Friday, January 29, 2010

Volunteer Opportunities for Olympics Vancouver (More Than Gold)

As Vancouver prepares feverishly for the coming Olympics, churches in Vancouver are also playing their part to welcome visitors and friends coming for this world famous event. It is gratifying to know that some churches have come together to provide hospitality through several events.  If you are in Vancouver, or know people planning to come to this beautiful city, share with them.

1) Thunderbird Indoor Stadium @ UBC area

"More Than Gold" is a umbrella name to help churches on the Westside to pool together resources in order to provide hospitality to people coming to watch hockey at UBC at the West side of Vancouver lower mainland. Spearheaded by University chapel and volunteers at Regent-College, the services offered include "welcome desk, internet room, prayer room, chapel, photo booth, pin trading centre, outdoor concerts, and much much more!" The purpose is to extend hospitality to people visiting the city. You can download the powerpoint here.

2) Trinity Lutheran Church @ (Richmond Olympic Oval)

Volunteer opportunities are available here.

For more information about how you want to help during the Vancouver olympics, check out the website MORE THAN GOLD here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ChristianityToday's Top 12 Books for 2010

Here's the Christianity Today's list of 12 books for 2010. They have been selected out of 472 entries.

  1. APOLOGETICS: "God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible" (William Lane Craig and Chad Meister);
  2. BIBLICAL STUDIES: "Sin: A History" (Gary A Anderson)
  3. CULTURE: "Souls in Transition" (Christian Smith with Patricia Snell)
  4. CHURCH: "Deep Church" (Jim Belcher) 
  5. CHRISTIAN LIVING: "Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion" (Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck)
  6. "I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life"  (Gregg A Ten Elshof)
  7. FICTION: "Notes from Underground" (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
  8. HISTORY: "Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine" (Peter J Thuesen)
  9. SPIRITUALITY: "Longing for God" (Richard Foster & Gayle D Beebe)
  10. MISSIONS: "The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith" (Mark Noll)
  11. THEOLOGY/ETHICS: "Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation" (James K A Smith)
  12. THEOLOGY/ETHICS: "The God I Don't Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith" (Christopher J H Wright)
They are all so tempting. I only managed to get my hands on Foster's book on spirituality. For the year running, a Regent Professor's book gets an Award of Merit: Gordon Fee's commentary on Thessalonians. 



The statistics are grim. While the January 12th earthquake in Haiti has taken more than 150,000 lives, it has displaced more than 3 million people in Haiti. In fact, there are many internationals still unaccounted for, and many counted as among the dead. The suffering in Haiti raises again the question of suffering and pain. People continue to ask questions like:
  • Where is God?
  • What is the point of all this pain and grief?
  • What is God trying to tell us?
  • Is evil the winner after all?
  • Isn't God in control?
  • What did Haiti do to deserve the earthquake?
  • Why God?
Both sensible as well as insensitive comments have been made. The infamous insensitive one is by the American TV evangelist, Pat Robertson who dares suggest that the Haiti quake is a 'blessing in disguise.' Suppose the most ardent supporter of Robertson may claim he is speaking some 'truth,' the timing of the statement is grossly inappropriate. Here is the list of some writings about the Haiti quake from notable thinking evangelicals.

1) "The Devil in Haiti" (Richard Mouw, President Fuller Theological Seminary)
Clearly a vigorous reaction against Robertson, Mouw argues that it is NOT God's will for earthquakes like this to happen.

2) "Why Lord? Haiti and the God Question" Dr. J. Kameron Carter, (Associate Professor, Duke Divinity School)
Carter adds a disclaimer saying that he does not like these questions. The problem he says lies in the 'way' the questions are worded, and the 'presuppositions' behind each one. He gives an insightful comment that this question 'prevents us from asking other important social, cultural and political questions.'

3)  "Does God Hate Haiti?" (Albert Mohler, President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Mohler addresses the problem in two ways. Firstly, that Haiti is already some form of a political disaster. Secondly, he warns us that "The arrogance of human presumption is a real and present danger." He calls for all, not just Haitians to remember that all are groaning under sin.

4) "God Bless the People of Haiti" (Roy Ciampa, Professor, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)
Ciampa chooses to focus on the faith of the Haitians, and pray that God will strengthen and encourage the people there, who have lost possessions and people.

5) "Where was God in the Earthquake?" (Fleming Rutledge, popular preacher)
Rutledge gives a thoughtful theological view. In it, she helps us avoid asking the wrong questions, both theologically and pastorally. Pastorally, she says that anyone who claims 'God has a reason' is both 'cruel and heartless.' The best answer is "We do not know."

6) Christianity Today's Special Section on Haiti
If you are keen to explore further the issues on Haiti, this section is a helpful collection of articles, news updates and places where you can give to the cause of helping Haiti.

My Comments
Almost all of the above are in some ways a counter-response to Pat Robertson's infamous TV interview. Yet, I find it quite a sad situation when the media generally remembers Pat Robertson's words more than other thoughtful views as listed above. Why should any one focus on one tiny part of the Christian community and then use that to label the rest of the evangelicals? My feel is that 'balanced reporting' remains a challenge. Kudos to all those who have given an alternative reading to the Haiti question. I am also appreciative of those who chose to withhold comments and focus instead on the immediate help and relief. May are doing that right now.

However, there are people asking real questions about pain and suffering. The Haiti earthquake is but another opportunity to wrestle with this. We can avoid it, but eventually we have to face it. Even though the question is hard, even impossible to answer, it highlights the limits of our human strengths. I have written a theological commentary of the Haiti question last week. I hesitated about blogging it here at that time, choosing instead to put in on my Facebook account, limited to friends. I might publish it here later this week. For now, I concentrate on directing energies not to philosophies about suffering, but on listing people and organizations on how to help.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Re-Post: "A Case For Watching (Engaging) More TV"

I reproduce my article here, first published in "Under One Blog," a collaborative blogging project by a group of Regent-College alumni, intent to engage society more actively and more constructively.

DATE: 22 Jan 2010

Synopsis: Many Christians have consistently condemned the TV to the dungeons of evil. The question is, can we continue to do this? Can we afford to let the evil powers and principalities take over while Christians let them?

I come from a tradition that periodically demonizes the television set. Ugly names are regularly hurled at the helpless rectangular box. Derogatory labels range from ‘Idiot-box,’ ‘boob-tube,’ ‘the box,’ to more sinister ones such as the ‘devil’s chief weapon.’ My first experience with a colour television set was in 1974, where my father bought the new TV just in time for the World Cup Soccer tournament. Watching TV has been a favourite pastime for my family, despite the constant arguments that too much TV dulls the mind. I admit. There are some programs that are simply sick to the core. Others contain too much violence, vulgarity that turn a promising story into another opportunity to display artificial macho-ness. Sometimes I feel the TV lies more than its purported truth. The difference lies in how we read the director’s cut.

The current TV tax law proposal has heightened the animosity between the cable companies and the local networks. Local TV is asking the cable to pay their share for local programming. Cable companies refuse to pay, saying that any money gained by local networks simply means the end-users end up footing the bill. It strikes me as preposterous that each party speaks in such a way that they are ‘right,’ and the other is ‘wrong.’ Regardless of who you watch first, there is a nagging feeling that each of them are equally guilty of telling only their side of the story. Hence, who is correct? Depends on who you watch.

A Change of Heart
Recently I have a change of paradigm. Condemning TV itself is not going to be helpful. Yet, should we be content to tolerate some of those trash on the tube? No. Something more needs to be done. My change of heart stems from three observations. Firstly, despite the rise of the Internet, TV watching is rising, not falling. With the Vancouver Olympics next month, advertisers are gearing up for a sharp surge in viewership, especially on days when Team Canada competes in the Ice-Hockey games. Not only that, movie makers are no longer just dependent on the theatres to bring in the cash to recoup their movie-making investment. Releasing movies on the TV networks is a way to maintain revenue for old movies. For example, the Star Trek series made more money in reruns, despite its miserable returns when it was first released. Secondly, the culture around which my children is growing up in, seems headed toward more visual teaching, especially through videos on the television set. At one time, my kid excitedly comes back telling me that her teacher showed the whole class a full movie, simply because he does not feel like teaching that day. I was initially flabbergasted. However, as I think of my recent engagement with professors specializing in media, they tell me that this is a trend that is likely to increase. Thirdly, I have been asking whether it is more useful to villanize TV or to engage it. After all, TV remains one of the most used devices in any home. Yes, more people watch TV than they read books. For me, I watch more Harry Potter movies than Harry Potter books. I am not suggesting that we join the TV watching revolution simply because we cannot defeat it. I am saying that there is a more constructive way to approach TV. Instead of being passive TV watchers, which certainly dulls one’s mind and creativity, why not engage the TV and to let the producers, the TV media and the advertizers know that we can be a force not to be trifled with?

Beyond 'Viewing'  & Watching: The 7 Habits of TV Engagement
Quentin Schultze argues that there is a difference between ‘watching’ and ‘viewing’ television. The former is ‘passive and largely uncritical’ while the latter ‘requires one to look for the values and beliefs that animate television messages.’ I tend to agree, but feel that we need to move a step further from ‘viewing’ toward engagement.

One of my concerns is that it is not always that easy to make a distinction between ‘watching’ and ‘viewing.’ When my mind is tired, I just want to relax and let the television do all the talking and creating. It is only when I am relatively more awake that I can put on the thinking cap. Having said that, let me propose my idea of a 7-habits in highly Practical Engagement.

1. Advertising (Advertising Base): Write to the advertisers in the offending movie. Address it to “Customer Representative” or “Customer Relations” to state that you will not buy their product because you disagree with the values in the movie. Perhaps, if you write in to the cereal company, the beer or the ice-cream shop, they may even send you a free coupon.

2. Balance (Hear Views Fairly): It is easy to be swayed in a message by any one TV channel. Watch at least two viewpoints. I find the talk shows that gather different viewpoints really helpful, to realize the diversity of views.

3. Compliment (Positive Reinforcement): When a good movie or program is being shown, write an email to the station, or to convey a word of thanks for showing the program. Tell them specifically what are the values that you find should be repeated. You’ll be surprised that this gives producers and TV stations the incentive to look for similar programs in the future.

4. Discerning (Home-base): Every program on TV has a particular plot. Discern what it is, even the advertisements flashed. For parents, use the TV as another ‘parenting moment’ to teach our kids to watch with discernment.

5. Embrace Diversity: In an increasingly global world, choose programs that have a fair representation of as many ethnic groups as possible. I notice a gradual increase of non-white people in TV series such as 24, House, and others. Also be ready to send a message to the producers if you feel a particular show is too biased toward any one race.

6. Feedback (to TV station base): Sometimes, there are good programs that are unfortunately marred by bad language. Feedback to the producers. Tell the studios that you actively disagree with the subliminal message bent on portraying ‘vulgarity’ as reality in life. Just hearing a ‘four-letter’ word uttered does not mean that ALL places accept the vulgar word as a norm.

7. Group: This point is aimed particularly at Christians, especially those of the evangelical camp. Rather than to say that TV is evil, and then hide ourselves in the closet of separateness, it is better to be a visible salt and light to the world, and not allow the free reign of undesirable influences in Hollywood. Remember that when Christians take the movies seriously, Hollywood will learn to take Christians seriously. They need to know that Christians can be a powerful consumer group too.

The English philosopher, Edwin Burke has been widely quoted:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Let me assert that if Christians do nothing about what they see on TV, we risk letting evil control a very powerful media. We risk becoming people who do nothing, except whining and complaining quietly about the world where evil reigns on the TV. May that never happen. Christians can be good citizens and at the same time, be helpful engagers of modern media.

Written by:

Conrade Yap (MDiv, Regent-College)
22 Jan 2010

• Schultze, Quentin. "Television." The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity. Eds. R Paul Stevens and Robert Banks. Downers Grove: IVP, 1997. 1025-7.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti - Give to Small Guys First!

This is an insider update and a plea plea from Corrigan & Shelly Clay, a pair of Regent-College graduates currently serving in Haiti. They have witnessed the aftermath of the devastating earthquake with gut wrenching details. I have extracted some of their updates and placed it here for your reference, your convenience and hopefully your action. Here are my quick notes from their blog.

  1. We get a lot of news from big media. Sometimes, they drown out the small voices who are most needy. This is an appeal by a pair of Regent-College graduates, Corrigan & Shelley Clay, who are serving in Haiti. A key note from them is this; "GIVE TO THE SMALL GUYS FIRST especially those already inside Haiti, LARGE ORGANIZATIONS LATER." :

  2. The situation is deteriorating fast and things are even more desperate. Help must be immediate.

  3. Corrigan has advice us to give to the smaller organizations who are already there. You can Google for the small guys, or give to the ones he mentioned in the blog.

  4. For your convenience, I have the websites of the mentioned small guys here:

For your benefit, I have edited a short brief version below. The original version is after that. As the Spirit leads, I believe you will find time later to read the full version which is an insider's view of what is happening.

From their blog update.

============== BRIEF VERSION =================
"The VERY best way to help right now is to get food, water, and medical supplies to haiti. IT needs to come now. I don't know how to do that, but if you have an airplane, I do hear that the US has taken over the airport and is letting things through.
The second best thing would be to give money to SMALL non-profit organizations like ours (The APparent Project), the Livesays, Real Hope for Haiti, Heartline ministries, or people like that. Make sure they are staying in country first. Many missionaries are evacuating, at which point your donations don't get to the need as quickly. . .
So to recap: Donate heavily to small organizations now (use google to find them)
and then donate to the bigger people and organize trips to Haiti to help in the following months (BUT ONLY IF YOU CAN BE SELF SUSTAINED WHILE HERE!) All aid workers need to bring their own food and water for the duration of their stay, otherwise they are literally making the problem much worse."

===========END OF BRIEF VERSION ============

============== LONG VERSION ===========

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Everything that can be shaken will be shaken"

If you want to know how to help RIGHT NOW, please skip to the bottom of this Blog. Below I am just giving my story of the earthquake and letting friends and family know what's going on.

Well, after days of trying to just secure survival for a handful of families, I have found an internet connection. I was amazed to find the computer lab at the school I work at unlocked, and my friend Shawn's Macbook Pro not only ON, but connected to the internet and not password protected. SO shawn, when you read this, thank you for your irresponsibility. There were 243 messages in my Email inbox, so this blog is my whopping Response. I don't know really where to start, so I'll start before the earthquake:

While preparing to go to school on tuesday I found the pants that I wanted to wear and noticed that they were (luckily) inside out. I went to invert them and felt a rubbery action-figure stuck in one of the pant legs. Thinking my son Zebedee had misplaced a toy I pushed it out with my hand only to find that it was actually a very scared and agile lizard. That is the only thing I remember about that day, other than all hell breaking loose at about 5:00. Shelley and I were debriefing our days at school and the beading program and walking through the house when our kitchen began spitting its contents onto the floor, shattering coffee mugs, hucking the water filter onto the floor, snapping the propane tank valves on our stove in half and just being altogether poltergeisty. We hurried to the back door of the kitchen, holding our adoptive Haitian babies and each other and watching the wall between our house and our neighbor's wobble like cellulite. We yelled out for Keziah and Zebedee, our biological children, and could not see them or hear them over the rumbling and crunching. When the quake stopped I ran and shut off the hissing propane tank and we went looking for our kids. Keziah was outside, and looking almost embarrassed by the awkwardness of the moment asked, "WHAT WAS THAT?" I said, "That was an earthquake.are you scared?" She said, "Yes!" I asked where Zebedee was and she said, "He wasn't scared, he went outside and started riding on his plastic motorcycle." At that moment Zebedee strolled up nonchalantly and asked the same question Keziah had, only a little more stoicly. (Later he would say, "Hey, if we all had helmets, we could RIDE the Orfquake!")

There were many of the poor Haitians who work with our program in the house when the quake hit. They were able to run outside and nobody got hurt, but we were soon to find that two of their houses had collapsed entirely, while others had had a few cinder blocks fall on family members. It was a good thing that the people at our house had been there when the quake came. Other than throwing almost everything on the floor and putting a few cracks in some of our walls, our house was well in tact. When we looked out our front gate we saw about a third of our neighbors cinder block exterior walls lying in the street, having fallen as one big panel.

We began to gather all of our Haitian friends at our house and find out who needed immediate aid. One of our beaders, Chrysaline, could not find her daughter and knew that she had been hit by falling bricks. She wailed in our driveway not knowing where to go to find her child. Others began to show up reporting wounded and lost family members while some of our beaders went to remove people from rubble. Some of our missionary friends set up an emergency room in their clinic down the street and they began taking the most "Grav" situations. We used our car to take people to this makeshift emergency unit, while people shred bed sheets and improvised to clean and treat wounds. There were people with severed limbs sitting in the street, but most people had scrapes, bruises, and simple fractures. We began taking these minor cases at our house, as we had quite a bit of medical supplies at home. Jocelyn (Carey) MacGreggor is at our house and she helped bandage the wounded and make a safe place for people to sit during the tremors that have continued even through today (Sunday). Families whose homes had collapsed came to stay with us as many houses continued to dangle in danger of toppling.

Haitians pray with hands waving and eyes open, much like the early church "orant" posture for prayer. The hills and streets were alive with waving hands, and above the wailing and weeping, we could hear many people saying "Meci Jezi, Meci Senye" (Thank you Jesus, Thank you Lord). Many others cried out loud prayers of repentance for all kinds of sins. Because houses were not safe, people had gathered on barren hills and local parks to pray and wait. It was amazing to see.

Knowing that most people were going to horde gas and that there are not very many ambulences in Haiti, I went out to find hurt people. Two of the largest hospitals collapsed, so the small missionary run hospitals like the one on our street run by Bill and Suzette Manasserro were the only hope for many, but because these were created in the aftermath of the quake, many people didn't know where to find this help. As I drove up Delmas the gravity of the tragedy really came home. I saw building after building crushed, and driving up to Delmas 60, an impoverished ravine near where we live (Where our friends Josue' and Emmanuel live) I saw a pile of houses with dead bodies strewn across the street. The neighborhood, which is built on a hillside, used to look like a grey Cinque Terra, now it is a heap of rubble in the bottom of a ravine. Richard, a Haitian who lives with us and whose family lost their house in the quake, helped me load our 4 runner up with as many wounded people as we could cram in, and we sprinted off to the Hospital on Delmas 33, one of the only standing hospitals.

When I arrived home Shelley and Joceleyn informed me that the end of our street has become a mass grave, with 25o buried there yesterday and more today. I'm smashing days into hours here, as the last few days have all seemed like one big long one.

There is a lot of weeping everywhere, and as this is really the first time I've processed anything (I've been in ER mode), this is the first time I think I have felt the emotional weight of this all. I have felt angry that many people who come here to help won't be able to tell the difference between what is normal Haiti and what has been hit by the quake. Haiti was in shambles before the earthquake, and for a very long time. And people made money off of that pain by being here, but didn't really do much observable good (i.e. the UN). I find myself thankful that people are going to pay attention to the cries here now, but I'm so deeply saddened by how big that cry is . I am even more thankful for those friends who came to help before. Maybe now is not the time to rant.... but I will say, the people making an impact are the small independent Christian missions, and not the big organizations (US Army, Red Cross, etc.) who are fighting red tape and ignorance of Haitian culture to try to help. Later, those big organizations will save many many lives, and their support will be absolutely necessary, but right now it's the small guys and the many many prayers coming this way that are making the difference. It will take the giant NGOs a while to set up to operate as they intend to.

I've not had access to TV or internet before just now, but I have heard that CNN and other major networks are not drawing attention to the spiritual and religious implications of this quake, so I will say something about that. One, I will say that EVERYBODY on the street in the midst of searching for food and water is having theological conversations. They typically sound something like this:

"God has hit us hard, he is so mad at us. We forgot him and he is mad at us"
"But he hit the church up the street too."
"But it was a bad church! It was a catholic Church!"
"But Father _____ loved God, that was his church."

(ecumenical compassion has not quite made its way to haiti yet... maybe now)

"This has happened because we tell so many lies, because of voodoo, and because we have not trusted each other."

This is the kind of talk I hear in the street... not just at my house, or at the missions, but everywhere. The Powers have been hit hardest... the police, the palace, the banks, the markets, the UN, the places that tend to exploit poverty, use corruption, etc. These are crumbled in the streets, while many many homes stay standing. On a natural level, this is obviously because people with a lot of power have big buildings, but.... so did Babel. After praying for so long that orphans who were caught in a cycle of corupt dealings on the government level, for example, it looks like this earthquake is allowing orphans to go home this week who have been victims of governmental processes for 3 to 6 years. Walls and fears that separated neighbors are coming down. Missions that fought over doctrinal issues are coming out of their compounds to help each other help others.

So people, including myself, see significance in this. However you think of it, what is clear is that this situation demands theological reflection, or said less academically, everybody cries out to or at God in a situation like this.

This, however, is not an act of God, if you ask me. Here's my theological take from the middle of a disaster area:

Ezekiel 18:32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

While people are wounded and mangled and destroyed and die because of sin, it is not the desire of God. The anger of God has been sufficiently taken out on himself on the cross. The death of God is sufficient to appease him. He doesn't need people to die. His love, a Father's love, would rather take on hurt than see his children hurt. And He would rather avert his anger towards himself than destroy his kids. BUT, when people elect as king the killer, stealer, liar, accuser, and destroyer, then his (Satan's) reign is what they get. And in whatsoever way that we trust selfish ambition, bitterness, sensual seductions and all the other temptations of life over the sure and strong ground that Jesus has laid for our lives, we elect Satan to a place of power over us, our relationships, and our property. The powers in Haiti have consistently elected riches, power, abuse, poverty, and exploitation as king and this week, perhaps we see the fruit of this election, not as the wrath of God, but as the normal outworking of the reigning government. We also see the response of God in all the miraculous survivors, healings, and the benevolent aid and responses of people. And we see a re-vote as to who will be the prince of this world. Casting the vote for Jesus, as it were, however, means living as he has asked. But he is the knight in shining armor rescuing us from a tyrant king... He is NOT the tyrant king. As John says in one of his epistles "The world is under the control of the evil one". This is why Jesus asks us to pray that his kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.... because it's not fully here yet. One day, says the book of Hebrews, all of Jesus enemies, including death and natural disasters, will be put under his feet, but the battle is not over, and it is not against flesh and blood.
We still reap what we sow, we still suffer for sin, but we do so not under the judgement of God (If He wasn't satisfied by His own death, what could satisfy?), but under the rule of the powers that we have selected. Ultimately every knee will bow, and every tongue will say that Jesus is the very best president, all others are a painful and unequipped, or worse, a demonic second.
So while there is some twisted kind of justice in the suffering in Haiti when it comes to oppressive powers, and there is some immediate healing (in the adoption process, for example) there is also a whole lot of suffering that is just ridiculous and tragic, and all the pain of destruction is mourned by our Father God and he is visibly rallying His troops to oppose the hurt that is here. That is my take on it anyway, and I would never have come to Haiti in the first place if I didn't believe that... that we are still in a battle, each of us potentially overcoming some corner of evil from within the army of God, OR we are participating in evil through our apathy, laziness, selfishness, and unforgiveness.
As Bono said, "Put on your boots"
Or as Dylan said, "You gotta serve somebody"

Right now our plans are to stay and help. We don't want to leave our babies or the families we work with behind, though if the orphan visas allow, we'd love to take a break to come see family if we can soon. Our language skills are indispensable for translating with aid workers right now, and our relationships and knowledge of the culture and geography also allow for us to provide aid that would not be replaced if we left. We are really depending on God's leading each day, and if we HAVE to leave, we have ways to get out and will.

The VERY best way to help right now is to get food, water, and medical supplies to haiti. IT needs to come now. I don't know how to do that, but if you have an airplane, I do hear that the US has taken over the airport and is letting things through.
The second best thing would be to give money to SMALL non-profit organizations like ours (The APparent Project), the Livesays, Real Hope for Haiti, Heartline ministries, or people like that. Make sure they are staying in country first. Many missionaries are evacuating, at which point your donations don't get to the need as quickly. Later, say in a month or two, the larger organizations like UNICEF, etc. will need the financial support to keep the larger organized efforts afloat, but until they really get set up and committed, its more immediately helpful to give to the small guys. The truth is, as aid comes in, without order and police, the aid will turn into a kind of black market, and what was supposed to be free food and water will be capitalized on by gangs, etc. This is what has happened in the past with Hurricane relief. There will probably be riots, etc. so if benevolent people in relationship with the poor have enough money to buy the aid from these markets they will know the culture better and know how to distribute the stuff with less violence, smaller, more local distributions, etc. IT is also important, obviously, to communicate with the large aid distributors about the location of these smaller local points of distribution, as they can avoid doing large food drops in public places and instead get the food to lots of smaller distribution locations.
Fast and PRAY for peace in Haiti while you also pray for food, water, medical help, and some kind of structure to return here. There is a lot of fear developing and hunger makes people do crazy things. Fast for us please. Contribute what you conserve by fasting.
So to recap: Donate heavily to small organizations now (use google to find them)
and then donate to the bigger people and organize trips to Haiti to help in the following months (BUT ONLY IF YOU CAN BE SELF SUSTAINED WHILE HERE!) All aid workers need to bring their own food and water for the duration of their stay, otherwise they are literally making the problem much worse.

I'm not sure when I will be able to get online again. I currently have to climb about a mile uphill up to the school to check email, so please keep us in your prayers, send whatever kinds of support you can, and tell others to join in the effort. Pilots, doctors, nurses, nutritionists, people who can bring food and water... COME!
May His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Corrigan Clay
P.S> I love you mom!

============== END OF LONG VERSION ===========



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Movie Review: Avatar

We went to watch the hit movie, Avatar, last night. My kids have been waiting for this day, patiently waiting for me to return from Washington DC so that we can watch the movie together as a family. So I relented. We were not disappointed, though I do have a few concerns about the subtle messages within. There has been many different reviews of the movie. Most of them, including Christian sites have given a thumbs-up on the stunning techno-effects and various enrivonmental themes. One of the best and balanced reviews is from Carl Wieland, entitled "Avatar and the New Evolutionary Religion."

Here are some of my initial thoughts on the movie.

A) Worthy of Applause
  • Avatar is a technological marvel. The use of colour, animation, screenplay and special effects are top class.
  • Respect the environment. We need to be reminded that we need to use earth's resources wisely, and not to abuse them out of personal greed.
  • It is more important to earn trust and respect, than to demand for it.
  • Togetherness in Community; the theme of brotherhood and patriotism is strong within the Na'vi people. In particular, when Jake was initiated into the brotherhood, everyone in the community rejoices.
  • Strong story-telling from the perspectives of both the military as well as the Na'vi race.
  • Sensitive portrayal of the inner conflicts Jake and Grace goes through.
B) Worth Being Careful or Watchful
  • The movie seems to teach a form of pantheism, (Pan = 'all'; Theos = 'god.') where all things have a form of energy connecting them to a god. Some call it 'All-is-god' belief. With constant reference to the deity, Eywa that will save the Na’vi people, 
  • 'Eywa' is referred to a mother goddess. This is quite similar to pagan beliefs that god is female.
  • The movie attempts to paint the military (especially the US military) in a rather negative light. I feel that there should be a more level-headed portrayal, knowing that military might can also be used for humanitarian grounds. (see Haiti relief efforts, where the military is playing a positive role)
  • New Age themes and terms are rampant throughout the movie. 
    • "Avatar": is a term used for a Hindu deity incarnated into reality. [Answers]
    • 'Pandora' refers to a first woman in Greek mythology. [Collins]
    • "Na'vi" sounds like the Hebrew word for 'prophet.' When used on the indigenous people, it supports a notion of something growing out of them. On one hand, it could indicate a connection to the calling of the people to 'bubble forth' something in them. On the other, it claims to be the people being a channel for a mysterious energy force flowing through them.
    • Animism Theme: Energy Theme is strong, reducing deity to an Energy Force, which is common in many animistic religions. 
    • Transference of Life: How the dead spirit in the human body can be transferred to the Na'vi body, using the energy forces sent by the community of people.
    • Environmental Theme: This is clearly demonstrating that the earth must be protected from greed and careless destruction. The strong New-Age taste overwhelms the creational aspect of caring.
    • We-Are-One Theme: This flows into the New Age thinking that all is connected to a 'god' or higher energy source. 
    • Connection Theme:  The Na'vi people is able to connect and control the life-forms they come in contact with. Animals have connection strands to join with the Na'vi tail ends to form a united body.
In a nutshell, this is a worthwhile movie to watch. At the same time, be watchful of the subtle themes which can infuse new-age beliefs to confuse one's faith. Sometimes, movies that appear to be fictional, but touch on real themes can have a more sinister effect. Moreover, the great story-telling is masterfully done, and young minds can be easily influenced that the world of Na'vi is more real than the world according to the Bible. Even if the movie does not convince us of New Age themes, it has a potential to confuse virtual reality with truth.

With the show garnering top awards at the recent Golden Globes ceremony, Avatar will start to roll off more medals over the coming months, even years. Enjoy the show, but always be watchful of New Age influences that can confuse.


Joke: "Installing a Husband"

This is a widely circulated email joke. I find it creative and in some ways brilliant. Thanks to Cheryl.


Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and noticed a distinct slowdown in overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewelry applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.

In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as
• Romance 9.5 and
• Personal Attention 6.5,
and then installed undesirable programs such as
• NBA 5.0,
• NFL 3.0 and
• Golf Clubs 4.1.

Conversation 8.0 no longer runs, and Housecleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system.
• Please note that I have tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail.

What can I do?



First, keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an operating system.

Please enter command: ithoughtyoulovedme.html, try to download Tears 6.2, and do not forget to install the Guilt 3.0 update.
• If those applications work as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and Flowers 3.5.

However, remember, overuse of the above application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Grumpy Silence 2.5, Happy Hour 7.0, or Beer 6.1.

Please note that Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will download the Farting and Snoring Loudly Beta.

Whatever you do, DO NOT under any circumstances install Mother-In-Law 1.0 (it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources.)

In addition, please do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend 5.0-program. This is an unsupported application and will crash Husband 1.0.

In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance. We recommend
• Cooking 3.0 and
• Hot Lingerie 7.7.

Good Luck!

Tech Support

Monday, January 18, 2010

"The Soy Sauce Towkay"

First Book on Christian Entrepreneurs in Singapore
This is a soon to be launched book by my Christian Fellowship alumni in Singapore. Written by a NTUCF alumni, it is a story of how the founder of the Yeo Hiap Seng company, Mr Yeo Thian In builds his business using Christian principles as guidelines for practicing his faith.  Through letters and interviews with the descendants of Yeo, the 23 chapters make up his story of humble beginnings, that grew to becomes a household name throughout Southeast Asia. The name of the company ( 楊協成) is worth noticing a little more closely. In particular, the middle name, '' 協" (hsien) comprises the cross “+” and three “力” (strength). With Christ supplying perfect strength, the founder begins his business. The word "成" (cheng) indicates success. In Christ, the company will enjoy success. Unfortunately, after the rebranding, the original name has been replaced with a snappier "Yeo's" instead.

Nowadays, if you go into any Asian supermarket, there is a good chance you can find Yeo's products. They have diversified into packet drinks and many others besides brewing traditional soy sauce.

The book is packed with rave reviews from key figures in politics, in churches, in social circles as well as academic dons. By telling the story of the founder, it is hoped that it can spur the imaginations of many, and especially Christians, that it is possible to be a successful Christian in the marketplace. For more information, excerpts and photos, click here.

If you are interested to buy the book at the promotional rate of $10 (Singapore currency), click here. This price will change after 22 Feb 2010.

Book - "Five Minds for the Future" (Howard Gardner)

Title: Five Minds for the Future
Author: Howard Gardner
Publisher: Harvard Business School Press, 2006.

This book is not exactly ground-breaking. It is an extension of Howard Gardner's famous theory of Multiple-Intelligences proposed in 1983. MI theory essentially talks about the flaws of conventional thinking surrounding the definition of intelligence. Every person is different and has various levels of intelligences in different areas. Gardner summarizes his MI theory as:
"According to MI theory, all human beings possess a number of relatively autonomous cognitive capabilities, each of which I designate as a separate intelligence." (Howard Gardner, Five Minds, p4)

This book attempts to build upon this theory by making it more futuristic , rather than mere diagnostic.  The five minds essentially are:

1) Disciplinary Mind: where one masters the major schools of thought (like history, science and maths) PLUS one main craft-skill.

2) Synthesizing Mind: In a world of increased information flow, and data glut, it is highly essential to be able to make some sense out of it all, by processing the disparate bits of information into a meaningful whole.

3) Creating Mind: This is the ability to bring new ideas and new thoughts into conventional ways of doing things, and to invent and innovate.

4) Respectful Mind: This distinguishes humans from computers, and encourages people to learn to respect one another's differences.

5) Ethical Mind: Without ethical considerations, we cannot become responsible workers and citizens in the world we live in.

The Book's Main Idea
Gardner writes this book to encourage new levels of thinking for the future. In contrast to his previous work on MI Theory, which is more descriptive, this book attempts to be more prescriptive. Without developing these minds, people will be left unprepared for the future, and will be swamped by events, information and all kinds of unanticipated happenings. By cultivating these new mental habits, one can live more purposefully in the present, and more hopefully in the future. In other words, external changes of the future world requires internal adaptations of the inner world in us.

My Comments
When I first read it, Gardner's arguments are quite convincing. No doubt changes are constantly happening all around us. It is logical that external changes require us to have a changed mindset as well. His first three 'minds' are more cognitive and personal in the sense that it can be comfortably conducted alone. The other 2 minds are more relational, and goes beyond personal skills or brilliance. I was curious to find out why Gardner selects these 5 out of so many others. His answer is in saying that his five minds is more about 'policy' rather and 'psychology,' and that each mind is a combination of the various aspects of human intelligence (4). It is more an exhortation to cultivate such minds, rather than a clinical device to produce such thinking. 

I like Gardner's emphasis on the need to link development with human values. In other words, education cannot become an end in itself. It must lead to something more. Something bigger and better.
Education is inherently and inevitably an issue of human goals and human value.” (13)

My Critique
1) Limited: Not everything in the future can be covered by these 5 minds. What about the spiritual domain? What about faith? What about relationships that not only needs to be respected but to be loved?

2) Cross-Minds? While it is useful to see the individual minds as a separate entity, what about combinations among them? For that matter, what about discerning which mind to use under different contexts? For example, can we use a 'disciplined' mind to deal with an 'ethical' issue? How do we know which to use? Sometimes, there are more than one minds that are at work in any one situation.

3) Oversimplified: The last two minds tend to be oversimplified to the point that human dealings can have a scientific formula. For example, Gardner recommends that it is important to hire a respectful and ethical person in the organization. Often, at the interview process, we do not really know whether a person is ethical or not, until he/she gets exposed to a real-life situation. When that happens, it might be too late. (166)

4) Respectful as 'Tolerance': Gardner's first 3 minds are stronger as it is more easily measured, more objective. The other two is more difficult to deal with, as it becomes a lot more subjective. For example, as far as one needs to be 'tolerant,' we need to understand who is defining it? Different people has different degrees of tolerance.

5) Communicative Aspect of the minds needs to be included. Part of being human is communication. Gardner's book focuses too much on individual minds or intelligences, that I think it lacks the web of connections and communications to bring all of these intelligences together.

6) Order: Which mind should be cultivated first? This depends on the stage any one person is in. Thus, rather than applying the minds thoughtlessly, it is still an essential exercise to know oneself, prior to using any such models.

7) Culture: This is a huge gap the book did not really address. Culture alone can swallow up the best frameworks and render them ineffective. Thus the need to understand culture is key, and this book is too narrowly focused on a particular form of culture. This means the scope and application of the book remains extremely limited. Unless the whole world changes to become like the world Gardner lives in. Can that happen in Africa, hungry poor third world nations? I doubt it. People will not spend much time on their minds when their stomachs remain hungry.

This is a good book with a rather convincing theory upfront. It can be used to guide the educator toward designing a more holistic educational curriculum. It gives us a good framework for preparing for the future of information, to help us deal with the fast changing environment which is increasingly more data driven and information dependent. The first three minds are great skills to cultivate. The other two are also important, but need more specifics. Perhaps, Gardner needs another author to improve this five minds. What about the "Five Hearts for the Future?" That will be a perfect complement for the Five Minds. I like the book's simple idea and brave proposal. I will like it even better if it has been tested in the marketplace with positive results.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Is God Unfair?

Sometimes, when we are down and out, we tend to compare with other people supposedly having better fortunes than us. We let their plenty overshadow whatever little that we have. We let their happiness, rub salt on our wounds of sadness. Such emotions of despair easily leads us down the path of depression. We blame society for their lack of compassion. We blame the government for not doing more. We blame the Church for not caring for us. We blame God for being unfair.

Our emotions colour our view of the world and the things around us. It is during times like these that we need to recollect our scattered thoughts and feelings, and anchor them on the Word of God. Remember Jesus' words in the parable of the vineyard?

Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” (Matt 20:15-16)

What an apt reminder that we are all under grace! Whether we are first, or whether we are last, or simply somewhere in the middle, we are all in the same condition. We are all under grace. Each time we say or think, "God is not fair," it does not indicate God's sense of justice has been changed. It simply means that we have forgotten that we all live by grace. If we claim God is unfair, wouldn't that be equivalent to saying that we are on a higher pedestal than our LORD, and in the process, unwittingly judging God?


Saturday, January 02, 2010

All Weather Christians Wanted

This is my first post of the year. I twittered today the following: "A Church filling up with fair-weathered Christians is not growing but shrinking."

Church Assets and Liabilities
The greatest asset any Church can have is the presence of disciples who are prepared to follow Christ all the way. Not only do they form the core of the Church, they encourage people to grow with them. On the other hand, the biggest liability a Church has is the presence of people who flee, the moment the church does not seem to 'meet their needs' or when persecution arrives. Such people tempts fence-sitters to follow suit. When a church grows in quantity by people wanting only the fun during sunny Summer, these very people can also abandon the church during the cold depressing Winter. Such people are what I call fair-weathered. Disciples of Christ, rain or shine, wind or snow will stick with the Church to edify, to build up and to prepare for God's kingdom to come. Blessed is the Church whose parish is full of them.

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