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100 days

Around Easter time I shared some excerpts from 100 Days 100 Years. Just a few days ago (Day 91) I was particularly touched by the way Barry Forde applied Queen Esther’s situation to all of us – way back then ever since and today.

100 years. Of bloodshed, politics and redrawing maps. Of leadership that promises liberation, that is arrogant, that results in death. Of ungodly alliances between religion and state, religion and culture, religion and whatever cause that needs religion, or is needed by religion, to serve its purpose. Of false masters. Of the displacement of peoples. Of inequality, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice. Of being in control, or being controlled. Of differing perspectives. Of political manipulation and murderous plans. Of twisted and twisting minds. Of the excesses of greed, drunkenness, pride, vanity. Of the exploitation and trafficking of people. Of the objectification of women. Of wondering, “Where is God?”

Esther denouncing Haman

100 years. This was Persia. This was the time of Esther. This was then. This is now. “For such a time as this”. (Esther 4:14)
As another famous saying aptly reminds us, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
The truth is, we do not get to choose the era in which we encounter the same recycled pattern of sin. The same frail and failed human condition. We do not get to choose the context in which it is our time to honor God, or not honor Him. We do not get to choose the moment when, for whatever reason, we find ourselves in a position to do the right thing, or do the easy thing. Moreover, as with Esther in her own moment of truth, we do not get the promise that if we do the former, all will go well for us in the here and now.
What we do have is the truth of the real Easter rising. For such a time as now, and for all time, this is the only answer to the human problem. Our challenge, and our prophetic witness for the sake of the lives of those we live among, is to bear witness to this truth in our era. Our time. Our 100 years.


Lord God, in the time You have placed us, make us faithful ambassadors for Christ. Give us the wisdom of heaven to know Your will, and the courage to walk in it. Amen.

Barry Forde

I wasn’t going to blog the whole Day 91 post, but it’s so good, why not 🙂



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Two days ago was St Patrick’s Day.

Green Colosseum

The Colosseum, where Christians were once killed by wild animals, a symbol of the Roman Empire which collapsed leaving Irish Celtic Christianity founded by Patrick to save civilisation.

Many famous places around the world were lit up green. The Colosseum in Rome was but one unlikely venue.

Many people posted simplistic and trivial nonsense about what St Patrick’s Day is definitely not about: like the statement that in Ireland:

“Traditionally, people attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Then they eat Irish bacon and cabbage. Yum!”

That one came from an organisation that will remain nameless but should certainly know better in terms of cultural accuracy.

Then there was the American video  entitled Who was St Patrick – Christian History Made Easy with garish graphics including St Patrick standing dressed in red, clutching a church under his arm and shouldering a twentieth century tricolour Irish flag. As a former History teacher, I was horrified!

On a more sensible and much more tasteful note, Gilbert Lennox Photography posted this image

Green aurora at Ballintoy

“The aurora returned just in time to turn the night sky green for St Patrick’s Day. This is the parish church at Ballintoy.”


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Just saw this from Alan Wilson as I ate my lunch…

I suspect that it’s the church that keeps mission front and centre that is less likely to lose its way and fade into irrelevance.

A potentially unsettling question for church leaders.

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Sgurr nan Gillean

A wee taster…


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Olympic Gold

The picture says it all!

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“the kind of tasty food I like”

Did you ever wonder what it was all about? Isaac on his death bed called his first born son Esau and asked him to go hunting and make him a last meal of “the kind of tasty food I like”.

Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your weapons—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.”   [Genesis 27:2-4]

It’s the introduction to a tale of lies and deceit that meant that Isaac gave his blessing to Jacob rather than to Esau. Esau was cheated. Isaac was conned. Jacob told a whole series of verbal and acted lies. Rebekah orchestrated it all.

But “God overrules, not by turning evil into good, but by ensuring that his will prevails, not only through the way his people act but sometimes in spite of it. Indeed, we could argue that this is a major theme of the Old Testament”.  SU WordLive comment by John Harris

This is one of those Bad Boy Bible Stories that David Lingamish Ker writes about in his first published book The Bible Wasn’t Written to You – see here. I’ve recently been reading the Kindle edition. It’s based on a series of blogs and confronts many of our cosy ideas of what the Bible is all about… as does John Harris’ SU WordLive comment.

What I particularly like is the idea of looking at the Bible as a series of stories that God caused to be be recorded, written down – and of course translated! Not so that we should emulate all the wrong things that the heroes of the Bible did and said, but that we should learn from them. It’s the same with Jesus’ parables. They are great stories that teach truth, but we are not meant to take the actions of the characters within them as advice for living as Christians: the shrewd manager is just one example that springs to mind.

To finish… Isaac’s love of fresh hunted meat was not just a personal whim or an ancient version of The Great British Menu. The love for bush meat is alive and well and I enjoyed some just a few weeks ago in Ivory Coast.

The photo at the top shows friends Ambroise and Didier stopping to buy freshly cooked bush meat on the road from Daloa to Abidjan!

If you want a close up of the bush meat – just ask 🙂

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St Columba's Presbyterian Church, Lisburn

This was originally posted on 14 March 2011, but seemed to get lost when I referred to it in God Speaks Bambalang yesterday – so I’m re-posting…

It was my third Sunday in a row speaking at three different churches – and in between there had been the six venue Irish leg of From Eden to Eternity – now about to start the English part of the tour having done three venues in Scotland since leaving Ireland last week.

I was on a high and rarin’ to go. I was excited that, as we worshipped God in Lisburn, in the NW of Cameroon the Christians of Bambalang would be celebrating the very first book of the Bible in their Chrambo language – the Gospel of Luke. To use the Cameroonian Pijin phrase, they would be having a Happy Happy! And I wanted the folks in St Columba’s to be Happy Happy with their brothers and sisters in Christ in Bambalang.

We did celebrate the Gospel of Luke in Bambalang together, but with less joy than I had anticipated a week or so ago when I was preparing for St Columba’s.

I’ll let Dan Grove (my colleague from Canada and team leader for the Ndop Cluster project of which Bambalang is just one of the ten related but distinct languages) explain further in his 27 February e-mail…

Dan with Bambalang translators Novaten & Pius

So what are you doing on Sunday, March 13th? Well, if you were able to be here in Bambalang at 11:00 AM you would be joining all the churches in the village as they gather together for a celebration of what God has done. You would be joining a party! So wherever you are in two weeks, smile and wish your neighbour or friend or pastor a ”Happy, Happy!” – that’s how you greet someone here in the Northwest of Cameroon when there is a holiday. There will be singing, dancing, praying, reading, and it will all be in Chrambo.

But as we’ve seen in the media recently, events can change with incredible rapidity! Dan again a week later on 6 March…

So…yesterday there was a problem, then a fight, overnight a house was burned, then someone was stabbed, then someone else was shot, then for most of today Bambalang was in a war with a neighbouring village and because “we” ran out of bullets first the other guys came into our village shooting and burning homes. No one was killed but there has been a lot of houses burned. It was the saddest sight I have ever seen as people were streaming on the road past our house fleeing the fighting.  By 6:30 PM they [the people from the neighbouring village] had reached less than a km from our house and we had the truck packed and were ready to leave. At that point the other guys apparently ran out of bullets because they went back to their side of the border leaving behind a large number of burning and burnt homes. Whatever happens from here, it appears the stakes have been raised by the Evil one for next week. He does not want the Word to come to Bambalang. He wants to distract and steal and kill and destroy. We would appreciate your prayers this week as the churches seek to not only continue preparation for the dedication, but to respond to this crisis in a way that honours God and shows His love for the people of Bambalang.

And so it became uncertain whether or not the Sunday 13 March celebration would happen.

Dan again on Friday 11 March…

I was talking to Pastor Pius yesterday and they have decided to go ahead with the dedication of Luke on Sunday as the people need hope and something else to focus on. Pray that they will sense God’s love for them and that they will be strengthened as they come together as churches to worship and praise Him for the coming of His word, and that in all this, He will be glorified.

I prayed Dan’s prayer with the folks in St Columba’s on Sunday morning. Please continue to pray for the end to this ethnic warfare and for God’s Word to have a powerful impact on the ten language groups in Ndop. Pray too for the Bamunka people – their Gospel of Luke is also very close to publication and celebration.

Pastor Edward (one of the Bamunka translators) & his family

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I posted this blog extract on 14 March 2011…

I was on a high and rarin’ to go. I was excited that, as we worshipped God in Lisburn, in the NW of Cameroon the Christians of Bambalang would be celebrating the very first book of the Bible in their Chrambo language – the Gospel of Luke. To use the Cameroonian Pijin phrase, they would be having a Happy Happy! And I wanted the folks in St Columba’s to be Happy Happy with their brothers and sisters in Christ in Bambalang.

We did celebrate the Gospel of Luke in Bambalang together, but with less joy than I had anticipated because the Bambalang celebration was put in doubt by an outbreak of violence after an argument with a neighbouring village. I remember praying that the Bambalang people…

…  will sense God’s love for them and that they will be strengthened as they come together as churches to worship and praise Him for the coming of His word, and that in all this, He will be glorified.

This morning I found a video entitled Forgive My Enemies which tells the Bambalang story and features Pastor Pius, one of the Bambalang translators.

One week before the dedication of the Gospel of Luke, three hundred homes in the village of Bambalang, Cameroon, were burned by a neighboring village. But hearing Scripture in their own language has brought comfort and forgiveness.

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These words, the last words of Jesus on the cross before he died, changed everything for everybody for all time. We may never fully understand, but we can, as we look forward to Easter Sunday, read, pray, meditate and rejoice.

John Grayston in today’s SU WordLive leads us through the levels of understanding of the onlookers at the crucifixion site…

Who can know what is going through Jesus’ mind at this point. Luther, it is claimed, said, ‘God forsaken of God: who can understand it?’ The onlookers do not understand (v 35), failing to see the significance of Jesus’ quotation from Psalm 22:1; a psalm which was on his mind and shaped his understanding of his death. Perhaps they are influenced by their expectation that Elijah would return as a herald of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5).

The women (vs 40,41) may not understand, but at least they are there. The word ‘follow’ is the language of discipleship (Mark 1:16–20); in our concentration on the twelve we forget that Jesus, radically, included women among his disciples (Luke 8:1–3). They may not understand, but at least they are there, showing solidarity with and concern for their Lord. It is they, not the twelve, who are the witnesses of his death, burial, and, initially, of his resurrection.

The centurion does not understand, but he does have a profound insight. In what Dick France describes as ‘one of the Christological high points of the Gospel’ (Gospel of Mark, p659) he has captured something that the devout and expectant Jews missed – yet more irony, and a reminder that Jesus, as he had pointed out (John 10:16; 12:32; Matt 22:1–14), has come for all humanity.

We ourselves do not understand, at least not completely. We can rejoice in the new access symbolised by the torn temple curtain, knowing that at the moment of apparent failure Jesus has accomplished the perfect will of God and has opened the way into the presence of God for all. We can have confidence that the old order has gone and the new has come. But there are depths to God’s love for broken men and women that will always lie beyond our full comprehension.

With thanks to SU for the amazing way they help us as we study God’s Word daily.

See also the Easter meditation from SU:  Morning by Julie Sharp

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So read the headline in i The Independent’s Essential Daily Briefing on Friday 3 February.

His and hers

Malaria is killing almost twice as many people around the world as was previously thought, a study has shown.

I’m usually pretty cynical about “new research has shown” stories since inevitably tomorrow will bring a “new research has shown” story to prove the opposite.

However we had just been to the GP to decide which malaria prophylaxis we should take for our March trip to Ivory Coast – and that focussed my mind. We had malaria several times between 1989 and 1997 while in Ivory Coast… always unpleasant but never very serious. Mind you travelling on a plane from Cameron to Ivory Coast once with my son fighting much too high a temperature wasn’t a happy time. Not to mention my first malarial experience in Yaounde, Cameroon: a whole night of vomiting and diarrhoea and losing my wedding ring as I washed my hands religiously after each bout…

But none of us died. I know missionary families from that era whose children did die. Malaria isn’t a nice disease! Westerners can easily access both prophylaxis and treatment fairly easily and if prophylaxis is taken as it should be, they usually avoid the disease. But this not the case for many many people who live in malarial areas of the world.

The article concluded…

Their findings, published in The Lancet, show consistently higher death tolls than those in the 2011 World Malaria Report. Worldwide, 433,000 more people over the age of five had been killed by malaria than the World Health Organisation estimates suggested.

I read the article in an actual Independent newspaper and couldn’t find it online… but there it was on SkyNews with this lovely photo of a mosquito feeding.

Oh and yes, I did find my wedding ring in a laundry basket about three weeks later after returning from a village orientation phase in Kishong, a couple of days journey away in NW Cameroon.

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