Archive for the ‘God’ Category

… and setting the right priorities.


God of Mission

As I wrote last weekend, it’s not original. I like to give people these seven words and ask them to make a sentence… or two… or maybe more. Most sentences make sense, but I believe only one combination of these words is correct.

What would you come up with?

This blog is called John 20:21. That’s the verse where the resurrected Jesus walked through a locked door to say to a bunch of fairly frightened disciples:

Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.

God the Father had sent God the Son into the world as a human baby initiating a massive change in his relationship with the world and the peoples of the world that he had created. If we tie John 20:21 in with Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 (not to mention many more references throughout the Old and New Testaments), we see Jesus initiating another new stage in which he gives his followers down through the ages an awesome responsibility! A responsibility to be totally involved in what God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are doing.

So what’s the answer to the seven word Mission Puzzle?

I was prompted to blog by another blog post entitled As the Father sent me written by Martin Lee (Executive Director of Global Connections). You can read more about Martin at the bottom of As the Father sent me. He starts like this:

Please help us in OUR mission – the cry of many mission agencies and committed missionaries. Evangelicals have always been and will always be activists. Yet it is so easy for the emphasis to be on my mission, my calling, my sending, my ministry and when this happens it should fill us with concern.

Does this fill you with concern? If you work for a mission agency or a church… have you ever been guilty of this possessive emphasis?

Have you got a sentence from the puzzle picture above that you are happy with? Reading Martin’s blog will certainly help!

After some references to early 20th century theology, you will find this…

God is a missionary God. ‘It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church.’

And later…

We are called simply to be part of God’s mission as we follow Jesus who said: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ It’s not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church.

And he concludes…

UK mission agencies and churches probably need to think much more carefully about the key implications of their role in God’s mission. It is not about MY mission and the promotion of what we are doing, but the work of the Kingdom.

So I’m thinking where does the mission agency that I have been a member of since July 1988 fit in? Have I been guilty in my roles in mobilisation and church engagement of pushing Wycliffe’s vision at the expense of God’s mission?

While I’m sure I often got it wrong, I’m actually encouraged by a memory from the early 2000’s when we held a series of Vision Lunches around Ireland. More than once invited ministers commented that it was their first experience of being asked by a mission agency “How can we help you?”

Wycliffe Bible Translators exists to enable all peoples to engage with the Bible in a language which speaks to their hearts

So how do we do that?

Well… since the God of mission has a church, Wycliffe’s aim is to serve the church, both in the UK and Ireland – and in the many countries where people groups still wait to receive God’s word in their heart languages.

Read Full Post »

A Mission Puzzle


God of MissionIt’s not original – although the photo is – but I like to give people these seven words and ask them to make a sentence… or two… or maybe more.

Most sentences make sense, but I believe only one combination of these words is correct.

Have a go.

In a couple of days I’ll blog on this topic again inspired by a blog I read last week

Read Full Post »

Third in a series on First Steps NI 2016…

Assaalaamalekum mbokk yi.
Maangi leen di nuyu ci tuuru Yàlla boroom jàmm.
Maangi tudd Clare Orr. Irland laa joge waaye Senegal laa liggéey leggi.
Maangi liggéey ci mbiru alphabetisasyon, mooy nga xam ne nu danu jappale ay nit ngir ñu mënu bind di jàng ci seeni làkk. Fi ci Senegal lu ëpp benn ci ñaari sunu reewandoo mënuñu bind, mënuñu jàng.


Clare was one of the First Steps team at Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church on 6 February 2016. Her topic was literacy and Scripture engagement- and here’s some of what she shared with us…

How much of that were you able to understand? Probably not very much, if any. Maybe a few words of French! That was Wolof, Senegal’s main trade language. If we want to learn, we need to understand the language. We’re here today to hear stories of how having access in the mother tongue to information, whether it’s God’s word, health information, schooling or Christian resources, helps us to be able to learn, to grow in our faith and to improve our lives.

What I’ve just said in Wolof is this:
Welcome. My name is Clare Orr. I’m from Northern Ireland and work in Senegal.
I work in literacy, which means helping people to learn to read and write in their own languages. In Senegal, fewer than one in two people is able to read and write.

Nowadays, lots of children go to school. The numbers of children in schools in Senegal has risen and primary school enrolment is currently around 80%. Yet, the literacy rate remains low. When children start school, what language do they understand?

Maybe Wolof, or Jola Kassa, or Manjaku. Senegal has more than thirty languages. Children understand their own language and maybe Wolof or another Senegalese language. They don’t understand French. Nobody at home talks to them in French. Yet what language do teachers speak and teach in at school? French. This is a huge problem. A child who doesn’t understand French, can’t learn in French.

It’s not that education isn’t possible in other languages. Learning can take place in their mother tongues, and this is something Wycliffe members are involved with in Senegal.

For the past few years, literacy classes have been offered for children in the Manjaku language. These classes aren’t part of the formal curriculum. Instead, the children come back in the afternoon, when normally they would be off school, and learn to read and write in their own language. Originally, parents were suspicious, thinking that learning Manjaku would hinder their children’s abilities to learn in French. However, parents are now realising that their children are advancing in French more quickly because of these mother tongue classes.

Famata, a 17 year old, didn’t understand much French, did badly at school and therefore had dropped out a couple of years previously when she became pregnant. When Manjaku classes began in her village, she went to the classes, and was able to follow them and learnt well, even encouraging the others in her class to keep up their regular attendance. Thanks to the confidence that this gave her, she was able to return to French school, and was near the top of her class there. She dreams of being a teacher some day.

As one Manjaku parent said, “The step backward into their tradition means they are in a better position to then step forwards.”

Of course, it’s not only children who can benefit from learning to read and write in their mother tongue. Coming back to the Manjaku, Lamine, the leader of the literacy team, spoke of how happy the people in one village were to have a class in their mother tongue rather than in one of the neighbouring languages. One learner said, “We have this proverb that we always take the flash-light of others to light the room. Now we have our own torch to shine on our path so we know where we are going.”

Clare with one of the Ebola posters

Clare with  Ebola poster

Ku la abal i gët, nga xool fa ko neex.
If someone lends you eyes, you will look wherever he wishes.

By enabling people to read and write in their language and by giving them new ways to engage with Scripture in the mother tongue, we are helping them to look with their own eyes, and through their own eyes to come to know the God of the Bible for themselves.

You can read about how Clare’s work helped prevention when Ebola threatened Senegal in 2014.

Find a Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland First Steps day near you!

Read Full Post »

Second in a series on First Steps NI 2016…

Dorothea sells toilet rolls

It happened after lunch. It was fun, frustrating and focussed on cross-cultural adaptation. It was a role play called Trading Places: a fictional market place simulation using real cultural rules – with toilet rolls, bananas, oranges and second-hand trainers.

Dorothea, Clare and Stuart were the frustrators and the First Steppers were the frustrated, but hopefully also the learners.


Clare sells bananas & oranges

I’m not going to reveal the cultural rules here. Suffice to say that all the rules used are genuine and exist in real cultures somewhere, but not together in one people group.

Cultures are different, but no one culture is either “right” or “wrong” – if we want to work in cross-cultural mission, we need training to learn how to live cross-culturally so that we will behave and communicate in culturally appropriate ways.

Stuart sells second hand trainers

I guess the punchline is this – the most amazing example in history of someone making a cross-cultural transition was when Jesus, the Son of God was born as a human baby.

Jesus identified totally with the Jews of first century Palestine, demonstrating God’s love to them in market places, in fishing boats and in their homes. In following him, Christians today need to be prepared to adopt to the culture of those around us wherever God has placed us.

Find a Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland First Steps day near you!

Clare negotiating a sale… or maybe just ignoring some people?

Read Full Post »

God brings people together and when he does: he speaks, he stirs and he sustains

Niall starts us off with a Bible reflection

Niall Lockhart starts us off with a Bible reflection

First Steps was hosted by Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church on the edge of Belfast, N. Ireland on Saturday 6 February 2016. Niall Lockhart is the minister at Ballyhenry and we asked him to start us off with a Bible devotional. It was great: it was devotional but also packed a challenging punch for us all, both staff and participants. Thank you, Niall, for allowing me to blog excerpts from your talk.

God brings people together. It’s the story of the Bible. But in a very down to earth way it’s also the story of Wycliffe here in Ireland.

God is on a mission and through Wycliffe God is bringing people together. People from different church backgrounds (it’s one of the great strengths of Wycliffe), people of different ages, with different skills and backgrounds, people with different personalities. People who end up in different roles, some going and some supporting those who go, an incredible diversity of people who can find their place and call in an organisation like Wycliffe.

God brings people together, just as He has done here, today.

And when God brings people together God works. Now God can work in all kinds of ways.

When God brings people together: God speaks.
Turn to Nehemiah chapter 8. Verse 1:
‘All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel … (verse 3) … He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of all the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.’

The came together and God spoke to them. God has brought you together here today. I want to encourage you to anticipate that God will speak to you today.

But secondly in the Bible when God brings people together: God stirs.
The book of Acts is a book about mission. In Acts chapter 4 we find the early mission movement facing extreme pressures. There was an enormous need for God’s word to be proclaimed, and yet resources were few and obstacles were many.

But look at what happened in verse 23 and following:

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord’ they said, ‘you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them … (verse 29) … Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.’

They came together and God stirred. Gave them a new vision of who He has, and gave them a new boldness and energy in the work of mission. God has brought you together here today. I want to encourage you to anticipate that God will stir you today.

But thirdly, and finally, we discover in the Bible, that when God brings people together: God sustains.
Turn to John 20 verse 19.
On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After He said this, he showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’

Those first disciples came together. Carrying their own weaknesses, their own personal failings, their own limitations, their own fears. And when they were together the risen Lord Jesus met with them. He breathed His Spirit on them. And as He sent them He promised to sustain them. He promised to sustain them with what they needed most. His presence.

Friends, God has brought you together here today. I want to encourage you to anticipate, yes that he will speak, yes that He will stir, but also to know that He can and will sustain you. Amen.

Find a Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland First Steps day near you!

Read Full Post »

The story is told of a father attending a parent teacher event. His child asked the father to make sure that he saw her story which was posted on the classroom wall – and he found it. It was beautifully written and very well illustrated, but there was no punctuation. The story was almost incomprehensible.

We need punctuation in our lives and our work as well as in our writing. If there are no pauses for reflection or spaces for rest – we’re in trouble. So that’s what I did with some colleagues last week: we put in some punctuation.

We took time out of the office to spend time both individually and as a team to listen to God so that our lives and our work might be more comprehensible.

Time out

Last week the Wycliffe team based in N. Ireland had an away day with a friend called Anne who opens her home for retreats… for punctuation. On the theme of the new year, Anne shared a poem by Joyce Rupp called Freshness.


The repeated verse struck me…

a new year is moving in

just as surely as the winter

walks along in snowflakes

I imagined a fresh fall of snow on the ground, pure white, no muddy smudges, no footprints – I saw a new untouched fresh page for 2016.

my God is moving in again

and just like winter snow

he breathes my life full freshness

In my new 2016 life, there will be more than one fresh page to write on: my personal relationship with God; with my family; with my church; my role in the Wycliffe N.Ireland Church Engagement team…

It was a day well spent in rural Raffrey. I plan to put in the punctuation again… soon.


Read Full Post »

BBC one week Sep15 Kairos flyerI have now been a facilitator (a politically correct term for teacher) on four Kairos World Mission courses and every time I come away with the same phrase ringing through my mind – Blessed to be a blessing!

It starts in Genesis and reverberates throughout the Bible all the way to Revelation.

‘I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing…
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.’   Genesis 12:2-3

‘After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.’   Revelation 7:9

As you can see from the image above, we have recently finished a preterm Kairos for students at Belfast Bible College. Personally I felt blessed, not just by re-visiting the mind-blowing Biblical overview of mission, but also by the super bunch of 22 students with whom we worked for five intensive days.

Here are some images from the week…

M&Ms inspired interest for Kairos Ch3

Day 4 started with prayer for Buddhists in cambodia

Day 4 started with prayer for Buddhists in Cambodia

Worshipping the everlasting God on Day 5

Worshipping the everlasting God on Day 5

On the last day, students were invited to reflect on the week with the options of writing a letter to God or making a drawing. My group shared moving and encouraging extracts from their letters while Amy produced this impressive sketch.

God's heart for the nations

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Psalm 51v10

Amy’s message was that she was handing her heart over to God as a symbol of her desire to serve in his mission to his world. As I look at the drawing, I am forcefully reminded of God’s heart for the nations of the world that he created. Perhaps other people will identify their own layers of meaning as they apply the image to themselves. My thanks to Amy for allowing me to share this.

Finally here is the photo of my group (and me) with their Kairos certificates. Thank you to all of you. You’ll probably never know how much you encouraged me throughout the week. God bless you.

My Growth Team

Read Full Post »

… a whizz of a tour of global mission at the Meeting House on Loy Hill in Cookstown – otherwise known as 1st Cookstown Presbyterian Church.

On Thursday 24 October…

PCI Transforming Mission 2

PCI Celebration of Global Mission

… the Transforming Mission roadshow hit Cookstown after a successful first night on Tuesday at Assembly Buildings, Belfast.

First up we had the team photograph…

Celebration of Global Mission official team photograph

Celebration of Global Mission official team photograph

… followed by local minister Isaac Thompson’s gracious welcome to everyone – possibly ever so slightly embarrassing a veteran Mission Africa missionary who arrived as we were starting.

There were a number of double acts on the bill:

Uel and Cheryl: coordinated the programme beautifully, introducing and praying – and Uel reprised his excellent WISE SSAs comment from GA2013

Elizabeth and Sandra: took us on a trip to Transylvania, which as everyone knows is in Romania, but where lots of people speak Hungarian.

Rob and Karen: with Moderatorial poise and a well choreographed reference to Strictly Come Dancing, gave an excellent account of their trip to Rwanda and set us all up nicely for the upcoming World Development Appeal 2013 Let Justice Flow: Transforming Lives

The first solo spot was from Stephen from the Samburu Awareness and Action Programme in Kenya: Stephen mixed humour with pathos, Chinese roads with mud bound trucks, sensitivity with taboo subjects – and earned much respect for 25 years service in remote rural Kenya

Finally, if not chronologically so, John (that’s me) reliably informed the audience that Elvis was alive and well and translating the Bible in the Central African Republic; quoted from Nelson Mandela and Pastor Modibale; and showed the Wycliffe and Vision 2025 video

I’m looking forward to the next one!

Read Full Post »

Easter 2013 in N. Ireland. Too much snow, power cuts, inconvenience in the towns, serious anxiety for sheep farmers. Surely it should be sunshine, daffodils and crocuses, pleasant walks in pleasant temperatures, cute lambs in green fields.

Easter for the 21st century. Eggs, bunnies, chicks and chocolates or an eternally pivotal Christian festival…

crown of thorns

The first Easter appears at first glance to be all confusion.

A derisory king: mocked, abused and tortured by cruel soldiers.

A rejected king: accused via trumped up charges, his death demanded by power threatened priests.

An alternative king: proclaimed innocent, misunderstood and oddly feared by a puzzled Pilate.

The King of Kings: crucified to rise again by God’s plan to bear our sins and re-establish God’s true kingship on earth.

Confusion at Easter? Not for God nor for his son Jesus. Ultimately not for us either.

With thanks to SU WordLive today and especially Derek Tidball’s Deeper Bible Study

Read Full Post »

PW widerworld 002A

Did you ever pray and hear no answer from God?

A man from Ivory Coast called Toualy Bai Laurent, who became a Christian in 1958, wanted to learn more and began to pray that God would send someone to translate the Bible into his Kouya language. By 1980 he was still praying with no sign that God had heard his prayers…

Francois Sare, a man from Burkina Faso became a Christian in 1989, the same year we went with Wycliffe Bible Translators to next door Ivory Coast.

“During all those years I haven’t been able to read the Bible in my own language. I’ve got my own French Bible but my first language is Bissa Barka. If the Bible was in Bissa Barka then I would be able to understand more than I can now. I think about how long it will be until we have the New Testament. I’m in a hurry to have it.”

Did you ever try to tell someone something, but they wouldn’t listen? That’s the same as the Old Testament prophets, like Amos, from Judah, whom God sent to “prophesy to my people Israel”. The prophets spent years proclaiming the Lord’s message, but nobody listened.

In the opening chapter of his book, Amos proclaimed God’s judgment on Israel’s neighbours – Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab – for what they had done to Israel. God would relent no longer: he would send fire to consume fortresses; kings and peoples would go into exile. Can you imagine Amos’ hearers enjoying this? Good for the Lord! They’re going to get what they deserve!

But in chapter two, Amos proclaimed judgment on Judah and Israel. Judah had been led astray by false gods just like their ancestors before them. They rejected the law of the Lord and did not keep his decrees. It was a chicken and egg situation: their rejection of God’s law led to worship of false gods which prevented them obeying God’s law… and so it went on.

Judah gets it quick and sharp, but the judgment on Israel lasts for almost five chapters. Israel is condemned for pressing into slavery those who cannot repay paltry debts; trampling on the heads of the poor; sexual immorality and drunkenness in the temples of false gods.

God said, “I will crush you!” You will not escape my judgment. You have been warned and you have continued to disobey. God said, “I hate, I despise your religious feasts.” Their token sacrifices failed to stop their wallowing in complacent pride and self-centred prosperity. “They do not know how to do right,” declared the Lord.

Interspersed in all this are appeals to “seek the Lord and live” – but no! Israel’s leaders, her priests and her king don’t like what they are hearing. If Amos could just be persuaded to go away.

So Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, accused Amos of conspiring against King Jeroboam. Imagine him spitting invective in the face of Amos as he says,  “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Don’t prophesy any more at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

Amaziah confirmed the rejection of God. The ancient sanctuary of Bethel was not God’s. It belonged to king Jeroboam and his kingdom. Amaziah accused Amos of trying to profit from his prophecy.  Amos responded that the Lord would surely send Israel into exile.

And so we arrive at chapter 8 with Amos’ vision of a basket of ripe fruit. A positive harvest image? But no – the fruit was Israel ripe for punishment. Israel had rejected the invitations to seek the Lord; Israel had evicted Amos because they didn’t want to hear what he was saying.

They continued to do what the Lord had deplored:

“Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, ‘When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?’ – skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.”

The judgment was serious: the earth darkened in broad daylight; joyful religious feasts turned to mourning; temple songs to wailing. But the bit that really hit me was verse 11!

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

The awful silence of God!

If you won’t listen to me, the Lord said, I won’t speak to you. It had been prophesied before. Amos prophesied over 300 years before Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets. There were several times when there seemed to be a famine of hearing the words of the Lord, but the big one came in the inter-testamental period – those 400 years or so between the Old and New Testaments.

So what broke the silence? Gabriel spoke to a flabbergasted Zechariah and to an astonished Mary. Thirty years later, John the Baptist called out in a voice from the desert to prepare the way for the Lord, the arrival of the Messiah, fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus, his cousin. The Lord chose to speak to his people again. Would they listen this time?

The modern famine of hearing the word of the Lord is double sided. One side is the majority of the world’s population who have access to the Bible but, like the people of Israel, many refuse to listen. Twenty first century people see the Bible and Christianity and even God as irrelevant, outdated, and often badly represented by Christians.

The other side is the millions who want to listen and hear, but they cannot – because the Bible is not available in their heart languages.

Toualy Bai Laurent from Ivory Coast had his prayers answered in the 1980s and, before he died a few years ago, he had his copy of the Kouya New Testament.

Francois from Burkina Faso is encouraged because a translation into Bissa Barka has begun thanks to fundraising during the 2011 Biblefresh year.

PW widerworld 001APostscript: Current estimates suggest around 209 million people speaking 1,967 languages may have a need for Bible translation to begin. See also

They still experience the famine of hearing the Word of the Lord.

This piece was first published on my blog on 20 December 2012 when I flagged it up as a draft. Now the article has been printed in the current edition of Presbyterian Women’s Wider World magazine..

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: