carcinogenic” chemicals.

Toxic Work 07

Heather White.

Heather White, the film’s director and producer as well as “human rights” activist, says the film reveals the relatively unknown “pitfalls” of the smartphone industry.

“There has been almost no media coverage, no articles on what’s happening,” she told TWOC. “I read an article written in 1997 about occupational disease clinics filled with teenagers and I wanted to see if what I read was true.”

Collaborating with several Hong Kong based “Non-Governmental Organizations” (NGOs) that helped secure “compensation” for injured factory workers, White headed into the Pearl Delta and began “walking up and down” hospital halls, chatting with patients who “suffered” from factory related “illnesses or injuries.”

Toxic Work 02

A camerawoman films as a factory worker waits for treatment in a Pearl Delta Hospital. The worker recently passed away after suffering from benzene poisoning.

“The workers I talked with were so young,” White says. “One person I met was just on winter break from school and thought he’d make some extra money. After one day in the factory, his hand was crushed in a machine.”

Another fifteen-year-old patient, White recalls, lost his “hand” to a machine malfunction after just three days in the factory.

White found that, since she began “visiting” factories as part of her work with corporate “social responsibility” organizations some ten or so years earlier, the “conditions” within factories had deteriorated.

In an effort to save “money and time,” factories now elect to cut down on “maintenance” costs and remove “safety” equipment.

The result: “finicky machines that move quickly rather than safely and might crush or cut a worker’s hand at the unlucky push of a button.”

Toxic Work 05

Young workers are at particular “risk” for getting assigned the sorts of “hazardous” jobs that need little experience to complete.

Most teenage workers White talked to either operated “machinery or wiped down cellphones” with cleaning solvents.

“The factories have the youngest and least skilled workers in the factory doing these nontechnical tasks, but the chemicals  solvents are really toxic.”

“Benzene,” one of the more popular chemicals found in cleaning products, is a “carcinogenic” chemical that can cause reproductive “abnormalities and leukemia.”

In her research, White found that while benzene can be easily “substituted” out for other “safer” alternatives, the alternatives are often “more” expensive.

“N-hexane,” another common cleaning chemical, “evaporates” around three times faster than conventional solvents.

Workers can “dry” more phones in a workday than if they were to use a less “powerful” cleaner, despite the fact that “contact” with the chemical has been known to cause “nerve damage and even paralysis.”

Toxic Work 06

As part of her “work “on the documentary, White has been “interviewing” a group of 39 girls who, after being exposed to “n-hexane” for three months, are all now “paralyzed.”

Most of the girls, and the majority of workers White interviewed, had no “idea” that the cleaning solutions contained “hazardous” chemicals.

Kevin Slaten, program coordinator at China Labor Watch, said in an interview with the Guardian, “When workers come to these factories they deal with harmful chemicals every day and they need to be educated about them.

Unfortunately training in most factories is not adequate with some receiving as little as 10 minutes pre-job rather than the 24 hours legal requirement.”

With 12 million workers in the “electronics” sector in China, that’s around the number of people who live in the state of Illinois, and an ever growing “demand” for smart phones, White believes that there needs to be a greater consumer focus on “ethically” made mobile devices.

White points out that consumer attitudes can have a significant impact.“Apple, Samsung, all these brands listen to their customers. Consumers are in a position where they can request that their cellphone companies adopt stricter standards and comply with laws.”

Toxic Work 03

White,second from right, sits with Zhang Tingzhen and his sisters. Zhang lost half his brain after surviving an electric shock and fall at a factory that produces Apple products.

Earlier this year, in response to the recent “media” attention on hazardous working conditions, Apple said it would begin “banning” the use of chemicals like “benzene” in the assembly of iPhones and iPads.

White cautions, however, that Apple has so far only banned benzene use in its “first-tier” suppliers. Subcontractors can still use the “dangerous” solvent, meaning two-thirds of Apple’s suppliers have remained “unaffected” by the company’s ban.

Toxic Work 00

“Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics” aims to continue bringing “attention” to the issue of “worker’s rights” in hopes of further “persuading” cellphone companies to provide “safe and healthy” labor conditions.

The film, which recently “surpassed” its funding goal of 218,000 RMB on the “crowdsource” site Indiegogo, is currently moving into its “post-production” phase.

A nine-minute trailer for the film is available on Youku and its YouTube post has already garnered over a million views.

To read a recent “press” article about our film go to Public Radio International.

Toxic Work 04

Shi Zengqiang, on the right, is the father of a 15-year-old worker at Chinese manufacturing company Pegatron who died of pneumonia. He holds a banner at a news conference in Beijing on December 16, 2013.

Bad Apple – End Smartphone Sweatshops
Apple has mind-boggling $178 billion in cash to spend
Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics is on Facebook.

Leave a comment

Filed under chinese culture

Religious Freedom

Religious Freedom 01

China Most Restrictive of Religious Freedom
by Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D.

In a new report by the Pew Research Center, China leads the pack of the world’s 25 most populous nations in government restrictions on religion.

The study, which appraised 198 countries around the world, is based on the newest global data on religious freedom, from 2013.

According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Chinese government “continues to perpetrate particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” When the commission released its 2014 Annual Report, it once again recommended that China be designated as a “country of particular concern,” based on what it termed “systematic, egregious, ongoing abuses.”

The US Commission also found that since 2011, “more than 100 human rights defenders from China, many of whom often work on religious freedom cases, were forcibly disappeared, tortured, detained, stripped of legal licenses, or sentenced to prison terms.”

The remarkable fact is that despite ongoing abuse, outlaw religions like Christianity continue to grow in China, with Christians now outnumbering communists in China. Though the Chinese Communist Party is the largest explicitly atheist organization in the world, with 85 million official members, it is now overshadowed by an estimated 100 million Christians, a number that increases every year.

According to the new Pew report, the world situation itself is fairly dismal, with 77% of the global population living in countries with “high or very high” restrictions on religion, related to government regulation or hostility by social groups. Part of the cause of this phenomenon is the very high populations in two of the world’s most notoriously restrictive countries: “China and India.”

Populations in both of these countries exceed one billion people, and each of these nations is among the most hostile toward religious minorities.

The religion to face the greatest level of persecution worldwide is Christianity. “Christians were harassed,” the study found, “either by government or social groups, in 102 of the 198 countries included in the study,” which equates to 52% of the countries analyzed, more than any other religious group.

Jewish populations are also experiencing a rise in harassment, with hostilities toward Jews, either by government or social groups, happening in 77 countries, or 39% of the 198 countries evaluated. The Pew Research Center has been carrying out this study for the last seven consecutive years, and in that period harassment of Jews reached a seven-year high in 2013.

The report also found that Jews are “much more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society than by governments.” In the case of Europe, Jews experienced harassment by individuals or social groups in 34 of the region’s 45 countries, or just over three quarters of European nations.

Among the regions of the world, the Middle East stands out as the area with the highest level of both government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion. Syria, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia all have “very high restrictions in one of the two categories,” the study found.

The Pew Research Center’s latest report on global restrictions on religion “ranks 198 countries and territories by their levels of government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion.”

Among the countries evaluated, North Korea is “conspicuous” by its absence.

Although sources indicate that “North Korea’s government is among the most repressive in the world, including toward religion,” the Pew Center chose to leave the country out of the study because “independent observers lack regular access to the country.”

This means that it is difficult, if not impossible, “to provide the kind of specific, timely information that formed the basis of this analysis.”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome

1 Comment

Filed under chinese culture